Monday, July 31, 2017

'17 isn't looking like a banner year

Unless something totally unexpected happens, 2017 will be the first year for me since 2002, in which I don't surpass 5000 bicycle miles for the calendar year.

I've lost a bit of velocity in the past 15 years... but not enthusiasm.  The problem this year is - too many days away from the bicycle.

In late May / early June, we spent 10 days in Providence, RI, with the daughter and son-in-law and grandbabies.  Time well spent... albeit 2000 miles away from my bicycle.

And just this past Saturday, I got back from 10 days on the motorcycle road.  Had a fantastic trip - rode to the Bay Area through Reno (Boise to Reno is to be tolerated, not enjoyed), and then took a leisurely putt up the west coast, from Santa Cruz CA to Ocean Park WA (just north of Astoria).  Then back home again.  Time well spent... albeit away from the bicycle.

And... in September we're traveling up to BC Canada on a family adventure.  Another 10 days or so away from the bike.

I've turned over 2500 miles for the year - but I should've hit that milestone at the end of June instead of the end of July, to maintain a 5000-mile yearly pace.

Oh well.

(I s'pose I could try for 1000-mile August and October totals.  Yeah - but that's not gonna happen any more.  Too many other irons in the fire.)

The current game plan is to be able to retire in the spring of 2019 - then maybe I can ride another 6000-mile year.  Work a longer weekly ride into the routine.  Yeah - that's the ticket.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Greenbelt choke point (congestion)

This is a message I sent to the Boise City Council, Parks Department, and Police.

I’m writing to express concern about the summertime “descent of humanity” that has hit the area near Quinn’s Pond, and Esther Simplot Park the past several years, and the resulting deterioration of Greenbelt transportation access.

The best word to describe it is ANARCHY.

There are herds of pedestrians who are meandering, bovine-like, IN THE TRANSPORTATION CORRIDORS, as if they were the only people on the planet.  There are people swinging paddleboards, paddles, etc. around like ninja-sticks, seemingly oblivious to other people on the pathways.  There are people who park their bikes, or flip them upside-down to do some mechanical work, right in the pathway.

I s’pose there are folks who arrive in their cars, and perhaps are unaware that for 12 months of the year (unless interrupted by occasional flooding) the Greenbelt is a transportation corridor for some of their fellow citizens.

Today (for example), I ventured thru.  (It’s nice that the closed stretches of Greenbelt are starting to open again!)  In the concrete “roundabout” circle adjacent to the little surfer-wave dam, two gals were laying on the concrete, working on their tans, as other pathway users milled all about them.

I was headed toward town, zig-zagging between the pedestrians and stander-arounders who don’t understand the concept of a transportation corridor or the “keep right” markings.  As I rode along, next to Quinn’s pond, there were a couple teenage kids directly in front of me, who were dodging back and forth like kickoff return specialists.  Puzzling.  Suddenly, one of them hollered “Look out!” – apparently for my benefit – and a football came crashing down directly in my path (!!), not 3 feet in front of me.  Surely there are better places for a football game, than on the Greenbelt!

I’ve voiced my concerns in the past… and I believe a couple of small signs have been put up, that say “Don’t block pathway,” or something like that.  Obviously the response is inadequate, because the problems persist… and get dangerous (in my opinion) on the really hot, crowded summer days.

So – what can be done?

Increased bike-cop patrols, and an education/enforcement campaign, might be somewhat effective.  But that solution seems pretty labor-intensive.

I’d suggest maybe painting the corridor (“Greenbelt” pathway) a solid bright color – yellow? – with big black letters, “TWO WAY TRAFFIC – PLEASE KEEP MOVING” or something to that effect.  (And occasional enforcement, to keep people honest.  I try to have faith in humanity… surely most of those people aren’t intentionally blocking the pathway… right?)

You might also take a look at the treatment they’ve recently put in across the river, at the Riverside Hotel.  They’ve done some landscaping improvements, patio expansion, etc. – and, they also have installed some fences along either side of the Greenbelt corridor, turning it into a “controlled access highway.”  There are openings every now and then, so people can enter or cross the pathway… but they aren’t able to just meander onto the pathway at any location they please.  It seems to be quite effective, even for the occasional slightly-intoxicated patron.  (It is WAY more relaxing to ride through on the south side of the river, at least this time of year.)  If similar fencing could be installed on the publicly-owned stretches where congestion becomes problematic, it would be fantastic!

Since I ride year ‘round (bicycle and motorcycle), I’ve come to realize that the key to survival is to be prepared to compensate for any stupid thing another roadway user might do.  It’s called defensive riding.  So, I’m often annoyed, but rarely placed in harm’s way myself… with the occasional exception of a football dropping out of the sky, etc.  However… a sizeable percentage of Greenbelt traffic is made up of more casual riders, pedestrians, roller-bladers, dog-walkers, etc. … who aren’t as expert at defensive techniques, and who may not realize how important it is to “share the pathway.”  I’m hoping “the authorities” can do more to be proactive about preventing conflicts, mishaps and injuries, and also educating the population.

Thanks for your attention.  Please let me know if there’s anything more I could or should do, to alleviate the problems I’ve mentioned.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Top-tier bicycle parking

One of the common excuses used by people who choose not to bike-commute to work is, "There's not a good place to park my bike."  That has NOT been a problem at my office, over the 22 years I've been working there.

