Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June riding report

I rode on 30 days in June, accumulating 631 miles.

My highest-mile day - less than ideal circumstances - was June 20; I rode to the location of Kevin Pavlis' funeral, followed by the funeral procession to Dry Creek Cemetery, followed by the ride home from the cemetery. (On the bright side, I met and rode with Bob T... getting an in-person look at his now-celebrated visibility gear.) Later that afternoon I went on a bike adventure with granddaughter Mackie... 38+ miles total.

Which puts me comfortably over 3000 miles for 2009... and I haven't missed a riding day yet.

That does not necessarily portend a 6000-mile year. I'll be missing a week of riding in early July... riding motorcycle instead, across Montana and North Dakota for a few days. Later in the month, attending a Utah family reunion and the bike'll probably have to stay home. And in August, a week canoeing in eastern Idaho with a group of Varsity Scouts. (We did the 50-mile bike ride 20 months or so ago.) But every day bike and I are together... I'll keep putting the pedal down. Ride on!

Some parting thoughts on bike safety

On June 21, following the third bike-auto fatality in about as many weeks right here in little ol' Boise, the editor of the Boise Guardian emailed Bob T and myself, asking for some feedback on the bike safety issue.

From his message:

What I see developing with the "bike issue" is militancy--mostly on the part of bikers who are tired of getting bashed--literally.

It is an age old issue:
- Kayaks and Rafts against those idiots who run the gas guzzling jet boats up and down the Snake and Payette Rivers.
- *&#@ snowmobilers scaring the tight pants off the cross country skiers.
- Mountain Bikers tearing up the trails used by backpackers and hikers.
- Jet skis making waves where decent people are fishing.
All of the above come into conflict and often result in fatal meetings.

I don't have any ready answers, but would like to hear from you guys. Nobody WANTS to hit a biker. While I don't think the bikers are idiots, I do think they tend to be a bit like the handicap/ADA folks when it comes to demands for "rights."

How do you guys feel about REQUIRING BY LAW:
--APPROVED VEST in a brilliant green/yellow/orange color with reflective panels front and back (like highway workers, cops, flaggers, airline ramp people wear)
--HELMET for any and all ages riding on street where speed limit is over 20 mph
--WHITE headlight and red tail light on either the rider or bike visible for 500 feet dusk to dawn as described for cars
--BIKES STOP at all redlights and stop signs just like other vehicles.
--NO BIKES on sidewalks where pedestrian walk/wait devices exist.
--NO EARPHONE devices to be worn by cylists...they need to hear the friendly beep of a car before it becomes a panic warning blast.

What I am aiming for is some give and take. ... Share your comments with me at this e-mail and I will "mine it" for a GUARDIAN piece.

I sent him a response a couple days later. Bob T also contacted him; you may have seen the excellent coverage of Bob's high-visibilty ways on the Guardian.

Dave elected not to use my response. Probably for 3 reasons: 1) he had already put a lot out there on the topic (for which I thank him), 2) I had posted several comments in response to his stories, and 3) I tend to go on and on... he's always worried about losing his ADD readers (hahaha!)

By contrast, I post what's on my mind... if I lose you, faithful reader, I guess that's the breaks. Please come back and try again. Sometimes what I'm thinkin' is short. Other times it goes on and on.

Since I wrote it... here's what I sent to Dave (Mr. Guardian) in its entirety.

Bicycle Safety

On June 15, following the third bicyclist traffic fatality in about 10 days, I posed this question to the Ada County Prosecutors:

"Does a cyclist who's riding legally, visibly, predictably and defensively have a reasonable expectation of being able to arrive safely at his destination?"

That question remains up-in-the-air as the investigation continues. But at least two of the three fatalities seem to clearly be the fault of the involved motorist. (An off-duty bus driver rear-ended Jim Chu on Gowen Road. A 16-year-old youth crossed directly into the path of Kevin Pavlis and fellow riders on Hill Road. Both accidents happened during daylight hours, and there's nothing to suggest that either cyclist was doing anything risky or illegal.)

The fatalities have brought the bikes-on-the-roads issue to the forefront, at least for the time being.

And have started a round of finger-pointing. Angry cyclists who are demanding safe accommodations. And angry motorists who are unhappy about being delayed by slower cyclists on the roads.

Are there some bad drivers out there?


You see 'em every day. Blasting through red lights. Turning without signaling. Yappin' on their phones, seemingly oblivious to the world (and traffic) surrounding them. Endangering themselves and other motorists, but cyclists in particular. They are a menace!

Are there some bad cyclists out there?


