Thursday, August 31, 2006
The City of Odessa, Texas jumps on the crooked red-light camera bandwagon
Odessa, Texas -- where I do a lot of street riding -- has just announced to the community that they care about revenue far more than the safety of their citizens with the news that they'll be installing red light cameras at several key interections.
In case you don't know the truth about intersection camera systems, here are a few helpful links:
1. Fatalities rise in speed camera hotspots - "The UK government recently suspended the deployment of more speed cameras pending the outcome of of a University College London probe into whether they actually save lives...56,247 tickets were issued although this had little effect on safety, with an 18 per cent increase in road deaths."
2. Colorado red-light cameras increase crashes - Automated traffic enforcement cameras are sending tickets to drivers at a record pace, but traffic accidents have gone up, not down as predicted when the system was installed. A recent report in the Colorado Avalanche revealed that a system of red light cameras in Ft. Collins issued 64 percent more citations, but the citations did nothing to reduce accidents. The Coloradoan newspaper reported an increase in accidents of 83 percent at the same intersection..."The red-light cameras just don't work as advertised. Thousands of innocent drivers are getting tickets they do not deserve," said Scott. "The red light cameras actually lead to an increase in rear-end accidents as drivers slam on their brakes to avoid citations.
3. Rollout of UK's '24x7 vehicle movement database' begins - ACPO's tech section don't seem to have needed any kind of Parliamentary approval to begin the deployment of what promises to be one the most pervasive surveillance systems on earth.
4. Red light cameras sacrifice safety for revenue - At locations where red-light violations persist, there are simpler and less intrusive alternatives to photo enforcement. Most red-light running can be eliminated through better engineering, including traffic light synchronization, increased yellow-light durations, deactivation of signals during low-volume periods, and proper speed limits.
Here's the email I wrote the city:
To Whom it May Concern,
I never thought I'd live to see the day when a West Texas town adopted this racket. This is sad and troubling all at once.
The companies that operate these cameras have a vested interest in making a profit, and when they find that people aren't running many red lights, they resort to methods such as shortening the duration of the yellow interval in an attempt to up revenue. In cities such as San Francisco and Toronto, the phenomenon has caused multiple injuries and even deaths, as resultant 'panick braking' at yellow lights has caused many incidences of rear-end collisions.
By installing these cameras, you have literally guaranteed death and injury to motorcyclists, as well. I urge you to re-assess the adoption of these crooked, profit-driven systems that ultimately sacrifice safety to stuff city coffers.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Silly rabbit, tricks are for squids!
West Texas is literally infested with Jackrabbits and Cottontails this summer. I've never seen anything like it, and the ride some members of my motorcycle group and I took last night was food for thought on just how bad the problem -- if it can be called that -- has become.
My friend Jimbo, his wife Tami, and I met in Midland around 10:30 last night and headed for the Starbucks in Odessa, where we met some other riders. Our plan was to ride far south into northern Crane County, and find a place in the pitch black of the desert to watch the Perseid meteor shower, which we did -- eventually. Our journey ended up taking much longer than expected, because just south of the Ector County line, the ride quickly became a 30-mile-per-hour swervefest as we entered a strange, surreal world where the clouds had apparently rained down bunnies by the literal thousands onto the roads and into the fields around us.
I personally hit three rabbits with no damage to my bike or bodywork before we finally reached our destination. My buddy Jimbo wasn't as lucky. He hit a gigantic Jack and ended up with a cracked lower.
But the story of of our sojourn through the great Leporidaeic pestilence of the Permian Basin does not end there. We then headed east and north into Midland County, where the destructively numerous influx of rabbits subsequently became a sad comedy of flying, spinning, whirling carcasses claimed by the merciless ingress of our flight of sportbikes. In some spots, little grey bunnies of every size and shape were collected into groups of up to 100 on the roadsides. As we approached, they would -- quite amazingly -- sprint from the safety of the bar ditch right out in front of us in a crazed, irrational panic that left a gaggle of them quite dead at our hands. Mean as this may sound, I at one point found myself laughing at the acrobatic flushings of the little dumbasses into all directions and contortions as they glanced off of our front tires.
By the time we made it to Warfield, we reckoned that we had run over somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 rabbits, and that we had seen in excess of 1,000. It was an absolutely unreal experience of the highest order.
Friday, August 11, 2006
King Mountain & Imperial lunch ride tomorrow
We're making a lunch ride to The Shrimp Store in Imperial tomorrow morning, by way of King Mountain and the Castle Gap. If you want to ride with us, be at the Pilot Truck Stop (FM 1788 and I-20) by 10 a.m. or so. We'll leave no later than 10:30 sharp, so get there in time to take-on fuel and otherwise pre-flight your bike as necessary. Let's ride!
If you're going, send me an email. I want to call ahead and let the restaurant know how many to expect.
Monday, August 07, 2006
The 'Real' Biker
This is the time of year when motorcyclists the world over are puffing out their chests the hardest. Somewhere amongst the fresh crop of noobs on the street, the older veteran riders who buy new bikes every spring, the plethora of different riding styles, bike types, and manifest biker philosophies -- inevitable big egos and so-called 'biker pride' mentalities begin to fester and divide us to one degree or another. The opinions are always the same tired assertions from one type of motorcyclist to another: "I'm a real biker and you're not, because I do 'A' with my motorcycle while you only do 'B' with yours." It's a bunch of fucking nonsense, but it never fails to divide us against ourselves -- a dire product of motorcycists' collective ego in a day and age when we should be sticking together tighter than ever.
So, in the spirit of promoting solidarity amongst motorcyclists in a world that grows increasingly more hostile toward us every day, I offer my personal definitions of what constitutes a real biker:
1. A real biker spends his time learning -- both from his own mistakes, as well as from the constantly changing dynamics of the environment he traverses through. He also takes classes, keeps his skills sharp, and studies the physical processes by which he rides and by which his machine operates.
2. A real biker stands up for his rights and the rights of other riders. He recognizes that motorcyclists have a right to be covered by their own health insurance policies in the event of a crash. He acknowledges that car drivers who negligently kill motorcyclists deserve harsh punishments, not 100-dollar fines. He calls his elected representatives and informs them when a right is being threatened. He makes others aware of his place in both traffic and within the American culture in a constructive, informative way at any opportunity given him.
3. A real biker judges his peers by how they ride, not by what they ride.
4. A real biker somehow finds a way to enjoy every ride, even a bad one.
5. A real biker accepts the responsibility he has to his friends and family to wear proper safety gear, and does so gladly every time he rides.
6. A real biker encourages others to become motorcyclists.
7. A real biker takes care of his bike and keeps it in perfect working order, be it 2 weeks old or 60 years old.
8. A real biker stays within his limits, but always seeks to safely expand them.
9. A real biker stops when another biker needs assistance.
10. A real biker not only accepts the risks, he successfully manages them.
Stay safe and have fun.
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