Bikes

I’m pumped to have just ordered a new bicycle. My friend Michael encouraged me to look into cyclo cross for a road bike that could handle the bad roads of NOLA. So I bought a Motobecane from a woman who deals on ebay and has excellent prices. Can’t wait. I’ll be joining Michael and a couple other friends next month for a tour of Oregon wineries. Last year’s bourbon tour in Kentucky was immensely fun.

I’ve long held that even though I’m not a “serious” cyclist, the bicycle is one of the greatest inventions of all time. I know of no other machine that provides exercise, transportation, and fun with no negative effects on the environment or anyone else. I’ve written a number of letters to the editor (none of which gets published, probably for reasons I’ve discussed before on this blog) on the topic, usually after frustration at being treated rudely or put in peril by drivers. Here are a few of the reasons I contend that drivers (and I’m one of them much of the time) should appreciate cyclists and give wide berth: we reduce the price of gas; we don’t take up a parking space; we’re one less car you have to race against to get through the light; our health may reduce medical costs; we don’t tear up the roads; we don’t endanger pedestrians.

What do we do wrong? Well, I’ll admit that I’m prone to zip ahead of drivers stuck in a traffic jam, and I often go through a red light on my bike, when I never would in my car. Yes, I know it’s illegal, but I justify the light running with the reasons cited above and the fact that I can stop on a dime. I have no real compunction about moving to the front of the line in a line of cars (in fact, I relish it). Now, I don’t cut in front of those cars, but I do go around them and feel some righteous indignation in doing it; to be fair, I’m also jealous when I’m driving and see cyclists doing so. I’ve had a small bit of hostility in doing this, but I would gladly respond to anyone who confronts me by explaining that my alternative would be riding legally in my lane and holding everyone up. (I take a similar approach in putting my dogs’ “leavings” [in a bag] into someone’s trash can. That is, I could just leave it in their yard, but wouldn’t they prefer I soil their can a bit?) In fact, some dumbass LA legislator proposed a law prohibiting bikes from blocking the flow of traffic. I hate this idea on many levels, even if I’m blocked temporarily. I’ve never seen a cyclist intentionally block traffic, and what we need is to encourage more people to ride, not to discourage them.

Which brings me to my other bike-related issue of the day. For my trip to Oregon, Continental Airlines tells me that I’ll have to pay $80 each way (that’s $160 added to a $400 ticket) to bring my new bicycle. I wrote them an email asking about the policy and whether it was firm, and they wrote back that it was, but with no explanation. I wrote back asking for an explanation, so I’ll post later on that. Here’s what I said:

Thank you for getting back to me. However, you didn’t explain why this policy exists. Given that there is no hazardous material involved, why would I have to pay extra if my baggage weighs less than others’? I’m not trying to be difficult, but I don’t understand why you would have to charge extra, and, if you do, why it would be $80 each way. That’s 40% of my total ticket price.

Please give me some insight into why this charge needs to exist and why it is so high. Frankly, in an era where I know some airlines are charging extra for overweight passengers (who have to buy two tickets), wouldn’t it make sense to encourage the sort of slimming activities that transporting bicycles would do? I could see that being a major PR move for your airline. Please write back to give me more undertanding of this issue.

It’s not easy for me to restrain myself on these things, but I mean what I’m saying. I think the policy is bullshit, and again, we need more, not fewer, people to be bicycling.

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