If the newsletter below doesn't appear to be formatted properly (or doesn't appear at all), you can read the newsletter online at: http://BicycleUniverse.info/newsletters/2004-01-12.html

Car-Free World
alternative transportation news & views

Jan. 12, 2004
Email Us | BicycleUniverse
Read Back Issues
Subscribe | Unsubscribe

Tips: Michael Shackleford, Roger Baker, Michael Zakes
Editor: Michael Bluejay


From the Editor

BicycleAustin moving to BicycleUniverse

Welcome to WizardOfOdds subscribers

Unsatisfied reader

CAMPO Update: we won

More translations of BicycleSafe.com


Speed Kills

Cheating red lights

Screw the Hummers

The Party's Over


VEGAS: Pedicabs to be banned

U.S.: Cyclists for Dean

U.S.: TEA party

U.S.: Janklow won't take responsibility

AUSTIN: Sprawl mania

AUSTIN: CAMPO decides not to raid bike/ped funds


Bikes for sale

Car-Free World, a publication of and ©2004 by BicycleUniverse, covers alternative transportation, especially bicycling. No, we're not naïve enough to think that everyone can do without a car, but we do feel that people could certainly use cars a lot less, which would result in cleaner air, fewer deaths, stronger communities, and a better quality of life.

CFW is published sporadically, and may be discontinued at any time without notice. We currently have over 800 subscribers. Here are links to subscribe or unsubscribe.

Articles are by the editor if uncredited. Articles by others may have been edited for grammar, clarity, conciseness, superstition, or just for the hell of it.


Bikes for sale in Austin

KHS Flite 500 road bike, $400. Excellent shape--ridden less than 200 miles. Shimano 105/Tiagra components, Rolf Vector wheels, 56cm Reynolds 520 steel frame. Call 472-8604 or e-mail   09-03

VooDoo Bokor mountain bike, $450. Deore XT components, White Industries rear hub, Judy Rock Shox fork, Sugino 900 cranks. krsbrns(at)yahoo.com 8-03

Send us your bike ad and we'll post it. Ads are FREE for individuals and run for at least four months or until you tell me to remove it. Please keep it to four lines, don't write a novel. :)

Used inventory at
Waterloo Cycles

Waterloo ships to the 48 states for $40. Just click to order.

ATB/Mountain Bikes
$149 Nishiki Pueblo 19"
$169 Diamondback Outlook 18"
$199 GT Palomar 20"
$219 Fuji Boulevard FS 15L
$219 Trek 830 14", w/24" wheels
$369 Haro Extreme Comp 19.5"
$399 KHS Montana Comp 19"
$399 Diamondback Response 14"
$449 Diamondback Response Elite 20"
$549 Kona Lava Dome 20"
$699 Cannondale F400 21"
$699 Kona Sex One 20"
Road Bikes
$ 99 Alpine Sporten 15"G
$129 Maruishi RX-3 21"
$399 Schwinn PRelude 60cm
$399 Specialized Allez 53cm
$499 Giant OCR3 small
$499 Specialized Sirrus 58cm
$599 Diamondback Expert 58cm
$599 KHS Aero Turbo 54cm
$699 Bianchi Campione 54cm
BMX/Kids' Bikes
$129 Diamondback Impression
$179 Sun Retro Cruiser

$950 $599 Kona Caldera 20"
$1700 $999 Kona Explosif 18"
$1500 $899 Kona Mano Mano 14"

Inventory as of Jan. 12, 2004. All bikes subject to prior sale, limited to stock on hand, not responsible for typographical errors, prices may change without notice, batteries not included.

Easy Street Recumbents

Recumbent bicycle sales, service, and rental for Austin. Free Urban Cycling classes with your purchase of a bike.

click to visit


Clear Patio Covers
Easy digital camera software
Search for medical jobs
Online casino games

10,000 dead and I'm still paying $1.79 for unleaded.

From the Editor

BicycleAustin moving to BicycleUniverse

Austinite Jeremiah Isaacs got into the holiday spirit

    I'm starting the process of moving most of the content from BicycleAustin.info to the new site, BicycleUniverse.info. Most of the content on BicycleAustin is useful to a much larger audience than Austinites so it makes sense to have it on a general domain.

