Monday, April 30, 2007

April Bicycling Report

I accumulated 520 miles, on 30 riding days, in April. I'd guess 40% of my riding was work-commuting, 10% was running errands, 50% was "recreational."

How much did it cost to go those 520 miles? Gas - $0. Parking - $0. Insurance - $0. Registration - $0. I spend about $60/year on tires - so let's figure $5 in tire cost. Maybe $4 for a new tube and a couple patches. So... $9?

If I'd been driving a Prius instead of riding my bike, gas (just gas) would have cost about $28.00 (figuring $2.80/gal). Honda Civic - $48.50. GMC Yukon, or Ford F150 pickup - $104. (Ouch!)

I also rode 424 miles on my motorsickle. (About 380 of that was this past Saturday, on a little tour of eastern Oregon mountain roads.) I figure it cost about $35 in gas for my pleasurable m/c pastime.

(It's now been over 18 months since I used any mode of transportation, other than bike, to get to and from work. I've ridden my bicycle on 228 consecutive days - every day since September 14.)

Bike Nazi Favorite Links

BICYCLE-related Links:
Bicycling Life - "A Web-Site for Everyday Bicyclists"
Ken Kifer's Bike Pages
ProBicycle - "Dedicated to Utility and Recreational Vehicular Cyclists"
Cycliste Moderne - "Cycling news and commentary, by and for the common man" (road racing coverage)

BOISE and IDAHO -related Links (some bicycle, some not):
Boise Weather
Ridge to Rivers local trail system
Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance
The Boise Bus Blog
Ada County Highway District - Area road builders/maintainers
ACHD Traffic Cams
Idaho Statesman - Local mainstream daily
Boise Guardian - "A different slant on the news" (local news/politics)

Lucianne - (National and World) News Forum - my religion (from a trusted source)
Snopes - Find out if those urban legends are true

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bike Helmet = Less Safe?

Danielo made a rather provocative declaration a few days back: "Part of the argument of bicycle helmets vs. no helmets is that when cyclists wear helmets, they, and the drivers around them, are less concerned about safety." (To see his comment in the original context, click HERE.)

Could this be true? Could wearing a helmet actually lead to increased danger when riding?

His comment got me to remembering a story John Stossel did on the teevee a few months back. He was asking the same question - could a law requiring people to wear bike helmets have unintended consequences?

A fella over in the UK named Ian Walker did some tests. He rode his bike with and without a helmet... and discovered that when he had his helmet on, 23% more cars came within three feet of him.

Walker's conclusion: "[The drivers are] saying, 'He knows what he's doing.' When they see a cyclist who has all the gear, they think it's a sign of someone who's experienced and skillful." And so those drivers don't exercise quite so much care.

To further test the theory, Walker tried another experiment. He replaced his bike helmet with a blonde woman's wig. And discovered if people thought they were closing in on a "blonde," they were extra cautious! (nudge-nudge, wink-wink)

Economists have a word for it - "The Peltzman Effect." People adjusting their behavior in ways that counteract the desired safety effect.

Hmmm. Do blonde wigs come in size XL?

(Actually I'll never abandon the brain-bucket. In 20+ years of wearing helmets faithfully, I've been very glad on two occasions. And helmet or no helmet... I've evolved to the point where it just takes too dang long to recover, after bouncing off the asphalt!)

You can read more of John Stossel's "Hazardous Safety Regulations" commentary HERE.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

ACHD - Roadways to Bikeways

Our local transportation agency has begun a new attempt to eliminate the "bike-lane dead ends" around the county. They are calling their effort "Roadways to Bikeways."

You can read about it, and take a survey, by clicking HERE. (Please go to the link and take the survey if you are a cyclist, or would-be cyclist, in Ada County.)

The "major elements" of the project are to:
- review and inventory existing bicycle infrastructure,
- do bicycle "head counts,"
- prioritize deficiencies,
- create a map,
- develop a guide for use in future county roadway projects.

There's also an article about it on the daily newspaper's website - click HERE to link to the article.

According to the author, Kate Brussé, the plan is costing $250,000. (And ACHD spends about $1.7 million per year on bike lanes and sidewalks. That actually sounds low to me, if you're including sidewalks.)

(I've got a small stake in this - I'm the cyclist who's quoted, right at the end of the news piece.)

A couple comments:

This is not the first effort by ACHD to do this sort of thing. In fact, I was a "volunteer concerned citizen" a few years back, when they convened some local engineers and bike-riding citizens, to identify bike-facility disconnects, and suggest fixes. (My assignment was Emerald Street, and how to get from the Emerald/Orchard area - where the bike-stripe ends - to downtown.)

I'm not sure what became of that study, and/or why there is a need to redo it now. As much as I'm in favor of making our community as bike-friendly as possible, I'm not convinced that doing yet another study, and redoing tasks that have been done before, is the best use of taxpayer dollars. (I've still got my copy of that last study, if ACHD would like to borrow and photocopy it.)

Ms. Brussé didn't misquote me... but I'm not sure her article conveys the points I would like to make.
1) There is not a consensus, even among experienced transportation cyclists, that dedicated bike facilities are a 100% good thing. Why? Some non-cyclists will mistakenly assume that bicycles only belong in dedicated bike paths and lanes, unless there's also an ongoing educational campaign. (Bikes belong EVERYWHERE!)
2) For novice and occasional cyclists, bike paths and lanes are a good thing. One of the main deterrents to transportation cycling is the perception (whether accurate or not) that riding in the streets with motor vehicles is inordinately dangerous. A bike-stripe can change that perception.

Monday, April 23, 2007

$4 gas - coming to a pump near you!

(For a dedicated transportation cyclist, this story may be only a matter of detached curiosity. I like to think that $4 gas might encourage somebody else to give the 2-wheeler a try.)

According to Bloomberg:

Whether it's $50 to fill up your Prius or $130 for the Ford Expedition, $4-a-gallon gasoline is coming to a pump near you. ... "What we're surprised by is the increased demand," said James Mulva, chief executive officer at ConocoPhillips, whose refineries from California to New Jersey produce 56 million gallons of gas a day, enough to meet 14 percent of the country's needs. "Even though the price of gasoline is up, the demand is up."

