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.

Friday, August 12, 2016

New Greenbelt stretch is open!

I've been eagerly watching this for several years... the development of a key section of Boise Greenbelt, on the south side of the Boise River between Ann Morrison Park and Garden City (Joe's Crab Shack / Riverside Hotel area).  Because of my eagerness, it seemed to take particularly long, but except for some enhancement of vegetation along the way, it appears to be 100%... and very nice!

It is a key piece of the puzzle in our "String of Jewels" - now a person can ride a bicycle, on the south side of the river, nonstop from the Parkcenter area at the east end of town, all the way to Eagle Road on the west end.  Fantastic!  (You can go even father east, if you're on foot.)  It also adds a spur that extends to the Garden Street Greenbelt - the stretch that goes over the red trestle bridge.  I'll use that extensively going forward, I'm sure.

One other note... I snapped another photo just a day or two before it opened.  It's nice to see that they've finally quit discriminating against non-spellers.  For ever so long, you needed to know spelling to paint the signs on the pathway surface.  (It's good I took the photo when I did... they also obviously have a spelling-correction budget... "YEILD" has been painted over, and changed to "YIELD."  There were at least three occurrences that have been fixed.)

Correction! This piece does NOT complete a continuous "greenbelt" from east Boise to Eagle Road... in my enthusiasm, I forgot that there's a detour between 52nd and Remington in Garden City - just east of the Fairgrounds and abandoned Les Bois Park. It's maybe a quarter mile.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ridin' with my grandbabies!

August 9th was a fantastic day for me.  For the first time ever, I went on a bike ride with all three of my granddaughters.  Mackenzie, 9, was riding her own bicycle.  Bonnie, 3, was aboard the tag-a-long.  And Maren, 1, who is here visiting from Providence, R.I., rode in the baby seat.

It was Maren's first-ever bike ride.  She fussed a bit when we were strapping her in - who can blame her?  Getting attached to a big, strange machine with an even bigger, stranger person that she doesn't know well!  But once we got rolling, she didn't make a peep.  (Her mom and dad were along for the ride, too.  Photos courtesy of daughter Kellyn.  The second one is a screen-grab from a video she took with her phone.)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tag-along Bonnie

My granddaughter Bonnie turned 3 in February... and has outgrown the front-mounted baby seat that she's ridden in since early on.  So - we have graduated her to the Tag-A-Long bike.  (Or "choo choo bike" as she sometimes calls it.)

It was stored for a couple years where it was exposed to the weather, so I had a couple of rusted-up pedals to replace.  I lubed the chain, set the seat height as low as it will go, rotated the handlebars backward a bit... and we're good. Oh! I also added a handlebar basket, because she loves to collect stuff to bring home.

On our first ride, Bonnie was pretty excited.  "I can pedal!  I can pedal!"

The view probably isn't as good as it was before... but she can pedal.  (You know what they say about the sled-dog view: "Unless you're the lead dog, the view never changes."  I imagine her old grandpa partially blocks the forward view.)

We've probably ridden 30 or 40 miles using the Tag-A-Long at this point.  I'm still frequently admonishing her to "Hold on!" - much more important, now that she's no longer surrounded by bucket-seat and grandpa arms.  But so far she's done fine, including 20-mph rides down the hill.

The "I can pedal!" dynamic introduced a minor problem on our most recent ride.

Her bike has a freewheel - she contributes to forward motion when she pedals forward, but spins freely when she pedals backwards.  And she's discovered that pedaling backwards is less effort, so that's what she does most of the time.  So... we were riding along, me pedaling forward and her backwards, and I heard a "klunk" as something fell and hit the ground.  It was a pedal.  Her constant backwards-pedaling had gradually unscrewed it, and it fell off the crank.  (I obviously didn't tighten it up adequately when I installed it.)  I screwed it back in by hand, and finger-tightened it.  I tried to explain to her... "Pedal the other way, Bonnie!"  She tried to somehow cross up her feet, so her left foot turned the right pedal and vice versa.  (Dang!  I love young kids!  They are learning everything from scratch, and it's joyful to be part of that!)  I obviously didn't explain adequately... and before we got home, the pedal had hit the ground one more time... and was about halfway unscrewed a third time, when we rolled up the driveway.  I tightened it - hopefully it won't be a problem on future rides.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Stupid phones!

The motto of many, many "smart phone" owner/operators could be, "My phone is smart, so I don't have to be!"

30 years ago, mobile phones were a very rare novelty. The cell phones of the day were the size of a brick, were useful in very limited areas, and cost $2000. They did one thing rather poorly - make and receive telephone calls. And... most people did just fine without a mobile phone.

In 2016, it's rare to see anybody over 12 or so who doesn't have a "smart phone." And a meaningful percentage of those people seem to be totally focused on that tiny screen, all the live long day!

I challenge you to do your own informal inventory. Look at the people where you are... walking, standing, driving, bicycling, skateboarding, sitting... whatever. It's really quite startling how many will have one elbow cocked at 90 degrees to look at that phone... or in some cases, cradling it lovingly in two hands, like a precious infant or an adorable kitty. (As a mostly-outsider looking on, I can't help but wonder... WHAT could possibly be so interesting on that four-inch screen, that's far more enthralling than the real life all around them?!?)

Has the IQ of our society gone up, as "smart phones" have become ubiquitous? There's precious little evidence of that... and there are disturbing signs that the opposite might be true, in this observer's viewpoint.

FIRST: You don't need to know anything, if you can look everything up on your "smart phone."

SECOND: Observe some of the stuff that "smart phone" operators do, on account of their staring at their phones! They walk into manholes and fountains, and step off curbs. Worse... they get behind the wheel of their car, and maim/kill themselves and innocent bystanders. 30 years ago, I'm confident that collisions involving distracted driving were less common than they are today. (There have always been distractions... but the "smart phone" has taken distracted driving to a whole new disturbing level, and apparently our society deems the collateral damage acceptable.)

A couple weekends ago, I was bicycling through a nearby city park. It seemed there were considerably more smart-phone zombies than usual, standing or lurching about, staring at their phones. Turns out it was almost certainly related to the latest smart-phone craze - Pokemon Go. Oh, joy! Proponents are defending it: "Well, at least it gets the kids out of the house and doing something." Seriously? Is that where we are, as an enlighened society? We need some sort of smart-phone game to get people outside (where they stare at their phones some more)? (If you're interested, HERE is a video taken on a Baltimore cop body-cam. A driver sideswipes a cop car, and his declared reason is because he was playing Pokemon on his "smart phone.") Beam me up, Scotty!

[NOTE: The main reason I have strong feelings about "smart phones" is the tendency of their users to do really REALLY stupid stuff that endangers other people. I witness it up close and personal, almost every day. If they were only putting themselves at risk with their entertainment/lifestyle choices, I'd say let nature take its course! The smart will survive... the dumb, not so much. But "smart phone" users kill and damage both smart and not-so-smart indiscriminately. I sincerely hope we eventually attach some negative stigma to driving around killing people while phone-distracted... that would be a step in the right direction.]