Archive for the ‘Quotes & Quips’ Category

When the Universe Sends You a Message…

…listen to it!

This morning I had to be in Central Park at 4:30 AM to marshal a CRCA race and then I was planning to do a Sunday group ride. Everything went wrong this morning, so I took this as a sign to not go on the group ride.

First, this ridiculous fall – just a few blocks from my apartment:

Next, I turn down a street that has a fire hydrant open and can’t turn around because there’s a car behind me, so I get totally doused.

Then I pass a building in Harlem where a body bag is being removed on a gurney.

All the while there is way more activity on the streets than I’m used to at 4:00 AM – and I do this ride with some frequency. It was a bit unnerving.

Finally, I get to the registration on time at 4:30 AM, but they aren’t even set up yet.

During the race, a woman I asked to leash her dogs decided to unleash them – and they both ran into the Cat 3 field. It was a miracle there wasn’t a crash and that all the riders (and both dogs) escaped unharmed. The woman was sufficiently shaken up that I doubt she’ll make that mistake again.

And then my friend Emma crashed at the end of her race.

Just one of those days, so I went home after the race and watched the Tour de France stage from the safety of my couch. And then I took a nap. Fun times!

“Pedestrians are not our concern in Traffic Court.”

Almost a year ago I received a citation for failure to stop at a red signal while cycling. Today was my day in court. While I was undeniably guilty of the violation, I plead NOT GUILTY because I felt that there were extenuating circumstances (more below) and, well, there’s always a chance the officer won’t show up and the violation will be voided.

Little did I know the civics lesson that would unfold. And little did I know just how infuriated I’d become with the current situation regarding the safety of pedestrians and cyclists in NYC. And while this is playing out in many cities, I can only speak for my situation; and I plan to speak about this a lot more in the future.

Current NYC mayor Bill de Blasio has a program called Vision Zero with the goal of reducing pedestrian and cyclist deaths to zero. Yet the policing and systems in our fair city are at complete odds with this mission. Here’s the culmination of the problem:

“Pedestrians are not our concern in Traffic Court.”

These words came from the traffic court judge. On the record. I find this appalling.

I guess I should back up a little and describe how we got the point of this quote…

I was riding a Citi Bike up 8th Avenue between Penn Station and the Farley Post Office at the time of the initial incident. There’s lots of construction in that area and sidewalk, bike lane, and traffic signals are often rerouted and moved temporarily. On the day of my violation, the traffic signal at the mid-block crosswalk had been relocated and was not easily seen from the temporary bike lane. This was not my main defense, but is an important point. Further, due to the temporary lane shifts, and due to pedestrian behavior, people are constantly walking in the bike lane.

On the day in question, I was returning to the Citi Bike dock on this block and was forced to both dodge and yield to many pedestrians in the bike lane. At the crosswalk, I didn’t see the traffic signal and there were (finally) no pedestrians in my path, so I proceeded. Three NYPD officers were on foot nearby ticketing cyclists for failing to stop at this signal. It was a “ticketing blitz” and that location was very likely selected due to all the distractions that would lead a cyclist to run the light.

I made the argument in court that my putting the safety of pedestrians first and the temporary location of the signal lead to me missing the signal. As I noted earlier, I didn’t think this would fly, but I wanted to give it a go. But what when the judge responded by saying, “Pedestrians are not our concern in Traffic Court,” I was floored. I was speechless. I was found guilty and fined $150.

A Little Perspective

My traffic court appointment was for 8:30 AM and after some administrative ridiculousness (bureaucracy at its best) I was seated in a small courtroom awaiting proceedings to begin. My issuing officer had yet to arrive, so the judge began with the docket of another officer. The judge went through her proceedings in a very rote, mechanical manner and this was of immediate concern to me.

After many motorist proceedings before me, I learned the following:

  • Pedestrian safety was of no concern to this judge
  • The judge ruled Guilty or Not Guilty solely on letter of the law (rather than spirit)
  • It was noted that the officer has the burden of proof, but “proof” was really a matter of interpretation based on how the judge decided to rule
  • Once a Guilty ruling is issued, the judge has enormous leeway regarding the amount of the fine
  • All the rules around previous violations and points are entirely moot in the courtroom

I need to give a few examples, because these made me terribly angry, and I kind of hope that you react the same way.

Motorist #1 – Made a right turn from the left lane, cited for Illegal Turn and Failure to Yield to Pedestrians. Motorist has four previous violations (all “previous violations” refer to a two-year window), six points and is a livery driver. Found Guilty of Illegal Turn, but judge waived the Failure to Yield since he was “polite and professional” – and he was fined $65.

Motorist #2 – Also two violations – Failure to Yield to Pedestrians and Not Wearing Seatbelt. I didn’t catch the number of points, but since his license would be suspended if he was guilty of the Failure to Yield, the judge waived that violation because “as a livery driver, you need your license.” He then argued that he had his seatbelt on and the judge challenged him. Response, “Well, I bent over to pick something up, so I unbuckled for a moment.” Mind you, his vehicle was in motion – what the hell did he need to pick up?!? This was unimportant, but he was Guilty of the seatbelt violation and fined $95.

