What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

08 August 2011

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

I don't know if I've mentioned that I had a summer internship at Bike Texas. If I haven't, surprise!

I know I haven't talked about it a lot because I've been working on a project that has "Do Not Distribute" written on pretty much every page. Not that it's a secret, since we don't do espionage or anything at Bike Texas (although perhaps we should!), but because it's preliminary data that is not yet ready for release. My job has been to research some things, data entry others, talk to some city officials, and otherwise gather data about cycling and walking in Texas. And once the data was more or less gathered, we moved to the really fun part: Assembling it into a sensible report.

So, for the past few weeks, I've made charts and graphs. I've written analysis for someone else to reject or tear to shreds or whatever. I've argued with other volunteers about the best way to present data, and we've all discussed whether this source or that is reliable enough to include in a report. It's been fun.

I've also gotten most of the way through a box of tea that was brand-new on June 1st and is now nearly empty.

In the process, while I still can't share much until the report is released, I've learned what to look for in the next city that I move to. I've learned what questions to have in mind when I peruse the city website or look for public transit options. And I definitely know that a city that is hostile to cyclists is no place for me. I can deal with "tolerant of cyclists" up to "some people are annoyed by them and will say so" (since that's pretty much what Austin is), but if I can help it, I won't move to city where the government actively discourages cycling.

In related news, I have spent a lot of time this summer looking at forums or reading articles that deal with cycling, and as is so often the case on the internet, those forums and articles seem to bring out the worst in people, as the comments get more and more vitriolic as they go along. I've read these things until I want to find a nice hermitage where I can be safe from the rest of humanity. (I begin to understand the desire, in the mid-1800s, to start one's own commune.) But then I go out on my bike and ride around Austin, and you know what? Despite motorists and cyclists and pedestrians being unable to get along on the internet, and despite the occasional altercation on the streets, it actually does work. I've seen motorists back up after inadvertently stopping in crosswalks. I've seen cyclists yielding to pedestrians. I've seen pedestrians use the crosswalk, as is their right, with politeness. Fortunately for all concerned, the ugliness of the internet doesn't seem to hold when we are all face-to-face with one another. Perhaps there is hope for humanity after all.

Do internet forums make you cringe, or give you a chance to express yourself, or something in between? Have you found the real world to be a reasonably pleasant place?

7 comments:

JEFritz said...

I can't stand internet forums. The reason I try to avoid touchy subjects is because I can't stand the vitriol that spews forth if you mention anything they don't agree with. Besides just being mean, the arguments usually don't make sense from a logical standpoint, so not only am I angry, now I'm insulted as a writer.

However, I find that in person, people are much more reasonable. It's the anonymity of the internet that brings forth the crazy in otherwise sane people.

The report you're working on sounds interesting. I can't wait to see what's in it :)

Su said...

Yes, all very true. What's interesting/horrifying to me is that there are some who say people are just being "fake" in person and they're being "real" on the internet. In which case: Yikes!

I promise to share the most-interesting excerpts as soon as I am allowed! :D

Mary Mary said...

There a few out there that are cringe-worthy. Especially the ones that batter a poor individual's ego, like the inside of a batting cage. I don't understand why people feel the need to bully someone in the way some of these blogs do. It's sad. But it happens just about everywhere online now because people feel they have some anonymity (even though most of them use their real names) so they think they can get away with bashing on someone or something.

Su said...

Yep. Such a shame.

Carole Anne Carr said...

Yes, most of the time I find great kindness, hope you do too.

Deniz Bevan said...

I think it all depends on a forum's rules - I love the Compuserve Books and Writers Community for the intelligent crowd and the firm rules about no ad hominem attacks.
As for cycling... bet you read a lot about Montreal and our money losing Bixi bikes? How we got the idea from Paris and Amsterdam, sold it to Boston and London, have half the city riding around on them, and still the government had to bail out Bixi for millions of dollars? No? Well, then, you must have heard about how our bridges off the island are falling down?
Darn infrastructure and "it's not our fault" municipal government!

Su said...

@Carole: Yes, I do! I think more people are in the "We're all in this together" camp than the "Let's be horrible" camp. Thank goodness!

@Deniz: That's true; I definitely prefer the forums with rules. And yep, I've been reading up on Montreal and the bike issues. :( I wonder if it's something about that company? There's a new bike-sharing scheme (different company) in the next city over from us, and Austin is looking into getting one. I do hope that it's successful! Alas, poor Montreal... those are problems that take a while to fix, too. :(

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