    This follows the same path as the newsletter, which went from "Austin Bike News" to "Car-Free World" nearly two years ago. But someone unsubscribed from the newsletter not too long ago, saying the reason was that they'd moved out of Austin. That was disappointing because I've taken pains to make Car-Free World interesting and relevant regardless of where in the country (or maybe even the world) they live, but evidently not everybody has noticed, or at least agreed. Anyway, the new domain is part of the strategy of making clear that this stuff is for everyone, not just Austinites.


Welcome to WizardOfOdds subscribers

    As part of a cultural exchange program (it's actually what marketers call a "cross-promotion", but "cultural exchange" sounds so much better), Car-Free World was recently advertised in an issue of The Wizard's News, a newsletter about Vegas and gambling, published by The Wizard of Odds. Basically, they mention my newsletter and I mention theirs. Their recent plug got us a bunch of new subscribers. So welcome, gambling people, hope ya like it.

    So what are we all about? Are we so crazy we think that everyone can give up their cars? Hardly. We just think that cars are used way too much, and that that overuse has profound negative effects on our society -- air pollution, isolated communities, danger in getting around, wars over oil, economic enslavement (drive to work, work to drive), and corruption of local, state, and national governments. (Cars, oil, and roads are big business, and the desire to make money wins out over the greater public good time and again.)

    Those are the obvious problems with cars, but some are not so obvious. America's obsession with the automobile means that we have a car culture, which introduces its own downsides. For example, at-fault motorists who injure or kill others are less likely to face penalties if the victim was a pedestrian or bicyclist. Hard to believe, but the facts speak for themselves. I can already hear a thousand mice clicking this window closed, but the truth isn't always pretty. Our job is to point out what's actually happening, even it's unpleasant. But we try to balance it with a fair amount of humor and interesting stories, so that the newsletter doesn't degrade into one big sheet of pessimism. Hopefully you'll like it. Our next reader didn't...


Unsatisfied Reader

    We don't please everyone. This came in in response to our recent article about the lack of justice afforded to cyclists and pedestrians. J. C. Bateman, Jr. writes:

Mr. Bluejay,

    You are too strident. You misrepresent and distort the facts when it comes to bike vs. car incidents. I had a problem with your wee-weeing and mischaracterizations on the old Bike Austin forum, and that was the reason I withdrew from it. Perusing the few issues of this newsletter that somehow have found me, I don't see that much has changed. I deplore such actions as critical mass rides and feel you are much more in that camp than in mine... i.e., just a guy who doesn't wear lycro, who rides his utilitarian garage sale find Peugeot for short trips to HEB, the library, and etc., who holds no adulation for nor gives a squat what Lance is up to (although I am glad he won the Tour thingy again), and who, for sure, doesn't care to hear from, or be involved with, a group of narrow minded, bellyaching, totally hostile anti-car, bikers. Who, I might add, have alienated my once friendly attitude toward them by their obnoxious road behaviour, primary among which is their impeding traffic flow by arrogantly riding side by side (I travel Shoal Creek frequently, and even though there is a bike lane, countless times I have been held back by idiot bikers riding two, three abreast) and by riding at night *without lights*! I hate that! If a biker gets smushed by a car at night and they weren't using lights, then it's partially THEIR OWN DAMN FAULT. -- JCB

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that nighttime cyclists without lights who get hit are at least partially at fault, I don't know why you'd think I'd feel otherwise. As for injustice in general, as I said in the newsletter, the facts about the lack of justice in car-bike collisions are a matter of public record. If you have a credible source that takes a contrary position I'd love to see it.

By the way, I don't ride at night without lights or multiple-abreast to the point that it blocks car traffic, nor do I ride on Critical Mass any more, if that makes you feel any better. Even if I did I'm not sure that would mean that it's okay for at-fault motorists to be unlikely to face penalties when they recklessly maim or kill pedestrians and cyclists.

By the way, as I write this I've just gotten word of a local cyclist who was beaten within an inch of his life and then left for dead last week. --Ed.


Update on CAMPO's raid on bike funds

Short answer: we won. Bike/Ped projects are preserved, at least for now. More details are in an article below.


More translations of BicycleSafe.com

Fans worldwide continue to translate our BicycleSafe.com into their local language -- or in some cases, into their local roadway style. Aussies and Brits ride on a different side of the road than most other countries, so we now have new British and Australian versions of BicycleSafe.com.


back to contents


Speed Kills

The Wisconsin State Journal points out that everyone is focused on the danger of drunk driving, while speeding is potentially an even bigger problem.

