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This week, our cycling group got a chance to present our recommendations to the city council for infrastructure that will develop cycling in the city.  Wouldn’t you know the council would meet while I am at work and I could not attend.  However, our local access channel, ICTN records these meetings and logs them on their website.  Despite not attending, I could still watch our fearless leader lay out the need for cycling infrastructure including cycle tracks in and around the city.

In addition, our group recently got a chance to see the plans for the downtown Irving renovations that would include cycle tracks, wider sidewalks, and fewer motoring lanes.  All of these would aid in getting people out of their cars and into the businesses along Irving Boulevard, the major artery through downtown Irving.

As part of this, a group of volunteers put together a Saturday event to lay out what the road, cycle track, and sidewalk upgrades could do when completed.  They called this event, Deep Irving Marketplace.  Vendors and volunteers put together pop-up shops to showcase what could happen once the construction completes.  Our cycling group did a pop-up bike shop where we were selling donated vintage bikes to raise funds to help our Earn-A-Bike program. 

The event was a success in many ways.  I saw a lot of folks in Big State Drug during the lunch hour; a lot more than I usually see.  We also heard from some others how much more business they had in their shops as well.  While we knew some motorists (and truck drivers) weren’t happy about fewer lanes and slower traffic, the idea was working.

So, I listened to the presentation and the Q&A that went along with it.  You can watch the meeting for yourself here.  I was hopeful that the information would be received well.  There are always curmudgeons around that will nay-say anything, but I hoped for the best in any case.

Most of the Q&A was positive.  I especially like John Danish’s description of why American cities don’t have things like sidewalk cafés. It is because we built for the car and the truck.  And, as a country, we did this despite the fact that paved roads were an innovation of the bicycle, not the car.  Mr. Danish described how this past choice affects things like cycling on city roads.  He rightfully stated that the city would have to deal with those that would complain about slower traffic because of changes like the downtown renovation.  However, I was completely surprised by one council member’s response.

Brad LaMorgese commented that if the council did anything to slow traffic on Macarthur that they would all be gone (my paraphrase).  Macarthur Boulevard is another major artery through Irving.  It is a north-south artery while Irving Boulevard in downtown Irving is east-west. I suppose he meant that their elected positions as council members would be at jeopardy if the addition of cycle tracks to Macarthur Boulevard resulted in slower traffic speeds similar to what happened at the Deep Irving event.

So, let me see if I can understand this correctly.  You are afraid of losing your elected position if you anger a bunch of motorists, many of whom do not live in Irving, solely because they would have to travel at a slower speed?  Are you really going to play that one?  The fear card?  Well, let’s look at that issue.

I drive on Macarthur quite a bit.  I don’t bike on Macarthur unless it is very early Sunday morning or in a large group.  I have said this before, Macarthur Blvd. is DANGEROUS!  It is not only dangerous for cyclists, it is dangerous as a motorist.  The primary reason for the danger is that despite the 35 mph speed limits for most of the road, many motorists completely ignore the limit.

Now, of course Mr. LaMorgese, if you are concerned about speeds on Macarthur, you and the city council can of course raise the speed limit to whatever your heart’s desire.  However, you have chosen to support the current set of limits.  I have to believe that you all agree with those speed limits, or are those just speed suggestions?

Therefore, since many drivers on Macarthur are speeding, you are fearful that the addition of infrastructure to support safe cycling might actually reduce folks to driving the speed limit and cause them to be angry at the council?  Keep in mind the self-proven realization that those folks that would be upset with slower speeds are likely the same ones that ignore speed limits and wouldn’t slow down for cyclists or pedestrians either.  And, these are the folks you believe would vote you out of office for doing so.  My, what leadership skills you have, sir.

