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dan_wants_you

Dan says, “WE WANT YOU!!

WANNA WRITE FOR THE NORTH BALTIMORE BIKE BLOG?!

We used to maintain the practice that one could blog on the site after we all met and rode together and all that. There are actually a number of contributors to this site. With new babies, Johnny’s accident and, well, LIFE, we haven’t gotten together to ride in ages – not since winter. So we have decided to open up blog membership to all comrades who pedal around the mean and hilly streets of North Baltimore City. Do you ride in North Baltimore? Do you ride through it from North of the City on your way to work? Do you never get anywhere near it but instead tear up the sharrows in your own part of the City? In short, are you a “Baltimore” cyclist?

Then this means YOU.

There are a small list of rules you might think about before signing up, which are subject to change:

1) Please write about cycling, not your new cat.
2) Feel free to moderately swear and cuss, but don’t get too Kevin Smith on us. There are some families who read this. They’ve probably heard the Sh-word and maybe even the F-word before, but there are other…dirtier things best left to your personal blog.
3) Please post some kind of image with your blog posts. All of them, as far as this is possible. Blogging is a visual medium. Images are not to exceed 500 pixels wide or high, or the blog format may get messed up. If you can’t resize, try GIMP (it’s free and easy to learn!). No nudity please. Please abide by fair-use, and don’t hyperlink photos from other websites, stealing their bandwidth.
4) Please try to be positive. Drivers often suck, and we all know it. But reading about that isn’t going to make the folks who read this site wanna cycle in this city, or any city.
5) We really do not want to have to censor people, but we reserve the right to remove inflammatory posts, naked pictures of your dad coming out of the tub, etc.
6) Please don’t sign up and never post at all. While posting quotas are stupid because everyone has a life, if you sign up and don’t post something in your first 30 days, you’re membership will be canceled. Sorry.
7) Oh, yeah. You have to, you know, be a cyclist. Not something who likes bikes or owns a bike. But if you’re not a cyclist, you probably wouldn’t want to sign up anyway.

If you think these rules are fair and want to blog with us, please email northbaltimorebikebrigadeATyahooDOTcom (with appropriate symbols, of course) with your email address, where you live, why you wanna join, your blogging experience, etc. Or, leave a comment to THIS post. We never share personal information, and we will get in touch with you and get you signed up.

Thanks for your continued support!

Dan and Johnny
Co-Founders, North Baltimore Bike Brigade.

cr_bike_1_0609
After writing about how long it’s been since there was a cycling death in Baltimore City, last week, two cyclists were killed in Ocean City in one week.

The first, Kristin Anne Stormer (23), of Hollidaysburg, PA, was reportedly crossing in the crosswalk against the traffic signal. Witnesses report that she was wearing headphones. This was in broad daylight.  The driver is not being charged. (Source.)

Then on 2:30 Friday morning, Daniel Bren (like the machine gun) struck Edward Zisk (41) and Maxim Matuzov (20), both of Ocean City, Maryland. The two were cycling on the Route 50 bridge when a drunk driver struck them both and left the scene. Thanks are due to the witness who followed the truck and helped identify the driver. Daniel Bren, this “dirty pig of filth“* is being charged with a list of offenses, including negligent homicide by vehicle while under the influence. Homicide, when you kill a cyclist. That’s what you should be charged with. The authorities got it right this time. (Source.)

Our condolances and well-wishes go out to everyone affected by these tragedies.

*[Maybe he's a "nice" guy, but he hit two people with his truck and left the scene, killing a man -- after being irresponsible enough to drive drunk in the first place. Even if he's a saint who drove drunk for the first time last week, it's hard to feel badly for his plight. Not with a life cut short. Cut short by his behavior.]

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Two weeks ago in New York, we spotted two Ghost Bikes on our way from Midtown to The Village on foot.  These are not a common feature of Baltimore City.  In the City Paper‘s bike issue this spring, they interviewed Nate Evans, the City government’s top bike gent:

CP: How does the cycling fatality rate in Baltimore compare to other big cities?

NE: We are actually very low. From 2002 to 2008, we had maybe four fatalities. I think the last one we had was two years ago. The Police Department and DOT share their crash statistics, so we can kind of track where that’s happening. Even New York City, which has a very high number of cyclists, has a very high percentage of bike deaths compared to us.

I should not type this (KNOCK ON WOOD! KNOCK ON WOOD! KNOCK ON WOOD!!!!), but since we have not had a cycling death in Baltimore in like two years (read this article for the rest), I had never seen a Ghost Bike in person before.

ghostbikenyc_ 1
You see pictures on the internet or Yehuda Moon, and some of the photos are fantastic and all that. But you have to see people looking at it on their lunch break wondering what the hell it means to appreciate what a startling and…powerful image it is.  I could not stop looking at either one, and I really totally and actually felt a tinge of guilt for photographing them.
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Despite their message that can really only be conveyed in person, I can’t say I’m an ANY rush to see one around Baltimore — ever. But is it an inevitability? I don’t know.  On good days, I think the about the great work that the City government and local activists are doing and that riding in Baltimore gets one very skilled in urban cycling very quickly and so that a cycling death may be another two years off.  On other days, I see the way people in general and people in Baltimore drive, and I don’t feel so nicely about our odds as a cycling city and as cyclists who are living beings with families and connections and who the world will miss if we get smashed by a careless cab or sinister SUV or a damned door-prize.

