Cyclists and their salmoning

Last week, I had a narrow miss myself when left turning across fast traffic at night, and an amateur biker darted in from the wrong way from the dark, almost getting hit. He cursed me, but when I stopped to assure no collision had occurred, he seemed more apologetic.

Seriously, many amateur bikers do not realize how difficult it will be for drivers to see them in time.  Pedestrians are moving slowly (although joggers could be moving quickly) and can claim right of way in crosswalks and many situations. But cyclists are often moving at least 20 mph, close to the speed of a car. There is no time for drivers to see them from the wrong direction.

Yet, some amateur bikers talk as if they are on the moral high ground (having no empathy for driver exposure to liability as well as there own safety), and that people shouldn’t drive at all, and that life involves taking risks for some common good.  I mention this as an attitude of many boys in section 3 of Chapter 1 of my DADT-1 book.

Bikers often run red lights, meaning they have to be passed multiple times when otherwise riding legally with traffic.

Here are a few references(bikeeasy, Bicyclesafe, npr), especially on the topic of “salmoning” or wrong-war riding for convenience.  Note the other terms, like “shoaling”.

Here’s an earlier legacy posting of mine, that cyclists should follow the same rules as motor vehicles. Note the Washington Post comments.

(Posted: Monday, Nov. 20, 2017 at 9:30 PM EST)

New York’s subway and train travel infrastructure was more compromised by Sandy than we had thought

Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillebrand, Robert Menendez, and Cory A. Booker write a dire warning in an op-ed on p. A29 of the New York Times on p. A29, Tuesday, April 11, 2017, “New York’s Transit Apocalypse”, titled more glaringly online. “Think New York Transit is bad? Just wait”.

We’ve been through that in the Washington DC area with numerous Safe Track (indeed a registered trademark) periods for various segments of the Metro syste,, and many breakdowns and delays.  Late night service after midnight on weekends has stopped as of June 2016 (it may revert back to 1 AM), although so far Uber and Taxi’s seem to be getting people home (although not tipped and low-wage restaurant and bar employees).  I for one wonder why Metro didn’t run “bus trains” along the same routes during the no-train periods to guarantee people some service.

New York faces a major repair on the Canarsie subway line starting in 2019, to Brooklyn, to repair damage from Sandy.  But the article this morning notes that the Hudson river tunnels, for Amtrak and probably the Path, are deteriorating from Sandy-imposed damage and could fail within ten years.

So they call upon Donald Trump to honor his own self-interest (and that applies to Kushner too), to support the construction of new tunnels to make access to the City easier.

Some years ago, I never gave reliability of Amtrak a second thought.  Now, I have to wonder, if I go up in the morning, will I get to a concert on time, or even use the hotel reservation.  I’m on the hook for it myself, even though it’s someone else’s “fault”.  (The May 2015 wreck in Philadelphia was a turning point.)  And I’m the one with the lost opportunity to sell my own music or writing   My own success depends on infrastructure, which depends on other people doing their jobs, and which also depends on national security (and preventing terror attacks).  It’s personal.

I do fly much less often than I used to, even though I personally have very few canceled flghts in my history.  It is simply becoming challenging to get there on time (with a guaranteed reservation) and not have electronics, needed on the road, damaged. If 9/11 had been prevented, it would be easier.  But that sounds like part of the point;  a lot of disenchanted men don’t want the rest of the world carry on a life of secular abstraction that humiliates them.

Indeed, do a lot of people I encounter who make a less commanding impression on me, achieve less in life because not only the social climate but bigger infrastructure failed them?

No one succeeds publicly at anything without a system in place that works, and without depending on others to deliver customer service. Of course, I became aware of this during my own coming of age, with the Arab oil embargo gas lines of the 1970s and the possible threat of total breakdown after “Ford to City: drop dead” in 1975.