I have watched how the city operates vis-à-vis cycling and many other things.  Our city council would bend over backwards to build a convention center (an ugly one, I might add), but does little to increase the number of cycle paths, cycle tracks, and other infrastructure to get more people outdoors and lower pollution and congestion while increasing health and quality of life.  A city that has a perfectly good planned 22-mile trail to connect north and south Irving, but won’t finish the last few miles. For the record, I do not accept the city’s current excuse.  The city has plenty of trails on the books and I hope we get busy on these quickly.  I would like to ride a few before I am too old to do so.

Yes, I suppose it is possible to be afraid of the fallout of doing what is right.  I guess that one might be afraid of maintaining his or her council seat if we build an infrastructure that invites every type of vehicle to safely share the roads and consequently anger all those fast car and SUV drivers.  You know those drivers are worth more than the Mom that wants to lead her family down to the store a couple of blocks on a bike instead of a car or SUV.  I guess that being fearful of interrupting the transient drivers, that don’t live or vote in Irving is better leadership than preparing our city for a future that includes cycling, walking, and running.

But remember this: I bike and I vote, plus I know a lot of other cyclists that vote as well.  Fear that.

 

 

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Mid-July.  That’s a long time in blog years to be off the Interwebs.  Truth is, I haven’t been able to think of too much too write about since then.  However, something recently happened that finally moved it’s way up my nervous system to become important enough to write about.  Bicycling.

A few weeks ago, I helped another LCI (League Cycling Instructor) in a nearby city with an event.  He was putting on a Bike Safety Town at his city’s Ecofest event.  Bicycling is green you know.

This was the first Safety Town type of event I had worked as an LCI.  The city of Arlington did most of the set up for us and provided the bicycles for the kids to ride.  Our job was to teach kids safety skills and then put them out on the course and have them practice those skills.  For the most part, all of that went as expected.  What got my attention was not the kids attention to safety, but many of them had real problems with the most important skill, bike control.

From my experience as a cyclist and my training as an LCI, I know that the first and most important skill in being safe on the road is simply to be able to control my bike well.  That includes riding in a straight line, making proper and controlled turns, being able to look behind and see dangers, and stopping.  While we teach these skills to riders of all ages, much of the skill comes simply from riding bikes often enough and long enough to become proficient in controlling your bike.

What I observed at this Safety Town was what I considered a high quantity of kids that could barely ride a bike.  I’m not talking about four and five-year-olds just starting out, but nine and ten-year-olds.  The most common comment I got from the kids was that they just hadn’t been on a bike very much.

I remember what it was like when I learned to ride a bike the first time.  It was scary.  It took me a year before I could completely ride without my feet touching the ground (we didn’t use training wheels).  I was seven at the time and I was a good bit behind my peers on learning to ride.  However, as soon as I could pick it up well, my riding advanced well.  Primarily because of the time we spent outside on bikes.

Bikes were major in my crowd at least until I was about thirteen or fourteen.  We rode everywhere in our neighborhoods.  While we had to work up from riding on our block to fully around the block and on to other streets, we covered a lot of ground.  Riding gave us access to our school friends and to places like parks and stores near us.  From about sixth grade to junior high, we rode the neighborhoods picking up soft drink bottles to turn in for their deposits.  We made a good bit of money this way that kept us in drinks and snacks all Summer long.

I am fairly certain that the lack of time kids spend on riding these days is primarily due to safety.  Though I know my streets as a kid were no more safer than today, the appearance of safety was different back then.  Blame it on media or whatever, parents are afraid of their kids being outside.  The rest of the problem may be too many video games, but mostly I think it’s the perception of safety that keeps kids off of bikes.

Regardless, my recommendation would still be — Get ’em on their bikes!  Yes, there are dangers outside.  Teach your kids how to ride safely.  Take them to Safety Towns run by LCI’s and let us teach them.  Put them in the proper safety gear (a helmet) and then watch them.  Make your neighborhoods safe.  Get together with neighbors and share watching over the kids while they are out riding.  Plant yourself at city hall with other parents and demand more paths and trails that actually, honest to God connect with places kids want to ride to, like school even.  Get the kids to ride in groups when they go out to keep them safe.