And if/when our next cycling fatality happens, will cycling in Baltimore drop off? Because, I have to say, even with the Baltimore summer setting in, I’m seeing more people riding and more bikes on racks.

wash_sq_bike
Saw this dapper gent in Washington Square Park in New York last week. He looked so relaxed that I thought about getting a single-speed bike, like I was telling Dan. But then I remembered that Baltimore is much more hilly than Manhattan. Still, I liked that bike, especially that he used the mounting brackets for a metal rack for a milkcrate.

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As  you can imagine, shopping for that all-important next bike has been eating up a lot of my time and consciousness over the last [nearly] nine weeks.  I bought a Novara and returned it after getting Mr. Foot crushed by that lady who thought watching where she was driving was a stupid idea.  Plus, as I mentioned, I was less than impressed with the service at the store/location I won’t name.

Last time I bought a bike on purpose, it was 2006.  Needless to say, “commuter bike” was only emerging in faint whispers as a bike category.  And hell, no one ever mentioned mounts for racks and fenders as a feature of a bike back then! I bought that bike, a Giant Cypress DX, in 2006 from a local chain, and I was happy with the job they did putting it together.  Really happy.  Two thousand miles under my fat ass, speeding all over Baltimore’s broken streets, and the rims were true when I crashed, and I think they did a nice job adjusting everything else before they sent me on my way.  Which was good, considering I was too afraid to adjust brakes back then. That didn’t last long, but still.

Now, there are bikes with internal hubs, fenders or room for better fenders, steel frames, upright riding frames, etc.  It’s dizzying.  I won’t waste your afternoon (because you know you’ll look them all up) listing all of the bikes that have featured as my replacement bike of the day. I think I’m driving my poor wife and cycling buddies crazy with my bike ranting. “Holy shit, dude! You should see the specs on the bike I looked up today during my lunch hour!”

Really, you start seeing a lot of the same stuff.  Heavy shocks, with lock-out becoming a feature of the higher-end models.  Eyelets to mount all kinds of stuff, with clearance for fenders.  Double-walled rims and decent tires.  Better seats and riser bars as far as the eye can see. Every time I found a bike I liked, I would find three others just like it for around the same price from different manufacturers.

Then it comes down to where to actually buy your bike. Do I go back to the store I was unhappy with when they are the only place around town to get a few of the bikes I like?  Do I go to a shop that I have never liked because they sell a certain Trek I find alluring? Or some place with a good reputation that is all the way across town from where I live and work? I know where I want to buy my bike. They only carry a few brands, but within those brands, I see some bikes I really like and some I just plain drool over. I miss having an LBS, as I’ve mentioned. I’m looking forward to getting a new bike and shopping and building it up with nice accessories.

Dan said that buying a bike from a national chain didn’t “seem like [me],” which I take as a compliment. He said he thought I’d go local or get a sweet used bike. With some of the used bikes I’ve seen at the LBS I mentioned, hell, I might just do both.

I keep remembering how disappointing it can be when you get a new bike whose specs you love and that you love when you saw it the first time, only to see it poorly assembled and beaten up before you even get to ride it — no matter how good of a deal it is.

penn051509
I took some photos of the bikes at Penn Station on Bike 2 Work Day on May 15th. I felt terrible for not being able to ride myself. But I had a new bike at home and was a week or two from being back to regular commuting. (Hell, it would be good for my hands/wrists, probably. At least to get my strength back.) I was in a good mood, after getting good news from my hand doctor that week. But I never got to post photos and/or talk about Bike 2 Work Day because that crazy driver ran me over that afternoon.

In the morning that day, I noticed the usual number of cyclists as my bus made its way down University Parkway and St. Paul Street. I was late, and I think most people were already at work. I wanted to take a walk to the Jones Falls Trail that morning, since I think a lot of new cyclists opt for that route. Not that I blame them; it’s a nice calm spot for workday hauling. I thought I’d get some shots in the afternoon, of folks on their way home. But that didn’t work out, either.

I got my foot run over at like 4 pm on Charles Street and got to stay there for a while, as folks made their way home. I didn’t notice more cyclists than usual while we were there with security, the police and the fire department. It could have been the time of day. But I was there long enough on a nice enough Friday, that I think pre-5pm traffic could have been expected.  Could have been the constant construction on Charles Street, too.  Maybe folks were relaxing with beers after a nice B2WD.
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I have noticed something since that Friday: a hell of a lot more bikes around town. This week, I was on Gordon Plaza at the University of Baltimore helping with a mosaic, and I was dumb-founded with the number of cyclists going everywhere. To the store. To work. To home. To school. While I wait for my bus and relax while riding it each day, I see more people all the time. I should really pay more attention and count one day.

One thing I know for sure is that there are far more cyclists riding around in traffic in Baltimore than there were pre-B2DW. And isn’t that the point? Not to get people to ride on May 15th, but more often than that?  I didn’t have my camera, but there were far more bikes this morning at Penn Station than before May 15th.  One that I never saw until that day but now see all the time, too.

Kudos to Baltimore’s cycling advocates (Barry, Nate Evans, et al). Their work is paying off for all of us.

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