Monday, June 30, 2008

June Riding Report

555 miles, accumulated on 30 riding days.

Kill a cyclist, get 10 years probation

The prosecutor's office has reached a deal with cyclist killer Erika Hanson. (You may recall that last October, she plowed her Hummer into cyclist Sarah Howard at an intersection. Sarah was stopped in the bike lane, waiting for a green light.) Hanson will lose her driving privileges and get 10 years of probation for killing our sister cyclist Sarah.

Statesman coverage HERE.

Are you outraged? If not, should you be?

I penned this letter to Judge Mike Wetherell, who would've handled the case. I copied the Prosecutor's Office ( I don't know if it's a done deal already - I'm not an attorney. But I needed to voice my opinion on what I see as a clear miscarriage of justice.

Dear Judge Wetherell:

(I'm just guessing on your email address; I hope this message gets to you.)

I am writing about a case that was set to be handled in your court.

On October 19, 1997, Sarah Howard was stopped on her bicycle at an Overland Road intersection, waiting for the red light to turn green. She was doing everything right.

Meanwhile, Erika Hanson was approaching from behind in her Hummer H3. For whatever reason, she left her traffic lane, out of control, and straddled the bike lane, her right wheels on the sidewalk. Cyclist Howard probably never knew what hit her. Her body was thrown into the middle of the intersection by the force of the impact.

Hanson's attorney and the Prosecutor's Office (their website header says, "Working for You!") have reached an agreement that Sarah Howard's life was worth 365 days of "house arrest" and 10 years of probation. (And loss of driving privileges.)

In this citizen's viewpoint, that sends a rather disturbing message: Kill a cyclist with your car, and we'll not be too harsh on you.

I'm not an attorney and I don't know much about what happens now. What I'm wondering is... since the prosecutor's office is apparently not going to advocate on behalf of Ms. Howard AND ALL CYCLISTS, is there anything you can do, as the judge, on our behalf?

I want citizens to see that the law (which states that cyclists have a right to use the roadways) is backed up by the law! And if you operate your vehicle in a way that endangers cyclists - and pedestrians, other motorists, motorcycle and scooter riders, etc. - you will be held accountable. I certainly am not seeing that in the "plea agreement" that appears to be on the table.

Like Sarah Howard, I'm an enthusiastic bicycle commuter. Have been since 1986. And frankly, today I feel less safe on the roadways of Ada County, than I did yesterday. Thanks to our Prosecutor's office. I'm hoping you can be a little more justice-minded.


Steve Hulme
Lifelong Boise Citizen

Previous coverage HERE.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Road Cavemen!

My daughter was quite upset when she got home from work yesterday.

Turns out she had an unpleasant encounter with a motorist.

Her route requires her to cross Orchard Street at a non-signaled intersection. (For those not familiar, Orchard is a connector-type street, 2 lanes in each direction, and gets very busy during rush hour.)

It's always somewhat of a challenge, but it was particularly busy yesterday, for whatever reason.

As she sat there (on bicycle, of course) waiting for an opening to cross, a guy in a pickup truck pulled up behind her.

He began by revving his engine. (In this day and age of $4 gas, that is a definite clue that the gas-pedal operator may be a bit... shall we say... "challenged." What's the point?)

As she continued to watch anxiously for an opening in the traffic, Pickup Boy started honking. Then he rolled his window down and started shouting at her, when he thought she had adequate space to proceed.

The shouting quickly devolved. Soon he was shouting expletives at her. I suspect that if it had been another 30 seconds, he might have resorted to chest-pounding and angry Neanderthal gibberish.

Eventually she saw an opening, and proceeded. Pickup Boy probably accelerated on home and kicked his dog, or beat his woman.


(Actually this is merely rhetorical. I doubt he has the capacity to read. But maybe somebody else will read it, scratching head thoughtfully.)

1) Don't gun that engine, dude! It has absolutely NO constructive purpose, and wastes expensive fuel!

(If I'm wrong - if that somehow helps, clue me in! Biker dudes like to do that, too... twist the throttle, snort, snort, snort! Since I ride a motorsickle from time to time, let me know if that's something I should be doing, because I've never really understood it.)

