Monday, January 28, 2019

A Quick Hitter To Capital City

Road food. Casey's pizza, Coke, and rollin' in the "Truck With No Name".
Friday I was scheduled to appear as a speaker at the Iowa Bicycle Summit. My appointed time to speak was at 1:45pm. Fortunately, Friday was a decent day with none of that crazy wind and blowing snow like we had the day before, and it was void of the snow we had Saturday. Basically a somewhat tranquil weather day. This was good since the "Truck With No Name" isn't what I would call the best Winter vehicle. In fact, it is downright dangerous to drive it when the road surfaces are slick since, in true pick-up form, it's very light on the rear wheels. Well, true to pick-up form in the old school sense. Today's rolling palaces that are called "trucks" are a different story.

Anyway, I started off on my journey at about 9:45am figuring on it taking a good couple of hours plus some to get into the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines. The trip was fairly uneventful, with the exception of stopping for a slice of Casey's pizza. I have to do the Casey's pizza!

Des Moines was......uggh. I really do not like big cities. Parking ramps, messes everywhere, about five times the amount of traffic everywhere than the place was designed to handle. Yeah.... Not my cuppa.....

But that's me. I wasn't cut out to live in such places. Maybe you are? Great. I just don't get on with the "City" life. Although I live in Waterloo, which isn't "small", but it isn't a "City" like Des Moines is. But I digress................

I get in there and Mark West, the coordinator of the goings on, finds me and directs me to the room I will be speaking in. There is a fellow ahead of me who is, I think, from the University of Iowa and was giving a talk about AI and self driving cars. It was pretty interesting. Basically, the aim, as this man was telling it, was that these cars and trucks are being "taught" to recognize cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and then take evasive or "appropriate" maneuvers to avoid contact with those other forms of traffic. The man was explaining that it might take 40 years for this technology to become "ubiquitous" on the roadways. Meanwhile, Google, Waypo, and other car manufacturers are working to make it so cars automatically slow or stop to avoid things like a moving cyclist.

I was floored that he, nor anyone else, had thought that this line of thinking is not going to work well, because humans are little devils and will mess with how these cars react to peds and cyclists. You know, just to be mean spirited. 

The Iowa State Capital as seen from outside the Iowa Events Center. 
 Imagine a cyclist, waving his arm about, because he knows it will make the cars behind him slow down, thus frustrating the folks inside. Then imagine what those folks will think, and how they may react, especially if the system cannot be overruled. Priceless! Yeah......they are going to have to work through a lot more issues than they think to get these cars on the road with no need to drive them.

Anyway, it finally came time for me to talk and I gave my little bit about why communities in Iowa might want to embrace gravel roads as a way to get events and recreational opportunities going in their areas. That done, I bugged out and started back home. I would have dearly loved to have stayed in Des Moines and overnight to attend the Iowa Bicycle Expo the following day, but money is so tight right now that I simply could not afford to do it. Sorry if that offends anyone in the DM area I know, but it is my reality now.

So, that was a quick hitter and not too exciting, but it is what it is.

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