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Another “Oops!”

Another “Oops!”

I’m sitting in a car dealership, having recall work done. The perfect opportunity to start going through stuff on the computer and cleaning things out/reorganizing/deleting, etc. In digging through the files, I find an old post on bicycle safety from 2020 (wow! pre-COVID) that I apparently never put up. But it’s worth taking a look at it. I wrote it after going on a bike ride with local police officers. And my goodness, that day, they got to experience first-hand some of the craziness that people on bicycles experience ALL. THE. TIME. So I’ll just go ahead and put this out there.

You should think about this in light of all the new bike infrastructure now being built around town. Of course, it’s meant to make roads safer for all users. The whole “Complete Streets” philosophy entails making roads safer for ALL road users, rather than just getting motorists from Point A to Point B faster (which has been the operating principle of road design for quite some time). However, motorists are saying that bicyclists “taking over my streets” and “getting in the way of traffic” and “slowing me down” are just wrong. And they’re taking it out on anyone who disagrees with them…see the road rage incidents mentioned below against bicycling groups that include police officers!!!

Read on…


At the end of January, several LCIs/ride leaders met with officers from New Orleans Police Department’s First District for a bike ride. The inspiration for the ride came when Clark Thompson spoke with Captain LeJon Roberts at a neighborhood association meeting. To Capt. Robert’s statement , “We should go for a bike ride,” Clark responded, “OK. When?”

And so last week, Clark and I, and three other LCIs (Janneke van der Molen, John Strange, Scott Verdun) led a group including about a dozen officers (including Capt Roberts) on a bike ride through the CBD during evening rush hour. Blue Bikes provided bicycles to officers who needed them. The ride included a bit of the French Quarter, Baronne St, Loyola and Tulane Avenues, Galvez, Canal, and Broad Streets, and the Lafitte Greenway/Basin Street.

The officers were split into small groups, riding in plainclothes, so as not to attract any special attention. A mere three blocks from the start of the ride, one group experienced road rage as a motorist told us to quit blocking the street (in not so friendly terms). As soon as we crossed Canal, another group encountered a taxi driver blocking the bike lane, who, when approached and asked to move, threatened the ride leader (it didn’t hurt that Capt. Roberts was in that group).

On reaching Tulane and Loyola, because on the high volume of traffic, we elected not to move to the left lane to turn onto Tulane. Instead we did a two-stage turn, crossing Loyola and Tulane, then waiting for a green light to proceed on Tulane. The light turned green and a motorist gunned it to get in front of us and turn right, almost hitting an officer in the process.

We stopped along the way to discuss what we had seen, and to alert officers to upcoming challenges. We could not have planned for a better (worse?) outcome, as several incidents brought home the reality faced by bicycle drivers every day in the Big Easy…it’s not so easy for people on bicycles. The incidents I mentioned (and others along the way) brought a new level of awareness to the officers. We leaders could see/hear the “Aha!” moments on the ride.

At least this group of officers has a better understanding of how much different roads look when you’re under your own power on two wheels, rather than in a big metal box with the power of a gasoline engine. Capt. Roberts told us that he wants everyone in the First District to experience bicycle safety (or in this case bicycle “un-safety”), and that he will bring it up as something that should be done across the city.

And by the way, the next day, officers were in front of the business where the taxi driver was blocking the lane, handing out $300 tickets.

Small steps, big results. We’ll take it.

For more about These Guys’ efforts in law enforcement, see my post Bikes and the Law or Bicycling and Traffic Law 2018.

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“I want to ride my bicycle…”

“I want to ride my bicycle…”

Freddie Mercury, Queen

Health. Thankful that I have it, but all too aware of our fragility.

