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September 29, 2005

Congressman Earl Blumenauer Responds to Letter

This morning I received the following response, to my letter, from the Office of Congressman Earl Blumenauer, of Oregon, who is the head of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus:

September 29, 2005

Mr. Kiril Kundurazieff
Santa Ana, CA.


Dear Mr. Kundurazieff:

Thank you for contacting me about Hurricane Katrina and FEMA's efforts to
respond.  I too am deeply concerned by the administration's
well-publicized flawed performance. Our response to this disaster has
itself been a disaster and we must make sure that those responsible are
held accountable. What is frustrating for me is not just that this was so
inevitable, but that steps could have been taken to moderate the losses. I
truly believe that thousands of people were killed, injured, or lost their
homes unnecessarily. I am an original co-sponsor of legislation to create
an independent commission -- modeled on the successful 9/11 Commission --
to investigate what went wrong in the Katrina response in order to ensure
it does not happen again.

I believe that many of FEMA's problems started when it became part of the
Department of Homeland Security.  I voted against creating this department
in part because I was afraid that FEMA would get lost in this vast
bureaucracy.  I was pleased that Mike Brown stepped down as head of FEMA,
and I am working to make sure that FEMA is reformed so that it is headed
up by a professional who reports directly to the President.

We need to learn from our past mistakes and ensure that our recovery and
reconstruction efforts on the Gulf Coast do not put people back in harm's
way. Wherever possible, we need to employ natural solutions to protect
people, such as restoring natural floodplains and wetlands. This was the
goal of the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2004, which I co-authored with
Congressman Doug Bereuter (R-NE), and which the President signed into law
in the summer of 2004. I have also introduced the "Safe Communities Act"
with my colleague Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) to help communities
prepare for disasters.

Thanks again for sharing your views on this important issue.  The
government's role in preparing for and responding to natural disasters is
something I have been working on for the past three decades, and you can
be sure that I will continue to make it a focus of my work here in
Congress.

Sincerely,

Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress

An apparent Form Letter sent, by his office, to anyone who wrote him about Katrina for any reason at all.

"I'm Mad at FEMA, and I'm NOT Gonna Take it Anymore!"

Pure politics, probably sent out by every politician in the country in one form or another, to cover his/her Ass, and, though interesting, and informative, very disappointing, considering the subject of my letter, was part of ongoing coverage of the aftermath of Katrina, with a focus on Cycling, and the fact it had absolutely nothing to do with FEMA.

However, all may not be lost...

I ALSO got the following e-mail, from his Webmaster, that is a bit more enlightening, and indicates that the Congressman may actually have been made aware of my letter, and possibly may have even read it, even if he didn't follow the links provided to explore this blog further:

How's it going?

I am Congressman Blumenauer's webmaster, and he wanted me to drop a note to thank you for your work, and to let you know that unfortunately House ethics rules prohibit us from linking to blogs from our Congressional website (versus a campaign/political website).

Thanks, again, though.

Ernesto Omar Falcón

Office Technology Manager

Office of Congressman Earl Blumenauer

That is a good start. ;-D

Encouraging enough that, now that I have an actual e-mail, attached to a real person, I may be able to finally make the Congressman aware of my thoughts about the Bike Caucus, its membership make-up, and its website, and get some serious responses related to Bicycling issues.

Now that my life has settled down I think it's time to write more on the Caucus, and its efforts. ;-D

September 29, 2005 in Congressional Bicycle Caucus Watch, KATRINA: Cycling toward Recovery | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 28, 2005

Even Instapundit mentions Bicycling from time to time

For some time I've been considering a project:

How many bloggers in the Blogrolls of my OTHER blog, Sneakeasy's Joint, and the non-cycling Blog Bloggerverse in general, have written about the Bike, bicycle, bicycles, bicycling, bicyclists, Bikes, cycling, and/or cyclists on their sites, and in what context?

Why not report on any stories I find?

Who better to test this question on than the most popular, and famous, Blogger in the world:

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit.

I was pleasently surprised, and intrigued, by the variety of pieces, and the context in which cycling came up.

