10/29/10

Misanthropy Vindicated

Some people are horrible and that's why other people have to post things like this to eHow:

How to Protect Your Dog on Halloween

Protect Your Dog on Halloween
How to Protect Your Dog on Halloween
Halloween is the time of year that a lot of people like to do pranks-egg throwing, toilet paper and stink bombs in the mailbox are all popular things to do on this night-which is why it is very important to make sure your dog is protected. Here are some ways.
That's right- a how-to post actually dedicated to making sure that some idiot doesn't do harm to your dog. Let's dig deeper:
I read an article that recommended tying up your dog outside in front of your house on Halloween night to keep pranksters away. TERRIBLE ADVICE! Never tie up your dog outside on Halloween night. A dog that is tied up has no way to escape anyone who wants to tease or taunt the poor animal.
Thanks for addressing this truly terrible advice! Stupid articles.
If this is your dog's first Halloween, check to see if your dog is nervous around costumes. Some dogs will get scared from the big wigs and weird masks that people are wearing. It's a good idea to find out about this before the big night.
This is why I brought my dogs with me to the big wig and weird mask shop when they were just puppies. Anyway, don't do anything stupid to dogs or people on Halloween.  And be afraid of very scary bumblebees!


Bike Scofflaws Start Young

This is pretty amazing. From the New York Times:
Citing cases dating back as far as 1928, a judge has ruled that a young girl accused of running down an elderly woman while racing a bicycle with training wheels on a Manhattan sidewalk two years ago can be sued for negligence.
...
The suit that Justice Wooten allowed to proceed claims that in April 2009, Juliet Breitman and Jacob Kohn, who were both 4, were racing their bicycles, under the supervision of their mothers, Dana Breitman and Rachel Kohn, on the sidewalk of a building on East 52nd Street. At some point in the race, they struck an 87-year-old woman named Claire Menagh, who was walking in front of the building and, according to the complaint, was “seriously and severely injured,” suffering a hip fracture that required surgery. She died three weeks later.
Her estate sued the children and their mothers, claiming they had acted negligently during the accident. In a response, Juliet’s lawyer, James P. Tyrie, argued that the girl was not “engaged in an adult activity” at the time of the accident — “She was riding her bicycle with training wheels under the supervision of her mother” — and was too young to be held liable for negligence.
Everyone should be held accountable for their actions, sure, but this seems beyond the pale. It was a horrible and unfortunate event and I think that we can all appreciate the grief of the family of the woman who died, but I don't think a lawsuit really accomplishes anything. Except, of course, reiterate that bicyclists are maniacs, hell-bent on running over pedestrians and causing chaos, even when they're four and using training wheels.

10/28/10

Being a Republican Means You Care Deeply about Tax Cuts for the Rich

That's my takeaway at least from this piece on tax cuts and voter preference:
Even more importantly, the sizable minority of people who want the tax cuts for affluent taxpayers renewed seem to attach much more weight to this issue than the slim majority who want them to expire. In a statistical analysis taking separate account of prospective voters’ broader partisan attachments, those who support President Obama’s position on the tax cuts are only 6% more likely than those who are unsure about the issue to say they will vote for a Democratic House candidate. Even those who want to let all the tax cuts expire are only 9% more likely to vote Democratic. By comparison, those who want to keep the tax cuts for affluent taxpayers in place are 22% more likely to say they will vote for a Republican House candidate.

An even more lopsided difference appears in the impact of tax cut preferences on presidential approval. People who support President Obama’s position on this issue are only slightly more approving of his overall performance than those who are unsure, while those who want to renew all the tax cuts are moved about five times as far toward disapproving. Among political independents, a whopping 76% of those who want continued tax cuts for the rich say they strongly disapprove of the president’s performance; only 27% of those who support his proposal for selective extension of the tax cuts are equally disenchanted.
I think that this is a victory of the 30 year long messaging war that says Democrats = high taxes.

Rent Your U-Haul Now

Republicans get a lot of flack for basically hating Washington DC. But Louis Gohmert, mostly crazy congressman from Texas, would get a statue at L'Enfant Plaza 14th and U somewhere in the District if this happened:

If Mr. Gray digs deeply enough, he may find some tantalizing policies brewing in GOP circles. One proposal that would have a profound impact on the District is a bill submitted by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) that would free D.C. residents from paying federal income taxes until they get true voting representation in Congress. This initiative would bring to life the cheeky slogan on D.C. license plates and make the District the envy of the 50 states.

U.S. possessions with nonvoting delegates to the House (American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam, etc.) are exempt from paying federal income taxes because Congress acknowledged that they do not have an elected representative in Congress to vote on federal income tax legislation.
Housing prices in DC would double. If you thought "gentrification" was bad now, wait til 3/4 of Fairfax County moves in.

Germans: Watch Mad Men!

Because it's apparently free on ZDFneo:
A public channel, ZDFneo has successfully exploited a neglected niche in German free-TV for more ambitious programming ignored by the country's mainstream networks. In addition to Mad Men, ZDFneo has picked up shows including BBC's spy thriller Spooks, ABC legal drama Dirty Sexy Money and therapist sitcom Being Erica from Canada's CBC.
I've never seen Spooks (which I think is called MI-5 here) and I know nothing about Dirty Sexy Money, but Being Erica is highly recommended by my wife. I'm glad that a small public network is airing niche programs, much in the way that cable networks here (which are not free) do. Public networks here, ironically, are more about making money by appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Addendum to Previous Post

From Mark Kleiman:
I’m also obviously unclear on the concept about housing prices overall. Again, I understand why banks and under-water homeowners want prices to go back up. But from a social perspective isn’t it obviously better for housing to be cheaper?
Similarly, I understand why a revival of home construction seems like a good idea to the construction industry, and why people worrying about having adequate demand to return to full employment are hoping for help from that sector. But I can’t see any good reason to want housing to take a larger, rather than a smaller, share of consumption and investment.
Yes. The question is, can we find balance in a situation where we reduce housing prices without screwing up the asset ownership or current homeowners? Matt Yglesias suggests: 
But the core point, I think, is that it’s a kind of folly to think that the best way to deal with distressed mortgages is through efforts to prop up prices and somehow keep housing expensive. What’s needed is a process—cramdowns or the like—whereby we can readjust loan burdens downward to something more in line with reality. And more broadly what’s needed is fiscal and monetary expansion—up to and including helicopter drops—to bolster incomes across the board. The overly indebted will need to use bolstered income to pay what they owe, and those who are more fortunate will just buy more stuff. Presumably that will lead to an increase in nominal home prices, but that would be a consequence of growth rather than a cause of it.
I'm a big fan of cramdowns, if for no other reason than the name itself. It sounds like the name of an Oxford pie eating contest. Readjusting mortgages presumably saves both the lender and the borrower a ton of trouble- in that the they both don't have to deal with foreclosure and the ensuing headaches, but in the world of securitized mortgages on balance sheets and Fannie Mae originating loans, it's pretty clear why this doesn't happen. 