Yes, "everybody does it" - or at least 71 percent of licensed drivers, according to the American Automobile Association. Nationwide, 13,713 died last year in accidents caused by speeding. That's about 400 more fatalities than were caused by drunken driving in 2002.

Moreover, while the number of drunken driving fatalities has fallen 37 percent nationwide in the past 20 years, the number of fatal accidents has been rising steadily in the 22 states that have raised their speed limits to 70 mph or more since 1995. Safety experts say the risk of death in a crash doubles for every 10-mph increase in speed.

Some Western European nations have already recognized that speeding can be just as dangerous as drunken driving. In England, for example, the government launched a campaign: "Kill your speed - not a child." It also installed lots of roadside cameras to photograph and tickets speeders. (Alas, photo radar is illegal in Wisconsin.) The result of the British campaign: a 50 percent reduction in speeding-related fatalities. (full article)


Cheating Red Lights

    While motorists scream and rant about the fact that some bicyclists run red lights (while ignoring the danger caused by other motorists running red lights), many of them think it's perfectly okay to find ways to cheat red lights themselves. WIRED magazine's Gadget Lab gave a gushing review to a black box that can change the traffic signal from red to green. The fact that the device is illegal didn't temper the writer's excitement over the product, other than to caution readers to try not to get caught using it.

With the MIRT (Mobile Infrared Transmitter) on my dashboard, traffic lights yield to my every whim! I jacked it into my cigarette lighter, hit the big green button, and the just-turned-red light on East Grand Avenue switched to green. I yelled "See ya later, 5UX0R5!" and rolled past confused, powerless commuters.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote a short piece for WIRED a few years ago. But mine was about household batteries, not breaking the law.


Screw the Hummers

    How do you express your frustration about Hummers, those behemoth road machines that are the ultimate testament to wastefulness and consumption? Well, one way is to take a picture of yourself flipping off a Hummer, and sending it to FUH2.com. I'm not sure it would make me feel better, but at least that option is available to those who want it.


The Party's Over

    We've been warning about the end of cheap oil for a while now. (Best estimates are for a permanent price surge some time before the end of the decade.) Ever since transportation activist Roger Baker turned us on to this idea many years ago the evidence has continued to pour in. The latest is an excellent piece in the U.K.'s Guardian, a condensed version of which appears below.

On Thursday, the government approved the development of the biggest deposit discovered in British territory for at least 10 years. Everywhere we are told that this is a "huge" find, which dispels the idea that North Sea oil is in terminal decline. You begin to recognise how serious the human predicament has become when you discover that this "huge" new field will supply the world with oil for five and a quarter days.

     Every generation has its taboo, and ours is this: that the resource upon which our lives have been built is running out. We don't talk about it because we cannot imagine it. This is a civilisation in denial.

     Oil itself won't disappear, but extracting what remains is becoming ever more difficult and expensive. The discovery of new reserves peaked in the 1960s. Every year we use four times as much oil as we find. All the big strikes appear to have been made long ago: the 400m barrels in the new North Sea field would have been considered piffling in the 1970s. Our future supplies depend on the discovery of small new deposits and the better exploitation of big old ones. No one with expertise in the field is in any doubt that the global production of oil will peak before long.

     The only question is how long. The most optimistic projections are the ones produced by the US department of energy, which claims that this will not take place until 2037. But the US energy information agency has admitted that the government's figures have been fudged: it has based its projections for oil supply on the projections for oil demand, perhaps in order not to sow panic in the financial markets.

     Other analysts are less sanguine. The petroleum geologist Colin Campbell calculates that global extraction will peak before 2010. In August, the geophysicist Kenneth Deffeyes told New Scientist that he was "99% confident" that the date of maximum global production will be 2004. Even if the optimists are correct, we will be scraping the oil barrel within the lifetimes of most of those who are middle-aged today.

    There is one possible solution which no one writing about the impending oil crisis seems to have noticed: a technique with which the British and Australian governments are currently experimenting, called underground coal gasification. This is a fancy term for setting light to coal seams which are too deep or too expensive to mine, and catching the gas which emerges. It's a hideous prospect, as it means that several trillion tonnes of carbon which was otherwise impossible to exploit becomes available, with the likely result that global warming will eliminate life on Earth.

    We seem, in other words, to be in trouble. Either we lay hands on every available source of fossil fuel, in which case we fry the planet and civilisation collapses, or we run out, and civilisation collapses.

