Monday, September 18, 2006

Motorcycle Terrorists

Sept. 18, 2006
What belching, odoriferous road full of swarming locusts appeared last Sunday? You win, about 1,000 motorcyclists driving through lower New York State on one of their "fundraisers", terrorizing every single pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist in their path last Sunday, Sept. 17, that's what.
I thought motorists were the bad guys. And because motorcyclists are also on two wheels, and subject to many of the same dangers, I thought they might be more sympathetic to our plight: The double indemnity of close passing, speeding motorists. Drivers who turn in front of us, assuming we are made of steel.
Motorcyclists are also being killed in greater numbers than ever before, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. So maybe it was fair to assume that motorcyclists are on our side.
Not so fast my friend.
As the screaming, belching motorcyclists swarmed their way up Rte. 501 from Sparkill, NY onto Rte. 9W, about 20 cyclists heading south gathered at the intersection of Tallman Rd. and 9W to wait for them to pass. A long line of cars coming north, and south were also stopped to wait for the cavalcade of motorized steel blarting their way through the green countryside, decimating any semblance of peace on this otherwise tranquil Sunday morning. We tried to exchange words, but the noise was deafening.
As the police held traffic to allow them to bully through at 60 miles per hour (in a 40 mph zone), and unable to cross to the south side, after waiting about 15 minutes I headed south along the northbound shoulder, watching for cyclists that might be coming my way.
After the Palisades intersection I crossed over onto the southbound side by merging with some motorcycle riders who had slowed near the intersection.
My mistake.
It seemed to me, and to five other cyclists who climbed State Line Hill, that we were intentionally terrorized as motorcyclists driving on the right white line passed us with intense speed, pushing us over even farther, onto the grass and into the ditch.
The din was enormous, the smell of gas noxious and nauseating. The fear of being hit by one of these screeching machines was overwhelming. As they passed closer and closer, I waved my arm out to signal to them to give me more space.
But this simple action made these people come even closer, virtually within inches of my legs, while simultaneously accelerating.
I felt if I moved an inch to my left, I might be pierced by a speeding spear of steel.
Some of the riders were sitting back low with their legs sticking out on both sides, as if on a couch drinking beer and watching football: One man mocked us by making a cycling movement with his legs out of the stirrups. Policemen on massive motorcycles added to the cacophony and danger by speeding by with their sirens blazing, and making everyone move even farther over the white line and into the shoulder.

I thought, “Perhaps today I will die.”

I understood them: "Hey you road target, it's our day, our "ride". Now 'git you lowlife!”
Ten four, message received loud and clear.
I stopped with a group of cyclists at the top of State Line because the "people" on motorcycles were taking a turn at about 50 mph onto the Palisades Parkway, across our path of egress. Another line of cars snaked down the road from the south, waiting for the motorcyclists to turn onto the highway. I could only imagine what the wild animals on both sides of the road were doing--trembling and quivering, hidden in holes, from the deafening noise, smells, and violence of these people and their machines.
And imagine that the city of New York wants quiet, peaceful, environmentally careful, safe cyclists to get a permit when they ride in numbers greater than 10!
This ride of insane, dangerous, environmentally damaging road hogs shouldn't even be granted a permit!

Disclaimer: Anyone who did not partake in this heinous ride, nor in the behavior the riders exhibited, is not included in this expression of disgust will all things motorcyclist, and my most sincere apologies for lumping you in with those whose behavior is abominable

Monday, September 11, 2006

Nine Eleven

While the media wages one of its most powerful days of the year with a reminder of almost 3,000 people who died five years ago, it is perhaps time for somber reflection.

What no terrorist can see or feel is into our hearts. From these terrible events, the destruction of people at the two World Trade Centers, in the Pentagon, and on a plane in Pennsylvania, we can only feel utter sadness.

But our sorrow that cuts deep like broken glass and pervades this day with anguish for our fellow human beings when we imagine how they felt during the moments of terror, that sorrow is hard to convey to someone who does not know us.

How can we really know the pain, panic and suffering of those who were on board the flights that hit the trade towers? Or of those people who were trapped, burning on the upper floors? Or, the intense desperation of those caught in the stairways when the buildings collapsed all around them? And those people who desperately sought to regain control of a plane even as they knew it was going to crash and kill them all, what were they feeling?

It is hard to know.

This is a reminder to take stock in all that is meaningful to you and give homage; to think deeply and carefully of all those you care about and who care about you, and to give them an extra moment, another chance, or a free day when you can share in the miracle of life.

It is also the moment to think about readdressing your priorities and taking a vow that you will dedicate your life to bringing wisdom, health, happiness, joy and beauty to as many people in the world as possible. Or maybe even to a lucky few.

Now that's not too much to ask for, is it?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Benepe's Bike Blog Moves to New Location

Sept. 6, 2006. Virtual location that is. After spending more than six months, Benepe's Bike Blog has moved to a new location. Our new location is at http://benepesbikeblog.blogspot.com.

This new venue will allow BBB to be properly archived, and more importantly, will allow you to comment on the pieces. Clearly, this is the way to go these days.
All of the previous blogs have been added to this new format, and are "archived" below by name and date. Unfortunately, they were all added today, Sept. 6, so you'll have to check them out all in the month of September (virtually).
More changes will be coming to NY Cycle News as well, so keep posted.
JB

How Cycling is Changing in China, August 30, 2006


August 30, 2006--A terrific article by writer Bill Donahue published on the Sierra Club website this month details the how modernization in China is crowding out cyclists.
Orignally from Oregon where he rides a $1,000 Trek, Donahue traveled to Shanghai to see for himself how the increase in car usage, and the closing of many roads to cyclists, was changing the ease with which cyclists can ride.
The importance of cycling in the Chinese economy since the Cultural Revolution began a rapid decline once the country declared itself politically open to capitalism in the late 1990's. Bicycles are still the primary form of transportation in China, with a population of 1.3 billion people, and 470 million bicycles, compares to the U.S. where we have a population of 298 million people and 100 million bikes--the number of bikes per person is .33 in the U.S. and .36 in China.
But these numbers mask the fact that the automobile is pushing out cyclists on major streets and thoroughfares. Rather than protest the draconian road closures, and bullying by motorists on the roads, the Chinese, long used to a system of upper and lower class distinctions, according to Mr. Donahue, take their shoving aside in stride.
Spending on roadways and highways is now unprecedented in China which at $40 billion a year should result in "the world's most extensive interstate-highway system" by 2008, said Donahue. He also notes that last year "China became the world's second-largest car market, selling nearly 6 million vehicles."
The cars are sold mostly to members of the newly rich capitalist class, who by all accounts prefer Mercedes and BMW's. That could be a good thing said Donahue, because those cars are cleaner and pollute less.
Also on his trip Donahue hires an interpretor named Gorden to go on the road with him--by Chinese bicycle--and Gorden turns out to be running a highly successful prostitution business with three cellphones he carries with him. He doesn't fire his pimp-interpretor, but notes that as part of the rising class, he already looks down on cyclists as poor and lower class, and distinguishes himself instead by riding the city's crammed public transportation system.
Dressed in a black velvet jacket, Gorden yearns for a BMW, Mercedes, but he also liked the Jaguar hood symbol. "Just a large cat--very cool. But I think I will buy something practical like a Honda Accord or an Elantra, or maybe a Toyota Crown or a Lexus," he said.


There is still time: only about eight cars were owned per 1,000 people in 2004, "which is approximately where the United States stood in 1920," said Donahue. Yet car ownership is increasing by 15 percent per year, faster than anywhere else in the world, he added.
Donahue also visited the big factory where the local Forever bicycles are manafactured where Forever CEO Gu Juexin explained that he no longer will be manufacturing bikes for the Chinese market, but for Wal-Mart in the U.S. But Donahue said, the Chinese government has created some bike routes, closed off tangential roads to cars, and improved mass transit. They also offer government incentives to purchase non-polluting electric bikes which are increasingly found on the roads there--often pushing aside human pedaled bikes.

Hindsight is 20/20 they say, and Americans know that too many cars results in too much traffic--and eventually standstill. The movement backwards to create more bike lanes is oppressively difficult, as we all know. Will China find the vision to make a halt halfway in their march towards modernization, or will they fall into the same trap we did?

Read Donahue's report here.

SELECTED STATISTICS On China and the U.S. (from Donahue's report):
China vs. / U.S.
Population 1.3 billion / 298 million
Projected population in 2025 1.4 billion / 350 million
Average annual income $1,500 / $44,000
Projected income in 2025 $10,488 / $82,000
Number of bikes 470 million / 100 million
Number of private passenger vehicles 13 million / 144 million
Annual percentage increase in number of private
passenger vehicles 15% / 3%
Barrels of oil consumed daily 6.5 million / 20 million
Percentage of world's energy
consumption 13% / 23%
Tons of carbon dioxide emitted in 2003 3.5 billion / 5.9 billion
Percentage of world's carbon
dioxide emissions 14% / 24%
Year that China is expected to surpass the United States
in carbon emissions: 2025

Oh When, Oh When will GWB be Accessible Again? Aug. 14, 2006

A Letter to the Port Authority About GWB
August 14, 2006--As many cyclists know, the New York New Jersey Port Authority closed the bike-accessible south side of the bridge just in time for the heavy summer season. As a result, cyclists have been struggling with more than six, count them, six sets of steps that they need to climb up and down to get across the bridge, often carrying their bikes.
Benepe's Bike Blog took it upon ourselves to send the Port Authority a letter on Friday, August 11 at 8:30 in the morning. So far, there has not been a peep of an answer from the communications office.
Below is a copy of the letter. We will be checking on them again later today to see why these questions are so difficult to answer:

Hi Jordan, Tony--

Can you tell me when the bridge path will be back to the south side?

It’s proven to be an enormous inconvenience for cyclists this summer during
peak riding season.

Several cyclists have fallen down the long, slippery steps in their cleated
shoes, damaging their bodies and their bikes.

On weekends there are long wait times to go up and down the stairs to cross
the bridge because of the number of cyclists (average 1500 per day on the
weekends).