Why Not to Scrap the Mortgage Interest Deduction

Robert Shapiro:
Listen up, National Deficit Commission.  This is the wrong time — maybe the worst time — to target the mortgage deduction.  Falling housing values have been the single largest force holding down consumer demand, and with it investment and growth, because their decline leaves the 70 percent of Americans who own their homes poorer.  That has created a classical, negative wealth effect which dampens spending.  On top of that, these falling housing values sharply raise the ratio of most people’s debts to their assets, moving most people to reduce their debt.  And that has meant fewer large purchases and less credit-card buying.
Cutting the mortgage interest deduction would only intensify these dynamics, because the value of that deduction is incorporated or “capitalized” in housing prices.  When prospective home buyers try to figure out whether they can afford the monthly payments on a particular house, they naturally factor in the value of the deduction.  Buyers are willing to pay more than they would without the deduction — and sellers demand more than they could without it.  Reduce the deduction, and buyers will be able to afford less, sellers will have to accept less, and housing values will fall further.
There are reasonable arguments for paring back this deduction, since it channels so much investment into housing.  Of course, that’s its explicit intention, so home ownership can be part of the American dream.  And yes, a smaller deduction would raise considerable revenues.  But doing it would inescapably further drive down housing values, and doing it now could lock in years more of slow economic growth.
Fundamentally, he's correct. The mortgage interest deduction is already factored into the value of housing stock, both by buyers and sellers. And it will continue to be so long as the mortgage interest deduction is available. I just wonder if limiting the deduction (let's say only for files above a certain amount of income, maybe $250,000, maybe lower) will really "inescapably further drive down housing values" and "lock in years more of slow economic growth." One problem, amongst many, with the deduction is how regressive it is- how much it benefits wealthier tax pays than less wealthy ones. Some sort of tiered system, wherein the percentage of overall itemized deductions is limited based on overall AGI, is a much more targeted way of addressing the regressivity, but it doesn't solve the ultimate problem of a system that far too much encourages home ownership as an investment vehicle where other assets might be more valuable to society. So, my unexpert advice, start a tiered system of itemized deductions where they're limited based on income (or just straight up capped at 28%) and then maybe slowly phase in (on a yearly basis) a specific percentage of the home-mortgage interest that be deducted. A yearly phase in would allow the market to take this into consideration into the valuation of homes and give homeowners and home buyers a realistic prediction of the future costs of home ownership.

10/27/10

Bicycles Section in the New York Times

Ride The City wants a bicycles section in the New York Times and you can help:

At Ride the City, we're interested in promoting safe transportation by bicycle, and we’re always looking for innovative ways to encourage people to ride their bikes. Recently, we had a new idea for another way to do that: Replace the New York Times Automobiles section with a Bicycling section once a year. That would be just one week devoted to bicycles and bicycling—the remaining 51 weeks would continue to be devoted to cars.
...
We propose that once a year the Times takes a break from vintage cars, automobile ads, and auto-industry shows to make room for the growing culture and market for bicycles. It would be a small gesture for the Times, but a sure way to acknowledge the growing bicycle industry -- a burgeoning market of bicycle-related goods and services.
If you'd like to help make this happen, please show your support and join the Facebook Page: I want a Bicycles Section in the NY Times or write a letter to the New York Times: publisher@nytimes.com.
And really, why not? It's not like newspapers are going to be printed much longer and I doubt that the New York Times can't dedicate the resources of one programmer to put up some bike stories that would be written anyway (but sent to the Style section). I've already joined the Facebook group. Low impact bike advocacy is still advocacy!

Because It's a Third of My Blog's Subtitle

I haven't had a post about taxes in a long time, so here's this promising bit of news and analysis:

Urbanism doesn’t get a lot of breaking news (that is, unless Eric Fidler’s prediction pans out), but this might be an exception: the WSJ is reporting that Obama’s (bipartisan?) deficit commission is considering cutting the mortgage-interest tax deduction.  The reports are all very speculative, but it looks like they’re definitely not considering eliminating the tax break entirely. While most libertarians have advocated eliminating the tax break (and in fact all tax breaks) completely and adjusting the general tax rates to make the measure revenue-neutral, it looks like this (along with cuts to the child tax credit, among others) is a cost-saving measure.
As I discussed earlier today, the tax credit is just one of many highly regressive government advantageous to wealthy homeowners – the vast majority of Americans don’t even itemize their tax returns, and therefore don’t benefit at all from the tax break.  Still, in spite of its regressiveness, it’s enormously popular among voters.
The way I see it, if we can curtail the mortgage interest deduction, we might as well just get rid of all of Schedule A.  We can bring charitable deductions to the front of the form (or just chuck it- if the only reason you're giving to charity is for a tax break, then you're a jerk and shouldn't get one), drop all the nonsense with property and local taxes, and figure out some better solution concerning medical expenses than putting any in excess of 7.5% of AGI  on a form only used by a limited number of taxpayers. I mean, of course, this is just tinkering around the edges of a pretty crummy system, but incremental change is better than nothing at all.

Washington to Annapolis by Rail

Found this tidbit in an article about the old WB&A railroad connecting Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis:
Other options are to put rail in the median of U.S. 50 (not so conducive to walkability, but less likely to face the ire of NIMBYs), or to extend the Blue Line east from Largo, paralleling Central Avenue and Riva Road or Solomons Island Road. Via this alignment, the rail distance from Metro Center to Annapolis is only 5 miles greater than the rail distance from Metro Center to Dulles Airport via the Orange and Silver Lines.
It's easy to forget both how close Annapolis is and and how far away Dulles Airport is. 
The takeaway from the post is that, in general, it's pretty difficult to get from DC to Annapolis (and Baltimore) via public transportation and that rail options are especially quite limited. I like Annapolis a lot and would like to have an option to get there without driving. This would probably also be quite a boon to the communities between DC and Annapolis, since it could facilitate the movement of commuters into either city via public transportation rather than by cars. 