2) In fact, if it looks like it might be awhile - like more than 15 seconds - you might as well just shut that motor down. Be a hypermiler! Serenity now!!

3) Casual road cyclists - like my daughter - perceive rude and impatient and generally-bad motorists to be one of the primary deterrents to bicycle riding. (Maybe in your eyes that's a good thing. But if so, you're wrong.)

4) A bicycle rider has as much right to that pavement as you do. That rider also has to determine when it is safe to proceed into traffic. You make the call for you. The cyclist makes the call for her/himself. So CHILL, huh?


1) It's sad but true. Among all motorists, you have to figure that exactly half will be worse than average. And a few - maybe 5 percent - are going to be idiots. (There's no IQ test to get a driver's license. Some orangutans are smarter than some motorists.) I'd make a case that among pickup drivers, the percentage runs a little higher than among the motoring population in general. Most people will be patient and understanding, and give you the space you need to operate. So try to overlook those that don't. (Your encounter with them is over in seconds... they have to live with themselves 24 hours a day!)

2) You DO have as much right - by law - to the road as any motorist. So refuse to be intimidated.

3) Personal practice: I totally ignore that gunning-motor thing. If somebody has the audacity to holler at me, I try to react by smiling broadly, waving joyously, and saying in my pseudo-foreigner voice, "I'm fine! How are you?" It'll usually take a little wind out of their sails. (And reassures them that you know they are there, at least.)

(NOTE: It's rare that I get honked at, or hollered at. I'd say it happens 2 or 3 times a year, average. I suspect that this guy would've waited patiently for me, even if he honks and hollers at a woman. It's a "coward" thing, really.)

4) If it persists, or becomes truly harassing or threatening, I encourage you to get a good look at the driver in question, make note of the vehicle type and license plate number, and call the police. It is against the law to threaten other people on the road. It's called "road rage" - maybe you've heard of it. And the police will generally take your complaint seriously and have a heart-to-heart talk with the perpetrator.

Finally, in the words of one of the Elder Statesman of Road Neanderthals, Rodney King... "Can't we all just get along?"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cost of driving - UP!

Who woulda thunk?

We just got word from the bean-counter types. It says:

"Due to increased gas prices, the Internal Revenue Service announced an increase in the standard mileage rate for the last six months of 2008.

"Effective July 1, 2008, the mileage reimbursement rate for the use of personal cars in conjunction with company business will be increased to 58.5¢ per mile, up from the current 50.5¢.

"This new rate is effective through December 31, 2008."

I'm just guessing, but I'd say the cost of operating my bike has jumped, too. Mostly due to more expensive parts/supplies, and delivery of them to this isolated burg. My cost is probably 2.8¢ per mile, up from 2.5¢.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bike Rodeo

I participated in a Cub Scout Bike Rodeo last night.

It was a great event.

There were probably 12-15 kids who participated. And a lot of parents, grandparents, etc. were in attendance, which was heartening.

Every kid had a brain-bucket on. (One kid had his on backwards, until somebody clued him in.) Most of 'em were on BMX-type bicycles of various quality levels. One poor kid was on a bigger 26" "mountain bike" he hadn't quite grown into yet, and was barely in control much of the time. One kid was on a tricycle. (?) Yep - a tiny little toddler-size tricycle.

These kids need some training and practice. It was surprising how many of 'em just put their feet down and drag, to slow down. (Don't they understand, or trust, brakes?)

We started off with a short safety lecture by Lyndon, one of my Boy Scouts. He did a good job.

And then they went to the various "rodeo stations" - a "stop, signal, turn, and go" course ... a couple of "stay inside the lines" obstacle courses ... and a mile ride (7 loops around the perimeter of the church parking lot).

The kid on the trike was having fun. The various courses were marked with low-profile red "cones," and he was standing on the back of his trike, doing a "wheelie" over the cones, so they'd pass between the back wheels.

They finished off with a safety quiz and cookies.

Hopefully some of the information they got will be retained. It will be interesting to see how much gas costs, when those 8- and 9-year-olds are adults.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Share your Energy Stories"

Idaho Senator Mike Crapo has asked Idaho's citizens to send in their stories of higher energy costs. Apparently he got 500+ emails the very first day, and he's going to share them with his colleagues in the Senate, in the hopes that they will get of their duffs and do something about the crisis.

