Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Emerging Patterns

This is probably nothing to get startled about... but I've noticed that for the last month or so, we seem to be experiencing Global Cooling.  At least at this latitude.  But - if memory serves, the same thing was happening about this same time last year.  (Six months from now, we'll be in the throes of Global Warming once again.)

I enjoy a bit of personal amusement in the autumn.  Being quite "weather-extreme tolerant" (largely as a result of many years of cycling in widely-varying climatic conditions), it amuses me when I'm still in shirt-sleeves, and cross paths with cyclists who are bundled up like they're headed for Antarctica!  You know - thick hooded goose-down parka, heavy mittens, scarf across face, etc.  When it's 50 degrees I always want to ask, "What are you going to do when it gets cold?!"

Also, the "bike room" parking at the office clears out, this time of year.  In the summer, there might be 30 or 35 bikes parked in there... now there are 3 or 4, and a couple look to have been abandoned.  Another fairly regular year-round cyclist observed, "Cold weather has a way of weeding out the weak and infirm."  Among the general population and among the cycling population!

Longer term, as I think about it I detect another pattern.  20 years ago I would take the most direct route, the majority of the time.  I was focused on transportation efficiency on the bike... wanting to select the fastest way from Point A to Point B.  Nowadays I'll frequently diverge more, sacrificing a minute or two for a more aesthetically-pleasing ride.

Almost every weekday, I ride down a quarter-mile stretch of 4-lane road (Americana Boulevard), where the downhill slope makes it practical to "take the lane."  At the bottom, I can peel off to a bike path through the park.  Doing so definitely adds distance and time to my ride... but it is always such a pleasant change of atmosphere, to put the motor traffic noise behind me!  The extra minute or two is a small price to pay.  (And, in all honesty, my speed is 3mph slower than it was 20 years ago, so rapid transit is less of a factor in any case.)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Foldable cardboard bike helmet

For several years, I've seen conceptualized honeycomb-folding helmet proposals.  But this one looks like it's closer to reality... and pretty cool, in my opinion.  If they can build 'em for a selling price of $5 like they hope, I bet it will be a winner.

It has won the 2016 James Dyson Award.  I'd say it's way closer to the "function" end of the form-function scale, than those crazy-looking vacuum cleaners that are apparently the brainchild of Mr. Dyson.  (No offense intended; I've never used one of those cleaners, but they look to me like they're way more "form."  And I do know they're expensive and there's a huge market for the refurbished ones, which to me calls into question their durability.)  And those Dyson bladeless fans?  Now there's a solution looking for a problem!  But I digress...

More info on the foldable helmet HERE.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

New Park - Enhanced Greenbelt!

"Our long national nightmare is over."
- Gerald R. Ford

Way back in January, 2015, I lamented that a stretch of the Greenbelt would be closing for an extended period, during construction of a new city park on the north side of the Boise River.

Happy day!  That extended period is over, almost two years later.  Esther Simplot Park is open, along with the Greenbelt through the area.  (The "chain link fence tree" is gone forever.)

I rode the new path on Halloween... was pretty much alone.  I rode it again on 11/3 and snapped a few photos.  I took granddaughter Bonnie back yesterday, 11/5... it was jam-packed!  I can't fault my fellowcitizens for wanting to visit it on a beautiful autumn afternoon, but the quality of visits will be better when it doesn't have Disneyland-size crowds!  Visitors were enjoying the waterways... the play facilities (not traditional playgrounds, but rock mountains to climb on, etc.), the lovely variety of pathways.  Of course, some visitors were doing what they do no matter where they are... lurching about, staring at their "smart phones."

Some of these photos were taken in the new park, others were snapped along the once-again-contiguous north stretch of the Greenbelt, near the new park.  (And I see I better adjust the straps on Bonnie's brain-bucket... it's positioned too far back.)


Monday, October 24, 2016

Autumn returns

Autumn brings us the best scenery of the year.  And interesting developments for transportation and recreation cyclists in the area.

They have completed a repaving project on the Greenbelt below Warm Springs Mesa... it's nice!  After a long time waiting, the Esther Simplot Park is slated to open on November 2.  They are converting Jefferson Street, which traverses downtown east/west, to a two-way road with bike lanes.

On a more personal level... the family stable of bikes is increasing.

My bride had a knee replacement surgery in April, and recently graduated from stationary bicycle to road-going bicycle.  We found her a nice used Townie 21-speed on the craigslist.  (She's getting the other knee done on November 1.)

My daughter used a generic "mountain" style bike out of the stable to go riding with Mom... so I found her a Townie on the craigslist.  (They like the "classic" styling with curved tubes, etc.  I like the aluminum frame and slightly-narrower tires.)

Since those acquisitions we've been on several rides together, including a Greenbelt tour downstream to Eagle Road and back, from Ann Morrison Park.

