July 19th, 2011

Let's charge rent to drivers for the land they are getting for free

Including its braking zone, a car at full speed deprives others from using as much land as shown in yellow.

Including its braking zone, every car at cruising speed occupies as much land as a house. In a lifetime, most drivers will spend at least two years at the wheel, enjoying free rent of a house sized (moving) parcel of land. A generation ago, we thought allocating land for cars to hurtle along, free of charge, would be good for society. But now we see the obesity, alienation, accidents, emissions, congestion, depreciation and repair costs, etc, and we're changing our minds. Never mind charging drivers vehicle registration, and tax contributions, to help toward the cost of patching the potholes they make, I'm looking at the value of the actual land, land they're getting for free. It is in recognition of this theft going on—"grand theft auto," let's call it—that some cities are charging congestion taxes, and reallocating some land to pedestrians, buses and cyclists. Let's push this trend to its logical and rightful conclusion.

For the right to handle machines, that transform quarter acres of public land into deadly no-go zones, drivers should have to pay market rate rents for that land. Most, let's assume, will be paying for two years worth of rent across a lifetime. Given the rental value of land in the city, the cost of driving in town would be prohibitive, for all but a few billionaires. Renting driving space in inner suburbs, would be a rare privilege, while out in the farms and exburbs, the cost of renting driving space wouldn't be such an issue at all. Sounds fair to me.

If you like this idea, do share the link, or find ways of disseminating the concept in your own words. Let me point you too, to a website by the bicycling journalist Carlton Reid, who has given a lot more thought to the subject: IPayRoadTax.com

p.s. Thanks Carlton, for mentioning this post to everyone who follows you via twitter. That's 5417 people, my godfather! 

How not to die in your first year of racing.

Another weekend of racing, another minute of silence before the race, another crash during the race, another ambulance passed on my way home, and on it goes friends. This is not normally a blog about my weekend sporting activities, but I have a few things I need to vent somewhere.

In my very first season of racing, 1993, you know, I saw one or two crashes at most. Club racing was some weird, unwelcoming scene. A young man knew well not to even ask for a start, until his face was well known on training rides. Oh, and how we were educated in the ways of bunch riding! If I may quote: "you fuckin' bomb through like that, you can get off the back!" Ha, I can laugh now. "H-o-o-o-old your line!!!" Such assertive mentors were mine.

Since bike racing became the new golf, there are incidents on a weekly basis, it seems. I keep telling myself that with the next serious bust up, or death in this town, I'll take up big wave surfing, it has to be safer. Ah, but then I pass off the next piece of horrible news as just some freak accident.

If I may generalize—and many muffled private remarks do back me up—the menace of the era is the middle aged dude, who has gone out and bought all the gear, and dove headlong into racing. He's got his heart rate monitor, training diary, books, energy bars, and everything the bike shop could sell him. He's won F-grade, won E-grade and now is in trouble in D-grade. He's struggling to stay with the bunch, pushes himself until the world looks kinda milky, touches a wheel, and then smacko, a face full of tar and we're wondering if that bar-end has punctured his lung.

As a stalwart of B-grade, I am relieved in some ways that his campaign ended there, hopefully with just enough injuries that he recovers, but never comes back; I do not want to see this guy rush through the grades. These are hard things to say, because I would rather no-one ever got hurt in this sport. I can't watch the pros on those descents. However, I'm glad, for my kids' sake, that these unhinged egotists (we hinged ones are fine) often crash hard before ever getting a chance to spoil the relative civility of higher grade. Sooner or later though, I know age sends us all back, to where my older racing companions are reduced to riding with these freaks on their "personal journeys". Spare a thought for them, someone.

Okay, so you've bought a bike and you are taking up racing, and someone has told you to read Dr. Behooving's tips on how to stay alive in your first year. First understand, this is not a race against your own demons. This is not a half marathon, or iron-man challenge. It's more like a choir, where your first duty is to just sing along. If you're struggling just to stay with D-grade mid way through the race, fade off the back, pull out, and tell the handicapper that you couldn't cope. He'll put you back down to E-grade. Please, don't win E=-grade now, for at least a few months. They will throw you back into D-grade, where you know you're not ready to be.

When riding in a bunch, progress forward, backward and sidewards in a predictable manner. Never grab brakes, only touch them. Until you have learned to anticipate the dozens of ways bunches behave as they speed up and slow down, maintain half a bike length between you and the next rider—the added drag will only help you get stronger. 

If you're spooked, ride off the back of the bunch. There is no law saying you must do turns on the front. If a flighty mood runs through the bunch, and you're feeling strong, ride away off the front, out of trouble. Choose relaxed times in a race to take a drink. Keep a firm grip on the bars; I ride on the drops more than the hoods, for the added control. 

But most importantly, don't push yourself so hard that you're getting exasperated and lightheaded, at least not in your first year of racing. I don't want to deter anyone from taking up racing, at whatever age. How could I, when I'm an addict myself! I just want to underline what should be obvious, that this is a group activity, requiring high levels of mutual trust and regard. It makes you a better citizen, and gentleman. As for being a scholar? Again, I would say not to rush things.