Some of them seem as oblivious as their behind-the-wheel cell-phone counterparts. Others seem to be deliberately impeding traffic as they assert their "legal right" to ride two-up on Hill Road and other roads that are popular among cyclists, but also used by the folks who are stuck in their cars.

Many seem to either not know the traffic laws pertaining to cyclists, or have chosen to ignore those laws. (Very much like the motor-vehicle crowd!)



Who should do the educating? That's a very good question, but right now it's essentially nonexistent.

You need to take a test to get a driver's license. To ride a bike, you just hop on and go. Maybe your dad or mom taught you (incorrectly!) that you should ride against traffic. Or that the sidewalk is the safest place. As far as I know, there is NO formal effort to get bike riders educated on how to safely operate on public roads. (And precious little effort to educate drivers about dealing with cyclists on the road.)

Who does the enforcing?

It's supposed to be our law-enforcement community. But in the past, they have declared, matter-of-factly, "Bike violations aren't a priority for the department." (I've been told that on several occasions, when I've called to complain about bad behavior by fellow cyclists.)

Perhaps that needs to change!

Perhaps they should issue a ticket to a cyclist from time to time, even if an accident isn't involved.

Here's evidence of the problem - from November 2002 to November 2007, the Boise Police Department issued five (!) tickets for bike riding against traffic (Statute 10-14-06). Now, perhaps a ticket isn't necessary... but the police have traditionally been happy to totally ignore the problem! How about at least flashing the lights and using that PA system to issue a stern warning, even if you're headed somewhere else, Mister Police Officer?

In this cyclist's mind (who is also an occasional motorist with a Commercial driver's license), here are a few pointers for cyclists and motorists:

- CYCLISTS have to know the laws and follow them. We love the freedom that cycling realizes... but that freedom does NOT extend to us making up our own rules, at least on public roads. Using public roads is a privilege (for cyclists AND motorists), not a right. We inherently agree to follow the rules.

- CYCLISTS must understand how vulnerable they are. And they should take every measure possible to decrease the risk. Be visible, legal, and predictable. Ride defensively... it WILL literally save your life! Wear a brain-bucket. Are you sure it's a good idea to surrender your sense of hearing to the iPod? Common sense!

- CYCLISTS should also realize that they are "ambassadors" for cycling. Will the motorists you deal with have a better, or worse, impression of bike riders, after they have dealt with you? If you don't care - GET OFF THE ROAD! We don't need a bunch of uppity spandex weenies out there! (YOU are the ones that all the motorists are complaining about!)

- MOTORISTS must also know the laws and follow them. (You should know that cyclists legally have the right to be on ANY public roadway in Idaho. You have no right to try to intimidate them off your favorite toad. You should KNOW that in Idaho, a cyclist doesn't have to stop at a stop sign. It is treated as a yield sign... you can find out the "why" if you choose, or you can lobby to have that law changed. But for now, it's the law, and you should know it.)

- MOTORISTS must realize that if they choose to multi-task, nothing can steal their attention away from their driving. If you are behind the wheel, you are operating what is potentially a lethal weapon! You might as well have a loaded gun in your hand, with finger on the trigger. Is that phone call, or text message, or the fact that you're behind schedule, more important than the life of a fellow citizen?

- MOTORSTS should quit declaring that cyclists need to stick to bike paths, bike lanes, etc. A transportation cyclist has the same destinations as you do - work, entertainment, church, home, etc. Bike lanes don't go everywhere, and never will. Would Boise be a better place to live, if bicycles were banned from all but a select few roads?

- MOTORISTS should quit griping that cyclists don't pay their fair share! Road building and maintenance fees come from many sources other than registration and gas tax. (If a cyclist owns a motor vehicle, he's also paying those fees, by the way.) Road funds also come from property and income taxes... all cyclists pay, except for the homeless unemployed.

THE GUARDIAN poses this question:

How do you feel about REQUIRING BY LAW:
-APPROVED VEST in a brilliant green/yellow/orange color with reflective panels front and back (like highway workers, cops, flaggers, airline ramp people wear)
-HELMET for any and all ages riding on street where speed limit is over 20 mph
-WHITE headlight and red tail light on either the rider or bike visible for 500 feet dusk to dawn as described for cars
-BIKES STOP at all redlights and stop signs just like other vehicles.
-NO BIKES on sidewalks where pedestrian walk/wait devices exist.
-NO EARPHONE devices to be worn by cylists...they need to hear the friendly beep of a car before it becomes a panic warning blast.

This cyclist's reply:

Those are good ideas that would make bike riding safer. And bike riders could voluntarily to do all that stuff today! But do we need to mandate them by law? (I'm getting old! I can remember a time when the smart people survived and the stupid people didn't. I believe Darwin referred to it as "the law of natural selection.") Particularly I wonder if we need another few pages of laws, when our law-enforcement people are stretched too thin to enforce the laws already on the books!