And... granddaughter Mackenzie has outgrown her 24-inch bike, so just this evening I found her a used Peugeot first-generation mountain bike.  It needs some work - new cables and such - but the price was right and I expect she won't be wanting to do a lot of riding before next spring anyway.

Yup - life is good.  Bicycle transportation makes it that much better.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Cyclist - less $ for health and life insurance?

At my place of work, we have a "healthy measures" incentive program.  It's pretty simple... you go to your doctor annually, (s)he checks your blood pressure, cholesterol, height/weight ratio, whether you are a smoker... and if you fall into the acceptable ranges, or agree to try, you qualify for a significant discount on health insurance.

I've argued - always without apparent result - that another "healthy measure" is level of activity.  If you get that ticker ticking on a regular basis, I believe you are healthier than if your biggest exertion is pushing buttons on remote-controls, phones, etc.  And the only time you break a sweat is if you lose some facebook friends.

Now, I see there's a life insurance broker that makes these bold claims:
- "Cyclists deserve a lower rate because cycling reduces the risk of heart disease by 18% while lowering blood pressure and improving sleep."
- Cyclists who ride an hour a day, have 18% lower risk of all-cause mortality than non-cyclists.
- For those who ride an hour and a half or more, the benefit increases to 28%.
- Cyclists have a 45% reduction in all cancer incidence as compared to non-cyclists.
- Cyclists have a 18% lower incidence of cardiovascular disease as compared to non-cyclists.

Wow!  If indeed those are actual numbers (and the website linked above has links to the various research), that's pretty meaningful. Of course, if you get squashed while riding, by somebody in a bigger vehicle, it won't matter how healthy you are!

(Maybe it's rigged... because the average lifespan is in the 80s these days, and not many 80-plus year-olds are still riding bikes.  Haha.  I might have to fill out the form and see what happens.  I have a term-life policy but if I could get the same coverage for cheaper, I'd not turn that down.)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bike Rodeo!

We had a "Bike Rodeo" last night!

It started out as an activity for my Cub Scouts (I'm a cubmaster these days). But then, good fortune befell me! I contacted bike advocate extraordinaire Lisa Brady, and the wheels started turning. Besides being an enthusiastic transportation cyclist, Lisa is the head honcho of local advocacy group Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance. But even more significantly, she's in charge of the YMCA Safe Routes to School program. Lisa and her Safe Routes colleagues were happy to jump in and help.

With some encouragement from Lisa, we expanded the scope, and invited all the school-age kids, and their parents, of our church congregation. We did our best to publicize and encourage. (We were a bit concerned because yesterday was also the first day of school for most of our kids... would that be a distraction? Would people forget?)

Our concerns turned out to be unfounded. We roped off a big section of a huge asphalt parking lot. Lisa and her team laid out the course, and explained how the adult volunteers could help. The first kids started showing up about 5 minutes early; in keeping with a longstanding church tradition, most people didn't show up 'til 5 minutes late.

What a fantastic group we got! I bet we had 30-35 kids there, ranging in age from 3 up to 16. Most were on bikes... a few had scooters or skateboards. Our "pros" started out with a 10-minute discussion about safety and surviving on the streets. (It was aimed as much at the parents as the kids.) They told 'em, "If you don't remember anything else from tonight, LIGHTS AT NIGHT and RIDE ON THE RIGHT!" Visible... predictable... legal.

Most of the kids rode the "skill course" - and most rode it 4 or 5 times. And then it was just sheer delight to see 30 or so kids on their bikes, happily "free riding" around in the parking lot. There were 1 or 2 minor mishaps... but the victims hopped right back up and the first aid kit stayed latched.

Then it was time for a short road ride. Lisa asked if I would be ride leader - sure! (Granddaughter Bonnie, on the Tag-Along, was stoked. She hollered, "Ready, set, go!" and we were off!)

I was pretty ambitious... my selected route was probably a mile. (I deviated a bit from the envisioned route, because there were a lot of cars parallel-parked along the first road.) The group completed the loop in probably 15 minutes. Lisa said it was all good, because the neighborhood got a good dose of kids-on-bikes-on-the-road... and everybody survived!

Popsicles afterwards!

I've done a few bike rodeos over the years, but this was the most successful, thanks to passionate and expert helpers. My sincere thanks to Lisa Brady and the Safe Routes to School people. If we saved one child from being injured or killed, it was time and effort well spent! (My only regret? I took my small camera, which accompanies me 'most everywhere, but in all the excitement it remained in my pocket! D'oh! You'll have to take my word for it - no photos.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Good 12 months for the Bike Nazi

I just realized... in the twelve months beginning on August 1, 2015 and ending on July 31, 2016, I rode my bicycle on 364 of those days!  That may be the best I ever do in a year, measured by number of days riding.  I missed a day in December when we made a trip to Utah... and I missed a day in June when I was on a motorcycle adventure... Boise to Lolo, MT, to Lewiston, and back to Boise.  And - it's Leap Year, so I rode on February 29.