Friday, February 13, 2009

St. Valentines for Cycling Sensitives

Hey, we know V-Day is just another attempt by the powers that control America to sell more greeting cards.

But in the spirit of all things having to do with Venus, the planet of love and beauty, I am concocting a guide on what to do on Valentine's day for cycling aficionados.

Some of the following activities do not necessarily involve getting on two wheels: however a cycling-sensitive person is usually (though not always,) also interested in the outdoors, exercise, exploration and possibly beauty as well.

(1) Why not take a road or mountain bike down to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey for a day (or two)? This area is protected by the federal government under the auspices of the Pinelands National Preserve, the state, under the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, and by local groups such as the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, who actually probably do the bulk of the outreach and work in protecting this area from overuse, development and environmental destruction.

I called Mike Hunninghake, director of communications for PPA and he outlined a few terrific rides in the area that you and a sweetheart (or friend) can take for the day--or days over the weekend.

The ride I am reccommending is either a 46 mile or 29 mile ride, both starting at the same point.

It starts a the Batsto parking area on Route 542, and "is a great way to experience the beauty, the mystery and the history of the 1.1 million acres of the Pinelands National Reserve," says a brochure for the area by the NJ Department of Transportation.

The area is home to "pristine pine and oak forests, blueberry fields and cranberry bogs, meandering cedar-colored streams and three major rivers: the Batsto, the Mullica
and the Wading," says the brochure. It's also the home to historical remains of the once thriving forges in the area that were the source of iron-making, among them, Batsto Village where the Pine Barrens River Ramble tour begins. Batsto is a restored 19th century community has an ironmaster’s mansion, gristmill, sawmill, general store and post office.

You can shorten the 46 mile ride by turning left from County Route 652 onto County Route 542 and heading back toward Batsto Village. You can also wait until May 16, when at least one local cycling group, the Shore Cycling Club, does this ride en masse.

There are two other 40-plus mile rides you can take a little further south in Jersey, also going through the pine barrens. Both are based on rides put together by the PPA in October.

2. Rent romantic movies about cycling, cook dinner and open a bottle of wine (or sparkling cider) while you watch. Okay we are not talking about the highlights of the last seven Tour de France events, or the epic Paris to Roubaix rides, or any of the other sweathog master cycling aggression themes where many of you watch and dream about being a real racer and avoid your real life.

No, we are talking about cycling movies that involve real people. Most of you have seen Breaking Away, the 1979 classic about a group of townies (including a young Dennis Quaid) who surmount all odds by winning their own local race against much better trained and equipped, rich outsiders.

There is also the 1949 classic by Italian director, Vittorio de Sica, the Bicycle Thief, or Ladri de Biciclette, about a man and his son who search for a stolen bicycle that he needs for his job.

Then there's American Flyers (1985) which actually shows people we know (Kevin Costner, wow!) "racing" in Central Park and trying to have sex (his brother with a girlfriend) on the bicycle (at least this part is interesting.)

The Triplets of Belleville is probably one of my all time favorites, and if you haven't seen this, you really are missing something. It IS a cartoon, but you won't be disappointed: the caricature of the main character when he is a grown man as a cyclist is so perfectly dead on, and there are references to his being the son of Fausto Coppi--but abandoned and raised by his grandmother. Could it be true?

Then there is Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, (1985) which at least on plot line is a rip off of de Sica's original movie, but apparently was voted the best cycling movie of all time by a group called Byke Kultuur Never.

For those of you who want to see Nicole Kidman before she dyed and straightened her hair for Hollywood, you can see BMX Bandits, (1983). The date of this movie suspiciously makes her stated age much younger than she must be, because if we believe her published birthdate of June 1967 then she was 15 when she made this movie--NOT! Okay, I am sure all you pervs are running to the video store now to rent this one--if you can find it.

Fast forward to the current century, Beijing Bicycle (2001) or Shiqi sui de dan che, is about a young man in China who is working as a bicycle courier and has his bike stolen (plot sound familiar?). Anyway, you'd get to see Beijing before it became dominated by BMW's and arrogant businessmen pushing cyclists out of bike lanes. (Hopefully that will change with the declining economy and their imminent next social revolution.)

The Day I Became a Woman (2000) or "Roozi Khe Zan Shodam," is an Iranian film directed by Marziyeh Meshkini. This according to a website that gathers all bicycle films on one list, "Several tales about the hardships faced by Iranian women. The title story is about a girl who, on her ninth birthday is told that she is now a woman and can no longer associate with her male friends. In the cycling episode, Ahoo is competing in a cycle race with other women all clad in traditional black chadors with her husband chasing after her, as his property, on horseback to pull her out of the race."

And finally, Um Eine Nasenlange, (1949) is about two six day racers (those were the days my friend,) who are after the same girl, and one wins by a noselength. If you find a copy of the film, let me know!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Driver who drags man 17 miles not charged

A driver who dragged a man 17 miles across Queens, NY this morning was not charged. He did not even receive a ticket, according to news reports on Channel 11 News.