(Posted: Tuesday, April 11, 2017 at 6:30 PM EDT)

People in “groups” need to pay heed to the outside world; we can lose it all

It’s important to keep up with the outside world.  Generally, throughout my adult life, I’ve often gotten feedback from some people who say they don’t need to get scary news from the political world from me (unless it’s about their own tiny bubble).

As I’ve noted here before, I don’t necessarily rush to elevate every victim in every marginalized group, including my own.   I have to agree with Peter Thiel, speaking at the DNC, that LGBTQ people have more pressing issues that bathroom bills – although I have to say that North Carolina’s recent HB2 “repeal”, under pressure from the NBA, is a bit of “bait and switch”, even in the language of Barbara Ehrenreich. In fact, major league sports have recently become the :GBTQ community’s ally out of self-interest.  Major League Baseball, for example, though it has very few if any openly gay players right now, knows it eventually will have them.  It is quite credible, for example, to imagine a transgender person as a relief pitcher or “closer” for a pennant winning team.  (And one wonders about big league sports and the rare cis females who happen to able to play.)

Over history, collective security for a country or a group is a big influence on respect for individual rights.  Whatever our internal squabble, a common enemy or peril can force us to come together.  We found that out suddenly after 9/11 (which I do think Al Gore would have prevented).

While Donald Trump has first stated that ISIS is our most dangerous enemy (because of its unusual asymmetry and targeting of civilians).  Trump has gotten a rude awakening (“foreign policy by ‘Whiplash’”, complete with Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons) from Assad’s chemical attack on his own people this week, and may suddenly realize how dangerous it is to remain bedfellows with Vladimir Putin.

it’s quickly becoming apparent that our most existential threat may indeed come from North Korea (whom we got a rude shock from in cyberspace over the  Seth Rogen and James Franco movie “The Interview”).  This morning, on p. A14 of the Washington Post, Anna Fifled has a frightening and detailed article, “Does North Korea have a missile that can hit the U.S.?  If not, it will”. Online the title is more blunt. “Will North Korea fire a missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland?  Probably.”

The article goes into the technical challenges of actually directing a nuclear warhead thousands of miles.  But North Korea is making progress faster than we had thought.

The article does play down the satellite EMP risk discussed here earlier (March 6).  There’s a valid question as to whether NORAD would find and intercept such a missile (My classified computer programming job in 1971-1972 in the Washington Navy Yard was about just such capability. ) Fifield notes that it may be harder for US spy satellites to spot the missiles as they become mobile on the ground.  And a pre-emptive first strike against North Korea would invoke the obvious problem of making South Korea an instant target (as well as Japan).  This is no time for the president of the United States to have an adversarial relationship with his own intelligence services.

It’s also a time to ponder national resilience again, at a personal level.  I am not a member of the doomsday prepper crowd, although I have several Facebook friends who are.  There is something reassuring about being able to take care of yourself (with guns, and your family (with firearms if necessary), and property, in a world suddenly radically changed by “Revolution”. I can see how some people (mostly on the far right, to be sure) see this as a component of personal morality.

There is some debate as to whether DPRK can threaten all of the US (by Great Circle routes) or “only” Alaska, Hawaii, and the West Coast.  But imagine life with Silicon Valley and Tinseltown gone. (I’m reminded of the second “Red Dawn” film particularly, as well as “Testament“).  After Hurricane Katrina (and just before Sandy) there was some discussion of “radical hospitality”, as to whether ordinary homeowners with some extra space should prepare themselves to house strangers after a catastrophe.  The idea has obviously come up in Europe with the migrant crisis, less so in the US (but somewhat in Canada).  As I’ve noted here before, the idea can be tested with asylum seekers (and it hasn’t gotten very far yet).

I’d mention here that a bill to require women to register for Selective Service has passed he Senate, quietly.  A prepper friend posted this on Facebook.

Update: Tuesday, April 11, 2017 at 6:30 PM EDT

Consider this recent piece in the April 11, 2017 of Time Magazine about loose radiocactive waste in the former USSR and possible terrorist “dirty bombs”.  Victims in an incident could be too “hot” to treat, and then there is real estate whose value goes to zero, a definite attack on the rentier class.  Sam Nunn and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (with some recent articles about North Korea including charts and timetables) warned about all this in the 45-minute 2005 film “The Last Best Chance“.