1st off, though, thanks to Glenn, I found a great piece from 2004, by Doug Kern, that begins:

Something about the phrase "Two Americas" warms the heart of the left. In 1984, Mario Cuomo electrified the Democratic National Convention with his evocation of Two Americas -- the Haves and Have-Nots. In 2004, Democrat vice-presidential nominee John Edwards invoked that same vision of the Two Americas to illuminate his vision of the unified America that John Kerry's healing benedictions would inaugurate. In each speech, the ideology is as identical as the rhetoric: the terrible plight of the poor can be rectified only through a massive transferal of wealth, made possible through the expansion of a benevolent welfare state.

I have a story to tell about wealth and poverty, too. And I will call for additional government spending as well -- spending which, unlike the statism of the left, will help the poor, rather than reward their poverty.

Forget Two Americas. Consider this tale of two bicycles.

Read the whole thing.

Now, on to a few examples from the Instapundit.

1. On Journalistic Integrity ( May 19, 2003 ):

Reader Jonathan Guest emails:

One of the things I've noticed over the years: Whenever I hear "journalists" discussing a subject that I know something about, airplanes, manufacturing, guns, even bicycling, running, essentially anything that I have SOME familiarity with, I notice that the journalist is utterly ignorant about the subject. I wonder, don't you have the same reaction about legal matters, nano-science, etc? I wonder if specialists of most every field have the same reaction, and because we don't discuss it directly, no one realizes that the average journalists knows just about nothing about nearly everything.

Yeah. I mean, I realize that generalists can't know as much as specialists know about their own field. But the number of butt-obvious boners (like "300 mm pistol") coupled with -- as above -- a perverse pride in ignorance ("we don't understand firearms or the metric system, tee hee") does kind of support this theory. I blame J-school for this. If I ran a newspaper, I'd make my new hires take a 1000-question general-knowledge exam.

Somebody is figuing it out.

2. Black guys on bicycles ( Sept. 2002 ):

From a female ( Southern States Variety ) reader:

I stayed on in Philadelphia after graduation to work with Turner Construction in Center City, where I had lots of opportunities to get to know Northern blacks. It feels audacious to say this, but I found that I had a much better connection with them that your basic white Yankee. Not only did I not find them frightening, but a great many of the Northern blacks I worked with had South Carolina connections. We had a lot of fun talking about the hot weather and snakes “back home.” I even had a black guy on a bicycle pursue me through Philadelphia, which I will admit made me a little anxious. Turns out he saw the S.C. plates on my car and was homesick.

Not-so-guilty Southern White Gals.

3. To bike or drive an SUV, that is the question! ( Sept. 2002 ):

Glenn responds to a comment by another blogger:

Who would you rather be? Me, plodding through errands on my bicycle, sporting my pathetic ''One Less Car'' T-shirt, or one of the many SUV drivers who blast exhaust in my face as they roar off to fill up on cheap gas? Who would you rather be?

Vrooom, vroom.

Right-wing pundits have more fun.

4. On protestors on bikes ( March 2003 )

From a report in San Francisco:

In the Financial District, the demonstrators were of the traditional kind -- fatigue jackets and granny dresses. Indeed, around Montgomery and Market, the happenings had the air -- the sexy air -- of old Berkeley. But at the Civic Center, at traffic intersections around Mish, 7th, 8th, and along Van Ness and up through the Tenderloin, things were absurd and self-indulgent. The demonstrators were of the freakish sort: clown clothes, bicycles, and cans of plastic string. But it wasn't fun.

At 7th & Mish, by the U.S. Court House, I sat in a van driven by Nathaniel Shelton, who transports patients to and from Saint Francis Memorial Hospital. We were stuck, along with a fleet of Fed Ex drivers, just after 9 a.m., as demonstrators rode bikes in a circle in the intersection, closed it off with colored string, and berated the truck drivers.

Useful Idiots.

5. Glenn Defends The US Military, and bicycling, in Iraq ( Oct. 2003 ):

There’s even a blog from inside the Green Zone, put out by someone who says he’s a military intelligence soldier using the psuedonym Chief Wiggles. Lately the boosterish Chief Wiggles has been using his blog to find donors to give him bicycles so soldiers can pedal around the zone giving out toys to children.

