Dude, Wheres My Country?

Why would we allow the terrorists to win by doing to ourselves what they could never do, and abandon the principles for which so many Americans today and through our history have fought and sacrificed?”. . .

I have been grieving, and trying to find a voice, a language, for that grief. I have so far failed to achieve the elequence of Senetor Patrick Leeahy, still my grief, however inelequent, will not hold it's tounge

Today dawned with the news that the Senate has endorsed Bush’s proposals for the treatment of "terror suspects".
I never thought of myself as a patriot until recently, until after the word was co-oped by fascists. As too often happens with love, I came to understand how much I love my country only after finding it slipping away.

I loved the things that once set this country apart, I was so enchanted by our legal system that at one point I seriously considered becoming a lawyer. I am particularly partial to the notion of the presumption of innocence, and the idea that if we suspect that someone has committed a crime, all the parties come together, face to face, and present the facts and evidence to an impartial judge and jury. I loved that we honored Habeas Corpus, an ethic that has stood for hundreds of years, in numerous countries, dating back to the Magna Carta. I am a mom, and I appreciate the need to keep our streets, as well as our tall buildings, safe; but if you think someone is a threat, take it to court. Thats my position.

I loved that we were champions of the Geneva Convention, I loved that we stood for individual freedoms and justice, above all els. I loved that I was raised on the Voltaire credo "I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Today, in my home town, and in home towns throughout this once brave nation, people are being targeted for their participation in Quaker meetings, for opposing the War, for association with environmental groups, for their bumper stickers. seriously. I have stopped using the city's mass transit system because they have a policy of detaining and reporting to the police folks who's bikes have stickers baring the name of the Florida indy group "this bike is a pipe bomb". I don't have such a sticker on my bike, but I have a conscience, and a respect for the Constitution (remember the Constitution?) and an absolute belief that your right to swing your arm extends right up to a hair's breadth of my nose.

A bumper sticker is not shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. Whatever you, or I, or anyone els thinks of such a bumper sticker --or a particular religion, or political persuasion-- our system of government champions the right to have and declare that sentiment, faith, or perspective. No one should have to justify their beliefs to a bus driver, or anyone els.

Who are we if we no longer believe that. If we are no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave? What are we without the Bill of Rights and the Constitution? When did these things cease to be our birthright? When did we stop believing in them?

During the Holly Wars, Afghanistan not only refrained from torturing their prisoners of war, they made a point of treating them humanly. They did this absent any Genivia Convention, UN observers or letters from Amnesty International. They treated their prisoners with basic human dignity because of how doing so reflected on they themselves, the captors. They held themselves to high standards, and in doing so, held the moral high ground. This policy of humane treatment did not make them weak, or vulnerable, or less effective in their wars. It just meant they stood for something. The same was once true of our Nation, standing for freedom, justice and human rights did not make us weak, it made us strong, and it made us great.

I no longer think of becoming a lawyer, these days I think about studying French and moving to Canada, seriously.
Of course, these days I cant think about Canada without thinking about Maher Arar, the Canadian computer consultant and father of two, who was detained by US authorities in New York City in September, 2002. He then became one more victem of the administration's new policy of rendition, and endured ten months of torture and abuse at the hands of Syrian captors, imprisoned under deplorable conditions and forced to make false confessions. This is what torture leads to: good and innocent men making false statements –any statement-- to make it stop.

This was no aberration (if ONLY it were an isolated case). There are countless other examples, more everyday, some of which I am more intimately familiar than others. Brandon Mayfield, a family law attorney here in Portland, is a good man, and honest man, and perhaps most importantly, an innocent man. He was erroneously linked to the attacks on Madrid in 2004, resulting in his family home being servailed and secretly searched, and ultimately to his being spirited away and held for 19 days. Mayfield was never charged, and an FBI internal review later acknowledged serious errors in their investigation.

Over the course of those 19 days, during which his family did not know where he was or how to assist his legal defense, Mayfield experienced the nightmare of an innocent man ensnared in a capital offense by seemingly conclusive (though completely false) evidence. He and his family will never get those three weeks back, nor has their life returned to what it once was.

In these dark days, the very fabric of our society has been catastrophically altered. In the climate of fear that the "war on terrorism" engenders, the response of government to theoretical threats can wreak every bit as much havoc on the innocent who become victims of its of its counter-terrorism tactics, as the "terrorists" themselves. In the case of rolling back rights, governments can do the kind of harm no terrorist could ever hope to accomplish.
Just ask Brandon;s children.