The electronics “travel ban” (from a few overseas airports for now) begs big future questions about staying connected “on the road”, especially for small businesses

In late March, the United States and then the UK instituted a ban on most electronics (larger than a smart phone) in the cabins of direct flights from a number of airports in the Middle East and Africa, largely Muslim countries.  The UK list is slightly smaller than the US list.  So far, other western countries have not yet followed suit.

NBC News produced a story by Harriet Baskas March 22 on how travelers were irked here.  Obviously there could be issues about cancellations and trying to change to connecting flights in Europe.  I’ll come back to that.

Firday, March 31,  CNN produced (in a story by Evan Perez, Jodi Enda, and CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr) what it calls an exclusive story on the intelligence behind the travel ban.  The claim is that associates of Al Qaeda, largely in enclaves in Yemen, have developed ways to hide plastic explosives inside laptops, possibly in a DVD bay, in such a way that laptops would still start if travelers are challenged at airports.  There is concern that terrorists might have acquired prototype screening machines to test their devices.  Presumably these devices can be detonated only manually.  But theoretically, devices could be improvised that could be detonated by cell phones even if stored in cargo bays, if close enough to other similar devices.

DHS would obviously be concerned that terrorists could communicate in different parts of the world and spread this “expertise”.  Through the dark web, such information might become available to disaffected “lone wolf” or small cell groups in the U.S.,

Confounding the logic of the ban is the recent concern over the safety of lithium batteries in cargo. A few older laptops from the middle 2000s have caught fire, at least when charging, as happened with some teens in California recently.   But the concern for safely of lithium batteries in laptops is much less than for other devices, including some Samsung smart phones (some makes may not be brought onto planes) and hoverboards, which have caught fire in apartments and private homes while charging.

Also countermanding this picture are recent reports of research (as at Stanford) showing that aluminum based batteries may be safer than lithium and could be engineered to be acceptable replacements for many devices.

AC360, Anderson Cooper’s news analysis program, interviewed some experts on May 31,  Saturday, April 1, 2017. CNN interviewed Mary Schiavo, former Inspector General for the US Department of Transportation.  Later Robert Baer was interviewed.  Most of these guests expressed the obvious view that the Mideast cabin laptop ban begs the question as to whether it will be expanded, and could eventually become routine, even on domestic US flights.

DHS says that it has multiple layers of security, which includes the latest screening machines.  DHS apparently believed that airports in the affected countries did not have the same level of security.

Some observers have even claimed that the laptop bans were instituted out of Trump-style “protectionism”.

Business travelers generally need to carry their electronics with them and work on planes.  Owners of small businesses also would need to, as would “professional” journalists.

The worst case scenario would be sudden bans of all electronics on flights, even though in the West hundreds of millions of people fly with no intention of harming others.  This sounds like the “trojan horse” argument in the immigration debate, which Donald Trump has leveraged.

Tech companies could envisions solutions.  Until now, the TSA has always told air travelers not to check laptops and tablets, possibly because of the lithium issue, but largely because the devices are likely to be damaged.  It is possible to imagine sturdy (and explosion-proof) containers in which they could be packed, with the cases sold on Amazon or by stores like Best Buy.  It is possible to imagine expedited services to ship electronics for longer trips by UPS or FedEx to airport stores to be picked up on arrival, for use  after arriving.  There have been issues with bringing conventional photo film home on planes in the past, and I have mailed it home (just USPS)  before to get around the issue.

Frida Ghitis wrote on CNN about her experience with having to pack her laptop and other devices suddenly. CNBC reports that at least two Mideast airlines loaned passengers corporate laptops for inflight use, which works for passengers who have saved their data on memory sticks or in the Cloud.

