Racing a Rat

“Likewise—now don’t laugh—cars and trucks should view the bike lanes as if they are sacrosanct. A driver would never think of riding up on a sidewalk. Most drivers, anyway. Hell, there are strollers and little old ladies up there! It would be unthinkable, except in action movies. A driver would get a serious fine or maybe even get locked up. Everyone around would wonder who that asshole was. Well, bike lanes should be treated the same way. You wouldn’t park your car or pull over for a stop on the sidewalk, would you? Well then, don’t park in the bike lanes either—that forces cyclists into traffic where poor little meat puppets don’t stand a chance.”
― David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries

My 1986 Cannondale road bike at Trammell Crow Park. From an early part of the October Full Moon Ride.

The other night I had trouble getting to sleep.

I have learned to keep a bike (one of them, at least) down from the storage rack in the garage, tires pumped up, batteries for the running lights charged, and a helmet hanging from a handlebar. Better yet, keep it pointed towards the garage door.

The moon rising over the Dallas skyline and the pond at Trammell Crow Park. From the October Full Moon Ride.

That way, if the mood strikes, I can open the garage door, hop on the bike, and go for a short, quick ride. There is something about riding at night, going nowhere, at any speed, and for an unknown (and uncared about) distance. It is so stress free… it’s like flying.

The moon rising over cyclists and the Dallas skyline. From the October Full Moon Ride. Click to enlarge.

So I found myself on the trail that runs behind my house on up to Huffhines Park, with its lakes shining in the full moonlight. I veered to the right, went around the softball diamonds, and back to the lakes. As I entered the parking lot, I saw movement.

Riding a bike at night, you see a lot of critters. This is the Duck Creek neighborhood, and there are, of course, a lot of ducks. Second most common are the rabbits. Also coyotes, possums, armadillos, stray pets, and even an occasional beaver on a bridge over the creek.

This time, though, it was a rat. One of the sleek, grey, tree rats, caught on the ground. He and I had a little race across the parking lot – I caught him near the north end and we ran side by side, me riding off his left shoulder, his little legs a blur in the dimness. At the end of the lot he veered to the right into a drainage opening and I turned to the left to get back on the trail.

I rode home, gone only a few minutes and far fewer miles, but I felt better and was able to collapse into sleep.

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Standing on the Pedals

“Likewise—now don’t laugh—cars and trucks should view the bike lanes as if they are sacrosanct. A driver would never think of riding up on a sidewalk. Most drivers, anyway. Hell, there are strollers and little old ladies up there! It would be unthinkable, except in action movies. A driver would get a serious fine or maybe even get locked up. Everyone around would wonder who that asshole was. Well, bike lanes should be treated the same way. You wouldn’t park your car or pull over for a stop on the sidewalk, would you? Well then, don’t park in the bike lanes either—that forces cyclists into traffic where poor little meat puppets don’t stand a chance.”
― David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries

New Orleans

Cycling in Style

Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

Despite the fact that (in additional to the least-cool) I am the least fashionable person on the planet I am interested in the idea of bicycling style, or chic, or whatever you want to call it. Not the old spandex, carbon, and logo style, but the more relaxed, European, style of riding a bike in the urban environs.

I went on a fun ride the other day with a nice group visiting some boutiques and such in a couple of stylish and hip neighborhoods of Dallas.

Yes, they exist.

Looking through the library I discovered a book by David Byrne, where he relates some of his experiences riding a folding bike through some of the more interesting cities of the world.

He starts out insulting my city… which is pretty world-renowned for cycling unfriendliness.

