Missoula updates crosswalk sign, pleasing local crank

The Midnight Special, on which the author hurtles around

The Midnight Special, on which your author hurtles around

What constitutes news is a tricky question, influenced heavily by personal experience. For me, the best news of the last month has been that the City of Missoula changed the sign on the crosswalk where the Milwaukee Trail intersects with Russell Street. It used to depict a pedestrian; now it depicts a pedestrian and a bicycle. That probably doesn’t mean much to you, but for me it means a potential reduction in the number of drivers who honk, scream, or get out of their cars when I ride across.

Montana law does not require cyclists to get off and walk in crosswalks. Fat dudes in lifted pickups sure seem do, though, and they often cite the vital importance of this (imagined) traffic law when they get out to threaten me. In this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, I consider why the appearance of a bicycle throws so many drivers into murderous rage. It’s a little self-righteous, but consider the dangers attendant on riding a bicycle and driving a car, respectively. Riding a bike is a great way to exercise and get from place to place without polluting an already tricky environment. Driving a car is a great way to kill all of us slowly and a few of us very quickly. It’s not as simple as that, of course, but consider that the worst thing a cyclist can do to you when you’re driving is make you do something terrible to him. Or just cut down on yelling at people from your car in general. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.

Man threatens neighbor with shotgun over bicycling advice

Gary Drake of Rosemount, MN

Gary Drake of Rosemount, MN, looking sober

Last week, police arrested Gary Drake for brandishing a shotgun at his neighbor, who was teaching his seven-year-old daughter how to ride a bicycle at the time. Props to Ben al-Fowlkes for the link. According to the father, Drake began yelling at him from the porch and, when dismissed, said, “If you don’t like my advice, get off the street.” He went inside and returned with a Remington 870, which he pointed at the father, threatening to kill him. Be sure to read down to the last sentence of the story: “Charging documents state that Drake admitted to drinking all day, but he denied that it influenced his actions.”

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Bikes win Flight vs. Bike challenge at Carmageddon

Cyclists at the Critical Mass bike ride in Vancouver

When I visit Los Angeles, I am chauffeured from hot tub to bar to party to beach in private automobiles and therefore learn nothing of the city’s freeway system. There’s a 110* and a 101, and until last weekend there was a 405. That last one is really important, apparently, since its closure for construction prompted LA city officials to declare “Carmageddon” and urge Angelenos to stay home all weekend. The predicted final reckoning of good vs. evil cars didn’t really happen, but it seemed like enough of a possibility that Jet Blue offered a special flight from Burbank to Long Beach airports. Solving a traffic jam by taking a jet airplane across town was so stunningly American that it, in turn, prompted the Flight vs. Bike Challenge, in which a team of cyclists tried to beat the Jet Blue plane from BUR to LGB—and won, easily.

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