Its also possible to envision a ground rental industry comparable to car rentals (maybe rented with cars).  But security for the devices would be a huge issue requiring innovation.  Right now the travel industry is not prepared to offer these services, because it has always assumed (since the late 1990s at least) that most travelers want to carry their own electronics.

Hotels do have business centers, which are generally inadequate with only one or two not very secure computers.  I use these only to print boarding passes before returning.

Back in the period between 1997 and up to 2006, after I had established my online sites (doaskdotell.com and the prior hppub.com) I sometimes traveled without electronics.  At the time, it was common for airports to require laptop startup (not always).  More recently, laptops in TSA-approved bags have not had to be started.  But in the early 2000’s there were more facilities in hotels or nearby Kinkos’ stores for checking email.  At that time, I often checked my sites to make sure they were up but did not try to update them online.  I did use my AOL email online.  I did this one on week-long trip to Phoenix and Las Vegas from Minnesota in 2000, probably checking email four times.  One hotel had Kinkos next door.  In Europe, in both 1999 and 2001, I carried a primitive cell phone, but no computers.  A hotel in Bilbao, Spain had a really large business center with very good response time and plenty of terminals.  I was able to find well run Internet cafes in London.  But I don’t know if I could find this level or service today.

Since taking up blogging at the start of 2006, I feel it is important to be able to update Blogger every day (almost), and WordPress blogs like this one somewhat less frequently.  Were I to receive a “complaint”, I need to be able to fix a problem when “on the road”.  (I don’t get the last at-bat, by analogy to baseball.)

My understanding that only “mobile” blogs on Blogger can be updated by phones (this may have changed, typical link). Mobile blogging on WordPress is possible (link).  I am not sure now whether these techniques could work with my setup now.  A small keyboard would help.  The last time I tried, Blogger could not be updated from an iPad without third party apps.  All of this I would need to check into later.

All of this could preview an environment where eventually web hosting companies could require third party contacts to update content in case of complaints and the owner could not be reached.  I’ve never heard this idea mentioned, but it sounds plausible.  (This would lead to discussion of the digital executor issue, which I’ve covered on my main legacy blog on Blogger).

Conventional social media (Facebook, Twitter, and especially Instagram) are much more easily used in a mobile-only environment without access to computing resources.   But these don’t serve the same self-publishing interests that true web hosting (including embedded Blogging) services.  I can also become relevant whether one is posting on a “free blog” or whether it is hosted (which right now, to my understanding, happens only with WordPress).

The ability to stay connected on the road is potentially very critical to the way I conduct my own business.  I will stay abreast of it and report.

(Posted: Saturday, April 1, 2017 at 7:30 PM EDT)

Update: Wednesday, April 5, 2017, 12 noon EDT

CNN has a report that more airports and countries may be added to the electronics ban, but expansion of the ban is not necessarily eminent.

Updated: Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 7:30 PM EDT

CBS reports that the TSA and DHS are considering adding all or most European and UK airports to the electronics ban.  The policy would seemingly affect only flights to the U.S.  It is not clear if it makes sense to put a lot of lithium batteries in checked luggage, and the policy would contradict previous TSA guidance that laptops are likely to be damaged in checked luggage.  Can proper containers be designed and sold?  Could users instead just ship laptops back home by FedEx, UPS (or ordinary mail)?  I used to do that with photographic film because it could not survive carry-on security machines.  Do we need to build an adequate computer rental (like car rental) business for travelers. at least for international?

 

Vaccine development is still the best prevention against bio-terror or airline-spread pandemics

Among the major perils that can seriously disrupt western civilization as we know it would be future pandemics.

I haven’t covered the idea as much here as some other threats (EMP, cyberwar, solar storms, nuclear) and I actually don’t think that the threats are as likely.

Nevertheless, it’s good to review the various pieces in play.