Trust me. Riding a bike is too important for your kids and mine to miss out on during growing up.  I probably didn’t get mine out enough, but I do know that they can ride. Riding is freedom and it’s responsibility.  Two things our kids need and need to practice.  Just because times change and things seem different is not a good enough reason to shy away from the real kinds of things that help kids grow up well. Get ’em on a bike…a lot.

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As originally promised, I will sometimes talk about things other than cycling and running.  Today happens to be one of those days.

While watching the Jon Stewart show the day after the election, I heard remarks from Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin that were just completely out of line, even for Fox News.  Bill O’Reilly told us that those that voted for President Obama did so only because they want “free stuff” and believe he’ll provide that.  Folks, those are his freakin’ words.  He went further into a diatribe that really cut down the American people, in my view.  Mrs. Palin was no better since she declared that the voters would rather elect a President that didn’t follow the Constitution (despite the fact she has no proof of that).

In addition, I have also listened to friends  discuss the outcome of the election as if it means that everything just went horribly wrong.  I will also say that many of my friends are also believers in God and followers of Jesus Christ.  I do not doubt in any way their sincerity or their faith.  However, I do not doubt mine either or my faith in the American system of government.

I’ll start with the outcome of the vote.  The electorate (that’s you and me guys) chose to return a Democrat President to the Whitehouse and maintain a split Congress (majority Republican in the House, majority Democrat in the Senate).  The day after the election, I listened to a press briefing from House Speaker John Boehner on the subject.  I agree with his assessment that the American people were quite clear in maintaining things as they are means that we really intend for these two parties and the two branches of government to work together.  Those are the wisest things I’ve heard from Speaker Boehner in the last two years.  The electorate has slapped the hands of both branches of government for their ineptitude in serving the country.  Now, we mean for them both to get off their high horses (of political special interests and issues) and go to work for goodness sake.

Second, I empathize with many Christians that feel it is a moral imperative to seek out political candidates that believe as they do about certain issues.  Yet, respectfully, I submit they are being fooled.  I turned away from supporting the Republican party two years ago when I heard the same Speaker Boehner say that the Republicans would refuse to compromise with the Whitehouse.  We see what that ill-advised plan has accomplished.  I continue to not support a Republican party that believes we can fix our economy with less regulation and less taxes for those that can afford same.  I will not support a Republican party that wants to do away with Obamacare because I believe that only lowers the quality of healthcare instead of raising it for all people.

Since much of this discussion hinges on a couple of moral issues, let me clarify something.  I am pro-life.  I believe in the sanctity of life and that abortion for no good reason is wrong.  I believe that marriage should only be between one man and one woman.  I also believe that homosexuality is wrong as well.  I believe these things because I believe in a living God and His Christ and that the Bible is important to the doctrine to which I ascribe.  However, that last part is very important, this is my belief and I am obliged to follow it.  I cannot use the rule of law (or political power) to try and enforce those beliefs on others.

Allow me to go further.  I believe in the freedom we all have as Americans.  Despite my beliefs, many people believe differently.  I am required by my own faith to respect their beliefs as I want mine respected.  I am still called to love everyone regardless of what they believe.  As such, I believe that the issue of marriage should be decided at the state level, not the federal.  This is actually what we are seeing.  Since there is no law against folks being homosexual, it’s our responsibility to treat all people equally regardless.  Since the legalization of abortion was determined on the issue of right to privacy, I am called to leave it where it lies.  It may not be turning out the way I like it, but that is not my issue to fix, even by my vote.  Chief Justice John Roberts already admitted that Roe v. Wade is “settled law” in his mind and that of many.  We need to get over these issues folks and turn our attention to being better witnesses and better parents if we want our morals to be respected.

