To my urbanist and Sanders supporting friends, a word.

To my urbanist friends supporting Bernie and other government-funded solutions to problems of everyday Americans: I think I can open your eyes to something.

In my earlier post about Trump and Sanders supporters I said that in places like the Ohio Valley, government solutions seldom work because they almost never occur at a useful scale. Not since the Post Office and electricity. And thus the rise of Trump: “Why would I pay for something for someone else when we know we get nothing?”

Let’s shrink this down to a smaller area: Marion County.

Here are some perfectly valid claims, ones that many of you are highly supportive of:

  1. “Can I get some sidewalks near my home? It’s dangerous on the street without them, and at night people can’t go out without risking death.”
  2. “Can we build some trails so my spouse and I can have a place to exercise and lose weight?”
  3. “It’s getting tough to for us and the city to afford to operate a private car, and the city’s unable to maintain the roads well, how about more mass transit?”
  4. “Can we get our now 15-year old road re-surfaced? It floods a lot, too.”
  5. “Can we get more streetlights? Maybe it can help reduce crime?”

To many of my friends, these are all fantastic things that must and should be done. We’ll vote in referendums, we’ll lobby for increased funding, we’ll talk to our political leaders.

I know I have. I’ve been saying every one of those things for about 9 years now. Why such a specific number? Because that’s when I bought my house. In Marion County. 7 miles from Downtown. Just a few miles from Fountain Square and Irvington.

What do I have?

  1. No sidewalks anywhere outside my neighborhood.
  2. No trails nearby except the Pennsy Trail, which is unsafe by any means to get to on a bike from me, and appears to be on a completion time of 67 years. For most of the last 9 years it was a 1.25 mile stretch.
  3. My bus route gets “streamlined” to a 15-minute walk away from my house (it used to be right out the door), and I get to walk along a crap road that’s barely lit with a muddy, hole-ridden, chemical-stained shoulder.
  4. My arterial street hasn’t seen much beyond some quick hot-mix patches over the last 12 or 13 years. Stretches so bad people drive in the turn lanes to avoid the driving lane.
  5. Streetlights burn out and don’t get replaced, or are spaced so far apart I’m better off using my phone’s flashlight function.

What do I get told?

  1. We have a master plan for sidewalks, and we’re building it out 3 years at a time.
  2. We’re working on our master plan for trail connectivity over the next 20 years.
  3. We’re working on a new bus master transit plan with higher frequency and faster service. It’ll be great in 2021!
  4. We’re waiting for funding. It’s on the list.
  5. We’re going to replace every street light with new LED ones and put more in where they’re needed most.

Great!

Except not a single one of those things impacts me at all. And I do mean at all.

  1. The sidewalk plan has me in a tier 2 area. So expect something in about 15 years, if ever.
  2. The master plan for trails doesn’t come within 7 miles of me.
  3. The new transit plan leaves my route largely unchanged. Same 15-minute walk, same 60-minute frequency. Just some longer hours at times of night I don’t go anywhere anyway. In fact, the part of my route I care most about (Prospect, along through Fountain Square) will go away and instead carry me along English Ave. I think there’s a Dairy Queen along in there somewhere.
  4. Southeastern Ave. hasn’t been repaved in at least 13 years. In that same time Fall Creek Parkway is paved like the Speedway and Kessler, another Tier-2 road, has been resurfaced 4 times.
  5. We’ll see if Joe Hogsett lives up to his promise for more streetlights, but I’m not holding my breath.

And why am I told all those? This is where my urbanist friends have reasonable suggestions:

  1. We have to build where there’s the most demand!
  2. The trails will be great in high-density neighborhoods!
  3. Transit works best when it’s simple routes through dense places!
  4. We should have fewer roads so we can afford to maintain them!

You can see where this is going, right? You’ve chosen a set of “winners” and a lot of “losers”.

Can you imagine why a person loses faith very, very, quickly in these sorts of things? Government promises something, and doesn’t deliver. Or what it does deliver is lousy. And the reasons why are simply, “There’s just more over here.” More voters, more money, more everything. And here I sit, in a moderately dense area with nothing special. We’re not 38th street and we’re not Wanamaker.

And you want me to say, “Yes, let’s pay just a little more in taxes to cover these things!” Ok…but, do I like, get to use any of them? I’d rather not have to drive 20 minutes to Broad Ripple to use the Monon with my dog. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

This is how rural voters feel about everything. They don’t even get water. After a while, those of us who live in cities start to look really stupid for promising things to people that never come. These folks aren’t stupid. They’re literally working in their best interests because they’ve seen this movie before.

And here I am, 7 miles from the epicenter of our city, in a house I bought in Marion County to fight against suburban flight and I’m rewarded with, well, not much. Fire protection is pretty good.

So when someone comes along like Trump and says, “You know what, let’s just stop all this nonsense”, there’s some there there for a lot of people. This is why I have such a libertarian streak in me, too. It’s why I trudge along in ways no one else would. Not many of my urbanist cyclist friends would bike where I do and in the conditions I do. Not many people would put up with the walking I do. Because all I can do is what I do for everything: will it into existence. My desire to not spend money on a car is far above my desire to stay a little dryer when it rains. I’ll just wear a rain coat.

