Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stolen Bike!

My friend Bill had his bike stolen.

From right in front of a busy office building. It was locked in the bike rack.

(A sobering thing, I'm tellin' ya.)

At 2:52pm on Wednesday, 25 February.

Bill: "Yes, it was locked up with a cable and padlock. The whole incident was recorded on the security video. I filed a police report and they will be showing to see the video. The police said to go start checking the local pawn shops because that is a likely place where it will end-up."

His bike looks like this. It's a 2005 Giant "NRS" model.

If anybody happens to spot such a bike, maybe being ridden by somebody who's too weasely and lowlife to be riding such a nice bike, any information would be greatly appreciated by Bill or the cops. Bill has the serial number, so he can positively identify the bike as his.

Here's a surveillance photo of the perp. If you recognize him, I'd recommend putting him underneath a 2000-pound rock, to immobilize him 'til the cops arrive. (Please make sure Bill's bike isn't under the rock!)

Our society is deteriorating. Keep that in mind, and be mindful of your wheels.

Stuff that defies common sense

1. Cyclists who ride against traffic

As a kid, I remember occasionally being told that it's safer for pedestrians to walk toward oncoming traffic, apparently so you're more aware of potential danger. (I don't ever remember saving my hide by leaping out of the way of a speeding motorized missile at the very last second...)

If it's so (and it's probably more perception than reality), the notion does not carry over to cycling, where you're further out into traffic. Besides defying statutory law, it defies the laws of both physics and common sense. And it REALLY annoys people who are using the road correctly.

(Amazingly, my wife insists that the first time she took the driver's written test - as a 16-year-old in California - she got scolded by the guy administering the test, when she answered that bicyclists should travel in the same direction as traffic. Incredible!)

2. People with earphones jammed in, when they need their senses

I see cyclists (and motorists) in heavy traffic situations, who are blunting their sense of hearing. I constantly happen across iPod-disabled people on bike/pedestrian paths who are startled when I come up on 'em, and act like it's my fault they were oblivious to my approach.

It isn't right, but women in particular should be acutely aware of their surroundings when they're alone in a place like the Greenbelt. An assailant could sneak right up on 'em when they're jammin' to the head tunes.

(I love the MP3s as much as the next guy... but there's a time and place. I'm gleeful about my new toy - a Cowon D2 player. Check it out on the web.)

3. Motorists who act like it's no big deal that their cellphone is severely impairing their driving ability.

Let me put it this way... if your driving-while-yakking is so bad that you would never pass a driving test, put the #*&$@ phone away! And there is a huge percentage of drivers these days who fall into that category. (Do you know it's illegal to turn or change lanes without signaling? Or are you just ignoring that particular law, so you can jabber?)

4. Adults who take up smoking

I guess I can understand (a little bit) why a dumb-punk teenager would take up smoking. (It never tempted me, even as a kid, but it's so grown-up and rebellious, and all that.)

I know a few people who have taken it up as adults. (Are they just feeling too darn healthy? Do they pity those poor tobacco-company executives? Is it so they, too, can stand outside in a blizzard, shiverin' and puffin', and bask in the glory of the experience?)

5. Single Welfare Women who already have 5 kids under the age of 7, but just the same get fertility treatments and have 8 more young'uns.

Humans are spoze to be smarter than rats and bunnies... but some apparently aren't.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Lamborghini bike - so tempting!

Way back last April, I mentioned the Lamborghini road bike. It continues to pop up on the radar from time to time.

(Back then, Clancy pointed out that you can buy a naming license. There are also Cadillac bikes, Jeep bikes, etc. I remember being disgusted when I saw Harley-Davidson Cigarettes. Dunno if HD butts are still on the market or not.)

The specs look pretty exotic. It's got a "custom tube frame." It's "light and sleek." (I can't see where the actual weight is specified.) It even has a kick stand, standard equipment! And since it's blood-red and is a Lamborghini, how can you go wrong??? See it HERE.

The price has jumped from $250 to $270 - bummer.

I love the comments from buyers. Mixed reviews; owners either love it or hate it.

"I bought this bike 3 months ago and I haven't had any major problems with it. I ride it a couple of miles daily..."

"On the third day, had to change the deilures (they arrived bent +$30). In 8 months I've replace the back innertube 10 times at least (+60). Had the bike tuned (+60). The bike is really heavy and the components are cheap. The shifters seem cool until you realize that you cannnot add aerobars to place your body in a race triathlon position."
(That's some FUNNY stuff!!! Especially the part about adding "aerobars"!)

