Friday, January 29, 2016

Parade participant!

I was a reluctant participant in a parade this morning...

Due to external circumstances, it was my job to drive the granddaughter to school today.  It happens every school day... but most often it's her grandma behind the wheel of the float.

The granddaughter is 9 years old, responsible enough for her age, and has an uncanny sense of direction - better than most adults!  If the need arose, she could probably find her way to school blindfolded.

The school is about 3/4 mile away.  One somewhat-busy road to cross, but there's a nice crosswalk with warning lights that can be pedestrian-activated.  Totally-flat terrain - there's probably not 2 feet of elevation change from Point A to Point B... or anywhere in between.

It was indeed a parade.  There were a couple school buses - they get preferred parking near the front door.  The cars - most carrying one child and his/her book bag - queued up for a block-and-a-half.  For a guy who rarely runs a motorcar at all, it's pretty stressful to sit there, foot on the brake, engine idling, staring at the back end of another parade participant.

I've argued unsuccessfully that Mackie would benefit if she were allowed to walk, or bike, to school every now and then - at least on nice days.  (The neighbor girl goes with her - and the neighbor girl's dad picks them up and brings them home in the afternoon.  At least they've got a low-key car pool.)

Times have sure changed.  When I was an elementary-school child, the norm was to walk to school, or ride your bike, unless you lived a long distance.  But 50-odd years later, it's pretty much understood that kids will get smashed by inattentive or impaired motorists.  And the ones who don't get smashed will be abducted by predators in big black sedans.

I'm grateful for the people who are involved in the Safe Routes to School program.  Maybe at some point, Mackie will be trusted to make that perilous jaunt.  (There's another little girl down the street who's in first grade - she rides her bike on nice days, and so far she's somehow been able to survive the many perils.  I'm sure some folks regard her parents as being totally irresponsible!)

Monday, January 25, 2016

More info about the Greenbelt (history and maintenance) in west Boise

I'm privileged to have a friendship with Gary Segers.  He is a cyclist and an advocate for our "crown jewel," the Greenbelt.  (He founded the group Citizens for an Open Greenbelt... and it was through his efforts in that group, trying to get the forbidden "Riverside Village Nature Path" reopened to cyclists, that I got acquainted with him.)

Gary saw my previous post, giving a thumbs-up to Boise City and ACHD for their efforts to do winter maintenance on the Greenbelt, and a thumbs-down to Garden City for their lack of effort.  He gave me some good info, including clarifying a misunderstanding I've always had about the island the Greenbelt crosses, near the Fairgrounds horse track.  I hope you find this interesting; I did.

"I believe one of the sections you are referring to is what is called 'Plantation Island.'  Most people don't know that the island is owned by the​ ​Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands (IFPL). ​ They were one of the early advocacy groups for Greenbelt development in Boise.  Years ago the Foundation (a forerunner the Boise River Trail Foundation and now the Foundation for Ada Canyon Trails System (FACTS)) recognized that there was no way to travel west on the Greenbelt from Boise city limits on the north side of the river because of the Plantation golf course and housing development.

"During the COG efforts several years ago I found out that the Plantation Golf Course and development managed to get approval from Garden City that blocked any pathway along that section on the north side of the river to Glenwood. So the IFPL figured the only way to make sure that future development of the Greenbelt going west had to be on the south side of the river.  And the only way to make that happen was to buy the island from the State and construct  a pathway and two bridges so that the pathway would continue on the south side of the river along the Ada County Fairgrounds.

"One of the board members of IFPL advised me by email awhile back that ​the IFPL facilitated 'the building and setting of the two bridges and the pathway by the Boise River Trail Foundation, forerunner of F.A.C.T.S.​' She went to say the 'bridges have been repaired with the assistance of Troop No. 94 on various Eagle Scout projects.  Much volunteer labor has been involved and the Foundation has paid for the materials.  Both Ada County and Garden City have helped with a generator and other equipment at times.​' The Foundation does not have the money or resources to improve the pathway in that section or keep it maintained.  They have been trying to negotiate an agreement with Ada County to do the maintenance but the discussions have not resulted in any agreement to date. 

"And just for reference,  the section beginning once you come off the island and head west (along the fairgrounds and stables), is owned and maintained by Ada County (not ACHD).  Garden City's section of the greenbelt begins west of Glenwood and goes on for a couple of miles to the Ada County section. 

