Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Electric-powered bikes - are they really bikes?

I continue to have reservations about the gradual but steady increase in the number of people coasting around on electric-powered bikes.  Particularly, based on observation, I'm not convinced that they will ever mesh nicely with human-powered transportation.

It's always dangerous to stereotype, but (here goes...) riders of electric bikes seem to be generally inexperienced - it may be the first "bike" they've ridden in 20 or 30 or 40 years!  Their bicycling skills are rusty... they have grown unfamiliar with the bicycle rules of the road and common courtesy.  They tend to move at a considerably faster pace than their counterparts who are supplying their own forward propulsion.  (That's understandable, since e-bikes seem to zoom right along with the slightest rotation of the pedals or push of a handlebar-mounted lever.  And - I've never ridden one and don't intend to - but that's how it seems.)  Fast speeds and rusty skills tend to be a dangerous combination.

Many - perhaps most - seem uncomfortable riding anywhere but on corridors that have traditionally been reserved for "no motor vehicles" - and many are still posted as such.

Earlier this week, I was riding on the Greenbelt.  Traveling at what I consider to be a fairly brisk pace for the Greenbelt - 13 to 15mph.  Traffic was almost non-existent.  (Most people put away their white pants and bicycles after Labor Day - haha!)  A seasoned couple came crusing up behind me on their e-bikes.  I observed in my rearview helmet mirror that they were barely pedaling, but overtook me with ease.  A lady followed by a man.  They didn't try passing, but were riding close enough behind me to catch a little slipstream - ha!  We reached a point where the pathway was closed, and a sign directed traffic across the (Veterans Parkway) bridge, to the other side of the river.  A block up the pathway on that side - it was closed (!!) and a sign directed traffic onto city streets (which were covered with gravel for a chip-seal - is there ANY road or path that's not being repaired right now??).  I was somewhat amused when I left the path for the streets... and left the e-bike couple in the distance.  They were obviously unwilling to venture out on city streets.

At least they had the common sense to not attempt a pass, unlike some e-bicyclists who keep the pedal to the metal regardless of limited sight distance, heavy multi-mode traffic, etc.  (They are the pickup truck drivers of the bike path!  haha)

Finally... I can't imagine there would be much emotional reward to riding an e-bike.  A large part of my incentive in bicycling comes from ability to do so, and the sense of independence.  It's very satisfying to arrive at destinations powered completely by myself; it's something that most people are not able or willing to do, and frankly I feel like I rise above the masses, at least in my transportation choice.  Would you feel any such satisfaction if it's just a different form of motorized transportation?  (As a regular motorcyclist, I speak from experience.  I don't derive that same emotional reward from going someplace on the motorcycle.)

HOWEVER... for those few e-bike riders who would otherwise be driving someplace in a single-occupant motor coach, I s'pose I can get behind that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Hamburger on the Highway!

This blog isn't intended to be "all about ME," but...

This morning I navigated myself into a crash. (D'oh!! I'm too old for such nonsense!)

At 6:45 or so I was headed for work, along a totally familiar route. Visibility was good. Traffic was super-light (a benefit of traveling at 6:45am). I was riding along, in total control, when I happened upon a lady walking a big ol' Rottweiler, maybe a half-block up the street. She used her other hand to wave at me... so I was trying to figure out who it was, and if I knew her. And - I spent too long figuring. (Distracted driving! I victimized myself!)

When I looked up-front again, I was headed directly toward a car on the side of the road... and WAY too close.

Two thoughts raced through my mind...

"Don't break off that side mirror!" followed immediately by, "Oh, &@#* - this is going to hurt!"

I redirected enough to miss the side mirror. It happened fast, but I think my front wheel went into the front wheel well of the car. And, I flew through the air with the greatest of ease and body-slammed the pavement on my left side.

Yeah - it hurt! But, after laying there for maybe 15 seconds, groaning about my pitiful plight, I was able to get up. (VICTORY!)

The nice lady who waved at me - who I don't think I've ever seen in my life - ran over. "Are you okay?" I told her I'm way too old, but I thought I'd probably be okay someday.

She said, "I live nearby - could I get my pickup and give you a ride someplace?" I took her up on the offer. (The front rim has rolled its last, and my fancy saddle is bent. I can replace a rim, and hopefully I can bend the saddle back into place.)

She took me and the bike home. I thanked her sincerely. Then got on the Long Haul Trucker and rode, somewhat gingerly, into work.

I've got a bit of road rash - treated with soap, water, and antiseptic. I 'spect my sore hip and sore shoulder will be reminding me of my mishap for a few weeks. (That hip has taken a beating over the years. I'm surprised it works at all.) I'm fortunate, only in that it could've been WAY worse. No visible damage to the victimized car on the side of the road. Nothing broken, or so it seems. And... I've already gotten about 4 miles of bicycling in, since the crash. (Gotta get back on that pony and ride... right?)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

High schoolers pull a bike-share prank

Over in Rockford, IL, some high school seniors pulled an epic prank.  They collected a bunch of LimeBikes - it's a bike-share where bikes don't have to be locked into a station - and parked them in the high school parking lot - one bike to each parking space.

Not only is it a quality harmless prank... it also does a good job of illustrating how much space is required for automobile parking.  According to the story (HERE), "Everybody had a good laugh, and the students moved the bikes to a single spot on the lot later in the day."

