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Another Return to St. Charles 28 December 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Self, Travel.
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I’ve wandered beyond Colorado for a little bit, so you’re getting a short post, and one unrelated to skiing or a Colorado ski town.

I’ve returned to St. Charles for the holidays,but the ski updates will soon enough, I’m sure.  For now, this marks a time to once again reflect on coming home. Since the end of college, these periods spent away have continued to expand, and the moments at home have become just that, moments. It’s a natural progression, I suppose, for anyone who leaves “homes” and starts a life elsewhere, but it’s one I’m just now exploring, with so many twenty somethings around to explore it with me. Nearly three in four college graduates moves at some point in his life according to the the Pew Research Center. I imagine that move most often comes right after college itself.

In the Midwest, though, nearly half of Americans never leave their hometowns.   And I’m from the Midwest. I return to see family and friends. Those who have moved return for the same reason. Thanksgiving and Christmas have become as much about reunion as about eating and gift-giving. I’m okay with that.

I’m giving you some photos with this post–not great ones–but I’d rather you reflect on why it is you go home. What’s there? Why do you return? And perhaps most importantly: why did you move?

Here’s wishing you a happy and safe holiday season, wherever you’re spending it.

St. Charles Bike Ban Dies a Quiet Death 1 October 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Cycling.
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After so much uproar earlier this summer–really, nationwide uproar–over county councilman Joe Brazil’s proposed biking ban in St. Charles County, MO, you’d think more fanfare would surround its death, inevitable though that demise may have been. At any rate, the ban’s been voted down. Unanimously, I might add, which means that the bill’s sponsor himself, Joe Brazil, decided that maybe he’d made a mistake. His ban did go against state law, after all. So it seems road biking will continue on the narrow highways through the rolling hills, and if things remain as they always were, no one will get hurt.

Still, a couple other bills remain.

The first would require cyclists to ride single file, with a mirror, fewer than 20 inches from the white line. Those requirements would exist on only a few roads throughout the county, presumably the same ones up for the biking ban in the original ban bill. Although in theory, such requirements sound reasonable, I can’t imagine how to educate cyclists on exactly where they must be followed, especially for folks out of town who might not even know what the requirements were given that no they mirror nothing else in the US. And, as the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation points out, they even contradict Missouri bike laws while ignoring standard practice like head and tail light requirements. Silly Missouri.

The second, on the other hand, requires cyclists to request permit with the county if they plan to ride in groups of twenty or more on any road. This makes sense. Even at 25mph, a mini-peloton can clog country roads because they stretch several car lengths and prevent easy passing. Working with the county, group ride organizers can likely find ways to accommodate routes each week, so long as the permit process isn’t an attempt to create a de facto ban. A permit process does need to result in approvals from time to time.

Anyway, kudos to the St. Charles County Council for voting down a silly bill. Now comes the time to pass the right one.

(Joe) Brazil’s Biking Ban 19 July 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Cycling, Uncategorized.
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I’m sitting in cycling shorts as I begin writing this. It is, as you might imagine, fairly uncomfortable. Yet before you start snickering about the idea of men in spandex, let me tell you that nothing feels less delightful on long ride than the chafing associated with wearing athletic shorts. Fashion sense always takes a back seat to chafing prevention, stopping short of an anti-chafe dress anyway.

Just the same, allow me to change.

There. Better.

So anyway, cycling’s shown up in the news back home (Missouri) recently, drawing a head-scratching complaint from motorists: too many bikes on the roads. Too many, of course, meaning you actually notice cyclists in the same way you might notice that, oh, the folks a block down repainted their house. You might make an offhand mention at the dinner table, “I saw some road bikers off Highway D today. Funny pants, those guys” or “Did you know the Wilkinsons painted their house? It’s green. Or maybe brown. Were they the ones whose daughter pooped in the lawn a while back?”

I don’t really know what too many cars would look like. I-70 toward the Rockies on a Saturday morning? Nothing newsworthy in that, though. In Missouri, it appears bikes caused more of a headache than all the traffic. “I get more complaints about this single issue [cyclists] than any other issue,” said Councilman Joe Brazil as he introduced a bill to ban bikes in the rolling hills of southwestern St. Charles County. If you’re not of a midwestern persuasion, that means he wants to ban cycling in one of the few scenic in the entire metro area. Here, for instance.

His rationale? Bike is slow. And cars is fast. Oh, and also, the state spent a bunch of money building a bike path that doesn’t go anywhere, so cyclists should use that all the time.

Nevermind that the county can’t actually regulate this sort of thing on state roads. Nevermind this bit of legislation comes from the same Joe Brazil who’s opposed urban sprawl for as long as he’s been on the council. Nevermind that the corn towering over the floodplains makes those highways equally unsettling.

No, nevermind all that, because it’s clear that Joe Brazil has never ridden a bike on a road before. Oh, sure, I bet he had a Huffy as a kid and tore up the sidewalks and so forth. But no, like so many other lost souls the poor man just doesn’t understand. He’s like the guy lounging on newspaper web forums (and hanging out the side of an F-250) addressing  anyone who wears a jersey and spandex on the road as “Lance.” As in, “Hey, Lance, maybe you should get off the road and stop trying to win the Tour de France out there. Real people have places to be.” See? That’s just hard to take seriously. I don’t go around yelling at guys tossing a football when I want to play ultimate. “Yo, Elway, don’t see a Superbowl in your future, so get off the field.” How silly. Maybe it’s because you can throw a football while wearing a Big Dog T-shirt.

I bet Brazil’s more a baseball kinda guy, though, being a St. Louisan and all. “Hey, Wainwright…” Anyway,he says that cyclists should take the Katy Trail instead of clogging the roads. The Katy Trail is nice. It’s one of the Rails to Trails projects that converts abandoned rail lines into multi-use paths, and as I understand it, the trail’s 225 crushed-limestone miles have won it praise from folks who praise that sort of thing. But you can’t ride a road bike on it. You can’t ride a road bike on a gravel path. Imagine driving on snow with bad tires. Except that mailboxes and guardrails look much more frightening as you slide toward them on top of 20 lbs. of aluminum. No, convertibles and motorcyclists cannot be the only ones allowed to enjoy the pastoral beauty of St. Charles wine country.

I cringe to suggest that Brazil might find it more effective to support driver awareness because it carries that “Share the road!” surly biker image, but anecdote at least suggests that drivers more familiar with cyclists also seem to find them less of an inconvenience. In Colorado, a state much friendlier to two-wheelers on the whole, cyclists move in and out of traffic with ease around town. In my daily commute, other drivers treat me like a car. And on mountain roads where it seems that half the cars going by carry bikes on a roof rack, the usual practice is to swing well away. By contrast, and I’m still speaking from anecdote here, Missouri drivers would rather play chicken with me. Not the fun kind, though, because they’ll always win.

So before trying a silly ban–and let’s remember the state already said it won’t fly–maybe take a look at making sure drivers are more comfortable with bikes on the road. Yes, cyclists present one other variable to consider at any given moment, but just as drivers might drive differently in the rain, they can equally drive to anticipate cyclists. Or, you know, Brazil, you could get on a bike to see what it’s like. You might like it.

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