In the most recent Xmen film there is a quote: "The whole world's going to hell, you gonna just sit there?" perhaps there will yet be Patriots who raise to the challenge of reclaiming both the title, and this country, from the fascists. Liberators who will indeed be greeted with roses and cheers. Perhaps there is yet hope for some rag-tag band of super heroes to rise up in the name of freedom, there have been such heros in the past, those who understood that we can not defend democracy abroad while abandoning at home, and had the courage to say so. Perhaps my grief is premature.


Traffic Jam of the Future

I am still in my post-Car Free Day bliss (Portland made a 3 day weekend of it) and in love with every single member of Shift2Bikes. From whome I got this rad shot.


How We Get There Matters

IT'S CAR FREE DAY!! And the good news is anything your car can do, your bike can do better!

You can shop by bike

You can whip up breakfast on the go on your bike

You can pick up the kids with your bike

You can go camping by bike

You can get married on a bike

You can move house by bike, especially if you have cycling buddies

You can take your pets to the vet by bike

You can do things your mother would NEVER apporve of

You can create a world of difference



Today, Tim Harvey, an amazing young man is on the last leg of a bike trip that began 2 years ago, and has covered 5 continents. He has done this without releasing gram of carbon or burning one ounce of fossil fuel. He has circled the globe on his own steam Literaly. Where is it you need to go today that you think you need a car for? Rethink.


Cycling Quanrdries

Portland is not so much one city as a collection of distinct neighborhoods, defined loosely by their compass directions. The river cuts through the middle of the city, straddled by seven bridges and dividing the East side from West. On the West side is the swanky North West district, and bustling South West Portland, which includes the University district where I attend collage, the business district, and the downtown core. On the East side in the newly gentrified North Portland (NoPo, our answer to SoHo), North East and the super cool South East neighborhoods. Yesterday, my peddled powered errands took me from NE, into SE, across the river into the hurly burly of downtown (SW), up into ritzy NW to meet a friend, and back over essentially the same rout back home, a loop of about 18 hilly miles.

It is rare for me to hit four regions of the city in one day ( I have yet to attempt all five) and I'm not sure whether it was an example of pushing myself appropriately, or just pushing myself over the edge. I just knew that I had things to do in each of the areas, and I was to stubborn to do it any other way. After months of relentlessly sunny and warm days, the mornings now are dawning overcast and gray, with frequent rain. For Monday's excursion I layered up (excessively, as it turned out) and headed out into it with the same hard-headed stubbornness with which I approach so many endeavors. But Monday I was on my own, the Boy safe and snug at his fathers house. I find that, just as I am a more defensive rider when I have the Boy in tow, I am also more of a weather wimp when transporting him.

The unusualy long and sunny summer has given me a long reprieve from dealing with how to get my kid around in foul weather, and I find myself missing the days when I could enclose him in a baby trailer. Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night deters me from riding (most days), but I turn to slushy mush at the idea of my son being uncomfortable. We did well last winter, though we fell back on busing and car share more than I would have liked. I want to get us fully transitioned away from fossil fuel use, but I dont want to deal with a pre-teen meltdown as a result.

This winter I am considering blowing most of the "transportation" part of my Financial Aid budget on an Xtracycle, which would allow me to haul and transport any number of things that I currently can't, and would allow me to do the bike blender thing, but it would largley commit me to cycle commuting. hmmmmnn. As I was looking at their site I found this photo, perhaps this could be an answer. (the bike in the foreground has the canopy built onto it with piping, the bike in the background is not attached, it's just there)

Though I suspect it of being more decoritive than functional, it would be fun. And isnt that what life's all about.


The Weather Is Here

I woke this morning to the sound of car wheels on rain drenched streets. We are having serious rain showers, which is a darn shame for all the clothes that were drying out on the line, and a bit of a shame for me, as I have a full day of errands and running all over town today. By bike. As they say over at the Minus Car Project "the temperature is no excuse to not ride today!" Nor is the weather. I have been comforting myself with the knowledge that, whatever the weather, I wont be facing signs like this while cycling:

The photo comes from the brilliant and talented Tim over at Bicycles and Icicles, a blog that I just discovered and very much enjoy, despite it's lacking nude celebrity photos (inside joke, check out the site)



In preporation for Car Free Day, one of the SHIFT folks sent an email around to we volunteers that included this photo from a previous years event. I just had to share it. Not only is it a great shot, it gives me an opportunity to remind you all that
CAR FREE DAY is September 22nd
and BIKE FRIDAY is September 29th, the last Friday of this month, and every month

Is There an Animal Doctor in the House?