In response to his request, I sent this.

(You, too, can email your energy stories to .)

Dear Senator Crapo:

This is in response to your request for citizens to "share your energy stories."

Here are some of the results I'm observing, of gas being more expensive:
- Traffic is (slightly) down on the overcrowded roads in and around Boise.
- People are getting rid of their gas-guzzlers and getting more economical modes of transportation.
- People are making more responsible transportation choices. (Dare I say it? Might they even consider car-pooling, or utilizing public transportation???)
- Air pollution is down.
- There is some REAL market-driven innovation going on, in the automotive world.

In other words, the results of higher fuel prices aren't all negative! PLEASE think long and hard before getting the government more involved! (In the past, it hasn't always had the desired effect.)

If you could figure out some way to give the freight industry some relief, that would be a good thing. But let the free market run its course with regards to personal transportation, I say. If our economy is based on every citizen 16 and over having a private motor vehicle and unlimited access to cheap fuel... it's a house of cards!

Like everybody else, we in my family are affected by rising fuel prices, and are needing to be more responsible with our transportation. Is that a bad thing?

(Full disclosure: I've been a dedicated user of bicycle transportation since 1986. Gas was 97 cents back then. It makes even more sense in 2008 for my fellow citizens to seriously consider their own transportation choices, than it did back in 1986.)

Thanks for your attention.

The Competition Gene

("Psychobabble" follows...)

Do we humanoid-types have an inbred craving to be a winner? Is it a "learned" attitude, because of the competitive, free-enterprise society we live in? Do we hate to see somebody out ahead of us?

Is it stronger in some people than in others? Do men have it more than women?

When I was a kid, I was never on sports teams, and I hated board games and stuff like that. (I still do.) In retrospect, I'm not sure if it was because I didn't care about winning and losing, or whether I dreaded losing so bad, that I didn't want to compete. (I was a "band geek," and competed for first chair.)

Nowadays, if I'm riding my bicycle up the street and see another cyclist out ahead of me, I'll pick up the pace a bit, just to see if I can "reel 'em in." Likewise, if I see a cyclist in my little rear-view mirror, I'll turn the wick up a notch or to, just to see if I can maintain that out-in-front position. Sometimes it's a cyclist with obviously-superior abilities, and he seemingly effortlessly reels me in and breezes on by. (I, of course, rationalize that he's half my age and 75 pounds lighter - obviously he's better! It must REALLY hurt when that half-my-age guy isn't able to reel in the middle-age fat guy!)

I usually ride alone. When I go on a ride with friends, it frequently (almost always?) becomes a "race" - always instigated by others - at least for the last mile or so. Which puts me to huffin' and puffin' more than I would have been otherwise. I've heard women say that they don't like to ride with men for that very reason. So perhaps women aren't as competitive by nature.

You see evidence of it among drivers, too. It's amusing, in a warped sort of way, to see a bunch of motorists stuck in the bumper-to-bumper... and even though there's no relief in sight, some of them will be revving their motors and riding the bumper of the car directly in front (15mph slipstreaming?) and swerving from lane to lane in a vain effort to improve their position. They think they're "Dale Junior" or something.

And my "car observations" kinda invalidate my "sex theory" (that men are more competitive). Because I'm tellin' ya - Hell hath no fury like a woman in a big SUV who gets cut off. They road-rage with the best of 'em!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Learning about bike safety

The local teevee news had coverage of a little girl who was hit by a pickup truck while riding her bicycle.

Fortunately, her injuries were fairly minor - nothing she won't recover from. She got her head busted open, however, and the focus of the coverage was about her negligence in not wearing a bike helmet.

No problem with that. Every cyclist is significantly safer with a brain-bucket on.

What irritates me is... there was NO MENTION of who was actually at fault in the accident, or how the accident happened, etc. Wouldn't that be meaningful information?

There was a brief follow-up report, and I caught a bit of coverage on the other TV station. Turns out the other party in the accident was a teenage kid, yakkin' on his cell phone, who backed into the little girl. Probably out of his parents' driveway. He was cited.

