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February 07, 2005



I too saw Being Julia and Hotel Rwanda over the weekend. Both are fantastic.

If only Hotel Rwanda had been nominated for best picture.... instead of Sideways.

Can anyone offer an opinion on Vera Drake? I haven't seen it yet, but after Being Julia, I wonder if there is any other "Best Actress" film that I MUST see...


After lurking around your blog for months, I finally have to jump in because you post about bicycling - go figure.

While I have no doubt that you are correct in that your neighbors cannot afford helmets, riding on the sidewalk is not inherently safer than riding on the street. Your own accident even suggests that - bicyclists on the sidewalk are a danger to pedestrians and are in danger from motorists.

People have the perception that it is safer, but it is not really true. Here is a useful quote:
"With very few exceptions, the safest way to ride is as part of the traffic, going with the flow of the normal traffic pattern. Bicyclists who ride this way get where they're going faster and, according to scientific crash studies, have about five times fewer crashes than bicyclists who make up their own rules"


And another useful link - this one identifies some of the top causes of bike-car crashes, and right at the top is riding on the sidewalk:

In other words, even without helmets your neighbors would probably be safer on the road. In fact, many bicycle safety advocates would probably like to reduce the emphasis on helmets - a helmet will not completely protect you from unsafe riding practices.

I see plenty of people riding on sidewalks here in the Chicago suburbs who don't fit your description at all. I also see plenty riding the wrong direction, which makes it that much more dangerous.


I was making a legal right on red late in the evening, and he was speeding along the sidewalk (where I was not looking) and raced into the intersection just as I was turning.

The moral of the story is to pay attention at intersections.



Vera Drake is the best of Mike Leigh's excellent career (ranking just ahead of both Hotel Rwanda and Sideways on my own personal top ten list). For reasons I can't quite explain fully, the second half of the film is quietly devastating largely because of it's predictability--Imelda Stauton's portrayal of a woman who is so torn between how utterly mortified she is at bringing shame and humiliation to her family and her view that "helping girls out" was a duty she had to those in need is wonderfully captured, and Stauton's quietly explosive terrified silence in the latter part of the film is why I'll be rooting for her for Best Actress (although in deferrence to Hugo, Bening in Being Julia is the one nominated performance in that category I haven't seen).

For what it's worth, in my view the best film of the year is absent from Oscar noms--Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education. I can't remember when I last left a theatre feeling as invigorated as I did in that case. It's got a complicated structure I won't try to explain (films within films and flashbacks and such), but it isn't confusing at all; it's a high-degree of difficulty structural triumph. It's a humane exploration of the ways in which we're shaped by traumatic pasts (in this case, Priestly sexual abuse). And the final act takes a few immensely appealing noirish twists. I should just shut up. See it!

Hugo Schwyzer

Vera Drake is on the list for the bout of pre-Oscar screenings!

Hugo Schwyzer

AJ, I loved Sideways. If I were going to drop a pic from the Best Picture Nominees, it would be "Aviator".


Well I got an idea for you Hugo.

“I am confident that if they had the equipment with which to ride safely in the street as we do, they would do so.”

Find a fellow you see a few times a week riding his bike to work and go out and buy him a helmet. Imagine 100% of your charity would go directly to this persons benefit. Then you could get back to us with the results in a week or two—I bet he won’t be wearing it. He will sell it for some other greater “necessity”, right?

“Our bikes are fast enough and sufficiently maneuverable for us to do so.”

I cannot tell you how relative a statement that is, which makes it meaningless.

As Sara has noted, riding on the sidewalk is a false sense of security. The real culprit in this affair are those with a lack of education. These folks may have missed their alternative modes of transportation and safety class after being released from jail due to a DUI. Other folks may have missed a similar class that is held after the Welcome to American undocumented workers orientation class, which by the way hands out information on legalizing the same folks to obtain driver’s licenses in CA—lobbying with mantras “we are victims of YOUR oppression, therefore YOU must assist us.” I think the title of that brochure is, “Working the white mans affluence to your advantage”.

“Perhaps some local charity exists where helmets can be donated.”

Perhaps you could start one.


I suppose it depend where one lives. I learned(and go by) Except where specificly provided, right of way hierarchy goes like this; pedestrian, horse, bicycle, motor.
I don't wish to address the distinction between mopeds and semis, however, it's always safe to assume the more easily damaged mode of transportation will do the foolish thing, and it's the responsability of any operator to assure the safty others.

There are practical exceptions. The mean streets of NYC can be hazardous to unskilled travelers (well, in general)and the streets of European cities can be leathal when local custom prevails over sensable traffic law.


I guess I straddle the boundary of the necessity-cyclist and the luxury-cyclist : buses serve me adequately on weekdays, but I bought a bike for weekend transportation, not being able to afford a car (the church in closest walking distance is a slightly scary fundamentalist Baptist one). I have a new, decent-quality bike--the cheapest one they had at the local bike shop--and only the most essential accessories : lock, helmet, air pump. My helmet cost $25.

I don't ride on the street because I can 'afford that luxury.' Last month I plowed myself into a curb and broke my elbow, after all. I ride on the street because I have been taught that it's safer, that bicycles have the legal right to use the street, and I have been taught how to ride safely in the street (plowing myself into a curb nonwithstanding...) Lots of middle class Anglo-Americans don't know that. I live in a college down, where there are a lot of rather affluent young bike riders, and cars usually make room for them pretty well, and STILL half of them ride on the sidewalk. So how many people of color who may not even speak English have been taught these things?


It is our relative wealth, not our superior respect for the law, that allows us to stay off the sidewalks.

Hugo, do you feel guilty for being born white?

