I was just sexually harassed!

So there I was, I had just ridden to work and stashed my bike under the stairs. I was heading down the hall towards my office, wrapped snug in my Lycra bike shorts, and stripping off my helmet, glasses, and headband when I heard it, “Mmmmm… Now that’s hot.”

Now, I’m guessing the lady who said it thought I wouldn’t hear it, as it was uttered rather sotto voce and I did still have my earbuds in my ears. But unbeknownst to her, nothing was playing through them.  The Fredcast episode I was listening to finishing earlier during my ride, so I did hear it, and there was no mistaking what I heard. I was on the receiving end of a leer.

Well, if the lady who felt the need to check me out and vocalize her “appreciation” of the view is reading this, I have only one thing to say to you: I’ll be heading home around 3:45. Be in the same hall if you want another peek.

I knew all this cycling would pay off eventually!

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WTF Mornings

Why is it some rides are just utterly brutal for no apparent reason?  I had one of those rides yesterday morning, and I’m still baffled by it.  Why?  It was barely a ride at all.

I’m not talking about bonking it the middle of a long, hard ride here, this was a 6.6 mile commute that kicked my ass worse than any century ride I’ve ever done.  I was feeling fine when I left, but about a mile into the commute it just felt like my legs were dying and my lungs were refusing to take in any oxygen.  I felt like puking twice on the ride, and the most stressful part of the ride is the whopping 40 foot “hill” in the middle.  By the time I got to work, I was gasping for air, dripping with sweat, and wobbling on unsteady legs.  It was like I ate some bad oysters in a sweat lodge.

What the hell?  I can do this ride when I’m quite literally sick and tired.  I can do it in 105 degree temperatures.  I can do it while toting 20 pounds of clothes, lunch, and other gear in my bag.  Why could I barely do it yesterday morning?

I guess these are just the little mysteries of life that help keep cycling interesting.  Or maybe it’s just my fat ass telling me I really need to get serious about the training again.  Whatever it was, next time just send me an email.

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83.4% of all statistics are made up on the spot

In a recent post on Copenhagenize by Brian Glover (along with a reply from Mikael), Brian tried to build up a case for pushing cycling as a part of a sexy, high-status lifestyle in order to get more people out on the streets with their bikes.  And in this post, he referred to a survey discussed in an earlier post by Mikael that asked cyclists “Why do you choose to bicycle to work?”.  While Mikael attacked the options given for the answers (in what I considered to be a rather foolish argument on his part, but that’s another screed), Brian took issues with both the answers and the question.  According to him the question should have read:

“Why do you choose to do something that, in the eyes of 95% of your society, marks you as a freak and a loser?”

No one will say this out loud, of course – it’s not polite – but it’s the truth. And no one will answer this question honestly, either, but if they did, the choices would look like this:

A. I am too poor to get around in any other way. I have no choice. I am abject.

B. I have had my rights as a citizen stripped from me because of repeated, unforgivably bad behavior (i.e. drunk driving convictions). I am an outcast and a pariah.

C. I think most mainstream people are idiots, and I actively seek out their disapproval. I am a rebel. If the majority of people around me start biking, I’ll hate that too.

D. I genuinely don’t care what other people think of me. I am an independent thinker. I also have enough job security and social status that I can afford not to care what other people think of me. I am either uncommonly strong, or uncommonly privileged.

Brian then went on to build up his “cycling is perceived as low-class and freakish, we need to make it glamorous and sexy” argument from this claim.

“Why do you choose to do something that, in the eyes of 95% of your society, marks you as a freak and a loser?
No one will say this out loud, of course – it’s not polite – but it’s the truth. And no one will answer this question honestly, either, but if they did, the choices would look like this:
A. I am too poor to get around in any other way. I have no choice. I am abject.
B. I have had my rights as a citizen stripped from me because of repeated, unforgivably bad behavior (i.e. drunk driving convictions). I am an outcast and a pariah.
C. I think most mainstream people are idiots, and I actively seek out their disapproval. I am a rebel. If the majority of people around me start biking, I’ll hate that too.
D. I genuinely don’t care what other people think of me. I am an independent thinker. I also have enough job security and social status that I can afford not to care what other people think of me. I am either uncommonly strong, or uncommonly privileged.”

