Monday, October 13, 2014

Bicycle Safety Survey

Mark Hoglund is a doctoral student at SUNY, and has prepared an online survey about bicycling and safety.  I submitted my answers... it took about 10 minutes.  I'd encourage you to, as well, if you are at least 18 years old.  As with any survey, the more participants, the more accurate the survey can be.

"We hope to learn about things that bicyclists do which may help them avoid traffic accidents.  There will be questions about .....  
- your normal practices while bicycle riding
- traffic accidents or near accidents which you may have had while bicycling
- other factors (such as the amount of riding you do) which might affect your risk of having an accident."
 
Most of the survey questions seemed pretty reasonable.  There were a couple about behavior at stop signs and stop lights; I added a note explaining that I reside in Idaho, where cyclists aren't required by law to stop at signs.
 
You can link to it HERE.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Depression

In 1978, this offbeat new sitcom came into existence - Mork and Mindy.  I was young and poor, and much of my entertainment was listening to my records and watching TV, so I tuned in.  It was a winner... I watched it regularly.  I thought Mindy was cute as a bug (that's very cute... right?), but it was the zany antics of newcomer Robin Williams that kept it truly interesting.  (According to the Wikipedia, Williams came in to audition with the producer of the show... he was directed to a seat, and stood on his head in the seat, and was hired on the spot.)

Over the next 30 years, Robin Williams became a household name and part of our culture.  He made a wide variety of movies, playing everything from "manic Robin Williams" to straight men to sinister scary dudes.  And of course, whenever he got the chance to cut loose, there was no one better at frenetic high-energy improvisational comedy.  He sure caused me to laugh - and groan - a lot, over the years.

Off-camera, one of his passions was bicycling!  Did you know that?  It wasn't well-publicized, but he loved to ride bicycles, would hang out with Lance and visit France during the race of the same name, etc.

When he took his own life earlier this year, it shocked even his best friends.

How could a guy who made us so happy, be so sad?

So, why do I bring this up in a blog about cycling?  Well, I already mentioned his love of bikes.  But also... there's a saying among motorcyclists, "You never see a motorcycle parked in front of a psychiatrist's office."  Suggesting that motorcycling is therapeutic and brings peace of mind.

I certainly believe that to be true... unless maybe you're a white-knuckle edge-of-control motorcycle rider, and maybe even they get to release some stress.  (I don't think it would work for me.)

I believe bicycling is even more therapeutic!  Or at least I know it works that way for me.

Maybe Robin had let dust collect on his bicycles for too long.  Evidently he was very, very disappointed about how the Lance Armstrong soap opera turned out.  I s'pose I can understand.

Depression - chronic depression - is a serious condition, and obviously hard to understand if you don't suffer from it.  I had a younger sister who was a brilliant over-achiever.  As we were growing up, I know it was hard for my parents to not say, "Why can't you be more like your sister?!!"  She graduated from medical school at the top of her class, and very young.  Two or three years later, after several unsuccessful attempts, she committed suicide.  That's the last time I cried like a baby.  I couldn't understand how such a gentle, gifted person, beloved by everybody in her circle, could feel so bad about herself and her situation.  I still don't.  I still miss her many years later, and I'll miss Robin Williams, too.

(I happened across an interesting article about Robin Williams and his love of bicycling... HERE.)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Boise Bike Boosts

A couple developments in Boise could result in more bicycles on the road in the not-too-distant future.

A stretch of Capitol Boulevard is set to get upgraded bike lanes within the next few weeks, in conjunction with a resurfacing project.

For those not familiar, the street is prominent in downtown Boise, running between the Boise Depot on the south and the Statehouse on the north.  It is bordered by Boise State University and Julia Davis Park on one side, and Ann Morrison Park is nearby on the other side.

Some "intrigue" has been added to the project, because the City of Boise and ACHD (the roadway government entity in the county) have had a political "pissing match" (pardon my French!) about the details.  In the latest round, the city has wanted the traffic lanes to be 10 feet wide, while ACHD has insisted on 11-foot lanes.  Rational people would say, "Let's compromise and make them, uh... um... ten-and-a-half feet wide."  But that would be way too simple for our elected public servants and their paid experts.  ACHD will likely prevail, since they own the tape measures and painting trucks.  According to the latest update on the Statesman website, there will be a  "bike lane ranging between 4 and 6 feet wide running along the east side of Capitol. A painted buffer between 18 and 42 inches wide will separate the bike lane from car traffic."

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/10/01/3404218_achd-sticks-to-downtown-bike-lane.html?sp=/99/1687/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

How wide does a traffic lane have to be?  Based on my experience... the wider the better!  Some of those guys in their F350 Super Duty Turbo Dually pickups can occupy the full lane and seem to get flustered because they can't occupy ALL the lanes!

