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Car-Free World
alternative transportation news & views

May 19, 2004
| BicycleUniverse
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Tips: Dick Ryan, Jeff Thorne, Jeremy Elliott, Lane Wimberly, Loren, Mike Dahmus
Editor: Michael Bluejay


From the Editor

Important: Choose how to get the newsletter

Contest Winner


Cell phones and driving

World Naked Bike Ride: June 12

Kerry falls from bike

How to build a bike trailer

The end of cheap oil

Take the BicyclingLife survey


UK: New Bikes must be equipped with bells

Vancouver, WA: Job opening in Community Cycling Center

Eugene, OR: Activist who torched SUV's sentenced to 23 years without parole

Austin, TX:
Cyclists kill motorist,
  New weblog,
  Bicycle Month Awards.

Florida: Lesbian grandmas ride for marriage equality

New York: Annual blessing of the bicycles


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.

Our biggest gripe isn't with cars, it's with the car culture.

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

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

Send us your bike ad and we'll post it. Bikes must be in Austin, TX *or* you must be wiling to ship. 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
$199 Specialized Hardrock 23"
$199 GT Palomar 20"
$249 Diamondback Sorrento SE 16"
$269 Giant Boulder SE XS
$349 Specialized Hardrock FS 21"
$369 Haro Extreme Comp 19.5"
$369 Bridgestone MB4 18"
$399 KHS Montana Comp 19"
$399 Diamondback Response 14"
$449 Diamondback Response Elite 20"
$499 Raleigh M-80 16"
$549 Kona Lava Dome 20"
$599 GT Avalanche 18"
$599 Specialized Hard Rock 19"
$699 Kona Sex One 20"
$229 Trek 700 17"
BMX/Kids' Bikes
$129 Diamondback Impression
$199 Gary Fisher Pure Bender
$319 Redline Signature Series 24" cruiser
$249 Sun Retro 7 15"L

Road Bikes

$ 99
 Alpine Sporten 15"G

$399 Specialized Allez 53cm
$499 Specialized Sirrus 58cm
$599 Diamondback Expert 58cm
$599 KHS Aero Turbo 54cm
$699 Bianchi Campione 54cm
$1700 $999 Kona Explosif 18"
$1500 $899 Kona Mano Mano 14"

Inventory as of May 18, 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


Guide to Cheap Airfare
Crash course in casino gambling

Ride a bike and put the fun between your legs.

From the Editor

Important: Choose how to get the newsletter

     Okay, listen up: Each of you is now receiving this HTML newsletter and a plain-text announcement that gives you a link so you can go read the newsletter on the website. Probably you just want one or the other, so you can cancel the option you don't want here:

There are important technical reasons why I had to set it up this way, which I won't bore you with. Just trust me that this is the best thing for most of the nearly 1000 subscribers to this newsletter.

Contest winner

     In the last newsletter I asked you to choose whether the website should be named BicycleUniverse.info or BicycleUniverse.com. By an overwhelming vote of 9-7, the website will now be known as BicycleUniverse.info. Yeah, nearly 1000 of you get this newsletter, and all 16 of you vote. Remember this next time there's a contest, you won't see better odds anywhere else. Where else are you gonna beat 1 in 16? Anyway, the winner was halkings@linuxmail, who gets to choose between a snazzy BicycleUniverse email address or a snazzy super-reflective triangle.

Most of those who voted for BicycleUniverse.com were worried that the site would be hard to find if it ended in .info. But never fear, if you forget and type in BicycleUniverse.com you'll be magically redirected to the .info version. The question of whether to use .com or .info was just one of marketing, what face we should present to the world. Thanks for your votes.

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Cell phones and driving

     We were stunned to discover that 45 countries ban the use of cell phones while driving, according to Cellular-News.com. Naturally the United States is not one of them, although New York banned phones while driving in November 2001 and a few other states have put some restrictions on their use, such as disallowing minors from driving and talking. Interestingly, figures show that New Yorkers use cell phones while driving about the same amount as they did before the ban. ABC News also reports that Americans overwhelmingly favor a ban on cell phones while driving, but they think hands-free phones are fine. Unfortunately most people don't seem to understand that the danger from cell phones is not that they tie up your hands so much as they tie up your mind. Many of us have read that studies show that driving while phone-talking is on a similar level of risk as driving drunk, but what many don't know is that the risk is about the same even when drivers are using hands-free phones.