That's another important lesson for kids, about bike safety. Expect motorists - especially teenagers with cell phone jammed to ear - to do really stupid, unpredictable stuff. (And wear a helmet!)

And you parents of driving-age kids... teach them about responsibility! A child riding a bike without a helmet is only endangering herself. A punk in a big pickup truck is in control of a potentially-lethal weapon, and in this case, he's lucky he didn't kill this child.

Story HERE. (Pic lifted from the TV news website.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wal-Mart Clerk Improperly Assembles Bicycle

My friends, I'm frankly amazed that you don't see more stories like this one.

A lady bought a bike at a Wal-Mart (in Illinois) for her 13-year-old son. On his first ride on the new bike, the handlebars "detached from the steering stem, causing Plaintiff to lose control of the bicycle, flip over the handle bars, and strike the ground, hitting his right shoulder on the curb, and causing Plaintiff severe and permanent injuries." Yep - she's suing. And rightly so. (Although, IMO, the rider shares in the blame - NOBODY should ride a bike until he or she has personally given it at least a cursory inspection to make sure the brakes squeeze, seat and handlebars are firmly attached, etc. The stakes are too high.)

Also noted, but a non-factor in the accident, were rear brakes that were "inadequate or non-functioning."

How many Wal-Mart bicycle mechanics have received any training? How many of them were likely stocking shelves, or working in the Garden Center, the week before?

I s'pose you should expect to get what you pay for... but just the same, you'd expect that even a $79.99 Wal-Mart wouldn't fall apart on you, at least on the first ride!

Story can be read HERE.

(For anybody who bothers to ask me, I encourage 'em to go to a BICYCLE STORE if they're just starting out. Where they can get some knowledgable advice, and can expect that the bicycle has been properly assembled and inspected. You might pay $250 instead of $80, but that cheap Wal-Mart bike isn't worth even that much. Also, I am NOT singling out Wal-Mart. All of the department stores - Target, KMart, Fred Meyer, etc. - have the same problem. Learn-as-you-go mechanics using Mexican speed-wrenches and trying to follow the Chinese-translated-into-English assembly instructions.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Liquid Force!

On several occasions, I've spotted a big ol' shiny red Dodge turbo-diesel pickup, occupying space near the office. And my eye has been drawn to the decal in the back window.

"What exactly is 'Liquid Force'?" I would wonder.

Perhaps the truck burns "Liquid Force." (I'd feel better about paying $4.80/gallon for stuff called "Liquid Force," than for stuff called "#2 diesel.")

Or maybe the guy drinks "Liquid Force" in the downtown bars on Saturday night. (You know, a "Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof" thing.)

Or perhaps "Liquid Force" is a fancy name for testosterone. (In the Dog World, I believe "Liquid Force" is dog-whiz... but I digress.)

I couldn't figure out what would possess a truck owner to put a "Liquid Force" decal in the window of his truck.

Well... silly me! My imagination was running way too wild. I checked on the Worldwide Web, and Liquid Force is a brand name for water-ski equipment of some variety. (And I bet the guy probably pulls a big ol' ski boat with that big ol' red truck from time to time.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Summer Gas Prices

Let's have some bold predictions.

How much will gast cost on July 4th? How about Labor Day?

I've seen predictions ranging anywhere from $2.50 to $5.50.

It's difficult to predict. Consider... I've got a Consumer Reports Magazine - the May, 2008 edition, which was probably printed in March or April - and in calculating the annual cost of fuel for vehicles, they were figuring at $3.00/gallon for regular unleaded. They were WAY off!

A more signigficant question might be, how much will gas have to cost before there's a meaningful change in average Americans' driving habits? (We're already seeing a very real trend toward higher-mileage cars in the showrooms. And fuel consumption is down by 6% or so, depending on who you ask. And I s'pose that might be meaningful when you consider that up until recently, fuel consumption has always gone up, up, up.)

I did some checking.

When I abandoned my motor vehicle as daily transportation for all intents and purposes - in 1986 - gas cost about 92.7 cents per gallon. And bike transportation made fantastic economic sense back then. How much more sense does it make in 2008?