In modern times, the most obvious major pandemic has, of course, been HIV, which grew in the male gay community and overseas in other communities, exploding with a kind of big bang in the early 1980s, with social and political consequences already widely covered (as with the HBO film of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart” in 2014).  But HIV, as an STD, is extremely unlikely to affect the general public outside of restricted modes of transmission.  Other viruses, including recently Hepatitis C (and b) have behaved in a somewhat similar fashion without becoming enormous threats.  More recently, Zika virus has presented the idea of a virus transmitted both by sex and by arthropods (mosquitoes), which can pose some theoretical dilemmas about “amplification”.  Imagine a sci-fi scenario where a novel virus is normally harmless but can gradually make a population sterile (“Children of Men”, 2006), or pose novel results involving personal identity (as in my own novel manuscript “Angel’s Brother”).

After 9/11, the idea of bioterror took root very quickly with the almost coincidental “Amerithrax” anthrax attacks, that apparently started in Florida with an attack on a company that publishes supermarket tabloids.  In the beginning the attacks appeared to come from domestic Islamic extremism, but later attention was drawn to a scientist at Fort Dietrick, MD, with tragic results.  I do remember arrests at a Trenton NJ apartment complex (not too far from where I lived on my first job) that never got mentioned again.  Back in 1999 (two years before 9/11), ABC Nightline did a several-evening simulation of a fictitious anthrax powder attack in the BART subway in San Francisco, where powder with spores was thrown into a tunnel.  So the idea had been thought of before.  After the 2001 incidents, people were sometimes questioned by police when any powdery substance appeared in mail they had sent, an idea that would never have occurred to anyone before.

More speculation has been drawn to the possibility of re-weaponizing smallpox (as in Revolutionary and even French and Indian War times).  Daniel Percival developed this possibility in the FX 2002 film “Smallpox 2002: Silent Weapon”.  All of this depends on the fact that the practice of vaccinating Americans for smallpox has been allowed to lapse.

But the biggest concern in the past fifteen years or so has been the possibility of pandemics based on respiratory illnesses, mainly influenzas (with the Spanish Flu of 1918 the archtype) and SARS-like illnesses, caused by corona viruses, most of which are relatively harmless.  Major films on this issue include “Contagion” (2011, Steven Soderbergh), “Pandemic” (2007, Hallmark), and “Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America” (2006, ABC Studios).

Wikipedia list many “avian influenza” viruses but two of the most important are H5N1 and H7N9 (which a China Today newspaper wrote about recently).  The practice of having poultry and farm animals very near houses in poor countries (or especially in Southeast Asia) raises the probability of animal-man transmission, and so far subsequent person-person transmission remains rare, but it if happens, air travel can spread it around the world.  The avian influenza issue raises the idea of “herd behavior” and how ordinarily private behavior sometimes has major secondary public consequences.

Then, of course, we have the history of Ebola Virus hemorrhagic fever, as broke out in West Africa in 2014.  A number of doctors and health care workers or relatives became infected, and a few returned to the U.S., including one death.  In fact, Ebola is a Category A bioterrorism agent  (whereas bird flu in Category C).  A major controversy developed over the need to isolate or quarantine those who might have been exposed, as on airline flights.

All of this brings up two major questions.  One is vaccine development, and the interest of the public in accepting the vaccines, given a new administration somewhat anti-science and sympathetic to vaccine denial.  Indeed, an effective Ebola virus vaccine may soon be available, which would be essential to encouraging humanitarian volunteer work overseas (again, we have an administration that has the near-sighted nationalistic “take care of your own first” value system).  I think we could become more pro-active in developing avian influenza vaccines now, as well as vaccines against corona-virus infections, because natural resistance to these agents does develop with exposure.

I note the flawed thinking behind the vaccine denial movement (as in the film “Vaxxed“), which seems, again, to stem from a “take care of your own first” value system (sometimes religion).

The other measure would be social distancing, and isolation of patients.  This has been used (as for example to stop SARS from spreading in 2003) but it hardly sounds practical in the long run, and tends to invoke draconian powers from government.

In fact, the CDC attracted controversy with its “Final Rule of Control of Communicable Diseases: Domestic and Foreign”, issued January 19, on the last day of the Obama administration.

