Type 2 Diabetic. Cyclist Flâneur.   Coffeeneur.    Errandoneur
A bike / map geek with a gadget obsession and a high-viz fetish.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Roshomon, the PAT Bus Panopticon and the Question of Certainty

The movie Roshomon is a wonderful film that deals with perception, subjectivity, memory and the remarkable difficulty of knowing with certainty (which may be an illusion).

The movie presents the story In The Grove embedded in another short story Roshomon, but the kernel is three people on a road - a Samurai husband, his wife, and a bandit. We know that the husband and wife are traveling and the bandit sets upon them, there are some events and transactions, and in the end the husband is dead, the wife attempts suicide, and the bandit is caught. We know the initial state and the end state, but the middle is black-box.

An official inquiry attempts to learn what happened between them. The wife tells one story and the bandit another; both plausibly fit the evidence with slight deviations. The movie teases: how to determine The Truth with two conflicting witnesses? The narrative introduces the third witness, the dead Samurai brought back to give his testimony through the agency of a medium.

At last, the audience might think, now we'll find out which of the two stories is true. The dead husband tells a third story, which also conforms to the evidence with slight variations, completely different from the others. The inquest is left unable to determine what really did happen, and the film leaves us with questions about witnesses, testimony, The Truth, and the nature of certainty. Is truth a probability distribution? Someday when you can't ride your bike, Roshomon is a movie worth watching.

My experience after getting hit by the PAT bus on my bicycle last Sunday felt very much like Roshomon; I had my report and the driver had a different report; without evidence or injury there was no way to objectively prove the event with certainty. The other bicyclist could be a witness, but they were looking ahead and never saw the event; we were stalemated in Bus-said-Bike-said.

This was my depiction of the collision geometry:

And then there was a promise of a third report, sure to reveal The Truth, in a capability and philosophy directly descended from Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon. Bentham's concept called for an institution - originally a prison but also a hospital, a school, an asylum - where the population was subject to continual observation without knowing if, at any time, they were actually being watched.

The Panopticon provided this continual potential observation through a series of mirrors, and the idea was that if the population knew they might be watched by an authority at any time, their behavior would stay within expectations at all times. In this case, it turns out that this model of PAT bus has several video cameras. They would download and play the video on Monday, and then we would have certainty.

On Monday I got a call from the police chief who said: We watched the movie and the bus never touched you, not even close. I was amazed. Tapes don't lie, this isn't a conspiracy novel, and yet I knew I'd been hit. They invited me over to see the movie myself (which was very nice of them).

On Tuesday I went to see the movie. I met a police chief (also a cyclist!) and another officer who was a digital forensics expert. They played a movie from Camera 5 looking forward from the driver's seat, and the movie showed no contact. I said, But wait a minute, that picture doesn't show the contact, let's look at another camera.

Camera 1 sits over the driver's seat and looks out through the passenger door and the front-right corner of the bus. On Camera 1 you can see the bus pass very close to me. You can't tell if it hits me or not because of the blind spot. The forensics expert said, I can't testify that he didn't hit you, and I can't testify that he did hit you. I think that's an honest call and I respect it.

The video, our third witness through a medium, didn't clarify our situation either. The layout of the cameras didn't give us Total Information Awareness, it just provided partial awareness; the tape was inconclusive.

There's no injury or property damage; the video is inconclusive; the driver and bicyclist reports are completely divergent. And so, in the end, PAT does nothing. They really don't care about the four-foot rule, either.

My assertion is that I was hit by a PAT bus driver who left the scene of the accident.

These are the pertinent images:

Initial still image, from the driver's seat camera looking forward. That big green bus on the left is another PAT bus heading in the opposite direction.

This is the camera used to declare there was no contact. It does not present the area of the contact, but it does give a good view of the road condition, the parked cars, the door zone, etc.

First image from the Front Door Camera at 09:34:07

(Does this camera make my hips look big?)

Second image

Third image. The contact occurs somewhere between this third image and the fourth image.

I would also like to point out that Pennsylvania has a four-foot law that says a vehicle passing a bicycle must give four feet of clearance when passing or wait until they can.

