Thursday, April 30, 2009


I acquired a flat tire crossing Eastern Parkway last night. This was after riding on the new bike lane, visiting Prospect Park, and thinking about how much I loved everything. The sun had set as I sadly walked my bike up Underhill. It made a continous thump-thump sound; I felt the pity of passing pedestrians. Luckily, I was able to bring my bike by our neighborhood shop Brooklyn Bike y Board as soon as I left Manhattan earlier today.
I have to say I love the guys who work here. They are seriously hot and seriously talented. This is Zach (sp?) working on my bike. He got a kick out of my weird brake casing and told me a story about how he once bounced a phone off his shoe and caught it in superhuman fashion.

What I appreciate about the new owners/workers at BByB is their genuine interest in every bike (and bike owner) that rolls in. They drooled over a customer's perfect Frejus Campione del Mondo Olimpionico roadbike, yelled about plans to start a bike polo team, sprayed me in the face with a water gun (on accident), practiced track stands, and told me how they watch out for the extra small and extra large bikes- all of this while helping me and others. And, even though the shop was busy, the Fearless Leader heard me tell Zach about my plans for something other than my single speed and he showed me this small-framed, silver 5-speed with pink cables.The shop is going to put some narrow tires on this one, tune it up, and modify it for my liking. Then it's coming home with me. I haven't told my red bike yet.

Metro Card Bending

From the decision of Judge Victoria A. Graffeo in the case of an MTA metro card bender. Thanks to the judge's decision, hackers everywhere can learn more about the MTA Metrocard design.
"The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is responsible for operating the mass transit system in the New York City area. In years past, a person gained access to the subways by purchasing a token and depositing it into a turnstile. This mechanical means of entry was eventually replaced with a computerized system that uses a "MetroCard" -- a plastic swipe card that is "read" by a scanner, embedded within a turnstile, that deducts the cost of the fare from the MetroCard.

There are two types of MetroCards: value-based MetroCards (referred to as "pay-per-ride" cards) and time-based MetroCards (referred to as "unlimited" cards). A purchaser of a time-based card is provided unlimited transportation access for a specified period of time (one day, one week or one month depending on the purchase price). The purchaser of a value card electronically stores a certain amount of money on the MetroCard that will be debited each time the user enters the MTA system. Only value cards are at issue in this appeal.

A MetroCard has two distinct magnetic fields that contain information, referred to as the primary and secondary fields. The MTA opted to use two fields so that the information encoded onto the card has "backup" storage in the event that a magnetic field is damaged. Based on the testimony of an MTA expert in this case, when a value-based MetroCard is swiped through the electronic eye of a turnstile, a computer reads both magnetic fields. If the MetroCard has monetary value remaining, the turnstile grants access and deducts the cost of the ride from the value of the card, amending the information stored on the magnetic strip to reflect the reduction in value. Thus, the expert explained, if a MetroCard is bought for $4 in value, that amount is initially encoded onto both the primary and secondary fields. When the card is first used for a $2 fare, the computer will deduct $2 from one of the fields, leaving the other field at $4. The next time the MetroCard is swiped for entry, the computer does not change the $2 field but instead reduces the $4 field to zero. Once one of the fields reads zero, the turnstile is not supposed to open. By utilizing this design methodology, which electronically leaves $2 of value on one of the magnetic fields even though the purchased value has been depleted to zero, the MTA intended to give riders "the benefit of the doubt" in the event that the magnetic strip was damaged. Thus, if the computer eye in the turnstile cannot determine the true remaining purchase value but can read the $2 backup field, one ride can be obtained.

Individuals seeking free rides on the subway soon learned how to take advantage of the system's design. By creating a small bend or crease on the section of the magnetic strip where the zero-value field is contained, a person can obliterate that information so that, when swiped, the computer is unable to detect that the MetroCard is worthless, meaning no purchase value remains. When there is a strategically-placed crease or bend on the card, the turnstile computer will read the other field containing the $2 "backup" information, which gives the user of the card a free entry to the subway. Hence, a person can bend a valueless MetroCard and swipe it once, then use or sell the free ride at a discounted price by swiping it a second time (this is referred to as "selling swipes"). The ease of this type of alteration and its popularity among individuals who are willing to defraud the MTA contributed to considerable losses of revenue for the MTA -- it was estimated that as of 2005, fraudulent MetroCard use was costing the MTA approximately $16 million per year, the equivalent of about 8 million ride fares."