Some of you may remember that The Boy and I had quite a time hatching a pair of ducklings about three weeks ago. Of the 10 eggs we started with, only #6 and #7 were "live births". "Six" was the last to hatch, and has always been the "runt", but (s)he seemed to be doing ok untill Thursday, when (s)he became wobbly, exhibeting labored breathing, and just generally seeming not well. We brought her inside and set up a little "sick-bay" for her

Where else but mamma's bed for the little sickie to convelese? (thats my night stand in the background, can you tell I like to read?) I set her up with a heat lamp above, a heat pad underneith and --just for good measure-- a hot waterbottle (it quickly became clear that (s)he was quite warm enough, so I removed the waterbottle).

The red "nest" is a fleece hat I got last year that just wasn't "me", but it seems to suit the duckling just perfectly. Finding an agrarian veterinarian in the city is, well difficult, and I used to work for a small animal vet, so for the time being I am playing it by ear. (S)he seems much more comfortable now that she is warm and cozy, and is really enjoying her "cloth mother". Heres hoping for the best.

Meanwhile, there other poultry around our family homestead are doing great: "Sever" is thriving, and growing by the minute, as are the trio of banty chicks we somehow picked up along the way (ok, I admit it, it was me. I gotta stop to the Feed Store unattended)

Considering Xtracycling

I have been brainstorming about ways to further reduce my fossil fuel use and energy consumption. Although it has been about a year since I gave up my car, I still participate in a car share program, and use a car for one massive shopping trip each month. I have been eying a used Xtracycle , similar to the one in the photo above (the girl and fruit do not come standard) for some time, and it has occurred to me recently that much of the driving I do is done because I need to transport items that are too large or bulky to go on my bike, an Xtracycle would fix that, and allow me to do all my shopping by bike (in this scenario I would doubtless move to weekly, rather than monthly, shopping trips). It would also allow me to start that Bike Powered Smoothie business I have been toying with (the blender in the photo is powered by the bike). All of which assumes I am strong enough and motivated enough to actually use the Xtracycle instead of the car . . . hmmmn


Rugging Up for Winter Cycling

The fever that has gripped the maritime Northwest since February has finally broken, ending the latest in a long line of "hottest summers on record" and givenway, at long last, to the cool, grey days that feel like home.

Remembering last winter's storms, the first I bike-commuted through, I have been searching the Net, cycling magazines and other resources, for tips on dressing for winter cycling. Without exception, they say --in essence-- pack up your credit cards and head to the Mall for a couple hundrad dollars in specialty cycling gear.

That might, in fact, be the best approach, they all have very reasoned arguments for why the specalty gear is the way to go. However, The fix-it guy tells me that I am about to have the 6 million dollar bathroom, The Boy and I both need back-to-school what-not, and if we are very lucky indeed the budget will stretch far enough for all that. So I have been getting innovative in my efforts to rugg up for winter cycling

Topping my wish list of pricy insulation from the specialty cycling catalogs were these lovely wool "arm warmers", that are doubtless worth their $50 price tag. Instead, I hit the thrift stores, where, among other things, I found this really nice sweater made from Merlino wool. My ex-mother in law --who really knows her wool-- raves about Merlino. The only problem with the sweater was that it appeared to have gone through a dryer cycle. When you shrink a garmet made from Merlino wool, it gets even warmer, more water resistant, and softer. Which is great if you can still wear it in it's smaller form. I noticed the sleaves were attached with seams, rather than the seater being all one piece, and thinking of those over-priced arm warmers, I paid the $5 for the swater, brought it home, and cut the sleaves off just past the seam (so they wont unravel). I am now the proud owner of the lovliest arm-warmers, soft as kittens and they fit perfectly. Pretty good for $5. I have a pattern for making a winter hat out of the remaining wool, so then I will have a stylin hat to match my swanky arm warmers.

I also found non-shrunken wool sweaters, and a really good rain coat, the entire shopping spree cost less than those arm warmers from the catalog. Pretty cool, just intime for the return of cooler weather. Proof that you could pay more, but why?

The MinusCar Project has some great posts about winter cycling, he has been doin this longer than me, and has a far more developed system than I, so check it out.

How To Spend the Holidays?

For a number of reasons, all of which seem perfectly well reasoned and rational at the moment (and will almost certainly seem wrong headed and optuse down the road) I am planning on spending the majority of the official, judio-christan holidays with The Boy's paternal relitives. Kinda ironic that the first year I feel like I have a choice and I am choosing the status quo.