I have watched several cyclists turning away from the bridge because of the
huge inconvenience caused by the up and down staircase, including a family
of three, two adults and a baby, on bikes. The bike railings are useless for
most cyclists because they wear cleated shoes which slip on the open metal
stairways, and therefore in order to hold the railing with their hands, they
must carry their bikes. While they hold the railing, they must do so more
than 2 feet away because of the placement of the yellow bike rails which are
in the way, and completely useless to them.

It is an incredibly dangerous and inconvenient condition.

In the meantime, we haven’t noticed any visible progress on the south side,
including the purported planned widening of the pathway at the entrance to
New Jersey, which was your stated reason for closing the pathway all summer

Tony, despite your earlier note which indicated that the path is “free” and
cyclists should be thankful for it, I have done an informal poll, and found
that cyclists would be happy to pay for a toll of 50 cents —the car
equivalent by weight and size—to have the same amenities as cars—ramped
entrances and exits, and direct connections to bike routes and bike paths,
such as the Westside greenway, and most importantly, 24-hour access.

Can we have a progress report on the status of the south side please?

Can you please also indicate in your reply who is the person responsible in
the Port Authority with who I can address these short and long term issues?
I appreciate it.

Regards,

Jen Benepe
President and Publisher
http://www.nycyclenews.com

You Know You're Addicted to Cycling When, Aug. 7, 2006

August 7, 2006
I love this list, submitted by Ron Spechler of the North Jersey Bike Association. His original list was a tad sexist, so I've changed the orientation where necessary to reflect both sexes of addicts. It also is a bit suburbia-centric, but never mind, the intent is terrific. You'll laugh at yourself after you read this. Major suggestion--don't show this list to your boss or future employer.
You know you're addicted to cycling when:
--Your surgeon tells you need a heart valve replacement and you ask if you have a choice between presta and schrader;
--A measurement of 44-36-40 doesn't refer to the latest Playboy/ Playgirl centerfold, but that new gear ratio you were considering for your Cobra.
--A Power Bar starts tasting better than a Snickers.
--The bra your significant other finds in your glove compartment belongs to your Trek and not the cute waitress at Denny's.
--You wear your heart monitor to bed to make sure you stay within your target zone during any extracurricular activities.
--The funeral director tells you "NO!" you can't ride your Cannondale in the funeral procession, even if you keep your headlight on.
--You experience an unreasonable envy over someone who has bar end extenders longer than yours.
--You're too tired for hanky-panky on a Friday night but pump out a five-hour century on Saturday.
--Your wife/ husband tells you the only way she'll let you ride across the country is over her/ his dead body and you tell her/him, "If that's the case, you'll be my first speed bump!"
--You no longer require a hankie to blow your nose.
--You have stopped even trying to explain to your spouse why you need two bikes...you just go buy another one and figure it will
all work out in the divorce settlement.
--You buy your crutches instead of renting.
--You see nothing wrong with discussing the connection between hydration and urine color.
--You have more money invested in your bike clothes than in the rest of your combined wardrobe.
--Biker chic means black spandex, not leather, and a Marinoni, not a Harley.
--"Four cheeseburgers and four large French Fries" is for you.
--You see a fit, tanned, Lycra-clad young woman/ man ride by, and the first thing you check out is her/ his bicycle.
--You empathize with the roadkill.
--Despite all that winter fat you put on, you'll skim weight by buying titanium components.
--You use wax on your chain, but not on your car.
--Your bike has more miles on its computer then your car's odometer.
--You wear your bike shorts swimming.
--You buy a bikini with shorts for bottoms because of your mid-thigh tan line.
--Your bikes are worth more than your car.
--When you move to a new area the first thing you look for is a bike shop.
--You have more bike jerseys than dress shirts.
--You take your bike along when you shop for a car - just to make sure the bike will fit inside.
--You clean your bike(s) more often then your car.
--You're on the Board of Directors for a Bike Club.
--You mount a $600 cap, on a $1,000 pickup truck, so your $3,000 bike doesn't get wet.
---You can't seem to get to work by 8:30 AM, even for important meetings, but you don't have any problems at all meeting your buddies at 5:30 AM for a hammerfest.
--You can tell your spouse, with a straight face, that it's too hot to mow the lawn or do the laundry and then bike off for a century.
--You know your cadence, but you have no idea what your speed is.
--Your car sits outside your garage because your garage is full of bikes and cycling gear.
--You tailgate a semi-trailer to get the drafting effect.
--You hear someone had a crash and your first question is "How's the bike?"
--You smile at your evening date, and she/ he politely points out that you seem to have bugs in your teeth.
--You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends who are addicted to cycling.
--You think "I have to shave my legs before I pick her up tonight for dinner"
And I added:
--You think guys who don't shave their legs are ugly and not worth your time
--You include "rides a bike" in your online dating requirements
--You tell any future significant other never to expect you to be available on Saturday and Sunday mornings every weekend for the rest of your life before you even tell them your name, unless of course they go with you on the bike
--You draft behind a guy on a bicycle just so you can watch the muscles in his legs
--As a woman you also enjoy watching women's backsides while they ride so you can improve your form
--You tell people you are a cyclist before you tell them what you do for a living
--You go to sleep early on Friday and Saturday nights just so you can keep up with the fast guys
--You wear your heartrate monitor every time you ride so when you crash and end up in the hospital, they won't have to take your heart rate
--You spend more money on one pair of bike shoes than on shoes you wear to work, parties, and casual all combined
--You care more about how your legs look when you wear bike shorts than when you wear skirts
--You do sit ups just so your jersey doesn't crumple in front when you wear it
--You would rather go for a bike ride than do your nails, and will spend a whole week with broken nail polish and sightly nails than not ride
--You plan every single vacation with cycling in mind, and if your S.O. tells you you won't be able to ride, you cancel

If you have more to add, please email jbenepe@msn.com

Desperate Reporting on Central Park, July 31, 2006


Cardwell's Desperate Story-Telling on Central Park--Again
July 31, 2006--Diane Cardwell of the New York Times is on another witch-hunt to augment her city desk career. Her latest, a hunt and peck attempt to dissect pieces of email taken out of context constitute another desperate ploy to give her almost-buried stories subversive, national appeal.
The latest is a cut and paste article on her favorite conspiracy theory, that the current Bloomberg administration, including the Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, is hopelessly anti-anti-war and anti-free speech, and that the Parks Department’s refusal to honor large protest requests in Central Park is nothing but a thinly veiled excuse to squash the voices of Democracy.
But if Ms. Cardwell were really the reporter she tries to make herself appear to be, she would have done her homework. But she didn’t.
I should know that Mr. Benepe is not anti-anti-war. First of all he is my brother, so I know. Secondly I remember vividly that we were both engaged from the time we were just out of the womb in our family’s pacifist endeavors. A fact that the quick to point fingers Cardwell neglected to unearth is that both our parents were Quakers, and devoutly anti-war. Our natural born mother, (we have two stepmothers as well) Dr. Jagna Wojcicka-Sharff was Polish and lived during her formative years in Nazi work camps. Imagine a eight-year-old living out her only childhood being taken from her home, stuffed into Nazi train cars like a mule, and living under the sound of air raid sirens until she was about 12. So there is ample room in our family for anti-war sentiment.
This meant that I was barely one when I was hoisted onto the back of my placard waving mother and carted off to an anti-war protest in Washington D.C. At the age of five we were both enrolled in the Bread and Puppet Theater where we constructed enormous anti-war puppets that we lugged to D.C. to protest in the hot sun.
Cardwell’s use of portions of emails taken out of context from an entire conversation, is part and parcel of the art of fabrication. And we know that certain reporters from the NY Times have often engaged in the art of fabrication—why not Ms. Cardwell?
This story is being kept alive since 2004 with the hopes of rattling the bones of more liberal New Yorkers, the ones who read the Times, of which my brother and I are a part.
But the facts are always carefully concealed in Ms. Cardwell’s articles. It cost the city more than $18 million dollars and two years to fix the great lawn, and they have had engineers tell them that it would be destroyed with a certain number of people stomping on it. It was a dust bowl before that, thanks to all the previous abuse.
An orderly, small concert will yield different results as we all know: political protests make people upset, and that is their purpose. Also, the lawn has not been lent out to any parties over a certain number since it was redone in 1999, regardless of political orientation.
The last big march, United for Peace and Justice that hoped to make its way to the park was way over the engineer's people limit. No one in that group would be able to post an insurance bond big enough to cover the costs (nor the time) of redoing the lawn. Presumably a smaller concert would.
It’s amazing that the people who are most keen on using Central Park for their protests—very convenient, nice soft spots of grass to sit on, spots that won’t be grassy after they leave—by and large are not from New York, and will leave once they are done. Why should they care if the lawn is damaged and they can’t use it for the next two years? They won’t be here after all. Nor will they pay for it.
The other really good question is, what is wrong with Queens and Brooklyn, venues that have been offered with real generosity by the city who is under no obligation whatsoever to offer any park to the organizers (for a group which is composed of people, I need to remind you, who are mostly from out of town).
Is it perhaps because they are afraid they the TV trucks from CBS, NBC and ABC that are right around the corner to Central Park may not make it out in great numbers to the outer boroughs?
I thought the New York Sun put these points down well, as did this Great Lawn fact sheet.
Unfortunately, these facts never make it into Ms. Cardwell's reporting. But then, there wouldn’t be a story, would there?

Back to NYCycleNews.

Donations for Cyclist Still Short $295, July 12, 2006



July 12, 2006-- Cyclists, friends and family have opened their hearts to help Celestino Bautizo Lazo buy a bicycle so he can ride to school, begin racing, and start a mountain biking tour business in his native Oaxaca.
Here Celestino is with his family. He is second from left. They are standing in front of their handmade rugs, which the family weave for a living.

Benepe's Bike Blog thanks all of you for you incredible assistance to Celestino. Remember, the next time you want to train during the cold (brr!) winter months, you can head over to Celestino's house located in Teotitaln del Valle.

Celestino will also use the bike to take mountain bikers up to Benito Juarez, one of the most beautiful natural areas in the world.

Here is yours truly (JB) in the area two years ago. Yes, it was cold, dipping down to 40 degrees fahrenheit at night.

