Right of Way: Take My Lane, Please

Subsequent to Friday's post, which contained the schedule for The Wildcat Rock Machine "Enlightened Cyclist" World Annoyance Tour (brought to you by Brooks England, makers of the saddle you can eat in an emergency), I received a number of questions, three of which I will answer now:

Q: Why no event in New York City?

A: I will in fact be putting on a BRA (book-related appearance) at the New Amsterdam Bike Show at the end of April.  (Details to follow when I have them.)  Also, since this is my hometown and I do go outside occasionally, you're always welcome to just flag me down on the street and make me do a one-on-one BRA.  However, if New York City wasn't my hometown I admit that I definitely would have snubbed it, since while this town may be the cultural capital of the United States it's at best a "bike culture" backwater.

Q: "What the fuck snob?!?! Philly is a training ride away. No tour stop here?" (Anonymous March 9th, 2012, 3:41pm)

A: I have done my tired shtick at two (2) Philly Bike Expos (that's twice as many times as I've been to Portland, the New York City of America in terms of cycling), and hopefully I will be there again this year.  As for Philadelphia being a training ride away, I think this person may be thinking of the wrong blogger, since I have a hard time training my way once around Prospect Park.

Q: Will you be giving away Ass Savers at your BRAs?

Of course will be giving away Ass Savers.  What kind of schmuck asks people to come listen to him try to sell his book without at least giving them Ass Savers for their trouble?  Not only that, but these Ass Savers will be in a special limited AYHSMB acronymway:

By the way, if you don't know what an Ass Saver is, here's your answer:

Ass Saving Techniques from Ass Savers on Vimeo.

Ass Savers will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis while supplies last and so forth.

Moving on to far more important matters, I'm pleased to announce that this blog is now entirely powered by sustainable energy.  That's right, every bit of electricity that goes into the production of this blog--from the power that feeds my Commodore PET right down to the cooling system in my writing hat--comes from a renewable energy source.  So, how do I do it?

Well, last Thursday I mentioned "vehicular cycling" advocate Serge Issakov, and I subsequently discovered that a single mention of vehicular cycling generates something like 50,000 words of commentary from Mr. Issakov himself.  Therefore, having attached a small generator to his wrists, his pro-vehicular cycling Internet commentary now powers not only my blog but my entire building and indeed the odd-number side of my Brooklyn block.  If every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings, then every time someone mentions "vehicular cycling" I get enough juice to blog the word "scranus" or microwave a bag of popcorn.

This is not to say the vehicular cycling concept is not without merit.  Indeed, if you're a cyclist in America odds are you have already been cycling "vehicularly" your entire life, since that's what you're forced to do.  I know that's more or less how I was riding here in New York before all these bike lanes started appearing, and I know it's how I still ride a good portion of the time.  But like most cycling Americans I'm a freak and an obsessive and would still ride a bike even if the government declared open season on cyclists and people shot at us from their windows like we were deer.  So I just rode the way you have to ride on streets that are designed entirely for cars.  However, try telling a normal, sane American who's interested in using a bike for transportation that all they have to do is "take the lane" and "think like a driver."  They'll just come to the conclusion that if they need to think like a driver that they might as well just be a driver and reply with the old, "Fuck it, I'm leasing a Hyundai."

So, sure, as a survival technique in a hostile world I suppose there's something to it, but as a policy in lieu of a working infrastructure it's absurd, since from what I can tell Issakov and his friends actually oppose bike lanes:

As a former president of the League of American Bicyclists and a still-prominent voice in advocacy circles, Forester has fought for decades to preserve bicyclists’ legal right to use public roads, and he thinks bike lanes send the wrong message about where bicycles belong. According to the California vehicle code, bicycles are allowed to go anywhere cars can go (except, in most cases, on the freeway), regardless of whether or not there’s a bike lane. But Forester and Issakov worry that if we build separate facilities like bike lanes, those rights could be lost.

If not having bike lanes was the recipe for cycling success then by now the United States would make the Netherlands look like, well, the United States, since that's been the policy in this country for like a century.  We've also always had the policy that bikes can go anywhere cars can go (oh, right, except the highways--bikes shouldn't have their own roads but cars should) and that cyclists have "all the same rights and responsibilities as drivers."  This sounds nice until you realize that the reason governments and insurance companies like to pretend cars and bikes are the same is so when you get run over the police and the insurance company can tell you, "Too bad, sucks for you, you have the same rights and responsibilities as a driver so you must have been doing something wrong."

I wonder how duncebags like these "advocates" account for the popularity of cycling in Portland, or the huge cycling growth New York City's experienced since they finally started installing bike lanes.  More than that, I wonder if these same duncebags can point me towards a "vehicular cycling" equivalent of Amsterdam--some model of vehicular cycling success where the traffic consists of an equal number of cars and bikes, and the cyclists all ride vehicularly in the middle of the lane while wearing DayGlo vests and helmet mirrors, and the drivers don't mind waiting behind vehicles that travel at 12mph, and everybody's happy.

It seems to me that if you want lots of people to be able to use their bikes then you copy the places where lots of people use bikes, and if you want to see one or two neon-hued dorks lost in a sea of automobiles then you copy most of America.

Of course, the upside is that if we embrace vehicular cycling instead of bike lanes then maybe one day all bike commuters will look like this (forwarded by a reader):

(He may not be "taking the lane," but at least he's taking the linoleum.)

Until you get sideswiped by an impatient driver and you wind up like this:

By the way, the above photos are via the eBay online auction site, which means that smart look is available for purchase.  It's also available in high-visibility white:

(Totally translucent--just add water.)

Or aero-Smurf blue:

(Fredly Smurf smurfing his way to yet another "personal best.")

In any event, all this vehicular-cycling-or-bike-lanes stuff is going to be moot anyway, since another reader tells me the future of transportation safety is airbags for your victims:

I feel safer already.
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