Bicycle Culture

US News & World Report: Bailout Gives Tax Credits to Bike Commuters, Electric Cars, Renewable Energy

Three new measures that will aid green consumers passed through Congress as part of the massive bailout bill last week. Here’s the rundown:

The Bicycle Commuter Act was added on to last week’s bailout bill and will provide a $20 tax credit per month to employers of bike commuters. The credit is intended to go toward adding provisions for bike commuters, like racks and locker rooms, for those who decide to go car free. However, many are decrying the act because it is part of an assortment of pork added to the bailout that some find frivolous–other items of which include tax credits for NASCAR track owners, film companies, and manufacturers of wool clothing. . .

BikesBelong.org: Bicycle Commuter Act Passes

October 6, 2008
After seven years, the bicycle commuter tax provision has finally passed both the House and Senate as part of the financial bailout package. President Bush signed the bill into law last Friday. This legislation will allow employers to give employees who commute by bike a monthly tax-free stipend. This benefit mirrors what is already permitted for commuters who carpool or use public transit.

We are grateful to Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR) and other representatives who have worked tirelessly to advance this legislation, as well as all the devoted bicycle advocates who helped promote it.

We’ll post more details as soon as they are available.

Thanks to UrbanMennonite.com for the news on this act’s passage. I wish this law didn’t pass as another earmark on the bailout, but I am glad it is law. I only wish they included a provision for small-business owners (i.e. self-employed folks should get a tax credit for bike commuting too)

 

I’m way, way behind on keeping track of my biking milage (something I used to be very obsessed with, as you can see from these posts), but I thought I would least try to make a rough estimate for last year, and then get back on track for this year.

Here are my estimates of miles riden since that last report in July 2006…

Drove the pedicab on about 30 nights with an average of 25 miles per night = 750 miles (this also includes riding a Pedicab in the OKC Streak ride)

Miles rode on rented bicycle in San Francisco in October = 15 miles

Miles rode on brother’s bike while visiting Austin = 6 miles

Miles rode on my own bike (New Schwinn Hybrid) on a different trip to Austin = 10 miles

Estimated other miles rode on my own bike (New Schwinn Hybrid) during those months = 65 miles (this includes a few intermodal round-trips between Newcastle & OKC)

Estimated miles riden in New Orleans on rent bike (actually back in May, but I never wrote these miles down) = 25 miles

This would bring my 2006 year totals to:

Total mileage per bike: 1060.8 -New Schwinn Hybrid; 2.8 (plus lots unrecorded) -Old Schwinn MTB; 8.0-Graziella Folding Bicycle; 1275 – estimated miles on the Pedicab; 46 miles – estimated miles riden on rented/borrowed bikes

Total 2006 miles to date: 1,840

Unfortunately, despite my pedicabing, I fell far-short of my 2006 goal of 2,400 miles.

 
LATimes.com:Anti-doping case against Landis may be in jeopardy — Possible errors by French laboratory could compromise findings that have threatened U.S. cyclist’s Tour de France victory (thanks to Mennonite Weekly Review for this link)

MSNBC: Lab mishandled Landis’ urine samples — Technicians allowed improper access to alleged Tour de France doper

FloydFairnessFund.org

I’m glad to see the truth is getting out. I never did believe that Floyd was a doper, and I must say that the Tour de France is increasingly becoming a joke. I have nothing against the French in general, but I must say that the French cycling establishment is increasingly hostile towards American cyclists (remember that Lance Armstrong was continually harrassed too). Maybe it is time for the US to create its own bicycling super race to compete with the Tour de France, and for American cyclists to boycott the Tour de France until reforms are made of the drug testing regime.

 

Stateman.com:Debate over bike helmets is revived — Study will track bike injuries, with a City Council vote likely next year.

