Friday, March 22, 2013

Right to Walk

“Public Right of Way” is an old legal concept that developed in Europe during the reign of kings. Although it is a complex concept the basic idea is that all people have a right to go to along common routes and to be protected from danger while traveling. There was a time when highwaymen were the greatest threat, but that day has passed.

Today there is a new threat on the public roads. Some 40,000 Americans are killed each year and cars maim many more. In attempts to reduce threat, we have made use of motor vehicles a licensed privilege. The entire body of traffic regulation has been created to contain the threat of motorized vehicles.

Everybody still has a right to freely use the roadways and even with all the restrictions that have been placed upon motor vehicles, we still are not safe from them. A sober analysis of the huge investments made by every level of government in automotive infrastructure and the undesirable impacts of this system upon our environment will lead to a call for greater restriction upon the uses of motor vehicles. Using traffic demand management and existing land use controls, we could transition toward a world of walkable neighborhoods linked by efficient, shared transit.

It is worthwhile to hold out such idealized visions, but given the state of the climate, we cannot afford to delay action. We don’t want anything to inhibit people from making sensible choices now, altering their lifestyles over concern for the future.

Rethinking Cars

Monday, May 28, 2012

Still Learning

I feel relatively good today for having had such a rough night, but I'm going to stay in this refuge until I've more completely recovered. You'd think I'd have learned more about my limitations by now, but that other important lesson about trusting life to give me what I need is too well logged. It's just that sometimes what I need is another lesson about my human frailty. In short, a 56-year-old shouldn't try to do 80 miles in southern heat and humidity on the first day of a long ride.

Better planning could have prevented my bonk. I could have been traveling lighter, but I packed with an eye to getting everything home from Georgia, rather than only carrying exactly what I need.There are certain things you always need on a bike ride. Sunscreen, Desatin, Aloe Vera, Arnica (used a lot of that on my crampy legs last night. But the most important thing I forgot was salty tang. The best way I've found to replace the elements we sweat out is to mix a couple teaspoons of Morton's Lite Salt into powdered drink mix with plenty of vitamin C. For every three bottles of pure water I drink, I'll have one of salty tang. The sugars feed my muscles, while vitamin C and electrolytes replace sweat, especially the all important Potassium, the key to preventing cramps.

So I'm happy to report that the first forty miles of the Silver Comet Trail from Atlanta to Rockmart are a sweet way to spend a Georgia morning. There's a Subway sandwich shop just off trail at about 20 miles. They still charge less for a veggie sandwich if you add an egg. I got a footlong, ate half there and the other half just before Rockmart. I probably should have stayed away from the coffee and drunk more water.

The trail between Rockmart and Dallas is not rails-to-trails. It's near the railroad tracks, crossing frequently at odd angles. I saw one cyclist go down (ALWAYS SQUARE OFF) but he wasn't hurt. The trail is not railroad grade. In fact there's one short surprise hill that is at best 18% grade. Several of the road crossings are very poorly designed. I do not understand why trails install stop signs for bikes, rather than using yield signs and insuring good visibility.

This fifteen mile segment of the Silver Comet doesn't have greenbelt on both sides like the rest of the trail. In fact, a big chunk of it is right alongside a busy highway, which also appears better graded than the trail. The trail surface is concrete, rather than smooth asphalt, the rest of the way to the border. At least Dallas to the border is rails-to-trails again.

Crossing into Alabama was delightful. Although the asphalt trail is narrow, there's shady mowed grass on both sides. I was not feeling great, but I could push through by stretching and shaking out cramps. I kept telling myself that if I made my eighty miles, I'd miraculously find a bath and bed. It was true, but I could have imagined a smoother transition.

About a mile before Piedmont, I felt whoosy. I parked the bike, lay on the grass, and lost my lunch. Note to self - take time to chew more thoroughly. I cleaned up, cooled down, drank a lot of water, and an Emergence- C. After a brief rest, I decided to roll into town, but I had to stop a couple times for my head to clear. I was spinning in a low gear to avoid cramping.

Looking about town, wondering where I might find a motel, I pulled into the shade and rested my head on my handlebars. I remember a dreamlike sensation of gratitude that I was wearing my helmet. As I lay there, my legs still straddling my bike, I knew my blood sugar had  bottomed. I slowly dug the honey packets out of my bag and sucked some energy into my system.

Three guys stopped to check on me. One went and got me a Poweraid and I got my head back only to experience the worst series of leg cramps I've ever been through. One of the guys got his pick-up and carried my bike - remarking at the weight - and I to the motel. My cramping gut blew out all the sugar water, but lying in the tub and slathering on arnica helped my legs.

I knew I had to get potassium. The motel attendant had a container of Morton's Lite Salt that had been left in a room. I sprinkled some into a glass of Sunny D and began feeling better, while she poured a couple teaspoonfuls into bag and pointed me to a store where I could get Tang. Next to the store is a Mexican restaurant where the nursing student waiting tables concurred with my therapy of plain rice and beans.