Although I am planning to spend this year largely following these familiar patterns, I am also looking for new and different ways of celebrating the season. It has been over a decade since I was able to plan a holiday observance according to my own whims, so I am not even sure where to begin. So far, what passes for my plan is to start incorperating celebrations that do not fall on the legal holidays: Solstice, Saternalia, perhpas a feast on the date of the Canadian Thanksgiving in October, ect. Since the extended family does not celebrate these, I could share those observances with friends, and plan them any way I like. My hope is that spinkling these celebrations around my family obligations will make the whole season more "festive" for me, and with liuck I could use these observances to begin crafting my own celebrations of the season.

SO, what I want to know from all of you is this: what are your winter traditions and observances? How do you celebrate the season, do you have things you do as a family unit, or even on your own, seperate from the hustle and bustle of official observances with extended family? Do you celbrate non traditional (or non American) holidays? If so, how do you observe them? Click the "comments" link to spend yer 2 cents here! :)


This Just In: Wicked Cool Bike Lights!

I am not big on consumer products, but there are a few things, like helmets, rain gear and lights, that you just cant do without. In my not-so-humble opinion, this is just such an item: If Martha and Oprah can publish lists of favorite things, why not me.

Reelights have a self-contained electrical system, utilizing LEDs and high-power neodymium magnets. My 11 year old son could explain bout magnets and power generation, but he does not have a blog. It has something to do with electromagnetic induction principle. What I can tell you is that these bike lights are designed to deliver their own energy source. There is no friction involved, as there is with traditional tire mounted generators. Owing to the magnet set up. the lights flash, like stobe lights. By adding additional magnets, one chan can change the speed at which they flash.

The self-contained energy system allows the lights to be on day and night at no extra cost to the user, while increasing visibility and reducing the odds of an accident. Durability trials involving 2000 bicycles were conducted, over a period of 12 months, including harsh salt spray tests and other adverse conditions. The results confirmed that Reelight's quality, reliability and safety.

We have all found ourselves with a malfunctioning light or flat batteries (it happened to me just a few nights ago, and not for the first time) No batteries ever, no generator rubbing your wheel, totally sealed unit.. brilliant.

According to their website, research in Europe has shown that these lights:

Provide 20% decreased accident probability
Lifelong electrical power – no batteries
Conform to most standards and legal requirements
Are easily mounted on all standard bicycles

Share The Road

I visited BikePortland , and ,low-and-behold, theres a shot of my beloved bike featured among the "Random Photos"! I am ridiculously proud.
All this month the BTA is heading up the Commuter Challenge, encouraging folks to commute by bike. September 22nd is International Car Free Day --in classic Portland style we are making a long weekend of it, with events Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Finally, September 29th is Bike Friday: invite a fried or co-worker to join you in sifting to bikes the last Friday of the month! :)


Bike Friday, I Mean It!

I tell ya, more and moe it seems like all good things come from, or at least originate in, Canada. The brillient and tallented Joe over at Bike Toronto , one of my personal cycling blog heros, has started a wonderful pedal-powered event: Bike Friday, which brings people together on the last Friday of every month to commute to work together! What a great way to encourage folks to make the shift to bikes! Now, just imagine if people all over the contenent --or all around the world-- where to join this people's movement and commit to cycling to work that one Friday a month (if not more)!! Can you imagine the possitive impact on health, community, envoronment, and reduced congestion?!

I think that, too often, we leave it to governments to create legal and policy changes; we look to officals and organizations to be the catalysts, to impose and legislate reform. We fool ourselves into believing that our individual choices and actions will not make enough of a difference, we trick ourselves into believing that we are not empowere to get the ball rolling

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?"

The choices we make change the world, choosing to commute to work by bike, even once a month, is huge.
If you live in Portland Oregon: SHIFT provides a Breakfast on the Bridges for cycle commuters heading into the City THE LAST FRIDAY OF EVERY MONTH! It's like a great cosmic convergance! So, hop on your bike the last Friday of each month, and stop off for breakfast. If you need a commute buddy, SEUL's has just such a program : For more information, contact Steve Hoyt: 503-232-0010 x321 or"

What do you do if you dont live in Portland or Toronto? What if there isnt an organized Bike Friday event already organized in your area? What if there isnt a Bike Buddie program in your area? START SOMETHING! Your playing small does not serve the world, invite some co-workers or friends to join you on the commute, organize a bike commuter breakfast (the one in Portland is nothing elaborate, just coffee and pastries) or simply reward yourselves with a stop at a top notch cafe along the way. Perhaps folks could load their bike baskets with a pic-nic breakfast that you could all share when you arrive, or at a park near the office.
You can do this, and this is the very stuff of magic and social change!



September 11th, 1906 Mahatma Ghandi founded the Nonviolence Movement .

Be the change you want to see in the world


A Bright Idea Who's Time Has Come

According to a semi recent AP story 1a near record number of bicycles were sold last year (2005). According to the US Chamber of Commerce, MORE BICYCLES THAN CARS WERE SOLD IN THE UNITED STATES IN 2005.

An estimated 87 million commuters opted for two wheels instead of four, in the past year, according to Bikes Belong. “19 million bicycles were sold last year -- close to the 20 million sold during the oil embargo in the early 1970s"

Bikes may be back due the sharp increase in gas prices, but cycling industry leaders believe this is a major paradigm shift thats here to stay, in part because comuters are discovering that going by bike is faster in traffic, less expensive, and more pleasent.

And with that bright idea comes Cycle Commuting Tip #2: Get Lit.

Having passed the solstice, we find the days turning to night earlier. When I began utility cycling I had no idea just how invisible I was when cycling at twilight or later. I imagined that my reflectors, along with the ubiquitous street lights, kept me clearly visible. HA! What an idiot is was. In honor of the BTA's Bike Commuter Challenges (which encourages novice cyclists to make the shift to commuting to work by bike) I am posting info on cycling basics (frankly, from what I have seen while riding out there, new bike commuters are not the only ones who need a refresher course) Today's tip: get lit!

Reflectors are essential, but not sufficient in-and-of themselves. Reflectors work best when a light source is aimed directly at you (e.g. a car coming right at you) On the other hand, in the more comon (and dangerous) scenario of a car about to pull out of a side street right in front of you, after dark, the headlights aren't aiming in your direction at all, so there's no light for your reflectors to reflect back. Cars with damaged headlights aiming at the ground or the sky. Car with one burned-out headlight bulb, particularly the drivers-side bulb. There are a hundrad different situations in which reflectors will fail.

Here is a photo of a cyclist, with reflectors but no headlightlight, passing under a street light(dont try yhis at home). See the cyclist??

Here is the same cyclist with a head light on the bike as well as a light on their helmet

Although one cant protect ones self from every possible threat, it makes sense to do what we can, and there is a great deal that can be done to increase visability and reduce the chance of an accident or death

Even with head and tail lights (a legal requirement for riding after dark in most municipalities) Cyclist remain nearly invisible from the side (e.g. while passing in through an intersection) We have all seen cars sail past stop signs or blow through red lights, the vast majority of cyclist/auto accidents happen between 6pm and 6 am, when drivers are in a hurry to get where they are going, not paying as much attention as they should, and not thinking in terms of watching out for anything smaller than another car. You want them to notice you before they connect with you. Adding refective tape, additional reflectors and lights can make a huge difference. You can even get tires that have a built-in refective strip, I have these and they seem to make a difference
For those who want to make an even bigger splash in the darkness, there are Hoky Spokes, these electrical, computorized wheel lights will set you back anywhere from $60 to $180, depending on how meny of the "blades" one opts for.
But they are SO freakin cool! Talk about bells-and-whistles, these things pulse and falsh in any number and variety of colors, you can even program them to flash messages. "Share the Road" perhaps?

So, as you head out to join the other 87 million people making the shift to bikes, make sure you can see and been seen. And in the inimitable words of the Captin from Hill Street Blues "Be careful out there!"


Cycling Tip #1 Wear Your Helmet

Maybe it's the full moon, or I dont know what, but I find myself suddenly under the gun with projects that need to be finished; an article that is due, but not yet written; workshops to be designed, promoted and pulled off; oh, and I have to clean my house so that a fixer-guy --who bares a striking and delicious resembelence to a blond Jake Gyllenhaal-- can come work on my bathroom (I am secretely working on a lengthy list of home improvement projects in the hope of keeping him around indeffinetly, kinda like the painter on Murphy Brown)

So, in my absence, please remember that erin is preparing for a benefit walk that promises to makes the lives of countless children better --and longer. Zilla has a wonderful post about it. Please give generously.

Also, in honor of the BTA's Bike Commuter Challenge (all this month), and International Car Free Day (September 22nd), here is a refresher on signaling --and a motherly reminder to wear your freakin helmet! I had hoped to have tips and resources each day of the Challenge, but I am swamped, so the tips will be intermitent and periodic: and the most important one is wear your freakin helmet. For additional resources, check out Bike Portland , especially good if you live in Oregon.

*1 in 8 of the cyclists with reported injuries has a brain injury.

* Wearing a bike helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent.

* Eighty-five percent of bicyclists killed in 2003 reportedly were NOT wearing helmets.

* Helmets are cheap. The typical discount store price has risen from under $10 to about $15, but there are still models available for under $10 at major retailers.