I still support all those things for Indianapolis. I just wish that after all my jumping up and down someone would at least throw me a bone. I can hear someone now saying, “Well this is good for all of Indianapolis.” Yeah, that’s nice, but it’s also sorta like saying, “What’s good for New York is good for Indianapolis.” No, it almost certainly is not. That’s patronizing and I wish you’d stop.

I’ve cycled over 15,000 miles

I just took a look at my bike computer and noticed “TOTAL ODO” read 1,081. It only goes up to 9,999.

Which means I’ve logged more than 11,081 miles on my bike. Not counting two other bikes I’ve owned and not tracked as closely, it’s reasonable that I’ve done about 15,000 miles in the saddle in two years.

That’s 283 trips around I-465, 55 trips up and down the height of Indiana, 5 trips across the United States, or a little over halfway around the earth. All while burning about 655,000 calories. That’s also 56,250 pounds, or over 28 tons, of air pollution not emitted.

I’ve saved about $28,923. I do not know where it’s gone, though. Presumably it’s allowed me to keep my rates affordable for projects I like and not work 15 hours a day.

Indianapolis may have figured out transit without it costing much at all

It’s no secret to anyone I don’t care for cars. I don’t think most people most of the time need a car to do most things. I think busses, bikes, and just plain walking are all better for everyone, at least in an urban environment. Rural communities are a different issue.

So I take great interest in IndyConnect and similar initiatives to bolster funding for IndyGo, add more busses, and connect the region. I’ll be the first person to vote in favor of commuter taxes or some sort of regional taxation so people in the suburbs whose livelihoods likely wouldn’t exist without the city still have some skin in the game, particularly when they all work in the city. Remember, “you can’t be a suburb of nowhere”.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is charging ahead (see what I did there) with Blue Indy, an electric car share program that’ll have stations at 200 locations across the city. This could be big, if done well. So far, I have some reservations.

Blue Indy is a private French-owned company and they’re getting ratepayers to Indianapolis Power and Light to foot most of the bill. After some haggling, it seems IPL customers will pay an additional 28 cents a month. Twenty. Eight. Cents.

Of course people are mad about that, but seriously? 28 cents? Here, make it 30 cents and just buy new cars when they run out of charge.

Regardless, we all pay 28 cents a month and we get these neat little electric cars. The goals here from the Mayor are two-fold:

1. Decrease Indy’s dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels and
2. Increase Indy’s use of multi-modal transportation options

It’s that second item that catches my eye. Indy’s a car-centric place, and if you can get people to give up their own cars or drive less in their lousy old cars, we can get people interested in alternative transit options without going whole hog, so to speak.

I spoke to some of the people at Blue Indy’s first station downtown at Washington and Meridian. They’re planning 25 initial stations. They include:

  1. Washington and Penn
  2. The Convention Center
  3. City Market
  4. Monument Circle
  5. Ohio and Penn
  6. IND Airport
  7.  IUPUI’s Student Center
  8. Mass Ave
  9. Broad Ripple
  10. Fountain Square
  11. City Way
  12. Illinois and Washington
  13. City-County Building
  14. White River State Park (the zoo, museums, etc.)
  15. Statehouse
  16. Ivy Tech’s Fall Creek campus
  17. South Broad Ripple (can we lose the “SoBro” now? Please?)
  18. Irvington
  19. Butler
  20. University of Indianapolis
  21. 86th and the Monon
  22. Fashion Mall
  23. Castleton Mall
  24. Glendale Mall
  25. Victory Field

Some interesting places there, but sadly, not a lot of residential places. Irvington strikes me as a great spot, IUPUI, 86th and Monon, and South Broad Ripple — all places IndyGo doesn’t reach with a ton of ease.

Prices are slated for $5 for 30 minutes, plus a modest membership fee each year. But so far, I have some problems with this.

The cars aren’t equipped with bike racks, and they’re so small you could never fit one inside. A Blue Indy rep says they’re considering outfitting 1 out of every 5 cars with bike racks. Without them, this means you’ll either have to bus to a station or walk to a station. Or, I guess, bike and leave your bike there?

What I wish, however, was an emphasis on more residential locations. I live along Michigan Road and the closest initial station will be in Broad Ripple, which is a 20 minute bike ride away. But without bike racks I’d have to bus and to move across town 10 miles is about a 90 minute bus ride. Not convenient at all.

But this is an excellent way of supplementing bus and bike infrastructure for people who need to bounce out to a suburban county for a few hours. Or, once the Downtown transit center is done, realize the bus is running late,, you’re in a hurry, and there’s a car.

It’d be useless if you worked all day every day, but sometimes I have to zip over to Avon or a few weeks ago I had to get up to Noblesville. To get to Noblesville I could bike up Michigan Road, take the 86th street bus east to the Fashion Mall, pick up a car and go for a few hours and come back and do it all in the inverse — so long as the bike racks are there or there’s a very safe place to park my bike. You’re only charged for the cars so long as it’s unplugged. The meter stops the second it’s plugged back in somewhere.