There are certainly days that I’m glad I don’t live in Austin anymore and I started to feel that way when I first read this story. (the foolishness of bicycle helmet laws are best illustrated by what has happened in Australia (listen to the BikeLove podcast from June 2, 2006 for more on this), where the number of bicyclists plummeted and overall bike safety went down), but the good news is that it sounds like the Austin bike community is rallying its forces and fighting back. Here’s some coverage of this…

AustinChronicle: Cyclists Run Over Helmet Law Idea

BicycleAustin.info: The story behind the original Austin helmet law, along with current commentary and a good explanation of why helmet laws are such a bad thing

Austin Chronicle: More on Bike Helmets (LTE by Amy Babich)

Austin IMC: Fight the Adult Bicycle Helmet Law

As for my own personal views about bicycle helmet laws, I personally wear a helmet when riding in heavy traffic, bad weather, and for long distance rides, but I generally don’t wear a helmet for short trips to run errands. I think I should be free to make that decision.

Furthermore, bicycling is one of the few areas in life where we (thankfully) don’t have to deal with much police-citizen interaction. No tags, no licenses, no taxes, etc. make bicycling a truly free activity. As long as one follows basic traffic rules (which come down to just being polite to others on the road), you shouldn’t have to deal with the cops. Unfortunately, helmet laws change that dynamic by giving the police yet one more reason to harrass bicyclists. I know there are good cops out there (particularly some I know of in Austin), but there are a lot of bad cops out there and I frankly don’t want those bad cops having an excuse to give folks grief. — BTW, for those who don’t know the history, Austin Police actually ARRESTED bicyclists for not wearing helmets when the law was first in force, and according to BicycleAustin.info, “70% of the no-helmet tickets given to kids went to black and Hispanic kids. “

But more importantly, the most important factor in bicycle safety is having visibility. In other words, bicycle safety is super-safe in The Netherlands and Belguim because there are tons of bicycles everywhere, even though almost nobody wears a helmet. Yet in places like Australia where helmets are mandatory, there are very few bikes on the road (and far less since the helmet laws went into effect) and hence motorists don’t expect bikes and end up driving in a dangerous manner to bikes.

So anyway, I think a better use of public safety dollars in Austin would be to provide training to both bicyclists and car drivers on how to share the road, and to provide better facilities (i.e. parking racks) for bicyclists so that more folks would ride bikes.

Taken from: JMBranum.com

These pictures are from the OBS Streak that I participated in. I rode the pedicab (using our new campaign/GPOK advertizements) in the 15 mile ride. I did think about riding the 30 mile, but around 10 miles into the race I was really glad I stuck with the 15 because the pedicab did wear me out more than I would have expected.

By the way, the first shot is super-blurry because my digital camera at this point was having some condensation problems.

 

I’m still kinda upset about something that happened last night when I was pedi-cabbing, so I think I’m going to talk about it.

I was crusing around looking for rides (basically when I see people, I ride up next to them and say, “hey, do you want a free ride? I just work for tips.”) and came upon a small group of people. There was a couple of girls, and then I think 3-4 redneck guys. When I started pitching the free ride thing, one dude said, “there’s too many of us” and I said, “well I can carry 4 or 5 if you want to sit on laps or I can call over another cab.” Then we talked some more and I think he was getting close to taking the ride until he said, “If you try pulling all of us, you’ll be sweating like a N******* trying to read.”

I was stunned. The racist one-liner came so fast that at first I didn’t believe he said but then a second or so later, I said (using more colorful language than I’m using now) that this was way jacked up and I won’t give you a ride, and would never give you a ride if you use racist language like that. I then rode off, but yelled something else at the dude (again something I can’t say on this blog, but I will say that the F-word was involved).

I still can’t believe it. The man’s words just stick in my head, and I can’t get rid of them. You know where this comes from, straight up for the days after slavery when the laws forbidding the teaching of reading to Black folks were struck down, so now the way that the rich white folks tried to stay in power was by putting down Black folks and creating the putrid myth of white superiority, so that the rich white folks could keep the poor white folks in power but letting the poor white folks feel superior to somebody… and then this is still playing out today, as white guy from rural Oklahoma repeats the lie, not even really knowning what is he doing.

And this isn’t the only time this is played out. Institutional racism may be more rare, but it still happens. Lately I’ve haven’t seen it so much from the police (actually, I actually had a good conversation with a cop last week about the racist policies of the nightclubs in Bricktown), but at least one of the OKC nightclubs seems to have an unspoken policy where the dress code is used to keep out black people. The way this works is that if a black guy comes into the club, his outfit is scrutinized sharply so that if anything is below par (jeans too baggy, shoes aren’t good enough, shirt isn’t tucked in) he won’t make it, yet if a white guy wheres the SAME OUTFIT, he’ll get into the club.