* Bicycle helmet usage has increased from 18 percent in 1991 to 50 percent in 1998

* Of bikers who now report wearing a helmet, 98 percent said they wore a helmet for safety reasons, 70 percent said they wore a helmet because a parent or spouse insisted on it and 44 percent said they did so because a law required it.

Jake Gyllenhaall wears a helmet



Local jobs support not only the employees, but the local economy as well. Everyone benefits. A number of human rights organizations have demonstrated that, where sweat shops, 'Big Box', National chains, and multinational corps are concerned, increased profits to the business do not translate into better wages, benefits, or working conditions for the workers.

Conversely, theres a wealth of evidence to show that when local farms and business get community support, wages, jobs and community prosperity improve. The film "The Future of Food" documented how, with increased community support, local farms and CSAs are able to provide jobs for employees who have previously worked for large, momoculture farms. Jobs are not lost in the equation, but working conditions and wages improve. Similarly, when business profits stay in the community, rather than going to corporate headquarters, schools and other tax-base dependent community services benefit. Which means we all benefit. When profits --and even jobs-- are exported, we all loose.

I have heard it argued that there is a highly efficient system transporting food and other “consumer products” around the country and around the world. Fossil fuel, like any fuel, can be measured in calories, and on average, 10 calories are burned for every calorie of food shipped. That is not efficient. Shipping goods and products also requires excess packaging, something that can be minimized or eliminated by buying local.

As I explore these issues, and discus them with friends, new issues and questions come up (which is half the fun, after all) Just recently I have encountered several people who reject the use of computers and related technology, on the basis that a)there creation and subsequent disposal has a huge environmental impact, and b)their purchase supports multinational corporations. This gives me a wonderful opportunity to sing the praises of one of my very favorite local, worker-owned organizations!

We have three computers in the house (yes, the computers actually out number the people here) and not one of them was purchased from a multinational corporation. Each one came from Free Geek , meaning it was salvaged from the waste stream while supporting the local economy, living wages, and community empowerment. Some of you will remember that Free Geek was the group who sponsored the fair where I had the Bike Smoothy Booth.

Free Geek is a community based technology center that recycles computers and provides them at low or no-cost to individuals, and not-for-profit and social change organizations in the community and throughout the world (they recently supplied a bunch of working computers, as well as technical assistance, to an NGO in Uganda!).

Free Geek recycles over 1,500 computers each month, keeping some 15 tons of electronic (s)crap out of the waste stream. Volunteers disassemble the donated equipment and test the components, which are either recycled as electronic scrap or recycled into refurbished systems. These refurbished computers are then loaded with GNU/Linux, Open Office, and other Free Software and made available to individuals and organizations in the community. The volunteers are rewarded with computers of their own, as well as valuable training in building and fixing computers. Free tech support is provided for the fist year folks have their computer.

They also offer a computer room that is open to the community: anyone can come in and use a computer, access email and the Internet, do research for school projects or job hunts, print out resumes, create blogs, etc. So you don't even have to own a computer to have access to one.

Free Geek is part of a growing number of democratically-run organization who's policy decisions are made by a collective of staff and volunteers, rather than bosses. Proof that local, ethically operated business are sustainable and replicable, as well as benifical to the community.

Perhaps the best news of all: Free Geek is going “intergalactic”, with new centers popping up everywhere. Currently, there are Free Geek collectives in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and effort afoot for one in Indiana. Each one locally, democratically opperated. Soon, everyone may have access to this amazing community resource! Check thier website for more information and resources


The Heat is On

Have I mentioned recently just how crazy-hot it's been 'round these parts? It was 90 today, gonna be 90 again tomorrow, it has been too dang hot since before I can remember. Oregonians have no heat tolerance, our melting point is around 75 Fahrenheit, so this 90 thing, well it's just WRONG

Mean while, if it's September, it must be time for the BTA Commuter Challenge !! Here are a couple tips for the novice bike commuter:

I have been shocked at how fast the water in a water bottle heats up while cycling, it seems like it takes no time at all for it to get too hot to be tasty, the best solution I have found is to fill the bottle about a quarter of the way and then lay it at an angle in the freezer, I prop it on whatever frozen stuff I have in there so that the water comes near the lip, but does not spill. I let it freeze like that, then when I am ready to head out on a ride, I top the bottle off with water. The ice keeps the water cool for a good long time.

Bike buckets are great for packing along a change of clothes, if you need to smell fresh as a daisy when you get where your going. Alternatively, you could keep fresh outfits at your destination. I joke that my locker at school is like Superman's phone booth: I keep fresh clothes, deodorant and whatnot there. I know of an attorney who opts for what my dear fellow blogger zilla calls a "whore Bath", basically swabbin out yer pits at the bathroom sink. If it works for him (and it does) than it should work for anyone.

