Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Happy Bicycle Day!

I heard the guy on the radio this morning, announcing that today is Bicycle Day. First time I'd heard of it. Cool! To celebrate, I rode my bike to work. (For the record, I've ridden my bike to work, every work day for several years. But I did ride today, as well.)

I had to research this Bicycle Day. And, it's rather interesting.

On April 19, 1943, Swiss chemist Albert Hoffmann self-"medicated" himself with the first-ever dose of LSD. "So, what does that have to do with a bicycle?" you ask. Turns out that on that date, WWII was raging and there were restrictions on motor vehicle use. As Hoffmann rode home on his bicycle, the drug started taking effect. More info HERE. (NOTE: It's not a good idea to ride a bike under the influence. If you make that choice, exercise caution and stay out of traffic!)

Bicycle Day is beautiful in Boise this year! (On a day like this, I believe Boise never is more beautiful than in the springtime. But then autumn rolls around, and my perception changes.) The water is high this year. Routes along the river bottoms are compromised in several places. (Imagine the outcry if motor-traffic roads went underwater for a few weeks!)

My bicycling has generally been very positive lately. (I've been bicycling more than blogging... maybe I'm runnin' out of stuff to say.) I just put some new Vittoria Randonneurs on the bike, both front and back. On a less-positive note... I'm obviously too fat to ride a bike; I just broke my Brooks Imperial saddle. Fortunately it has a 2-year warranty, and an exchange was arranged and implemented. But it's disappointing. (I've enjoyed the Brooks for about 16 months... but after extensively sampling both, the Selle Anatomica is indeed more comfortable. It, too, has proven vulnerable to my massive gluteus maximus, however.)

While on the topic of important dates... don't forget! Earth Day is coming up this Friday! Be part of the solution... not part of the problem!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


No - I'm not talking about presidential politics.

Here's something an experienced bike rider like me doesn't like to see...

Actually I felt it and heard it before I saw it... klunk-klunk-klunk ... obviously from the back tire. Usually it's followed by the "whoosh" as air escapes the tube. After I saw it... I was doubly-mystified at no leaking air. I had to take a photo.

I took out my little keychain screwdriver and unscrewed it... and rode home. Two days later, still riding. (I topped off the tire with air this morning, but NOT because it was getting low. Only because I add a few pounds every 10 days or so.)

I ordered another year's worth of Vittoria Randonneur tires a month or so ago. I've got 3 or 4 older tires - other brands - that I really ought to put in rotation, before they crumble into dust, instead of wearing out. But I can't get excited about the notion of fixing flats; that's a rarity any more.

Dear Vittoria - do you want a spokes-model? I might be your man! I could use a sponsor. I'm a true believer... and I'm DANG good-lookin', too! (Okay, I'm lying. I'm an old fat guy. But I ride a lot of miles on a bike, and almost exclusively on Vittoria tires.)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Americans spend 3.4 million years commuting

It was a startling headline at the Deseret News (SLC Utah) website.  But I checked the math - it's correct.

In 2014, the average American spent 26 minutes commuting each way, to and from work.  (And there are around 139 million workers.)

That compares with an average commute time of 21.7 minutes, back in 1980, and is trending upward.

Approximately 1/4 of American workers commute less than 14 minutes one way.  But the number of Americans with "really, really long commutes" (defined as 45 minutes or more, each way) has gone up significantly since records started being kept (1980).

Observer Christopher Ingram: "Imagine spending the entire month of August — 24 hours of every day — stuck in your car or riding the bus. That's what it's like for 3.6 million American workers."  (Wow!!)

The experts say the morning commute is the worst, psychology-wise.  It can mess you up.  (It's slightly more pleasant if you're commuting with somebody else.  Maybe company helps.  Maybe if you're sharing misery, it doesn't seem quite so bad.  Maybe you're less likely to slowly slip into insanity, if you're not alone.)

For me, after 30 years of bicycle transportation, my in-town behind-the-wheel time is just about my least-favorite time!!  I get totally stressed, sitting in traffic with the motor running!  I can't imagine spending an hour or more doing that, five days a week, fifty weeks a year!

This statement seems odd to me:

"Less time commuting might be put to work in other ways, though no one seems quite sure how to make commutes shorter."

