Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Greenbelt courtesies

In the course of my travels, I've been to many communities that boasted of a bicycle/pedestrian pathway.  I don't claim to be an expert, but I've not seen any that's more glorious than Boise's beloved Greenbelt.

The city's website describes it as follows: The 25-mile ... tree-lined pathway follows the river through the heart of the city and provides scenic views, wildlife habitat and pedestrian access to many of the city's popular riverside parks. The Greenbelt also serves as an alternative transportation route for commuters.

When I was a young pup growing up in Boise - and floating the Boise River - the river had a few parks along the way, notably Municipal, Julia Davis, and the spankin' new Ann Morrison Park.  But for the most part, the river bank was lined with junked rusty equipment, slabs of concrete that had been dumped, drain pipes, and lots of overgrown brush, poison ivy, litter, etc.  It's nice to have that "before-after" perspective - perhaps I appreciate it even more than people who have arrived in the ensuing years.  My hat will forever be off to the visionaries who planned it and made it happen... and to the landowners along the river, who bought into that vision.

I enjoy the Greenbelt year-round.  (Over the last 3 or 4 years, recognizing its value as a transportation route, the Parks Department has been very faithful about keeping it plowed, on the rare snow days.)  Unfortunately, my commute only involves maybe 1/2 mile of those 25 miles, but it's also a fine place to do some recreational riding and sight-seeing.  Particularly when I have my young granddaughters along... there are hazards on the path (keep reading), but I'm generally confident they won't get squished by a motor vehicle.

I probably enjoy the Greenbelt more during the "off months" than during peak season.  The most glorious time, scenery wise, is in the spring and autumn.  But alas, my selfish enjoyment of the Greenbelt diminishes somewhat as the weather gets nice, because the Greenbelt population increases exponentially... and many of the newcomers behave as though they don't know how to share the facility graciously.

I don't know when the "User Courtesies" were first published, but I thought they might be worth reviewing. They can be found on the website that is linked above. Also, neighbor community Garden City has adopted them in their entirety, for the stretch of Greenbelt that they manage. (Just don't ride your bike on the forbidden Riverside Village "nature path"!!)

Here are those Courtesies, along with some commentary and observations I've added, as a long-time user-advocate.  The published material is in italics (and colored - sorry, Clancy!), my comments are not italicized.  I'd be very interested in other peoples' observations, and would dearly love a response from Boise Parks and Recreation.

To insure that all users' rights are protected and to guard against accidents, the Boise Parks & Recreation Department has established the following courtesies and safety guidelines for pedestrians, in-line skaters and cyclists to obey.

- Stay only on designated trails.
- Pedestrians have the right of way at all times. Cyclists and in-line skaters must be aware of pedestrians.

I'd like to see that changed so it reads, "Pedestrians have the right of way at all times. However, all Greenbelt users should be aware of, and respect, other Greenbelt users." Is there some reason that pedestrians don't need to be aware of cyclists and in-line skaters? In fact, the "Tips" section on the same (Boise) web page states, "Stay alert and tuned into your surroundings. Take off headphones and be aware of what's going on around you." Great advice! Reinforce it in the "Courtesies" section!

- All Greenbelt users should stay to the right and use caution under bridges and at blind corners where vision could be impaired.
Routinely violated by all classes of users. Some pedestrians stroll down the left side as if they are practicing some kind of safety technique, while everybody they encounter has to adjust. Others lurch from one side to the other, while staring at their handheld gizmos. Dogs dart from one side to the other... they don't know any better, but the people walking the dogs should. Packs of pedestrians, runners, cyclists, etc., routinely use the entire pathway width.

- Pedestrians should not walk more then two abreast.
See comment immediately above.

- Motorized vehicles and hoofed animals are prohibited. (Maintenance, patrol and handicap vehicles are the exception.)
I'd sure like to see the "authorities" set a better example. I've had rides on the Greenbelt interrupted by golf-cart after golf-cart after golf-cart, all apparently conducting "official business." I've seen police cars driving down the Greenbelt in Garden City! Motor traffic should be kept to an absolute minimum, for both safety and aesthetic reasons!!

- All non-paved sections are restricted to foot traffic only.
I don't believe this is accurate. I'd prefer, "Obey use restrictions as posted on signs - bicycles, dogs, etc." I believe there are areas (I'm thinking of Veteran's Memorial Park, for example) where it's perfectly fine to ride bikes on unpaved stretches. And there are paved places (Maryanne Williams) where cyclists and dogs are not allowed.

- Dogs are allowed only if on a leash - leash not to exceed eight (8) feet.
Routinely violated - dogs running loose, and dogs at the end of a 25-foot spring-operated retractable leash, running all over the place. Some folks obviously feel their beloved pooch is "special" and doesn't need to follow the rules meant for commoner mongrel dogs.

- Dog owners are responsible for sanitary disposal of dog feces.

See previous comment. Nobody would be bothered by a pile of dog poop left by such a "special" dog, right?!?

- Bicyclists and in-line skaters are encouraged not to conduct serious training or to maintain fast speeds. Competitive events for in-line skaters and bicyclists are not allowed because of safety issues and potential accidents.
Amen and amen!! The biggest legitimate bicycle beef that other pathway users have - and the reason for restrictions like the infamous Garden City "nature trail" - is the wankers dressed like Lance or Kristin (the Armstrongs) blasting at 20mph past pedestrians! Get off the freakin' path, you posers!

- Bicyclists and skaters who wish to pass other users along the Greenbelt must notify others that they are passing, either verbally (example: "passing on your left") or by other audible means (bell, horn, etc.). The person wishing to pass is responsible for passing freely and clearly around others, and not hindering approaching users.
I have a slight problem with this. As a citizen who does most of his riding on the streets, I would liken this to honking every time you come up behind somebody, or pass. It implies that the person you're passing isn't astute enough to pay attention. My practice: If I come up behind somebody who's walking in a nice predictable straight line on the proper side of the path, and there's plenty of passing space, I'll slowly and cautiously go on by, maintaining the maximum available distance, and at a respectable rate of speed. If passing will be hazardous, I'll announce my presence beforehand, and hope they're not rockin' out with the earplugs. Consider it a compliment if I don't holler "on your left" before I go by!

- Don't harass or encroach upon the wildlife. Disturbing or collecting any vegetation or natural habitat along the Greenbelt is prohibited.
- Glass beverage containers are not permitted.
- Alcohol is prohibited within 250 feet of the Boise River. Beer/wine is allowed in ... restricted areas by permit...


I'd like to see one more point added... maybe at the very top.
"Keep in mind that the Greenbelt is a transportation corridor, and is often crowded with users.  Please respect other users by not blocking the pathway to chit-chat, repair your bicycle, adjust your load, yap on the phone, send a text, conduct pet or baby admiration sessions, snap a photo, etc. Step to the side, so other people can go by."
(It's so common-sense that you'd think it's no-brainer obvious... but so are a lot of those published rules already in place!)

Okay - I've vented. (But I'm confident much additional venting will be required, over the just-underway "amateur greenbelt season.")

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Springtime Happenings

We're enjoying an early spring in these parts, in stark contrast to some areas of the country.


Even the fair-weather cyclists are starting to emerge.  Watch for some commentary about Greenbelt practices in the next few days... currently formulating as I deal with the onslaught of amateurs.

I ventured downstream on the Greenbelt once again a few days ago.  Progress is definitely being made on the footings of the new bike/pedestrian bridge.  I'll be glad when it's in place.


I haven't heard any updated official announcements in the past month or so, but it seems that the area Bike Share will soon be a reality.  (A friend of a friend was just hired to keep the fleet running.)  Check out this website - Boise Green Bike.  The checkout stations have been determined... the major sponsor (St. Lukes Hospital) is all lined up... fees have been determined.  ("Pay as you go" is $4/hour.  Monthly memberships are $15, annual memberships are $70... each includes an hour a day.)  There is a fairly limited central "hub" - if you venture out of the hub they ding you for another 2 bucks.  I'm still somewhat skeptical that Boise's demographics will sustain a bike sharing program, but I might be wrong... and I'm happy that they are starting out fairly modestly, with plans to expand if the need can be proven.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Football - safer than riding a bike!

"There are lies, damned lies, and statistics."
- Mark Twain

Need some evidence of that?

You've probably heard the ongoing dialogue regarding football injuries, specifically brain injuries caused by repeated concussions.  Just this week, NFL player Chris Borland announced his retirement from the San Francisco 49ers at the age of 24, because he doesn't want to risk those kind of injuries.

In response, on Tuesday Dr. Joseph Maroon, a neurosurgeon, said, "There are more injuries to kids from falling off bikes, scooters, falling in playgrounds than there are in youth football. Again, it’s never been safer. Can we improve? Yes, we have to do better all the time to make it safer, but I think if a kid is physically able to do it and wants to do it, our job is to continue to make it safer. But it’s much more dangerous riding a bike or a skateboard than playing youth football."

Is he talking "tackle" bike riding, or "flag" bike riding?

It might be meaningful that Dr. Maroon earns money as a consultant to the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee.  He's also team neurosurgeon to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's probably a safe bet that more kids break their heads riding bikes than do playing football.  But Maroon is obviously and conveniently ignoring the fact that for every kid who plays football, probably 1000 ride bikes.  And 999 of those 1000 kids emerges unscathed.

If he really believes what he says... perhaps he's had a few concussions over the years.

Story HERE.

NOTE!  I unhesitatingly advocate wearing a helmet (both children and adults!), and wear one myself, because of the possibility of konks to the noggin!  Don't get me wrong!  Cyclists suffer head injuries every day of the year.  But let's get real, and not try to convince people by distorting facts.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

21st-century bike computer

I was probably a bike-computer "early adopter."  I bought one in 1986 - a Cateye Solar.  It was battery powered, but a solar cell supposedly provided supplemental power.  And... it was quite functional, even by the standards 25+ years later.  It didn't automatically start and stop... you had to push the button or it would just keep ticking away.  (It was always a bummer when I parked it for 2 or 3 hours and, having forgotten to turn it off, discovered that my average speed was now 0.6mph!  haha)  But - it even had the cadence function, with a separate pedal sensor.  I haven't had the cadence counter for a long time; back then it was typically 90-95.  Nowadays I bet it's dropped by 10 or so; I no longer ride in world-champion form.