Remember that a heat wave is not the time to push your physical limits, slow down if you need to

Portland does a month long challenge, International Car Free Day is September 22nd, are YOU up to the challenge?!

In Memory of Fallen Cyclists

I have this quandary that predates, and is aggravated by, this blog. Something of a universal theme: where does one person's story intersect with another person's boundaries around privacy, and what is one obligated to do at those intersections? What are the rules of the road when it comes to our life journeys?
It has come up for me again this past week, in a rather unique manner: in the death of a fellow cyclist.

I did not know Mike Wilberding. I can not claim to be baring his memory or carrying out his wishes. I wouldn't have a leg to stand on if I were to say I knew what he would want. It is not, strictly speaking, my story to tell. And yet, as a member of the same cycling community in which he was so active, my story, my experience as a cyclist, is touched and colored by his. We share a connection of sorts, a relationship. We who are of the clan of the bike.

I did not know him personally, and now I will never have the privileged, because he was mowed down by an absent-minded motorist. I did not know him, but I know this:
I know that he had a reputation as a dedicated, safe, and serious cyclist who was very conscientious about traffic safety and active with local cycling advocacy groups. I know that Mike rode Cycle Oregon multiple times ~not an idle thing. One does not just wake up one morning and decide to “do” Cycle Oregon, it requires dedication, commitment and months of preparation and training, as well as a week spent away from family and loved one's.

I know he was a long-time BTA (Bicycle Transportation Alliance) member and supporter, committed to encouraging the use of bikes for transportation, and educating the public about traffic safety and sharing the road.

I know that one Tuesday evening in late summer, a little after 6pm, this 58 year old father was riding home from work, cycling in the bike lane along Fifth street near where it passes the park, when a car turned right into him.
He was not killed instantly. A team of doctors exhausted countless heroic measures over the course of nearly a week, trying to undo the damage done in a single instant by one distracted driver. He had been doing everything right, following every traffic rule and safety precaution, and yet he wound up dead.

I know that Mike was well-respected by the local bicycling community and that his loss is felt deeply. The community has been mobilized by his death, and have been channeling their grief into a traffic safety awareness campaign. The campaigns first event was held this past Friday at the intersection where the crash occurred, aimed educating motorists and promoting safe driving.

I know that, when his family was invited to the event, they declined, and asked that Mike's death not be the focus of the event because, they said, he would not “involve himself in imposing an ideal on anyone”. After dedicating years of his life to advancing and advocating cycling safety, we are meant to believe that a man killed by a negligent driver would not support a traffic safety campaign.

I cant claim to know the dead man's wishes, but I know this:
According to stats released last month by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, last year 45,00 bicyclists were injured, and 720 were killed by motor vehicles. A third of those fatalities were the result of drunk drivers. The percentage increase in deaths of cyclists was 7 times greater than that of overall traffic fatalities Further, the number of bicycling fatalities that involved alcohol was up 10%. Put very simply, drivers are injuring and killing more cyclists every year. It is not a matter of cyclists becoming more negligent, but of drivers becoming more dangerous. Given that fact, it makes sense to me to address the drivers, rather than blaming the victims

I know that the event was, for all intents and purposes, a memorial for a deeply respected and dearly loved member of the cycling community who was killed while adhering to every traffic law and safety considerations, by a driver who was not. The circumstances of Mike's death so perfectly illustrated the nature of the problem, and his death so deeply effected so many in the community, it makes sense that his friends and co-workers would want to memorialize him in this way.

I know this, too: We have a responsibility to those around us, whether we know them or not. When we climb into a massive hunk of steel and send it hurtling down the road, we take on the responsibility of being cautious and cognizant, to look out for those around us, to recognize that this form of transportation can kill a hundred different ways. We are responsible to see that it doesn't. When our kids start driving (perhaps long before) we have a responsibility to educate them, not just about the mechanics of operating these devices, but also the ethics of doing so.

The 25 year old who plowed into this father of 2, without even noticing him, claimed innocents: claimed that “the sun had been in his eyes”. Thing 1) it has been thoroughly documented that the sun wasn't even close to being in a position to blind a driver. Thing 2) you are not allowed to drive blind. period. If you really cant see, adjust your visor, put on shades, pull over. Do WHATEVER you have to do to avoid killing someone's dearly beloved. Thing 3) Take responsibility. When you are driving it is your job to pay attention, to look where your going, and yield the right of way. If you fail to do that it's nobodies fault but your own. Own it.