To donate online please go to first VIsa PayPal to donate $10 link, and second plain PayPal link to donate $5. They are both the same exact for the dollar amount. Thanks!!!

Media Ignores Key Points in Tunnel Threat, July 7, 2006

July 7, 2006--Reports in the last hour that Jordanian backed bombers planned to blow up New York's Holland Tunnel have been ignoring the important impact such an event would have on New York and the entire northeast. A report by the NY Daily News, and perhaps the terrorists themselves, have focused on the potential flooding of the Wall St. area had Al Qaeda sympathizers allegedly backed by the recently deceased Abu Musab al-Zarqawi been successful in their aims.
The danger of such an event is far greater than the flooding the terrorrists have planned for. Just the fear alone of a possible attack can have a paralyzing effect on transportation in the entire northeast. Imagine 20 percent of the tunnel users redirecting themselves instead to the George Washington Bridge to travel between New York and the rest of the east coast. Currently the bridge is at capacity, at times with traffic backed up on IS- 95/ 80 --stalling all interstate traffic for hours. Imagine if the number of people who chose to switch the way they have traveled either temporarily or permanently came to more than 20 percent of tunnel users. What we would have is a completely stalled interstate transportation system and the myriad problems that would bring.
Then imagine that terrorists are successful in carrying out their plot through one of their multifarious cells. That's 100 percent of the interstate traffic diverted to the GWB and the Tappan Zee Bridge. A physical impossibility, and far more significant perhaps than flooding parts of lower Manhattan.
The possibility that misdirected terrorists could destroy the tunnel and the bridge have always hung in the back of the minds of many commuters as they chug along every day on their trips back and forth to the city. The recent strengthening of the GWB cables with a bomb-strength protectant that would send the force of an explosion outward would only serve to preserve the bridge's structure in the event of a terrorist strike: the force would still bring the bridge down possibly 20 feet according to experts knowledgeable about the technology. In such an explosion, likely everyone on the bridge would perish. Bridge and tunnel users often complain that police inspections of trucks and cars entering either crossing are negligible.
But again, the effect on interstate movement would be so debilitating as to bring the entire northeast to a close standstill. Imagine, no food, supplies, trucks, and people able to cross from west to east without significant delays and costs. That would choke off New York City, Westchester, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Long Island, from points west and vice versa. It would create massive problems with connecting transportation such as the LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports. Commerce--which thrives not only on goods but also on people--would cease to be what it is.
What little this has to do with cycling may one day turn out to be a lot. Under those circumstances, would these narrow-minded bridge and tunnel authorities finally build convenient and easy to access bicycle facilities, so that trucks and buses have the opportunity to pass along these crowded routes? Would motorists finally take their bikes to cross?
This summer again, like last summer, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has chosen the prime months of June through September to close the south pedestrian walk along the George Washington Bridge. Understandably the walk needs to be closed for construction. But once again PANYNJ has done absolutely nothing to improve access on the north side where cyclists and peds have to climb up and down 6 sets of stairs carrying their bikes, often tripping and falling with their cleated shoes. Why hasn't the Port Authority used the nine months when the north walk was closed to add essential ramps to ease their transitions?
On a normal weekend day, more than 1500 cyclists cross the bridge in one direction. On Saturday July 1, cyclists said they had to wait at the bottom and top of the stairways in line in order to climb or descend because it is necessary to use the handrails so they would not fall while carrying their bikes. The closure is likely to add motorist traffic as cyclists, weary of the ridiculous trip, take their cars with their bikes in order to cross.
Tony Ciavolella, spokesperson noted that "the bridge is FREE to cyclists," suggesting that they should not complain since they don't pay a fee to cross. "That's ridiculous," said one cyclist when told of the spokesman's comments. "We ride across causing no pollution--they should thank us for crossing on bikes," she argued.
Currently motorists pay $6 to cross the bridge, as do the informal Spanish transit buses that can carry more than 30 people at a time, bringing the cost per person to about 20 cents.
That being the case, the Port Authority should accommodate cyclists in the same easy access way they do cars--with direct, street-level entry points, cross-over bridges to bike paths, and 24-hour access. And they can charge even more than the 20 cents--how about 25 cents using a coin-operated turnstile.
And start treating interstate transportation with the 21st century thinking it deserves.

(Photos: Courtesy of Palisades Interstate Parks Commission: Photo 2: The GWB under construction in 1931).

Critical Mass to End June On a Strident Note, June 30, 2006

June 30, 2006--Cyclists will take to the streets tonight in their usual free form group fashion, but the mood is expected to be anything but normal.
Two cyclists were killed recently in accidents involving trucks, most recently, Derek Lake, 23,, on Houston St. on Monday during a rainstorm. According to media and police reports, Derek slipped on a metal street cover, fell under a tractor trailer that was making a turn, and was crushed by its wheels.
In another unrelated accident, Dr. Carl Nacht was cycling along the Greenway last Thursday, and was hit by a police tow truck that was turning into the NYPD facility at 38th St. He was thrown headlong into an illegally parked car along the Greenway, according to police and on Sunday, June 25, died of head injuries. He was not wearing a helmet.
Cyclists reactions to the deaths have been a mix of sorrow and outrage, and those sentiments are sure to come out with some anguish in tonight's Critical Mass ride, the unorganized mass bike ride that usually starts from Union Square and 17th St., and makes its way uptown along Park Ave., before coming back downt to Lower Manhattan.
It is not known whether the NYPD will be present at Union Square waiting for the riders, and how strenous they will be in curtailing the group's movements.
Previous Critical Mass rides have ranged from little containment and policing, such as those prior to the Republican National Convention in 2004. Since the RNC however, New York police have taken a much harsher stance towards the event, ticketing and sometimes arresting large groups of people.
You can view coverage of the memorial which was held for Nacht and Lake on June 29, and shot by Mike Pidel. You can also read more about Lake's accident and Nacht's on Gothamist.com.

Second Viewing of Bike Film Raises Questions, June 27, 2006

“Contested Streets” Raises More Questions
June 27, 2006--Transportation Alternatives brought together the media, city advocates, and TA members to a viewing of the now completed film “Contested Streets” on Tuesday. But the absence of significant New York City officials at the showing demonstrated just how difficult it is for the advocacy group to retain alliances with a city administration that is often the target of their criticism.
The new and improved version compares innovative cycling and pedestrian plans incorporated in Copenhagen, Paris and London, with the dangerous streets of New York. Cyclists are still reeling from the devastating news of two more cyclist deaths in the past week, Dr. Carl Nacht, 56, along the Westside Greenway, and Derek Lake, 23, on Houston St., pointing to the ever more perilous environment here, even on the coveted and heavily used cycling-specific greenway.
Directed by Stefan Shaefer, and produced by Diane Crespo, the film was first shown earlier this year. Perhaps largely for that reason, the second viewing lacked the magnificent energy and momentum of the first. And although some city officials were present at the first viewing, Iris Weinshall, the city's transportation commissioner was notably absent on Tuesday.
Empty also was the seat being held in the first row, center, for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a reflection perhaps of the lack of political will in this city for change, but also perhaps of the difficult role of TA to be both a champion of change while also cajoling important players to come view this hopeful portrayal of what needs to be accomplished .
The film's impact for those who are willing to go see it, even viewed for a second time, is still great. It raises the faraway hope that one day, we too can ride carelessly to work with our ties flying behind us, our children strapped into front-cargo cabooses, whilst sporting flip-flops and skirts, our hair flying in the breeze. Interviews with New York City historians Mike Wallace and Kenneth Jackson about the need for more space for people—not cars---are so to the point and articulate they take your breath away.
While the film was elevating, inspiring and forward thinking, it also left the audience wanting more specific examples of what can and should be implemented. To be fair, to do so presumably would have taken more time and more work by the filmmaker and his producer, and getting the film out to the public was likely an imperative, as it should be: It is an excellent piece that should serve well as a calling card for change.
But achieving that change may prove difficult, primarily because TA has not been successful in gaining cooperation from the city departments responsible for traffic, possibly the inevitable result of being an advocacy organization whose goal is to create change.
But the blame cannot entirely fall on the process or even on the failings of Mayor Bloomberg and his subordinates. The alliances TA is willing to create could well make a difference, as well as their methodology. Past actions serve as a good example, such as TA’s “young turks” of 1966, who chose defiance—blocking traffic and laying their bikes down in front of cars to get Central Park closed to car traffic on the weekends-- over the present-day more passive use of marketing campaigns.
It brings to mind Al Gore’s very well executed film “Inconvenient Truth,” which is waging its political battle on the media front instead of at the polls.
And the importance of strategic alliances and deciding where effort and funding is best focused should perhaps be rethought in the cycling community: Although the audience and the film were peppered with important bicycling and pedestrian advocates, such as Tim Tompkins, head of the 42nd St. Business Improvement District, and Kathryn Wylde, head of Partnership for New York City, TA has curiously chosen to add previous first deputy commissioner of transportation Sam Schwartz to the film in the second version.
On the face of things, the choice is deft because of Schwartz's media association with the term "gridlock." But by his own admission Schwartz has been largely a car man since his government stint some 20 years ago. And perhaps irksome to the more media shy Commissioner Weinshall, Schwartz’s media blitz every time there is a traffic jam in New York City might feel like an affront to her job function and a repetitive irritant.
Lest we forget, Ms. Weinshall is not allowed to make many public statements should they be thrown back at her by New York’s merciless media troops. And she is also wife to NY State Senator Chuck Schumer who actually rides his bike to work, arriving in sweat pants, not tie and jacket, to some important political events.
An important side note, you can hardly take Al Gore seriously on emission controls when he is depicted in “Inconvenient Truth” in summertime suited up in grey wool, being chauffeured to his media jaunts in a luxuriously appointed, air-conditioned, black limousine. Which is precisely the point: you must be thoroughly consistent in all your choices.
Further, viewers can hardly come to any conclusion about the changes Weinshall wants or has made because we never hear from her. It might have been more politically expedient to quote her and show what efforts the city has made no matter how small and insignificant they may seem to cyclists.
Still, the film does depict previous New York Metropolitan Transit chief Robert R. Kiley who was in charge of transportation planning in London from 2000 to 2006, and comes off as very evolved, since he made changes to London's bike routes, and instituted congestion pricing there. The film practically breaks your heart that Kiley—or someone like him-- cannot be elevated from his status as London planner, to New York City DOT Commissioner.
With all the money spent on the film, its two showings, and the trip by Jan Gehl previously, all reputedly costing well over $100,000, it is a shame that someone did not think of sending flowers to or taking to lunch (both under $75) Ms. Weinshall, as well as kinder words opined in public about her department.
In many areas, TA is doing an excellent job balancing their need to create change and controversy with the need for political alliances. Their viral marketing plan, offering viewers a chance to set up a private DVD showing of “Contested Streets” with their friends and neighbors is a great idea, and it may work in spreading the word that change is necessary and doable in this great city of ours.
And one could argue that it is difficult to know just how hard it is to navigate the quagmire of New York City politics: It’s always easier to wag your tongue or your pen from the outside than to be a player deep in the swirl of underwater currents.
It is clear, nonetheless, that the driven energy and creativity of Paul Steely White and his resourceful staff, including Dani Simons who organized the film event, has done wonders for the organization, reenergizing its members, and hopefully will take New Yorkers one more big step towards the path of bike Nirvana.
Get the DVD, and show it to your friends—and we may well be there soon.
To obtain a DVD copy of the film contact Dani Simons at events@transalt.org.