And so in the comments section of the blog, I asked a simple question of Brian, “Could you cite the source of this ‘truthful’ statistic?”  Brian, in turn, kindly responded with another blog post, in which he lays out an anecdotal argument that tries to justify his claim.  Unfortunately, there’s still noting there that actually supports his original claim.

Brian’s opening line in his reply to my question reads “I don’t know where you’re from, but in the U.S.A., overt harassment of cyclists is a fact of life.”  This is one of those vacuously true(-ish) statements that provides no real information.  It’s like saying “I don’t know where you’re from, but in Florida, alligators are a fact of life.”  They’re there, you can see them, on occasion one even shows up in your yard or your pool.  Yet not everyone experiences a gator encounter, some see them more than others, and while they can be dangerous, even fatal, generally speaking it happens less often than the anecdotal evidence would seem to indicate, and you’re still more likely to be killed by your shower.

But anecdotal evidence is all that Brian has to offer in this response.  Nowhere in there does he even come close to objectively defending his outrageous claim from the article on Copenagenize.  Well, if he wants anecdotal evidence I suppose I can offer mine to him as well and let him factor it in as he sees fit.

I have been cycling on a regular basis for about six years now, and commuting regularly on my bike for about five of those years.  In all of that time, I have been overtly harassed a total of three times: once in Albuquerque where a car full of teens was honking their horn behind me then yelled something unintelligible as they passed; once here in the D/FW area which I wrote about here, and one earlier this month by a group of teens in Abbeville, Louisiana while I was out riding in the Tour du Rouge.  Of course, in that time, I’ve also been hooted at (in a good way) by women in cars twice, and given thumbs-up, words of encouragement, or other positive comments dozens of times.  And on top of that I’ve been passed by easily tens of thousands of cars who registered no opinion whatsoever on the subject (go read David Alison’s blog post again, I’ll wait).  And just for good measure, I’ll add that I’ve been honked at, yelled at, and given the finger far more times while driving my car than riding my bike.

If I were to form an opinion of drivers’ opinions of cyclists from this it would be that drivers are overwhelmingly neutral towards cyclists, with a small fraction pro-cyclist, and a smaller fraction still anti-cyclist.  And while I guess this is the way things would trend in a study, I sure as hell wouldn’t present my assumption as an objective truth without some sound study or set of studies backing it.  And that’s what I’m asking of Brian (and really everyone else out there).

Anyway, I don’t want this to sound like I’m disagreeing with everything Brian has to say, he does have some good points.  I think it would be helpful to show cycling in a more high-status, sexier manner, and I do think that it would help to raise the image of cycling (though again, I’d guess it would go from overwhelmingly neutral to slightly positive and hopefully, later, positive).  But I also agree with Mikael that it should be portrayed as quicker and easier than driving (which it can be, but is far from always being — again, a different screed).

Of course I disagree with both of them in that I feel that portraying cycling as fun is also very important.  Really, any marketing campaign (or collection of campaigns) needs to be multifaceted.  Look at beer commercials or car commercials, different commercials capture different aspects of their products.  Beer is fun, beer attracts sexy women and good looking men, beer is cold and refreshing, beer can be upscale, beer can reflect the values of the working man, beer is consumed by the world’s most interesting man and the crowds that hang out with him.  Cars on the other hand are fun to drive, and they attract sexy women and good looking men, and they are of great utility, and they are luxurious, and they are sporty, and they allow you to get away from it all, and they are tough, and they are safe. Cars are what get you to and from the party (where there will no doubt be beer), and get the kids to and from school, and they tow your boat, carry your groceries, haul your tools, and now with the  spread of hybrid cars, they help you save the environment.  Is there any reason that bikes can’t be all of that?  OK, OK, they have a much smaller advertising budget, but still, multiple views can be presented.

Anyway, before I drift too far off of the core topic, I want to address Brian’s closing bit of his response to me: “I’d love to see a decent psychologist do a study of this stuff, but as far as I know it’s never been done. Dave Horton is doing some interesting work, though. And I’ll bet you a new bike that that when that study does happen, it supports my conjecture. Whaddaya say, sport?”

