Saturday, January 31, 2009

Carelessness and Carnage

Friday was a bad day for kids on our roads. Here's a summary (as found in the Idaho Statesman):


A 14-year-old Eagle High School student suffered critical injuries when he was hit about 6:30 a.m. by a vehicle driven by a 17-year-old Eagle High student, who thought she had struck a sign on the side of the road. She continued on to school, where she called family to tell them what happened.

Detectives later found her car at the school and told her about the boy. Detectives believe ice on her windshield obstructed her view.


In Emmett, two teens suffered non-life threatening injuries about 7:30 a.m. when Jullian Butticci of Emmett made a U-turn on 5th Street. Butticci's car stopped on one teen, who was taken to a Boise hospital. The second boy was treated and released. Police believe sunlight may have been a factor. The accident is under investigation.


In Nampa, a 12-year-old boy walking to East Valley Middle School was hit about 6:55 a.m. by a pickup truck driven by Jason Walker, 31, of Caldwell. The boy, who was not in a crosswalk, was wearing headphones and listening to an iPod when he was struck. He was not wearing light-colored clothing, and it was dark at the time.

Citations have not been issued in any of the Friday incidents.

This stuff is scary to a road-going bicyclist! Particularly the airhead who's out there driving with a frosted windshield! I hope citations are issued.

Details are sketchy on whether the poor kid she hit was highly-visible or not. It really doesn't matter, if the driver's windshield is covered with frost! As for the victim in the iPod accident... we should all learn something from that. THINK ABOUT IT before you impair your senses. (At least his irresponsibility wasn't putting somebody else in potentially mortal danger.)

Such needless tragedy. If you are behind the wheel - whether you're 16 or 86 - you need the capacity to appreciate the fact that you are responsible for controlling a potentially-lethal projectile. You have no more right to endanger a bystander with your car, than you have to aim a gun at a stranger and pull the trigger.

The sheriff is saying the poor kid who was smacked by frosty-windshield-teen will have life-altering injuries... if he survives. The girl who hit him should be responsible for his medical care, rehabilitation expenses, and much of his care throughout his life.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Idaho Bike/Pedestrian Mobility Survey

The Idaho Transportation Department is requesting that state residents complete an online survey, which will ostensibly used for future alt-transportation planning.

"Few, if any, of our individual visions for bicycle and pedestrian mobility would match identically. We need to find the commonality that exists among us and craft the best possible vision for Idaho."

My "individual vision" for how limited funds should be spent (from an urban transportation cyclist's viewpoint):

My pet peeve is yokels on bikes who endanger me and themselves as they come nonchalantly riding up the wrong side of the road. Cops seem content to totally ignore 'em. (Not only does it seem that way; their stated position is, "Bicycle violations are not a priority for the department.")

Frankly, I see little need for huge infrastructure expenditures. I s'pose a casual or novice or semi-competent rider might appreciate a bike lane, but once you get in the groove, you just go where the rest of the traffic is going.

I don't know who authored the survey. It's not really nuts-n-bolts... it seems more oriented toward road administration, and how bicyclists can communicate with administrators. And... I can't imagine that bike-pedestrian issues will be a priority for the 2009 Legislature, who are grappling with huge revenue losses. (Just squeeze those taxpayers harder... they'll keep bleedin'...)

The survey can be found HERE. It has to be taken by January 31.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Indonesian government bigwigs on bikes

This is interesting. City officials in South Jakarta, Indonesia, have been mandated to ride bicycles while conducting their official duties. (Story HERE.)

It's compulsory. It will "not only reduce pollution and global warming, but also promote good health."

"The officials can also get to know their residents better since now they can cycle through the narrow alleyways to reach their homes." I can attest to how much more personable bike-riding is, than driving a car. Maybe they're on to something. Could we try that here? It would significantly and positively impact transportation expenses for the community budget, too.

South Jakarta covers 145 square kilometers. I don't know how that compares with Boise. At 2.5 million residents, "urban sprawl" is apparently less of an issue there, than it is here.

They are counting on citizens to nark out the offenders. If you see 'em driving, phone it in.

"It is no excuse to say they are too old and sick to cycle. That means they are also too old and sick to perform their duties so, they should be replaced."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Road Sand

Now and then, a motorist (who obviously doesn't ride a bike, at least on the roads) will ask, "Why do you bike riders have to ride out near the CAR lane, instead of at the edge of the pavement where you belong?"

Do these photos help explain one reason? (There are other reasons.)

(If you didn't know better, you might swear that the sand gets dumped in the bike lane, rather than the motor lane.)

Here's what happens.

On those slippery mornings, road crews dump their sand in the motor vehicle lane.

As the snow and ice melt, the sand gets washed and blown toward the edge of the road, eventually settling where it doesn't get blasted about quite so much by the turbulence of passing cars.

Ironically, once the snow is melted, the sand reduces traction, rather than increasing it. And it's also the source of considerable particulate air pollution... that's why they'll sweep it up as soon as they can, even if they know they'll be dumping plenty more before winter is over.

For the sake of review, here's what THE LAW says: "Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including surface hazards that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge." (Idaho's law... but most states have laws with virtually identical wording.)

So don't come up behind me (us) and honk your horn, or gun the motor in that big ol' macho pickup truck. Thanks.

Greenbelt Doofus

If Charles Darwin is right about that "Law of Natural Selection" thing - you know, where the dumbest and weakest of the species don't survive long enough to contribute to the gene pool - I saw a guy who probably won't last too much longer. And with a little luck, won't reproduce.

He looked to be 17 or 18, I'd guess. He was on the Greenbelt, with a couple buddies:
- riding a 20-inch "BMX" type bike that was way too small for him,
- riding on the wrong side of the pathway,
- chain squeeeek-squeeek-squeeeeking as though it hadn't been oiled since the bike left Wal-Mart,
- smoking a cigarette (one hand),
- yammerin' on his cell phone (other hand),
- (obviously) riding without any hands on the bars.