My friend Thomas is an engineering/manufacturing genius.  His "day job" is keeping the big office building operating properly... but as a moonlighter, he's truly a Renaissance Man.  He has a passion for hot rods... his tastes lean toward American muscle cars, but I think he can make anything run.

Probably six years ago, the office was dealing with a sudden onslaught of bike riders - due to nice spring weather and expensive gas.  They did some shopping and discovered that there aren't a lot of sturdy multiple-bike racks out there.  Thomas and the management decided that manufacturing a rack would be the way to go.

I'm proud to say I was a "consultant" on the first one.  I explained to Thomas the pitfalls of commonly-occurring bike racks... we measured tire widths, etc.  He took the assembled information and built a sweet rack.

Since then, he's built three or four more.  Each one is a little more refined than the one before.

He's currently finishing one up, and he gave me a tour.  This one has one meaningful functional enhancement... he's added one slot for a "fat bike" tire.  And - this one is "personalized" for the building where it will reside.

There's no need to bolt these racks down... when they're empty, they probably weigh 500 pounds.  I told Thomas our great grandkids will still probably be using them.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bike commuting reduces cancer and heart disease

"Want to live longer? Reduce your risk of cancer? And heart disease? Then cycle to work, say scientists."

A five-year study of 250,000 UK commuters suggests that bicycling to work can reduce your risk of death by 41%, your risk of getting cancer by 46%, and your risk of developing heart disease by 45%.  The bike commuters averaged about 30 miles per week... but the further they rode, the more they reduced their risks.

Dr. Jason Gill, of the University of Glasgow: "This is really clear evidence that people who commute in an active way, particularly by cycling, were at lower risk."  (Walking also had positive results, but primarily for people who walked at least six miles per week.)

He also points out the benefit of bike-commuting, as compared with exercising just for the sake of exercising: "You need to get to work every day so if you built cycling into the day it essentially takes willpower out of the equation."

Clare Hyde from Cancer Research UK said: "This study helps to highlight the potential benefits of building activity into your everyday life. You don't need to join a gym or run the marathon. Anything that gets you a bit hot and out of breath - whether it's cycling all or part way to work or doing some housework - can help make a difference."

Of course, the naysayers will declare that cyclists run a higher risk of being involved in a life-altering collision, than a SOV driver or a bus passenger.  However, by riding in a common-sense fashion - legally, visibly, predictably and defensively - you can mitigate most of that risk.  And I prefer to deal with the threats that I can see and maybe do something about, than those I have little control over.

The BBC story can be read HERE.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Can't keep the wheels dry!

We've had unusually abundant precipitation this winter.  The mountains have lots of snowpack, and the water managers are releasing as much as they can, to make room for the snow that's still melting.  (Anybody who's lived in these parts for any length of time realizes that this is NOT unprecedented.  Some years are below average... others are above average.  But some of the newcomers who live in fancy McMansions in the river bottoms are probably a little nervous.)

There are sections of Greenbelt that are under water.  Par for the course.

Below are a few photos I've snapped over the last month or so.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Electric bikes = bikes?

There's an interesting column at the Idaho Statesman website: "Should some electric bikes be treated as bicycles? Legislator says yes; Boise says no"

It refers to the legal sense.  Should electric-powered, or electric-assist bicycles, be treated the same in the eyes of the law as bicycles?  A legislator has introduced a proposal to do just that.  The bill is supported by electric bicycle retailers, and similar legislation is in effect in several other states.  It specifies that electric bicycles that go less than 20mph and have 750 watts or less can go wherever bicycles go.

The bill is primarily opposed by the Boise Parks and Recreation people, who don't want electric bicycles on the Greenbelt, except when in use by people with disabilities.

I posted some comments, using my real-life name (Steve Hulme).  I would not oppose a "pilot program," as has just been started in Steamboat, Colorado.  However... all parties, particularly the people who administer the Greenbelt, need to realize that laws are meaningless without enforcement of violations.  As I said in my comment, it's not too unusual to see some above-the-law yahoo riding a gas-powered bicycle from time to time!  (Also, unless I'm WAY mistaken, the City could still prohibit motorized bicycles on the Greenbelt if they choose to, just as they prohibit muscle-powered bicycles along certain portions.  So I don't see a conflict between a new state code clarification and the City's desires.)

From the article: He [Terry Sherry, who sells electric bicycles] has heard all the arguments, including the one about how riding an electric bike takes the exercise out of cycling. He points out that most kids don’t ride for exercise and even hard-core cyclists pursue the sport because it’s fun. “You’re not selling cycling as a sport,” Sherry said. “It’s recreational fun.”

True!  Most kids don't ride for exercise - they ride because it's fun!  However... a side-benefit of riding a pedaled-power bicycle for fun is, it provides some exercise!  That cannot be said of a bicycle that you hop on and push a button, and it goes by itself.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mid-winter bicycling

It's nice to be seeing some dry pavement once again.  I heard on the news that Boise has had 45 consecutive days of snow on the ground!  Almost unheard of in these parts!  (If every winter were more like this, I'd probably have to give some serious consideration to becoming a more-than-one-car family.)

I've been celebrating the pavement, by taking longer rides... usually at the end of the day after work.  (In the morning it's still dark, and I'm usually trying to get to the office at the expected time.)

Friday, I did a loop that included the new Esther Simplot Park and Veterans' Memorial Park.  It's beautiful, in a stark winter way...