10/25/10

CNN's Election Coverage: Welcome to the Matrix

The technology that goes into CNN's election night coverage is impressive:
The network will create a live and interactive environment, called the “CNN Election Matrix,” to break down data in a visual way. With this tool, King visually will whip through a comprehensive amount of information to better explain to viewers the most competitive House and Senate races. In an election filled with partisanship and strong anti-incumbent feelings, viewers will see the race through the lens of incumbencies: which incumbents have fallen, when they were elected, the nationwide impact and more. Additionally, the “CNN Election Matrix” will create a virtual representation of which party is gaining ground and potential shifts in the balance of power.
“We are taking capabilities of the Data Wall and quadrupling it in Order to report the story in the clearest way we can,” said David Bohrman, senior vice president and Washington bureau chief. “Viewers are ready for a rich meal of election items and with CNN’s technology on air and online, paired with the Best Political Team, we will serve an unparalleled election night experience.”
Great data, right? Well, it's the analysis part that I worry about:
CNN will showcase the Best Political Team, including the diverse views of its political contributors, to report and analyze the political Event. New hosts Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer will add their insight to the coverage. Senior political analysts Gloria Borger and David Gergen will join CNN correspondents in discussing the returns, including national political correspondent Jessica Yellin, who has spent months on the campaign trail, and senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash, who has delved into campaign finances and advertising. Congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar; senior White House correspondent Ed Henry and White House correspondents Dan Lothian and Suzanne Malveaux also will add their insight. Political contributors span the ideological spectrum: John Avlon, Paul Begala, Bill Bennett, Donna Brazile, James Carville, Alex Castellanos, Erick Erickson, Roland Martin, Mary Matalin, Ed Rollins and Hilary Rosen.
Can we just watch the wall? Ugh. 

We promise to release the unaired episodes on DVD

Does anyone think these shows will make it through one season?:

The broadcaster has made a deal for Tommy's Little Girl, which centers on a young girl raised in a Mafia family who is hidden away in an orphanage after her family is murdered by a rival crime boss. Now an attorney, she has a double life as an assassin avenging her family's murder as she attempts to locate her last living relative.
The project is from writer/executive producer Jorge Zamacona (Oz, The Unusuals) along with executive prodders Foxx and Deon Taylor.
The second project is a comedy from Chris Pappas and Mike Bernier (Unhitched) and Scot Armstrong (The Hangover Part II) titled Life Is Good. The logline: A husband and father of two young girls is discovered by the 19-year-old mixed-race son he never knew he had, throwing his mellow suburban family world into chaos.
They could save themselves some money by combining these shows into one: an assassin lives a double life while looking for her mixed-race son that she thinks might have murdered her mellow suburban family. Dramedy gold.

10/21/10

Bike Commuters: Not only self-righteous, but lazy and anti-social too!

Commuting by bike is the best (?) of all possible worlds, in that it allows you to be preachy and self-righteous, but also caters to your anti-social and controlling nature, so says Momentum Magazine:
As a commuter cyclist I have a lot to feel virtuous about. You know, the low environmental impact of cycling, getting all that exercise and improving my physical and mental health, being part of the solution to several critical global issues while keeping it local. But there is a flip side, a dark underbelly to all this self-congratulatory righteousness – a full set of hideous personality traits that motivates me to bike to my workplace instead of using other forms of transport. I cycle to and from work because I am a cheap, lazy, impatient, antisocial control freak. Hey, maybe you are too?
I could especially relate to this:
IMPATIENT
I despise waiting for the bus. If I have to transfer (which means taking TWO buses and waiting for several minutes in between them! hisssss) I find myself pacing (a.k.a. stomping), silently cursing and repeatedly calculating and recalculating the time it will take before I finally arrive at home. Sometimes I rush off to the next bus stop just to DO something rather than be a hapless waiter-for-the-bus.
I also despise getting stuck in traffic. While I'm idling at a standstill, all I can think of is how, if I was on my bike, I could just zip through the pile-up/ delay and how I would be able to SEE what the f*&%k the hold up is. Argh! That trapped feeling is brutal – stuck behind a van or bus or truck and I can't get out, or turn, or go backwards, or see anything. So very unpleasant.
ANTISOCIAL
I guess I'm a bit of a loner. Not a complete hermit – I crave and adore hanging out with my loved ones. But I also like copious amounts of time alone and I don't really like engaging with strangers all day. In my job I serve the public all day long and I don't want to spend another two hours each work day with more strangers on the bus or light rail, or even carpooling. That would total 11 hours of stranger time a day! I have only so much “pleasant” in me.

10/20/10

Bikeshare: Now with profit

This is something for Capital Bikeshare to aspire to:

London's bike hire scheme is on course to become the only Transport for London (TfL) system to make an operating profit, just 10 weeks after its launch.
The project had its first appraisal by the Greater London Authority (GLA) transport committee yesterday. Jeroen Weimar from Serco, the operating company, told the committee: "As of this morning there are 94,500 members of the bike hire scheme and between them they have made over 1,068,000 journeys."
I wonder about this, though:
As expected, most of the scheme's users make their journeys under 30 minutes because this keeps the price they pay down to £1 a day. This lowers profits but, as David Brown, managing director of surface transport for TfL, pointed out, it draws people away from the heavily subsidised and over-crowded bus and tube network – which was one of TfL's aims.
I know that we want public transportation to be less crowded, on account of rider comfort, but mightn't fewer riders mean that you'd have to subsidize the system even further if you wish to keep running it at the same cost and on the same timetable? Also, "bike share" sounds way better than "bike hire scheme," which sounds like the plot of a less-than-totally nefarious James Bond villain.

New York Bike Infrastructure: Better than DC's

If you're a daily bike commuter in DC, try to watch this video from Streetfilms and feel anything other than jealousy. 11 miles from Queens to Manhattan and here's the breakdown:
  • 1.6 miles sharrows
  • 3.0 miles bike lanes
  • 4.8 miles of parking protected, physically separated bike facilities
  • 1.6 miles none
For comparison, here's my breakdown from around Ballston in Arlington to American University. Admittedly, this isn't an apples-to-apples comparison since my 7 mile commute isn't through an very urbanized area of town.
  • 2.8 miles bike lanes (all in Arlington)
  • 4.1 miles none
h/t Bikes for the Rest of Us

    10/19/10

    Parking Meters: A Secret History

    First parking meters: Oklahoma City:
    Seventy-five years ago, the world's first parking meter cast its thin, ominous shadow on the streets of Oklahoma City. The meter was the brainchild of Carlton C. Magee, a local publisher and Chamber of Commerce Traffic Committee chief, and he hoped it would solve the city's chronic parking problems. In the pre-meter days, police would drive around with stopwatches and chalk, enforcing the city's parking time limits by marking the tires of cars seen squatting for too long, but the system was ill-equipped to handle the "endemic overparking" problem. Even worse, a survey found that at any given time, 80 percent of the city's spots were occupied by employees of downtown businesses—the very same businesses complaining that lack of parking was driving away shoppers. Calling for an "efficient, impartial, and thoroughly practical aid to parking regulation," Magee held a student-design contest and launched his instrument.
    The whole article is worth a read, if you like reading articles about the history (and future) of paid, on-street parking. If you don't like reading those kinds of articles, you can watch this video of kittens on a slide. I guess you could also do both.  

