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Articles by Todd Hymas Samkara

Todd Hymas Samkara is Grist's assistant editor.

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  • A pedal-tastic roundup

    On a personal new year's note, I can't help but mention the only-months-old but hopelessly addictive new habit I know I'll be nursing throughout the year: mountain biking at night.

    No idea why I only started doing this recently, and in the winter no less, but there you go. And since I splurged on a set of burly studded mountain-bike tires that should be arriving any day now, snow and ice riding on both trail and street at all hours are up next. That, and on snowmobile trails.

    Any others out there who want to join the ranks of proud all-weather winter cyclists, check out this excellent website. And for night riders on road or trail, I can't say enough good things about NiteRider Trail Rat headlights. For best results, get at least one extra battery (I have three extras) and maybe a fast recharger. Combine with a $30 LED headlamp for the best night cycling around.

    Now for the news:

  • Will it propel cycle-happy legislation?

    While not quite a full-on velorution (there must be silent throngs out there waiting to usher in a full-on velorution, I'm sure of it -- bike-guard party, wherefore art thou?), this month's midterm elections in the U.S. have apparently greased the gears of the otherwise petroleum- and highway-happy lawmaking machine in the House in favor of cycle-friendly reps for the 110th Congress. Or at least, it's offered cause for hope.

    Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., who helped author the 1991 law that opened the door to federal funding for bike projects, is in line to become chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

    Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., a one-time bike mechanic, expects to chair the surface transportation subcommittee.

    And Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., founder of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus, will either hold a senior position on the transportation committee or move to the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

    All three Democrats are strong supporters of alternative transportation who believe that bicycling can play an important role in moving people, particularly in dense urban settings, and in providing recreational opportunities.

  • Hope you weren’t planning a protest

    If there's one creature that animal-rights activists should not try to save (and should instead attempt to quietly euthanize), it's a lame duck.

    The House of Representatives on Monday passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, extending current federal law to specifically criminalize not only interfering with "animal enterprises" -- a commercial or academic enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal products for profit, food or fiber production, agriculture, research, or testing -- but also interfering with organizations that do business with "animal enterprises," such as their lawyers or insurance companies.

    As AP says:

    Violators could be sentenced up to a year in jail for economic damages of less than $10,000, and up to five years in prison if a threat produced a "reasonable fear" of bodily harm. Prison sentences of up to 10 years could result if someone is actually injured.

  • Wacky and weird

    The Schwinn-Shank Redemption
    While the use of prison labor is questionable in any context, about 20 inmates in a South Dakota state penitentiary are reportedly happy to be taking part in a program that puts them to work fixing up old bikes for disadvantaged kids. No word in the media on whether the program is voluntary or not, but given prison wages, there's probably not much difference in compensation. Now if only there were a program to teach the kids how to stay upright in all that wind.

    The other kind of bicycle flasher
    Police in Clinton Township, Pa., have been on the lookout for an alleged serial flasher who has been accused of cycling past women and revealing, unsolicited, his naked cycling self. Faced with multiple reports, authorities have been getting serious, if misguided.

    Police detained several men matching the suspect's general description. But none turned out to be the suspect, police said.

    Look, another guy on a bike! Pervert!