I've always had good luck with Cateye computers, so I've stuck with the brand mostly.

I'm looking at the current models.  That 1986 "Solar" model cost me close to $80, as I recall.  Now the entry-level model is around 20 bucks... it's the Velo 7.  For a few bucks more, you can get the Velo 9 instead.  And as one might guess, it has 2 more functions than the 7-function Velo 7.

The two additional functions on the Velo 9?  Are you ready?
- Calorie Consumption
- Carbon Offset

Pardon me while I laugh.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Calorie consumption?  Um... how will it know?  (Unless it has a human-USB interface or something.)  Calorie consumption is dependent not only on speed, but on slope, terrain, head- or tailwind.  It's also dependent on the rider's weight, metabolism, etc.  Example... if I'm riding up the Kristin Armstrong Road (a fairly steep paved road) at 10mph, I bet I'm burning more calories than Kristin Armstrong does, when she's riding down at 30mph.

Carbon offset?  I better not even get started on that one!  Is the baseline my wife's Family Truckster, or Algore's private jet?  If I pedal even harder, will it save an iceberg?

I think I can pass on those two extra functions.  If somebody reads this and has experience with the Velo 9, I'd love a "counterpoint" explanation of the value and accuracy of those bells and whistles... please share!

A final note about the Kristin Armstrong Road... it's the bottom half of the road to Bogus Basin.  I rode to Bogus... once.  Ten years ago, on July 4th, in the morning.  My average speed was nowhere near 10mph... in fact on the bottom half, it was maybe half that.  By the time I got halfway up, I was near tears I was so tired... didn't know if I could make it.  I stopped and rested... and discovered that the top half levels off considerably.  It was far easier.  Kristin can probably ride up as fast as I ride down!  And she probably weighs right around half as much as me.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bike/Car crashes in L.A. County

Los Angeles County may not be the first place you think of in the context of bicycle transportation.  I imagine the freeways that chop the infrastructure into little pieces are a major obstacle.  But the weather is certainly agreeable, and lots of people ride bikes, even in such an unlikely, car-centric place.

Lots of bikes - lots of crashes.  In 2012, the authorities documented 5090 crashes involving a bicycle and a car.

What can we learn from the statistics?

1) Cyclists were more likely to be at fault, according to the authorities.  (Nationwide in such crashes, the fault is pretty evenly divided between the cyclist and the motorist.)

2) In the 1878 crashes that were determined to be the fault of the motorist, failure to yield was the most frequent behavior leading to a collision.  Second was improper turning.  Other causes - disobeying traffic signals, "other hazardous violation," and excessive speed.  No surprise there.

3) In the 2759 crashes that were caused by the cyclist's behavior... the #1 behavior by a wide margin was "biking on the wrong side of the road."  (Others, but small percentages: failure to yield, disobeying traffic signals, improper turning.)  No surprise?  Unfortunately, it's unlikely that this sort of empirical information will make much of a difference... against-traffic riding laws are rarely enforced unless a crash is involved, and the against-traffic riders seem perfectly content to expose themselves to additional risk, riding along in blissful ignorance.

Story HERE.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

New bike/pedestrian bridge underway?

For several years, the public servants who run Garden City have been threatening to build a new bridge across the Boise River, for pedestrians and cyclists.

Part of their motivation is to mitigate the bicycle bottleneck created by their arbitrary closure of a stretch of Greenbelt through the neighborhood the mayor developed.  They call it their "nature trail," and it's closed to bicycle traffic.  After all... it's common knowledge that the fragile ecosystem and the furry and feathery woodland creatures can thrive while surrounded by pedestrians, dogs, lawn mowers and backyard barbecue parties, but would be irreparably harmed by punks on bikes.

Okay, I've vented.  (And I've vented before.)

A couple weeks ago I rode out there to get the lay of the land.  A half mile or so west of the "edge of civilization" (the last houses) on the south side of the river, I came across a sign announcing the closure of the Greenbelt.  (I've got to hand it to the Garden City Fathers... they are good at closing the Greenbelt!)

 
Shortly past the sign, there are stakes in the ground, which I imagine mark the trajectory of the pathway and bridge that should start taking shape any time.
 
 
In this photo, taken from the south side of the river, you can see a stake in the foreground, and on the other side there's a small clearing, pretty much straight above the stake... I imagine that's where the bridge will meet the north bank.
 
Here's a rendering of the bridge, taken from the Garden City website:
 
 
(If I were in charge, we'd spend a few extra bucks and make it look like a tiny replica of the Golden Gate Bridge.)


Boise River Bark Busters

Ride along the Greenbelt in these parts, and you'll notice that many of the tree trunks are wrapped with chicken wire.  When the wire is missing, its purpose quickly becomes evident.  Mysterious creatures - perhaps the same ones that make crop circles? - buzz the bark right off!

I'm no botanist, but my understanding is that the nutrients flow up a tree trunk in a thin layer between bark and wood... can these trees remain healthy?