Most people will look at it as a useless thing that takes up extra parking spaces, but if placed strategically it could be a savior for the “Oh crap, my car won’t start”, or, “I can bus to dinner, but how do I get back home after 11?” or, “I need to get to Greenfield, but there’s nothing to get me there except a car from the county line where the bus stops.” It supplements the existing limitations of Indy’s transit system, connects the region at an affordable price, and since they’re electric, it’s cleaner than gas. Once IPL stops burning coal in favor of natural gas at their Harding Street plant, it’ll be even cleaner.

It’s a uniquely Indianapolis approach: public and private partnerships, making use of what we already have technically and culturally, and without costing much money at all.

Suicide makes sense sometimes

Oh man, Robin Williams died. Did you hear? You probably heard. It’s hard not to.

I get it, and I think he made the best decision for him. Mark Twain once said “…the suicides seem to be the only sane people.”

Wait, what?

Louis CK can explain:

I’m not saying Robin Williams was ugly. The point I’m more interested in was the “There’s someone for everyone” bit.

“There are millions of people who are light-speed ugly, and no one kisses them on the lips even. No one touches their genitals. They just wash it and then they die. And if you’re feeling bad you can go find one, but naaaaah.”

Robin was married, so that’s not to say his sadness was brought from a lack of physical love. But for a lot of people it is. Regardless what the problem is, depression is one of those things everyone has an opinion about, except they’ve probably never been truly depressed. Sometimes smart people say smart things, but I’m a total loner on this issue, I’m sure. I think people who commit suicide are just making the best decision possible for them. Like deciding to get a tooth pulled because it’s $600 cheaper than fixing it.

I think it’s okay he died. People are upset that he’s dead not because he killed himself, but because they liked him. But not “liked him”, they “liked him.” They wanted to see the monkey dance some more. They wanted to see Mrs. Doubtfire 2. I’m guessing you probably didn’t give much thought to Robin Williams the day he died, until the news broke.

The same goes for otherwise unheard of no-name Joes that commit suicide. A few people will be unsettled by it for a few days, usually family or some such. But your boss won’t care because they’ll just replace you. Your friends will move on because they have other friends. And really, they weren’t very good friends to begin with were they? They never called, they never wanted to hang out.

So of course he committed suicide. We really have to stop being surprised that people want to die when they live in what amounts to near isolation.

Some might say they had no idea about a person being depressed, and that may be true, but I bet you know someone who struggles with it a lot. And what have you done? Hit “like” on a Facebook post?

“But what am I supposed to do?” you ask. Well, for one, you could just go be cool. Go hang out with them on Friday night. There’s not some book you have to follow. Just go chill out, even if you just sit next to each other in silence for a while.

Even being around or offering to being around people may not be enough. There are plenty of people who are depressed because they literally can not find anyone to share the kinds of experiences they desire with. Sure, we could all go play bingo at the nursing home, but eventually a person just wants to swim or bike or play a video game.

I like biking, James Bond, good sweet iced tea, video games, and swimming. I can think of about 2 people I know who also enjoy biking. I can think of 1 person I know who likes James Bond. Drinking tea seems like an odd way to spend a Friday night, but everyone else is out drinking alcohol and wondering where their headache came from anyway. And I never swim because where the heck is there a pool I can use that isn’t more expensive than my cable bill and not filled with 6 year olds? Sometimes there really are no options. This is probably why so many people spend their time drinking. And if you don’t like drinking, well, now what? Go see a show? Those cost money, and if you don’t have money, screw you, I guess, right?

You might think people who commit suicide are doing the wrong thing (as if they wanted to anyway). But what’s the difference between a person so distraught they can’t get out of bed vs. a person who has cancer and can’t get out of bed either?

For a lot of people your Mr. Obvious style statements aren’t helping, they’re just fanning a fire. So new rule: you don’t get to be shocked that the person you never loved, hung out with, helped, or even talked to much killed themselves. What would you have them do, just sit and wait until their heart gave out from being repeatedly broken?

Next year’s goal is to kick butt

So I have a new goal for 2013: kick ass in the Indy Criterium bike ride next July.

A couple weeks ago I bought this sporty number from Indy Cycle and have been dutifully using it for training each morning as my new racing bike. I do really well in long-distance, endurance rides, and I can ride 10 miles without breaking much of a sweat on average temperature days. But I’d like to excel at short and medium-distance sprints, preferably without getting winded or too bent out of shape.

I started two weeks ago on a 6.71 mile ride in 26 minutes. My average speed was 15.42 miles, but my highest was 22.39 MPH. That’s about 3:53 per mile, or 2:40 at my fastest. I’m tracking myself over the next couple weeks to give myself a month-long data set.

IMG 0734

For those curious, that’s a Felt F75 series. It’s a 2009, the last model year they made an aluminum body with a carbon fiber seat post and fork (the newer models were downgraded to remove the carbon fiber). It’s super light and crazy fast. It also uses the same geometry and drop outs as Felt’s Tour de France team bikes. Neat!