With All Their Speed Forward

“I’m not sure he’s wrong about automobiles,” he said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization — that is, in spiritual civilization. It may be that they will not add to the beauty of the world, nor to the life of men’s souls.”
Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons

A while back, on July 26, 2012 to be exact, I wrote a blog entry called Bicycle Lanes. In it I wrote a bit about Richardson’s attempts at improving its cycling infrastructure. I praised the bike trails and especially the bike lanes (while noticing some dangerous flaws).

But I also mentioned how dangerous some of the railroad crossings are. For example, at Arapaho (a very busy street that is necessary for me to get to the library and a few other spots) I took this photo:

Rail crossing on Arapaho road – July, 2012.

I wrote:

There are three lanes of traffic both ways going through that little space – going fast, up to fifty miles per hour or more (don’t lecture me on speed limits… this is Texas). There is no sidewalk, no shoulder, no other way to cross. That hump has a set of rough wheel-swallowing steel rails sitting there on top of it. You hit that wrong on a bike and you are going down. There is no other crossing to the north for a mile. It’s two miles south to a safe crossing.

The Grove road bike lane is right behind me… as is the Arapaho DART station. If I want to ride my bike to the library; I have to go through there. If there is any traffic at all I have no alternative than to stop, get off my bike, and carry it over the tracks.

Which isn’t the worst thing in the world… but I wish someone would work on these choke points.

It’s been almost seven years now, and the city has done something. Here’s what that exact same railroad crossing looks like now:

Railroad crossing on Arapaho road, Richardson, Texas

Railroad crossing on Arapaho road, Richardson, Texas

It’s really only a couple of concrete plates, a bit of asphalt, and some sidewalk work – but it makes all the difference. To almost everybody – those that only drive – this is something completely unnoticeable. But to people that cycle for transportation (and for pedestrians) this sort of thing is a game-changer. To think that the city and the transportation departments are actually, finally thinking about people that aren’t in hurtling steel boxes is a breath of fresh air.

I know, by the way, that it isn’t a good idea to ride on the sidewalk – but that is a rule that sometimes, like along fast moving arterial streets – is made to be broken.

They did the same thing on the other side of the road – going the other way. That makes it not only possible, but easy, for me to ride my bike to the library. Little improvements.

What I learned this week, December 23, 2017

45 years ago, early this morning

I remember I was opening a drawer to get some paper out to write a letter when the floor moved so violently I fell to the floor. I remember it like it was yesterday. I forgot it was “only” a 6.3 – but because of the volcanic ash soil and such it had much greater ground movement.


If they act too hip, you know they can’t play shit


My commuter/cargo bike along the Duck Creek Trail. Taking a break while riding a circuit of grocery stores, looking for Banana Ketchup.

More Dallas Bike Lanes Are On The Way

We lost about half the ride at Lee Harvey’s – but here’s the rest at the Santa Fe Trestle Trail.

The new bridge from the Santa Fe trail into The Lot



I have never been able to do this:

Man’s Guide to Wrapping Christmas Presents


Moebius

Art is the big door, but real life is a lot of small doors that you must pass through to create something new


What I learned this week, July 30, 2017

How Government Wrecked the Gas Can

Soap doesn’t work. Toilets don’t flush. Clothes washers don’t clean. Light bulbs don’t illuminate. Refrigerators break too soon. Paint discolors. Lawnmowers have to be hacked. It’s all caused by idiotic government regulations that are wrecking our lives one consumer product at a time, all in ways we hardly notice.

It’s like the barbarian invasions that wrecked Rome, taking away the gains we’ve made in bettering our lives. It’s the bureaucrats’ way of reminding market producers and consumers who is in charge.


Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

Why car drivers just lost my support for city streets

I have been somewhat skeptical of this whole car and vehicle lane investment the city has been building for the last 200 years …. They’ve built them in front of my home and my neighbors’ homes. My first thought, naturally, was of the inconvenience and safety issues — cars drive so fast! What if they hit my house? Or my neighbor? Or, me? But I also understand the desire of cars to have priority. They are so large, so loud and so dangerous, after all.

However, an incident that keeps occurring every day has tipped the scales. As I was making my way home, I was stuck at a standstill trying to cross the street. “What was the reason for this?” I wondered. As I got closer, the answer was evident: Hundreds of cars were riding down the street to gloat. (As they do every day now!)


For the Love of Kettle
Looking at the art

The Weird and Wicked World of the Singing Cowboy
by Clay Stinnett

13 REASONS WHY ORIGINAL ART IN THE HOME IS AS IMPORTANT AS A BED

Having original art in the home is vital to your well being. Art is a key piece of furniture for many reasons and yet it is sometimes put on the back burner in comparison to other home objects. This list is dedicated to the understanding of importance of art from perspectives of interior design, well being, social atmosphere, creating a mood in the home, and more. One quote that stands out about the importance of original art is the following, “You would never put fake books on your bookshelf, so why would you put fake art on your walls?”

Tethered to an Upside Down Giant
by Richard Ross

I am always amazed when I am in an expensive house and the shelves and walls are filled with stuff purchased from some “home store” – unoriginal crap made by some poor semislave laborer in some far-off tropical country. I want to scream, “Buy real things! Buy local art! Put something that means something to you on your walls and shelves!” It’s like they want to conform to some unwritten rule – “you will buy crap from the appointed crap stores and you will display it as a flag to other idiots that you know and follow the unwritten rules.”

Persuation, from Twenty Heads


I remember when Aw Shucks opened. I was living a block away at the time. There was a nice little family-owned Mexican restaurant in the building and I was a little disappointed when it closed… until Aw Shucks opened – it was really good. And it’s still there, 35 years later.

