Thursday, October 29, 2009

I am becoming less jaded in my old age

I've been listening to more radio in the car lately, both as an attempt to shake off Kurt Cobain and because I've had more car time in the past week than in the previous month. What I’ve been hearing is catchy but disturbing. I laughed when I caught the line, “I know she loves me- she loves everybody.” Listening more carefully though it’s a sad and creepy song. Yet it's nowhere near as bad as "a kiss with a fist is better than none." It’s sickening to hear, and even assuming it is supposed to be metaphorical, it’s suggesting that it’s better to be in a painful relationship than in none at all. Please, go find the girl who loves everybody instead.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

bike plan again

As expected, the final presentation of the Albany Bicycle Master plan was disappointing. I'm not sure whether the organizers wanted to limit attendance or are just inept (and am not sure which bothers me more) but they didn't announce the meeting until last week and didn't release the plan until today, so no one could read it before the presentation. Not that it would have mattered anyway, I suppose, since they again refused to allow questions or comments from the audience. (I was tempted to stage an uprising but was unsure of my support.)

A few things will be implemented in the next year or so. They're entirely inadequate but I didn't think they were going to even pretend that this process was going anywhere. This spring: an education program. Woo-hoo. We'll see what this looks like, and hopefully it will be more focused on drivers not killing people than bicyclists being irritating to drivers. Also, CDTA is going to assist businesses and municipalities in bike rack installation and include bike racks along the bus rapid transit line between Albany and Schenectady.

The big exciting finale: sharrows along a few disconnected streets. Sharrows are pavement markings with pictures of bicycles and arrows, intending to inform drivers that bicycles are in fact allowed on the road. Maybe they're better than nothing, but they risk giving the impression that bicyclists aren't supposed to be on the roads without them. (Bike lanes can be problematic in this way too, but at least with them the cyclists are getting something out of it.) And white paint is apparently very expensive 'round these parts because they're only putting them in a few random places. (Well, presumably they're not random and are streets that are being worked on- Delaware Avenue is one- but the final effect will be disjointed. And given how hard the City finds it to keep even lane markings painted, I wonder how long they'll be maintained.) Perhaps we need to just go in and paint our own, like these folks?

There are going to be actual bike lanes on Clinton Avenue but only for a few blocks.

The reports is at (100-page pdf) and comments can be directed to

Biking ten miles in the rain after dark was thankfully not a total waste of time. It is a nice night despite the drizzle and a fox crossed Delaware six feet in front of me.

Monday, October 05, 2009

it's better than wanting an unnecessary minivan

I’ve been thinking a lot about going car-free once our current car dies. If there were a local carshare program, we could definitely do it, and I think we might be able to pull it off anyway- the occasional taxi or rental car should be less expensive than the monthly cost of purchasing, maintaining, insuring, and fueling a car. Even if we can’t keep it up long-term I think it would be an interesting experiment to try for a few months.

I’m perhaps using this to justify my lust for cargo bikes. I’ve researched them sufficiently to have picked out what I would get; a Yuba Mundo which is decidedly less fancy than a lot of options but should be able to do pretty much anything I want it to for a reasonable price. (Comparatively reasonable, I mean; it’s still more than $1000.)* I was pretty much set to just get it when Dan pointed out that we can really do most of what we need with our current bike trailer and that it was rather unlike me to buy anything that we can reasonably make do without. I didn’t much appreciate being forced to admit that I just wanted it because I like it, but it’s true, so I’m letting it wait. Hopefully the new model coming out next month will only be available in hideous colors to reduce my temptation.

* Nerdy details about the final narrowing-down once I decided to focus on the less expensive options: I was torn between the Mundo and a Big Dummy, which is similar in a lot of ways but has fancier components plus the benefit of working with Xtracycle parts which are coming out with more nifty accessories each year. (The Kona Ute, also in this category, didn’t sound as sturdy.) But in addition to costing more than 50% more, I was worried about the shape of the frame making it more difficult for both Dan and I to ride it. The top bar of the Mundo is angled such that I think we’re both more likely to be able to ride it comfortably. (Its frame comes in just one size, while the Big Dummy comes in several, which means it’s not designed to accommodate riders of dramatically different heights. Most people don’t share bikes.) Finally, a very patient man at a Portland utility bike shop was kind enough to chat with me and he said he’d get the latest version of the Mundo even if price were no object. Then I was sold.

You've probably never noticed this, but fathers are treated differently than mothers.

Facebook post from a guy I knew in college: “[Name] is beat from picking apples and carrying children all day.” His mother posted: “Dads like you are rare!” I was tempted to write something snarky about how fathers who spend time with their children aren’t rare in my world, where most of my friends wouldn’t consider having kids with someone who wasn’t willing to be a co-parent, and that men shouldn’t be given pats on the back for doing what ought to be expected. I managed to refrain (it’s his mother, after all, and I can give her the benefit of the doubt and pretend that she just wanted to tell her son that she’s proud of him and wasn’t thinking about her word choice) but it was difficult. When I see women posting similar things they get comments like “isn’t fall fun?” or “but aren’t kids worth it!”

It’s most noticeable to me when Facebook-ers are expecting children. Women can’t post anything without people mentioning the baby. “I had an avocado for lunch” will get comments about how they should eat more, or the unsaturated fats are so good for their fetus, or they’d better be careful so they don’t gain too much weight, or to enjoy it while they still got to eat with two hands. Men’s impending parenthood is generally ignored. A friend of mine who posted about his baby for two trimesters was kind of ignored; he’d put up a status like “Finished sewing curtains for the baby’s room!” and people would comment about his art, his house, anything but fatherhood. It’s so frustrating to see people who quite clearly are not choosing a stereotypical gender-based division of labor to remain externally defined by it. What could a pregnant woman possibly be thinking about other than gestating, after all, and her husband must certainly be more interested in other things, right?

(Incidentally, the research potential of Facebook comments is pretty much untapped; if I were in grad school I’d be figuring out how to use Facebook data for my dissertation.)