Monday, February 25, 2008

The Bicycles of Winter


Oh, the lonely cycles of winter. Left outside awaiting better days.
For some, that day will never come.
The Fall saw them stripped of useful parts, and undisturbed through the Winter snows, they are left to rust in the cool Spring rains.

Not so for others whose hard existence beats down upon them day after snowy day.


These "iron horses" work until they drop, and like the sign on the big building says,

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

Summer, please come back. I miss you.

Friday, February 8, 2008

"Share the F***ing Road"

Cyclists Court Death Daily

It's dangerous, but Miami is getting friendlier to bikes.
By Isaiah Thompson
Published: January 31, 2008 in the Miami New Times

"Before the sun rises over Miami — before the highways swell with traffic and the streets begin to hum with the sound of a million motors turning at once — the first bicycles appear. From the east — the beaches, Key Biscayne — come the racers. Clad head to toe in thousands of dollars' worth of Lycra, they glide along in tight, silent packs, their wheels producing a collective whirring like a hive of wasps set loose. From the west come the construction workers, mounted on cheap, heavy mountain bikes, outfitted with hard hats and packed lunches.

For this brief moment every day, Miami is full of cyclists, rich and poor alike. As the sun peeks over the horizon, and I-95 begins dumping cars into downtown, the bicycles vanish; the city gives itself over to the cars.

At first glance, there is nary a place on God's green Earth better suited to biking than Miami. It's utterly flat, with weather that lets a cyclist pedal year-round without donning so much as a scarf in January. Its streets are wide and, for the most part, arranged in a tidy, easily navigable grid.

But to ride in Miami is to be among the few and the hunted. Florida ranks among the highest in bicycle fatalities in the nation — second only to California — and in 2006, eight cyclists were killed on Miami roads; nearly 400 were injured. Such statistics are nebulous, though; many bicycle accidents go unreported. Even a crash that results in death might not be recorded as a bike fatality if the victim dies at the hospital.

While most of the county's bike planning exists in a cryogenic freeze, Miami Beach's has begun to thaw. The city went from having a single four-block bike lane in 2004 to boasting five bike lanes, four of them within the past year — by Miami-Dade standards, a revolution. The lanes are largely the result of the efforts of local busybody, neighborhood activist, and BPAC member Gabrielle Redfern, who is running for Miami Beach City Commission in the fall of 2009.

A true Miami Beach patriot, she rides the requisite beach cruiser, a bright olive green Trek painted with little flowers and equipped with a pretty reed basket. "I'm a middle-age Jewish lady who's running for commissioner," she explains, pedaling in the slow, comfortable way that people on the Beach do. "I have to ride a respectable bike."

Five years ago, during her first, unsuccessful bid for a commission seat, Redfern raised a stink when Miami Beach was designated a Bicycle-Friendly City by the League of American Bicyclists. The city had won only a bronze medal, but even so, Redfern's suspicions were immediately aroused: At the time, Miami Beach didn't have a single bike lane.

According to the league's director, Bill Nester, the city's application — submitted by its former director of environmental resources, Bruce Henderson — boasted of 11 miles of bike lanes. Miami Beach has since been removed from the organization's Bicycle-Friendly roster. The city hasn't reapplied.

"They say it's not safe to ride on Alton Road. But it's not safe because there are no bike lanes. Bicycles will never be transportation vehicles until people feel safe to use them."
As we cruise down Meridian Avenue, a driver revs his car engine and pulls in front of us. The passenger's head juts out the window. "You don't bike in the middle of the fucking road, bitch!" he yells, and the car tears off."

To see the full article go to The Miami New Times

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The Good - The South Dixie Highway Bike Path


The bike path utilizes the space beneath the elevated Miami Dade County Metro, paralleling South Dixie Highway (aka US 1). For long stretches, it weaves beneath the concrete supports, offering shelter from the hot southern sun. This is a smart, smart way to utilize what would be abandoned space beneath the rail line.

The Bad - The Intersections


The Metro's elevated track intersects all the major Avenues and weaves back and forth across US1. Every time it does, you've got to find your way across six lanes of homicidal traffic. It's unlit at night, and the blind curves and improbable exits make for a thrill ride equaled only by skitching in wool mittens.

The Ugly - Hey Ma, lets go play on that jungle gym under the Metro. You know, the one right next to the power substation?


What are they, kidding?

I'm the first to admit that just about everything looks better in the early morning Miami light, but nothing saves this pathetic attempt at 'public space' from looking exactly like what it is - an abandoned, dirty, miserable, your tax dollars at work, boondoggle. I mean who in their right mind would let their children within 100 yards of the power substation, much less play right next to it. The electrical buzz is so strong, my metal fillings vibrate as I ride by.

At least the sand might slow down the homicidal motorists.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Cheating on my Honey


Damn, but ain't she sweet?

I mean, I feel guilty and all, but you know how it is?
It's cold in NYC.
And this sweet thing practically jumped in my lap and said 'ride me sugar'.
Look at those classic curved lines, that phat round rear-view. And it's not like she hasn't been around the block once or twice. The girl may look good, but she's pushing 30, at least.

Baby, it's cold outside - but not in Miami where I found this cream puff listed on Craigslist.

Now, Miami is not the most bike-friendly of towns. Uber-car-culture makes for much unpleasantness when trying to navigate this city, but like many auto-centric areas, the main thoroughfares are hell, and every other street is smooth, flat and empty of all traffic.
For some reason, people in cars are willing to sit in traffic and honk at each other rather than hit a few back street stop signs. This means more road for those of us on two wheels, but unlike NYC, here the streets don't all connect. It is actually impossible for me to get where I'm going without braving some of the worst intersections I've ever seen.
Miami is criss-crossed with canals which make navigation more complicated than I'm used to. You may be headed in the right direction, but the only way over the water probably involves eight lanes of traffic, none of whom have apparently ever seen a bicyclist before.


I'd say it's frustrating, but really, when I get stuck or get yelled at, I just take a deep 70 degree breath and gently reassure my new-found love that all will be well.
As they say on Wayne's World - "SCHWINN!"