Love it or Not, Aw Shucks Has Had an Undeniable Spirit on Greenville for Nearly 35 Years


From the same series… The Inwood Lounge. I remeber when it opened – it was so cool. This was before Netflix and there was nothing better than going to a film at the Inwood – going early and meeting in The Lounge for a Martini beforehand. That was the 1980’s… and that was a long time ago. But The Lounge is still the same… maybe it is out of date, but maybe out of date sometimes works.

Where the ’80s — and Maybe Some Ghosts — Live On: Inwood Lounge, the Haunted Movie Haunt

The Inwood Theatre is a baby boomer, celebrating its 70th birthday in May, but few things are more iconically ’80s in Dallas than The Inwood Lounge. Instantly, you may picture the wall of thick, squared glass and violet runner lights, like something you’d see in the club Sarah Connors visits in Terminator, or the crystal-clear, ice-sheened martinis.

“It’s definitely a victim of its time,” Clardy says, describing the lounge space. “Between the glass tile, the wall, the little fountain running through it — it looks like the ’80s had one too many cocktails and vomited all over the place.”


A Lot Like Prayer: Remembering Denis Johnson

I did not know he had passed away. It’s sad, I love his work.

He does have a posthumous book of short stories coming out next year. I wrote about the title story here – A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day Thirteen – The Largesse Of the Sea Maiden. You can read the story online from the New Yorker here – The Largesse Of the Sea Maiden


Ohh Crap

The Dallas Library Is Selling Off a Bunch of Books

After the demise last summer of its bookstore, BookEnds, now the site of the madhouse that is the Office of Vital Statistics on the first floor of its downtown branch, the Dallas Public Library turned to moving its surplus stock with biannual clearance sales. The summer sale is set for Aug. 12 and 13 at the J. Erik Jonsson central branch, the library announced today.

About 40,000 books (print and audio), CDs, and DVDs will be on sale at exceptionally low prices, which, as far as we’re concerned, makes this the social event of late summer in Dallas.


I enjoy short films and have been pleasantly surprised at how many are available for free on youtube. Here’s one I like:

Bicycle Lanes

While Dallas rates, again, its well-deserved award as the worst city in the nation for bicycling, my suburb of Richardson was awarded the most bike friendly neighborhood. The best of the worst… so to speak.

One piece of cycling infrastructure that Richardson has embraced is the idea of separate, striped, bicycle lanes on their broad residential avenues. The square mile neighborhood I live in, Duck Creek, is bisected north and south, plus east and west, at the half mile marks by two of these avenues – Apollo, going east and west, and Yale, north and south.

In the last year or so, both have had a bike lane striped off going each way. These are marked off on the right hand side and are shared with bikes and parked cars. The square mile is also sliced on the diagonal with the Duck Creek Linear Park and its trail, plus the Owens Trail branching off to the north under the power lines, Glenville Trail heading west through the trails snaking around Huffines Park – my neighborhood is not lacking for bicycle infrastructure (love the Googlemap green lines for bicycle routes – though they don’t have the one’s on my streets).

The city is expanding this program, and another road near me, Grove, has had the same treatment for at least two miles of its transit through the city.

These improvements have been very popular. Not so much for the bicycle infrastructure they provide – but for their “calming” effect on traffic. These roads were wide enough to allow passing before – which only encouraged excessive speed, and a lot of folks were confused over which lane to drive in. Now the roads are narrowed to a reasonable width and seem to be the better for it.

Recently the city improved the bike lanes in my neighborhood by adding a narrow “buffer zone” that restricts traffic a tad more and gives a bit of confidence to the bike riders.

Bike lane on Yale, near my house.

I’ve been experimenting with these lanes a bit over the last few weeks and have come up with a few opinions and observations.

The lanes themselves are great. Sometimes, sharing the lane with parked cars can be a problem – wide vehicles like lawn-mowing company trailers can force you too far to the left, and there’s always the fear of someone opening a car door in front of you. The drivers do respect the lanes, though. The lanes would be tough for a high speed rider on a hot road bike – but a slow tourist or commuter has no problem in the middle of the blocks.

One problem is the intersections. Left hand turns are harrowing on a bicycle – there isn’t enough sidewalk or shoulder to do the stop, turn, and cross. The cars use the bike lanes for right turns. Look at this picture.

Bike lane merging with right turn lane at Beltline road.

This is a very busy crossing and the cars are going by fast in all directions. There is simply not enough space to navigate a bike through there. If you ride a bike very much in traffic you will learn that bicycles are often invisible to turning cars – I am more afraid of cars making turns than I am of speeding motorists.

Another observation is a more generic one. Planners tend to look at long stretches of road. If they can open up a long stretch, they view that as a victory.

When you are planning a route for your own personal use you tend to think about choke points. These are locations or short stretches of road that cannot be easily or safety crossed on a bicycle. Your route will be developed not to take advantage of long stretches of good road as much as it is chosen to avoid these choke points.

Some of the most notorious sets of these are the railroad crossings. Look at this one on Arapaho – a very busy major thoroughfare.

Rail crossing on Arapaho road.

There are three lanes of traffic both ways going through that little space – going fast, up to fifty miles per hour or more (don’t lecture me on speed limits… this is Texas). There is no sidewalk, no shoulder, no other way to cross. That hump has a set of rough wheel-swallowing steel rails sitting there on top of it. You hit that wrong on a bike and you are going down. There is no other crossing to the south for a mile. It’s two miles south to a safe crossing.

The Grove road bike lane is right behind me… as is the Arapaho DART station. If I want to ride my bike to the library; I have to go through there. If there is any traffic at all I have no alternative than to stop, get off my bike, and carry it over the tracks.

Which isn’t the worst thing in the world… but I wish someone would work on these choke points.