More Police Activity in Central Park Reported, June 21, 2006

June 21, 2006--Police have been asking cyclists to stop at red lights in Central Park, reported cyclists this Wednesday, and have been handing our cards containing rules of the road.
The effort is being dubbed by police as an attempt to reduce the morning rush dangers of multiple users, cyclists, pedestrians and motorists in the heavily trafficked west drive from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the morning.
The police action took place primarily at 81st Street and the West Drive, where cyclists were being stopped and handed a card explaining traffic rules for cyclists. Pedestrians wanting to cross the roadway were also being held at their red light.
However, after that intersection, "cyclists were just blowing through all the red lights," reported Strictly Bicycles Team rider Adam Crane.
Police told Mr. Crane that their actions were being taken to stem the rise in accidents between pedestrians and cyclists. An 8-year-old girl was hit in a crosswalk in Central Park about 4 weeks ago, according to police. The cyclist was running a red light in an intersection, and the girl was blinded in one eye as a result of her injuries.
Also about one year ago, a homeless man was struck by a cyclist near the Boathouse, who was racing in a time trial in the early morning hours. He struck his head on the pavement and later died.
An 80-year-old cyclist, Dr. Sabert Basecu, a psychiatrist and post-doctoral professor at New York University, was also killed in May of this year when a runner verged into his path.
More on this storycoming up.
This story was reported on the scene by Adam Crane, with contributions from Richard Rosenthal.

Police Enforcement Stepped Up, June 13, 2006

Police Enforcement Against Cyclists Stepped Up
June 13, 2006--Reports of increased police ticketing of cyclists have recently surfaced in the city. One cyclist, Doug Aaronson received a $90 ticket for riding the wrong way on a one-way street. Cyclists are warned to obey traffic rules at all times, or risk similar penalties.
Enforcement was also up on River Road in Piermont, NY last weekend. Another cyclist, who requested anonymity, was not aware of the single file only rules that the towns of Piermont and Grandview have been enforcing along the narrow road that connects Piermont to Nyack, NY. More than 1,000 cyclists travel the road on weekend days, and police officers hide behind bushes waiting for them to come along riding two abreast.
The local law is announced with informal looking yellow signs that cyclists have said look hand made. Experts have argued that the local law is not consistent with NY state vehicle law that allows cyclists to ride two abreast unless road conditions or a passing car, require that they go single file. The local law has not yet been challenged but some other observers note that under certain circumstances, and with permission from the state, a local town can make an exception to state law.
Reports of cyclists being ticketed for not wearing helmets have also been circulated, particularly in the Rockland County and along River Road in New Jersey. Rockland County has a helmet law, and River Road is in Palisades Park, which is subject to the rules and regulations set up by the park's administration.

A Family Ride, June 8, 2006


June 8, 2006--Here is the photo of the week, taken on a calm side street in Paramus, NJ on Sunday, June 4. Pictured, cyclist and Honda salesman Doug Daniele, his two children and a friend.
Can you do this--no hands too?

Report Clears Armstong's Name--Sort of, June 1, 2006

June 1, 2006-- Cyclists may have been waiting for this day, when seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong would clear his name of doping allegations. Emile Vrijman, a Dutch lawyer hired by the International Cycling Union to investigate the claims of doping by Armstrong declared in an independent report that since drug testers had mishandled Armstrong's urine samples, he could not come to the conclusion that the champion had been doping during the 1999 Tour, according to the Associated Press yesterday. But reactions by the cycling union indicate that they may not be in agreement with the report.
But Vrijman's report carries a lot of weight, since he is previous head of the Dutch anti-doping organization. In his report he also alleges that the French Ministry of Sport did not handle the urine samples in a way that would prevent tampering, and that they had refused to cooperate with his investigation. He also noted that the cycling union should refrain from any further diciplinary action against Armstrong.
A New York Times article this morning details Armstrong's lawsuit against the insurance company, SCA Promotions, who had withheld a $5 million dollar bonus for his sixth Tour win because of the drug allegations, which he won this February.
The report was not well received by the International Cycling Union, who posted a statement on their website saying they deplored the behavior of Vrijman because he "prematurely voiced" the report, and that they would read the report and come to their own conclusions. This may indicate that the union may still be looking for a way to continue the investigation.

Other Stories:
abcnews.com
ESPN.com

J.P. Partland Makes the Big Time, May 26, 2006

May 26, 2006--A local cyclist and journalist held a book-signing yesterday for his new how-to book on the Tour de France at the trendy NYC Velo last night. J.P. Partland presided over a crowd of about 70 people at the Second Ave. store to inaugurate his new book, Tour Fever: The Armchair Cyclist's Guide to the Tour de France, published by Berkley, a division of Penguin. A regular contributor to Asphalt Magazine, Partland's Tour book is his third after Mountain Bike Madness and The World of BMX.
Surrounded by adoring friends and cycling colleagues, his wife Beth, and his parents Linda and Don, Partland signed merrily away until each one of this new minted, green-covered, $12.95 books were sold. Many of those who bought the book have raced or still do, and likely are well-versed in the details of the Tour de France. But never mind that, the book is full of facts, such as the number of cars in the caravan following the tour at any time (200 plus vehicles representing 45 brands), and a primer on the racers as gentlemen in a brutal competition, one of the often observed but little noted facts that sets bike racing apart from other sports.
Coming soon: a review of JP's book.

Cycling Immigrants, May 22, 2006

May 22, 2006—While the President and the Senate contemplate new enforcement measures at our borders, and possibly amnesty for workers already here, Mexicans continue to fuel the bike economy with low-cost, dependable labor.
Typically the cycling industry works on very thin margins. It hardly has the advertising potential of the car industry, who through years and year of working on the American psyche, have managed to convince just about everyone that it is okay, good, and even advantageous to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of equipment that as soon as it leaves the showroom, loses half of its value.
Automobiles kill over 42,600 Americans a year, and injure more than 2.7 million, damage the environment, cause cancer, kill animals, and cost towns, cities, states and the federal government, billions of dollars in expenses every year. Speeding, the most prevalent reason leading to traffic accidents, is estimated to cost the government $40.4 billion dollars a year according to 2004 National Highway Transportation Safety statistics.
Both the car and the oil industry are rolling in dough, despite the misfortune and possible mismanagement of some like the Ford Motor Co., who in January announced another round of cuts of between 25,000 and 30,000 jobs in their North American operations.
The Iraq War alone waged to retain our control over oil resources has already cost us more than 1900 deaths of innocent young men who will never again be able to ride a bike, and $282 billion dollars, an amount equivalent to providing free health care to 169 million children for a year, according to the National Priorities Project.
The war in Afghanistan, reputedly engaged to fight previous CIA employee, Osama Bin Laden, and Al Queda, has so far cost us over $252 billion. (According to Wikipedia, on the morning of September 11, 2001, George Bush Senior, was meeting with Osama bin Laden's brother, Shafig bin Laden, in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Washington, on Carlyle Group business.)
Meanwhile, cycling companies continue to struggle along with narrow margins defining their business both vertically and horizontally. There are no spectacular rises and falls in cycling businesses, and no one is getting rich: here no CEO is being rewarded with a billion dollar salary for poor performance. No, this business is about love of the sport, not money. Right down to the struggling bike stores. The best thing that ever happened to bike stores was high oil prices, and the Internet.
But let’s get real, labor in the New York – New Jersey region is not cheap. And the lower salaries also demand more from workers—that they remain dependable and show up for work everyday, and work on Saturdays and Sundays. Which is why many bike shops hire workers who may or may not be legal.
In the northeast, there are so many Hispanic workers, and so many of them are legally here, that workers are rarely questioned as they might be in the more conservative, Texas and Arizona state towns. Here, people realize—including Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who instituted a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy citywide, that immigrants fuel our economy and we would be lost without them.
I ran into one such immigrant recently who I had met while visiting Mexico a couple of years ago. He described a recent trip from his hometown in middle Mexico through the parched desert near Nogales, Texas. He is i his late 30’s and left a wife and two children at home, taking an extreme risk to make a living in the cycling industry here. After all, in Mexico he raced his bicycle for years, though never quite making it to the national level, even as a master he continued to compete. He lives, loves, and breathes bicycles. But salaries in Mexico are about $15 per day, or $3,900 a year, not enough to feed his family. Here because he can make about $10 per hour, he spent four days traveling in the desert by foot, carrying several gallons of water, walking only two hours in the dark of night, and sitting still for the other 22 hours with a black sack over his head hiding in the bushes, while border guards passed within 2 feet of him.
“It was the worst, scariest thing that I have ever done in my life,” he told me. “I never, ever want to do that again.” He also paid his handlers—coyotes—more than $2,500 just to get him to that place, and he and all of his fellow companions were robbed at gunpoint of all their money just as they crossed the border—by other Mexicans preying on the defenseless.
Because of the hot, difficult conditions, ‘some people didn’t make it,” he said.
Our cycling friend is lucky—he made it, and he has legal family here, and a job waiting for him. The same job a young American refused to take because the pay was too low, the hours too long.
One thing we all need to remember: we are all immigrants. With the minor exception of 1.5 percent of the population who can count themselves as Native American Indians, the rest of us were never even invited here.
So, let’s here it for immigrant cyclists, cycling to support an environmentally sound policy, and a little compassion. After all, would you want to be shipped back to your country of origin, and your reentry blocked by troops and a big wall? Those 4.1 million Native Americans wouldn’t mind having the country all to themselves agai

Donations for Cyclist Hit $100 Mark: Still Short $300: May 21, 2006

May 22, 2006--On Sunday, May 21, cyclists opened their hearts and their wallets to help Celestino Bautizo Lazo buy a bicycle so he can ride to school, begin racing, and start a mountain biking tour business in his native Oaxaca.
Benepe's Bike Blog thanks all of you for you incredible assistance to Celestino. Remember, the next time you want to train during the cold (brr!) winter months, you can head over to Celestino's house located in Teotitaln del Valle. He owes you one!