    Weird Places In Tenleytown

    I left the office at lunch, mostly so I could ride a CaBi to the new Tenleytown station and just not be staring at the computer for awhile. I ended up getting a pretzel roll at Whole Foods, a Malibu Passion (I think- it had peaches and maybe guava and yogurt) smoothie and looking around Hudson Trail Outfitters, which is a strangely named bike and camping gear store- I mean, how do you outfit a trail? I declined to visit other exciting Tenleytown locations like Best Buy and The Container Store. Whenever you walk or bike around somewhere, you see all sorts of things you never notice when you're driving. Like these places:
     
    The Biblical Archaeology Society promises "the excitement of archaeology and the latest in Bible scholarship since 1975" and I don't think that they mean it in the sarcastic way that I'm referencing it. As you well know:
    BAS's flagship publication is Biblical Archaeology Review. BAR is the only magazine that connects the academic study of archaeology to a broad general audience eager to understand the world of the Bible. Covering both the Old and New Testaments, BAR presents the latest discoveries and controversies in archaeology with breathtaking photography and informative maps and diagrams. BAR's writers are the top scholars, the leading researchers, the world-renowned experts. BAR is the only nonsectarian forum for the discussion of Biblical archaeology.
    And, just in case you haven't already read it, here's a link to the current issue of BAR, which features the article "Bells, Pendants, Snakes and Stones" by Yitzhak Magen, Israel’s chief archaeologist for the West Bank.


     
    What's the Brazilian Army Commission, you might be ignorantly asking right now? Well, its mission is to:
    The Brazilian Army Commission' s main objective is to obtain materiel and services for the Brazilian Army, achieving the highest quality at the lowest prices. 
    The Procurement process includes market research for qualified suppliers, contract according to the Brazilian Legislation, and control the entire process until its final delivery to the end users in Brazil.
    Other responsibilities of the Commission include to provide assistance and pay wages to all Army personnel in official mission outside Brazil, provide assistance to the military undergoing medical treatment in the US, support the Army Commander Cabinet in all activities abroad, and divulge Brazil, the Brazilian Army, and the Brazilian Defense Industry.
    Maybe they shop at the Best Buy and the Container Store? Its website is a goldmine of information on the current materiel biddings in progress. If your country is looking to invade/start a war with Brazil, I recommend checking it out first to ascertain if they've yet managed to procure the Falling Weight Deflectometer (FWD) and Robotic Station that is so crucial to its national defense. 
    Anyway, I've basically planned your next trip to Washington. There's a convenient Bikeshare location nearby, from which you can speedily descend away from Tenleytown to the real attractions of the District.

    10/18/10

    No, not that myth

    I saw this headline today:

    President Obama Announces Walk-On Role On Discovery Channel’s ‘Mythbusters’


    Finally, addressing the whole Kenya thing head on, I thought. But then I kept reading:
    President Obama will be featured in the December 8 MYTHBUSTERS episode, Archimedes Solar Ray, during which he challenges hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman to revisit an ancient and somewhat controversial myth:  Did Greek scientist and polymath Archimedes set fire to an invading Roman fleet using only mirrors and the reflected rays of the sun?  Will Adam and Jamie be able to pull this off, or will they have to report back to the President that they failed?
    So, no, Obama isn't going to BUST the myth that he has an anti-colonialist worldview, but instead encourage the building of a super laser. A few thoughts:
    (1) Is using the sun to light a boat aflame the energy policy we're getting instead of cap and trade?
    (2) Is a super laser covered under the second amendment? Does he get any cred with the NRA for this?
    (3) Is anyone going to watch this because Obama is on it?
    (4) Does Obama really want to feed right-wing paranoia by encouraging the construction of a super laser? If he can harness the power of the sun to blow up boats, what might he do next? Abide the increase of marginal tax rates for the richest 2% of Americans? I hope Glenn Beck doesn't get Discovery Channel. 

    Another Tweed Ride

    Come to DC and ride while wearing tweed. It's on November 14. But what if you wanted to buy a bike for the occasion? One that was sufficiently stylish? Well, here's some advice from the organizers:
    Looking for just the right steed for the upcoming Tweed Ride?  In my humble opinion the correct mount for any tweed run is a proper English roadster.  All steel.  Three speeds. Hub gears.  Brooks saddle.  Made in England by the likes of Raleigh of Nottingham, Robin Hood, Rudge, Humber, BSA or any one of about a dozen reputable firms that spread this bicycle around the Empire and known world from the early 1900’s through the 1980s.  These bikes will typically have 28”or 26”steel wheels and slightly knobby tyres.  They are the perfect ride for town or country.  They cruise city streets with ease, particularly the less than well paved ones, and they shine on gravel paths or trails.
    So, yeah, just get one of those and some tweed and you're all set. You might also need to grow a mustache, because then you'll be featured in their promotional video for next year. The mustache, however, doesn't need to belong to any particular epoch but only need to be "old-timey," just like your tweed outfit. They're trying to be chic and stylish, but not overly exacting. 

    10/16/10

    My Bikeshare Slog up Wisconsin Avenue



    Another weekend, more nice weather and one more chance to make use of my Bikeshare membership. Today’s trip was mostly inspired by the recently installed station at Tenleytown- I wanted to see exactly where it was placed and see how long it would take to bike from where I work to the station (about 5 minutes). But I suppose that was all pretext anyway, since riding around town is pretty much its own reward and I could have just gone on Monday at lunch. But whatever. 
    Here's a map of my route. Here's the station map.

    I started at the House of Sweden at the Georgetown Waterfront. As of now, the next closest station in the direction I was heading is the intersection at 34th and Wisconsin, in front of the newly renovated station. There’s two more stations slated to be installed in Georgetown (one in front of the university [hoya saxa] and one below the C & O canal on Wisconsin), but neither of these stations will benefit anyone looking to shop or eat (like at Kitchen No. 1- the best worst Chinese food in Georgetown) along a really long strip of a popular commercial avenue. Wisconsin Avenue itself isn’t exactly bike friendly, lacking bike lanes and sharrows and long stretches of wide road that seem to encourage speeding. Throw in buses and the potential of getting doored by one of the cars on block after block of street parking and you’ve got a pretty bad situation. So, maybe not have a station at the intersection with N or P is recognition/capitulation to the current situation. In any case, the lack of stations pretty much decimates any hoping of shopping chicly by bike.