Calling Chief Wiggles "boosterish" indicates, to me at least, that Nordland can't possibly have been reading his blog, which makes clear that the Chief is working hard to make a difference, and often suffering in the process. No doubt he would be more appealing to journalists if he were exuding existential despair, and smoking a Gaulois, but I'm kind of glad that he's the way he is, and kind of unhappy that Newsweek has sent a reporter who can't tell the difference between boosterism and a sense of responsibility.

The War in Iraq.

and, finally...

6. The Big-shot Blogger and the bicycle pump ( December 2004 ). ;-D

September 28, 2005 in Blogosphere covers Bicycling | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 27, 2005

Katrina: Yellow Bikes responds to Letter!

This just in this morning:

Hi Kiril,

Thanks for linking Austins Yellow Bike.
We've had a huge turnout of volunteer efforts to fix up donated bikes from Austin's Cycling Community and give them to evacuee's. Kryptonite graciously gave us 1,000 locks for the price of shipping. we've given away over 100 bikes with locks since Hurricane Katrina and will continue to flood the city with bikes.

Jesse Slate
Austin's "all volunteer" Yellow Bike Shop Co-ordinator

Good job, Austin!

September 27, 2005 in KATRINA: Cycling toward Recovery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 24, 2005

Done! The letter has been sent

In the wake of Katrina, I told you of a letter I was sending out to links in my sidebar to see what I could learn about efforts in the cycling community regarding assistance in the recovery efforts, including helping other cyclists, cycling organizations, and shops.

I also was looking for any stories, good, and bad, about cycling in the regions affected.

This also now includes the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.

My task was completed this morning, and now I will wait, and see.

So far 1 organizaion responded, as chronicled in an earlier post.

Also so far, disappointingly, the League of American Bicyclists, Rails to Trails, and the Congressman who leads the Congressional Bicycle Caucus, have yet to respond.

They were among the 1st to receive my letter.

I was pleasantly suprised to see how few of the tons of e-mails were innactive, and that bodes well for anyone in the areas of these clubs, and organizations, who wishes to contact them for whatever reason.

I am just a humble blogger, and an ordinary cyclist, who is working, during his spare time, to make this site a place where other cyclists can find interesting stories, news, rides, information, and links.

It appears it's going to take some work to make those more involved in, and knowledgeable, about cycling, and cycling advocacy, aware that someone like me is out there, and interested in spreading the word, as he gains more knowledge himself, and that I can be a useful resource, and ally.

September 24, 2005 in KATRINA: Cycling toward Recovery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rita Rumbles Ashore

Well, the good news is that Rita arrived as only a Level 3, and avoided Houston.

Must have been an Astros Fan. ;-D

The bad news is that there is still extensive damage, and flooding.

As I have  reported already there ARE cyclists doing things in regards to Hurricane Katrina Recovery, and I am looking to learn of more such efforts nationwide.

Recovery is going to take a while,and all the help that the affected regions can get will be needed to succee.d

September 24, 2005 in KATRINA: Cycling toward Recovery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2005

Rita: At least 1 Houston Cyclist knows what to do

Fritz, of Cyclicious, reports on the traffic situation in Houston, and about one cyclist who knows what his bike is good for as Hurricane Rita nears.

September 22, 2005 in KATRINA: Cycling toward Recovery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rita: Finding humor in the face of danger

Hurricane Rita is heading towards Houston.

Despite that some locals are finding reason to laugh.

Laurence Simon, of the outstanding Blog known as This Blog is Full of Crap, shares a radio talk show exchange he heard:

Caller: "I'm a bicyclist. I don't have any transportation out of town."
Chris Baker: "Well, you better get pedalin', pal!"

Heh, heh, heh. ;-D

Some of the comments are a hoot!

1. The bike will get you farther than a car with an empty tank of gas.
figure it out genius.
I love smug idiots.

2. If you point a bike in one direction for a while instead of circling around the neighborhood, it takes you to distant places.

3. Dumbass. The world is on the other side of his handlebars.

Why I like Chris Baker.

Laurence Simon is heading out with the 3 kitties. His wife is a TV journalist and is staying at her station, and he's not too happy about that, but as usual, Lair retains his trademark sarcasm and humor.