Donations for Zapoteca Cyclist Still Short $340, May 15, 2006

May 15, 2006-- The Zapoteca Indian who has made a plea for money donations so he can buy a mountain bike to ride to school and begin racing is still waiting. Although more than $60 was raised for Celestino Lazo from cyclists in April, the total is stil short of the $400 goal, the cost of a bicycle in Mexico. Celestino Bautizo Lazo, was raised as a traditional Zapoteca Indian in the village of Teotitlan del Valle, about 10 miles outisde of the city of Oaxaca, Mexico (he is pictured at left herding one of the family's cows).
Celestino is currently studying accounting at the Autonomous Benito Juarez of Oaxaca University.
As he noted previously, "I ride the bus to and from Oaxaca city to go to school every day, but many times it never comes or comes too late so I have to look for a taxi."
He also wants to start providing bike tours to gringoes from the United States, such as ourselves, particularly up the 8-mile climb that starts from the back of his village to Benito Juarez National Park.
Benito Juarez has been named by the World Wildlife Fund as one of the most diverse ecological locations in the world, boasting thousands of unique plants, and an extensive array of pine trees deemed essential to world ecology.
In addition to doing a good deed, if you visit Celestino, he will invite you into his house, and show you how his family weaves rugs, makes corn tacos from scratch, and tends to their farm animals. Their house is clean and has a large bathroom with running water located in a separate building .
Make a $10 contribution today and become one of the large extended group of American friends with the Lazo family! Each contributor will receive a thank you email and receipt for their donation. Donate here by clicking on the Paypal link (below).

Growing Bicycle Film Festival Slipping into Mainstream: BBB Archive, 5/09/06

May 9, 2006--The little known fifth Bicycle Film Festival will open this Wednesday, May 10, escaping the photographers’ glare of major newspapers, and slip under the radar of mainstream culture. But it won’t for long, according to its founder, Brendt Barbur. “It’sgrowing so much,” he said in an interview with NYCycleNews. The festival is now in five American and four international cities, and last year’s attendance reached 7,000 people, a reflection of the festival’s subject matter which he said is “passionate and inspiring for people to change or affirm their lifestyles.”
The impact of rising oil prices is not the only influence that is slowly moving society’s focus from a car-based culture to one that encourages self-propelled, environmentally sound transportation. Just the other day after gas prices topped $3 a gallon, a woman came in to Bicycle Workshop in Tenafly, NJ, and bought $600 worth of clothing because she was going to try to rely solely on her bicycle for transportation for one week.
It’s also about the culture of cycling which drives Barbur, a previous actor and filmmaker who when he was about 12 years old, saw the film Breaking Away which may have changed his outlook forever. From that time on, he took up cycling, mostly BMX in his northern California home, and never stopped. After he moved to New York, while cycling on Third Ave. Barbur was doored and thrown into a Mass Transit bus. He suffered a fractured jaw, lower spinal cord injury, a dislocated shoulder, a sprained neck, and two torn meniscus.
Did he use the money he won after suing both the van driver and the MTA to start the film festival? He admitted he had, noting, “It’s weird to tell people about the money,” “But that negative experience ignited me. I had never before been into the politics of the bike,” he added. One of the things that struck him was the reaction people expressed when he told them he’d been in a bike accident. “They would respond almost like it was my fault because I was riding my bike in the city,” he said, and they would immediately ask him if he had been wearing a helmet.
But when he went surfing months later, and he scraped his arm, and told people he had been caught in the biggest wave of his life, got pounded and the surfboard snapped in his face, people said, “Oh, you surf? That’s so cool!”
Barbur, who has graduated from BMX to a single speed 1983-issue Bianchi, points to the difference between the ubiquitous placement of surf stores throughout New York—like Quiksilver in Times Square, one of the farthest places from surfing you could get, and the less than central placement of bike stores around the city as an example of how our culture treats the two sports. Although most young people in New York have never seen a beach, the surfing world celebrates youth culture and creativity, and that is what he intends to do with cycling. He points out that most of the coverage of his film festival is by fashion magazines, not cycling magazines, and that the festival’s sponsors are more cultural than cycling-oriented, such as Puma, Agnes B, American Apparel, and Red Bull.
With a birthday this past Saturday, May 7 almost coinciding with the opening day of the festival, May 10, Barbur has other stresses he reluctantly discusses, like the death of his mother from cancer about six months ago. Her death is a source of pain and strength at the same time.
“A lot of problems could be solved by bicycles,” he said. “Environmental, social, health, economic.” But he hopes that cycling will move even beyond solving problems, and become the thing that people do because it celebrates creativity.
The movies being shown do just that. B.I.K.E., directed by Jacob Septimus and Anthony Howard, the first film to be shown in the series on Thursday night, describes urban bike gangs, including one that rides around on retrofitted tall bikes, and uses them for regular jousting matches. “Building your own bike is seen as a lot more diversive than building your own car,” Barbur noted. B.I.K.E. also follows a Williamsburg-based women’s gang that sports matching t-shirts and goes to brunch together after a ride. On Friday, M.A.S.H. tells the story of fixed gear cyclists in San Francisco, and on Saturday, Peter Sutherland’s Pedal follows bike messengers through the streets of several American cities.
The real sleeper films will be on Sunday, said Barbur, when the festival features old films and videos that are being brought down to New York by Torontonian Martin Heath, and include Racing to Nowhere, and a 1965 film of the Tour de France.
On Saturday the festival will be accompanied by a street fair featuring track events, such as skids. For more info on the street fair go to trackstar.com. Oh and one more thing—tickets sell out quickly, so buy yours online well before the event.

Hearing to Be Held Tuesday On Car-Free Parks: BBB Archive 5/08/06

Bloomberg Announces Trial Closure of Travel Lanes
May 8, 2006--Councilmember John Liu will be holding a hearing tomorrow Tuesday at the City Council, on whether Central and Prospect Parks should be closed to cars this summer. Intro 276 specifically mandates a car-free summer in Central Park, June 24 to Sept. 25, 2006, as well as automobile free afternoons in Prospect Park during that period.
At the same time, the New York Times reported today that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has moved to increase the number of hours that the park is closed to vehicles, perhaps in effect, pre-empting the Council vote. The west and east drives will only be open during rush hours, the west side in the mornings, and the east side in the afternoon. The closures will remain in effect for a trial 6-month period beginning June 4.
Both the Mayor and Councilmember Liu, who is head of the council's transportation committee and has been an active proponent of progressive transportation policy in the city, may have been influenced by the growing tide of criticism from advocates and park users that parks crowded with baby carriages, horse and buggy users, cyclists, runners, walkers, and families, are not the proper home to cars.
According to advocates, summer months draw an even larger number of users than during other months, and cars present a danger to many. Liu will be joined in introducing the bill by Councilwoman Gale Brewer whose district borders the park along the upper west side, and whose policies are perceived by many observers to be sympathetic to quality of life issues.
Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group in New York that has been working for years to close both parks to cars, announced their findings May 4 of a survey of Prospect Park users that showed them leaving the park in greater numbers when cars are present. Paul White, the group's executive director, said that stroller traffic decreased by 40 percent when cars were present, and that 75 percent of park users said they had had a close call with cars. He also said that 81 percent said they would use the park more if cars were absent.
In a video summary of the press conference by BikeTV, Councilman David Yassky (Dist. 33) said of closing the park, "Now is the time to do it." He was joined by Councilwoman Leticia James (Dist. 34) who noted, "I don't want any child to stay clear of Prospect Park because they are afraid of cars." Carl Andrews, NY State Senator of Brooklyn, and Chris Owens, a spokesman for Rep. Major Owens of Brooklyn, also made statements supporting the summer closures.
Ken Coughlin, head of TA's Car-Free committee sent out an email to its subscribers May 8 asking them to appear at the 10 a.m. hearing on Tuesday at City Hall to voice their support for the closings this summer. It is not expected that many car users will be present to object: according to records compiled by RIght of Way, an advocacy group, 59 percent of New Yorkers do not own cars, and in Manhattan, more than two-thirds of the population are without automobiles.
Photo Courtesy of www.CentralParknyc.org.

How People Get Around: Fully Loaded and Bike Fridays,BBB Archive 5/05/06

May 5, 2006--A picture gallery detailing how people move long distances on their bicycles while carrying as many belongings as possible is on display at a quirky site by a man who identifies himself only as Ron. One picture in the Bike Friday section shows a woman with two Bike Fridays posing with her tiny tot daughter dressed in a green Mackintosh and ocelot print pants.
In the Fully Loaded section, scores of bikes laden down with bags and other accoutrements are pictured mostly without their owners, parked against a sidewall, utility pole, or road guard, with a stupendous mountain range in the background. The images may be suggesting, "I climbed this mountain with all this stuff hanging off my bike."
Photo: From FullyLoadedTouring.com.