World Naked Bike Ride: June 12, 2004

    Here's a reminder: World Naked Bike Ride is less than a month away. Regular readers know that we've often covered that curious intersection of nudity and bicycling. Well, now all hell is breaking loose. Cyclists in Zaragoza, Spain who have had huge naked bike rides with hundreds of riders for the last few years, have put out the call for cities all over the world to hold their own ride, and several cities have already signed on. The Spanish cyclists are riding on June 19, and most of the rest of the world will be riding on June 12.

John Kerry falls off bike

      U.S. presidental candidate John Kerry fell off his bike recently. Well, at least he rides one. Bush hasn't fared any better with non-automobile transport, falling off a Segway in a widely publicized incident last year.

     These two guys are our choices?

How to build a bike trailer

     The folks at Re-Cycle.org have published a guide to how to build your own bike trailer. The color PDF is well-illustrated and very easy to understand. They recommend you weld the pieces together for strength, but you can bolt the thing together if you're willing to sacrifice a little durability. Of course, you could always take the pieces to a welding shop and get they to weld everything together for you. (see the plans)

The end of cheap oil

    We've been warning for years that the end of cheap oil is just around the corner. We're not saying this because it's what we want to be true, we're saying it because it is true. The world's leading experts have been saying the same thing, too, it's just that few people listen to them. But maybe things are starting to change. First of all, this was this big unprovoked war by the United States on oil-rich Iraq, maybe some of you heard about that. Second, oil prices recently hit a 21-year high....

     Americans tend to notice things like this when they suddenly have to pay a little more for gasoline. It kills us that when the price of gas goes up a nickel it's major news that's carried all over the newspapers and TV broadcasts. You'd think that peoples' lives were on the line with the speed that the news programs rush to cover every 5-cent increase in the price of gas. But let's do the math here: When gas goes up $0.10 a gallon, the extra cost for someone who drives 25 miles a day in a 25 mpg car is... ten cents. A whole ten cents. Or three bucks on a monthly basis. Big freakin' deal. And when this happens the news shows focus on interviews with consumers crying at the pump because they're gonna have to pay an extra $3 a month instead of covering real news!

     Yeah, we know that gas has gone up by more than a nickel or even ten cents recently in many places, but the media still falls all over themselves to cover this "story" even when the increase is only five cents.

     Probably the stupidest reaction to increasing gas prices is the so-called Gas Out, the one-day boycott of gas, designed to tell those greedy oil companies that we mean business so that they lower their prices for us! (No, wait, the stupidest reaction to rising gas prices is squandering thousands of lives and billions of dollars on an unprovoked war with another country, so the Gas-Out thing is the next-stupidest.)

     Obviously the Gas-Outers don't realize how good they have it here in the U.S. with some of the cheapest gas in the world -- petrol in Europe is well over $5 a gallon. But more to the point, the Gas-Outers don't understand basic economics: A one-day boycott accomplishes nothing if you simply buy twice as much gas the next day. A real boycott intends to hit a company in its pocketbook by reducing its sales. But if people don't actually drive less then they're not reducing the oil companies' sales, they're just spreading it out over different days. Duh. Seriously, how can people be this dense? Tremble for humanity with me, won't you?

And our final tidbit about the end of cheap oil: Turns out that Shell has been lying about their oil reserves and prospects for increasing oil production for years -- with the full knowledge of this by its board of directors. Is anyone so naive that they're really surprised by this? I mean, besides those Gas-Out people? 

Take the BicyclingLife survey

     BicyclingLife is undertaking what it hopes will be the largest and most accurate study of bicycling habits and injuries ever completed. They say, with some credibility, that existing studies are often too narrowly focused or suffer from poor methodology. You can help the effort by taking the survey.

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UNITED KINGDOM: New bikes must be equipped with bells

     A new law requires all new bikes sold to be equipped with a bell. It used to be that way, actually, but Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher scrapped the old law in 1983. (more)

VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON: Job opening in Community Cycling Center

     The Community Cycling Center has job openings for individuals to help design and operate community cycling centers. Check out their website for more.

EUGENE, OREGON: Activist who torched SUV's sentenced

     Jeffrey Luers was sentenced to a whopping 22 years and 8 months in prison, with no possibility for early release or parole, for setting fire to three SUV's at a car dealership, to raise awareness of global warming and the role that SUV's play in that process. The harsh sentence was no doubt inspired in part by the brilliant idea of fellow activists to torch 36 more vehicles at the same dealership and to mention Luers' name in their communique -- while Luers was in jail awaiting trial for the first fire. I've already said this once in this newsletter but I'll say it again: Duh.