Click HERE to see the complete story.

So... if people will gladly pay $4/gallon, Conoco Phillips and the others would be fools to sell for less... no? Maybe they'll pay $5. Why not find out?

(Danielo contends that people say they will drive less when gas is $4, but so far they're not putting their money where their mouth is, but rather into the gas pump.)

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #1

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment
Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement
Reason #7 - Social Responsibility / Conservation
Reason #6 - A Feast for the Senses
Reason #5 - Independence and Self-Reliance
Reason #4 - Exercise and Physical Health
Reason #3 - Stress Relief / Mental Health
Reason #2 - Economy

Reason #1 - (Drum roll... ... ...) FUN!!

Let's begin with some vocabulary.

Fun: (Pronunciation: 'f&n) (Hey - that's what it says on the Websters, okay?)
1. what provides amusement or enjoyment; specifically: playful often boisterous action...
2. a mood for finding or making amusement

Joy: (Pronunciation: 'joi)
1. the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires
2. a state of happiness or felicity
3. a source or cause of delight

"Fun" is here one minute, gone the next. By contrast, "joy" is residual.

Do you remember your first bike?

I remember vividly. Christmas morning. Santa was so good to me that year. There it was, shiny and new, gleaming red and white and chrome in the light cast by 200 multicolor bulbs. It was a "cruiser" style, which was pretty much the only style of kid-bike in the era. 20-inch wheels, smaller training wheels. (It's long gone, unfortunately. I wish I still had it. It looked a lot like the one in the illustration, only a size or two larger.)

I was probably 6 years old - and I was giddy! [Giddy: joyfully elated] The presents under the tree could wait...

There was snow on the ground that Christmas. (I'm giving away my age... but it was before Global Warming!) As soon as I was able to scrape an oval path, I was out there in pajamas and slippers, shivering but not noticing, tipping from side to side on the training wheels.

Do you remember the day the training wheels came off?

I remember. Dad, trotting along and pushing me down our oiled-dirt road, his reassuring hand and presence at my side. He probably spent an hour doing that, before letting go... I wasn't confident.

Then he let go, but continued to trot alongside.

I didn't tip over. I kept going! Tenuously at first... but then I rode away from him. Warm breeze in my beaming face.

Fun? They could've put my picture in the dictionary, to illustrate fun!

(NOTE: If a child you care about is bike-learning age, click HERE.)

The following weeks, even years, were accompanied by the occasional bout of road rash, huffin' and puffin' up hills, etc. (We lived on a "foothill," right here in Boise, so there were few flat riding places unless I was willing to ride a mile to get there. And riding down the hill meant riding back up later.) But bandages on knees or elbows, and huffin' and puffin' were a small price to pay for that joy.

When the weather was nice, Mom frequently let me ride to school. It was quite common in those days; I'd park my shiny bike in the row with maybe 100 others... none as beautiful as mine, of course.

I outgrew that bike. I remember others - an "English 3-speed" that I wasn't quite big enough for, and never really grew attached to. A shiny purple Schwinn Varsity "ten speed." I loved that bike! (It got stolen from out front of East Junior High... devastated me. I never realized how heavy it was, until years later.) A Schwinn Sting-Ray for a couple years. (The BMX bike of its era.) A sweet Motobecane "Grand Touring" - shiny red, like my first bike. Fond memories - joyful memories - with each one.

(It was cool but not "joyful" to take driver training and get my license. Maybe if Dad had that Porsche I was always lusting after, I would have felt more joy. The '60 Rambler American was a little anticlimactic, as was Mom's Plymouth station wagon. But sitting in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, it would be a stretch to describe even the Turbo Carrera as "fun.")

Face it - bicycling is FUN!

Lots of adults forget how fun it is. (Being an adult sucks in many ways. Mom gave me a sweat shirt a few years back - it says, "You can only be young once, but you can be immature forever." I believe she was trying to make a statement.)

Other adults remember how fun bicycling is. They ride their fun bikes in the foothills, or along the Greenbelt. They even go on "fun bicycle vacations" to Moab, or to ride through the tunnels and over the trestles in northern Idaho (awesome!), or bike-tour along the Oregon Coast. Then they come back home, hang the bike up in the garage, and start driving to work again.

What's with that?

(They make up the lamest excuses for why they choose to drive that gas-guzzling iron pig every day, and pay all that money, and sit in traffic... Hanging up the bike makes you grow old faster, I'm convinced of it!)

Bicycling is FUN!

I usually take the "direct route" to work, because I'm usually in a hurry. But I rarely ride the same route going home.

It's fun to take the more-scenic route.

It's fun to run over a squashed aluminum can in the road, just to hear the "click click" it makes.

It's fun - in a slightly-wicked way - to ride past a LONG row of idling cars at rush hour on Chinden, or Emerald. (Hee-hee-hee!)

It's fun and satisfying when some guy goes by in his "Bigfoot wanna-be" pickup truck, to think, "I could do whe he's doing, but he couldn't do what I'm doing."

It's way fun to have a strong tailwind, making you feel like Lance Armstrong or Jeannie Longo! And on a really unpleasant day, it's fun to get to your destination!

Back to the vocabulary.

FUN - is the passing amusement I feel 'most every time I'm perched on that saddle. JOY - is the lasting satisfaction evoked by years and years of fun bike rides, and the health benefits and true independence that bicycle transportation provides.

Bicycling is FUN! (Oh - and JOYFUL, too!) That's the absolute no-doubt number-one chisel-it-in-stone reason I've been enjoying it for close to 50 years. And I don't expect that to change any time soon.

The end.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Earth Day 2007!

Dang it! I've gotta run! Sunday April 22 is Earth Day, and I haven't sent out my cards yet!!

But seriously (?) ... I just learned a few things about Earth Day, on the Wikipedia. (So it's prolly a pack of lies!)