Now, to apply those statements.  I personally chose to vote Democrat this time because I did not like the choices put forth by the Republican Party.  We have much, much bigger fish to fry than whether or not we have a marriage clause in the constitution or whether we can overturn Roe V. Wade.  I do believe there is a great separation between the wealthy and the poor (and the middle class too) in our nation.  I do believe that there is a sequestration of wealth going on at some level.  I also believe that Obamacare is a necessary step in the right direction for healthcare in our nation.  I want to see all levels of our society make the same impact and the same sacrifices to correct the poor economic situation.

Since I do not know the mind of God, I cannot see that it is “His will” to vote for one party over another.  Though all sins are equal with God, I think it a much greater sin for us to allow people to go without good paying jobs or without adequate healthcare.  Since it is clear from the Bible that we are to take care of God’s creation, we need to realize that climate change is happening and take adequate steps for our grandchildren’s futures.  Pardon me for not believing that maintaining healthy tax breaks for those above $250,000 per year in income will increase the financial security of the middle class or the poor.  Pardon me for not believing that less regulations upon financial institutions and manufacturers makes them more inclined to follow the rules and play fair.  Pardon me for thinking that a good path for poor immigrants towards work and responsibility is a good thing.  I think it appalling for us to blame any segment of our society for our problems, especially when many of our problems relate more to greed than anything else.

To sum all this up, I am calling for both parties involved in governing to grow up and learn to both get along together and work together for the common good of all the people.  Leave the issue of morality where it belongs, at home and in the pulpit.  Deal with the big issues of financial security and national security, like the Constitution actually says.  I am calling for all my friends that lament the choices made by the electorate this election year to also grow up and realize that God is still great.  I believe that the outcome represents God’s will for our nation and we should act accordingly.  Influence others by actually being Christian to all people.  Act like Jesus wants us to act. Quit worrying about which party believes what or if it is in power.  Learn to see through some of the rhetoric and listen to what is really being said.  I think you’ll be surprised.

If you’ve managed to stay with me this long, I’ll just get off my soapbox now.  I promise the next post will be about running or something much more enjoyable.  Happy running and cycling.

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I am really not sure why we humans tend to get all sappy and nostalgic at the end of each calendar year.  It seems to be a habit even if your year doesn’t end on December 31st.  However, reflection and remembrance is a part of human life.  Making resolutions also seems to be the wont of many people at this time of year as well.  I suppose all that reflection brings about regrets and memories of failures during the year.

My year has been topsy-turvy to say the least.  I have had significant changes in my work and career.  I am still trying to get used to some of the more recent changes.  I’m not one to dwell on failures so I don’t have a list of regrets.  Regrets also tend to be such a bad business anyway.  I guess the only significant foible this year on the athletic front was Hotter-n-Hell in August.  I had to DNF it because of a broken spoke.  That in itself doesn’t quite qualify as failure.  Yet, it did give me more initiative to learn how to overcome that problem through building (or rebuilding) my own wheel.  The proof in that pudding won’t show up until later in 2012, though.  I did have some sucesses as well.  I finally finished a ride that I had not completed in three years (Tour d’Italia – June).  I also completed my first triathlon and (ahem) my first marathon.  I’ve gotten to watch my kids grow up even more and learn how to deal with the world at large, and even to see my granddaughter at her school on grandparents day.  Yeah, I think there were plenty of good things happening in 2011.

I’m not sure when I decided to quit the whole ‘resolution’ thing, but I really don’t do those anymore.  I do prefer to set some goals for the year.  Resolutions are something you ‘resolve’ to do, but culturally and psychologically, they tend to be more judgmental and success/failure oriented than they should.  I also tend to think we set ourselves up with resolutions by making them unreachable then kicking ourselves for the failure.  Goals, on the other hand, don’t have to be that way.  Goals can be modified, adjusted, and reworked.  Goals can be delayed, if necessary.  One can measure efforts toward a goal as a percentage of success and then celebrate the percentage while making plans to continue.  I like goals.