So what’s with my philosophical musing today? Well, in mid-January I went on a trail ride with a friend. My first trail ride since moving back to Louisiana, believe it or not. We were having a nice ride on a flat, but very winding course. Having a good time on a warm January day. The trail was (mostly) dry, and well-maintained. We were just about done the circuit. About 100 yards from the end, we came across a slightly wet portion of the trail. Roots everywhere. All of a sudden, the bike went one way, and I endo’ed. Yep, splat. Perfect face plant, splayed out completely. My left wrist hurt a bit as I untangled myself from the bike and the roots and stood up. Got back on the bike and rode out to the levee for the trip back to the car.

My left wrist complained. I wasn’t sure if it was broken…I did immediately think back to when my wife had a bike mishap that led to surgery and multiple screws in her wrist…I drove home and took some ibuprofen. My wife and I agreed that if it still hurt the next morning, I’d go to Urgent Care.

Well, yep. First thing next morning. X-rays showed what’s called a “buckle fracture,” a tiny little thing. A few days later the orthopedist put my thumb/wrist into a cast. It’s still on…they tell me they’ll (probably) take it off next week.

I want to ride my bicycle. Not exactly feasible right now. I want to go see the “House Floats” that have sprung up all over the city in this pandemic-cancelled Carnival season. I want to get out with my wife and ride around town to explore the amazing creativity that fuels this city in spite of everything. I don’t want to have to get in the car to do that. But the reality is that, for now, I have no choice. I realize this is really a tiny setback, and that things are much worse for many other people. Unlike some others, I will be able get back to this thing that I love to do, very soon.

Next week, though…

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A thing apart

A thing apart

“It is no exaggeration to affirm that a journey by bicycle is like none other; it is a thing apart; it has a tempo and a style of its own.”

James E Starrs, The Noiseless Tenor

A journey by bicycle is a thing apart. It’s not like driving a car.

In a car, you are separate from the world, not a part of it. The metal box has its own environment; one created by the car manufacturer, and customized by the driver, to minimize the interaction with the world outside. In recent years, the car’s environment has become even more insular. Touch-screen interfaces, messaging, Bluetooth connectivity, all combine to make the motorist even more laser-focused on the inside of the vehicle and the inside of his or her mind. More and more distractions are available. Less and less attention is given to the outside world, to the ROADWAY, and to OTHER ROAD USERS! 

We’ve seen (among many other things in 2020) an increase in bad motorist behavior. It seems that as the streets emptied early in the COVID era, those who were on them decided that they didn’t need to follow the rules so closely. Average speeds increased, with a parallel increase in crashes, injuries and fatalities.

But another thing that has increased in 2020 is bicycle use. Data show increases across the country. People have rediscovered the bicycle’s tempo and style. Continuing the musical analogy, what’s the tempo of a bicycle? Somewhere between a pedestrian’s “Andante” (a walking pace) and a motorist’s Allegro” (quick) or “Presto” (very fast). Moderato,” then, using the musical term for “moderate.”

And it’s more than just a difference of speed: it’s a difference of approach. When driving a car one sees the world in glances, in (often) disconnected bits. The driver passes through the world at a pace that allows only glimpses between the start of the journey and its destination. The journey is incidental. The goal is the destination. 

On the bicycle, the journey is often as much a part of the experience as the destination. One sees so much more. The more relaxed pace allows the bicycle driver to see details that would be missed by the motorist. The sights, the smells. The sounds, the breeze. The hills, the weather. The light, the clouds. In all, a journey, not a mere conveyance from Point A to Point B.

Think about your neighborhood, and about your usual haunts. Most of your travel is within a few miles of your home. What if you used a bicycle to get to the hardware store for those batteries you need to replace? How about a bike ride to get that gallon of milk? Do you ever think about driving your bike instead of your car to the drugstore? What would you get?

A little cardio exercise…a little saving on gasoline…a little less wear on your car…maybe even more time to do something else, since you didn’t have to get the car out, find a parking place, park it, walk to the store’s front door (you can park right in front!), put things in the trunk, drive home, find a parking space (or put it back in the garage)…

And it’s not just about those things; it’s about being outside on a bike. Maybe it’s been a very long time since you’ve been on a bike. Maybe it’s time to rediscover the joy that is possible on two wheels!