    "Cycle Chic" Ad in Manhattan. This was actually in the window of a health club!

    They should really add cup holders.
    I docked at 34th and Wisconsin, went into the Safeway and bought some iced tea. I tried to affix the ice tea to my bike using a bungee, but (probably for the best) decided not to ride with it like that. My bike key wasn’t working- luckily a tech was there at the time and he sorted things out. He wasn’t too sure what was wrong, but it worked again, so I didn’t too much care. He also showed me a cool way to undock the bike- namely, that you lift the seat a few inches and drop it. This causes the front mooring to come undone without you having to yank it from the station.
    After 34th, the next station is Wisconsin at Macomb. Not really much there- used to be a Giant. There’s a Mexican restaurant and a pizza place called Two Amy’s, which is quite good. There’s maybe going to be an intermediate station, eventually, between these two outside of the Whole Foods at 37th and Wisconsin, but I think DDOT and the Glove Park “neighbors” are still working out the placement. Next after Macomb is the stop at Tenleytown, which is actually on Wisconsin itself, about a half a block south of the Metro. This is the end of the line- no where else to really go north from here, since there’s no stations in Friendship Heights or Bethesda. Tiger II will hopefully change that with the expansion of the system (doubling the number of bikes in DC and putting hundreds of CaBis in the surrounding areas). In any case, Wisconsin is pretty much just one big hill and I can’t imagine too much people doing a trip like mine on any regular basis.
    I decided to bike from Tenleytown to AU, and then from AU down to Dupont Circle. This leg was really fun because, aside from a short climb before the intersection of Massachusetts and Wisconsin, it’s all downhill, but in a good, not idiomatic, way. At Dupont, I temporarily docked and then biked back to Georgetown waterfront. It was a pretty good day for a ride and I was glad I checked out these stations.
    But, I think it’s safe to say that these stations are pretty useless, overall. This is because, aside from the universities, there are no stations in the “hinterlands” of Georgetown, Glover Park or University Park. So, if you want to use these stations, you’d have to walk or otherwise get to one of the stations along Wisconsin, which are separated by considerable distances. So, while a station in front of a Safeway or Whole Foods sounds good, where are the shoppers supposed to be coming from? I think that the answer to this question is that the expected primary users of the systems will be college students, which I’m sure will antagonize the neighbors and end up getting the stations removed. With so few stations in the area, you don’t really have a network of stations, but several point-to-point routes: AU to Tenleytown, AU to Macomb, GU to Safeway, GU to Wisconsin and M (someone needs to come up with a clever name for this route since the only people who will take it will be Joe and Jane Hoyas going to shop or bar-hop along M). The situation could obviously be amerliorated with the addition of a few more stations- Wisconsin and N, 37th and Wisconsin, in front of the National Cathedral, somewhere along Resevoir by Georgetown Hospital, and somewhere in the heart of Glover Park. And that’s just on the west side of Wisconsin! Cleveland Park is equally underserved. If Bikeshare really wants to become a useful tool for commuters the District, it needs to get into the neighborhoods, which I'm sure is the plan. We just should expect large scale adoption of the program until that happens, because as useful as a quick ride from Dupont to Foggy Bottom might be to circumvent Metro stops, it's not as useful as walking out your front door, picking up a bike at the corner and taking it to the grocery store. 

    10/13/10

    Real-time Capital Bikeshare Map

    This is cool. I highly recommend the animation of the previous 48 hours

    Some Unelaborated Thoughts on Bikes in New York

    I took a walk from we're where staying to Stumptown coffee and for most of the trip walked along 6th Avenue, which is for northbound traffic. There's a dedicated bike lane on the far left side, unpainted. Seemed like a lot of people were using it, but also a fair number mixed in traffic in the right lane. Relatively few scofflaws, since bikes can more or less keep up with traffic. Most bikes were the standard flat-bar aluminum hybrids, which are the most popular kind of bike everywhere I guess. I did see two Linus bikes in the wild, so to speak, but both were locked up. I only saw one Dutch-style bike and overall, the riders didn't look especially trendy. There was a greater percentage of women riders than in DC, fewer riders wearing helmets, and basically almost everyone was in street clothes. I saw only one person in a reflective/dayglo bright jacket. A lot of fixies, but that's not a surprise. Most handlebar baskets that rear racks, almost no panniers. Very few drop bars- the riders were not nearly as "sporty" as the DC bike commuters, but then again, I'm comparing my Arlington-AU ride on the Custis and Capital Crescent Trails to a more much urban, city street route. If bikeshare came to New York, I think it would be wildly successful since the two main inhibitions to bike ownership- storage and fear of theft- would be completely mitigated. The bike infrastructure here is way, way, way better than DC. Not a huge fan of the painted bike lanes or the idea of putting bike lanes on the far left, but I would really like to see DC add as many lanes as there are here.

    Helmet Vending Machines

    They're coming to Australia, where Melbourne has both a bikehshare system and a mandatory helmet law:
    Mr Pallas said Melbourne Bike Share patrons would now have the option to buy $5 helmets from two CBD locations as part of a vending machine trial, or at 7-Eleven stores across the city.
    “The Brumby Labor Government is building a better transport system and we understand how important cycling is as a viable, sustainable and accessible travel option,” Mr Pallas said.
    “While there has been a steady uptake of Australia’s first public bike hire scheme, we have had feedback from the community asking for greater availability of helmets.
    “We have always said we would consider a range of helmet solutions for Melbourne Bike Share and we expect this trial will go some way to help make the scheme more accessible.”
    Mr Pallas said two vending machines would be trialled at two of the most popular bike stations at Southern Cross Station and Melbourne University for three months.
    I wonder if DC will adopt something like this. I like the idea of helmet vending machines, though Stephanie thinks that they should be free (or included in the cost of the membership) and rented, rather than purchased. She also thinks that the machine should have a glass front, through which you could see the helmet being cleaned when you rent it and when you drop it off. I like this idea too. 

    10/12/10

    "Inappropriate" Quotation Marks

    Here's one of the bullets for the Megabus WiFi use policy:
    Parental controls are active to block Internet content, which might be found offensive to other passengers or deemed "inappropriate" for children, however, Megabus can not guarantee that such controls will filter all "inappropriate" content.
     Are those supposed to be sarcastic? Or do they want indicate the inappropriateness is somehow a relative and subjective concept? Or some weird understanding of scare quotes? In any case, I've been on this bus too long.

    Live Ranting the Traffic Stop-alypse

    So, there was a horrible traffic accident in the Fort McHenry tunnel. A school bus caught on fire inside of the tunnel. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Nonetheless, traffic has completely stopped moving. Our bus moved off the highway onto a kind of access road with the aim of eventually arriving in a "parking lot with a garage near it," as styled by the state trooper who obligingly told us our fate. While the bus' engine is running, I have power and I have internet, so I thought I'd put these to use and live blog my stoppage. Check back for frequent updates.
    6:29- Our bus is still proceeding along the access road that parallels the highway. The driver, who has a Rosy Perez- style accent is moving us along cautiously. The bus is lightly peopled, at least of my, the lower, level. There have been a few cell phone conversations so far- the guy in front of my to the left sounded vaguely disconsolate and said "yeah, we're not getting there to 1 or 2." He looks old and he probably voted for McCain. The girl behind me is on the phone with her sister.
    6:32- Stephanie called. She has work to do, so she's set a the hotel until my late, late arrival. She asked me if there's anything to do in the parking lot. I told her no, other than maybe to throw rocks at a warehouse. It's not that kind of rest stop. It's basically an industrial parking lot in between a harborside warehouse and some freight tracks.
    6:38- Marijuana smoke wafting in from the group outside.
    6:46- Spotty internet connection. The wifi must be suffering the deleterious effects of the marijuana. Bus driver trying to shuffle the pot group back in the bus. She "seez the travik moovin". Ok, no more attempts to try to explain her rather awesome accent.
    6:48- Ok, everyone is back on the bus and we're leaving the worst rest stop over.
    6:50- Nothing says ambiance like graffiti covered rail cars.
    6:52- We appear to have crossed under the highway so that the bus is now traveling in the southbound direction. Driver trying to correct course by following another access road to another underpass.
    6:53- A sign for Locust Place. In Baltimore, that might be a relatively nicer place.
    6:54- Saw license plate PEC4LIF. Any guesses? PEC? Is that a military thing? Like PFC? You probably wouldn't want to be one of those for life, though. Peccador?  I like that, but it's awfully bilingually existential for a license plate.
    6:55- Back on the highway, heading apace for the tunnel. Successfully merged into traffic. Entered the tunnel as we type. Considering ending live blog.
    6:56- The summing up. I got on this bus at 4:30, we left at quarter til and it's 7 now. We've gone about 35 miles from Washington in 2.5 hours. That's not good. We're currently moving at a speed that varies between 15 and 15 mph under Baltimore harbor, in a tunnel where a few hours ago a school bus caught fire. My fellow travelers include a pot smoking couple with olive skin and trendy clothes, a girl who wanted to tell her sister over the phone that our bus driver has an accent like a character from Mad TV, and a few other people too humdrum to even make it into my categorization of the passengers. There's cabinet opposite the staircase of this double decker bus that isn't properly secured, so each time there's a change in acceleration, it bangs around a little. This is annoying. I figure that I'll keep this up until we say light at the end of the tunnel, not in a figurative way. My seat seems to be unmoored from it's tracks and is slightly askew from way it should be, which I assume is in parallel configuration with the seat in front of it.
    6:59- We're out on the other side. Good night Baltimore. I welcome your toll booth as the literal manifestation of the cost of the last hour.
    7:05- Back to watching Arrested Development on Hulu. All is basically right with the world again.
    7:18- We're stopped at White Marsh, which is a large mall north of Baltimore, to pick up more passengers. Cell phone girl is "freaked out" that we're stopped because "she had no idea. It said DC to New York." She's telling herself that "it's part of the adventure." The bus driver is referring to one of the new passengers as papito.
    7:19- I'm trying to hold on to the seat next to me, if for no other reason than to continue to type snarky commentary about other passengers. Also because really, come on, there are plenty of other places to sit.
    7:21- The lady across the row from me has an iPad.
    7:22- Cell phone girl's roomate from last year, Marissa, is going to a Halloween party as a flapper because she's a tall, flast-chested rich girl. Cell phone girl is going as a redneck, because she has a large camouflage jacket. She can only "go so far with the redneck thing because she's in DC and someone might take a picture and it could show up in her future career." Maybe she should live blog instead of me. I hate Halloween.
    7:27- Bus is moving again. I've managed to keep someone from sitting next to me.
    7:29- Ceasing blogging. This is taking a toll on my morale, sort of the opposite of what I expected. I hope that by writing things down that I would be able to better contextualize the situation, or at least amuse myself. Instead, I only revealed to myself my misanthropy and reminded myself of my intense distaste for Halloween. Oh yeah, also, cell phone girl is now talking to this guy from Baltimore and he said, "yeah, I'm not from here, like "the wire," and she was like "I don't know what that is." 

    DC Streetcars

    Not that I'll be live blogging the bus trip or anything (you don't want to know what I think about Maryland drivers, trust me), but on our way out of town we took H street, home of one of the soon-to-be DC streetcar lines.
    It might not be the best place to live and the federal oversight can be fairly overbearing on a lot of issues, but DC has gay marriage, bike share and is going to have streetcar lines. It's basically Europe.

    Road blogging

    I'm going to be in NYC for the next few days. Anyone want me to blog about anything New York related?

    10/11/10

    CBS: Primarily for Old People, but also for Pretty Much Everyone?

    Skewing middlebrow, CBS dominates the ratings:
    “Unwatchable” is in the eye of the beholder, but the ratings are not.  Through the first two weeks of the season CBS is not only the most-watched network, it’s the most watched network with adults 18-49, where it averaged 4.05 million viewers. That’s ahead of ABC, Fox and NBC as well as all the cable channels.
    For the week ending October 3 fueled by Monday Night Football ESPN averaged 1.81 million adults 18-49 in primetime and led all cable networks.   ESPN’s nearest competitor USA averaged 928,000 (no new scripted shows currently airing).  The home of Mad Men, AMC,  averaged a mere 301,000 adults 18-49 in primetime for the week ending October 3rd.*
    *I have really enjoyed Mad Men this season, but last week it averaged only around 700,000 adults 18-49 in its initial 10pm telecast.  Clearly Mad Men qualifies as the type of television critics find watchable, but to put to put things in perspective, the rerun of  NCIS on CBS Saturday night at 8pm averaged nearly 1.2 million adults 18-49.  So about 500,000 more adults 18-49 than Mad Men for a rerun on a Saturday night.
    Hate the capitalism (if you must), not the capitalists

    CBS seems to be going about its business as it should, but some people have a problem with it.  If you’re a broadcast network like CBS (or even a cable network like TNT or USA) what’s wrong with programming for the masses?
    And there's this
    But the real eye-opener involves the overall picture for CBS,which is finishing last on no night of the week. More remarkably, CBS is not finishing last in any of the 22 hours that constitute the prime-time week, and is almost always first or second.
    TV doesn't have to be edifying- CBS (especially) proves that. I don't believe that if we put three Mad Men-quality shows on each network every night of the week that America would all of the sudden become a more interesting, smart and nuanced place. I think that people would just turn off their tvs and watch You Tube clips. People like what they like. Network television doesn't really have a business model that's conducive to prestige projects- there should be no "loss leaders" on TV. Each programming block is its own entity and should aim to maximize its profit. The problem is, though, that viewers have grown accustomed to a particular type of storytelling (episodic long-arcs that last for around 10-20 hours in the case of dramas and relatively stable situation comedies on a sliding scale of concept and quirk) that other formats can't match.  There's no room on network tv for "good" shows that don't draw.

