Category Archives: Courtesy Report

Parking, Honking, Yelling, Zen.

I felt a little bad about my previous post – almost 1000 words just on a short section of my commute. Then I realized that this sort of post isn’t so bad. This is how the bike bloggers disseminate important information about cycling strategies. I’ve picked up tips from other bike blogs on how to better navigate the roads, so maybe I’m contributing to that knowledge just a little bit. Okay, enough navel gazing. On to one of my favorite topics: Parking!

I’ve referenced Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking before in this blog, but I’ve never read it. All I know about it are the numerous secondary references I’ve picked up from other books and blogs. I was shopping for a few things online the other day and got this close to ordering the book when I realized it was 733 pages long, and I don’t really have time to read all of that and keep up on my important blogging “career.” Luckily, a dedicated reader sent me a link to an NY Times article on the topic. Here’s a short excerpt that pretty much sums it up:

If developers were allowed to face directly the high land costs of providing so much parking, the number of spaces would be a result of a careful economic calculation rather than a matter of satisfying a legal requirement. Parking would be scarcer, and more likely to have a price — or a higher one than it does now — and people would be more careful about when and where they drove.

I can do even better than that. I can summarize the whole book thusly: “Free parking creates many costs to society that are not immediately apparent.” Now you don’t even have to read the book. It’s kind of like that year back in college when you were “totally interested in Buddhism” but would rather watch that one Keanu Reeves movie than read that one big Buddhism book. You know, that one….

I’m happy to report that Recycle-A-Bike had another successful weekend of bike valet service. This was our 4th week at the Lippit Park Farmers’ Market. I think that we parked about 23 bikes and talked to many more people about the good work that Recycle-a-bike does.

We usually have tools there in order to make any minor repairs that people might need. The bike pump is even more important – there are lots of people riding around with under-inflated tires. Spouse has suggested offering a chain cleaning and lube service for bike valet customers for a nominal fee. I hear so many underlubed bikes squeaking down the road and I just want to yell, “LUBE!” at them but I’m afraid that might be misinterpreted. I don’t think we’ll have this service this weekend, but maybe when we figured out the issue of where to dump the cleaner we can do it.

After the farmers’ market, the equipment was rushed to Foo Fest at AS 220 to park even more bikes for the good people who were enjoying the Foo. I’m not sure if they were able to count the number of bikes that were parked, there were so many. Here’s an example:

RAB is actually running out of racks. The ones we have currently aren’t the best design, and they pretty much require the use of a truck, van or hatchback to transport them (or a bike trailer, I guess). I was looking around for alternatives today when I stumbled upon Soapbox LA, a blog about “access and mobility.” This particularly exhaustive post, really gets into the details of bike parking in the authors’ neighborhood. The post also includes this official drawing from LADOT (wasn’t that a girl group in the ’80′s?)

Here’s the story. When the Griffith Observatory reopened after the remodel, we fought to make sure that they installed bike racks. Long fight, long story…they put in a toast rack.

We fought for the inverted U rack, principle based fight, the entire property has great fence but I degress.

The guy from the Observatory has to go to the LADOT to get the inverted U racks. When he asks about the specs for installation, this is what they gave him…along with a bit of eye-rolling and attitude.

Good Times.

As I am wont to do when I find a good blog, I started reading through the other entries and came upon a reference to Park(ing) Day LA. If I learned anything during art school, it’s beware of a title that uses a parentheses to make one word into two words. That and watch out for any artist’s statement that includes the words “domesticity” and/or “embodiment.”

You may have heard of projects similar to [shudder] Park(ing) Day LA from around the world. This is where a group of people takes over a parking place on the street, and turns it into a pocket sized public park. If there is a meter, the occupants dutifully deposit coins into the meter. Here are a couple of examples:

Her future is so smug, she's got to shade her eyes with her hand.

This idea instantly appeals to the former art school student who lurks within me. Ala Barricade! We shall take over the streets and convert the evil drivers’ parking spaces into public parks for all to enjoy! They will feel the fury of our creativity! The squares will be so blown away, they won’t know what to do!

However, I know that in practice that this sort of thing just reinforces the worldview of people who already agree with the basic premise while everyone else thinks you are a d-bag. It’s the old “preaching to the choir” tactic of political activism, except pretend that while preaching to a choir who is already singing along with you, you somehow manage to pee on a bunch of atheists. Kind of like Critical Mass.

Then again those pictures do look pretty cool. And I’m once again angry at motorists due to a….

HONK REPORT

I know, I know, I said that I’d retired the honk report. But let’s just say that I’ve repurposed it. If I were still in grad school, I’d say that I’ve recontextualized it.

