A Great Cause, A Great Ride

I don’t often put out fundraising pleas to this blog, but this is a cause worthy of all the attention I can muster.  As fellow Oklahomans, you know all to well the severe impact that diabetes is having on our community.  As of 2010, more than 10% of the Oklahoma population had been diagnosed with some form of diabetes, far greater than the national average.  That doesn’t even begin to count the large numbers people who have the disease but remain undiagnosed.   Diabetes is, without a doubt, one of the largest health problems affecting our state.

Therefore, I, along with many other riders, will be participating in this year’s Tour de Cure in Mustang. This group ride raises critical funds for the American Diabetes Association.  I will be participating in the 62 mile ride and while that distance is enough to greatly impress my non-cyclist friends, I know my cycling friends are a tougher crowd.  So this year, I am throwing in my first self-contained bicycle tour in many, many years along with my participation in this year’s Oklahoma Freewheel as mileage in support of this cause (here is a rough map).  This along with a training ride I am leading and the Tour de Cure ride will work out to more than 800 miles in three weeks in the name of stopping this disease.

If you can participate, please consider signing up here.  However, if you can’t, any donations to the cause would be so greatly appreciated.  You can donate to my ride here: http://main.diabetes.org/goto/NathanLorenz

Thanks so much for your support!

Mick Cornett Asks House To Support Walking/Bicycling Funding

OKC Mayor Mick Cornett

Mick Cornett, Republican Mayor of Oklahoma City along with Eugene A. Conti, Jr., Secretary of Transportation, N.C. and Steve Heminger, Exec. Dir., Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission have written an editorial in The Hill urging the House to reconsider many of the controversial measures in the current transportation bill including the removal of funding for both walking and bicycling initiatives.  After thanking the House for restoring funding to public transportation and asking for an effective bridge repair plan, the editorial goes on to ask the House to restore both Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancement funding:

We also would like to see House leaders restore dedicated funding for programs that make local communities safer for bicycling and walking. Given what a tiny share of the transportation budget it represents, we can’t see any advantage in killing these programs. But we see a lot of good in continuing to help towns revitalize their Main Streets and connect neighborhoods to make it safer for kids to walk or bicycle to school, getting some exercise in the process.

Many of the more dangerous roads for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists alike in our communities are federal-aid highways. House leaders have said fixing these unsafe conditions is a local problem, or a frill we can do without. We strongly disagree, and we urge them to restore dedicated funds for this purpose.

via View from beyond the Beltway: Pass a bipartisan transportation bill – The Hill’s Congress Blog.

I take it as a personal relief to know that there is real support for walking and cycling in OKC city government.  While I don’t always agree with how the city implements and maintains its cycling and walking infrastructure, I think the mayor and city council should be thanked for being dedicated to the process of making Oklahoma City a better place for active transportation.

#30DaysofBiking: A Celebration of Cycling

Picture By: thinredjellies

So the other day, I got in an argument with a driver who honked at me for an extended period of time and then buzzed me. In the huge pantheon of silly, pointless things to do, arguing with motorists has got to be at the top of the list. Getting into shouting matches just reinforces the stereotype of bicyclists as loudmouthed jerks. Even though I know I was in the right and just trying to be safe, it ruined my day.  By the time I got to work, I was angry, frustrated and just mad at the world generally.

However, my world completely turned around on my night ride home. I often get positive feedback on the wide variety of lights I keep on my bike. That night it was complement after complement from motorists. One motorcyclist commented with a laugh, “Jeeze, your lights are brighter than mine.”  Then the driver of a giant pickup truck, with a huge set of roof lights, a lift kit and Glasspack mufflers (generally considered to be the archenemy of cyclists in these parts) helped me trigger a troublesome light even though he was turning right. He then departed with a shout of,  “Awesome bike, man!”