Bergen St. Loves Bikes

A Crown Heights update:

If you learned anything from Michael or Biden you will know this is turning out to be a good week not to ride public transportation. So, here is some bike news.
Yesterday I was riding south on Schenectady on my way back from a job in Bed-Stuy. I turned west onto Bergen St. and low and behold there is a newly (not necessarily freshly) painted bike lane!

Up until this week Bergen has had a bike lane as far east as New York Ave, and the paint was barely there anyway. But now it goes beyond what is even shown online to at least somewhere past Schenectady.
Below shows the new lane painted over the old one futher west. The city must have been out painting this week (I also noticed fresh paint at Prospect Park last night). Isn't Crown Heights beautiful? I'm in love with Brooklyn today, if you couldn't tell.

Yes, we have no pandemic.

New York City, State and the US Federal Government aren't using the word. But I think it's worth pointing out that it's the right word to use.

North America is currently experiencing an influenza pandemic. "What?!" you say, "they told us it's not a pandemic yet!" Well, sort of. It's not a global pandemic, but it is a pandemic. And no, a pandemic is not necessarily always global, it can also be national or regional.

Based on the guidelines in the W.H.O. document "Pandemic Influenza and Preparedness Response," we have "human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region." What we don't yet have, but will certainly have soon is "community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different W.H.O. region in addition to the criteria defined in Phase 5."

It seems our local, state and federal government don't want to use the word pandemic yet - perhaps simply to prevent panic. But we should be aware that there is currently a pandemic of H1N1 flu in the United States. Or as I am calling it "Factory Farm Flu."

If you pay attention, you'll hear the correct language from W.H.O. For example Margaret Chan, the W.H.O. director general was quoted by the New York Times today saying "W.H.O. will be tracking the pandemic."

Of course, there's a bright side. Riding your bicycle and avoiding the subway is a great way to avoid the Factory Farm Flu.

Friday, April 17, 2009

"Serious obstacles stand in the way."

The New York Times thinks they've found a "new It object" - the "dutch bicycle." But points out that "Serious obstacles stand in the way." Amazing work NYT - how did you ever uncover this little known object and the secret society that uses them? (And how did the writer get away with ignoring the community that has already embraced regular bicycles... perhaps Google searching is too advanced for a Times journalist.)

I guess the times didn't feel there was a story here until Club Monoco decided to put a Gazelle for sale in their window.... It's too bad their vision is limited to whatever is going on the corporate retail world. Club Monoco is even claiming that the Gazelle they are carrying is "Exclusively for Us" and the "Ultimate Urban Accessory." Puke. It's a bicycle, not an accessory.

And back to the Times, what's with those gloves? They're writing an article about riding a regular bicycle and say "If a guy is going to get on a bike, he wants to imagine he’s Lance Armstrong"? Right, why do you need those gloves to ride a "dutch bicycle"? Has the author even been on a bicycle?

And the final insult? No mention of Denmark? No mention of Copenhagen, the worlds best cycling city? Oh nevermind, I give up.... newspapers are dead anyway...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bike to MOMA

"Bike to MoMA on April 6 and get half-price admission and free bicycle valet parking! One Monday a month, The Museum of Modern Art stays open until 8:45 p.m. Drop in after hours for exhibitions, films, DJ, cash bar, and a bite to eat at Cafe 2 (limited evening menu)—plus the first 600 ticket buyers after 5:30 p.m. get free admission on their next visit.

The evening goes green with free bicycle valet parking courtesy of Transportation Alternatives, New York City's advocate for biking, walking, and public transit. Rain or shine, park your bike (enter on 53 Street) and receive a voucher for half-price Museum admission. Carbon emissions will be offset for the event, and we're raffling off a collapsible STRiDA 5.0 Bicycle, ideal for urban transport.

Exhibitions on view include Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective and Projects 89: Klara Liden. In the theaters at 7:00 p.m., New York–based artist and filmmaker Carter introduces the U.S. premiere of his most recent film, Erased James Franco (2008), and takes part in a post-screening conversation with its star, James Franco. (Screening is included in the cost of admission; tickets are first come, first served.)

As always, members get free admission to MoMA Monday Nights, and may bring up to five guests per member for just $5 each."