The spicy beans didn't settle well. Pepto Bismol only briefly relieved the acid in my esophogas. After hours of hiccuping (no, Yaney, holding my breath didn't work), they came back up violently. Hopefully I got some potassium out before they blew. Anyway, I slept like a baby till my alarm woke me before dawn. This morning's bananas and cashews seem to be settling better. And now I've got salty tang.

So, as much as I've looked forward to riding the Katy Trail, the Cowboy Trail, and the George Mickelson Trail, I think I'll grab AMTRAK in Memphis. After cheating across some of the more hostile hot country, I may still ride to Corvallis from Whitefish. Hopefully, I can convince some of my family to join me.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bicycling in the Blood

Roy Russell was the clerk of court in Chouteau County, Montana, early in the 20th century. He had no use for automobiles. He got around by bicycle, including one trip from Glacier Park to Yellowstone Park, over 400 miles of rugged roads.

There are clues to explain Roy's distaste for cars. He was a prohibitionist and in those days cars in Montana ran on alcohol. I imagine he associated obnoxious, noisy machines that hogged the road with loud drunkards who disrespected the law.

I suspect there's more to it than that. I knew Roy's son, Edward (my beloved Great Uncle Ted), who was a machinist with deep appreciation for elegant design. I expect that family trait informs Roy's love of bicycles. The efficiency of a bicycle can be awe inspiring.

Here is a later picture of Roy Russell with his safety bike and a classic trike. That baby was either his granddaughter, Meg Lewis, born in 1921, or her sister. Thirty-four years later Meg became my mother. She also loved bicycling.

At 59, Mom joined one of the first groups to include American cyclists on a tour of Communist China. Her bicycling diplomacy also included a trip across strife torn Sri Lanka. She rode through many exciting places, but I more often remember Mom cycling around our home town, her baskets full of whatever.

So I guess I inherited cycling as well as peace making. I've come to believe that the bicycle is the appropriate transitional tool for our times. It will keep people moving without using oil and we'll all be better for it.

My antipathy for cars does not come directly from my great-grandfather, however. I earned that. I was a professional driver and used to train CDL students on the LA freeways. As a first responder, I got to see close up what happens to a human body that's hit by a car. A car is a deadly weapon, even when that's not the intention.

I remember writing to my mother that "more people are killed on US roads every year than the total number of US soldiers who died in Vietnam. We were in the streets against the war. Where are the protests against the car?" The main reason I avoid driving is the same reason I don't run around randomly firing a shotgun. I don't want to injure or kill anyone. Bicycling is more peaceful behavior.

I'm passing on my love of cycling to others. Bike4Peace and the CBC are my main outlets lately. I'm most proud of my little girl. Lucy grew up on the back of my tandem and at 27 she's still bicycling today.

Last time I rode across Montana, I stopped at the Chouteau County Courthouse and called up Grandpa Roy. Since I got this ticket on my bike, I've been dwelling on his spirit. His memory strengthens me. I guess that's the value of ancestors.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Direct Action to End Climate Change

We want our great-grandchildren to inherit a livable planet. We recognize it is impossible to continue to consume resources faster than the Earth produces them. We are determined to act now to fix this problem.

That's why I created a petition to The Oregon State House, The Oregon State Senate, Governor John Kitzhaber, The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama, which says:

"In recognition that it is impossible to continue to consume oil at the rate we now do, and that the climate is changing largely because of our consumption of oil, we the undersigned hereby vow to learn to get around without gasoline consuming personal cars. We urge you to stop subsidizing cars and to plan for a world where nobody burns petroleum to get around."

Will you sign my petition? Click here to add your name:


Thursday, September 23, 2010


For the third time since Bike4Peace started, I rode my bicycle into DC on Monday. Still love the trail system that serves to enter this city; still terrified but miraculously unharmed by the urban traffic. And it's still the mysterious and intriguing center of our dysfunctional government.

Ironically, even as Bike4Peace has maintained DC as the goal of our ride, my political vision has diverged. I retain no hope for personnel changes in our government ever reforming our system. We need a radical transformation much deeper than that if we hope to continue as a species on earth.

I've watched Cynthia suffer the consequences of being a leader who speaks truth to power. Recently her house was broken into and many of her associates seem to be under surveillance. We all know the list of such leaders who have been murdered. I pray she will continue to avoid this fate, even as I want her to succeed in fomenting nonviolent revolution.

Each of us can help by becoming better resonators for truth and and stronger advocates of justice. Every action of our lives must reflect our desire to undermine the corrupt and exploitative power structure and to build communities which foster peaceful egalitarianism. Tax resistance, counter recruiting, and continuous outreach are tools we must be familiar with. Bicycling from organic gardens to collective organizations, we will build a better world.