Thursday, June 5, 2008


(If you don't care about your fuel economy, don't bother to read this.)

The price of fuel is on pretty much every civilized person's mind these days... at least those who have to pay for fuel.

The best way to economize on fuel is to not drive a fuel-burning vehicle. But there are other, less committed, practices as well.

My friend Cindy recently emailed me:

For entertainment, I've been working on being a 'hypermiler'. Generally, I accelerate slow, try to never use the brakes or stop completely, and coast whenever possible. It amuses me! I can coast .7 miles on my street right into the drive way. It feels funny and I am too embarrassed to do it much when there is someone behind me, but it's all worth it. I can't wait until fill up time so I can see if I made a noticeable improvement in the mpg!

This may seem odd to those who haven't had similar experience, but I can confidently say I can operate a motor vehicle much more economically on account of my extensive bike riding experience. And Cindy is doing the things I've learned on a bike.

In a nutshell, here's the explanation - I have instant tactile feedback when I'm riding my bike, on whether I'm doing so "economically." Obviously my bike-riding habits don't affect fuel economy... but I've learned that my riding style has a big impact on how hard I'm working, and how quickly I wear out ("run out of gas").

If you do a web-search for hypermiler, there are a bunch of links to an article about Wayne Gerdes. Apparently he is the "Hypermiler." (He can get 84 mpg out of a standard-issue Ford Ranger pickup... that got my attention!)

The article about Mr. Gerdes can be found HERE.

Here are Wayne's tips - you can practice any or all of 'em to get better mileage. (I've also put some "bike notes" on some - how I learned this on the bike.)
1) Inflate your tires to their maximum recommended pressure.
My road-bike tires (120psi) roll significantly easier than my mountain-bike (40psi) tires.
2) Use the lowest weight oil recommended for your vehicle.
Bikes don't use motor oil, but they are affected by whether they are well-lubed or not. And there's more mechanical friction in the winter than in the summer. (It's subtle, but you can feel "subtle" when you're pedaling regularly.)
3) Change your air filter at least once a year.
Um... I s'pose having an old air filter on your car is a little like riding a bike on a yellow-alert air quality day, or at high altitude.
4) Drive as if you hypothetically do not have brakes.
I do this ALL THE TIME! (And probably write about it too often!) I hate putting on the brakes, because I've worked for that speed! I coast and watch the road up ahead, anticipating green lights, etc. (I'm to the point where it's almost painful to ride with people in their cars, who zoom up to the light and then jam on the brakes.)
5) Don’t use cruise control or worry about keeping a constant speed — instead, be concerned with not changing the load on your engine.
This comes TOTALLY naturally to somebody who bicycles regularly.
6) Don't drive above the speed limit.
7) Turn your engine off if you are idling for more than 10 seconds.
8) Practice “potential parking.”
(This seemed complex on a quick read... and not very applicable to bike riding.)
9) Install an automotive computer that calculates and displays your fuel consumption.
(Not needed on a bike, thanks to real-time tactile feedback. The article linked to above has more about this gizmo, which looks pretty awesome.)
10) Sweat it out sans air conditioning.
(Wayne says the A/C can reduce MPG up to 25 percent.)
Duh! I'm air-cooled, and have no A/C.

Previous musings can be found HERE and HERE.

Hard-Headed Adults

During the primo bicycling season, it's not unusual to see families out on bike rides together.

Usually they select off-road infrastructure, which is a wise choice when small children are in the group.

It warms my heart when parents seem to be trying to teach their kids - to ride on the right, in a straight, predictable path, etc. That knowledge will make them much safer and more confident when they venture onto the roads. (And it's not always the case. Some adults just let the kids go... as long as the head-count is correct, that's all they seem to notice.)

Almost always the kids have their helmets on, too, which is wonderful. It's best to ingrain such habits at an early age.

BUT - frequently the grownups in the group are NOT wearing helmets.


- Is the adult skull much more resistant to forceful impacts than the youthful skull?

- Do these adults possess the cycling skill-set and cat-like reflexes that enable them to avoid all unexpected incidents? (Because I know from experience... on those rare occasions when you truly need a helmet, there's never time to quickly strap one on!)

- Is helmet-wearing an immature thing?

- Do adults suffer from helmet-hair in a way that kids just don't understand?

I wish it weren't so... "Do as I say, not as I do" isn't the best teaching methodology.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Oregon governor bikes to work

Oregon's governor donned bicycle gear and pedaled his mountain bike from his residence to the state capitol building. He wants his 8500 "capitol complex" state employees to bike, walk, carpool and use mass transit to save 25,000 gallons of fuel over the summer.

Story HERE.

That's a start, I s'pose. Good for Governor Kulongoski!

Of course, our Governor Otter is more the "classic SUV commuter" - he drives in from his Gentleman Ranch out there in Star, joining the thousands of other long-distance single-occupant-vehicle commuters. I don't see that changing... after all, he's got a state credit card!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Where are the cops when we need 'em?

Today I sent this letter to Boise's police chief and a couple of his colleagues, and copied the City Council.

Dear Chief Masterson and colleagues:

As a year-round transportation cyclist here in Boise, I've noticed a huge increase in the number of bike riders on Boise's roadways in the last month or 6 weeks. The nice weather has much to do with it, but this year the numbers seem significantly higher than in years past, and I'm confident it's the result of $4 gas.

I think it's FANTASTIC that more people are riding bikes. There's really not a down-side... as long as they are riding legally and safely.

Last autumn, I submitted a request for public records. I wanted to know how many citations had been issued for bicycles being ridden against traffic (illegally) - City Statute 10-14-06. Because I see that violation very regularly; it's particularly irritating (and downright scary in many circumstances) when a cyclist is coming directly toward me on a "chicken collision course," riding illegally and against traffic.

I was disappointed, but not very surprised, to learn that five (!) citations had been issued, in the period November 1, 2002 thru November 20, 2007. Less than one per year, average... and only one citation since 2003.

Is that number up at all, since November?

I've been told, time after time when calling to complain about it, that "bike violations aren't a priority for the department."

Obviously! But I'm hoping that as the numbers of road-going cyclists increases, for the sake of our safety you will focus a little more on safe bicycling, and practice some vigorous enforcement of bicycle-related traffic laws.

(You can probably imagine the reaction I get, when as a civilian I try to educate my fellow cyclists. Like Mr. Dangerfield, I don't get much respect, and I usually get an ignorant and vulgar response. I'm confident a uniformed officer would fare much better.)

PLEASE! Before (more) people get hurt.

Thanks for your attention.

Mr. B. Nazi (a pseudonym - surprise!)
Lifelong Boise Resident, Taxpayer, Transportation Cyclist
Boise, ID

Monday, June 2, 2008

28 bikes!!

There were 28 bicycles in the office racks today. Far as I know, that is an all-time record.

I don't have an exact count, but I'd guess 600 people work in the building. So approximately 5% of the workforce is arriving by bicycle. That is phenomenal. I hope they get enough exposure that they come to appreciate the many benefits of bike transportation besides economy!

Obvious contributing factors:
- PERFECT bike-riding weather (50s in the mornings, 70s in the afternoons)
- $4 gas (I assume that is having an impact.)

Vintage Bicycle Bling!

Back in the late 19th century, Tiffany and Company (the jewelry people) built a few bicycles.

To provide some historical perspective, the 1890s was the absolute zenith of bikes-as-transportation. Thousands of bike companies were building millions of bikes, which were the preferred transportation for everybody who was anybody. Those early-on cyclists should be recognized as the activists responsible for the first paved and well-maintained roads.

Once such (Tiffany) bike was built for Lillian Russell, an actress/singer of the era. And it will be coming up for auction this month. It's expected to sell for between $50K and $70K. More info can be found HERE. (Just in case you want to use that Economic Stimulus cash...)

Check out some of the detail work (sterling silver, and carved ivory hand grips).

Sunday, June 1, 2008

May Riding Report

I ended up May with 550 miles (and 550 miles per gallon for the month), accumulated on 31 days of riding.

Money spent on fuel, to get myself to and from work: $0.00 (Unless you include the money spent on peanut butter sammiches and stuff like that.)