"And here is a another bit of useful info.  The Greenbelt west of the Garden City limits (south side of river) to the Eagle City limits is owned by the Foundation for Ada/Canyon Trail Systems (FACTS) of which I am a board member.  Since FACTS has no money to maintain that  roughly 3 mile section we are in the process of deeding that land to Ada County.  It has been a very difficult project but well worth the effort since this creates lots of opportunities for continuing the Boise River Greenbelt west to Eagle and beyond."

It's easy to ride nonchalantly along the Greenbelt, oblivious to the effort required to keep it in prime operating condition... except to gripe when that effort falls short.  IT IS NOT BY ACCIDENT THAT WE HAVE OUR GREENBELT!  I'm grateful for people like Gary, who make the effort, often in a purely volunteer capacity, to provide cycling/walking residents and visitors with a world-class facility.

I dream of the day when it continues on to Eagle Island State Park, Star, Middleton... maybe even Caldwell.

(I stand by my original contention that Boise goes out of its way to accommodate cyclists, while Garden City has no problem with discouraging cyclists, which are seen as a nuisance.)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Greenbelt maintenance

We had a global warming event today - the temperature in Boise got above freezing, for the first time in a couple weeks.  (It's amazing how nice 37 degrees feels, after 10 days of teen-and-lower temperatures!)  Because it felt pretty nice, I decided I'd take a scenic loop on the way home.  (The days are getting longer, too!)

I'm happy to report that - as is usually the case - the stretches of Greenbelt maintained by Boise or the ACHD were in excellent shape, even dry in most places.  There are spots in the shade, over bridges, etc., where it's a little dicey, so it pays to be vigilant.  But I made it downstream on the Boise (north) side with essentially no anxiety.

Lo and behold - I got to the bridge where you cross the river into Garden City, and it was the end of the line, at least for my brittle old bones and skinny tires.

These photos were taken maybe 50 feet and 1 minute apart...

Boise Greenbelt:

Garden City Greenbelt:

Besides being to Boise what Shelbyville is to Springfield, Garden City has a colorful history of opposing bicycles at every opportunity.  They just don't get it.  They probably spend more money on "No Bicycles" signs, than they do on Greenbelt maintenance.  I s'pose it was understandable when their commerce consisted mostly of RV lots, used car lots, porno stores and tattoo parlors.  But nowadays they are quite proud of their new craft beer outlets and such... I'm thinking the clientele of some of those newer businesses probably ride bicycles now and then.  They might choose Boise beer outlets and tattoo parlors if they perceive bike-unfriendliness in Garden City.

My hat is off to the good folks at the Boise Parks Department (who I assume do most of the Boise pathway maintenance).  Not so much to our Garden City "neighbors."  I expect that Boise and Garden City residents alike are appreciating the dry Boise pathways.  It's nice not to have to share space with cars, when the space is also compromised by snowbanks, icy patches, frozen slush, etc.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ride into history

A week ago, I was about 100 miles short of 6000 bicycle miles for the year... a goal that seemed quite distant considering icy road conditions and cold temperatures.  I was riding every day, but usually it was 5 or 6 miles.  But I had a day off Monday, and decided it was do-or-die time... and rode 25 miles.  That put the prize within reach... I finished up with 6002 miles for the year.  (The 11th year in which I've ridden 6000+ miles.)

During today's riding, I ran across preparations for the New Years' Eve Potato Drop.  (When I paused to take a photo of the big truck, a guy mistook me for a parking enforcement guy and asked, "Is the potato getting a parking ticket?"  Haha!)

(Hey!  That's not a potato! haha)

I also rode across, and then under, the Broadway bridge... probably for the last time in its 1956 form.  (Since the bridge was allegedly built when I was 2, I don't remember life before the bridge.  They will replace it, but likely with a slab on blocks, rather than the graceful arches of yesteryear.)

Today also marked the end of my 30th year of transportation cycling.
Back around the start of 1986, I "invested" $400+ of scarce and hard-earned money in a shiny new Peugeot Canyon Express mountain bike. I'd gone to the bike store expecting to buy a Centurion road bike, to take up bicycling to work. But they didn't have my size in stock, and the mountain bike - a pretty newfangled thing in early '86 - looked sturdy and competent. The Missus - who shared the burden of rationing out our very limited young-family budget - was skeptical. She saw the bike, not unreasonably, as a new "toy" for me. I assured her that I was in it for the long haul, even though I probably wasn't fully-sold at the time myself. But as it has turned out... I was in it for the long haul; at least 30 years' worth.

(I'll forever be grateful to Betty Vickrey - she and I worked at the same place, back in '86. She rode her bike to and from work almost every day, and her words of enthusiasm, and her example, were what made me a believer.)

My motivations at the time were:
- to avoid motor-vehicle aggravation... traffic jams, parking hassles, etc.
- to save some money
- to get a little exercise
All three were well-placed, and have panned out very nicely in the ensuing years!

What has changed
- Me!  I'm older and slower than I was 30 years ago. (I'd guess that I've lost 3mph, and probably a bit of endurance, as well. It's sobering to think where I might be, physically, if I hadn't been bicycling all those years.)
- The hardware, for better or worse - is much more diverse and technical than it was 30 years ago. My bike is a "30 Speed" - a "10 speed" would be fine, but ya can't get a "10 speed." Pretty much every bike was steel in '86. Nowadays you can get a bike made of anything from plastic to titanium. The diversity is great... but it comes at the cost of simplicity.
- The hazards... particularly behind-the-wheel electronic distractions. You could buy a cell phone in 1986... but it was the size of a brick with an antenna, and cost $1500. 30 years later, it seems more people are using "smart phones" while driving, than those who aren't. In '86, I rationalized that if I did my riding during the day, the probability of being hit by a drunk driver was reasonably low. I'm not nearly so confident about avoiding distracted drivers. They regularly kill and maim innocent bystanders, and so far, society seems to accept that as acceptable collateral damage. The National Safety Council estimates that 1 in 4 crashes involves cell phone use, and another 10% or so to texting while driving - an activity that's illegal in 44 states. It's scary to share the road with people who have such poor judgment! (78% of Americans say that distracted walking is a serious issue! At least when they're walking, they're usually not killing innocents!)
- Geese!  The Canada Goose population has exploded, at least in Boise.  They are magnificent birds when they are flying over in their V-formations, like honking squadrons of B-17s.  They are pests when they are waddling around on the ground, creating Canada Goose By-Product.  Apparently little can be done because of migratory fowl treaties.

I take great satisfaction in the transportation-aggravation I've avoided and the money I've saved, and the consistent exercise I've gotten over the years.  But the decision to ride a bicycle has turned 30 years of transportation time into 30 years of recreation time.  No regrets!

It's unlikely I'll be able to ride for another 30 years - and certainly not as my primary form of transportation.  But - I'll give it a go.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Want to get out of debt? Drive less!

We got our new Costco Connection magazine yesterday.  As is usually the case with the January edition, it's chock full of advice - and products, of course! - to improve your lifestyle, give up bad habits and start good habits, etc.  (Do people read this stuff on New Year's morning, and are suffering so badly from the night before that they're serious about changing things?)

An article caught my eye - "Dump that Debt."  I try to live a debt-free lifestyle, because I've experienced the heavy burden of debt and want to avoid it.  It's always valuable to get some suggestions on how to remain out of debt.

One of author Terri Cetina's suggestions is Drive less - much less.  She quotes blogger "Mr. Money Mustache": "Pretend that gas is $17.50 per gallon and a full tank costs $262.  This is the actual cost of driving ... don't fire up that money shredder unless absolutely necessary."

I like Mr. Mustache!  I'd never heard of him... he claims to have retired comfortably at age 30, through financially-responsible living and wise investing.  A quick review of his blog proves how smart he is - he's a dedicated transportation cyclist!  I found an interesting column on his blog: "Curing your Clown-Like Car Habit."  It's written with budget in mind... he emphasizes doing a cost/benefit analysis of each motor vehicle trip...

Mustache: "People drive to the school to pick up and drop off kids. To the grocery store. To the restaurants. To the gym. To each other’s houses. Back and forth on Main Street to show off. Every road sees plenty of cars and personal trucks, some of them in dangerous numbers. And inside, every vehicle is equipped with a La-Z-boy recliner, upon which a tragic clown sits, pushing the soft-touch pedals, turning the power-assisted wheel, and talking on some sort of Clownophone."