Motorist #3 (The Worst One Yet!) – Single violation for Illegal Turn when, like the first motorist, he turned right from the left lane. Further, there were signs on that street making a right turn illegal during certain hours (including when he was cited.) His defense? “I was just following my GPS.” (OMG!) This motorist had nine previous moving violations and has 14 points on his license. He was found guilty and asked by the judge, “Why shouldn’t I suspend your license at this time?” His response? As a taxi driver, he needs his license to make a living. The judge agreed and fined him, wait for it… $75!

My Violation – Failure to Stop at Red Signal which was caused by a poorly placed signal and pedestrians in my lane. I’m told “Pedestrians are not our concern in Traffic Court” and fined $150 – more than any of the dozen or so motorists before me for which none were fined $100 or more.

What Does All This Mean?

It means that Vision Zero is dead in the water. It means that pedestrians and cyclists are left to protect themselves because motorists with tons of metal and combustion engines may run us down at any moment. It means that I’m clearly more dangerous on my bike based on the size of the fine than any motorists. And, worst of all, it means that if you drive for a living, you are held to a lower standard rather than a higher one. Isn’t that completely backwards?

Part of me wishes I paid the initial fine and didn’t see the disgusting underbelly of traffic court. Ignorance is bliss, right? But now part of me wants to push the message “Crash Not Accident” even more than I did before. Motorists operate a potential killing machine everyday and pedestrians do not – nor do they have any protection. For that reason alone, they need to be held to a higher standard.

Isn’t this a First World Problem?

Seemingly, yes – but indulge me for a moment. I don’t really care that I was found guilty or had to pay a fine; as noted several times, I WAS GUILTY. But this isn’t about my violation, it’s about the continued injustice to those that are in the most danger. Isn’t it completely absurd to hear that pedestrians are not the concern of traffic court? Isn’t it appalling that a driver can keep his license, even if he endangers others, because driving is his livelihood? Where’s the protection for society over the individual? And shouldn’t someone who drives for a living be held to a much higher standard?

I’m not really sure what to do, but I can tell you that I’m mad as hell. And in the current environment of our country where the militarization of our police is making it easier for them to kill minorities unjustly, this feels like another (very small) piece of the institutionalized bias in our government. It’s really scary.

The Sexual Comment That Wasn’t

“Due to the brutal winter, my ass is suffering because I haven’t gotten enough TITS.” (Where TITS = Time In The Saddle.)

I am an Elite Athlete

I am an elite athlete.

I am not an elite athlete because I win races or perform better than others.

I am an elite athlete because I enjoy the sport for what it is. I enjoy the people in the sport. I enjoy sharing the sport with others and helping them improve. In fact, I am elite because I hope everyone I encounter can be better than me at our shared sport.

I am elite because I do not want to beat others in competition. My only competitor is myself and every other athlete in my sport is an opportunity to improve the sport and everyone’s ability to enjoy it.

I am elite and you should be, too.

The Un-best-able Best

I set a Personal Best this morning that can never be bested. And you’ll never see it on Strava. It’s a mental Best…

From the entrance to the Palisades Interstate Park in Fort Lee, to the exit at Alpine, back on 9W to Strictly Bicycles I saw ZERO cyclists.

That’s about 16-miles of some highly popular riding without another rider! Why? Well, it was cold (about 49F) and wet (light rain to steady rain) this morning and I guess folks haven’t hardened up to the cold winter ahead.

Sunburn & Icy Hot Don’t Mix

About an hour after a hard ride today I suffered some muscle cramping in my leg. Once the cramps subsided, there was some residual discomfort, so I rubbed on a little Icy Hot balm. The initial icy feeling was quite a relief. However, about an hour later as the icy turned hot, I was reminded that I had sunburn in that area. The hot turned to the burn of a branding iron for a few hours. I will definitely not do that again.

Feeling Like a Sloth

After two solid weeks of traveling that included three destinations (two of which were on the Left Coast) I’m feeling the effects. Between travel fatiguing my body, the bad eating habits I get in when away from home and the fact that I’ve been off the bike for two straight weeks, I feel like a sloth. Here’s to getting back on the bike and spinning myself back to normal over the next week or so!

Dear Central Park Runners (Part 2)

Dear Central Park Runners,

Please don’t spit over your right shoulder as that would be me in the bike lane.

Sincerely,
Flywheel Fred

Dear Central Park Runners (Part 1)

Dear Central Park Runners,

Please LOOK before veering right into the bike lane. Sure, I can almost certainly avoid you, but that heart rate spike really messes with my Strava stats.

Sincerely,
Flywheel Fred

Central Park Mornings

Morning Cycling in Central Park:

  • 5:30-7:00=Athletes (Campagnolo/Cannondale)
  • 7:00-9:00=Fitness Buffs (Giant/Jamis)
  • After 9:00=Tourists (CitiBike)