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Really? Anything works!

Really? Anything works!

“Sometimes jerseys are even uncool. The guys that have a bike and a helmet and that’s it, they’re my favorite mountain bikers.”

Dave Wiens, US pro mountain bike racer

No, this is not a post about the World Naked Bike Ride. It’s about gear. Riding gear. What you ARE wearing rather than what you’re NOT WEARING…

What to wear?

There are those in the bicycling community who have certain “standards” about acceptable wear for riding their bicycles. And if you don’t conform, they look down their noses at you. For example, a popular magazine in the sport actually has articles occasionally about things like proper sock height; or about whether your sunglasses should go over or under the straps of your helmet.

Good grief. What’s the point, anyway? The point is to get some exercise. The point is to get to work. The point is to run some errands. The point is to reduce your carbon footprint. The point is…to ride your bicycle. That is all. And to do that you DON’T need any special (magical) sock height to fit in with the in-crowd. You DON’T need to worry about placement of the arms of your sunglasses.

What to wear!

What you DO need is serviceable clothes that will keep you comfortable and safe. That means you probably don’t need anything special! Depending on the weather, layers and wicking fabrics will keep you more comfortable than thicker materials. Lightweight gear for precipitation can be had without spending a lot of money, but the “style masters” will insist that you NEED high-end clothing for every type of weather. Nope.

Accessories are also available in unexpected places, and sometimes for free. For example, organizations like AAA give away slap bands to protect your pants leg from getting soiled by the chain. Also check out local bike groups, which sometimes give away seat covers to keep your seat dry in wet weather. Sunglasses and/or clear glasses from big-box hardward stores are significantly less expensive than “bicycling” glasses, and do just fine, thank you very much.

When to wear something else

Now this is not to say that special clothing has no place. Many riders who begin to ride more may find that some of the options that are available make sense. Like padded shorts. Like tops (and bottoms) made of wicking material that may keep them cooler/more comfortable. The choices are many. And they’re at all different price points, from reasonable to “you paid how much for that???”

But remember it’s not about any of that. It’s about getting on your bicycle.

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Go outside! Get healthy!

Go outside! Get healthy!

“So ardent a cyclist must be full of good health.”

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist

A cyclist is full of good health. Riding a bike has a real health benefits. First, it’s low impact. Since you don’t land on a hard surface with every step, you may experience less joint pain and damage…I’ve known a number of riders who used to be runners. They gave up running eventually and discovered they they could continue to get great aerobic exercise by hopping on a bike instead.

It also uses lots of the body’s muscle groups…not only the legs get a workout. Glutes, back, core, arms; all help keep the bike upright and keep it moving.

Riding a bicycle generally gets you to breathe deeper (you can vary the intensity to made it as hard, or as easy, as you’d like!). And a 2014 study actually showed that people driving bicycles were exposed to far less air pollution than those driving cars!

Active people just feel better! Exercise causes the release of adrenalin and endorphins, which may energize you and make you feel good. And the extra activity burns calories…there’s no guarantee you’ll lose weight, but if that’s a goal, cycling (or any other exercise) may help you reach it.

Heart rate: cycling raises it, and is a good way to cut risk of heart disease. Many exercises will do this, and more. Possible side effects of exercise include improved sleep, brain health, and a strengthened immune system.

And here’s a shocker: using a bicycle for those short trips and errands often takes less time than using a car. Think about it. Getting in the car, driving to where you need to go, finding a parking place, walking to the entrance…or…jump on the bike, drive to where you need to go, park right by the front door, BOOM. Many “races” in numerous cities ended with the bicyclist arriving long before the motorist.

Want a little more information about how cycling can help? Check out these articles from Cycling Weekly, Harvard Health Publishing, MDAnderson. Or try it out yourself. Get on your bike and ride!

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Bikes and the law

Bikes and the law

“Is it about a bicycle?”

