Today, May 2, 2018, I quietly observed my 18th year anniversary of moving back to Austin. It was also the first day of the rest of my life since being laid off / liberated from my job of 11 years, the last day of which was six months and a day ago, on November 1st. Accompanying those two milestones is the end of the first four months of the year. With all of that, it seems like a good time to reflect upon where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m heading. Get out those oranges and reading glasses, because A Dude’s a-fixin’ to do some navel gazin’! (Note to my non-US followers: If you are not in the US, navel oranges are a common variety here, because they look like they have a belly button, aka navel. And navel gazing — staring at one’s belly button — is a metaphor for self-rumination. We don’t actually stare at it.) Orange you glad I explained that? Continue reading
Today’s University of Texas at Austin publication, The Daily Texan, has a front-page story about the scourge of rentable so-called “disruptive” technology being dumped on our streets and the campus. See “Dockless scooters temporarily removed: New city ordinance suspends dockless scooters until companies obtain proper permits.” Basically these companies came in like Uber and Lyft and started operating illegally (or quasi-legally at best), and then the City of Austin had to play catch up and regulate them. We the citizens of Austin chased the ride-share companies out of town after an election, even though they cynically spent over $8 million.
As for rent-a-bikes, I don’t have as many problems with them, because that’s a big part of the point of this blog: more people can and should use bikes. But when they or scooters are clogging up the place, people dump them, vandalize them, or they obstruct lawful bike commuters and pedestrians, they’re a safety hazard to the operators and to others. So I have a few words about this. I’m like an antibiotic ointment: I’m topical!
Off to the Races!
Thursday evening I moseyed on down the Southern Walnut Creek Trail to a small racecar track in southeast Austin. It was bike night, and the races were on. I rolled up to a small sea of cyclists milling about, and a group of maybe 60 riding on the .62-mile track. Held from April to September each year, the Driveway Series (or just the Driveway, in Austin) was selected as the best races in the United States, according to a chat I had with the congenial and sometimes funny announcer Logan. A former racer, he’s very familar with the sport and most of the riders, and was happy to share details between laps.
Sanctioned by USA Racing, these are the real deal. There are different levels, 4/5 (beginners), 1/2/3, Masters (over 35), and Pro for men (which some women race in) as well as the same for women. But it’s also a festive atmosphere with beer and food trucks, repair vans, sponsor tents, and music playing on the loudspeakers. There were serious-looking cyclists from the not so fit to the super skinny lean young guys, and the super-strong beasts and some very nice and expensive bicycles. Come along for a short lap!
And I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more
Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles
To fall down at your door
–The Proclaimers, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”
Today the Austin American-Statesman ran a story asking the question What’s the most dangerous stretch of road for bicyclists in Austin? It talks about the recurrent theme I’ve been covering, bicycle safety. Hint: the road is Guadalupe, and I can assure you it’s scary. Even the parts with a protected bike lane have University of Texas students standing in it idly, without a clue, listening to their headphones. Other parts have no bike lane, or lots of bumps in the road, and in general it’s narrow with buses and cars passing within inches.
While it seems like it’s horrible carnage out there, the fact is, it’s safer to bike and walk than drive a car. However, it is very dangerous. Anyway, the article is by Pam LeBlanc, whose blog Fit City also appears on WordPress. It has a photograph of yours truly. It was one of several that ran in a profile the paper did on A Dude back on January 15 called “Can a regular guy pedal 10,000 miles in two Years? This dude did.” You can go read that after you finish this. Or finish this first. Whatevs, thanks for reading!
In the April 8th edition of the local paper, there was an article about JoJo McKibben, who had a traumatic accident after being hit by an SUV while biking last summer. In fact, the cyclist became trapped under the SUV, and seven people actually had to lift the car off of her! The first driver was drunk and indicted but is free on bond and has yet to go to trial.
Earlier this month she was hit again, but fortunately was not hurt as badly. The second driver is in jail on a lesser charge. Both accidents show that while Austin has the image of being a bike-friendly city, and in some ways it is better than others (Dallas, Houston, San Antonio — I’m talking to you). But the reality is much different. I know, I bike most days and fear for my life multiple times because of distracted, bad or mean drivers.
A friend admitted the other day that she was enjoying walking more than bicycling around Austin lately. That’s because she notices more things going slower on two feet than on two wheels. I agreed that’s mostly true, but also said you still see some pretty cool stuff biking that you’d never notice whizzing by in a car. Today was no exception, and a beautiful spring day to boot. Please continue reading where it says Continue Reading! (Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom — WordPress inserts extra white space I can’t get rid of sometimes.) Continue reading