That day spurred a few thoughts about cycling in Oklahoma. Let’s face it, it’s been a tough year for cycling in the state.  Over the past few months, there have been too many serious accidents including some with fatalities. Two of the fatalities were two important members of the cycling community and they died within days of one another.  To me and many others, it has felt like a war zone on the streets: A battle between us and them.  For some of my friends, they are avoiding the battle by moving to the trail system. For me, cycling is both transportation and exercise which means I’m stuck on the streets. But I too don’t want to fight a war over the control of the roadways.  However, I am not willing to give up one of the great joys in my life.

There is a riding event that started a few months ago called 30DaysofBiking.  Instead of setting a distance to beat or a time limit to match, this event is designed to remind us of the various reasons we got into cycling in the first place by encouraging you to ride at least once everyday.  If your love involves the feeling of the quiet speed only possible with your racing bike in top gear flying down a piece of perfect blacktop, or the love of a quiet ride around the lake with someone you love, or the love of a perfect run through a boulder garden on your mountain bike or even a nice game of bike polo; all are encouraged just so long as you ride.  Each day, you send a tweet describing your day of riding with the hashtag #30DaysofBiking.  It’s an amazing community of riders and an event that really encouraged me to ride last time through even though I didn’t make it all 30 days.

Well, this time I’m going to ride all 30 days.  I’m also adding an extra challenge to myself to be the cyclist I want to be. So here is my pledge for happy cycling over the next month:

I pledge to ride my bike everyday for the next 30 days.  I pledge to remember why I love to ride: The feeling of connection to nature, the feeling of quiet and calming motion, the joy of burning legs and dripping sweat, the joy of self-propulsion.  I pledge to renounce my life as a “soldier for biking.”  Instead, I pledge to wave happily at every person who honks at me because I know they just want to tell me how awesome my bike is.  I pledge not to yell at those who buzz me because I know they probably don’t know any better and yelling won’t inform them of anything.  I pledge to wave at every kid who smiles at my bike.  I pledge to say hello to every cyclist, jogger, pedestrian, rollerblader and other outdoor personages I pass.  I pledge not to be just an evangelist for cycling but an evangelist for being a nice and polite person.  Finally, I pledge to smile every time I see my bike knowing that I will get to ride her soon . . .”

If anyone else wants to join in for these last few weeks of warm weather, please visit http://30daysofbiking.com and sign up.  I’ve discovered that the hashtag #okbikes is almost never used, so if you want to tag your tweets with both tags (#30daysofcycling #okbike) then you can track the events of local riders here.

Finally, I’m going to try to organize a party for the end of the event somewhere in the city.  If you have any interest, please leave a comment and please feel free to leave some suggestions for locations.

Appeal for Justice

This letter from Brandon Neal letter appealing for justice in the recent Debra Miller crash near Stillwater appeared in this morning’s Oklahoman:

I’m a cyclist who is alive today for a number of reasons; among them are taking reasonable care on the road and good luck. This month, Debra Miller of Stillwater died — as did my friends Jim Socia and Michael Argall before her — killed by a driver who failed to notice her on the road. In the case of my friends, the drivers weren’t charged with a crime. I fear the driver in Miller’s case will likewise go uncharged.  We can’t trust our district attorneys to prosecute these cases unless we make it clear that the case has priority above all the others that a DA’s office handles each month. All too often, we’re left with a dead friend or relative and the tacit endorsement of the sun as a mitigating circumstance, of alcohol or drugs as the only impairment worth pursuing, and that the death of a person in the road is not the responsibility of the person in control of or failing to control a vehicle. Prosecuting the driver in Miller’s case would provide a clear message to motorists that they’re responsible for everything that happens around them when behind the wheel. No distraction — sun, text messaging or anything else — is a viable excuse for ending someone’s life.

via Another cyclist dies on an Oklahoma road | NewsOK.com.

I’ve always thought of driving as something akin to gun ownership.  It is a responsibility that must be taken seriously at all times and in all situations.  I believe that much of the carnage that takes place on our roads today is due to the cavalier attitude we give towards transportation (and that includes cyclists as well).  Moving at high speed is an endeavor with some risk and requires a high degree of responsibility.  Legal recognition of this fact would go a long way towards making our roads the kind of place they need and should be.