The Third Policeman, Flann O’Brien

No, it’s about bicycling and traffic law. I haven’t read the book from which the quote comes, but it looks fascinating, and more than a bit weird. I put it on hold at the library so I can learn what the line has to do with anything. But for now, I’m using this quote to spur me on to other thoughts.

I’m in the middle of thinking through/planning/executing a series of short videos on bicycling and traffic law. If you followed my blog for a bit, you know that working with police officers has been my “thing” for the last few years. Over the next year, I’ll have the opportunity to work with a whole new group of departments. I’ve gotten a grant to expand statewide here at home, so I’ll begin laying the groundwork now. For posts about earlier work I’ve done in this area see posts here (2018), here (2017) and here (2015).

But what’s the connection? The series of videos would be about bicycles and traffic law and directed towards bicyclists, rather than towards police officers. Because experience says that many bicyclists don’t understand the rules of the road…

Hey, that sounds familiar:

Many police officers, while they understand traffic law from the motorist’s perspective, don’t understand how that translates into traffic law while seated on a saddle. So, since I’ve developed a program that facilitates giving officers that perspective, I thought it might be a good idea to bring that to the public-at-large, too.

If will have to be a bit more general, though, since laws differ by location. I would discuss the general principles of traffic and how they might look to a person on a bike, but not get into specifics on any one state or municipality. With every state and many local governments creating their own laws under those principles, it would be impossible to do a comprehensive program.

But there’s still plenty to talk about. What are your rights and duties as a road user? What’s the deal with being a part of traffic? Do you need to follow the same rules as motorists? Can you get a ticket on a bike? How does a bicyclist’s view of the road differ from that of a motorist?

In all of this, I’ll show that it’s about the law and how, and when, it applies to people on bikes. It isn’t about a bicycle.

What do you think?

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Riding While Black

Riding While Black


“Being stopped and harassed is one of the top concerns of Black and brown cyclists.” —Charles Brown, Rutgers University

A just-published article in Bicycling Magazine discusses one of the racial issues in cycling (See the original article here). Author Dan Roe looked at data from three major cities and found that, for black people on bikes are more likely to have problematic interactions with law enforcement.

Charles Brown, a senior transportation researcher at Voorhees Transportation Center (Rutgers University), reported on the results of a 2017 survey showing that 15 percent of Black and Latinx riders said they had been unfairly stopped by law enforcement.

Bicycling found only 3 out of 100 major cities that classify stops by race/ethnicity. Oakland, CA, New Orleans, LA, and Washington, D.C. had such data. The short version of the article: black riders are stopped at a high rate, disproportionately to the population. Black riders are also more likely to get tickets, white riders are more often let off with a warning.

One important finding: stops were made more often in neighborhoods that were historically or are currently home to black residents. Why? Is it because of the people who live there? Or is it because these areas (at least in New Orleans) have typically been underserved, and safe infrastructure has not been a priority?

Questions, not answers. Have we come a long way? Yes. We still have a long way to go, though. “Riding while black” can’t be an excuse to treat people wrongly.

For more on bicycling and equity, see these posts: “Welcome, Ladies,” “Is This About Bicycling?,” “Riding and Not Seeing.”

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Welcome, ladies

Welcome, ladies

“Because, you know, I can’t work a bicycle pump” – Judi Dench

Hmm…and that highlights one of the things we need to work on. I don’t know the context in which Dame Judi Dench said that, so I can’t/won’t assume any. But I will use it to launch a thought process about bicycling and opportunity.

As you probably know, I work with the League of American Bicyclists. Part of the mission of LAB is education of the bicycling community in the quest to create a “Bicycle Friendly America.” I enjoy teaching people how to safely and confidently ride their bicycles wherever they would like to ride them.

A quick story to illustrate where I’m going with this post. My daughter and I were on a long-distance/multi-day charity ride several years ago. We were riding with the usual suspects: a bunch of folks who had ridden together for many miles…all guys. She got a flat. We pulled over to deal with it, and a few of the guys jumped in to start fixing it. She waved them off, and changed it herself.