    10/10/10

    My Afternoon with Capital Bikeshare

    This is the longest post that I've ever written for this (or any other) blog. There are also pictures. For those of you cartographically inclined, here's a link to my route.




    My Afternoon with Capital Bikeshare
    I had no plans for this afternoon, but wanted to ride around town since the weather has been especially nice. I’ve also wanted lately to use my Bikeshare membership more (I rode from work to Van Ness purposelessly at lunch time Friday, which was my first trip since the Inaugural ride on September 20th. There's not much at Van Ness, unless you like Pier One and Burger King. It was really nice out and the office gets boring on Fridays. I anticipate using it more once the station is installed at Tenleytown). So, I decided to bike to the Kennedy Center, pick up a CaBi and just go somewhere downtown. Since I don’t have a station in my neighborhood (maybe a spring 2011 roll out for the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor?), I treated the Kennedy Center essentially like a park & ride. I locked up my bike, undocked a CaBi (though the station was partially obscured by some construction equipment)
    Kennedy Center CaBi station. Hidden by construction equipment.
    and was off. 
    This bike doesn't normally leave Arlington. Not because it's snooty- just because it's my grocery bike. Does having a grocery bike make me snooty? Um, I guess.


    First stop, the National Geographic building.
    If you like geckos and have a lot of money, go here.
    I rode along New Hampshire to Washington Circle and took L all the way to 17th. I passed metrobuses leaving the Foggy Bottom station, loaded with diverted Metro passengers on account of the track work. It being Sunday morning, there weren’t too many cars in the road and the space between the parked cars and the dotted line that normally demarcates the right travel lane formed a nice de facto bike lane. When I went to dock at 17th, there was a group of people on bikes receiving some sort of demonstration on how the Bikeshare works from presumably someone in the know. I nonchalantly walked my bike through the group, docked and was off.
    Learning about the Bikeshare and getting in the way of someone trying to use it.

    Oversized xylophone + kids= Seeya
    There was an exhibit on geckos at National Geographic, but it cost $7. I skipped it. Who has $7 to spend on geckos? I visited a photo exhibit and, very briefly, an exhibit on noise. If you like kids playing with xylophones, you might like it. I was in and out in 45 seconds.
    I left National Geographic, picked up a CaBi from the station where I docked one before and went down L again, turned right on 16th and left again on H. I docked at 8th and H at a “superstation.” 
    CaBi Super Station. Can dock 25 bikes.
    5th and F. These people weren't all in the National Building Museum.
    I walked over to where the MegaBus loads and unloads in search of a CaBi station near there. I’m taking a trip to New York this week and I hoped that I could combine multimodal with intercity transport, wherein I return from New York, jump off the bus, jump on a CaBi and zip past the gawking tourists as they fumble with their maps looking for a Metro station. There wasn’t one, so I walked to 5th and K and picked up another CaBi.
    Mount Vernon Square-ish. Is this why people voted for Gray? Or is it why they voted for Fenty?
    Next stop was the National Building Museum, a place that I really like I hadn’t been since I was in college. I visited an exhibition on Cityscapes (how appropriate) and was not allowed to take a picture of the “American Brick Collection.” The guard suggested that I take the building tour or go outside and take pictures. I smiled at her and then I proceeded to the Washington: City and Symbol. I surreptitiously took a few more pictures and decided to move on. The 5th and F station was really overfull of bikes- I think more of a holdover of Saturday night than anything else.
    Secret picture, but a good question.