The man, reportedly Hispanic, was struck at 51st Avenue and 108th Street in Corona Queens at about 6:15 am this morning by a black SUV driver. That driver stopped after he struck the man, and another driver in a white car behind him also slowed and swerved to avoid the body that was lying on the ground.

But a dark red 1998 Chevy van that followed the white car, drove around the scene, picking up the body with parts of its car--and then unbelievably dragged the man from Corona 17 miles to Neptune Avenue and Brighton 10th Terrace in Brighton Beach.

The entire first strike--and the second--were picked up in horrific detail by a street-side video camera, and shows the man being hit, the car stopping, and the van swooping him up--and a witness who appears to see the whole incident.

Police think the driver of the van, 52-year-old Manuel Gaspar Lituma Sanchez, dragged the man onto the Grand Central Parkway, south onto the Van Wyck Expressway and then west into Brooklyn. It was not known whether the man who was struck was dead or alive while he was being dragged.

A passerby flagged down the van and called the police.

This from Channel 11 News:
The driver reportedly smelled something burning and pulled over once along the way, but did not see the body.
New York City Police commissioner Raymond Kelly says authorities are surveying the route, looking for any evidence and body parts that may have detached from the corpse.
But news reports also say that other pedestrians in Brighton tried to flag down the driver prior to his stopping, and he ignored them.

The police tested the driver for alcohol, and did not ticket him.

Meanwhile, back in Corona, Queens, the first driver spoke with police and searched for a body--which no one was able to locate until police put two and two together more than an hour later.

What remains uncertain is why a witness to the original accident who saw the strike and also saw the body being carried off by the van, did not attempt to have the van stopped, instead striking his head with his hand and watching as the van whisked the man away.

It is also not clear why the driver was not aware that he was carrying additional weight, and making more noise as he drove.

The identity of the man who was struck is not known at this time, but police believe he might have been a day worker in a local construction site.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Ice Adds Frustration as Does the News

A nice respite from the cold weather, but ice and snow are still on the roads leading away from New York. So what's a cyclist to do, but hit the gym, run, or worse, read the news.

The papers have been flush with news about the proposed $819 billion economic stimulus plan being considered by U.S. lawmakers. The first version was passed by the House of Representatives today and will go on to the Senate, where more changes are expected to be made before it is approved.

As part of that package, a number of municipalities and counties have submitted their wish lists for resurfacing roads. And in fact, in his acceptance speech, President Barack Obama specifically mentioned rebuilding of our infrastructure--and roads--as a priority.

And even though today the new employee cycling compensation plan went into effect country wide, where employers can give their employees riding to work by bike, a $20 per month check, was a positive, the overall message is--cycling comes dead last in the list of priorities. (See below for a synopsis of the bicycle commuter incentive as summarized by Maggie Clark at CUNY on the 5BBC listserv.)

What's coming first? Well, roads and highways; solar panels and alternative energy funding and tax breaks; and energy efficient cars are even getting more emphasis and money.

But what about subsidies for developing more cycling paths and byways that have connectivity and ease of access, and safety? What about subsidies for bike companies to develop more advanced cycling specific add-ons like the myriad of cycling carriers available in Amsterdam, for carrying even entire little mobile stores, pets, children, and groceries? And what about subsidies for bike parking?

Watching the new Obama administration walk down the same old same old path as walked before him is more frustrating than the ice and snow on the streets. It's infuriating. What was supposed to be a liberating new administration is like walking down the path of yesterday. Funding banks that pass the money out to their already wealthy partners--the same money that could have built countless cycling infrastructures ensuring our safety and our lives--is an insult to the people who have died on our dangerous roads (among other things, like the poor who could really use a good meal right now).

The Bicycle Commuter Act:
The Bicycle Commuter Act was part of the larger set of Renewable
Energy Tax Credit Initiatives included in the Emergency Economic
Stabilization Act of 2008, a.k.a. the "Wall Street Bailout Bill,"
signed into law by President Bush in early October 2008. Section 211
of the "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008" allows for a
"qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement" for "reasonable expenses
incurred by the employee...for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle
improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used
for travel between the employee?s residence and place of employment."
"We're hearing that a lot of employers don't know anything about the
bicycle commuter provision, nor that it goes into effect at the first
of the year," said Peter Harkness, Board of Directors Chair of the
National Center for Bicycling & Walking (NCBW). "This provision is a
matter of equity; it gives bike commuters similar benefits to those
already enjoyed by those who drive or take public transit to work."
The $20-a-month bicycle commuter benefit comes in well behind the $115
mass-transit benefit already available, or the $300-plus parking
subsidies aimed at helping those who drive to work. "The original ask
was for an $80-a-month benefit," said Harkness. "But during the
compilation of the House and Senate bills, the compromise amount was
set at a maximum $20 a month. It's not a perfect program, but it's a
good start."

As told by Maggie Clarke, environmental consultant at City University of New York, on the 5BBC listserv, and at her site,