"The clowns have to wait in line when the traffic light turns red. They have to bumble though the parking lots and wait for each other to back out of parking spaces, because their machines are so bulky that two cannot pass each other in a space less than 20 feet wide. They line up at special events and fight for places to park on the streets. Then they line up at the gas station and the car wash and the oil change shop. And the machines make them fatter and poorer every time they use them."

And this: "Mustachians like you and I view an idling engine like a bleeding wound or an overflowing toilet. It’s something to be alarmed at, and to correct immediately. But Car Clowns actually idle deliberately, sometimes to get something as ridiculous as a cup of expensive coffee in a disposable paper cup. When I see these lines of Drive-Thru Clowns, I find the urge to get off my bike and walk down the lineup systematically PUNCHING EACH DRIVER IN THE FACE through their open window to be almost overwhelming."

Mr. Mustache uses some "adult" language and biting satire to get his point across, but I sure agree with the point he's trying to make.  Golly!  There's a treasure-trove of good info out there on the WWW, gems hidden among the politics/celebrity swill.  I hereby resolve to read more Mr. Mustache next year.  It's too late for me to retire at 30... I was older than 30 when I took up transportation cycling.  But maybe I can retire someday, if I keep on pedaling...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

New bike questions on the Idaho driver's test

The local news media are reporting that the test to get a driver's license will soon have additional questions about sharing the road with bicyclists.  (There aren't any new laws, and the information has been available in the Idaho Driver's Handbook (starting on page 74), but having it on the test will certainly contribute to awareness of the situation, and cyclist rights.)

ITD spokesman Steve Grant acknowledges that the crash involving 5-year-old Max Wyatt was a motivating factor... that "this tragedy kind of opened the discussion."

I believe it went like this:

Following the crash, our #1 advocate and activist, Jimmy Hallyburton (AKA "Mister Boise Bicycle Project") requested a meeting with Governor Butch Otter.  The rest is history.

I've got to admit, I was pretty skeptical that anything could possibly come from Jimmy's meeting with Butch.  I figured Butch would pretend to listen to him for 10 minutes, reply "I feel your pain," and roll his eyes when it was all over.  (It's hard for people who don't ride bikes-as-transportation to appreciate the issues... just like most of us can't fully understand being a "minority race" citizen.)

NEVER underestimate the power of well-informed and passionate advocacy!  Especially if you demonstrate that you're not just a wild-eyed fanatic.  My hat is off to Jimmy Hallyburton!  (I'm sure Jimmy gets even more satisfaction from having distributed, with his organization, 387 refurbished Christmas bikes!  The mind boggles!  Fantastic!)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Shoulda taken the bus!

It's probably been 10 years since I had an "injury" crash on the bicycle.  You know, with an injury that has more than a 24-hour impact.  Up 'til yesterday.  I crashed twice!

On my way to the office in the morning, a light dusting of snow obscured the route, just enough to make obstacles less than obvious.  Particularly when combined with the darkness that's fairly prevalent at 7:45am.  I rode through a construction project, just off the Greenbelt, and went straight where the path has been rerouted a little twisty.  I handled the frozen mounds of dirt and clattering rebar... but stopped abruptly when I went into a 10-inch curb dead-on.

Literally did the face-plant.  Banged one elbow and my right leg just above the knee.  Fortunately there was no other traffic of any kind, so I had the luxury of laying there and moaning for 15 or 20 seconds... then dragged my sorry carcass to my feet, to assess the damage.

The snow and dirt apparently provided just enough "lubrication" so I didn't have any facial road rash... my top lip was fat.  Road rash on one elbow.  An achy deep bruise just above my right knee.

The bike escaped relatively unscathed... had to straighten out one brake lever... and limped to the office.

Then on the ride home, the temperature was right at freezing.  And... in a display of poor judgment I was riding over-confidently.  Attempted a turn on what I thought was wet pavement... turned out to be frozen instead of wet.  BANG!  The same knee took the brunt... along with the other elbow.  Two witnesses (on foot) to that one.  Both asked "Are you okay?"  Trick question... right?

Once again I was able to answer the bell.  I rode on home - carefully!

I 'spect the right knee will be sore for a week or more.

Could've been way worse!  But both incidents were totally preventable, and I have to take ownership.  I hope I can now go another 10 or 15 years before I bang myself up again.  I'm getting too old to be slamming on the black-top.

Dry pavement is totally under-rated!