    The only rational response to both the impending end of the oil age and the menace of global warming is to redesign our cities, our farming and our lives. But this cannot happen without massive political pressure, and our problem is that no one ever rioted for austerity. People tend to take to the streets because they want to consume more, not less. Given a choice between a new set of matching tableware and the survival of humanity, I suspect that most people would choose the tableware.

    In view of all this, the notion that the war with Iraq had nothing to do with oil is simply preposterous. The US attacked Iraq (which appears to have had no weapons of mass destruction and was not threatening other nations), rather than North Korea (which is actively developing a nuclear weapons programme and boasting of its intentions to blow everyone else to kingdom come) because Iraq had something it wanted. In one respect alone, Bush and Blair have been making plans for the day when oil production peaks, by seeking to secure the reserves of other nations. (read full article)


back to contents


LAS VEGAS: Pedicabs to be banned

   To the delight of local taxicab drivers, Las Vegas is moving to ban human-powered pedicabs. Cabbies cite the pedicabs as a "dangerous nuisance", a claim I find ironic since I can't count how many times a taxicab nearly ended my life early when I biked around Vegas last year. And it's really hard to imagine the threat posed by a vehicle that moves, at most, seven miles per hour. (full article)

    By the way, I saw some similarities with Austin while in Vegas that kept me from being homesick, like seeing two black men arrested and in handcuffs for bicycling on the sidewalk.

UNITED STATES: Cyclists for Dean

   While we're not really bowled over by Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, he certainly has some bicyclists behind him. A group called Cyclists for Dean is actively campaigning for the former Vermont governor, noting, among other things, that Dean's introduction to politics was his work as a citizen in getting a bicycle path built in Burlington.


    TEA-21 is the federal legislation that funds surface transportation projects, and Congress is currently working on a new version. While few details are available yet on the direction that Congress is headed, we can make a safe prediction: Lots of money for highways and little for trains, bikes, peds, and everything else. We can also expect environmental considerations to be cast aside when there's a road project that lawmakers want to build.

    Environmental Defense has a form on its website allowing visitors to send a message to Congress asking for some sanity in how federal transpo dollars are allocated. And the Washington Post has some more background on the issue.


UNITED STATES: U.S. Rep. Janklow won't take responsibility for killing a motorcyclist

    U.S. Rep Bill Janklow (R-SD) was recently convicted of second-degree manslaughter for speeding through a stop sign and killing a motorcyclist. We covered the interesting circumstances surrounding his arrest in our Sept. 3 newsletter. At that time we pointed out Janklow's long history of speeding, and his unethical act as Governor of reducing the severity of speeding convictions, helping spare himself from losing his license.

   The trial showed Janklow acting consistently with his past: a man who refuses to take responsibility for his actions. When our children misbehave, often our most fervent wish is that they simply acknowledge that they did something wrong. Even though the damage has been done, it pacifies us somehow if they own up to their mistakes. Why don't we expect the same of adults, especially elected officials? There was no doubt that Janklow recklessly killed the cyclist, so why didn't he own up to it? During the trial he argued that it somehow wasn't his fault that he recklessly killed another human being (because he was disoriented from being hungry) and even after his unanimous conviction he's asking the judge to set aside the guilty verdict.

    Janklow certainly has his apologists. A ridiculous editorial in the Madison Daily Leader employed copious amounts of passive voice to carefully avoid any specific statement that Janklow had done anything wrong. They bemoan, quite passively, "the terrible tragedy" that ended Janklow's career, without mentioning that Janklow himself was responsible for that tragedy.


AUSTIN: Sprawl Mania

  A recent survey showed that Austinites are overwhelmingly opposed to suburban sprawl and that they want growth to happen in existing areas rather than far-flung and often environmentally sensitive areas.

    Then we see that all the neighborhood associations want to limit apartments, duplexes, and the height of buildings.

    Maybe people don't get it, and don't realize that these goals are incompatible. You either have a dense central city, or you have sprawl. If the growth doesn't happen in the burbs then it has to happen in the urban core. But the citizens apparently think it's okay to oppose sprawl (and the congestion, pollution, and higher taxes that goes with it), while at the same time opposing plans to fit more people into existing neighborhoods.