Donations for Bike for Zapoteca Indian Still Short of $400 Goal: BBB Archive 5/4/06

May 4, 2006-- More than $60 was raised, rom cyclists who gathered around the traditional halfway point, the Runcible Spoon in Nyack, NY lSunday, April 30. Offers of used bikes were also made by Arthur Faraldi of New Jersey, and Matt Sarna, a California resident and previous pro-cyclist.
However the donations fall far short of the $400 goal, enough to purchase a mountain bike for Zapoteca Indian, Celestino Bautizo Lazo, 19, in Oaxaca, Mexico (pictured at left herding one of the family's cows).
Sending a used bike has been deemed unreasonable, because Mexican customs authorities charge recipients a duty equal to the full value of the bike. In other words, to bring in a $400 bike will cost another $400 for the recipient, in effect doubling the cost.
So far, cyclists who have contributed to Lazo's cause include a large contingent of Colombian cyclists living in New York and New Jersey, all of whom have worked hard to become legal immigrants in this country, and support their families back home in hard labor jobs such as window manufacturing, building repair, and car repair.
A handful of donations came from second generation Americans who have been living in America for a long time, and may have little concept of the economic hardships that Mexicans encounter in their homeland.
Average annual incomes in the New York area run about $75,000, compared to $3,900 per year for Mexicans living in Oaxaca.
The new bike would allow Lazo the opportunity to exercise, ride to school and work, and develop a bike touring business to neighboring parkland Benito Juarez. (Picture right shows Samuel, 22, Celestino's brother herding the family cows abour a mile from the family's compound.)
To donate to this worthy cause make checks payable to: Jennifer Benepe, with "Celestino Bautizo Lazo" in subject line, to the following address: Celestino Lazo Bike Fund, Care of Jen Benepe, 2157 Center Ave., Suite One, Fort Lee, NJ, 07024

Convert to Cycling Seeks Bike Donation: BBB Archive, 4/27/06

April 27, 2006--One day in February, Oaxacan Celestino Bautizo Lazo cycled down a mountainside with me. We wooped, shouted, and cawcawed seven miles down the dusty mountain road that starts in the most beautiful place on earth, Benito Juarez, to his village, Teotitlan del Valle. I was on a rented bike, he on an old steel Mexican version of a 1950's pre-Target bike. We rode until his 5,000 pound (slight exaggeration) rusty lunker with broken hubs, and broken rims, literally broke in two. It was his first day on a bike, and his first experience riding with a crazy New Yorker. Formerly training tobe a priest, that day breathing heavily and with a huge smile on his face from the excitement and relief that he didn't plunge 7,000 feet down the side of the mountain when his bike broke, Celestino saw the light and caught the cycling bug.
But things are expensive in Mexico, and his family struggles to make a living. So he is seeking donations to buy a bike in Mexico, which costs about $400. Here is his text, barely edited by me, an indication of how smart and how driven Celestino (on the right in dark blue),who is studying accounting, and his brother Samuel (on the left),who is studying engineering, really are. The two brothers speak Spanish, Zapoteca, their original Zapotec Indian language, and English. They also help in the family business, and are fully automated with dial-up Internet from their half-outdoor kitchen, and wield a sharp humour you would hardly suspect coming from two boys brought up in the wilds of Oaxacan countryside. Here is Celestino's story told in his own words:
Hello, my name is Celestino Bautista Lazo, I'm 19 years old and Iive in Teotitlan del Valle in the state of Oaxaca-Mexico, I’m studying for my bachelor's degree in accounting at the Autonomous Benito Juarez of Oaxaca University.
My family and I make and sell rugs to make a living. I ride the bus to and from Oaxaca city to go to school every day, but many times it never comes or comes too late so I have to look for a taxi.
That usually doesn't work in the morning and is very expensive. But now I discovered that there is a trail between the neighboring towns to get to Oaxaca City approximately in one hour by bicycle, about the same time that it takes by bus. I'm very interested in biking, because I will be able to get some exercise. Between my studies and my job at home, I don’t get much. Besides, I can help the environment with my bike because one more bike is one less car and one less car is less pollution, and I would like to race in the future especially on a mountain bike because around where I live there a lot of mountains.
But I only have one problem, the most important -I DON'T HAVE A BICYCLE (mountain bike). The family business is not going very well due to the competition that exists in this handcrafts business, I don't have enough resources to buy one. That’s the reason why I'm writing this to explain my problem and to ask for help to buy a bicycle to do this trip.
(Photo above right of brother Samuel and father Mario holding rug they made to order called Tree of Life made only from natural dyes).
And if you come to Oaxaca I can show to you some special places where you can ride your bike (guide you). And I invite you to visit my workshop to see every thing that we do here , the weaving process and the natural dyes that we use to get the colors, and you can learn more about our culture.
Thanks for your help,
Celestino Bautizo Lazo.

A suggested donation of $10 would be great: then all Celestino would need is 40 people , like you, who care that he is riding. Please make checks payable to: Jennifer Benepe, with "Celestino Bautizo Lazo" in subject line, to the following address: Celestino Lazo Bike Fund, Care of Jen Benepe, 2157 Center Ave., Suite One, Fort Lee, NJ, 07024. This will avoid the difficult process you would have to go through to send the check directly, which requires an extra payment (Mexicans cannot accept U.S. checks). If instead you have a bike we can send, we may be able to arrange for it to be brought into the country (importation is very difficult).
Now for some reality check: the mountain biking near Celestino and his family is absolutely incredible. Benito Juarez is noted to have more unique species of plants than anywhere else in the world. The climb from Celestino's town to Benito Juarez winds past pastures, a lake, and a steadily increasing, breathtaking view of the valley below. Ten miles later you will reach the top. Even in a car it seems to take hours. The higher you get, the cooler it becomes, until you are virtually surrounded by a soft mist, and the swish sound of wiind whistling through the fir trees.
(Picture at left depicts lake close to Teotitlan del Valle, on the way up to Benito Juarez. According to local lore, anyone who bathes there never makes it out.)
If the family likes you, they'll invite you to stay at their place for far less than the hotels charge in Oaxaca City, some 20 miles away. If you're really nice, they'll feed you real Zapoteca homemade food too. His mother Leonor, father Mario, and brother Samuel are hysterically funny, and always smiling and laughing. They work their butts off trying to make a living selling rugs, which you can also get from them at good prices. You can also have one made for you to your order, which I did. (See photo above). For more information and to confirm that I am not putting your money in my own pocket, email Celestino at: zapotec_art@yahoo.com.mx

Online Outfit Carries Video of European Races: BBB Archives 4/26/06

April 26, 2006-- A relatively unknown, London-based online video company will be providing live streaming video and on demand coverage of an extensive list of classic and tour races this year. For a yearly $35 fee, Cycling.tv will allow viewers who don't have access to the Outdoor Life Network because the service is not provided in their area, or they do not subscribe to cable will be able to view all of the major European races this year. In the coming weeks, that will include Tour de Romandie which is currently online, the Tour of Switzerland, and the Dauphine Libere.
But many cyclists will welcome the service because it will carry not only Spring Classics such as Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Fleche Wallone and Gent-Wevelgem that just finished this April, but also the very popular Giro D'Italia which starts on May 6. For the Tour de France, the company will be providing daily news and insight about the race, inlcuding important gossip items. And the service will provide streaming video of the races, which is not offered anywhere else in the United States. OLN, the only cable-TV station that carries cycling, currently only offers summaries and abbreviated versions of the classics and the major tours. Says the U.S. representative of Cycle.TV, Mike Dee, who is based in Philadelphia, "We cover virtually everything."
The service will also provide a summary of the OLN coverage for major European races, and is looking to cover major U.S. races as well.

Oil Prices Rise to Over $70 a Barrel: BBB Archives, 4/18/06

April 18, 2006--Oil futures prices reached a record on Monday, hitting above $70 a barrel. The rise was attributed to concerns over Iran's nuclear program and production shortages in Nigeria, reported the Associated Press.
The prices for crude oil for May delivery rose $1.08 to more than $70 a barrel. This was the highest level since the contracts was introduced on the exchange in March 1983, said a report in the NY Times. The last time prices reached close to this level was an intraday high of $70.85 a barrel on Aug. 30, just after Hurricane Katrina shut down production in the Gulf of Mexico, said the report.
This news is important to cyclists because it reinforces their choice to ride to work, play or for travel. But the world is hardly listening. Motorized traffic is at an all time high. In a report by National Public Radio, they noted that consumers’ demand for gasoline did shrink a bit last fall when prices briefly topped $3 a gallon, but the conservation effort was short-lived.
"We’re not seeing an adjustment in the amount of gasoline consumed," said Geoff Sundstrom, a spokesman for the American Automobile Association. "I think where we are seeing a change in behavior is in consumer preference for the types of vehicles they’re buying. It seems as though consumers are clearly shifting away from larger SUVs and passenger cars to those that are more fuel-efficient."

PIPC Ignores It's Constituents Once Again: BBB Archives, 4/18/06

April 18, 2006--Alright already, stop opening and closing this important cycling road! That's what your message should read to Jim Hall, supervisor of the New Jersey Palisades Interstate Park. Not only are we getting tired of reporting about it, but riders are getting tired of thinking it's opened only to find it's closed.
The latest notice for Tuesday, April 18 states that the Alpine Approach Road will be closed for construction. "From Park Headquarters to its junction with Henry Hudson Drive (the circle), will be closed for construction work all day, Tuesday, April 18. (It is anticipated that the work will be completed in one day, but there remains the possibility of closure for part of Wednesday.) Access to the Alpine Boat Basin & Picnic Area will remain possible via Henry Hudson Drive from Englewood Cliffs," read the notice which was sent on Monday.
But last Saturday, April 15, no notice was given that the very end of Alpine approach would be closed. No notices were sent to Benepe's Bike Blog, nor to Jim Zisfein, our ever-aware source for River Road changes. At about 9 a.m. cyclist Enzo Bartoccioli and friend Jose rode from the George Washington Bridge to the end, only to find their final passage to Route 9W blocked by PIPC workers. They had to ride back five miles to the Dyckman Ave. center entrance, where they had walk their bikes up the road because of the PIPC's policy of not allowing cyclists to mount their bicycles on the hill.
"We rode an extra ten miles because of that," said Bartoccioli, who is a film editor for the United Nations, and rides as often as he can. "That really wasn't very nice," he added.
Cyclist Yvexy Delarosa of North Bergen used the same road in the afternoon, and was able to ride to the end of the Alpine Hill without incident, an indication of the policy vagaries of the park commission.
Althought the PIPC does not allow cyclists to mount their bikes on Dyckman Hill (the extension of Palisades Ave. to Englewood) they have offered no scientific evidence, traffic studies or other substantial proof that the road is unsafe for cyclists. They have also refused to offer any justification for the closure other than their stance that it is dangerous.
Said cyclist Eugene Boronow, who uses River Road more than three times a week, " Highways are dangerous for cars, but they are still allowed to drive on them. Why shouldn't we be able to ride on Dyckman? It makes no sense."