Any one of those things would make me question his judgment, if not his intelligence. All six? Yeah, he probably won't make it.

(You see that BMX thing a lot among the adolescent kids. Looking back, I s'pose I had a "Sting Ray" bike when a larger one would've fit better... but one significant difference is that the seat was high enough on the Sting Ray so that I wasn't bumpin' my chin with my knees, each time I pedaled. It can't be very enjoyable to ride that way, for any distance.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Stokin' the Boiler

I stepped on the scale yesterday, for the first time in 3 weeks or so.

I had some trepidation; this is a bad time of year for weight gain. (I believe I speak for 200-million-or-so Americans.)

It wasn't as bad as I had dreaded; I'd gained 3 pounds, tipping the scales at exactly the same poundage as 1 year ago.

Whew! I was worried that I was Boise's Biggest Loser!!!

Typically, I gain 10-12 pounds over the "off season" and shed it again during peak mileage season. I s'pose I should look at it as "charging up my hybrid battery." I rationalize that I'm not just "piggin' out" - I'm "fueling up."

I need somebody - a dietician or behavior analyst or psychiatrist - to explain something to me.

Why do I actually seem to have a heartier appetite during the cold months, when bike mileage is down? (Does that happen to anybody else?) During the hot summer months, I'm rarely very hungry, but on these winter days, it seems like I'm frequently suffering the pangs of hunger. You'd think it would be the opposite. Is it some sort of deep-seated primal instinct? The long-standing Neanderthal urge to avoid winter starvation?

Maybe it's some sort of weird reverse-metabolism thing.

Maybe it's because I spend more time sitting around in the winter - longer periods of relative inactivity - which provides more opportunity to think about comfort, and hunger, and such.

Or maybe it's just that there's so much more good (but not particularly good-for-you) food to eat over the holiday season. (That doesn't seem like the answer, however... I'm hungry in January, too! And February, and March...)

Bike path maintenance

My brain-bucket is off to those who are in charge of maintaining the bike/pedestrian paths - particularly the Greenbelt - in Boise.

Compared with, say, 5 years ago, they do a fantastic job of quickly getting the snow and mush cleared away. Perhaps it's because they've come to recognize that it is not only a recreational path, but also a significant commuter path.

Snapped on Jan. 7, near "Quinn's Pond" (click on the photos for a bigger view):

By contrast, here's what the Greenbelt looks like just across the river, in Garden City:

Garden City is proudly ANTI-BIKE. But it should be noted that there are a lot of bicycle and foot tracks along that untended stretch of path. It gets a lot of use, just not much care.

(For those who aren't familiar... Garden City is to Boise what East St. Louis is to St. Louis, or what The Bronx is to Manhattan, or what Shelbyville is to Springfield.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Trials Riding

(Yep - that's "trials riding," and not "riding trials.")

There is a sport in the world of motorcycling called "observed trials."

Unlike most motorcycle sporting events, the object is not to be the first one to cross the finish line. Rather, it's an obstacle course, ridden on very lightweight and maneuverable offroad machines, and the object is to make it through all the obstacles without touching a foot (or any other part of the body!) on the ground, or anything attached to the ground. A judge "observes" how you handle each obstacle, and deducts points if your carcass contacts Terra Firma.

It is quite popular in some European countries. I first became familiar with it as a youth, when I used to hang out at Herb Uhl's motorcycle shop, out on State Street. Long before I was old enough to have a driver's license, I was attracted to motorcycles. (And coincidentally, one of the longest bicycle rides I went on as a kid was one day when my buddy and I rode our bikes out State Street to the motorcycle shops. Carl's Cycles is still there... that was WAY on the edge of town back then. Mom would NOT have approved... so I didn't ask her.) Herb and his sons were trials riders of renown, and ran the shop on the side, where they sold Bultacos... Husqvarnas... Sachs... CZ's... and a new brand of motorcycle - Suzuki.

More about motorcycle trials riding HERE, if you're interested.

(There is also a mountain-bike equivalent of trials riding; it's truly amazing to watch a master of the sport, who can wheelie all day long on either the front or back wheel, jump 4 or 5 feet UP from a standing start, etc. Those guys keep me feeling very humble.)

I like to think of winter bike riding as a non-competitive form of "trials" riding. And to enjoy it, you need to have a whole different mentality. Seize the challenge. See how far you can go without a "feet down" event, but bearing in mind that "feet down" is way better than "torso down" hahaha. All the while, you are exercising your bicycle handling and balance skills - think how much more skilled you'll be, once the coast is clear!

They encourage drivers to plan on double their commute time on the snowy days. That's a good general rule for the bike commute, too. But it's not a defeat to take longer... it's a huge VICTORY to push on through! (Maybe it's more like the Iditarod than motorcycle trials. For each day you successfully bike commute, reward yourself with a Milk Bone! hahaha)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

(Hat tip to Mark Twain, for the title.)

I finished the year with 5433 miles. (Dang! I tried to use strategery to hit exactly 5432 miles, but was slightly off.)

Accumulated on 321 riding days. (The doctor ordered me off the bicycle for 35 days in March/April. I spent 10 days in September, out of town ridin' the motorsickle. Those aren't excuses; they're reasons. And... that accounts for every day of the year, including the bonus "leap" day we got in ought-eight.)

I finished December with 322 miles, accumulated on 31 riding days. (Which I thought was pretty cool, considering it was Boise's second-snowiest December on record, with 20+ inches.)

I expect not to miss any ought-nine days due to doctor's orders. But if I still have a little gas money, I'll probably head out of town on the motorsickle again this year, for a few days.