Well, Brian, I honestly don’t know what conjecture you’re talking about here, so you’d really have to clarify, but if you’re stating that you think a properly constructed, unbiased study would show that anywhere close to 95% of Americans think that riding a bike to work marks you as a freak and a loser, then I’d be more than willing to put up the donation of a Kona Africabike or similar to some charity to be distributed to a worthy recipient, and I have a lot of things that my money could be better spent on than buying a new bike for someone else.

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Playing catch-up

OK, so it’s been a long time since my last update; too long, really. So what’s been going on since then? Well, I hurt my left quad (the damn thing just siezed up on me), which kept me off the bike for about a week. I drove a lot more than I’d like, 475 miles this month, ugh. I’ve got excuses (see aforementioned quad injury and mix in two round trips to the airport, at 32 miles each way), but still, I could have done better. In other news, I got a couple of massages (that’s the good news). I’m also resuming my work on the 90DFB, though I’m altering it slightly to put a bit more emphasis on stretching and core strength. It’s finally dawned on me that I can’t ride any significant distance like the Tour du Rouge in my current state of tightness and weak-ass ass (and back and abs). I’m making it my special mission to get my hamstrings and hip flexors to a state of looseness somehere below their current suspension-bridge-support-cable level.

So all in all there hasn’t been much on the personal front to report on. However, there’s a lot of good shaking in the bike friendly community area to report on:

First came the news of the formations of Bike Friendly Knox-Henderson (whose inagural ride I sadly have to miss, thanks to the siren song of Iowa playing in my TPM’s ears) as well as Bike Friendly Lakewood (whose inagural ride I most certainly hope to attend, although the timing is pretty bad for me, again, thank you Iowa). I suppose it’s only a matter of time before I am forced to start up Bike Friendly Plano; even if it’s only to be the first one under the Bike Friendly umbrella to sport a road bike in the logo.

Next we had the announcement that the Cottonwood Trail construction under the High Five had “completed” (i.e. not done, but has reached a rideable state), which may afford me (and most of Richardson) a nicer route down to the White Rock Creek Greenbelt trail and on down to White Rock Lake and beyond. Since my route down there is already fairly nice, I may not make use of this too much, but it sure is nice for a lot of other people.

After that came the start of the annual Bike Summit in Washington D.C. and Google’s announcement that they are now offering travel directions via bicycle in Google Maps. The (still beta and asking for feedback) product seems to work pretty well. It didn’t show me the best route to/from work (it seems to think 15th is a nice street to ride on during rush hour), but it was plenty close and the community’s feedback will only help it to improve.

Then we had the announcement of the inagural Bike Friendly Richardson Urban Cafe Assault Team ride. We’re going to meet up at Cafe Brazil in Richardson, have some coffee and snacks, and then ride about a seven mile loop before heading home. It looks like a 20 mile-ish good morning ride where I get to meet some of the community again, and perhaps meet some new folk too. At the very least, I get to try a new breakfast place. I think I’m going to have to approach a few places in Plano to see if they’d be willing to host a UCAT ride. Time to bring some of the bike-love to the big P.

And then yesterday we have Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announcing that the policy at the Federal Department of Transportation is that bicycling and pedestrian travel modes are to be placed on equal footing with motorized transportation, and that the Federal government encourages state and local governments to adopt policies along these lines (i.e. you’d better change, if you want federal money to build and maintain your roads). Wow. Thank you Secretary LaHood and the rest of the Obama administration for recognizing the need to turn away from auto-centric city/road design and back to a healthier, more enjoyable, more sustainible design.

So that’s a quick wrap for the past two weeks. I’ll be back with more soon. Also, I’ll be updating this post later today to add links. I’m doing this from my phone, just so I can get someting up here again.

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An unofficial start

OK, I plan on officially kicking off this incarnation of the Bramble sometime later this month However, since I’m stuck in Iowa, and trying to get over the heap of dumbassery that I’ve already encountered here, that I thought I’d try out the iPhone WP app and see what posting/updating from the road is like, as one of the main reasons for reviving the Bramble is going to involve a lot of road posting. Wait for the initial kickoff to see what that is.

Until then I need to get back to work. You know, the work that I could be doing just fine back in Texas.

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