Fourth image

Fifth image

Sixth image

Final image, from Camera2, showing me through the window as the bus continues past me.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hit By A PAT bus on my bike

It is hard to pick a first sentence, but: While riding my bicycle in Sharpsburg on Sunday 2/24/13 at 0934, I was struck from behind by a PAT bus that was passing me.

The second sentence should definitely be: I'm all right, no injury, and the bike is OK (in any order).

How to tell the story? A chronological sequence of who-what-when, particularly in Sunday's interactions, would be a diary of bungled communications, lousy policy and a lot of feelings. The first-day 911-PAT response was tremendously disappointing but it eventually moved into an acceptable range, and so it's not as relevant now.

I would summarize the mishegoss with these universals:

  • Events of Saturday night and Sunday morning usually involve junior people with predictable results, and when the experienced people come to work on Monday things get better.
  • Verbal reports passed through intermediaries into documents are rarely effective, but sitting and meeting with people face-to-face is wonderfully effective.
  • Confusion, bad communication, and inertia explain more than malevolence.

These Photoshop kludges depict the collision. They are not real photos. The PAT bus drove up behind myself (the yellow dot) and another bicyclist (the green dot).

When the bus accelerated to pass me, the front-right corner of the bus hit the back of my bicycle. This is a depiction of the collision geometry:

And then the bus driver continued driving on his way, and I pulled over and called 911 to report a hit-and-run. At the instant of co-location I was doing about 12mph and the bus was doing 22 mph. I felt a strong bump and a marked acceleration, and after he passed me I pulled over.

It was thrilling in the way of an unexpected roller-coaster experience and it left me very agitated. The EMT who checked me out said my blood pressure was 160/100.

And that's my story. As to the rest, the response and the process and the denouement, that's another story that begins with Roshomon, passes through the Panopticon, and ends with the recent Russian meteor. I didn't get killed or hurt. More to come.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cantini's Tunnel, Bike Smoothies, and DNAsaur's Provenance

2/22/13 28M 241#
It was so good to get to ride after a week off the bike. S and I started at the Bastille on a foggy-cloudy morning. We rode across the Ft.Duquesne bridge and over to the USX Building, and found a pedestrian underpass decorated with artwork from Pittsburgh's Virgil Cantini.

To me the artwork looks like an archeoligist's excavation of an ancient city, like the maps you see of Pompeii.

The underpass is behind the USX building and goes beneath Bigelow Blvd. There is no plaque or explanation of the artwork, but in one corner of the piece shown above you can find his name. This video shows Virgil Cantini on the Fred Rogers show discussing his concept for a sculpture, and then shows the final product in Oakland; if you're from Pittsburgh, you'll probably recognize it.

Rode the Jail Trail to Junction Hollow and up to Oakland, and photographed this DinoMite dinosaur at the School for the Blind.

Riding through Friendship we saw a woman taking pictures of a bicyclist, and when we saw the bike we had to stop. Karrie and Jake were testing and making video of a prototype Bike Smoothie Maker, it was excellent to encounter them by chance and see what they were doing. The smoothie looked very good.


Rode over to East Liberty for Breakaneuring at Whole Foods, excellent omelettes. There are always all sorts of bikes parked at Whole Foods (today including a police bike while the officer was having lunch). Departed and rode over to nearby Greater Pittsbugh Orthopedic Group to see their dinosaur:

Went around the back of Whole Foods into Shadyside, and in the back of the building at 5871 Ellsworth Avenue we took some more photos of a busway mural. The mural is the work of several artists, Ashley Hodder did the "Mother Nature" face and Laura Jean McLaughlin did the bus with children. It's really quite excellent and if you're not a busway rider you'd probably never get to see it.

Rode crosstown to Junction Hollow, crossed the Hot Metal Bridge and took East Carson Street to the Birmingham Bridge to check out Sir Samelot (who does not seem to be decorated for St. Patrick's Day yet). Rode Fifth Avenue into town, went to the Strip District's Leaf and Bean to say hello our mutual friend MAC.

Crossed the Sixth Street Bridge and rode to the Carnegie Science center to take an updated photo of the red dinosaur out back. This dinosaur was a bit of a puzzle; it is not on the list of the 100 dinosaurs created in the DinoMite fundraising activity, and people at the Science Center didn't know the story of the dinosaur.

S. has sleuthed out the back story: this 101st dinosaur (DNA-saur) was added to the original list of 100 when GlaxoSmithKline wanted to commemorate the Pittsburgh visit of the Duke of York, who is quite keen on science and particularly England's contribution to the discovery of DNA. This explains the DNA strands, the atomic models, and the Union Jack on the dinosaur. The toothpaste on the hind quarter represents GlaxoSmithKline and their Aquafresh product. MegaKudos to S. for her detective work.

28 miles and a great ride. I have been nursing along an overused drive train, and today it kept slipping the chain on even the middle chainring, leaving me only the small chainring. I'm putting the LHT aside until my LBS gets my new parts in, and I'll be riding another bike until then.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bike Lock FAIL

21M 40F
Got in a great ride. South along the river down to Keystone Metals, Hot Metal Bridge and Jail Trail to Grant Street where I had a meeting, then back north.

It was so great to be out at 6pm in quasi-daylight. I'm happy to have longer daylights.

Saw what appeared to be an epic Bike Lock FAIL on the Jail Trail by the Golden Triangle bike rental shop:

  • undo the front wheel quick release.
  • Lift the bike frame out of the U-Lock

It's such a nice, clean, well-appointed bike and locked so poorly that I wondered if I wasn't on Candid Camera and if it wasn't bait of some kind. Such a pretty bike.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Toxic Faces and Brick Women

2/14/13 31M
Started at the Bastille, rode south to the Point and then out the Jail Trail, saw this way up high on the Bluff:

I've ridden by that spot a hundred times and I've never noticed it.

Continued along the Jail Trail, Hot Metal Bridge, Sandcastle, Waterfront to the Rankin Bridge. Crossed the Mon River to Braddock and rode out to Library Avenue to see this mural by Lady Pink:

Stopped at the Braddock Community Cafe for lunch, chicken-broccoli-pasta which was excellent. In my two stops there, it's some of the best food I've eaten on a bike ride.

Got back to the Bastille at 5.15, I'm really enjoying the later sunsets.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bikes on the Train, Millvale-Neville

2/13 23M
Rode around downtown on a day with temps in the low 30's.

Started at the Bastille, which IMHO is the best trailhead in Pittsburgh, mostly because of the security presence of the Penitentiary's security sweeps passing through the parking lot every two minutes.

Rode to the US Steel building in search of another outside DinoDays dinosaur, which was not in evidence. We did stumble across this mural, Challenge Pittsburgh, 1985, by HR Schuler in the tunnel between USX and the T-Station:

Since we were poking around the T-Station, we put our bikes on the T and rode to Gateway Center just to check out the Bikes-On-The-Tee option (which worked very well). In Gateway Center we saw the now-famously-valuable Romare Bearden mural:

The mural depicts the region's progress from early days to the exciting technology of magnetic tape drives, which were both a real advance at the time and kind of a PITA.

Passing by the Heinz History Center we saw another dinosaur through the window which kind of tested our outdoor artwork standard: Yes, you can ride your bike right up to the artwork and oogle it, but No it's not outside. Decided to consider it outside-friendly. The museum staff was nice to let us inside to take a better picture. This dinosaur is named "Liberty" and decorated by Burton Morris.

Rode out in the Strip District to Kelly O's, omelettes and FrenchToast, totally awesome. Continued east through L-Ville and rode uphill through the Allegheny Cemetery, which is becoming a favorite ride segment - pretty, green, quiet, low traffic, with an occasional burial. Actually encountered a late-in-the-day funeral procession, we stopped riding and stood respectfully as the cortege passed by, it really didn't feel like a share-the-road moment.

Went to the new Children's Hospital (obligatory Pittsburgh genuflection to the way things UsedToBe) looking for another dinosaur, found it across the street on the site of what was once St. Francis. A very cool dinosaur and a serendipitous find of Art-Deco stonework from St. Francis' Hospital.

Rode the Vale-Ville route (Millvale and Neville) to Oakland and descended on the Panther Hollow Trail, thence Jail Trail to the Hot Metal Bridge. Took the SouthSide trail to Station Square, and the Ft Pitt bridge - Ft Duquesne bridge combo back to the North Side.

Stopped at the Carnegie Science Center hoping to glean some info on their unnamed dinosaur, but it seems as if the dino's identity and provenance may be lost to the ages due to personnel turnover and progressive entrophy.

Got off the bike about a half-hour before a light rain started (priceless).

Monday, February 11, 2013

31 miles to Braddock Community Cafe

02/11/13 #241 31m
A very nice day although windy.

Started at the Bastille, crossed the Ft. Duquesne Bridge, and stopped at the intersection of Blvd of the Allies and Grant Street. Where Grant Street goes uphill and Second Avenue runs underneath it, there has been a mural of various baseball players until it was recently damaged by a car. What I never knew what that there's a Forbes Field replica-wall on the east side of the Blvd of the Allies retaining wall, at 529 Court Place in Pittsburgh.

If I understand things correctly, that's the third Forbes Field replica wall that I'm aware of in Pittsburgh - one in Oakland by the Pitt campus, one on the NorthSide at the baseball stadium, and now one downtown. Is there a limit to how many Forbes Field walls we can have before we start diminishing the brand? Is this confusing to people on the Just Ducky Tours?

Took Forbes Avenue out to Oakland, rode to Squirrel Hill to see a Dino at the Children's Institute, Northumberland and Shady.

Continued to Braddock and Penn, to see the pretty-in-porcine-pink Dollar Bank Dino-Piggy-Bank.

Rode into Braddock proper to check out the Braddock Community Cafe, which is a startup pursuing several goals: (1) providing a place to buy fresh food in Braddock, which doesn't have a restaurant; (2) using local produce and foodstuffs; (3) delivering healthy food rather than fries-and-burgers. This was a great meal stop.

I had a breakfast sandwich which was excellent and a yogurt parfait. For the parfait I expected like a McD frozen ready-made thing, but they took out a bowl and put in fresh local yogurt, my choice of fruit, and granola and it was excellent, much better than I'd have had in almost any other food shop. I'll definitely return there.

Stopped at the Sandcastle-Keystone Metals trail project to take this picture showing the path of the future trail, with the fenceposts for the fence that protects the trail from flying debris from the recycling yard on the right.

Hot Metal Bridge, killer headwind all the way back to the Bastille, 31 miles and 53F at the end of the ride.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Reversion to the Norm

2/7/13 22M 241#
This has possibly been my longest hiatus from riding in over a year, 18 days. It's been a bit of real winter and once you start trying to be reasonable it becomes a habit and you stop riding your bike.

Fortunately, today's forecast promised better and it delivered. Started at about 29F at 1130 and ended at about 44F at 5pm, 22 miles on a very nice day and I am pleased to discover I can still ride a bike.

Started at the Bastille with S, rode over to PPG Plaza and then over to Strawberry Way looking for some artwork which has not stood the test of time, only two of the original six pieces are still there.

Checked out the Art Institute Dinosaur, who is dressed for Mardi Gras:

Crossed over the Smithfield Street bridge, where I was completely out-classed and out-hi-viz'd by Mr. Tom Stewart and his Slo-Mo Reflective Keystone, which puts my rather pedestrian triangle to shame. Plus, it's just cool to meet a cyclist with a BikeCentennial patch on their bag. I had a serious case of hi-viz coveting going.


Rode through the SouthSide, hit Cafe Davio for some omelettes, went across the Birmingham Bridge to check out Sir Samelot in hopes he was dressed for St. Valentine's Day but he's wearing his normal battle dress, nothing fancy.

From Uptown we checked out Gist Street, then rode into Oakland to check the Alphabet Dinosaur.

Rode to Bloomfield and through Allegheny Cemetery, then Butler Street and Penn Avenue to the 16th Street Bridge, took a picture just because it was so pretty out.

Saw several bicyclists out today including two bicycle police, a messenger at PPG, Mr. Stewart on his 'bent, and a smattering of others in the afternoon as it warmed up. A hint of spring to come. It was so good to get back on the bike.