Bike Commuting and Living to Tell About It

Plenty of people-including us-will gladly tell you to get out of your car, and get on a bike: You'll winnow your carbon footprint to a baby step; you'll get outside and get a workout in the bargain. So let's say you do. What now? A street full of whizzing cars isn't the cul de sac where you first rode without training wheels. You can't ride with the same carefree attitude.As a bike commuter in New York for nearly a decade, scrapes have taught me a lot. I've ended up on the trunks and hoods of cars and ridden straight into their sides. I've gone over my handlebars, at speed, twice-one time landed me in the ER, the other split my helmet neatly in half. It was my fault every time. Not that I was asking for trouble. But I could have prevented these accidents with foresight. With experience, I no longer ride like I used to. Here's what I've learned:1. Even if you can't see trouble, you can sense it by attending to your surroundings. Upcoming intersections are a major source of accidents but many people roll into them blind, hoping to react to whatever might come. A better way: Use walkers as a clue to what's going on ahead. Are they crossing in your direction? And more importantly, have people suddenly stopped? It sounds obvious, but most bike riders pay attention only to the pavement in front of them. That's a good way to get hurt. Also, if a car ahead of you swerves right, there's a good chance they're trying to pull a sudden u-turn. Slow down in response.2. Learn how to turn your head correctly. Most bikes, especially road bikes, make you hunch over at least a little bit. That means you can't look over your shoulder as you normally would when walking, by keeping your neck straight and turning your head. If you do that on a bike, you're blinding yourself to the road ahead and you'll naturally turn your shoulders too. That throws your balance off and makes you more likely to fall if something unexpected happens in front of you. Instead, if you're looking left for example, lower your chin onto your left collarbone. You won't have to turn your head from the road, and you won't shift your center of gravity.3. Drivers will drive wherever they're given room. So when you're sharing the road, don't encourage them to squeeze past you. Claim your space, especially on busy streets. Don't hug the curb to give yourself a slim profile. That only encourages drivers to whip around you. Instead, give yourself a wide berth. The worst you'll hear are honks. The alternative is getting knocked off your bike while trying to be polite to a driver who doesn't care.4. Look at the road from the standpoint of the cars around you. Be aware of where drivers' blind spots are. If you're in one, slow down or speed up to get out of it. Never, under any circumstances, put yourself between a big truck and a curb. Too many people get seriously injured or killed when trucks swerve or turn suddenly. You might feel goofy stopping behind a truck at a light and not passing it when there's a three-foot gap on the side. Deal with it. Be patient.5. Don't ride fast at night. Accidents happen faster when it's dark, since you're slower to react when you can't see as much. And an unappreciated danger is the road itself. If you're moving quickly, a small, invisible bump can send you flying. (This is what produced my most potentially severe accident, when I cracked my helmet.)6. Most wheel and bike thefts take just a few seconds. Increase the time required to steal yours. A couple of tips:-Don't skimp on the lock, and lock your bike right. Those ubiquitous black-vinyl covered U-locks are terrible-they can be popped with a six-inch piece of metal. Cable locks are just as bad. Get yourself a hardened u-lock, or, better yet, a city chain like the messengers use. They're not heavy when worn around your waist. When you lock your bike, loop through the wheel and, more importantly, the frame-few thieves will saw through it to steal your bike.-Your bike wheels probably come with quick-release skewers, the bolt that attaches the wheel to the front fork or rear wheel stays. Tell the bike store to replace them with regular bolts that require a wrench. That'll make your wheels slow and annoying to steal, and wheels are surprisingly expensive to replace.-Sounds dastardly, but if I'm parking my bike next to a bunch of others, I'll do it close to a bike that's obviously easy to steal, leaving any bike thief to wonder: Why steal this one when that one is easy pickings?7. Wear a helmet. If you're too embarrassed, you're also too dumb to ride a bike in a city. Seriously.

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

Keep Reading Show less
via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

Keep Reading Show less
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet