Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

23 May 2017

Who And What We Need

When I was writing for a newspaper, a law enforcement official told me, off-record, that there are instances in which bodies are found but investigations aren't conducted. Or, said investigations are begun but lead nowhere quickly.   Then the bodies end up in a potter's field, donated for medical research, cremated--or simply, in the words of that official, "disappeared".  

The reason, he said, is the same as what probably caused those bodies to end up where they were found:   "Nobody knows them," he explained.  "And nobody will miss them."

I am thinking about that encounter, many years past, in light of writing about Alan Snel a few days ago.  Two months ago, as he was cycling down Old Dixie Highway in Florida when a motorist drove straight into his back.  Now he is moving back to Nevada, where he had lived and worked before arriving in the Sunshine State.   In his open letter to Governor Rick Scott, he wrote, "you and the political leaders just don't care enough to do anything to keep cyclists alive in your state."  

"Care" is, I now realize, the key word.  As articulate and energetic as Alan is, and as numerous as we (cyclists) may be, there is only so much we can accomplish if we don't have other people--whether or not they are cyclists--who care.  

My experiences as a transgender woman have taught me as much.  Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgenders and others who don't fit into traditional notions about sexual and gender identity, by ourselves, are much more vulnerable to bigotry and violence when we are seen as the exceptions and the freaks--in other words, when other people cannot, or do not, see us as one of them.  And, people start to understand that we are as worthy of the same rights as they have when we are their sisters, brothers, parents, friends and colleagues.  

The same is true of cyclists, I believe.  Too often, we are seen as renegades or as members of some "over-privileged" group.  Or, people who don't ride think our lives are less valuable because we, for whatever reasons, aren't driving instead of pedaling.  On more than one occasion, I've heard people say, in essence, that the cyclist "had it coming" to him or her when he or she was struck or run down by a car or truck.

At such moments, we--cyclists--are an abstraction or bogeymen, and the word "cyclist" becomes an epithet.  That is because we are not seen as writers, teachers, engineers, carpenters or other professionals or tradespeople--or business people--who happen to ride bikes.  And we are also not thought of as someone's sibling or mother or father.

It's a lot easier to blame a victim you don't know anything about.  But when the person who's hit or run down is a loved one, finger-pointing and excuse-making just won't do.  Instead, you want answers.

Who?  How?  Why?  Those are the questions Jessica Martinez is asking, I imagine.  Police in San Antonio, Texas found her gravely injured father, Santiago Castillo, on the side of a street on the city's East Side.  Skid marks on the scene indicate that Castillo and his bicycle were dragged as much as 50 yards and a surveillance video from a nearby home show that two vehicles, including a dark SUV, struck him.

What makes this incident particularly egregious is that, according to the neighbor, one of the drivers stopped--to remove Castillo's bicycle from his car.  "So they had enough time to get [the bicycle] out of the bumper," said Linda Garcia, another relative of Castillo.  "But they didn't have enough time to wait there with him."  He lay on the street, at the intersection of Denver and Piedmont, until police arrived and he was rushed to the hospital.

Santiago Castillo, a 61-year-old father, died half an hour later.

I don't know whether Linda Garcia or Jessica Martinez ride, or have ever ridden, bicycles.  But someone they love has been killed by a hit-and-run driver.  He was a cyclist.  And they want answers.

22 May 2017

Like A Football

Yesterday, while riding, I started to feel like a football.  I am not complaining; I am merely relating a sensation.

It seems that everywhere I turned, I was riding between "goalposts".  A stretch of the Rockaway Boardwalk has been closed for the past few months:  It was one of the last sections in which the boards hadn't been replaced by the concrete mixture from which the rest of the new "boardwalk" has been rebuilt.  

The section in question, which begins at Beach 39th Street and goes eastward, looked as if it were finished.  But, perhaps, the folks in charge couldn't decide whether or not it was, and whether or not to re-open that section.  So the fence that had closed it off was open part of the way:  It seemed as if someone had cut the chicken-wire mesh in the middle, rolled it up on each side for about half of its width, and propped it with poles of some kind. 

Then, just after I exited the boardwalk near the bridge to Atlantic Beach, I rode between a series of poles that looked like they'd been set up for a tent or awning of some sort.  Perhaps I'd missed a street fair or bazaar.  Or, maybe some kind of construction had just finished or would soon start.

Mind you, those poles didn't impede my ride along a quiet side-street in the town.  Nor did the flagpoles I rode between to steer my way off a congested street in Long Beach.  Actually, those poles bookended the entrance to a private road where I probably wasn't allowed to ride!

I didn't take any photos of my "goals", as I didn't think anything of them until I got to Long Beach and saw this:

Hmm...Was that guy in the middle boat playing "football"?

At least the ride was pleasant:  Sunny and a bit chilly for this time of year.  I rode into a pretty stiff wind from my place down to Rockaway Beach, and for a stretch from Long Beach to Point Lookout.  I was riding Tosca, my fixed-gear Mercian, and wishing that I'd put my 18 tooth cog on the rear instead of the 17 I was riding (with a 47 tooth chainring).   Of course, on my way back, I had no such wish. Well, for a moment or two, I wished I was riding my 16 tooth!  At least Tosca felt nimble, as she always does, in all of those conditions.

And I didn't feel like a football.

21 May 2017

Is Your Bike Whatever You Lock It To?

If you commute or use your bike for errands, you have to park your bike.  In most cities, that means you have to lock it to something--a sign post, a parking meter, a telephone pole.  Or a tree.

To tell you the truth, I've only hitched my wheels to a trunk once or twice in my life.  No U-lock is wide enough, and you'd need a very long chain or cable.  Also, in many places, it's forbidden to lock your bike to a tree.  

Even where it's allowed, I prefer not to do that to a tree  It's definitely not good for the tree--or, apparently, the bike:

(Images from Guy Sports.)