In my state, it is illegal to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk. A sidewalk is used for citizens to walk upon, not to ride bicycles onto. There are areas where there are bike-paths established for riding bicycles, and those folks that have bicycles that choose to ride them use those. It is also a law in my state to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle to protect from injury. We establish laws in our country to create social order. Without such laws, chaos would result.

Hugo, the guy that you hit with your car that was riding a bicycle that didn't speak english was probably an illegal alien. I wouldn't be concerned about his injuries because as an illegal alien he has better medical care than the majority of American citizens do and American taxpayers pay for all of that medical care. In California, taxpayers are paying to the tune of $14 billion per year for the costs associated with illegal immigrants, and I am sure that a lot of federal tax monies flow into California's coffers to help you guys pay for your utopia that you have going on there.

It is better for illegal immigrants to ride bicycles than to drive in cars anyway. Illegal immigrants are statistically proven to avoid paying car insurance at all costs. So when the illegal immigrant gets behind the wheel of an automobile on a road in California, the illegal immigrant now has an uninsured weapon to kill or maim some American citizen with. God help any American citizen that is injured by a motorist without insurance in states like California. The illegal immigrant will be sued for damages relating to their negligent lack of carrying insurance for their car and then when they are released they will flee back to Mexico to avoid responsibility, just as murders, rapists, thieves and other Mexican hardened criminals do when their luck runs out after preying upon an unsuspecting American public with impunity.

So Hugo, I must ask you if you feel guilty about being born, because God decides where people are born. You, nor I, had any input into the fact that people would be born in Mexico. Since people are born in Mexico, does that mean I am responsible for them?

What about the Mexican government's responsibility to its own people?

Modern feminism has murdered 50,000,000 Americans since 1973, people that I would have truly wished to know personally, had they been allowed to be born. Since they have not been allowed to be born, those populations have been replaced with people I can't even talk to because they don't speak english and refuse to become a community in this country.

A lot of Californians must think the way I do too, since 800,000 American families have fled California since 1996 to other parts of the country where they feel safer and think that they can avoid the impending doom that is modern California. Since illegal immigrants do not pay taxes, how long will all the folks on bicycles that don't speak english feed at the trough of those that do pay taxes?

I don't think that you have anything to feel guilty about Hugo because Americans have handed an entire state over to a foreign invasion force and are even subsidizing that invasion with their own tax dollars.

What more do you want? If you feel so guilty, why don't you just hand your car keys over to one of them and your house keys and walk away? That might give you some satisfaction. I am sure that La Raza would love to get their hands on your house and car.



Living in Houston, I can tell you that riding a bicycle on the streets with the notion that you have "legal right of way" and a "legal right to use the street" will get you run over in a relatively short amount of time. While both things are technically true, they will also make a great quote to use on your obit.
And a silly little bicycle helmet will not make much of a difference when you have a tire tread mark across your back.
Honestly.. I think there is some sort of sport here that involves points for both pedestrians and cyclists.
A bicyclist riding with the traffic on a busy Houston Street is taking his life in his or hers own hands...


The idea that a bicycle helmet will save you from anything other than minor external abrasions to the head is questionable. The SNELL and ANSI standards are explicitly designed around this using a model where the impact of the head occurs linearly at no higher than 14mph with a flat surface. A lot of head injuries are not due to the simple impact of the brain against the inside of the skull during decelleration, but are rather of a rotational/torsional type. There is a serious concern that a helmet (especially one of the $130 aerodynamically elongated ones) exacerbates this type of injury by providing an increased radius to the head.

There is also the problem that the majority of injuries suffered by cyclists in bicycle-car collisions are due to internal organ injury (excluding the brain).

In terms of advocating helmet-usage as a public safety measure it would be more useful to insist that car-drivers wear them (they suffer a disproportionately higher number of simple impact head injuries than cyclists _and_ a disproportionately higher number of head injuries overall, and a great gross number of injuries indicating that they are a key target group for reduction measures).

In addition to this the simplest most effective strategy in reducing injuries would be limiting the speed travelled by cars to 15 to 20 mph except on freeways.

Add to all of this that the net effect of the introduction of helmets in all countries which have made them compulsory is an overall reduction in the net number of cyclists and no observable proportionate reduction in head injuries to cyclists and it looks as though the helmet issue is a canard.

Sidewalk cycling on the other hand is demonstrably unsafe as evidenced widely in the literature, as is wrong-way cycling, riding too close to the curb, and not using lights and reflectors for visibility.

Anyone with an interest in the topic of bicycle safety would be well advised to at least think about taking the League of American Bicyclist's Road I and II training course and buying a copy of John Forester's "Effective Cycling"


QUOTE Obtester: "Living in Houston, I can tell you that riding a bicycle on the streets with the notion that you have "legal right of way" and a "legal right to use the street" will get you run over in a relatively short amount of time. While both things are technically true, they will also make a great quote to use on your obit."

RESPONSE: Please cite just one verified case to prove your point. One in which a cyclist was deliberately run down from behind. You are asserting your ignorant fear as fact and it is misleading and perpetuating a myth.


To avoid the fellows on bikes when we're both on the sidewalk, many times I've had to jump out of the way....But until the day that my fellow riders are as fortunate and well-equipped as I, I'll continue to be willing to move out of their way on the sidewalks, honoring both their necessity and my privilege.

You realize, right, that your ability to "jump out of the way" is also a privilege?

(And don't tell me that you think they'd slow down if they saw a disabled person on the sidewalk. My disability is invisible unless you're looking really closely. And it still prevents me from dodging bicyclists.)

How do the young women in your neighborhood get to work?

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