There are actually two Earth Days... World Earth Day (on the Equinox day in March), and "American" Earth Day, on April 22.

The equinox-thing is pretty self explanatory... but why April 22? And what makes us Yanquis so special?

According to the Wikipedia, April 22 is Eddie "Green Acres" Albert's birthday.

(Yeah... it surprised me, too! Apparently Eddie was quite the environmentalist, even back before it became popular... and doing stuff besides leaving Fifth Avenue and moving to Hooterville.)

("Huh-huh... huh-huh-huh... he said Hooterville... huh-huh...")

Wikipedia also mentions that April 22 is Vladimir Lenin's birthday - so back in the 70s, some interpreted that to mean Earth Day is a Communist plot. The Daughters of the American Revolution allegedly warned, "Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them." (That's hilarious, whether true or not!)

Happy Earth Day, everybody! (The card's in the mail!)

"Bicycle" Built for Seven

I happened across this contraption the other day, out there on the Information Superhighway.

It's the Conference Bike.

The "driver" sits in the back; he and 6 "stokers" are in a circle facing each other. Each can choose whether to assist with locomotion.

Will we be seeing these in bike lanes, and on the Greenbelt, soon?

It's billed as a "party on wheels." A "corporate team-builder." (GAG! They need a little donut-and-coffee table in the middle there...)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dying in a Traffic Accident

There's a new report out by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Click HERE to read USA Today's spin on it.

SUVs do better in report on fatalities

Evidently you're more likely to survive a bad accident if you're in a huge SUV, than if you're in a tiny little economy sedan.

These reports always make me squirm just a little.

First of all... should be be surprised that a Chevy Suburban driver is more likely to survive a nasty wreck, than a Geo Metro driver? DUH!!!

Second... it makes me nervous to think that some people are making vehicle purchasing decisions based largely on their likelihood of surviving that nasty wreck!

Is that so they can yap on the cell phone, or turn the car over to their giddy teenager (who loads it with giddy teenage friends), or have a few too many, or otherwise not pay as much attention as they should to their driving... and if they plow into something or somebody, it won't matter quite so much?

Criminy! I ride a bike! (And it's the old-fashioned kind, without "stability control.") If I'm in an accident with a lowly Yugo... I'm likely to lose!

For years and years, my strategy has been to avoid accidents, rather than to survive them! And I want to share the road with people who ultimately want to avoid accidents... not people who are smugly comfortable knowing that if they plow into somebody, "The other guy might not walk away, but I will!"

(If you go to the USA Today article, read a few of the comments. It quickly becomes a juvenile pro-SUV / anti-SUV name-calling fest. Never discuss abortion, religion, guns or SUVs with your friends! hahaha)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bicycle commuting - "a way of life"

I just by chance happened on the April 10 issue of THRIVE Magazine.

(Thrive is the "alternative" to the "alternative weekly" local news rag, put out by the mainstream daily news rag.) (Confused?)

It's their annual "Bike Issue." (Click on the word THRIVE above, to be redirected to the online version.)

There may be some interesting articles; I'll definitely have to check it out. In the past, I've eagerly grabbed one out of the (free) box, and have been sorely disappointed when it was all about "bikes as toys." Aimed at people who recreate on their bicycles, and essentailly nothing about bikes-as-transportation. Maybe they're catching on.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #2

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment
Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement
Reason #7 - Social Responsibility / Conservation
Reason #6 - A Feast for the Senses
Reason #5 - Independence and Self-Reliance
Reason #4 - Exercise and Physical Health
Reason #3 - Stress Relief / Mental Health

Reason #2 - Economy

(Posted on Tax Day 2007)

Embracing bicycle transportation is a little like embracing religion.

I can tell you how satisfying, and how emotionally rewarding, and even how joyful it is, until I'm blue in the face. But unless you try it yourself and "see the light," you'll likely never know what I'm talking about.

However... one cold, hard fact cannot be denied. You can save a load of money by straddling that saddle.

"A penny saved is a penny earned." Ben Franklin said it. Do you believe it? Hallelujah - I'm a believer!

How much do you spend on automobile transportation?

The American Automobile Association – hardly an anti-car organization – says the average American spends $8410 per year to own a motor vehicle (as of 2004; consider that gas was $1.83 in 2004).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2003) says the same person spends 18 cents of every dollar earned on "the purchase, operation, and maintenance of automobiles."

Do you go to work, so you can afford to own and operate a car, so you can get to work? What's wrong with this picture? (Teenage kids do it... but we should grow out of it!)

Here's a story problem for you math-heads.

A car costs 45 cents per mile to drive. (I choose that number arbitrarily, and am being generous to car-driver. The IRS says 48.5 cents as of 2007; way back in 1995, the AAA said 41.2 cents.)

Bike Nazi figures it costs 4 cents per mile to ride his bike. (That includes bike acquisition, tires, upkeep and repair, etc., plus likely some $ left over for bike clothes.)

If his round-trip commute is 8 miles, and he makes that commute 240 times a year, how much will he save by riding the bike all year?

THE ANSWER (Don't look until you've tried to figure it out):

Total miles traveled - 1920. (8 miles, 240 times.)
Cost in the car, at 45 cents - $864.00
Cost on the bike, at 4 cents - $76.80
Savings - $787.20

The reality is, I figure I save substantially more than that each year, in real-world, out-of-pocket dollars. Here's how I figure.

Let's suppose I buy a second family car, for use solely as my commuter vehicle. I don't need a fancy car, so I buy one that's CHEAP. Let's say a $6000 used car... which would probably be $200 payments, over 3 years, no? So - the car's PAYMENTS are going to be $2400/year out of pocket, at least until it's paid off. (For the record, my bicycle cost $900.) I need a license plate. What's that - $50? Okay... now I have insurance to buy. If I owned the car free and clear, I could get by with liability only... realizing, of course, that I'm done if I crash and it's my fault. Since the bank owns the car with me, I need the full-zoot insurance. But it's my second car, and I'm the only driver, and I'm a good driver... I bet I could get insurance for $250/year... maybe? (A guess.) So - I'm up to $2700 a year, and I haven't bought any gas, or paid for any repairs, or oil changes, or tires, or...