     The brilliance of certain anti-car activists notwithstanding, there's still cause for concern that the punishment here doesn't fit the crime. Luers' 23 year-sentence for doing $40,000 worth of damage is substantially longer than what many criminals in Oregon get for killing other human beings. According to Montreal ABCF: "The length of this sentence is patently unjust, particularly when compared to those commonly given to people convicted of crimes against persons. For example, Manslaughter 1 carries a 10 year sentence; Attempted Murder, only 7 and-a-half years; Rape 1, 8 years and four months." A drunk driver who killed someone was sentenced around the same time as Luers and got only ten years. Remember too that Luers isn't eligible for parole.

    Luers' supporters are accepting donations for his appeal, which they hope will shave 10 to 12 years off his sentence.

AUSTIN, TX: Cyclists kill motorist, get front-page coverage

    In December James Michael Coffee, a 52-year-old salesman, honked from his big 1990 gold Silverado pickup truck at two cyclists who were riding in front of him in the right-hand lane around 42nd & Guadalupe. (News reports don't mention whether they were riding two-abreast or single file, but in any event Guadalupe is a four-lane road.) The cyclists flipped him off, Coffee parked his truck and got out, then one of the cyclists hit Coffee, knocking him to the ground, and paralyzing him from the chest down. (Coffee had an old injury which apparently made him vulnerable.) The cyclists rode off and have never been caught. In late April, Coffee died of pneumonia which police are considering to be a complication from his injuries, and police are launching a homicide investigation. The cyclists have never been found.

    Okay, first off, obviously we don't condone violence, no matter who the perpetrator. But our first concern is that the public will use this as an example of how dangerous cyclists are (especially thanks to the front-page story in the paper), even though it's just one (count 'em) case. The number of times that cyclists assault motorists pales in comparison to the number of times that motorists hit & run cyclists. Heck, in Austin, the number of times that cyclists assault motorists is probably fewer than the number of times I've been hit & run'd, personally.

    The other obvious bias is that cyclists assaulting a motorist made the front page of the paper, when motorist-on-cyclist violence doesn't. We can't remember a local case in which cyclists were beaten by motorists or killed by hit & run drivers which made the front page. Yes, it was wrong for the cyclists to assault the motorist. But that doesn't mean there's not a double-standard in place.

    Local cycling fixture Bart points out how little we know about what happened, and that the cyclists might have been acting in self-defense: "Picture it: Some guy in a big truck honks at you, maybe yells at you, then parks his truck and gets out of it to confront you, you might reasonably assume that he intended to do you some harm."

    Intent or not, the motorist had it coming. Trying to intimidate other road users who are more vulnerable than you are and then escalating the situation by going towards them is not a recipe for safety. It cuts both ways: I frequently chase down motorists who yell at me (not to kill them, just to talk to them), and one of these days I'm probably going to get my ass kicked as a result. If that happens then I'll have it coming, just like James Coffee did.

 In other Austin news:

  • Urban Transportation Commissioner and local firebrand Mike Dahmus has a new transportation-oriented weblog.

  • Austin is celebrating Bike Month (along with many other cities across the U.S.).

  • As part of Bike Month you can vote in the Bike Month Awards survey for things like Best Bicycle Advocate and Best Workplace for Bike Commuting. I have an admittedly dated and incomplete page about some local bike advocates if you need help jogging your memory. I was tempted to vote for Amy Babich in the advocate category but wound up throwing my support to Mike Dahmus.

FLORIDA & THE U.S: Lesbian grandmas ride bikes for marriage equality

    My grandma was a lesbian. I wrote a song about her. (Titled, cleverly, "Grandma Was a Lesbian.") And the longest one-day-only ride I did (at the time) was with a lesbian friend. (Hello, Julie.) So it warms my heart to hear about two lesbian grandmothers biking across the U.S. to gather support for civil marriage equality in cities around the country. Whatever your thoughts about gay marriage, I hope you'll join with me in wishing the riders a safe journey. (more)

NEW YORK: Blessing of the bicycles

    Every year a canon at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine blesses 200 riders and their bikes with holy water in the massive catheral. Part of the ceremony includes reading a verse from Ezekiel which mentions wheels on the earth. Who says biking can't be a religious experience? (more) If that's not enough for you then also check out the Patron Saint of Bicyclists.

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That's all, thanks for reading!

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