Cyclists, Drivers, and Vigilantes

July 4th weekend saw a pretty horrific encounter between a driver and two bicyclists in Los Angeles. The residents of the community involved are upset about how cyclists have come to make driving difficult, cyclists are in an uproar about the outrageous behavior of the driver, the police are involved, and it’s starting to garner attention not just outside the area, but outside the state. It’s just an ugly situation all around.

I’ll let you do your own homework on the incident and commentary surrounding it, though. I don’t feel like rehashing my opinions on the matter here. But there are a couple things that merit discussion.

First, I suspect the tension between these drivers and bicyclists is inevitable and, to a large degree, may be irreconcilable. These two groups exist in completely different realities. A bicycle is 20-30 pounds of wafer-thin, steel tubing powered by an engine (the rider) that has a peak power of about 1/3rd horsepower. Safety consists of strapping 9 ounces of foam to your head. Drivers, on the other hand, are encased in 3,000 pounds of steel, surrounded by airbags, and have 100-150 horsepower at their disposal with a simple touch of the accelerator.

Two completely different modes of transportation in terms of handling, safety, and environmental impact. These physical differences in machines translate to ideological differences in their respective riders. It’s pretty clear we will always struggle to understand one another. The most I think can be hoped for is for is to start moving away from this pattern of distrust and resentement that has evolved. Doing this will require treating one another with courtesy and decency, even at such times it may not seem warranted and, hopefully, we can begin to develop a bit of mutual respect. It’s worth a shot at least.

The other thing I wanted to touch on is a bit more ominous. One of the forums discussing the above incident had to close down commentary because people kept posting the personal information of the driver involved. It is clear that there are a lot of very angry bicyclists out there, and a story about an incident as blatant as this one provides them with a tempting target. Out of curiousity, I found myself doing a little research to see how hard it would be to track down some information on the driver. In a span of about 5 minutes, I was able to find his home address, email address, home phone number, Google Maps imagery of his house, and the tax records and property value for his home. It’s pretty spooky how easily available such information is.

The specter of online vigilantiasm is very intimidating. In the Old West, vigilante justice required rounding up a willing posse from your local community, tracking down the villian in question in person, and applying a very personal, hands-on form of justice. All of which required real energy and risk to the vigilante. The internet changes all that. Instead of a posse of half a dozen neighbors, the “villian” faces a veritable army of outraged users around the globe. Users who, instead of having to confront him in person, need only sit in the comfort and anonymity of their homes, hundreds or thousands of miles away, and tappity-tap at their keyboards to wreak a staggering amount of digital mayhem.

NAHBS Photos

Just wanted to share a little bike porn eye candy with you folks. I went to the North American Handmade Bicycle Show a few months back and took the following photos. The best part is, NAHBS is coming to Portland next year. ‘Can’t wait!

Last Summer Blast

I don’t know about other parts of the world, but here in Bend there is a palpable sense of summer (and even fall?) drawing to a close. We’ve already had a couple nights where it’s dipped into the 20’s, and the week before last had a definite bite to it: cool days, overcast skies and brisk breezes… all hallmarks of the winter months ahead. But this past week has seen a (brief, I’m sure) return to summer – balmy weather in the 70’s and 80’s, and beautiful, glorious, blue high-desert skies. It’s no surprise that everyone is scrambling to eek the most out of what we all consider to be the last dregs of summer.

For me, this meant accepting without hesitation a couple of invitations do some hiking and biking this past weekend. Saturday found me hiking South Sister, the highest of a triplet of ~10,000′ peaks near town. Climbing this peak had been one of my goals for the summer, but my original plans (the prior week, with my friend Andy) were quashed by the weather. So it was nice to be able to pick this one off at the last minute so to speak. And as you can see, we made the most of it – the weather and views were spectacular! That top picture there is me (the little dot) standing in the middle of the glacier on the south side, with Broken Top Mtn. in the background.

Part II to this weekend was a mountain bike ride along the McKenzie River. This trail is hailed as one of the most spectacular in North America and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The ride is set among the verdant forest of the Cascades, with towering Douglas Fir and Oregon Cedar trees; the volcanic geology of the region, with jagged black rocks lining much of the trail; and the McKenzie river. The river alone is pretty amazing – crystal clear, blue water that spills over some spectacular falls and which collects at one point in the “Blue Hole”, a swimming hole for those willing to brave the sub-40 degree temperature. (Which we did, btw! And all three of us guys looked pretty ridiculous as we splashed our pasty, white heinies back to shore as fast as we could.)

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, the fall colors were absolutely stunning along the upper half of the trail! I mean just amazing! At times the we rode through overhanging canopies of vine maple where the colors were so vivid you’d swear the air itself was on fire.

Anyhow, I’m back in the office this morning, with legs and body pleasantly sore from… hmm… 12 miles of hiking, 28 miles of biking, for a total of something like 8,000 of vertical gain. And I’ve got an inbox full of pictures from the folks I did all this with, that are so stunning I need to post at least a few of them here. Which just leaves me the problem of how to write enough to fill up all the otherwise empty space that’s gonna be next to them.

… oh, wait. 🙂

[South Sister photo by Ted and Shannah Werner. McKenzie trail photos by Tod Wooldridge]

Pole, Pedal, Paddle Serendipity

Our first ever visit to Bend happened to be the day they ran the 2004 Pole, Pedal, Paddle race. Our friends took us down to the amphitheater where the racers were finishing and we strolled around the booths looking at energy bars, racing clothes, and active footwear. All while enjoying the spicy scent of damp pine trees and the gorgeous scenery of the Central Oregon Cascades.

It was a spectacular day, punctuated by a torrential downpour that had everyone huddling together under the vendor tents. We happened to chose the Teva Sandal booth, where I bought a pair of sandals, and managed to weasel the guy into throwing a t-shirt and a demo CD into the mix. (Great CD, btw, but hard to come by. “The Nomadic Anthology, Vol. II” if you’re interested.)

During last year’s race, I found myself deep in the Grand Canyon on a river trip I wrote about previously, wearing those same sandals.

And this year I found myself shod once again in those sandles, running (well, more like trudging pathetically) toward the finish line, with both my calves threatening to cramp at any moment. Fortunately I was the now-moot half of a tandem team – my partner, Doug, having sprinted (well, trudged in his own way I suppose) ahead of me. My plodding was simply to avoid the ignominious stroll that was otherwise required to get from our kayak to the finish.

So plod I did, and finish I did. And, remarkably, we managed to meet our goal of finishing in the top 10. Barely. We finished 10th in a field of nearly 800 teams and individuals, with a time of 1:54:22. That’s to cover a 1 mile downhill ski, 8km x-country ski, 22 mile bike ride, 5 mile run, and 1.5 mile kayak paddle. Not bad, eh?

Even though my sprint to the finish would have embarrased a drunk platypus, I was proud enough of the slalom and bike legs for which I was responsible. I managed to finish 2nd on the slalom and averaged a smart 30mph on the bike ride leg. Meanwhile Doug represented admirably on the other legs, which are admittedly much harder.

But winning and our time weren’t that important. After all was said and done, the real pleasure was in finishing the day at our house with a small party of race-goers, eating chips and salsa, drinking beer and wine and just relaxing in general.

Oh, “what’s with the mug”, you ask? Why, yes, it is nice isn’t it? We got that for finishing first in the tandem division. And if you would be a dear and fill it up for me… yes, from the margarita pitcher there, please … I’m afraid my legs will cramp if I try to stand up.