River Road Reopened and Positive Reinforcement (c)
April 13, 2006
Photo courtesy of PIPC-NJ
Workers loaded the last of the road paving equipment onto a flatbed truck parked outside the gates to Henry Hudson Drive this morning at 9 a.m. "Is the road open?" the reporter asked. "They called me this morning and asked me to take these away," the worker, who declined to be indentified said with a smile. "I guess they must be finished with the paving then," he added with a laugh.
And so it is, with little fanfare, River Road as it is known to practically every one with the exception of officials from Palisades Interstate Park Commission, and the makers and keepers of maps, is open again.
As I swung past the gates, and onto the blissfully freshly paved road that still smelled like hot oil, this reminded me that when people do good deeds they should be thanked. Cyclists are very grateful for the use of this road, and they should remind the administrators, workers and PIPC police just how thankful they are I thought.
As I rode past two workers finishing up the edges of the turnabout near Ross Dock, I called out to them: "Nice job on the road, it's beauuuutifull!"
'Thanks!" they shouted back in unison.
Seven miles later, near the hill to Alpine, I saw a lame goose. He was walking down the road as if in pain, and although eyeing me uneasily, did not attempt to fly away as I rode past.
Halfway up the hill to Alpine Station, I saw a parks truck going in the opposite direction. I flagged the driver down and he stopped. "There's a lame goose on the road," I said.
"I'll check him out," he said, "and I'll call animal control."
Thoughts of gas chambers came to mind. "You mean they'll kill him?" I asked in alarm. "No, they'll try to help him first, don't worry," he said. As he drove away, I called after him, "Nice job on the road, by the way." "Thanks!" he called back.
As reported in a previous post, Jim Hall, PIPC-New Jersey chief, managed to raise the funding for repaving this portion of the road, from Rock Dock to the southern gate, through some creative negotiating with the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey when they needed access to the underbelly of the George Washington Bridge while revamping the bridge cables for "bomb" protection.
Here's your opportunity: on your first ride back on River Road, take the time to check in at the Alpine Police Station at the north end to thank Hall and his crew for the beautiful paving job. And if you see any workers along the way, take the time to give your thanks for this beautiful green space that we have to ride on. Or you can email Hall at jhall@njpalisades.org .
Now that this subject of thanks has reared its adorable head, there is another burning issue that bears discussion.
As cyclists, we are frequently being pushed off the road, turned in front of, buzzed from the side, and sometimes even spit at, shouted at, and "bottled"--having a bottle, can or other liquid thrown in your face. This kind of treatment by neanderthals is all to frequent to recount, and can wrinkle even the kindest, most angelic face.
But have you remembered to give positive strokes when necessary? Remember when that considerate driver slowed down behind you to turn, so they wouldn't startle you by turning in front of you? Or that motorist who let you pass through a narrow roadway first, waiting until you were safely through? Or the left-turn signaler who actually waited for you to go through the intersection before making that turn they so badly wanted to make right in front of you?
I am sure you do. But did you thank them when they acted appropriately? Yes, it is the law to do all these things. But motorists who break the law can kill you, and get away with it by saying it was an accident. Motorists who actually obey the law should be visibly thanked with a friendly wave, a verbal thanks or other kind gesture. It's called positive reinforcement.
The point is, drivers cannot see eachother from the inside of their cars. But they can certainly see you. And you may want to use the opportunity to provide them with repetitive positive reinforcement so the next time they see a cyclist, warm feelings flood back into their brains, and they once again, act with the same kind--and legal--consideration that they did before

Southern End of River Road Closed Beginning April 5: BBB Archive, 4/06/06

Cyclists to Walk Bikes Down Dyckman
April 6, 2006--The southern portion of Henry Hudson Drive, more commonly known as River Road will be closed for repaving this week. As a result, the southern entrance at the border of Edgewater and Fort Lee will be closed to cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles. Because the repaving only extends to Ross Dock, cyclists who want to ride north on the drive will be alllowed to walk their bicycles down the next northern entrance at Palisades Ave. (Dyckman Hill). You can get back on your bike once you reach the gates at the turn to Ross Dock.
Bike riding is not permitted at this entrance, and if you do so, you risk getting a $50 ticket, points on your driver's license (if you have one), and a nasty, 8-hour day in PIPC court in Alpine, NJ.
Tactics such as trying to evade officers who often park in the first turn of the road (which can't be seen from the top of the entrance), or giving fake names and claiming you don't have an ID generally don't work. They'll ask for your social security number if you don't have ID, and will be able to access a great deal of information about you from their dashboard computer.
Affecting the portion of roadway from Fort Lee to Ross Dock circle, the repaving is well overdue, with cyclists (and drivers, as well as park workers) complaining over the years of the poor road quality, including potholes, huge variegated sections of concrete, and other hazards that have pocked the road which leads from the southern edge of the real RIver Road near the border of Fort Lee and Edgewater. The project is expected to last about one week, until Wednesday April 19.
Jim Hall, Superintendent of the New Jersey section of Palisades Interstate Park Commission, said in an interview conducted last year that PIPC had been hoping to repave the road for years, but due to budget considerations was unable to do so until now.
A clever negotiating tactic on Hall's part brought about $200,000 in funding to PIPC, in the form of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who needed access to the George Washington Bridge during the latest strengthening of the bridge's cables to withstand a potential bomb blast.
Photo courtesy of NJ PIPC

Wily Coyote Crosses One Bridge or Another, BBB Archive 3/23/06

March 23, 2006-- It was all the news yesterday, when a coyote made its way into Manhattan and was found dashing and darting through Central Park. The spotting and subsequent chasing of the poor mixed breed --apparently coyotes can breed with both dogs and wolves--made national news and was reported on CNN, by the Associated Press, Reuters, Gawker, you name it, they carried it.
Must be a slow day in the media business, so much so that even I am writing about it. But for a different reason. No one really knows how Mr. Coyote, that frisky devil, made his way into Manhattan. But a routine check of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission for a news update on their paved River Road (it was buried this time last month by a rockslide) yielded a casual photo of a similar you-know-who. In fact, I myself have seen red fox on that road at 5:30 a.m. during my early training rides. In addition to five bunny rabbits, 21 doves, and eight Northern Cardinals.
And although it was theorized by my very own brother, NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe that Mr. Coyote came down to Manhattan via one of the Amtrak bridges, I would like to offer another theory: he came across the George Washington Bridge.
Now we all know that the pedestrian ramp closes at 11:59 p.m. so that no terrorists on bicycles can make their way across the bridge, shimmy up one of the poles, and install a bomb inside the rafters, all the while undetected. No, the ped path is closed from 11:59 p.m until 6 a.m. so that terrorist cyclists (and pedestrians). not to mention coyotes, fox, rats, pigeons, doves and bunny rabbits, can't cross without being acknowledged by one of the NYNJ Port Authority guards.
Which means one thing: that darn coyote could have crossed right under their very noses, before 11:59 p.m.! It makes sense, because the guard booth windows are at least waist high, and it is unlikely that a guard would register movement from his booth that is below the window height. This is the same technique that soldiers used during WWII, and if my memory serves me correctly from all the senseless war footage I have seen, also during the Vietnam war. Crawling on your stomach. Except Mr. Coyote did it so quickly, noiselessly, and with the ease of who he is, a crafty devil.

On the Thoughts of Drivers, BBB Archives 3/09/06

March 9, 2006--We all think we know what drivers think about cyclists. So often they let us know. "Get off the road you idiot," said one to me. Another, a very large woman who clearly never walks or does any other form of exercise as she rammed me off the road (9W, a signed bike route), screamed, "I have seen kids ride better than you." Clearly, no kid would be safe with her on the road.
But when a driver lets us know how they really feel about cyclists, and it shows up in print in a major tri-state newspaper, the content surprisingly, still surprises. Here I have reprinted, the thoughts of a female driver who, it appears, would like to drive down our country's roads unemcumbered by the riff-raff that test her (or her husband's) driving skills.

"Bicyclists are safety hazards

On Sunday, my husband and I were traveling northeast on Route 202 from
Oakland to Mahwah. This road is a narrow, two-lane road. A bunch of
cyclists going southwest toward Oakland would not yield to any cars.
Drivers who wanted to pass them had to use the opposite lane. Cyclists
just laughed as one oncoming auto almost hit our car.

Something has to be done about this. Cyclists need to be licensed and have to pay insurance if they are going to ride the much-used main roads. Licensing will bring much revenue to this state.

Bicycling is wonderful, but it causes hazards on our main roads. When a bunch of children are killed on a winding road because of cyclists, then maybe someone will wake up.

Betty Callahan, Mahwah"

Here are some responses, (reprinted with permission) from cyclists who use the route she is referring to:

"Typical suburban pose. Blame the cyclists on their small, light bikes most likely following the law while giving the driver with the multi-ton behemoth most likely breaking the law, a free pass. What she failed to point out is that since much of the area that segment of 202 cuts through is sparsely populated, with few connecting roads and mostly small, dead-end sidestreets (parkland on both sides), drivers like to speed through the whole segment. Considering how narrow and winding it is, with poor sight lines, aggressive passing at all costs is both dangerous and stupid.

The bit about children is hilarious. I guess she's referring to a potential result of a chain reaction where a driver goes on the wrong side of the road to pass a cyclist, and then runs into a car heading the opposite direction being driven by a soccer mom and filled with the entire team. Certainly, since the cyclist was on the road, the cyclist is to blame, not the driver who illegally passed and was possibly speeding (to pass faster). Makes you wonder why an editor would print such a dumb letter. Maybe it's a variation on the "pick on the little guy" game that politicians use so well; since cyclists are a small, powerless group compared to drivers, it's easy to gain a following by demonizing the cyclists.