My son is 11, and already I am educating him about the responsibilities held by both drivers and cyclists. Recently, we witnessed a driver passing too close to cars parked curbside, resulting in one car's side mirror being ripped off. The offending driver did not stop to leave info on the windshield or anything, just continued on as if nothing had happened. We followed the car long enough to get the license number, wrote it down, and returned to the damaged car.
I talk to my son a lot about the importance of taking responsibility, even when you make a mistake, and my hope is that this incident taught him something about this, and about doing the right thing, and that the truth will always come out, even when you think you have gotten away with something. To my way of thinking, it comes down to teaching him to be a good citizen. Good citizens do not say “oh, it's not my fault, the sun was in my eyes”

Heres what I think: if one driver is more conscientious and observant while driving, and thus spares one family the pain and grief that this man's family is experiencing, that might just hold enough value to warrant the telling of a story they don't want told. If I am wrong, than they have my sincerest apologies, but I can not be silent where my words might save a life.

His story is an incredibly powerful one, and might just be enough to reach some people who assume that anyone injured while cycling MUST have been riding recklessly, they must have been doing something wrong. We have all seen cyclist make dangerous moves (just as we have all seen drivers do so) and we tend to think of these “crazy cyclists” whenever we hear about a cyclist-involved injury or fatality. But the truth is, cyclist know exactly how vulnerable we are, and most of us do everything conceivable to avoid an accident, because when a quarter ton of steel collides with 50 pounds of bike, regardless of who's at fault, there is only one looser.

So, Friday's Traffic Safety event/memorial, went on as planned, at the park where the Mike's accident took place. We honored the family's request not to use Mikes name on the literature we were passing out. As we held signs with messages such as “Hang Up and Drive” and tabled with information directed at both cyclists and motorists, a distracted driver who was chatting on his cell phone as he drove along Fifth street, where it passes the park, turned right across the bike lane, and came within inches of hitting a cyclist. The cyclist didn't even have time to react, it was only because we were all there, leaping and waving and yelling, that the driver stopped a few seconds shy of a fatality, and an incident bizarrely reminiscent of the one that ended Mike's life. Perhaps motorists have not learned the lesson of Mike's death, because it is not being told.

Mike's story has power precisely because of the details, because he was a careful cyclist who observed all the rules and and did everything right, because he has a face and a name, rather than just being some anonymous cyclist. Still, perhaps there is something to the notion of not making Mike the focus of the Traffic Safety campaign: after all, there have been literally hundreds of injuries and deaths in Oregon's cycling community due to drunk or negligent drivers; lest one get the idea that he was the exception that proves the rule that the cyclist is always at fault, below are but a few examples from the past year (thanks to and schtuff for getting the facts and tracking the stats)

Gareth Allen Parker, 59, killed in a hit-and-run. Oregon State Police responded to a tip and arrested the driver, who is being charged with first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter and felony hit-and-run.

Roger James Watt,32, hit and critically injured. Driver was drunk and driving with a suspended license when he ran a red light and hit Mr. Watt.

Eric Kautzky, 56 year old science teacher, killed by an 18 year old motorist driving IN the bike lane.

Trevor Wagner, 7, was left in a coma after being struck by a hit and run driver while riding his bicycle with relatives in a school parking lot.

Noah Cardamon, 23, driver was drunk at the time, and has been charged with one count of criminally negligent homicide. Her passenger, is charged with one count of hindering prosecution and one count of interfering with a police officer. Both women initially gave false statements about the accident, claiming to be witnesses rather than perpetrators.

Mike Rueter, seriously injured when a mini van ran a red light, and hit Mike, who was riding lawfully in the bike lane, throwing him into the middle of the intersection. The van also hit another car in the intersection.

Angela Valdez, Critically injured. Driver had a criminal record as well as several traffic violations, including tickets for speeding and failure to obey a traffic device. The driver cut Valdez off as he passed her, she was unable to avoid colliding with the side of his car and fell onto her back. An ambulance took her to the hospital, where doctors found she had a fractured spine and sacrum. The driver denied responsibility, saying it was Valdez's fault for riding into his car. Portland Police Officers who responded to the accident, says another witness came forward and echoed Valdez's account-that it was the driver's fault.

Christopher Burris, 21, killed by drunk driver who narrowly missed Burris's 4 year old daughter, who was traveling in a trailer being pulled by her mother on another bike. Mother and child survived the hit and run because the victim had just enough time to direct them onto the curb, though not enough time to avoid the car himself. This father's last act was to save his family. The driver fled the scene but was later arrested.