(The bike - $76.80 a year. Or, let's get crazy! Let's say $200 a year!)

What would YOU buy, with an extra $2500 a year? (Or even an extra $800+ a year?)

It's great to have all those "feel good" reasons for preferring bike transportation. But the pragmatist / systems-analyst side of me loves the economy of bicycling... in addition to all those feel-good reasons!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Perverts vs. Bicycles

Last week, there was another local incident in which some low-life allegedly tried to "lure" some children.

It was headline news - the leading local story, as it always is. The perp was in a white pickup truck, had graying hair and mustache, and was wearing a red shirt. Apparently he told some kids he had candy, if they'd get in the truck.

So... what does this have to do with bicycles?

Even though your kid is more likely to get struck by lightning or eaten by a shark, than to be abducted by a stranger, parents (particularly moms) are justifiably worried about their children getting snatched off the street. So - NO RIDING TO SCHOOL!

When my kids were in elementary school, I always lost the argument to the pervert. Their mother had already made up her mind, particularly with the daughters. There would be NO riding to school, even though school is 3/4 mile away on quiet streets, and people we know living all along the way. End of discussion.

When was the last time a kid fell for the "candy" lure... or "help me find my lost kitty cat"? Has that ever happened? Is there a kid alive who hasn't been warned?

Way back in the 60s, it was already a matter of discussion. Before he was a movie star, Woody Allen was a stand-up comic. He frequently dwelled on his troubled childhood, including how his parents instructed him, "If a stranger ever drives up in a black car, and offers you candy to go with him... GO!!"


A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words

I've been packing a small camera with me for many years.

(It's kinda like a pistol... I'd much rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. I do not normally pack a pistol, by the way... I just hope I don't need it!)

The camera has come in very handy from time to time.

I've started a set of photos, all in the Boise area, all of scenes reached by bicycle. In fact, the bicycle is featured in many of the photos.

Click HERE to go to the photos.

You can view them individually in several sizes, or watch a slide show. My intention is to add more photos as I try to document the joy and satisfaction of bike transportation, so check back from time to time.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Even dogs love bicycling!

I crossed paths with "Chrissy" this afternoon - another perfect spring bike day. See seemed pretty content with the situation. (Bob-trailerin' is way cooler than hangin' yer head out the car window!)

The Morning Breaks

My daughter has become quite the dedicated bike commuter. She's lucky because she's only about a mile from home to office... so she could even walk if worst came to the worst. (A lot of people drive a shorter distance than that every day, however.)

She's got a sweet ride - classic "cruiser" styling, but the frame is lightweight aluminum, the tires are pretty high-pressure (70 pounds, I believe), and it's got the 7-speed click-shift derailleur. (You don't have to look dorky on your bike... that's my personal choice.)

Here we are this morning, departing to go our separate ways.

The down-side... I've had to charge her car battery once, and I think it's run down again. And - she hasn't put gas in her car for about 2 months. (But I guess the gas part isn't the down-side, huh?)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Utility Cycling 101

There seem to be 2 types of cyclists - the "gadget freaks" who get excited about 30-speeds and Dura-Ace and front-shock-absorber-travel and aero wheels and titanium skewers, and the others, who just get on and ride. (I'm too much in the second group. I tend to even ignore preventive-maintenance -type stuff, and not fix things 'til they desperately need fixing.) My bicycle is only really clean maybe once every 3 years.

My friend "Mister Wardle," who maintains an awesome blog about the world of professional bike road-racing, ordered himself a copy of the "ultimate utility bicycle" - the Kona Africa Bike.

This is NOT the bike for people who like to compare their bike with all the others, to see whose bike is the coolest. Single speed, one frame size and configuration (in Model T black), coaster brake... just the essentials. And built to take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.

It is being built as a transportation device for people who would otherwise be walking, or riding on water buffalos or whatever.

Imagine how a bike could change your world... if your lifelong transportation had been on-foot!

Q: Can you outrun a charging, hungry lion on your Africa Bike?
A: It doesn't matter... as long as I can ride faster than the slowest guy I'm riding with!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hi-Ho! Hi-Ho!!

... it's off to work we go!

I started to work 5 minutes early today (7:40 instead of 7:45), so I stopped to snap a photo of today's Freedom Parade. I like to think of it as the "freedom parade," since so many people drive a single-occupant vehicle because of the freedom it affords.

I was hoping some of the drivers would wave cheerfully at me, but if it happened, I didn't notice. (To be fair, I s'pose if you'd just spent the last 30 or 45 minutes in stop-and-go on the Interstate, it might have taken a little of the edge off the sword.)

Here's a fairly accurate representation of what my morning commute looked like.

Full disclosure - this was actually snapped Monday morning. Ann Morrison park, right at the footbridge. (And I have to apologize for the quality of the photo. There was a nice sunrise going on in the background; I set my little camera on a post and used the self-timer; it didn't come out as nice as it really looked. You'll also notice I don't have my nazi uniform on, but rather my high-visibilty gore-tex jacket.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #3

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment
Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement
Reason #7 - Social Responsibility / Conservation
Reason #6 - A Feast for the Senses
Reason #5 - Independence and Self-Reliance
Reason #4 - Exercise and Physical Health

Reason #3 - Stress Relief / Mental Health

Bikers (the motorcycle kind) have a saying:

"You'll never see a bike parked out front of a therapist's office."

If that is true, it is even more true for pedaling bikers!

(By the way, it's not true for many motorcycle bikers. A lot of 'em are totally hung up about how much chrome their bike has, or whether the other guy's bike is cooler, or whether their "costume" looks the part, etc. A lot of 'em are more concerned about being seen riding their motorcycle, than about riding their motorcycle… know what I mean? You see some of that among bicyclists, but I don't run into it nearly so much.)