And in another "big city" development, the Boise Bike Share has become something you can actually touch!

The administrators were hoping to have it up and functioning in 2014.  But unfortunately, '14 is flying by, and now it looks like 2015 might be realistic.  However, they have a sample bike (!), and the Boise Weekly people took a ride on it.  Story HERE.

There's a photo of the bike.  It's bright green and has a "utility bike" look about it.  It appears to have an electronic bike share device on a rear rack, and also appears to have a drive shaft instead of a chain.  I suspect that's intended to lower the maintenance requirements... ?  A shaft is considerably less efficient than a chain for transmitting power to the back wheel... but on a bike that will be primarily used for low-speed travel over relatively flat and smooth surfaces, that probably won't be a major issue.

The story says they will be introducing the "principal sponsor" very soon.  I'm looking forward to that; my main reservation with the program has been the implication that it will be another taxpayer-funded perk that our kids' grandkids are expected to pay for someday.

Also, the story lists the "stations" where the bikes will primarily be parked:
  • City Hall Plaza: 15 racks
  • Old Borah Post Office: 15 racks
  • Boise Centre: 15 racks
  • YMCA: 10 racks
  • Idaho Power: 10 racks
  • Boise State University Interactive Learning Center: 15 racks
  • Boise State University Student Union Building: 15 racks
  • Water Center: 10 racks
  • Ada County Courthouse: 10 racks
  • Boise Co-Op: 10 racks
  • St. Luke's Campus: 15 racks
  • Library!: 10 racks
  • State Office Complex: 10 racks
  • BoDo: 10 racks

  • They're all fairly close-in... maybe if the program is a winner, they'll expand it to more destinations.  (And if I understand correctly, a GPS locator device on each bike will enable the user to leave it at a destination other than one of the "stations."  I'm waiting to see how that works; obviously it will require a staffer who can retrieve the bike at some point and return it to a station.  In my mind's eye, it seems a little haphazard and chaotic, but maybe the reality will be poetry in motion.)

    Monday, September 22, 2014

    "Daredevil biker" kills pedestrian in Central Park

    A 59-year-old pedestrian, crossing the street in NYC's Central Park, was struck by a cyclist last week and the injury to her head proved fatal.  The STORIES I've read, and the comments following some of them, have generally been sympathetic to the pedestrian, and have called out the "maniac bikers" who are making life dangerous for innocent citizens.

    I, too, am sympathetic.  Ms. Jill Tarlov, the victim, was allegedly crossing the street in a marked crosswalk when "fierce triathlete" Jason Marshall hollered a warning instead of stopping, and then struck Ms. Tarlov.

    However, some questions need to be answered.  (I wasn't there - in fact, I've never stepped foot in Central Park.  So unlike so many "authorities," I need to refrain from being judge/jury/executioner... at least for now.)

    Some people have stated flatly, "A pedestrian in a crosswalk has the right-of-way... period."

    Not so!

    At a "controlled" intersection - you know, with a traffic light and maybe a Walk/Don't-Walk sign, vehicles have the right of way when their light is green and the pedestrians have a "Don't Walk."

    Do the crosswalks in Central Park have such features?  As far as I'm concerned, that's the only redemption Mr. Marshall might have.  And even then... it's shameful that he wasn't able to avoid the collision anyway.  A defensive rider would've anticipated a possible problem and been prepared to take evasive action.

    (I once hit a pedestrian under slightly similar circumstances... except she darted without warning from between two cars, in the middle of a city block, right into my path.  I barely clipped her as I swerved to miss her, and slammed into the pavement.  She said "I'm sorry," and went merrily on her way... I hurt for probably 2 months afterwards.)

    The speed limits in Central Park are 25mph... even a "daredevil biker" would have a difficult time maintaining a speed much faster than that.  (The story linked above says during his ride, Mr. Marshall hit a speed of 35.6 mph... but was he miles away and going down a hill or something?)

    The main fact that the angry mob seems eager to ignore...?  This story is only newsworthy because it's so unusual!  How often does a bike rider kill somebody besides him or herself?  Hardly ever!  By contrast... in 2013, in New York City, 178 pedestrians and cyclists were killed in traffic aaccidents.  (Info HERE.)  It's a safe bet that all but one or two of those fatalities involved a motor vehicle.  So, when we're lamenting, "Something must be done about these daredevil bikers!!," let's just keep things objective and in perspective, huh?

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014

    Idaho drivers - RUDEST in the land!

    If you're in Idaho, you've probably heard that we're number 1!  "We're Num-ber One!  We're Num-ber One!"  (But I haven't heard our governor boasting about it, or turning it into a campaign issue... yet.)

    According to a poll of 2000 drivers taken by website insure.com, Idaho drivers are the rudest!  And our neighbors Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah are also in the Top Ten.