I was not literally honked at today, but I was yelled at. I biked down N. Main and approached Branch Ave where I needed to turn left. In preparing to turn, I checked over my shoulder quite a few times until I saw an opening in traffic. I signaled my lane change and moved to the left hand lane (just like I was driving a car). I waited in line at the left turn lane onto Branch (just like I was driving car). On Branch, I rode on the left side of the lane because I was turning in to visit a store on the other side of the street. I signaled left and waited for traffic to clear enough for me to turn (just like I was driving a car). Cars were able to pass me on the right because there was plenty of room (unlike if I’d been driving a car). As I turned, a motorist yelled, “Get off the damned road.” I would define Branch Ave more as “Godforsaken” than “damned”, but I think I know what he was getting at. He even yelled it in a somewhat forlorn way, and not in the super-loud pissed off way that I’ve grown accustomed to.  I gave him no reaction.

I feel like I’m noticing a trend here. I now ride in a much more “legal” manner than I used to. I obey the traffic laws, I ride like a vehicle, I even use turn signals, for god’s sake. It seems like the more “legal” I ride, the more I’m honked/yelled at. And now I’m thinking about that jerk who yelled at me and just getting pissed off! I need to remember what I learned from that Keanu Reeves movie and find my inner Buddha nature.

I retired the Honk Report because I feel like it just emphasizes the negative aspects of urban cycling (and it makes me sweat with rage while I blog, which is bad for the finish of my blogging chair). I should take a page from CommuteOrlando where they often emphasize the positive.

In that spirit, I bring you a

Yawn report:

I’ve been biking down South Main Street several times this week due to a change in morning activities. This is the final sprint for many people on their way to work in the morning. It’s shortly after a major exit from I-195, and it goes past the county courthouse before people can turn to go downtown.  In the several times I was on it, everyone passed me giving me plenty of room, and I was able to execute lane changes with no hassle. Cars stopped to let pedestrians cross at marked crosswalks, and so did I. It was all so uneventful.

There, now I feel better. Who needs the lessons of Keanu?

See you tomorrow at Recycle-A-Bike’s (Lip)pet Bike Park(ing) Va(let) Ser(vice)!

Courtesies. Positivities. Mammaries.

My friend, Christina called me out in an FB post yesterday:

I get a lot of unsolicited remarks when I ride my bike. Like, a lot. They range from comments along the lines of “you appear to be a female mammal endowed with the apparatus to suckle an infant” to suggestions such as “that isn’t how one signals a left, you ignoramus.” I’ve been struggling for a while with how to respond to these, but today [carfreepvd] turned me on to a lovely blog with the wonderful recommendation that simply being polite and smiling is the way to roll. Thanks, [carfreepvd]! I’m a lot happier about this now. But if I develop a heart problem in twenty years because of unexpressed anger, it’s your fault, okay?

First off, I am not responsible for the possible ill health effects incurred as a direct or indirect result of reading this blog. Please consult your doctor before beginning any blog-reading regimen. Secondly, I can only attempt to relate to the leers and rude, unsolicited comments that are made to the ladies who bike. Most of the bike blogs I read are written by ladies, and it seems to be a topic that comes up every once in a while. Christina was referencing this post on Let’s Go Ride a Bike, and I think that Lovely Bicycle! covered the topic well. Lovely Bike has been biking in Vienna recently, where she feels that she is the recipient of less leering than when she bikes in Boston. My experiences with the European leer are a little different.

I often walk or bike in the company of an exceptionally hot lady and I have noticed that she gets a few stares while she’s on the bike. But nowhere did I see more men stare at Spouse than on the sidewalks of Paris. I attempted to block these Gallic leers using the star-spangled laser beams of my steely-eyed glare. It was futile. The Frenchman enjoys leering, and little can be done to stop him. I can only imagine what would have happened if we had been brave enough to ride the Velib.

I’m glad to hear that Christina is going to try the positivity route. But one does need a little rage relief every once in a while. I recommend yelling at parked cars when you are biking down a traffic-free street (I know those are rare in Christina’s part of the world.) Just yell all of the things you would yell at the Masshole who gave you the helpful tip on proper turn signal procedure. When thinking about the motorists who endanger my life, I prefer the power phrase “ah ya fuckin blind oar ah ya ritahdid!?” Be sure to affect a New England accent of some type – it neutralizes any political correctness issues. Don’t use the adverb “wickid.” It’s considered uncouth.

After experiencing the white-hot, all-purifying fury of righteousness that came from screaming my head off at a driver who honked, passed to close and gestured at me; I felt like an alcoholic who had hit bottom. I’ve admitted that I have a problem, and I’m working to have a more relaxed attitude when motorists are rude to me. Still, I have the occasional relapse.

Friday morning, I was on my regular route, when some dirty hippy on an old Motebecane “shoaled” at the stop light. I said, “Dude, that was totally unnecessary.” But I said it inside my head! Not bad, hey?

