is it OK to kill cyclists?

Posted on November 20th, 2013

Apparently so.

Did you happen to read about the recent cyclist killing in San Francisco where a woman was killed by a motorist, sparking a protest when the driver wasn’t prosecuted due to police not finding any surveillance footage of the incident? Phew. That was a sentence! And how the police officer in charge parked his squad car in the exact same bike lane where the killing happened when he came to berate the protesters? Which then led to the protesters digging up the footage themselves in less than 10 minutes that showed the driver was in the wrong?

Image via Sydney Cycleways

Image via Sydney Cycleways

Well, it sparked a lot of discourse in the US about cyclists’ rights, highlighting this extraordinary fact:

there’s not been a single prosecution of a driver for killing a cyclist in the US to date, outside of cases where the driver was DUI or did a hit and run.

In other words, where a driver was in the wrong, but wasn’t drunk and didn’t flee, but killed a cyclist, they got off with – at worst – a $42 ticket for an unsafe lane change. Seriously. How can this be?

The bad blood with cyclists is so ingrained that police don’t want to investigate the crimes, juries don’t want to convict and the general population want the whole issue to go away…and to just blame the cyclist and deem us all a bunch of righteous granola-chewing pains in the asses.

Which is just plain dumb. As I tell anti-bike people, why are you complaining? Every cyclist on the road is one less car holding you up at traffic lights! Cities can’t sustain any more car traffic. Bikes are the future. They have to be. As a New York Times columnist wrote last week,

“Cycling isn’t sky diving. It’s not just thrill-seeking or self-indulgence.
It’s a sensible response to a changing transportation environment with a clear social upside in terms of better public health, less traffic and lower emissions.”

The blind-sidedness of our culture is illustrated by this, too. New York cyclist Casey Neistat was recently fined $50 for not riding in a bike lane. He made the point that the bike lane was clogged, but the policeman told him he “ALWAYS” needed to be in the bike lane. His point was ignored. So he made this incredibly powerful video

This is kind of what cyclists are having to do – make their point, so that the atmosphere can shift. We have to do it ourselves because the rest of our community is moving too slow.

This means building a good impression, too. This video by Sydney Cycleways inviting us to cycle graciously is right on. Cyclists can’t be expected to be taken seriously if they don’t play the car game.

I also do this thing. It’s possibly a bit naughty. But a point needs to be made in the absence of a police force or culture that’s happy to support me. When I get cut off in a bike lane or by (invariably) a cab turning left, I bang the car with my fist. Loud and hard, although not enough to cause damage. From inside the car it sounds like I’ve been hit. Ostensibly I’m alerting the driver, “back off”. But I know I’m Read more

Switch off data roaming

Posted on November 14th, 2013

I used to jump through all kinds of telecommunications hoops to get internet coverage when I travelled (avoiding the $2398472987 bill from leaving my Australian phone plan connected). Now I give in.

Image via School of Style

Image via School of Style

I turn off data roaming and I simply go without coverage for most of the time, connecting to a hotel lobby or cafe’s wifi a few times a day. I did this during my trip to New York and unraveled in the freedom it afforded me. In queues, I just stood there enjoying the vacant time, instead of Instagram-fiddling. And I did emails in batches, thus reducing the influx of superfluous to-ing and fro-ing that happens when you respond to every request as they come in.

I’ve written about etoxing before, and this “space” it brings to life.

But this is the main observation I took from my roamless-data week: it enforced a certain kind of consideration – from myself and others – that I haven’t witnessed in years.

Being disconnected forced everyone to connect with me more mindfully.

Since everyone knew I didn’t have full coverage, we all made more concrete plans. 2pm at Cafe Blah Blah. Be there or be square. Everyone knew they couldn’t email to say they were running late or couldn’t make it.  Sure, they could text. And on one occasion someone did – to say they had to cancel, 15 minutes before we were due at dinner. But such was the non-communication groove that I was in, I pretended I didn’t see it and – what do you know – my friend pulled out his finger and got there anyway. And on time. He’d assumed I hadn’t seen his message and actually got considerate and committed. We had a great night, too.

Have you seen this video? My friend Kristine sent it to me. It’s pretty bodgy and the grammar is appalling (clearly the kid’s tech hiatus meant he didn’t have access to spell check). But I like how he got his mates into a more organic, committed, considered way of communicating – leaving notes outlaying concrete plans, for instance. This is how it used to be in my day. You made a plan, you stuck to it, if you were late you got really anxious that the other person would leave without you (I think this was a motivating factor…and, imagine! not having Instagram to fiddle with when you find yourself when your mate gives up on you and leaves you stranded at the bus interchange).

Back then, communication was finite. You wrote a note, or a letter, and it ended there. With email and IM and SMS and Skype chat, it remains open-ended, open to being amended, changed aborted. Read more

Well, if I had a wife…

Posted on November 13th, 2013

This post has been updated to include the Weekend Sunrise segment from Saturday November 23.

I’m sitting on a plane from LA to Sydney writing this. The 9238749823th person has just pointed out to me that I’m clearly very busy (it came out, since I was on my computer the whole way, that I have three book deadlines this week) and that “no wonder you don’t have kids” (it came out after I asked if my plane neighbour had kids of his own).

Image via Tracing Rainbows

Image via Tracing Rainbows

I get this a lot: theories on why I’m single and childless. I’m acutely aware there is a stigma attached and that I flag a disruption in the universal flow (what, a woman not procreating!? And not devastated about it?!). People want to stake the idea, give it a reason, a conclusion, because we generally like conclusions when something disturbs us.

The general conclusion most arrive at is that obviously I can’t have both (great, world-roaming career and family and kids), but at least I’ve got one of the two things a modern woman seeks. “You can’t have it all,” comes the next platitude. I don’t mind this line of thinking. Because it’s largely correct.

Seriously, five minutes after my neighbour shared his thoughts, I read New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s op-ed about her recent chat with comedian Sarah Silverman (who I love). Silverman gets taunted all the time for being childless and in her forties. It’s the gag other comedians level at her. She tells Dowd: “Maybe I would have had kids if I had a wife. I have a lot of guy comic friends who have families because they have wives (who) raise the kids.”

And ain’t this the truth.

The thing is, men at the top of their game can be outrageously busy and have families because in the main they have a loved one happy (?) to follow them around the world, supporting their income-earning ability. They have someone to pick up the kids, get the dry cleaning, be at home when the plumber has to be let in, book the motel for the Easter holidays, buy the meat for dinner before the shop shuts. I can’t Read more