The point: as is often the case, the guys assumed either a) she didn’t know how to change it, or b) she would take too long to do it. But then, her dad teaches people how to do this, and made sure she knew how and and was able to do so.

Unfortunately, it is often the case that we don’t do what we need to do so that people can be self-sufficient. That is too often true in cycling. Everyone who rides should at least understand the basics of how the bike works, how to do at least the very basic repairs/adjustments to keep the bike in good shape, and when it should be taken into a shop for more expert care. And we’ve too often failed in that. Unfortunately it’s especially true for women. They’ve often not been treated well in bike shops, in bike clubs, on bike rides. It’s changing, a bit at a time, but we need to do better.

Welcome, ladies! How can I help?

For more on bicycling and equity, see these posts: “Is This About Bicycling?;” “Riding and Not Seeing.”

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Is this about bicycling?

Is this about bicycling?

“Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle.” — Helen Keller

Is this about a bicycle? Well, no, not really.

There is a tremendous amount of effort required to learn to balance a bicycle…or anything else. Most of us don’t remember the work that went into that, because it was so long ago. “You never forget how to ride a bike.” That’s what they tell us, and to a large degree, it’s true. Even after you’ve been away from riding, you can get right back on, put your feet on the pedals, and go.

I’m not so sure, though, about Helen Keller’s contention. Indeed, toleration requires effort at the start. But I think that the two are unlike each other because toleration often requires a readjustment when you haven’t thought about it for awhile. New facts, opinions, and differing approaches to life all require us to reexamine our own perspectives, and to figure out how we will incorporate them into our own thoughts. It’s not the same as getting back on the bike (which is the same now as it was oh so many years ago when we first learned to ride). The only constant is that everything changes. So we must change too.

But…we MUST admit that having differing opinions is not the same as intolerance. At the same time, we MUST admit that toleration is not the same as professing those thoughts/taking those actions/holding those opinions ourselves. And we MUST be willing to have conversations about our different experiences, thoughts, hopes, beliefs. We MUST NOT brand those who disagree with us as intolerant. Perhaps some are, but a person who merely has different opinions than I do means only that that person is not me! Nor would I want everyone to be me. That would be a boring world indeed.

Maybe if we worked a bit harder at toleration, it would become easier. We may find relevance…and a need for change…in some of the things others say. We may learn that someone else’s approach to things works better than ours. And eventually, we may see that it’s almost as easy as getting back on the bike.

Perhaps you weren’t so far off, Ms. Keller!

For more on bicycling and equity, see this post: “Riding and Not Seeing.”

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Food, glorious food

Food, glorious food

“I eat to ride, I ride to eat. At the best of moments, I can achieve a perfect balance, consuming just the right amount of calories as I fill up at bakeries, restaurants or ice cream parlors.”

Daniel Behrman, The Man Who Loved Bicycles

Yep, my philosophy. I used to joke about it with my riding buddies. When I first started doing long-distance rides (by that I mean the annual 7-day, 500-mile charity ride I participated in for 9 years), I ate massive quantities of food during the ride. To paraphrase the hobbits: breakfast, second breakfast, 11sies, lunch. tea, dinner, supper, snack…I’m sure it was the riding that allowed me to consume such a massive amounts of calories without blowing up like a balloon. But that elusive balance he talks about? It’s kinda hard to achieve sometimes. Especially since I’m not doing anywhere near that kind of riding these days.

When I moved back to New Orleans a few years ago, I noticed a bit of weight creep. Nothing major, just a few pounds, but at the same time my bike miles were down significantly. Realizing what was going on, I started paying attention to it. That was something I never had to do. Good genes, I guess, but adding excess weight was never a problem. That changed.

So I started paying attention. But I live in New Orleans! I need not tell you what that means re: food. I’ve mostly found a balance again. I get out on the bike for a long ride once a week or so, and get in what I can for short trips on other days. And I’ve cut back on some of that food, glorious New Orleans food a bit.

But…all things in moderation. I think I’ll go get an order of beignets and cafe au lait now…

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