Owning and driving a car can be stressful. Consider:

There's the expense of owning and operating the car. As of 2004 – when gas was $1.83 – the AAA said it cost $8410/year to own a motor vehicle. (I stress more about money – or lack thereof – than pretty much anything else in my life, 'cept maybe my kids.)

Okay, Mr. or Ms. Motorist. You're up-to-date on your payments, you have $25 worth of gas in the tank, and your tires have most the tread left.

You begin your daily commute. You start an hour before you have to be to work, because it sometimes takes that long. Better safe than sorry.

Traffic is bad today! What? Is there an accident up ahead?

#%@&!! Gas is up another 8 cents! I knew I should have filled up yesterday, on the way home!

What's with this jackass who just passed on my right, and now wants me to let him into my lane?

And hey – what's that funny clunking sound coming from the transmission? I've never noticed that before…

Dang it! All the nearby parking spaces are already taken. I hate parking 4 blocks away! (And this spot is close to that high school – what if punks vandalize my car? I hate this! But I can't afford another parking ticket.)

I used to deal with that stuff… back in the previous century. I've felt all of those frustrations personally, back during the "car years." But I gave it up.

Let's shift gears.

People love their morning coffee. (My employer eliminated free coffee, 4 or 5 years back, to save thousands of dollars. There was a revolution – torches and pitchforks! Like back when the Russkies couldn't get their cigarettes, vodka, and toilet paper! The "free" coffee was quickly reinstated.)

Why do they like coffee? It elevates your heart rate. It makes you feel awake and alert.

Guess how you feel when you arrive at the office by bicycle? Your heart rate is elevated. You're breathing deeply (hopefully "green" air instead of "yellow" air), takin' in that oxygen. You feel awake and alert. But actually it's a better "quality" of alertness, because it doesn't seem artificial or jittery. (I won't argue the merits of coffee, but I will say this – it's better if you can live your life without a chemical dependency of any kind.)

Actually, scientists explain that exercise does produce natural chemicals in your body – endorphins and such – which have a positive effect on emotions and mental outlook.

When I ride my bike to work, it invigorates me, and charges my mental battery for the challenges of the day. When I ride my bike home, it allows me to pump away some stress, feel the sun (or rain) on my face, and truly enjoy a sense of freedom and independence that is lacking when you're sitting in stop-and-go traffic. (You'll notice in the car and truck TV commercials – which they spend billion$ on – they never show that shiny new car or truck idling in a traffic jam, or plodding down the Interstate.)

Do I ever stress on the bicycle? Occasionally somebody in a car (or somebody else on a bike) will do something unexpected and illegal that I have to compensate for. But I try to expect the unexpected, so the stress level is very manageable. (I've never felt "bicycle rage," far as I can remember.) And if the weather is truly nasty – heavy, consistent rain or triple-digit heat – it's obviously not as delightful as on that sunny, 70-degree day. But it's not really anything to stress over… you've just gotta suck-it-up and go. I s'pose I stress a bit when I get a flat tire, or when a spoke breaks. But that stress is mighty short-lived.

Let me put it this way. My bike commute is frequently my favorite activity of the day. I actually look forward to it. (I also love to drive, and to ride my motorcycle… but not in stop-and-go traffic! That is among my least favorite activities!)

Summary – driving a car, at least in traffic at drive-time, tends to create stress; riding a bike tends to relieve stress.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Clean Air Zone?

More of these signs are popping up all the time, around Boise. This one is about 48 hours old; they installed it in a public parking lot across the street from my house.

When another sign up the road says Regular Unleaded is $2.799, is this sign really needed? (Why would a motorist not turn off his engine? Gotta keep that A/C blowing?)

And, how far does the clean air extend? Will these "clean air zones" eventually be placed close enough together that I can take a deep breath and dash for the nearest one, to grab another breath of clean air?

Friday, April 6, 2007

My Burden

In my previous post, I poked a bit of good-natured fun at the poor people who are stuck in their motor vehicles on such a perfect day as this.

Now, in the interest of being fair and objective, I thought I'd post a couple shots I took on my commute home. (I took the "scenic route," and was in no hurry. Why hurry? I was anxious to prolong the circumstance!)



Photos taken in Julia Davis Park and on the BSU Campus (on either side of the footbridge).

For a larger view... click HERE or HERE

Picture Perfect Day!

(Danielo - you'll appreciate this one!)

It started out a bit on the "bwisk" side this morning (nod to Mike Tyson), but right now... 73 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, gentle breeze.

I'm still feeling the euphoria - just got back from a NICE little jaunt out Hill Road, and back via Gary / Glenwood / Adams / south Greenbelt (one of my favorite weekday loops). My face hurts from smiling so much! There was a row of trees out on Hill Road (just past Collister) with pale pink blossoms that smelt SO FINE! (That must be what it smells like in Heaven!)

As usual, I was patting myself on the back. (My shoulder sometimes gets to hurtin', I spend so much time pattin' myself on the back! One of my many weaknesses.) On this particular day, it was because there are SO MANY obviously-fair-weather cyclists. They were all out there today - where are they on the 9-degree days? Or the 109-degree days? (Of course, they are thinking they are so much cooler than I am, because they are wearing stretchy lycra "team" shirts, compared with my 100% cotton T-shirt, and they have the SUPER-deluxe gruppo, and I only have the deluxe gruppo. Cyclists can be very image-conscious.)

And then the thought occurred to me... SURE, I'm dedicated! I ride (just like Danielo) on even the worst days. But there are PRECIOUS FEW so dedicated cyclists. Compare our weak effort, with the LEGIONS of dedicated motorists! They drive their cars, not only on the bad days, but on the AWESOMELY POST-CARD PERFECT days, like today!

Don't believe me? Here are the traffic cams from 10 minutes ago. Nothin' like a blissful drive in the country!


(P.S. - Don't tell anybody about that SOUTH GREENBELT. I usually get on at 48th or so, and ride all the way to the Doubletree Riverside. Traffic is usually light over there, the pavement is pretty smooth, and it's a NICE ride.)

Seattle Bike-Transportation Jackpot!

Seattle is a bike-friendly place. (If only they could do something about that liquid sunshine... but that's what they're famous for! That, and coffee, and grunge-nostalgia.) (Oh - and the Space Needle, and those dudes who throw fish back and forth.) But it's not as bike-friendly as Portland, and Mayor Greg Nickels wants to change that! This article from The Seattle Times touts a $240 million bike-facility improvement dream, which includes 100 miles of new bike lanes, bike/ped improvements to bridges, etc. ($27 million is already budgeted; the rest remains on the planning table, at least for now.)

To Mayor Nickels' credit, he has involved actual bicyclists in the planning and prioritizing. What a novel concept! (His detractors point out that he gets to and from work in a chauffeur-driven limousine. Hmmm...)

So - are dedicated bike facilities good?


There are a certain number of would-be cyclists who don't feel safe in traffic, but who will use a dedicated path or lane. A supporter says, "children and novices need paths to build confidence and skill before they venture into road lanes."

Are dedicated bike facilities bad? Silly question?

The way I see it, only where there is ignorance about bikes-as-transportation. (Many cyclists disagree. The Times article, linked above, mentions the differences of opinion.)

Unfortunately, there are folks who don't understand that cyclists can legally ride in the roadway. (Idaho State Law is quite clear on that.) And dedicated facilities can add to the misconception - a mistaken belief that bicycles belong only on dedicated bike paths, or bike lanes.

(Of course, a large segment of society believes the money would be better used to add more car lanes. Somehow, they're convinced that what failed miserably in Los Angeles will be successful in Seattle... or Boise... or wherever. I say no matter how much asphalt you make available, people in their cars will fill it, so you'll always need more.)

Transportation cyclists should be familiar with the name John Forester. He is a transportation scientist - in fact, he may be the "Yoda" of bikes-as-transportation. I agree with his declaration, "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles." Dedicated facilities go against the "vehicular cyclist" grain, just a little bit. Or so it seems to me.

Besides, there isn't a bike path to every possible destination.

Wherever there is a dedicated bike facility in my riding area, I'll gladly use it, and be grateful for it. (I generally won't alter my route to take the bike path, if it adversely impacts my trip time... unless the path is super-sweet and I'm in no hurry.)

My dream street design is Adams Street, in Garden City (between Vet's Parkway and the Fairgrounds area). It has a nice wide lane in each direction with no parking and plenty of visibility, a center lane for turning and passing slower-moving vehicles, and no special bike striping or designation. THAT is the way it should be done.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #4

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment
Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement
Reason #7 - Social Responsibility / Conservation
Reason #6 - A Feast for the Senses
Reason #5 - Independence and Self-Reliance

Reason #4 - Exercise and Physical Health

In the space of two generations, consider how society has evolved.

Fifty or sixty years ago, many more people lived in rural settings, and had plenty of physical labor. Those who lived in the city did manual labor at shops, factories, etc. (That was back before bureaucratic stuff like OSHA and 50-pound lifting limits.)

Criminy! As recently as the early 70s, I got a job unloading 100-pound flour sacks out of a box car, and into a local bakery. (I didn't last too long in that job. Even though I only did it once a week, I discovered it took a week to recuperate, after lifting 650 or so of those things!)

There's still some hard work out there, but not nearly so much. (Much of it is done by immigrants, because us gringos are unwilling. But that's a different, much-belabored story.)

When I was a kid, there was P.E. at school... and when you came home, you played tag, kickball, cowboys and injuns, etc. Nowadays P.E. has been largely done away with, and after school kids play Nintendo, or watch TV, or yap on their cell phones.

But it goes beyond that. We conquered physical labor... now we are striving for a totally sedentary existence! Everything is remote-control, so it can be operated from the easy chair. Electric garage door for your car (with power steering, power brakes, electric fold-down seats and electric windows)... riding mower with electric start... escalators... electric knife... can opener... toothbrush...

What are we saving our strength for? (Just a rhetorical question... our strength is gone!)

When I tell my kids I used to have to get up and walk across the room to change channels on the TV, they look at me like I'm from Neptune. Nowadays there's an electric, automatic flusher on toilets!

Lack of physical exercise has caused an epidemic that we hear a lot about these days... the OBESITY epidemic.

But it's not just obesity. It's mobility and overall health, too. I regularly observe people who appear to be about my age or younger (I'm 53), who just kind of waddle about, looking as though movement is very uncomfortable and distateful. That is SCARY! (Use it or lose it!)

(If Darwin was right about that evolution thing, at this point we should slowly be evolving into humanoid-like creatures with tiny, underdeveloped legs, barely suitable for mobility... and puny girly-man arms... and hands with huge, super-strong remote-control-pushing thumbs! I'm envisioning Jabba the Hut, but with giant thumbs.)

Strangely, we've got more "leisure" time than at any period in history. And yet many people can't find the time (or perhaps it's the inclination) to do anything of a physical nature. It's so much easier to sit in the La-Z-Boy, punch the buttons on the remote, and eat Cheetos.

My employer is doing a "Physical Activity Challenge," to improve overall employee health. The "challenge" is to do 800 minutes of exercise over an 8 week period... that's 14.3 minutes per day. This "exercise" can be either moderate or vigorous, and qualified activities include brisk walking, slow cycling, gardening, or "hard work around the house." Wow! I get tired just thinking about it! I believe I'll go sit down and eat some ice cream.

Some people are concerned enough that they try to take action. They get involved in after-hours sports teams, jogging, hiking, and the like. Others join a health club, where they have access to weights, exercise machines, etc.

I've tried jogging - made my shins hurt and took time away from other pastimes. I've tried the fitness center - it was WAY too much like hamster-on-a-treadmill.

(I don't want to pick on the fitness-center people, because it's great if you can do it. But it always has seemed very odd to me to drive your car to the fitness center, change into your bike clothes, ride a stationary bicycle for an hour, take a shower and change back into your street clothes, and drive home. But the world would be boring if we all thought alike, huh?)

What if I told you there's an activity that would give you some daily quality exercise, requre very little additional time out of your schedule, and drastically reduce your transportation expenses?

Too good to be true?

NOPE! Straddle that two-wheeler!

Even if I just ride to and from work, that's 30-35 minutes of quality cardiovascular exercise. (I met the office "Physical Activity Challenge.") And that's in addition to all my OTHER good reasons for riding. If you can't remember, time for a little review.

If I drove to work every day, I figure driving, parking, and walking to the front door of the office would take about that same amount of time.

So, am I the picture of sculpted physical perfection? Are people always mistaking me for Lance Armstrong? Heck no! I'm a middle-aged fat guy! But I'd be way fatter... or dead... or forced by my doctor to give up Hershey bars (which would be worse than being dead!)... without the bike-exercise. (It's not just the chocolate. It's both a blessing and a curse to have a wife and daughters who are excellent cooks.) When I go to the doctor once a year, I'm consistently declared VERY healthy - heart rate in the low-to-mid-60s, normal blood pressure and cholesterol, blah-blah.

Physical work - it's a good thing. Bicycling is a great form of physical work, for so many reasons.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

With Friends Like These...

UPDATE on April 6...

Commenters (including eyewitnesses) have shed much light - see the comments. (In particular, commenter "Bike" provided this link to what seems a well-balanced video report.) At this point, I'd say the Matier/Ross article definitely blew the incident way out of proportion. Nevertheless, there was an unpleasant confrontation, and damage was inflicted by several parties. ($5300 in damage to the van? I'm not seeing it... a couple scratches and a broken back window. And it would seem that the van driver was not the totally-innocent victim that she's playing.)

Hopefully this was an isolated incident. As a somewhat partial outside observer, I like the Critical Mass "in concept." But the participants must realize that it's a public-relations opportunity. If non-cyclists are routinely victimized, the tide of public opinion could easily turn against cyclists.

THANKS for all the thoughtful opinions.


I ran across this distressing article today.

Have you heard of "Critical Mass" rides? They take place mostly in larger cities, supposedly to assert cyclists' rights to the roadways, and to raise bicycle awareness.

San Francisco is home to one of the more prominent Critical Mass rides; it takes place once a month.

At the March Critical Mass, a surburban family was victimized. They came into town to celebrate their 11-year-old's birthday. (Mom and Dad and their five kids in the family truckster.) They unknowingly crossed paths with hundreds of rambunctious cyclists, who proceeded to terrorize them. (There's no other word for it.) The kids were terrified; their vehicle sustained $5300 in damage, including a bicycle thrown through the back window, spraying the interior with shards of glass.

The cops were summoned. They suggested that Dad write an indignant letter to the mayor. The SFPD spokesman said, "We sit there and they just go right through the red lights ... What else can we do? Arrest one rider while 500 keep going?"

That would be a start. How about driving a squad car through the intersection when the cross-light is green? It might take a few times, but even (surviving) lawless anarchists would catch on eventually. (Tough talk from Bike Nazi, huh??)

I very much resent cyclists who ignore traffic laws. They are part of the problem, NOT part of the solution. They stir up animosity and resentment on the part of other roadway users, and who needs that?

SAME ROAD - SAME RULES - SAME RIGHTS - that's my motto.

(By the way, I once participated in a Boise "Critical Mass" ride. We started at the Co-Op on Fort Street with maybe 30 riders. Our destination was an ACHD Commissioners' meeting... in Kuna! Commissioner Sherry Huber, who's never been very bike-friendly, decided to hold the meeting out on her turf. I believe about half of the starters made it all the way to Kuna, including one guy on his vintage single-speed "cruiser" bike. I was impressed! Far as I know, my friend Woody and I were the only ones who rode back home afterwards, on our bikes.)

Turn, Turn, Turn

"Remember the big Folk-Music Scare of the 60s? That stuff almost caught on!"
- Martin Mull

Commie / folk musician Pete Seeger claims to have written a song, made famous by The Byrds.

To every thing, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

In reality, the words were written by some guy named Ecclesiastes, and can be found in the Old Testament. (Look it up in Ecclesiastes Chapter 3.)

So... what does any of this have to do with bicycling?

Sometimes people get defensive when they read my words promoting bicycling.

A guy (? - perhaps a woman; went by the handle of "Shamrock") out of Carey, Idaho, had this to say:

"Question- how many groceries can you haul on that hog? Can it pull a loaded horse trailer, a load of wood, and just how far do you sail when you get blown off the road?"

If you've never been to Carey, you've missed out. In my estimation, it is a charming, rural place. It's located about halfway between Ketchum and Craters of the Moon. US Highway 20 goes right through the middle of town, and "town" is maybe 2 blocks wide and 6 blocks long. The population (2000 census) is 513. If you could do without big-city amenities, and could find employment (mostly agricultural in those parts, I'm guessing), it would be downright tolerable. I'm sure "Shamrock" loves it in Carey.

And you know, he's right! As much as I hate to admit it, I can't pull even an empty horse trailer with my bike! Load of firewood? Fuggeddaboudit! (I'm feeling so inadequate today!)

I was conversing with a friend yesterday. He said, "Hey, I ran across your blog. I read some of it - seems like you were railing against people who drive to work."

Wow? Is it that harsh? That's certainly not my intention.

My intention is to share with readers my enthusiasm for bicycle-as-transportation, and why. I reserve the right to occasionally make comparisons between driving-to-work, and riding-to-work. I feel I'm qualified, because I'm experienced at both.

There are obviously hauling and towing tasks that cannot be accomplished with a bicycle. (And I'm guessing "Shamrock" doesn't drive himself and his sack lunch to an office building, 5 days a week.)

To every thing, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn...

A time to ride the bike... a time to fire up that Super-Duty Diesel Pickup.

Does it make sense now?

I doubt they've ever had a traffic jam in Carey... or a yellow air-quality day... unless it happens on the weekend of the big Alfalfa Days Festival or something.

Now, I'm sure there are some gentleman ranchers, and maybe even city slickers, who have to haul a load from time to time. And if it's a bulky or heavy load, a bicycle obviously wouldn't do. But what does that have to do with getting said rancher or slicker to his girly-man "day job," 5 days a week? Is he stuck driving the F350, like it or not, even if he only needs its hauling/towing capabilities 3 days a year? (I s'pose it would be pretty embarrassing, if somebody who knows him, saw him riding his girly-bike to his girly-job. After all, he has an image to maintain.)

I try to REGULARLY mention... it would be hard to go through life, surrounded by our 21st-century car culture and car infrastructure, without an automobile. (People seemed to do it just fine, 75 or 100 years ago.) I'm grateful we have a car in our family (the wife's minivan) for use when the time is right.

To every thing, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn...

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Exotic Bikes

Steel is what the original bike was made out of. And steel is still the most popular frame-building material. If your bike is from K-Mart or Target, the frame is pretty much just sections of thin-wall pipe welded together. As you spend more $ and upgrade, you get better material, and better manufacturing and construction techniques.

There are a lot of alternatives to steel in the 21st century. Aluminum is popular. At the higher end, frames are constructed of titanium, carbon fiber, etc.

I've attached some photos of truly-exotic bicycle frames. One is bamboo. (Actually rather ingenious - it's organic, but it's strong and lightweight, and its fibrous composition gives it a lot in common with oriented carbon fiber.) The other is wood. It's Clancy's homemade wooden bicycle. He built it himself, and I am totally impressed! You may see him riding it, on the streets of Boise. (It looks a little heavier than some of the bikes out there. And I've told him he needs to be careful on windy days... a sudden side-gust could send him airborne. But it is beautiful, functional, and ingenious.)

If you're interested, there's an article about bike frames on the Wikipedia. (I'm cautious about using the Wikipedia when I'm looking up information that's disputed. But bike frames aren't that controversial, huh?)

Monday, April 2, 2007

Greenbelt Lore #1

I once heard the Greenbelt described as "Boise's Crown Jewel."

(For readers who might not be familiar with Boise's "Greenbelt," it's a series of mostly-paved pathways that run parallel to the Boise River. It stretches almost 20 miles, from Lucky Peak Dam at the east end, to Garden City on the west end. For the most part, the pavement is probably 8-12 feet wide - adequate for single-file, 2-way, non-motorized traffic. That traffic is close to non-existent in winter, and extremely heavy on a perfect summer day.)

And indeed, it is a fabulous resource for recreation and communing with nature.

Less so as a transportation corridor, unfortunately.

Although many non-riders can't seem to understand why.

I was once riding on Cole Road, and was asked by a motorist, "Why don't you people stick to the Greenbelt?"

Well, mister, the Greenbelt is nice, but it just won't take me to the orthodontist's office. (All three of my daughters were wearing braces at the time... I was giving the doctor some serious help with his boat payments that year.) A transportation cyclist, like his counterparts in their cars and trucks, has to pick a route that will take him to his destination.

The Greenbelt has other drawbacks. My colleague Danielo has waxed eloquent on the mix of humanity that floods the Greenbelt on a nice day. They make it tough for transportation cyclists.

Here's a typical recipe:

- Put 2 people on the Greenbelt.
- Add 2 more people, on bicycles, who happen to know the first 2 people.
- They cross paths. So the cyclists park their bikes (on the pavement), and the 4 of 'em engage in jovial conversation (on the pavement).

Are you getting the idea? If you're driving down I-84 and see some people you know, do you stop your car in the middle of the road, and then all of you stand in the middle of the road to chit-chat? I'd guess not.

- Add a guy with an unleashed dog. (Sure, the sign says "All dogs must be on leash," but his dog is apparently "special.")
- Add a gal with a leashed dog - one of those 30-foot spring-loaded retractable leashes, so her dog can run from side to side or make 30-foot circles around her.
- Add 3 or 4 wankers on their BMX bikes, chattering and riding like squirrels, only less predictably.
- Add a "roller blader," whose back-and-forth gliding motion occupies 7.5 feet of the 8-foot-wide pathway.

Is there any thing that compares, on a public roadway? Would motorists, and the law-enforcement community, tolerate such a situation?

- Add a few cell-phone yakkers. (Both on foot and on bike. If I have to talk on my cell phone, I stand still, out of traffic. Maybe it's because I see cell-phone-yammering people do such stupid-looking things when they're on the move. Totally unpredictable.)
- Add some gal whose head is obviously in the clouds, as she stares up at them. (Not a bad pastime... but NOT while you're strolling on a public, mixed-mode path!) She starts... she stops... she wanders from side to side.
- Now add some bonehead Lance Armstrong wanna-be, decked out in his lycra team colors, dodging the other users at 25mph on his road bike. (A poser. REAL road-cyclists use the... you guessed it - ROAD!!)
- Now add 3 sweet little blue-hair ladies, who like to chat as they walk. So they walk 3 abreast, mostly oblivious to other pathway users. (I'm always afraid to approach or say something, for fear one of 'em will get startled and have a heart attack.)

- Now add the MOTORIZED traffic.

"But Bike Nazi!" you exclaim. "There are 'no motor vehicle' signs everywhere! Surely motor vehicles would create hazards!"
One would think.
But apparently "official government" motor vehicles are somehow exempt. (Ain't that ALWAYS the case!) I see park maintenance vehicles, "greenbelt patrol" vehicles, police vehicles. NONE look like they belong. (I've actually seen Garden City cops driving a regular squad car on their stretch of Greenbelt. If that isn't an accident-waiting-to-happen, I don't know what is.)

Like Danielo says, it's totally frustrating for somebody who's just trying to get from Point A to Point B. (Unlike during winter, when all those incompetents stay indoors.)

March Bicycling Report

I rolled up 572 miles, on 31 days. All but 2 days were at least 10+ mile days. (I keep track in 5-mile increments; my longest day was >30 but <35 miles.) Non-bicycle trips to work - ZERO again.

I've switched to the high-pressure skinny tires now, and am thus enjoying lower rolling resistance, although I'm slightly more vulnerable to flats - particularly from goatheads.