I'm the blue line, the hippy is the green line. The thinner, dotted green line represents the hippy's path as he approached the intersection and then executed the shoal manuevre.

We both started up when the light turned green, the hippy and I rolling along at a fairly leisurely pace. He was probably only going 2 MPH slower than I usually go on this stretch of Canal Street.  No big deal, I decided to stay at a respectful distance and occasionally roll my eyes in his general direction. There was no need to get in a commuter race. On this stretch of Canal Street, I often glance behind me to see what the cars are up to, but this time I was distracted by the hippy’s insistance on riding in the door zone. I was riding well outside of the door zone, about 1/3 of the way across the right-hand lane (note that there are 3 lanes on this stretch of Canal.

I wasn't following the hippy as close as this illustration would indicate. It would just take me too long to go back and re-edit the dang thing.

Then it happened. A minivan passed me way to close. I stuck out my hand to see exactly how close and I was easily able to touch the side of the car.

Oh snap, it was ON! I checked my six and put the hammer down, blasting the hippy’s dreadlocks with my pressure wave. After the minivan passed, I noticed that he had South Carolina license plates, but a Boston Celtics window decal. I saw the driver stick his left hand out the window, but he used all 5 fingers. Hmmm, that was a little confusing. I’m used to seeing just one finger extended from a vehicle with a Celtics decal. As I passed the speed limit, I resolved that I was not going to be confrontational, just educational. Perhaps as an out of stater, he’s not aware that he is required by Rhode Island law to pass me at a safe distance (hazily defined, as mentioned in a previous post).

The next light was red! “Ha-HA! I shall catch him and properly educate this scofflaw!” I thought to myself. But no, he blew through that light not noticing the “No turn on red” sign (or the traffic). Perhaps he was afraid of my wrath. His casual disregard for the law was no match for the traffic lights of downtown Providence – I caught up to him a couple blocks later. I practiced my speech in my head, steely eyes at the ready. As I approached, his window was rolled down and he hit me with a pre-emptive strike! A strike of contrition!

“I’m really sorry about that, I know I passed you too close, I realized I was doing it too late, are you okay?”

Whoa! What the -?

“I’m okay, you didn’t hit me or anything, you were just a little close.”

“I’m so sorry. I should know better.”

I broke out in a smile.

“No problem, I appreciate you apologizing. Have a good one.”

“All right, you too.”

The earlier hand gesture had apparently been an “apology wave.”

I turned left and headed to my office. He went on his way.

My faith in humanity, and even motorists, was renewed.

Later in the day, I desperately needed some iced coffee. I headed to the nearest coffee joint for some cool, caffeinated refreshment. Although I will take any excuse to go for a ride of any length, for this trip, I decided walk. This required crossing the street at a well-marked crosswalk.

There’s zebra stripes for the crosswalk, pedestrian crossing signs on both sides of the street, even a “Stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” sign! Still, in both directions I was nearly run down by cars who refused to stop for me while I was attempting to cross. I wasn’t standing timidly on the curb, I was in the middle of the road. Both of the offenders had Rhode Island tags. My faith in Rhode Island drivers was returned to its normal state.

Honk Report: Washington Street & North Main

Just a quick post about getting honked at today. I was biking home from work, out of Kennedy Plaza on Washington Street as it crosses the river and approaches North Main. At the corner of Washington & North Main the three lanes are: Left Lane – left turn only, Middle Lane – left turn or straight ahead, Right Lane – right turn.  I need to turn left from Washington onto North Main, and then be in the right-hand lane, so the middle lane is the most logical choice. At the intersection before this (Washington & Memorial), I move into the middle of the right-hand lane, and follow it into the middle lane after crossing Memorial. As I rode down the middle of the street, the white Hyundai behind me began honking repeatedly. I did not move. We were both stopped by the light at Washington & North Main.  I looked over at the young man, waved, and pointed out that there were two perfectly good lanes that he could use.

To be fair, I should probably start a

Courtesy Report: Hope St. near Rochambeau

I visited a dry cleaner/tailor today on my lunch break. I was waiting on the east side of the street to cross the street and head south. One car pulling out tried to wave me across, but I hadn’t mounted the bike yet so I indicated that she should go ahead. Eventually another car slowed down and waved me in front of him, and I was happy to take it since no cars were coming in the opposite direction. I could have waited longer, it wasn’t too big a deal, but I figure if someone really wants to let me get in front of them, than it would be rude not to. I gave the driver a “thank you wave” and I was off.

God this is going to get boring to read if I’m doing this all the time.

The Honk Report was originated by Carbon Trace, a blog based in Springfield MO. I use it as an attempt to keep track of how many drivers honk at me unnecessarily. Please do not honk at cyclists. Car horns are much louder when you are not inside a steel and glass cocoon.