And of course on the street you see it all the time. I have a fair number of passengers who think somehow I’m going to agree with them when they make racist smacktalk (and I also throw them off my cab when they make that mistake, as I did with a couple of girls about a month ago who kept throwing around the n-word ) or when they combine racist and sexist smacktalk (an Iraq war vet I had a few nights ago told me first that he “shoots people in the face” for a living, and then said that there were way to many “N*****r b******s in the club). Probably I don’t handle it right (cursing out the redneck last night was probably not a very loving thing to do), but I find it hard to keep my mouth shut or to not explode when people say things like this.

Anyway, all of this is to say that I’m pretty fed up with it.

 

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this on the blog, but I switched pedicab companies about a month ago from Brickshaw Buggies to Bricktown Pedicabs (here’s a post that shows pictures of the cabs with Brickshaw). Both companies are good folks to work with, but I made the switch because the rent was cheaper with the other company (and I digged the cabs that my new company uses… full sound system built in and real nice seats for passenger) and I can wear whatever I want to work. (I so much rather wear hawaiian shirts than those stupid white shirts that get dirty so easily).

Also though I’m working on a website for Bricktown Pedicabs, hopefully incorporating the dark purple color scheme of the cabs into the layout.

But while on the subject of pedicab websites, here’s a website I did back in 2001 for Austin Bike Cabs (they now have a MUCH better website at AustinBicyclecabs.com). Also the other company I worked with in Austin has a new website too – Capital Pedicabs.

 

I’m checking email right now at the Bricktown IHOP after doing my pedicab work tonight, but I wanted to talk a little bit about a conversation I had this evening with OKC Police officer.

The officer pulled up to me after I carried a passenger and he and I had a pretty good conversation, in which he expressed his concern about what I said on this blog a couple of weeks ago about what I believed was the different treatment of black and white folks by the police in Bricktown. To paraphrase him, he said that I was unfair to the police and should have asked for their side of the story.

I told him that I appreciate him sharing his perspective and that he is right, that I didn’t share both sides of the story, and that in the future I might still criticize the OKCPD but I would try to talk to one of the officers about what is going on before doing so. We talked some about it, but for the most part it was a pretty cordial conversation. (One very good point the officer made was that the officers stationed in Bricktown are pretty diverse, and are fairly representative of the community… well at least when it comes to race)

For the rest of the night, I kept thinking about the conversation. Looking back on it and the blog post in question, I think I did say what I saw in Bricktown, but context is everything and possibly the context of the police-citizen encounters that I saw might have shed more light on these incidents. I think if I knew the context, I might still have had the same opinion, but maybe not.

So, this comes back to both the power and the danger of the blog medium. The blog gives us the power to express ourselves without censorship, but it also gives us the potential of saying things that might be hurtful or somewhat inaccurate. I do think I need to work on being more thoughtful about how I use the blog. I still plan to speak truth to power (and I should add, that I while I respect the humanity of OKC Police officers, I still don’t buy into the power-based paradigm of law enforcement, and so I have a hard time endorsing even the more benevolent uses of that power), but I want to do a better job of respecting the humanity of those I disagree with and even seeking to understand the perspective.

And I need to learn to control my anger. I was upset on the day I wrote the previous blog post (see link above) by what I perceived was unfair treatment under the law, and was even more upset on this last Saturday by what I saw (some of y’all may have seen me interviewed on KFOR about it), but on both of those occasions I judged the situations by appearances instead of by digging deeper for the real story (another good point made to me by the officer I talked to) and then let that judgment turn to anger, and then let that anger rule me instead of seeking to act from a more grounded center.

I really need to work on this. I think of the great spiritual activists of history (Dr. King, etc.) and what set them apart was that they only acted when they were grounded and centered. Right now, I am not. My life is a discombulated mess and it is sadly berift of a daily spiritual practice that keeps me sane, grounded, and plugged into the divine.

Anyway I guess I’ve said enough for tonight. (and to the officer I talked to tonight, if you read this, thanks for talking to me. I really appreciate your candor.)