(I've heard of these "LimeBikes" before.  Evidently it's a relatively new venture - and they have lots of startup capital.  Based on the way it operates, with bikes NOT being secured, I can't imagine it's financially feasible - if there's not some way to secure the bikes, seems to me they will need to be replaced too regularly.)

Friday, May 4, 2018

Boise Bike Week - May 13-19

I hope my fellow Boise-area riders will be able to participate in some of the events of Boise Bike Week, which begins on Sunday, May 13.  List of events can be seen HERE.  (I'm not a big fan of gatherings, group events, festivals, etc. ... but I'm supportive of "the cause," in this particular case.)

(Also, local riders / party fans should be aware... apparently the plug has been pulled on the traditional August Tour de Fat.  You may recall that there was considerable heartburn last year, when it was relocated from Ann Morrison Park to the old State Penitentiary grounds, and admission charged for some of the events.  It's a shame - over the years, it raised a lot of money for local bicycle-related nonprofits as well as being a gathering for THOUSANDS of local bike riders of every stripe.)

No overt mention of a Pedal Power Parade (traditionally a favorite event for myself and grandkids), but the "Finale Party" appears to include a scenic-route to the party.

Bonnie went with me last year... maybe this year I can take little brother Clyde.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy Earth Day!

Well - it snuck up on me again!  Earth Day!

I probably forget, because it's always such a pleasant surprise when yet another Earth Day actually arrives and we still live on a rock that will sustain life.  I give myself and my fellow transportation cyclists most of the credit.  If we were driving big diesel trucks instead of bikes, maybe it would've been enough to tip the balance against us.

See you again in 2019.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Distracted driver, Uber driver, self-driving car ... pick your poison!

Mary Ward and Elaine Herzberg share something in common.

In 1869, Mary was a passenger in an experimental steam car, in Parsonstown, Ireland.  As the car rounded a corner, poor Mary became the first motor vehicle fatality when she fell out and the vehicle's wheels rolled over her.

On March 18, 2018, Elaine was pushing her bicycle across a 4-lane highway in Tempe, AZ, in the dark, when she became the first self-driving motor vehicle fatality. Story HERE.

There's disturbing video footage.  As the futuristic vehicle zips along the road, suddenly poor Elaine is lit up by the headlights of the guilty vehicle.  (Is the vehicle guilty, since it was driving itself?)  It's obviously an almost-direct hit, at highway speed... Elaine never had a chance.

There's also video of the "Safety Driver" in the vehicle.  Looks like she was probably fiddlin' with her "smart phone," and looked up just in time to see Elaine go flying.  So - her behavior was essentially identical to regular drivers who are distracted by their "smart phones," until the moment of impact.

In all fairness, it's doubtful that a fully-attentive driver would've seen this particular victim in time to prevent the collision.  She's dressed in dark clothes, and no apparent lights, reflectors, etc.  She also seems to be oblivious to the vehicle that's quickly converging on her in a traffic lane.  (What the?!!)  She's at least partially responsible for her own demise.  But it hardly fills one with confidence in all the futuristic technology (laser, lidar, radar) that's spoze to make self-driving vehicles much safer.  FAIL!

The car was an Uber vehicle.  (Imagine being the passenger on the ill-fated trip!!)

Details about Uber's minimum driver standards hardly fill one with confidence.  From the story:
- no violent crime convictions
- no felony convictions in the past 7 years
- no more than three non-fatal crashes (they say "accidents," but they are rarely accidents) or moving violations in 3 years

Would you feel better if you were run over by a self-driving vehicle, rather than an old-fashioned distracted-driver (or incompetent or impaired) vehicle?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"Spin" classes - not diverse enough!

Washington Post style reporter Lavanya Ramanathan has noticed that "spinning" class participants are predominantly young, thin, and white.  Yet one more cause for the Social Justice Warriors!  (Her opinion piece can be read HERE.)

I've never been in a spinning class in my life, nor do I understand the appeal.  But I will add a couple of my own personal observations to Lavanya's ...

The girl in those "Peloton" commercials on TV is young and thin! ... Now that I think about it, the majority of (on-the-street) bicycle riders I see in Boise are relatively young... and relatively thin... and most are white.  I always assumed it kinda reflected the demographics of the people who live in the area, and are interested in bicycling.  But maybe more should be done to make it more diverse!

Hey!  And ya know... now that I think about it... when you watch a big-time bicycle race, like, say, the Tour de France... the racers are predominantly young, thin, and white!  What the?!!?

But... before I get too bent out of shape... I think back on last weekend, when I probably watched 10 or more hours of top-level NCAA college basketball.  And in that field of endeavor, the tables were turned!  There are fewer white guys playing college basketball, than there are black guys (and gals) in spinning classes, I'm guessing.  (Granted, us fatties were NOT very well represented, in any skin tone.)

Hockey ... football ... track and field ... marathon running ... volleyball ... polo ... synchronized swimming ... the list goes on and on.  Some seem to attract a more homogenous mix of participants, and some are quite diverse.  Should quotas be imposed or enforced, just for the sake of diversity?

(For the record... there's not a whole lot I can do about being white.  It's the skin I was born with.  BUT - I'm doing my best to skew the participation percentages to OLDER and FATTER!)