   You can't have your cake and eat it too, but that doesn't stop people from trying. A recent example was the opposition to the Villas project on Guadalupe, opposed by the neighbors and vilified by the same progressive lefties who also decry sprawl. Okay, the Villas definitely pulled some questionable political strings to get their project built, but the project itself is exactly the kind of development that's an alternative to sprawl.

    In fact, there is one neighborhood association in Austin that welcomes increased density. What's different about them? It's the West Campus group (University Area Partners), where most of the property owners are investors who don't actually live where the denser housing will go. They want denser housing so they have more units to rent out so they can make more money.

    A reader, Howard Lenett, makes some observations about sprawl:

In today's [Austin-American] Snakesman we find a letter from an reader who writes that "this is Texas," the land of plenty of room, and how dare these intellectual liberals from up east come tell us to live in urban centers. We need to raise our kids in "quiet" suburbs with lots of fresh air and room to play. He even goes on to mention how Texas parents don't want their kids learning to play stickball on the streets in front of high rise buildings.

 I guess he doesn't mind hour and a half waits in traffic, polluted air, and paying higher taxes for more police and medical services to his suburbs. And of course he doesn't mention anything about keeping his racial purity, but I imagine he wants his kids to play in a homogeneous suburb where they are safe from all but the right kind of child molesters.


AUSTIN: CAMPO votes to preserve bike/ped funding

    In the last several newsletters we'd warned that CAMPO was planning to raid funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects and spend it on car-oriented projects instead. We set up a form on our website so you could email CAMPO members and ask them to not do that.

    Amazingly, we won. Sure, hundreds of you wrote in, but that doesn't mean that CAMPO had any obligation to listen to us. Politicians, especially local politicians, frequently vote in direct opposition to what the overwhelming majority of the public feedback says. But in any event, this time we won. Bike/ped funding is safe, for now. Pat yourselves on the back for doing your part to demand transportation-related fiscal sanity from our leaders.

    Below are some of the comments sent to CAMPO using our mail-in form.

I'm a member of Austin's Urban Transportation Commission. When you total all funding of local transportation, bike/ped projects receive less than one percent of the total. The 15% set-aside in this one category of federal funds provides roughly half that amount. Touching it in order to build even more roadways is an insult to the claim that your group is promoting alternative transportation.

I design bridges for a living. I also believe strongly in the benefits of increasing mixed-mode transportation. One might presume these two facts place me in a personal quandary on the CAMPO 15% Bike/Ped funding issue, but in fact this issue seems pretty straightforward to me. A little goes a long way when you are designing and building bike paths, striping roadways for bikes, and building sidewalks. It only goes 3/4 of a mile if you transfer the funding towards FM 2769. It's miles and miles of safe routes to schools and places of work for the bicycling and walking public vs. a 45-second long stretch of FM roadway. We need more roads, but not at the expense of bicyclists and pedestrians. Please keep what little funding that is there in place.

Please think about the bigger picture. Cars are so stupid. So, so, so stupid. Not that I don't drive a car. I do. It's just that if it's too easy to drive a car, none of us will ever get out of the habit. It's already way too easy for car drivers. Please think in a new way and don't throw money away for projects that ultimately threaten the well-being of your children, your grandchildren, and generations to come. We are not in that great a need that we need to be selfish about these poor people who will come after us.

While many of the roads through Austin are pretty hostile towards cyclists, even those with bicycle lanes are often quite rough. If cyclists and motorists are to ever get along they need to work together which would be a lot easier if cyclists had their own lanes so they weren't seen as impeding traffic. Additionally, there is a growing concern over the obesity of America's children. It seems as though sending children to school on bicycles and encouraging physical exercise would help combat this problem. However, to do so the routes must be safe. Please dedicate more time and money towards making Austin a bicycle friendly city.

 And a letter from a reader in Wisconsin:

 I understand a bit about your money problems. We fought 10 years to get $325k for the Fox River Trail, which counts 250,000 a year now.  Right after that, The Green Bay Packers asked then-Gov. Tommy Thompson(R) for $9.5 Million to re-do the parking lot at Lambeau Field, and There Are No Bike Racks There Either!  Then they asked for $4.2 Million to re-do 1 mile of street in front of the stadium.  They got the money in less than 24 hours.  Ain't it wonderful? Still no bike racks or bike lanes near the Stadium.

John Trester, bigmouth and pain,
Green Bay Wisconsin

  back to contents

That's all, thanks for reading!