JP Partland"

Here is another response:

JP is right - a driver who passes cyclists unsafely is going to pass
cars unsafely too.
My only question is I'm not sure how much of a shoulder there is on
this section of 202, but again JP felt that is was narrow and curvy,
not a safe place to pull to the side or get passed.
But if there are a dozen or more cars behind, maybe it's time for the
group to stop and let them pass? IT depends on how long this section
is, what's the posted speed and what speed the bikes are keeping up.
IF the cyclists are moving near enough to the speed limit - say 20-25
in a 30 MPH zone, then they are not delaying traffic. Drivers
assuming they should be able to drive 45 in a 30 zone do not have a
right to speed.
Steve.

This is what I would like to add to this issue: No child has ever been killed by cyclists riding two abreast on the road. But many children have been killed by cars. And many cyclists have been killed by cars. And no child is safe riding a bike on the road, which is the real point. And that is because of people like Betty Callahan and her husband.
In this case, the problem may have also been that the road is not designed properly to accomodate cyclists, who by the way, have a right to the road.
Although sometimes cyclists ride two abreast, it is likely that if they were riding single file on this narrow, winding road, the driver would have had to pass all the way over in the second lane anyway. So the point the driver makes only serves to reinforce her own sense of singular entitlement to the road (ban all others), and her self--righteousness even though she (or her husband) passed the cyclists too quickly and without due caution.
The issue brings up a whole other level of complexity, particularly that drivers are not instructed nor tested on how to drive around cyclists when they go for their license. This is a glaring ommission. Nor are they properly taught by either New Jersey (who has one of the worst motor vehicle administrations in the world) or New York (who at least has a traffic safety program that involves cycling), that cyclists, without a doubt, have a right to the road.
Until the state administrations make the appropriate changes to how they teach, test and inculcate their citizens, there will always be an enormous disconnect between what drivers expect, and what they encounter. And cyclists will continue to ride on roads that are unsafe.

Oaxaca Journal, Part III: BBB Archive 2/26/06

A Oaxaca Changed, but Mountain Bikeable ©
Feb. 26, 2006—It’s well past the time of my return from Oaxaca, but I have not yet recounted the full cycling events. Now is the moment to do so, before time takes the place of memory, and the events are lost forever, like so many of the moments in our lives that go by unrecorded.
This trip was in part an experiment to see what it would be like to travel to Mexico without my trusty steed “Benepe”, and to rent a mountain bike on location. It is certainly easier to travel without a bike in a box, because unbeknownst to me the first time (when I did bring my bike), Delta Airlines did not charge me for the extra baggage, but the connecting airline in Mexico City, Air Mexico, did--$100. That’s $40 more than the cost of renting a mountain bike for seven days with a discount from Pedro Martinez Bicycle Tours. Although the rental bike had fatter tires and was heavier than I was used to, Alfonso Antonio and Roberto Martinez who work at Martinez’s Tours told me it was more suitable for off-road than something with a narrower tire. Alfonso who also speaks English and has worked in tourism in the U.S. changed the pedals for me so I could use my bike shoes, and tuned the bike up before I took it to the road.
On Tuesday, February 7, I had traveled along the main road heading out of town, the Avenida Heroes de Chapultepec, which becomes la Carretera Internacional, through Santa Maria del Tule, home of the huge tree, then on to San Augustin de las Juntas. (See other maps below). The photo above is looking north to the Sierra mountains from the Carretera Nacional: can you see the rainbow?
Although mostly flat, the main road was uncomfortable with fast-moving cars and especially buses, which are privately owned, and many of the drivers lack any sort of conscience. My attempts in 2004 to persuade the state government to paint bike lanes on the main road to the ancient ruins of Mitla because they were then in the process of re-paving were for naught: they wanted me to pay them to do it, which of course, was an impossibility. That’s another long story.
In truth since the last time I was here, the traffic had gotten much worse; perhaps 15 to 20 percent more motorized vehicles than before, a huge increase. I had my road bike in 2004, and then I would set out in the mornings around 6:30 a.m. and it was easier to get through the morning traffic. In a pinch, I could always rev it up. But now with the wider handlebar profile, and slower responsiveness and diminished speed, it was almost impossible to escape a menacing car. So I needed to find new, safer ways to out of town.
So on Tuesday, after reaching Tule, I went off-road, and discovered miles and miles of labyrinthine byways created by horse and cart traffic along the multiple plots of land being farmed by local farmers. After making it through to Abasolo, the basket-weaving town (about 15 miles from Oaxaca), I turned around and headed back to the center of the city. I saw a cyclist in front of me who led me unwittingly through all the orange-earthed tierra roads, all the way to Tule. And the rest of the story, you already know if you read my blog for February 7th.
But on Wednesday, February 8, I was determined to find my way strictly along back roads to the big climb halfway up to la Cumbre, to El Estudiante, the site of so many early season bike races here in Oaxaca. This is one of the closer, more challenging rides outside of Oaxaca. If you are considering spring training and you need to develop climbing legs, this is the place to train. From Oaxaca Centro to La Cumbre, the top, is about 25 miles, and the majority is climbing. (See photo right for view. That spec way below is Oaxaca.)
So to avoid the main thoroughfare on the way out, instead of riding along the Avenida Heroes de Chapultepec, I meandered slightly northwest of the centro, then rode up into the Colonia Reforma, a much tamer, middle-class version of Oaxaca Centro, to the top of Infonavit, Primero de Mayo, a lower-middle class neighborhood where I lived two years ago in a small, one-family house surrounded by my roses and bugambillas. I rode past the Infonavit daily market where I used to buy bread, milk, meat and vegetables every morning (the meat was for Tiggy, my dog; they thought I was insane.)
At the very top of the city is the beginning of the mountains, so development stops. There you can take a road along the edge, which was unmarked but I believe was Soconusco heading west, to Carretera a San Luis Beltran, which turns into a dirt road (also traveled by city buses) and then diverts west (not traveled by cars at all) across a small dirt path covered in rocks, some garbage, and the occasional very surprised person, until you cross over into another Colonia, called Panteón de Jardín (which actually means Garden Cemetery, but it’s also the name of the town).
In Panteón I headed north again along a barely traveled paved road Avenida Panteón de Jardín, up the back way to San Andres de Huayapam. This is a town I stayed in for about two weeks in 2004, in one of the most beautiful and inexpensive hotels, the San Andres Huayapam Yuu . See the view from the hotel (left).
It was in that hotel that I met my first baby burrito, who used to come knocking on my window at night, scaring the living nightlights out of me. The hotel owners, a husband and wife who are both architects, allowed us to use the kitchen to cook dinner at night, and we had a ball. Their dog, a big, friendly guy, whose name I have forgotten, took a liking to us, and would come stand watch by our doorway: it turns out he was in love with Tiggy. They also gave us a reduced rate for two weeks that came out to about $25 per night. This hotel is ideal if you plan to climb every day by way of la Cumbre, or below to Tule, and don’t mind being far from the city. The views, the air, and the place are akin to paradise. However, unless you have a lot of friends around or have a car, it’s a little isolating.
A word to the wise: watch out for not only the very frequent topes, or road bumps meant for slowing traffic, but also the inverted topes, which are essentially V’s in the road, and can damage your bike or you. There are several of both types in Huayapam. I think the topes have the opposite effect on the very impulsive Mexican drivers who, after being inconveniently slowed down by a tope, put their foot on the gas with a vengeance.
From Huayapam, I scooted south again, and turned at the “Y” to head back up the mountain on the rumbo a Ixtepeji. Thus started about 10 additional miles of climbing in brutal heat. In the past, there had been a minor shoulder on much of this narrow road, traveled by taxis, buses, huge trucks loaded with rocks and cut trees, but now, recent “improvements” had taken any shoulder away, and in its place was a sharp cut-off about 20 to 30 feet down. Not very encouraging, but I shouldered on to El Estudiante, where I stopped for water and Gatorade at the only store in the small town of about 50 people. There I had an interesting conversation with three men who had stopped for potato chips and orange soda after picking up a huge piece of steel that had fallen off one of their trucks as it made its way down the vertiginous mountain road. They thought that I thought they were stealing it, but I really just wanted to know what they were going to do with the steel.
I recognized the young girl behind the counter, Nora Yovanna Garcia Garcia, though she had grown about a foot taller since the last time I saw her. Here is a picture of her taken in 2004.
You can write to her at El Estudiante, Calle Fresno, No. 1, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico. I bet she’d get a kick out of it.
By the way, I make it sound so easy, going up to Estudiante, but basically I was cursing the whole way partly because I did not have enough food or drink with me. Lucky for me that el abarrote Estudiante and Nora Yvonna were there. Above and here are some photos of the view should you make it past El Estudiante, and up to La Cumbre (good luck, it’s about another 15 miles straight up, and not even Mexican cyclists can usually make it, though I’ve made it three quarters of the way before.) By the way, if you continue north on this road by car, after about seven hours of nauseating twists and turns you’ll end up in Mexico City by way of Tuxtepec. I wouldn’t advise it.
By the way, there are signs that read "Curva Peligrosa" all over this road. That means "Dangerous Curve". But since I am part Polish, I know that "curva" means prositute. So in effect there were dangerous prostitutes with curves all over this road.
The descent on pavement is really more suitable for a road bike, and with cars, trucks and buses passing me as I descended, I really did not enjoy it on a slow mountain bike. However, it was my first real good day of training, and well worth it. Next journal entry: Using all back routes to get to Teotitlan del Valle, the rug-weaving town west of Oaxaca. At least, that was the intent.

ONLINE MAPS (Most of them are bad and some are even wrong and misleading. You need to buy the Guia Roja if you travel to Oaxaca)
Spanish Abroad
Mapserver
Mexonline
Frommers
Google Satellite map of Oaxaca—cool! But useless.

Travel Guide:
Languages of Oaxaca
Other Oaxaca Info
House Swapping in Oaxaca