"I assembled, tried it, disassembled it and returned back. [...] This is by far the worst bike I've ever ride."

"This is a good road bike. I own it for a couple of days and already love it. When it comes to bikes I know the good one just by seeing it and riding it. Gear shifting is a little bit of a hassle at first, but once you get used to it (and it breaks in) it is working fine. ... Lamborghini name on it says a lot, though it's made in China."

"I purchased three bikes for me and my sons. I've been riding bikes since I was 10 years old. I know about bikes very well. I had many bikes, but this one is the worst I ever had."

"Jim the Bicycle Guy" says, "Great first road bike for me. Plan on using for a few years until I really know what I need and want!" Good luck with that, Jim the Bicycle Guy!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bike Commuter Bailout

At the office yesterday, I got a notice about a change in benefits.*

It was a BIG DEAL - and a GOOD DEAL - for bicycle commuters. Woo-hoo!

It's called the Commuter Benefits Program. And for the first time, the company is going to provide meaningful benefits for employees other than single-occupant-vehicle motorists (who have traditionally gotten a huge perk in the form of subsidized parking).

From the memo:

How does the program work for qualified bicycle commuters?
Employees who ride their bicycle regularly for travel between the employee's residence and place of employment are considered qualified bicycle commuters.
Qualified bicycle commuters can receive reimbursement for reasonable bicycle expenses up to a specified limit. The limit is calculated as $20 per “qualified bicycle commuting month,” which is a month in which the employee uses a bicycle for a substantial portion of their travel between their residence and their workplace and receives no other commuter benefits. The maximum reimbursement is $240 per year.
Reasonable expenses include:
- Purchase of a bicycle.
- Bicycle improvements and/or repairs.
Employees who elect to use the bicycle commuter benefits and meet all the qualifications would submit their expenses annually by attaching receipts for qualified bicycle expenses for the previous year using the Bicycle Commuter Reimbursement form.

I already asked 'em if a person can buy a bike that costs more than $240, and get reimbursed for multiple years of use. Nope. The maximum for a bike purchase is $240, whether your bike costs $250 or $2500. But I see some sweet "Armadillo" or "GatorSkin" goathead-resistant tires in my future! (Rather than the cheapest tires I can find, which has been my tradition for as long as I've been riding.)

(There is a tax incentive for employers to provide this benefit to bike-commuters in their employ, as a result of the Bicycle Commuter Act, which became law late last year. Tell your boss you need some relief!)

* At a place where I formerly worked, the benefits updates were titled "Patterns in Partnership," and if you watched, indeed you could see a pattern - the company paid less all the time for employee benefits, and the employee paid more!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Alternative Transportation

Here's an interesting concept vehicle that incorporates pedal power.

It seems like it would be a very popular alternative to a commuter van, or maybe even a city bus.

Of course, somebody would need to be the designated driver. And if there were a jovial fraulein to keep the brewskis comin', it would likely have a positive impact on average speed.

(There is a little-used railroad line between Boise and the bedroom communities to the west. Perhaps this thing could be retrofitted to run on tracks. Leave Boise at 4pm with a full keg; arrive in Nampa by 5:30, keg dry and passengers feelin' no pain!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What-colored glasses?

Over the winter I bought a pair of "amber" (yellow) colored glasses, after having temporarily misplaced my clear ones that I use for riding in the dark. They were actually designed for shooting sports, but the price - $10 - was right. I got 'em at a local sporting goods store.

I found I quite liked them. Even when it was quite dark, there was something about that yellow tint that seemed, uh, um... "cheery." Yeah, that's the ticket. The clear ones were relocated - actually they're cheap safety glasses, and I found 'em on my table saw. (Go figure.) But I kept wearing the yellow ones.

This week, it's been light enough that in the mornings (at 7:45 or so) in these parts, I could see fine with the regular sunglasses. In fact, the sun comes over the hills when I'm about halfway to the office. I prefer a neutral gray shading, in my daytime sunglasses. Reality is beautiful!

On March 8th, I'll get to wear the yellow ones again in the mornings, for a few weeks, when we go to EARLY daylight savings time.

If I were in charge we'd have year-round DST. We need it more in the winter, than in the summer. In the dead of winter, us 8-to-5ers spend every daylight hour at work! If it hadn't been Ben Franklin who first suggested it, I'd say, "Who's the idiot who thought up Daylight Saving Time?"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You in one HEAP of trouble, Boy!