Good luck to you, and yours, Lair!

September 22, 2005 in KATRINA: Cycling toward Recovery | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Katrina: Texas aids victims

As Hurricane Rita bears down on Texas it is important to share some great stories, from the Lone Star State, about what those wonderful people have done, or are planning to do, in the wake of Katrina:

From Bicycling in Austin:

Austin's Yellow Bike Project is building bikes for Katrina evacuees and is seeking bikes, children's seats, racks, and bike trailers -- as well as volunteers to help fix them up. Upcoming bike giveaways will be on Saturdays 9/17, 9/24, and 10/1 at 5:00pm at 3rd and Trinity (the west side of the Austin Convention Center).

From the Greater Dallas Bicyclists:

Texas Cycling Classic benefiting the Katrina Kids on Oct. 8th.

From the Texas Bicycle Coalition on Sept 8th:

When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast this week, countless people lost their homes, their livelihoods, and their means of transportation. Thousands of people from neighboring Louisiana have taken refuge in cities and towns across Texas. Texas Bicycle Coalition is working with the Texas bicycle community to coordinate a thoughtful and concerted response. Several staff members visited the Toney Burger Center in Austin, a local Red Cross shelter for hurricane victims, on August 31 to assess need and determine how the cycling community may be able to help. As a result of this visit, and with growing support from the bicycle industry and our membership, Texas Bicycle Coalition is spearheading efforts to provide bicycle education and recreation to the thousands of refugee children living at Red Cross shelters.

Still in its infant stages, the Coalition’s plan is to provide a bicycle safety education day for the children at the Austin Convention Center and other Texas shelters. This event would provide a much-needed day of recreation and fun for the youngest of the hurricane refugees. To make this day a reality, the Coalition is working with the bicycle industry and relief workers to determine how to procure bikes and purchase helmets for each child who wishes to participate.

This effort will be funded exclusively from member donations as the Coalition’s grants don’t provide funding for this type of emergency response. If you would like to help Texas Bicycle Coalition in this effort, please visit our donation page and make a contribution to the Cycling Towards Relief Fund. Your donation will help the Texas Bicycle Coalition staff this event, rent and transport bicycles, and purchase helmets for Katrina’s youngest victims. Any excess funds raised for this effort will be donated to the American Red Cross.

Texas Bicycle Coalition and Cycling Community Respond to Hurricane Katrina.

Okay, people, if Rita is the bitch she's looking to be parts of Texas will be seriously trashed.

I hope you will remember these efforts, and come to the aid of Texas as it continues to come to the aid of the victims of Katrina.

September 22, 2005 in KATRINA: Cycling toward Recovery | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 20, 2005

High gas prices creating more cyclists, and safety concerns

There are several points to take away from an interesting article on SignOnSanDiego.com:

1. Since the spike in gas prices, the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition has received more requests from people asking for bike routes to their workplaces, said Kathy Keehan, the executive director.

Biking is an attractive commuting option in San Diego because of the beautiful, year-round weather, she noted.

But there are concerns that, for some, the ride won't be smooth because it takes savvy, experience and education to handle the roads, Keehan said.

Good point. When even folks who have ridden a bike for years don't ride the right way, what happens when you get a bunch of newbies out there as well?

2. Some bikers don't know or flout basic rules. They drive against traffic and run red lights and stop signs. They don't wear helmets.

Still others drink and ride. And even experienced bike riders, hardened by close calls and nasty yells from motorists, can be combative.

Don't forget the cyclists with cell phones!

Or the ones with head phones tuned to their favorite music station!

3. Bicyclists, meanwhile, say living life in the bike lane tests one's fortitude.

Drivers don't watch out for them, they say.

Drivers veer into their lanes to purposely send them off course.

Drivers fling open car doors without looking – sometimes right into a biker's path.

"I think drivers think bicyclists are riding for recreation and that they shouldn't impede" motorists, said Allen D. Zwan, who bikes twice a week to work along the route where 29-year-old Patrick Klokow died.

"But it's becoming a regular method of transportation."

All true.