Bicycle Diaries

by David Byrne

Chapter One – American Cities

Most US cities are not very bike-friendly. They’re not very pedestrian-friendly either. They’re car-friendly – or at least they try very hard to be. In most of the cities one could say that the machines have won. Lives, city planning, budgets, and time are all focused around the automobile. It’s long-term unsustainable and short-term lousy living. How did it get this way? Maybe we can blame Le Corbusier for his “visionary” Radiant City proposals in the early part of the last century:

His utopian proposals — cities (or just towers really) enmeshed in a net of multilane roads — were perfectly in sync with what the car and oil companies wanted. Given that four of the five biggest corporations in the world still are oil and gas companies, it’s not surprising how these weird and car-friendly visions have lingered. In the postwar period general Motors was the largest company in the whole world. Its president, Charlie Wilson said, “What’s good for GM is good for the country.” Does anyone still believe that GM ever had the country’s best interests at heart?

Maybe we can also blame Robert Moses, who was so successful at slicing up New York City with elevated expressways and concrete canyons. His force of will and proselytizing had wide ranging effects. Other cities copied his example. Or maybe we can blame Hitler, who built the autobahns in order to allow German troops and supplies fast, efficient, and reliable access to all points along the fronts during World War II.

I try to explore some of these towns — Dallas, Detroit, Phoenix, Atlanta — by bike, and it’s frustrating. The various parts of town are often “connected” — if one can call it that — mainly by freeways, massive awe-inspiring concrete ribbons that usually kill the neighborhoods they pass through, and often the ones they are supposed to connect as well. The areas bordering expressways inevitably become dead zones. There may be, near the edges of town, an exit ramp leading to a KFC or a Red Lobster, but that’s not a neighborhood. What remains of the severed communities is eventually replaced by shopping malls and big-box stores isolated in vast deserts of parking. These are strung along the highways that have killed the towns that the highways were meant to connect. The roads, housing developments with no focus, and shopping centers eventually sprawl as far as the eye can see as the highways inched farther and farther out. Monotonous, tedious, exhausting… and soon to be gone, I suspect.

He’s right of course… but not completely right. There is hope. Dallas (and every big modern city) does have its notorious web of high speed freeways, concrete ribbons of death.

But they don’t cover the whole city. In between these barriers are real neighborhoods with real people living in them. The challenge is to get off the freeway and find what’s there – and a bicycle is the best way to do it.

The freeways become a barrier to pierce. The city is working on creating routes and I’m working on finding them.

 

What I learned this week, September 14, 2012

5 Simple Mind Hacks That Changed My Life

  1. Making yourself impervious to criticism.
  2. How to make a final decision.
  3. The key to getting over mistakes.
  4. How to stop overreacting to minor issues.
  5. How to have a more active life.

I’ve been working on #5 lately. Shame I’m always so exhausted when I get home from work.


The Worst Rock Band Ever

I love the systematic method used in this article. He has Motley Crue barely beating out Creed as the worst ever. But he has one line about Creed that is money: “Rock and roll is supposed to be fun, not like passing an impacted stool, and then telling all your friends about it.” I wish I had written that.


The 10 Most Damaging Chick Flicks Ever Made

Too bad they also send some of the worst messages to women in the history of mankind. Horrible stereotypes, insulting characters, idiotic relationship advice… it’s all there. Some chick flicks are better at hiding it than others, but generally, you can count on the same thing each time. The worst part is, women are actually starting to believe the lunacy they see in these movies!



The 7 Most Overrated Blockbuster Movies of the Last 20 Years


News You Can Use:

10 Reasons There Won’t Ever Be an Aquaman Movie


5 Great Pieces Of R-Rated Life Advice from the Movies


Fiction:

A Village After Dark

by Kazuo Ishiguro, author of Never Let Me Go


I know I keep posting stuff about Cloud Atlas – but I’m really excited about the film (even though I know it might not be that good – the possibly of glorious failure is strong) – Plus… more importantly, I want to give everyone every opportunity to read the book first. It’s an amazing read, in many ways… in every way.

Plus, how can you miss Hugo Weaving playing Nurse Ratchet.


A woman, Annie Clark, that went to a local High School, has hit the big time as St. Vincent. She has released an album in partnership with David Byrne – Love This Giant. This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

Same as it ever was.