    Apparently the SLOW Idaho drivers are rude for driving below the speed limit... and the FAST Idaho drivers aggressively speed around them and flip them off!

    It goes without saying that Idaho cyclists can be lumped right in there.  Our slow-moving ways really annoy the NASCAR rejects in our midst.

    In all honesty, I can't say that Idaho's impatient, aggressive, fast drivers are any different from their like-minded comrades in other states.  Surely even North Dakota (#51) has its share of hot-headed gear jammers.  And interestingly, Idaho's rude drivers apparently avoid accidents... we have some of the lowest auto insurance rates (#48) in the nation.

    My favorite rude drivers are the ones that gun their motors to demonstrate their rudeness and lack of patience to the rest of the world... and then when they get a chance, it's pedal-to-the-metal, roaring exhaust and sucking that $3.75 gas as fast as the fuel pump will deliver it... and then half-a-block later they slam on their brakes to avoid rear-ending the next guy who's blocking their speedy trajectory.  So very impressive!

    Sunday, September 14, 2014

    4K miles for 2014

    It wasn't so long ago that I was boasting of having ridden 3000 miles this year... and it being the 28th consecutive year of at least that many miles.  Well... as of yesterday, I've ridden at least 4000 miles every year, for the past 28 years.

    Thank ya... thank ya verruh much.

    (I won't be repeating the "28 year" mantra at 5000 miles... there have been several years over those 28, when I rode more than 4000 miles, but less than 5000.  Not since 2002, however.)

    About 230 of those miles have been on the baby-seat bike, with granddaughter Bonnie.  Bonnie loves to go on bike rides!  Who can blame her for preferring it to riding in the car... facing backwards in a low-slung baby seat, so all she can see is a little sky through the back window?!!


    (The ill-advised "selfie while riding with granddaughter" photo)

    Some of those miles have been with both granddaughters, Bonnie and Mackie.  (Mackie propelling herself on her 24-inch bike.  She says it's not fair that she has to work, while Bonnie just relaxes and enjoys the ride.)

    I continue to have a "writer's block" of sorts - thus the infrequent posts.  I'm riding... and I see lots of other people riding.  But it's generally "steady as she goes," and whenever I feel like commenting these days, it's generally commentary I've already put down in the past.

    In fact, I'd say the bicycling population is as high as it's been over those 28 years, at least in Boise.  More and more people seem to be recognizing the many benefits of self-powered transportation.  At least during the warm months.  (And I believe September and October are the best months for bike riding in Boise, as a general rule.)

    There are other bike-related things that occasionally catch my attention...

    A texting Los Angeles sheriff's deputy killed a guy, and no charges will be filed because he was doing "official business."  This despite the fact that it's illegal for commoners to text in California.  I'd call it a travesty of justice.  Story HERE.

    In happier bike news... Miss Oregon is wearing "bike shoes" in the Miss America pageant, to promote her state's bike-friendliness.  When I read "bike shoes," this isn't what I expected.

    Monday, August 11, 2014

    Fat is coming to Boise!!

    The New Belgium Tour de Fat will roll thru town next weekend - Saturday, August 16 to be specific.

    How does one describe the Tour de Fat to someone not familiar?

    Well, its not about Body Mass Index, or an eating contest, or a gathering of the morbidly obese.

    Rather, it's a celebration of bicycle transportation and culture.  It's brought to you by the people who also bring you Fat Tire Amber Ale... which is probably delicious, particularly on a hot August afternoon in Boise!  (Not being a beer drinker, I can't speak from personal experience.  And in case you're wondering, most of the events are all-ages appropriate... particularly the parade, which takes a relaxed pace through downtown Boise on bicycles and contraptions that vaguely resemble bicycles.)

    A complete schedule of events, and additional information, can be found HERE.  (It asks when you were born... apparently even though the kiddies are welcome to ride in the parade, they shouldn't be looking at the schedule!)

    Mark your calendar now - the parade begins at 11am.  It's probably the closest thing we have to Carnaval, or Mardi Gras.  Very, very festive!  If you've done it once, you'll want to do it every year.

    Another favorite event is the "Car for Bike Trade."  An attendee who mostly drives a car for transportation pledges to give up that car for a year... and in return he or she rides away on a shiny new limited-edition Fat Tire bike!  (I'm always jealous... but must admit I'm not the "target demographic" since I'm already a believer.)

    Last year, they estimated 7000 parade participants!  No other parade in Boise even comes close!  And - there's another reason to participate... last year the attendees contributed $62,000 to local non-profit bicycle partners (this year the beneficiaries are SWIMBA, Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance, and the Boise Bike Project).

    Let's hope for 8000 or maybe 10,000 participants this year... and be part of it!