4. According to a program called Bike To Work, it costs $3,000 annually to keep your car running. A bike costs less than $300 annually, according to the organization's Web site.

Some are combining bike riding with public transportation.

But many people hopping on bikes today, particularly middle-aged folks, didn't grow up having the level of education about bike safety that kids get today.

Most cyclists, of any age, or experience, have no clue about most of the informational websites I have listed in my sidebar.

5. "People may have entrenched habits and are not changing them."

They may remember their carefree days of riding as a child and scoff at the idea of wearing a helmet. California has a helmet law, but it doesn't apply to those over 18.

They may also combine biking with partying. Almost a quarter of those killed last year had a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 or greater.

Is that last scary , or what?

The fact that many adult cyclists think they don't have to wear a helmet is also scary.

And the number that I see, out with their kids ( some with helmets, some without ), who set a bad example by not wearing a helmet themselves is amazing.

6. Some argue that bike riders contribute to the problems. Some sport expensive bikes that can easily overcome speed limits on some roads. Some also ride three, four and five abreast, spilling over from the bike lane and into the main road, where they may meet up with frustrated drivers.

Not only do some cyclists, especially Club Cyclists, act this stupid, and recklessly, on the street, but they do so on bike only trails, here, such as the Santa Ana River, and San Gabriel River Trails, and I'm sure riders across the nation can report similar stories.

I know of one man, a few years ago, who upon seeing a pack, taking up both lanes of the San Gabriel Trail, coming hell bent for leather toward him, planted himself, and his bike, across both lanes forcing the club riders to come to a stop to go around him.

They had the nerve to be pissed off at him for his actions, and didn't take kindly to his complaint.

One person interviewed for this story has hope.

He was...

Heartened by a possible offshoot of people switching from gas guzzlers to bikes, though.

Studies show that if more people are on bikes, motorists learn to better deal with them, he said.

In Europe, where bicycles are widely used, conflicts are rare, he said.

"There's safety in numbers."

Sept. 11: BUMBER CROP OF CYCLISTS:  As Gas Prices increase, so do safety concerns by Michael Stetz.

September 20, 2005 in The Well Read Cyclist | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Taking Cyclists to task in Tennessee

An interesting letter to the editor appeared in the Dickson Herald Opinion recently [ My comments in brackets ] :

What is the first question anyone asks when offered a chance to ride a bicycle almost anywhere in Dickson County?

[ Um, Where are all the backcountry stills?  ;-D ]

The answer shouldn't surprise anyone. It's likely easily guessed: “What? Are you trying to get me killed?”

[ Apparently hillbillies can't drive. ;-D ]

The roads in this county (and city) are dangerous enough as it is without bicyclists becoming targets daring cars to hit them and drivers getting tempted to answer the challenge. Most people are sensible. It only takes one that isn't to cause an accident and a lot of trouble.

[ Okay, enough with the wisecracks by a city slicker who doesn't know how to dive a car...

He's right when he says, as well, that people on  both sides can be obstinate idiots ]

Bicyclists should follow the rules, just like they expect drivers to do.

[ True ]

All vehicles should be properly maintained and properly equipped for safety. Drivers should stay phone-free and be willing to move over for a bicyclist.

[ Damn Straight! ]

On a bicycle, safety means riding at the edge of the pavement, with good brakes and a proper mirror mounted on the bicycle.

[ While I agree with having good brakes, and some type of mirror, he loses me at the "edge of the pavement".

Safety doesn't ALWAYS mean staying so far to the right that you might as well ride on the sidewalk and be done with it. ]

Never drive against the traffic, in town or on the highway. Drivers don't expect to see a vehicle on their side of the road coming toward them. You may be able to see them, but you will still fail to see whomever you are meeting. On your own side of the road, properly armed with a good mirror that you are actually giving some attention, you will see both drivers and can respond accordingly.

[ Okay! Back on the same page! ]

Be careful. You will lose any engagement against a car or truck. Dickson County and its cities need roads made safe for bicyclists. We will never have them if we all tempt fate and end up getting killed.

[ Good point ]

Sept. 14: Bicyclists need to follow rules, too by Lloyd Harrison Whitling

September 20, 2005 in The Well Read Cyclist | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack