Friday, July 27, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen... Bikeboy has left the building

Dear Friends:

On Saturday, July 28th, I'll be off on two wheels - the powered kind.

(Get 'cher motor running, head out on the highway, etc.)

Every summer, I try to go on a multi-day motorcycle adventure. This year I'm off to the Washington coast, Olympic Peninsula, Vancouver Island, and southern B.C. I'm calling it the Great Northwest Tour.

More info and a map can be found on my Idaho Rider Blog.

Assuming I can stay in the saddle, and keep the shiny side up, I intend to be back around August 7th or 8th. Please plan on coming back then.

Recent past motorcycle adventures:
2001 - "A State Odyssey" (visited all 44 counties in Idaho)
2002 - Oregon Lighthouse Loop (visited lighthouses between Crescent City, CA and Astoria, OR)
2003 - Red Planet Tour (western Colorado... FANTASTIC!)
2004 - Cowboy Country (western Wyoming and Montana)
2005 - Winter Quarters $3 tour (Boise to Omaha and back)
2006 - Promised Land tour (Northern California)

I love riding my motorcycle, but it will always take a backseat to the bicycle for emotional satisfaction.

As they say in the movies, "Hasta la vista, baby."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bikeways Open House

This is mostly for local folk who ride on public roadways.

I got a notice from Annette Harper at ACHD about this open house.

The particulars, according to the flyer:

Roadways to Bikeways
Public Open House

August 9, 2007, 4:30-7:30pm
Covenant Presbyterian Church
4848 N. Five Mile Road

The Ada County Highway District (ACHD) needs your help preparing a county-wide master plan for roadway bicycle facilities. ACHD is gathering information on critical gaps, opportunities for connectivity, important routes, areas of concern and more.

At the open house learn about the Roadways to Bikeways Plan, review the results of the bicycle users survey and bicycle counts, provide input on the gaps in the existing bicycle system and help identify opportunities and constraints.

Click HERE to link to ACHD's website for more information.

I'd encourage anybody who can make it, to do so. At the very least, it will demonstrate an interest on the part of the public. And ideally, you might be able to help our planners be aware of what you do or don't like about how they're doing their job and spending your tax dollars.

Monday, July 23, 2007

My Bicycle Goes on Vacation

Actually it was the wife's family reunion... does that count as "vacation"? (Just funnin' - they're great folks and a fine time was had by all... or most all, anyway.)

The location - Alturas Lake, at the edge of the mighty Sawtooths. We stayed in rustic cabins. (Some called it "camping." My definition of camping would not include permanent solid walls.)

As is usually the case whenever possible, my bicycle tagged along. I envisioned riding from there in to Stanley and back, or perhaps if I was feeling plucky, even an assault on Galena Summit.

Alas, I had about 3/4 mile of nasty dirt road before I got to pavement, with big sharp-edged chunks of gravel mixed in liberally. Not friendly to inch-wide, high-pressure tires. (Click on either photo for a larger view.) Roads like this are why somebody invented mountain bikes.


I ended up riding up and down this road twice, to get to destinations beyond. The second time, I got a "snake-bite" puncture (where the tube gets pinched between the rim and a hard place, resulting in two little holes - thus "snake bite") and walked back to headquarters. (I was already running late for the big family meeting.)

Despite the less-than-stellar bicycling, I did get in a little bit of riding in a NICE change-of-pace locale. But alas, now I'm back in good ol' 98-degree, yellow-alert Boise. Sigh.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Naked Bike Riders Arrested

Seattle is cracking down on naked bike riders. (Another of life's little pleasures, spoilt by a meddling bureaucracy!)

It happened Sunday - 3 of 57 nekkid riders, including a woman wearing only tiger stripes, were arrested in Seward Park in Seattle over the weekend.

It was a protest ride (what else?) - "aimed at raising awareness of how 'exposed' people are to pollution." Sounds like a stretch to me.

My favorite paragraph from the article:

[Organizer Daniel] Johnson said he believes the arrests were made in part because the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department is trying to discourage events that include nudity, a charge the department denies.

By contrast, the fuddy-duddys who run the BOISE Parks Department still discourage nudity.

As I see it, the problem with public nudity is... the people who should get naked, don't, and the people who shouldn't get naked, do!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Measuring Road "Comfort"

Each of us has roads that are bicycling favorites, and least-favorites.

One of my favorites, and I've mentioned it before, is Adams Street. It doesn't have striped bike lanes, but it's wide with excellent visibility, traffic is light, and the speed limit is 25.

The most uncomfortable I've ever felt on a road was years ago, on the infamous Eagle Road. I still remember it vividly. At the time, believe it or not, it was a narrow 2-lane road. So narrow that the "fog stripe" at the edge of the road was painted partly on pavement, partly on dirt, where chunks of pavement had broken off. And the speed limit was 55. I really felt like an idiot one day, during rush hour, with cars blowing by at 50+mph, 18 inches from my elbow. (Nobody had cell phones back then, or I probably wouldn't be here now! My route choice was legal, but not very smart.)

Alex Sorton is a traffic engineer at the Nortwestern University Traffic Institute. A few years back, he came up with an interesting way to measure road comfort. He calls it "Level of Service."

In a nutshell... L.O.S. is a combination of:
DISTANCE (of motor vehicle traffic from rider's elbow), plus
SPEED of motor traffic, plus
VOLUME of motor traffic.

Obviously, the skill level of the cyclist is also an important consideration. Usually, public-road cyclists are classified into one of three groups: advanced, beginner/casual, and children. A road that might be fine for an experienced adult cyclist could be totally unsuitable for the other groups, particularly kids.

If the road is wide enough, pretty much any speed is OK. I feel more comfortable riding on the shoulder of I-84, speed limit 75, than I do on Orchard Street, speed limit 30. But as motor traffic and bike traffic get squeezed closer and closer, and/or vehicle volume increases, something's gotta give. Too often it's "rider comfort" that gets compromised. (Although I believe ACHD does an admirable job of trying to incorporate bike-friendly infrastructure whenever feasible.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Family on Bikes

I caught this story on the teevee news last night. The Vogel family of Boise - Mom, Dad, and 2 twin boys - completed their 9000-mile (!!!) bike ride. (Dad and boys on a "triple," Mom on a conventional bicycle. Self-contained - no "sag wagon.")

They rode from Boise over to the West Coast, then up to the Canada border, then south (taking a meandering route) to the tip of Baja California, then in a general northeasterly direction, ending up in Connecticut.

That is SO awesome! I hope those lads realize how blessed they are to have such adventurous parents. (And more than that... I hope they don't grow up, get their driver's licenses, and turn their backs on their bikes. But somehow that seems unlikely.)

Read about it - their online journal and lots of photos - HERE. (I snagged the photo off their website/journal.)


Wow! It felt like 80 degrees already, as I made my way to the office! It's spoze to get up to 105... could be the hottest day of the year. (Combine the heat with the NASTY air pollution, wavering between yellow-alert and orange-alert - is this a little what Hell - or Los Angeles - is like? All we need now is brimstone.)

On a day like this, perhaps it would do the soul some good to fondly remember a much different moment from the past...

040107 - winter commute

Of course... on that particular day, I was likely thinking fondly of hot fun in the summertime. We're so fickle!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bicycling's Efficiency

From time to time, I feel obligated to return to my central theme - that bicycling is the most efficient form of human transportation ever devised. (I issue an open challenge - if anybody can refute that assertion, please make your information known!)

Here's some scientific geek-talk found in the Bike Cult book:

When one compares the energy consumed in moving a certain distance as a function of body weight for a variety of animals and machines, one finds that an unaided walking man does fairly well (consuming about .75 calorie per gram per kilometer), but he is not as efficient as a horse, a salmon, or a jet transport. With the aid of a bicycle, however, the man's energy consumption for a given distance is reduced to about a fifth (roughly .15 calorie per gram per kilometer). Therefore, apart from increasing his unaided speed by a factor of three or four, the cyclist improves his efficiency rating to No. 1 among moving creatures and machines.
- Stuart S. Wilson, Scientific American (1973)

Orange Alert!

No - it's not the Homeland Security terrorist threat. It's the current quality of our valley air. Today is the second "orange" day in a row.

(I wrote about "yellow alert" last month - click HERE to review. It's gotten worse since then.)

Here's the official warning:

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has issued an orange air quality alert for today, and all open outdoor burning is prohibited in Ada and Canyon County by municipal and county ordinance.
Hot temperatures in Southwest Idaho and smoke from wildfires are contributing to high levels of ozone.
Today's forecast air quality index is 110, which is considered unhealthy for sensitive individuals. All individuals may want to consider postponing strenuous activities until air quality improves. The following actions may help reduce air pollution during this period:
• Limit driving.
• Combine trips and errands.
• Don't burn outdoors.
• Fill your gas tank and mow your yard in the evening after temperatures cool down.

I'm sure the "limit driving" advice is given (nudge-nudge, wink-wink), but there's no expectation that it will be followed. Same with the "combine trips" advice. I've not noticed any change in number of vehicles on the road. We can't be inconvenienced, at least for something as trivial as air quality!

In fact yesterday afternoon, I was bicycling on Miller Street, just south of downtown. (I know, I'm not following their advice, either. They say to postpone strenuous activity. But... I wasn't really hammerin', just riding along at a brisk pace.) I happened across a Boise Police cruiser; it was just sitting there, on the side of the road, idling. With nobody inside, and nobody in sight. Reinforcing the common belief that rules are for the "little people," but not for everybody.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How not to do it

There are several intersections in the area, where the striped "bike lane" conflicts with a motor vehicle turn-only lane.

They - Ada County Higway District - have corrected some of those problem intersections, either eliminating the bike-stripe approaching the intersection, or angling it out so it's between the straight-ahead lane and the turn-only lane. But problems remain.

This intersection deserves special recognition. Check it out.

Notice the painted stripes and the signage. (Click on the photo for a larger view, if you'd like.) The "bike lane" proceeds straight through the intersection (at 27th and Fairview). Inside of it is a left-turn-only lane - obvious conflict there. But inside of the turn-only lane is a turn-optional lane. So distracted left-turning SUV-Mom or iPhone-Lexus-Junior-Executive can be a lane removed from some poor head-in-the-clouds slob on his bike.

Accident waiting to happen.

Do our traffic engineers just assume everybody (in 2 lanes) will be paying attention, and know that they're potentially crossing paths with a straight-ahead bicyclist? Who has the right of way? (On the bright side, this intersection is almost exactly in between St. Alphonsus and St. Luke's Hospitals, both of which have excellent trauma centers.)

I've complained to ACHD about this intersection before, and have been anxiously awaiting to see if they'd fix it. It's got fresh paint. No fix this year, apparently.

How do I handle it?

I ride through it all the time. Never in this bike lane. Occasionally in the turn-optional lane. But usually over on the right-hand side of the roadway. (Where motorists routinely use the striped bike-lane as a right-turn lane. I've been honked at before by impatient motorists waiting to turn right, and queued up behind me IN THE BIKE LANE! But that's a different topic for a different day.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fossil-Fuel Nation

The company I work for, headquartered in downtown Boise, leases 400 parking spaces for employees at a cost of $60 per space per month. It turns around and rents them to interested employees for $20 a month, "absorbing" the other $40 (per space, per month) into operating expenses.

If my calculator is working, it costs the company $192,000 per year.

Since that affects the bottom line, I've asked (to the point where I've become annoying to some people, unfortunately) why they don't eliminate the subsidy. (They bristle when I refer to it as a subsidy, but it is a subsidy by any definition.)

I suggested, "Why don't you give everybody a $480 annual raise, eliminate the subsidy, and let them use it for parking if they want, or for something else if they prefer?"

My suggestions seem to be dismissed as eccentric, crackpot ramblings. (Which should be expected, since I'm the guy at the bottom of the totem pole.) They point out that the other big employers in the area provide free or discount parking for their employees. But the employers they refer to are not in downtown Boise, and they own the ground their sprawling parking lots are occupying.

I've also suggested that if they'll subsidize SOV parking (at $40/month), they should be willing to pay $32 for a bus pass for those who are responsible enough to ride a bus. Why not? (I assume they've "taken it under advisement." There must be some tax incentive to providing the car spaces, that's not available for subsidizing bus passes. Or maybe it's just a matter of "tradition," or that none of the mucky-mucks ride the bus.)

A side-note: To their credit, they do provide a nice, sheltered bike rack, and some awesome locker room / shower facilities. (Which are mostly used by the people who use the nice fitness center, also provided at a highly-subsidized reduced cost.)

One lady (high-up on the totem pole) gets a faraway look in her eye, and starts effusing about her hometown - Vancouver, BC - about their awesome public transportation, and how so many people live close to their work in apartments, condos, etc., and can walk or ride a bike to work. Then she mutters about how stupid, podunk little Boise doesn't have good buses, and we can't expect poor single moms who can't ride the bus to pay $60 a month for parking, etc.

What she, and the other policy makers, like to ignore is the FACT that the more our policies and attitudes encourage single-occupant vehicle transportation, the more likely people are to choose a lifestyle that's dependent on single-occupant vehicles.

If people paid the actual cost of parking - $60 per month (comparable to other monthly private parking options in downtown Boise) - they might feel incentive look at other options. At least more so than when they only pay $20.

I firmly believe that people will make more responsible transportation decisions if they fully "suffer" from - or benefit from - the unfiltered consequences of those decisions.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Roadside Oasis

When the temperature hovers near triple-digits, or higher, it changes some things.

For one thing, the bike routes and lanes are once again pretty much empty. The "Spandex Snobs" apparently aren't so serious about riding bicycles after all!

For another thing, staying "wet" becomes critical. Hydration is the key.

One of my weekday routes takes me past a little spot on Gary Lane, near my halfway mark. It's easy to miss... but it's such a nice stop on a hundred-degree day. (Click on a photo for a larger view.)



Cool water, green grass, and a bit of shade.

Every once in a while, I'll happen across a "wood-nymph" or two, enjoying the spot and further beautifying the scenery. (Sadly, that doesn't happen frequently enough to count on.)

I'd never drink this water... but it sure feels nice splashed on my sizzling head. That... and a good soaking of my T-shirt (I saturate it and then wring it out just barely to the point that it's no longer dripping)... and I'm back in the game!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Like to eat? Ride a bike!

The prevailing wisdom is that we've got an obesity crisis in our country today. We're dying from too much food, rather than not enough. The "diet industry" is a multi-billion dollar business, as people desperately try to get a handle on it.

It's not really rocket science. You consume calories of energy via food intake; you expend calories of energy by engaging in physical activity. Burn more than you eat... lose weight. Eat more than you burn... gain weight.

Ironically, at the same time as lifestyles have become more sedentary, food has become more high-calorie as "fast food" and "junk food" have become more prevalent in our diets.

I tend to be "calorically challenged." At least since I became a married man. (When I was eating my own cooking, it was much easier to moderate my intake. ANYBODY could lose weight eating MY cooking!) It would be convenient to blame it on "glands," or heredity. But, the truth of the matter is, like so many people, my natural tendency is to eat more than I burn.

At least... if bicycling weren't part of the picture.

When I'm riding 500-600 miles a month, I can pretty much eat whatever I want (within reason). I can enjoy the "sea food diet." (See food? Eat it!) If I ate totally sensibly, I could lose some serious poundage. As it is, I tend to lose 15-20 pounds in the summer... typically gaining it back over the winter. (Holidays are TOUGH, aren't they?!?)

Here's some more wisdom from the Bike Cult book... I post it in recognition of the about-to-start Tour de France. (THOSE guys would leave me behind on the bikes, and at the dinner table!)

Tour de France typical Daily Diet
(Source: Bike Cult)

1-2 cups coffee or tea
1-2 bowls muesli or cereal with fruit and yogurt
2-4 slices bread with jam or honey
1 glass milk
vitamin supplements

1-2 bowls rice or pasta
2-3 eggs with ham or cheese
1 plate fresh chicken, fish, or steak
1-2 bottles carbohydrate drink

4 oz. glucose concentrate or fruit nectar
1-2 pieces of fruit
2 pieces sweet bread pudding, or 1 bakery tart
1-2 energy bars
1-2 pannini rolls (meat, cheese, or rice, and jam)
1-2 bottles carbo drink

2 musette bags, each containing:
3-4 muesli bars
1 energy bar
1-2 pieces fruit
4 oz. glucose concentrate or fruit nectar
5 bottles water
5 bottles carbo drink
1 bottle caffeinated cola

3-5 bottles water or juice
1-2 pieces fruit
1-2 bread rolls or biscuits
1 bakery tart

1-2 sandwiches, or 1-2 pieces quiche or pizza
1-2 cups yogurt
1-2 pieces fruit
1-2 bottles juics, carbo drink, or water

1-2 bowls pasta or beans with light sauce
1-2 bowls salad
1-2 bowls soup
1-2 plates fresh chicken, fish, or steak
1 plate vegetables and potatoes or rice

3 slices cheese, or 1 cup yogurt
1-2 pastry desserts
1-2 pieces fruit

Independence Day Ride

I got an early start, to beat the heat. (And it did get hot in Boise, topping 100 before the illegal fireworks got underway.)

My route: Orchard Street to Gowen to Highway 21 and over the bridge; upstream to Lucky Peak; back downstream and over the bridge; Surprise Valley to Boise Avenue to Bergeson to Federal Way. Roundtrip just under 30 miles. Bike traffic was moderate; vehicle traffic, particularly recreationists pulling their boats, was heavier.

I snapped about 40 photos along the way; here are a few. (Click on any to see at a larger size.)

2 - 4th of July - diversion dam

2 - 4th of July - diversion dam

2 - 4th of July - Boise River

2 - 4th of July - greenbelt east of Boise

2 - 4th of July - downtown Boise

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Declare your Independence!

On Independence Day, throw off that yoke!

Most people equate their driving with freedom. And indeed, mobility expands one's horizons. But it's hardly free, particularly when it becomes involuntary - your only choice in getting around.

You are a slave to Big Oil. Like a crack addict, willing to pay whatever they decide to charge for your "fix." (And if you want to further complicate things... your addiction makes this great nation of ours more dependent on foreign terrorist oil.)

A slave to "Big Insurance." (They have you over a barrel, too.) To the bank, if they own the car you are driving. To the ebb and flow of traffic. You can hardly feel free when you're STOPPED on I-84, somewhere between Boise and Meridian.

(A side-note: It's interesting to observe kids when they get their driver's license. Most are anxious to have their own wheels. And many will willingly surrender a big chunk of their freedom in order to have a sweet ride with its accompanying expenses. How strange is it, to have a car to get to work... a job you have so you can pay for your car, that you never have time to drive except to and from work. Independence? Ha!)

"Independence and Self-Reliance" was #5 on my "Why Bicycle?" Top Ten list. (Click HERE to review.)

This July 4th, let freedom ring! Do something truly patriotic. Go for a bike ride. (I'd suggest in the morning, while the temperature is still cool, if you're not used to riding in 100-degree heat.) And declare your independence from your car. Maybe just one or two days a week to begin with... but slowly severing those ties until driving is just one option you are free to choose.

Utility Cycling

In many corners of the world, bicycles are still an important part of the "wheels of commerce." Of course, in this country they are mostly viewed as toys.
I feel pretty silly with my "Bob" trailer when I see this guy with his load!

Monday, July 2, 2007

June Cycling Report

I rode 601 miles on 30 days in June. I commuted to work on 21 days, 100% bicycle transportation.

On one glorious day (Saturday, June 16), I rode 50+ miles. I started out with a nice morning ride (Gowen / Pleasant Valley / Ten Mile Creek / South Cole / Kuna-Mora / Cloverdale / Victory), and then ran several errands in the afternoon, including a soda-pop run to Winco with the Bob trailer in tow. (June 17 is the anniversary of the day I hooked my bride. She loves the Dr. Pepper.)

So far, I haven't missed a day in 2007. (On a few of those days, it was just up to the end of the street and back, or around the park, or to the church or the nearby Walgreens.) That will change in July, when I'll be apart from my beloved Cannondale on a few days. Hopefully not too many.

Cyclists = the greatest endurance athletes?

The 2007 Tour de France will be underway in about a week. Most everybody in this country quit paying attention after Sheryl Crow's boyfriend retired. ;-)

Although this is not a "bike racing" blog (see my friend Geoffrey's "Cycliste Moderne" blog for expert analysis of racing), I'd like to make note of the athleticism of bicyle athletes.

Sure, there are strongmen who could twist a bike racer into a pretzel. But if there is a more awesome display of the endurance type of human strength, I'd like somebody to point it out to me, because I'm not aware.

Consider... the participants in a multi-stage, multi-day race might ride 120 miles during a stage, over harsh terrain, with major altitude changes. (For perspective, think Boise to Stanley.) That in itself is daunting enough... but then they get up the next morning and do it again, day after day. It's a fantastic feat of strength, endurance and will power.

David Perry, the author of Bike Cult has tried to quantify it. He says:

Power is measured in watts or horsepower (746 watts = one hp). Power output can be estimated from measurements of heart rate and oxygen intake.

The average person can produce roughly 75 watts (0.1 horsepower) for several hours, and 225 watts (0.3 hp) for efforts up to a few minutes. A physically fit cyclist can generate about 375 watts (0.5 hp) for several minutes, and 525 watts (0.7 hp) for 1 minute. Top racing cyclists can produce 375 watts at a steady-state aerobic pace for several hours, 750 watts (1.0 hp) for up to ten minutes, and over 1500 watts (2.0 hp) for flat-out sprints up to about ten seconds.

In a one-hour ride, an average person on a touring bike going twelve kilometers [greenbelt speed] burns about 120 calories to produce 33 watts (0.05 hp), while a top racing cyclist can go 50 to 55 kilometers, burning 2150 calories (at 40 calories per kilometer) to produce about 575 watts (0.77 hp)

Another crazy feat of bicyclist endurance is the RAAM (Race Across America). It happens each year, in June. According to the website, "This is not a stage race like the Tour de France, where each day a set distance is covered. In RAAM the gun fires somewhere on the West Coast (Oceanside, CA in 2006) and the finishing line is over 3000 miles away, on the other side of the continent."

Each contestant chooses when to go and when to stop. Many will cover 300+ miles in a day, riding 20+ hours a day.

The "solo" record was set by Jonathan Boyer in 2006, who averaged 12.63mph, in covering 3043 miles in 10 days, 52 minutes.

Is there a greater feat of human strength and endurance?

(I've attached some photos I harvested off the web during the 2005 Tour. I wish I could give credit where credit is due; they are awesome. Click on any to see a larger view.)