Local cyclist Dwight was issued a traffic ticket while bicycling - for riding in the roadway! (Thanks to correspondent Bob T for bringing this to my attention.)

Dwight's version of what happened can be seen HERE, on the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance website.

Some background information:

Chinden Boulevard is a major arterial that tends to get congested during Rush Hour. Dwight says there was about 18 inches of pavement to the right of the fog stripe, which was covered with sand and debris. (Very typical for this time of year.) He was riding just barely to the left of the fog stripe... and the ticket states that he was 3 inches (!) into the roadway.

Dwight - I believe I speak correctly - is not only an experienced and dedicated transportation cyclist, but he also happens to be a certified cycling instructor for the League of American Bicyclists. (The people who gave us our Bronze Medal for being so bike-friendly!) If there's anybody who's more familiar with bicycle traffic laws than Dwight, I don't know who it is.

The Law (essentially identical to the law in most jurisdictions) states that cyclists must ride "as close as practicable" to the right side of the road. (Why don't the cops enforce the law on people who ride on the wrong side of the road?!!!)

So - who determines what is "as close as practicable"? It has to be the cyclist, no? If somebody else can make that determination, it rocks my world, that's for sure!

I once got honked at by a sheriff's deputy (from outside the county), who thought I was too far out into the roadway. Somewhat amusingly (in retrospect), I caught up with him, many miles down the road, and made a comment to him. My comment included the word "jackass" - I try not wax vulgar, but it seemed appropriate at the time. He ordered me, in his Big Cop Voice, to "Pull Over!" which I was happy to do. And we had a spirited discussion about bicycles in traffic. (I do not advocate being confrontational with law enforcement people. They provide a valuable service, and I rarely disagree with them. I want them to like me!)

Check out the link to Dwight's story. There are some interesting comments from people - claiming to be cyclists - with widely differing opinions on whether Dwight was correct in riding where he was riding. Or even if he should've been riding at all, on that road and at that time.

I fully expect that Dwight's ticket will be dismissed. Because where the law is vague, there's absolutely no way to declare that he was in violation of the law. I sure hope so!

Dwight himself has to decide how risky it is to ride on Chinden or any other road. If he's willing to accept the risk, the law is on his side. (As I see it.) He has the legal right to as much of the right-hand lane as he determines he needs for safe passage. Of course, as I've said before, it doesn't provide worlds of satisfaction to know that the other guy was wrong, if you're lying in a hospital bed or a coffin.

(I don't regularly get out on Chinden as far as Dwight was, but closer in, I often get a HUGE dose of smug satisfaction, when I can ride past long queues of zombies-in-cars during Chinden rush hour. That is one of the rewards of transportation cycling!)

Go git 'um, Dwight!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Gas Prices

I heard that the average nationwide price for a gallon of precious petrol has crept up to around $1.90. After bottoming out a few months back around $1.50.

That seems inconsistent with the cost of crude oil, which has not gone up (selling for around $40/barrel).

So - what's wrong with this picture?

Everybody is critical of the obscene profits made by the oil companies (except for the oil company shareholders, of course). But apparently their profits weren't high enough. And apparently people aren't angry enough about it to stop buying their product... they'll just taper off a bit when gas is selling for $4. I guess that's what you do when you're over a barrel.

It's nice to be watching mostly from the outside.

Of course on the rare occasions when I buy gas, the price I pay is affected by overall demand... not my demand.

There ought to be a graduated scale.

For your first 100 gallons each year, you pay $1/gallon. The next 100 gallons is $2. The next is $3, etc.

Here's another great idea from the Bike Nazi: How about being able to "bank" gas? I write out a check to Exxon-Mobil to buy 100 gallons at today's price... and then they keep it in their hole-in-the-ground until such time as I want to pump it. My balance (in gallons, not dollars) is stored on a swipe-card, just like a gift card at Best Buy or whatever. I could buy the 200 gallons I use each year in December, and burn 180 of it over the summer.

Monday, February 2, 2009

January riding report

402 miles accumulated, on 31 days of riding.

I bike-commuted to and from work all but one slippery afternoon when I took the bus home, and then rode the bus back in the next morning. That afternoon I walked to the bus stop, but the bus was running late. As I waited I threw a few snowballs and did some thinkin.' I thought about how I had rationalized that although the roads were bike-passable at the time, they'd probably be frozen and treacherous the next morning. But then I thought, "What kind of GIRLY-MAN am I turning into?!!" and headed back to the office, grabbed the bike and rode home. So far, at least, I haven't been back on the bus.