I have finally gotten back to spending more time reading (grad school can really take that out of you).  I have several books lined up to read so far and I am going to try to keep at it.  I finally have back some of the desire to read more science fiction than I had in the past.  Hopefully, I’ll keep finding new works to read.  Spending more time reading is a good goal for 2012.

On the training front, I am already working on my eating habits.  I hope I can continue being diligent and will see my weight continue to drop.  I know that my speed in running and swimming has picked up because of weighing less.  I am also going to try and keep a longer long run going.  I am planning to do a 10, 12, 15-mile rotation beginning next month.  I had started doing 5-milers on Mondays.  I am not certain those will stay, but we’ll see.  I don’t plan on another marathon this year, but in 2013…we’ll see.  Running more miles with less weight is a good goal.

After ‘Santa’ brought me a Park Tension Meter for Christmas, I have succeeded in getting my Trek back together.  The rear wheel certainly feels solid and the statistics of the tension meter says I have a strong wheel.  Time will tell on that point.  It would be really nice to be able to ride my Trek all year, and my plans are to finish the 100-miler at Hotter-n-Hell again this year.  More riding is certainly a worthy goal for 2012.

I certainly enjoyed the triathlon I did this past September.  I am making it a goal to go back to that one come September 2012.  I am also going to work on the Olympic distance triathlon this year.  There is one in Waco in July that sounds good.  A 1500 meter swim in the Brazos river in July ought to be a hoot.  Two triathlons are good goals for 2012.

This next year, I will turn 52.  I do know that one of my goals for 2012 is to cease worrying about stuff.  If you know anything at all about me, you’ll know that is very hard for me to do.  But it’s a goal, nonetheless and one I am biblically commanded to do.  And, speaking of that general area, I am going to try and keep my mind open concerning theology this year.  I know that I am certainly becoming much more liberal in both theology and politics of late.  It’s rather refreshing sometimes, but it brings me into conflict also.  However, I think I am getting old enough I can just say to the…well, you know.

A new year is a time for us to reflect on the past year, and to prepare for the next.  I’m not quite sure why we do this just because it’s January 1, but it’s not a bad idea.  I do think it’s important for us to take our new year with a grain of salt.  Even with my plans to run, race, read, and worry less, I still have to factor in that I am not in control of all things.  God has designs that I don’t always know about, and it is important to be flexible.  He is the one that controls my steps and sometimes my plans run counter to His.  It’s always good to not let our goals take over everything.  Rigidity is not a pretty sight.  But, I look forward to seeing how 2012 will work out.  Some of it will be like I planned and some of it won’t.  In the end, I think I will look forward to the New Year.  How about you?

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OK, maybe I might lose a few of you on this one, but that may just be too bad.  I have watched and listened over the past few weeks about the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I have listened to the derision of the protesters from the politicians and the pundits.  And, I am ashamed.  I do not completely know how the protests will turn out, but as I recall, our forefathers fought a war over just this issue, the idea of being able to redress grievances.  In case anyone forgets, our nation was born in revolution, and as a good submarine captain once quoted, “A little revolution now and again is a good thing.” (more…)

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The Big Questions…


Some of you know that I work for my church.  On occasion, my role is to “try” and translate for the other ministers when needed.  I speak Spanish…sort of.  A cross-cultural minister we had that inspired me led me to learning Spanish and I’ve worked on that for a long time.  I’m still not good at it, but the other ministers (except the ones that REALLY speak Spanish) think I am and they call on me.  I spent several times this week translating for our community minister and what I have learned just really bugs me. (more…)

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Please pardon the blatant title pun.  All last week I’ve had this title stuck in my head as an idea for a post, but I’ve been avoiding it.  But, like Mark Lowry that tried desperately to give his Mama the last word, something brilliant just popped into my head, and out of my fingers.  I just couldn’t resist poking some fun at these two guys that are worlds apart in some respects, but very close in others. (more…)

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