Well, Duh!!  If you live closer to where you work... your commute will be shorter.

People choose to live farther from work for various reasons.

Perhaps the neighborhoods near the workplace are unsavory, or too expensive.  Or maybe they have such a charming residential situation, they can't bear the thought of living someplace else, no matter the downside.

Now and then, we will go for a drive in the country and see a lovely charming rural house for sale.  You know, surrounded by big weeping willows and a creek or pond.  Acres for playing.  I can totally understand the appeal.  But... will I want to get up an hour earlier 5 days a week, and spend 45 minutes sitting in traffic, to get to work?  And get home an hour after quitting time?  The prospect isn't pleasant!  But it MUST be considered!

Here's an example of some flawed logic.

A good friend's brother was moving to the area - he had gotten a job in Boise.  He looked around at rental properties in Boise, and ended up renting a house in Nampa.  His explanation: "It's so expensive in Boise!  I was able to get a place in Nampa for $40 per month less!"  So - he was going to spend an hour or more extra per day commuting... and buy probably 2 extra gallons of gas... in order to save $40 per month on rent.  Sheesh!

But I digress.

I usually leave home on the bicycle at 7:40am, in order to be sitting at my desk at 8am.  If I drove the car, it might take 5 minutes less if I could find a parking spot immediately.  But 5 minutes of parking-spot search would even things out.  (And... I'm as far from work right now as I've ever been.  For a couple glorious years I lived across the parking lot from my job... I was renting a house that belonged to my employer.)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Checkin' in - late winter

I feel small pangs of guilt about my feeble advocacy of bike transportation, as of late.  I may not be writing about it, but I'm riding every day.  I hope you are, too!  I rode just over 400 miles in January, and am 400+ miles for February, as well.  I've cleaned the drivetrain once this year.  I've fixed one flat tire (created by a tiny piece of stiff wire).

Since my darkness-and-weather-related crashes in mid-December, I've been crash-free, and I'm back to 105%.  Ah, who am I kiddin'?!!?  It takes me as much effort to go 15mph nowadays, as it did to go 20mph, 25 years ago.  I'll never be 100% again... at least on this side of mortality.  But despite the incremental slowdown, bicycling remains as satisfying as it was back in the beginning.  (Perhaps even more satisfying, in the sense that I'm extending the boundaries.)

The downside of the cold/wet months is the cold, and the wet.  And the gunk that accumulates on the roadway and therefore on the drivetrain.

On very rare occasions, I feel a bit of jealousy toward the motor-vehicle masses.  When it's 32 and raining, a warm dry cockpit looks pretty attractive.  But when I borrow the wife's car... and find myself in traffic, or sitting at a red light with the motor doing nothing but burning fuel... I long for that 2-wheeler.

There's an upside, too... the winter cyclist has the bike infrastructure mostly to her- or himself!  I don't think I've ridden the Greenbelt one time this winter, when there weren't already bike tracks.  But other than that evidence, sometimes days go by between cyclist sightings.  (Not as much as 25 or 30 years ago, however... ridership is up year-round.)

The days are getting warmer... and the paths more crowded.  Particularly the Greenbelt, on a sunny weekend day.  People have spring fever... and a lot of those people seem to have forgotten how to share the pathway.  Or they don't notice that they're sharing.  (Another upside of year-round cycling... you don't forget the little details over the winter lay-up.)

Granddaughter Bonnie turned 3 on Saturday... and she's almost too big for the bike seat we've used for 2+ years.  Particularly when she starts rocking back and forth while her feeble old grandpa is trying to ride a straight line.  We'll have to explore our options... she's too big for the baby seat, and she's probably still too small for the "tag-a-long."  We'll have to figure something out, because she sure loves to go bike riding!  (Imagine being a 3-year-old in a car seat that's too low to see out, except maybe the sky... and how much more enjoyable it would be to see the sights... feel the breeze... smell the smells!)

My north-Idaho bike-riding friends have stated some interest in riding the Weiser River Trail when the weather starts getting nicer.  Clancy shared some tips with me... he's a veteran of pretty much every recreational trail in our beautiful state.  Perhaps in May, if we have a zero-precipitation weekend...

Keep on bikin'.

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.