Rolling Coal

The Bike Hugger Facebook page pointed me to an interesting piece today from Jalopnik — it seems that in New Jersey, they’ve outlawed the practice of “rolling coal.” That’s when a big ‘ol, jacked up four-wheel drive pickup passes you while blasting a cloud of black smoke back in your face. It’s about as funny as the jerks who interrupt female TV reporters by yelling a particularly nasty obscenity.

Here's hoping you don't run into something like this.
Here’s hoping you don’t run into something like this.

It’s happened to me only once — just about a year ago. I had made the mistake of taking a major state highway to get back to the start of my ride quicker. Even though I was in the clearly-marked bike lane, some pickup-driving doofus decided I shouldn’t be there at all, so he proceeded to demonstrate what his exhausts could do. Luckily for me, it lasted only a couple of seconds. He was soon well ahead, and there was enough of a breeze that day to dissipate the smoke quickly.

Sure, it was already against the law. The EPA has a regulation against it. But the New Jersey legislature wanted to pass its own law just to bring it to everyone’s attention, and hopefully to get the police to enforce the ban more strongly.

Now, if New Jersey can do it — New Jersey, mind you — what say the rest of the states get on the bandwagon? Shut these coal rollers down.


Selective Enforcement

One of the members of my cycling club sent out an email to the group the other day, warning of police ticketing cyclists who failed to stop before turning right on a red light. It seems there were three squad cars, all writing out tickets.

Now, this kind of thing has gone on before, but I haven’t heard a lot about it in several years. And what struck me as odd about this instance was that it took place on a Wednesday morning, at about 11 a.m. That doesn’t strike me as a busy biking time, but apparently there were enough wayward bikers out there to keep the police busy for a little while.

The intersection in question is one I go through all the time. And I’m guilty of making the right turn on red without stopping, too. I do it if no traffic is coming from the left. If there are cars coming through the intersection, I stop.

But what got my goat about this incident was that the guy who wrote the email said just 100 feet away from the enforcement effort, he was nearly hit by a teenage girl in a BMW, texting. While not stopping at a red light is not a good thing to do, texting while driving is a whole lot worse.

I wonder if the police ever set up texting stops?

They’re Paving Paradise

Okay, that’s perhaps a bit of an overstatement. Austin is not a biking paradise, regardless of what you’ve heard.

But the reason has to do with the point of this post. The city has gotten too big, too fast. We’re now at about 843,000, which makes us the 11th-largest city in the United States. The roads I enjoyed biking on when I took up the sport eight years ago are not as inviting as they once were.

Just on Sunday’s ride, I made a jaunt out to the southeastern part of the city, where it starts becoming rural — or, at least, semi-rural. It used to be, that once you got east of Interstate 35, buildings spread out quickly, giving way to small spreads of several acres. But this is what I saw today:


Yet another apartment complex going up. Now, we’re a poor city for mass transit, so most of the people who move into these places will be driving cars, which will add to the already horrendous traffic conditions. There are enough apartment complexes going up farther and farther from downtown, that our formerly nice biking roads are being increasingly crowded with motor vehicle traffic.

And if not apartments, houses are springing up, too. I headed for a well-known country club which had once been out by itself. Now, one of the roads leading out of the club’s neighborhoods has be extended farther east, into what had been previously scrub land. The new development has a golf theme, with streets like Boros Drive and Mickelson Lane, and the houses don’t appear to be anywhere near as nice as the ones closer to the golf course.

Occasionally, I have put my bike on the car’s bike rack, and headed some distance from home to ride in the country. I can still get in a 25-mile ride just cruising streets in my neighborhood, but suburban riding doesn’t give the same joy as a nice spin in the country. I think I’ll be driving to my rides a lot more in the future.