    Maybe not the best designed lanes, but a great view
    My next leg was from there to the Smithsonian Institution, via Pennsylvania Avenue, 3rd St and then looped back around down on Independence Avenue. I was really pleased how close the CaBi station was to the Mall, though not on it. It’s unlikely that a tourist would stumble upon it- Independence Avenue is about 6 lanes across and you’d have to be on the south side of the Museums to even see it. Nonetheless, there were plenty of bikes there. A tourist asked me if I was an expert on using the Bikeshare. Sure, why not? She wanted to know whether she had to do anything special to dock the bikes. I said no. She was very pleased. She asked me if there was a station by the Newseum. I used Spotcycle and recommended the 10th and Constitution stop. She asked about Dupont Circle. I said, yeah, on Massachusetts. She said that it was great and that she (and the three teenage boys with her) would use it to get back to their hotel. She said that she used to live in DC and was a bike commuter, so she seemed confident about getting around by bike. When I went to undock a bike from the station, I got a red blinking light and couldn’t get the bike out. I called the 800 number, immediately got a customer service representative. She informed me that it was just a bad bike and while we were on the phone I managed to undock a different CaBi.
    Smithsonian Station. Convenient if you know where to look.
    From Smithsonian, I decided to bike down Independence to 15th, pass the Jefferson Memorial, come back up Ohio Avenue (where I was blocked by a doubledecker tour bus going about 5 mph) and try to connect to the Rock Creek trail. There was a detour and I couldn’t quite figure out how to get on the trail. I biked in the fron of the Lincoln Memorial, off-roaded the CaBi through some grass past the beach volleyball courts (?), crossed a dicey area on the Rock Creek Parkway, where there was construction cones, and no crosswalk and an overall lack of yielding to pedestrians. I eventually got on the Rock Creek Trail again, went past the Kennedy Center and docked again in front of the House of Sweden by Georgetown Harbor. One of the features I really like about CaBi is the that first 30 minutes are free. For the competitive person (who doesn’t wear a watch), it’s like a race every time you take the bike out. How far can you go in a half hour? Hopefully to the next station, otherwise it’s $1.50. At Georgetown Harbor, another tourist asked how to take a bike out.
    Returning a CaBi at Georgetown Harbor.
    Some dolt left his cable lock on the bike.
    I have a key and haven’t really ever used a code to unlock a bike. I looked at the station for instructions, gave up and offered him my phone. He sorted it out and rode away. When I went to undock the bike, I got another red blinking light. I tried a different bike and that didn’t work either. A third bike didn’t work either. When I called customer service, I was told that if you take out a bad bike, it does something wonky with your bike key. He said that he would reset the key and that I’d be able to take out the bike in five minutes. In the mean time, some other riders pulled in and docked their CaBis with no problem. After five minutes, my key worked again (though it didn’t when I impatiently tried after only 2 minutes. When Customer Service says five minutes, they really mean it). I don’t really understand the flaw with the system, but presumably that they’re working out it. From Georgetown Harbor I biked down K (not advisable), and up New Hampshire all the way to U. I docked at 14th and U, walked down U street and picked up another bike at 10th and U. I’m rarely ever on U Street, but I was happy to be there, if only for just a little while. My next CaBi trip was from 10th and U back to Dupont Circle.
    Dupont Circle. Someone loves CaBi as much as me. Yeah, that's underwear.
    I docked at Dupont with the intention of maybe getting coffee, but I decided that I didn’t really need it, took the CaBi back out and rode from Dupont back to the Kennedy Center, via P street, 23rd Street and New Hampshire. This was probably the worst stretch I had, an account of some pretty aggressive cab drivers and the difficulty of navigating traffic circles.
    Back at the Kennedy Center.
    All in all, I had a really great time. I love the idea of biking downtown, but I hate having to lock my bike to parking meters or signposts and I generally have no idea where there’s bike parking. With CaBi, I know that I can just go from station to station and not have to worry about locking up my bike somewhere I don’t know that well. This trip was also a really good reminder that bike infrastructure in Washington has a very long way to go. There were few bike lanes (and I wasn’t really looking for them) and a lot of places where you have to really mix in with cars. I’m a daily bike commuter and a confident city cyclist, so I’m used to being in close with cars and taking the lane when I need to, but I really don’t know how comfortable a beginning or infrequent cyclist would be. It didn’t seem to deter the many people I saw using CaBi (some on sidewalks!), but I hope that the increased number of “occasional” cyclists will spur the addition of more bike lanes. And of course, obviously, I’m looking forward to the addition of more stations and a denser overall network, especially downtown. I didn’t go anywhere today that I couldn’t have gone by Metro or bus, or even by walking, but the main difference is that I could go at my pace for basically nothing (I have a yearly membership, so for me, it’s a sunk cost anyway) and never have to sit on a bus in traffic or go underground and wait for a train.
    I encourage all area bike advocates and bike lovers to embark on a similar weekend trip. I did it in part because I just wanted to ride a CaBi around, but I also rode around today because I so desperately want the system to work and be popular- if I can pump up the ridership numbers by taking a lot of CaBi trips on the weekend that I wouldn’t otherwise take, I have no moral qualms about that. If I can ride around town for a little while and show off the CaBi system to literally thousands of people, looking just like a regular guy (wearing Chuck Taylors) who’s using the Bikeshare to get around, that’s way more effective that any Facebook page or Twitter feed or website. At every other stoplight, my bike was the topic of conversation amongst the pedestrians crossing in front of me. It’s one thing to see the bikes docked in the station, but it’s an entirely different experience to see someone riding one. In the station, the bikes seem a bit untouchable and a little unapproachable. But when they’re out on the streets, they become the functional transportation tools that they’re intended to be.

    I think it’s also important for use more experienced riders to not only be ambassadors on bike riding in general, but of good urban riding. First and foremost, by wearing a bike helmet on all trips. Again, it’s about being seen and getting helmets associated with CaBi riding and making that seem normal and the preferred way to ride. showing I carried my helmet around with me all day over multiple stops and didn’t think about it. It wasn’t an inconvenience at all and I couldn’t imagine riding around without it. I would encourage all DC hotels to make helmets available to their guests upon request.
    Riding around a CaBi also gives us a chance to show “occasional” cyclists the right way to follow traffic laws and show them that taking the lane and riding with confidence is in their best interest (as well as that of drivers) and that cyclists are not second-class citizens on the road. These are the skills (and attitudes) that regular riders have developed over many, many trips and that occasional riders aren’t going to pick up as quickly. Demonstrating them, just like wearing a helmet, is important for establishing the norms of DC bike ridership. While WABA classes are great, they aren’t as effective means of teaching as experienced riders through their own example showing others how to navigate trickier situations. Learning by doing is the best, but sometimes you have to first see what you should even learn.
    After today’s ride, I really do think that Capital Bikeshare will change everything. And I think that there’s a very important role for bike advocates to play in advancing that change.


     

    10/7/10

    Pete Campbell: Way Cooler in Real Life

    Vincent Kartheiser- a mass transit user and advocate:


    A MAN is measured by his automobile in this city. But Vincent Kartheiser, the actor who plays the slick ad salesman Pete Campbell on “Mad Men,” is among the 10 percent of Angelenos who rely on public transportation. So on a Thursday night he and a reporter got around using his preferred, and for now, only, method of transportation: mass transit.
    “I guess I’ve been shopping for cars for three and a half years,” said Mr. Kartheiser, whose last car was damaged by street flooding. “I have some commitment issues. I’m the guy who stands in the soap aisle for like 40 minutes. Old Spice! Speed Stick! Old Spice!”
    ...
    He also ruminated about getting around Los Angeles, which is daunting even with a car and a GPS device. But Mr. Kartheiser was unfazed by the bus and rail system.
    “The buses stay on the streets they are on,” he said. “If you get on the 4, it’s going to stay on Santa Monica until it becomes Sunset. I don’t even know the names of most of the buses. Like the Fairfax bus — it’s just the Fairfax bus.”
    “The hardest part of riding the bus is dating,” he added. “Girls, as much as they are independent, want on a certain level to have certain things.”
    So, still sexist, but considerably better than his character. 

    10/4/10

    Wall Street Journal + Folding Bikes= Non-Stop Comedy

    As we all know, the Wall Street Journal is basically the hippest newspaper out there. So, the only thing that can make the opening paragraph of a Wall Street Journal about folding bicycles is some sort of Transformers reference:
    The appeal of foldingbikes goes beyond the fact that they're easy to transport and store. One minute, these bikes are cruising down the street. The next, they've contorted into an impossibly tight space with a bit of mechanical sleight of hand that can be as mesmerizing as seeing Optimus Prime turn into an 18-wheeler.
     Nailed it. Anyway, I briefly thought that a folding bike might be cool (especially this kind, which is also electric). It would be vaguely convenient to bring on the Metro or maybe take on an airplane or throw in the trunk for weekend car trip. But then I realized that I don't really do any of these things. I also saw an extremely dorky professor ride one. He has a goatee and wears a suit. Never trust an academic who wears a suit when he doesn't have to. So, realizing the lack of marginal utility and that folding bikes are ridden by lame-os, I determined that they're a bad idea.