Major reading includes (from the 1990s) Richard Preston’s “The Hot Zone” and Laurie Garrett’s “The Coming Plague: Emerging Diseases in a World out of Balance“.

(Posted: Friday, March 10, 2017 at 4 PM EST)

Bicyclists should follow the same laws as other vehicles (to protect drivers from liability?)

minneap1

As someone who still drives a lot at 73, yes, I’m concerned about potential liability for a crash, most of all with cyclists or pedestrians.

There are numerous websites on bicycle safety, but one of the best is from Ontario, here.  I’ll write these remarks from the viewpoint of roads in North America (where we drive on the right), and most of western Europe.  For the UK, Australia, and a few other countries the advice flips.

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The most important rule is that bicycles are vehicles, not pedestrians, because they can move at speeds approximately the same as city traffic, sometimes faster.  So they should follow the same rules as other vehicles.  They should ride with traffic, and honor traffic signals.  They should follow the same right-of-way rules.

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The biggest problems come from cyclists without lights at night, riding the wrong way, or, especially, placing themselves in positions where drivers, especially making right turns, don’t have time to see them.  I’m not sure where the liability lies in a right-turn accident, and it may depend on state law.

In late 1979, a boy on a bicycle riding the wrong way in Texarkana AK turned left right into the right-bound lane in front of me.   I stopped in time but was rear ended.  No one was injured, but there was significant car repair damage.  When police came, the boy was crying but had not been struck.

Some cyclists say they ride on the left because they can “see” oncoming traffic on time and ditch.  This can make sense only on very rural roads in flat country.

I actually don’t have a problem with cyclists on sidewalks if they dismount at intersections and behave as true pedestrians.

But care about pedestrians is another issue.  Increasingly, communities are presenting motorists with crosswalks that don’t have traffic lights.  I think these should not be placed without lights or at least speed humps.  But state law usually requires that drivers yield right of way.

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Unprotected left turns are a problem (most of all when there is no turn lane).  If a truck or large SUV is turning from the other side, it is often hard to see if there is oncoming traffic, and watch for pedestrians at the same time.  Occasionally, as with a recent tragic crash in Leesburg, VA, a driver turning left hits a pedestrian, even with a baby stroller.  In that particular case, it has not been reported whether the driver was turning under a left turn protecting arrow (that is, the mother was jaywalking), or whether there was just a green ball, and the mother had the legal right of way.  But it can be surprisingly difficult for a driver in high speed traffic to see everything in time.

Even when turning right with a light, pedestrians can be at risk if they cross inside the block and not at the light’s crosswalk.  In Minneapolis, in the spring of 2003, while blinded by evening northern sun, I was turning right from Lake Street (heading west) when three women ran across from about 15 feet inside the block.  No one was struck, but a woman’s hand struck my war.  No one was injured, but it was a close call.  I would have seen them had they been in the crosswalk (whose paint markings were worn out at the time).  On another occasion, in front of the Post Office on First Street behind the Churchill Apartments where I lived, a jogger ran into my car while I was stopped at a light.  Again, no injury.  But a collision with an object when stopped could raise fears of a carjacking.

Although most states or localities in the US require bicycle helmets, there is an argument against their universal use.  In bike-friendly Amsterdam, they aren’t used.  Here is the piece by Howie Chong (from 2014).

There’s a lot of pressure to bike to work, or to social events, especially in the DC area as Metro service scales back for Metro safety concerns.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to commute on a route where you have to share lanes with traffic.  It’s OK if you have dedicated bike lanes for most or all of your route.

Communities should provide dedicate bike lanes as much as possible.  Driver should be required to give cyclists three feet of space, which means that cyclists sometimes should take whole lanes as slow moving “vehicles”.

Link for Virginia’s cycling laws.

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Washington DC’s cycling laws:

Maryland’s laws.

The NHSA refers to the skill of “driving your bicycle” like driving a car.

(Pubkished: Friday, Sept. 2, 2016 at 12 noon EDT)