Sunday, May 02, 2010

don't care about the F22, but a red light ...

Since I seem to be posting once a week, here we are. I have to say I usually would, but don't really care about Jack Kelly's whining about the F-22. He claims that Russia, China or Iran could stop our fighters from penetrating their air space, unless we build large numbers of the F-22. I am reminded that the US military long wanted to be able to fight two and a half wars, two major wars and one "brush fire" war, i.e. in a third world country. I think we now know that two "brush fire" wars are too much for our military. Advanced fighters haven't been much use in Iraq or Afghanistan, since they lack the absolute precision to avoid bad public relations. If we did invade Iran (God help us), would it be a major war or a quick victory (a la Iraq) followed by a horrible, endless occupation (a la Iraq)? If we invaded Russia or China, why wouldn't they just use their nukes (God help us all)? Yes, the military are the experts on comparing weapons, but maybe the civilians should make the predictions on who we might worry about facing in combat.

I stumbled upon an essay in the New York Times that really interested me. the question raised: as a bicyclist, to brake (and actually stop) or not at red lights. Now I hate it when someone says, you have to do a thing to understand what they are talking about. I mean, yeah, war, probably working in a hospital, probably lots of things. But if you explain things slowly (and probably loudly) to me, I might understand. Still, until and/or unless you commute by bicycle, you will have trouble understanding why you are more than sorely tempting to jump a red light when commuting. It's not only is it physically demanding and not only are you worried about about cars and frickin' SUV's. Actually at some traffic lights (such as Negley and Friendship) it makes more sense to get out ahead of the traffic so you can follow a different law and be in the left lane at Negley and Baum, the next light (instead of the right only right lane). You haven't experienced the joy of commuting until you experience worrying about cutting off a two ton SUV from making a (legal) right turn when you just want to go straight. Of course, slowing down a line of cars when you are in the left lane at that intersection as you pedal furiously to get through Negley and Centre (pretty much unlikely to get over twenty, which actually is OK with me, since much faster is kind of dangerous).

So now that you have a small idea of my view of bicycle commuting, you can imagine my delight at finding an essay about stopping at red lights while cycling in (arguably, I know, Portland) the most important city in bicycling in the US, NYC. The author talks about how other riders looked and look at him with scorn if he but tarries, let alone full on stops at intersection. I haven't bicycle commuted in a while (well, I did a bit last year), but from what I remember I don't see that many. There are a few, more in Oakland proper and other areas where students congregate (Bloomfield, Friendship, Shadyside, Highland Park, South Side flats, to some extent Squirrel Hill), and some others in unexpected places. But even though Pittsburgh is a compact city (not as compact as Manhattan), the rivers can make you detour (painfully) as an acoustic cyclist and the hills can prove daunting. I admire those who commute from and to places like the South Hills and North Hills.

Today's PG also has a cycling article about how (in part) to get more people out bicycling in Pittsburgh. The author, Bob Firth, is the president of a design firm concerned with (apparently) urban design. He talks about how inadequate bike "lanes" are, and couldn't we shut at least part of Fifth Avenue in Oakland and Shadyside to cars on Sundays, possibly leading to a permanent closure. My first reaction (unkindly) was, yeah, East End again getting preferential treatment. On the other hand, Firth points out this stretch of road is (relatively) flat (Ive run parts of the proposed section in the Marathon, relatively flat for experienced cyclists, certainly better than Negley between Fifth and Wilkins). Also, it has no pesky bridges, so yeah, this could be a good stretch of road to close. But we might need to import some bike mechanics or have Rosedale Tech (are they still around?) start a new program, rehabbing bikes that have been leaning against the Pittsburgh (basement) toilet.

Since I moved, my commute would be different than the past, but I could go a little out of my way to take considerable advantage of a Mellon Park to Bigelow bike lane. By the way, I will say here that I think Penn to no further than Bellefield would be better, given the existing bus lane. Maybe Penn to Dithridge. And of course right turns and left turns would present considerable challenges (which the article acknowledges). I guess we would have to wait at red lights, and be careful about turning cars at green lights (bummer). I guess this would be an improvement, kind of.

The articles also calls for bus schedules at bus kiosks. Fair enough, a damn good ideas. Except that PAT changes it schedules every other frickin' month in cost savings moves. After all, if you don't know when it will be there, why would you ride the bus? I think both the lane and the schedules are good ideas, of the nothing ventured, nothing gained type. But this is Pittsburgh, where inertia is the norm and few new ideas are viewed with much other than squinty-eyed suspicion.

2 comments:

maria said...
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Kevin Case said...
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