FINALLY: I've been a dedicated transportation cyclist, here in Boise, since 1986. (The last time I drove a car to work was in September, 1997.) And I sincerely thank the folks I share the road with. Most of you are alert and patient. Most of you use your turn signals. Most don't try to intimidate me or practice "the law of the jungle." I try not to hold you up, and you are aware of my presence and help me get safely to my destination. (My family and friends thank you, too, for helping to keep me safe.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Africanized Killer Blackbirds!

I was riding on Warm Springs Avenue near the golf course today, and was suddenly lit upon by a couple of very aggressive blackbirds, squawking and dive-bombing me!

Red-wing blackbirds are notorious for fiercely defending their territory and their nests, particularly this time of year. All I can figure is I must've strayed a bit too close. But these ones seemed particularly determined; I bet I'd gone a quarter-mile before they finally backed off.

It must have been quite a sight to a bystander - birds swooping down on a cyclist many times their size who's riding along and swatting at the air with one hand and crying out, "I'm sorry - okay? I'm sorry!"

(Photo lifted from utahbirds.org)

Dumb comment for 6/25

There's an article on the Statesman website today (HERE), "Mind the rules or get a ticket."

According to the article, the police are going to step up enforcement of bike-related traffic violations. (A long-standing personal peeve is the stated policy of the BPD: "Bike violations aren't a priority for the Department." No wonder so many cyclists ignore the laws, and irritate motorists!)

Hopefull the police will also pay more attention to inattentive or illegal driving, that puts cyclists at risk of injury or death.

The police say they will enforce the "against-traffic" rule more aggressively. HALLELUJAH!

Commenter "just a thought" responds:

"I'm not a big cyclist but I would not let my kids ride with the flow of traffic. Considering all the accidents, I want to know who's not paying attention... before they hit me or my kids! Ridiculous!"

THAT, my friends, illustrates how sorely lacking we are in bike education! It's "just a thought," and his kids, and others who are comparatively ignorant, who are putting themselves - and me! - in danger, every time they take to the roadways! It's them who are riding toward me - a law-abiding trying-to-be-safe cyclist - on a potentially deadly "chicken" collision course!

I hope "just a thought" gets the first ticket, and a good talkin' to!

Here's some reality for him (or her). A brief description of the three fatal accidents.

#1 - A cyclist is riding in the same direction as traffic, along the edge of a 2-lane road. Without any warning, he's plowed into by a big van, probably going 40mph (probably 20mph faster than the cyclist.) The 20mph difference was enough to kill the cyclist. If the cyclist had been riding directly toward the van, against traffic... would he have had time to react and evade, considering that they're approaching one another at a combined 60mph? (Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher might be able to do it, but I would't put my money on "just a thought" or his kids.)

#2 - A cyclist is crossing a right-angle intersection. He's hit from the side by an automobile that's also crossing the intersection. It's IMPOSSIBLE that if the cyclist was riding against traffic, he would've had any more advance warning.

#3 - A cyclist is riding in a bike path on a 2-lane road. A motorist coming from the other direction crosses directly into his path. In this case, the cyclist might have seen it coming, a split second before impact. But not enough time to react. If it had been "just a thought" or his kids, riding in the same direction as the errant vehicle, they never would've seen the oncoming vehicle. (This sad example is the best of all, that seeing an approaching hazard doesn't provide much advantage.)

Ian, in a subsequent comment: I am tired of kids riding straight at me in a narrow bike lane, when I am riding lawfully WITH traffic. Right ON!

Stay off the roads, "just a thought"! And keep your kids at home unless you can find someone competent to instruct them. Thanks!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bicycling and aging

A few days back, there was a report on the local newspaper's website that a 90-year-old cyclist was involved in an accident. Apparently he was riding against traffic, and collided with a car.

THAT is kinda scary! A 90-year-old guy is liable to break instead of bending. And - I've gotta think he hasn't been riding against traffic for 80-plus years, or he sure wouldn't've lasted so long. (I had a near-miss with a 20-something against-traffic dope on a bike just earlier today, on Glenwood. I sure wish he'd get a ticket and a talkin-to by the law enforcement people!)

Back to the topic...

Here's my question: "Do people quit riding bikes because they get old, or do they get old because they quit riding bikes?"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bike Safety PSA

If the turnout at the Boise Depot for the filming of a bicycle-safety public service announcement is any indicator... there are a lot of local cyclists who are interested in safety issues. (I hope they are as enthusiastic about peacefully coexisting with motor traffic, as they are about the publicity!)

I took my granddaughter over - we got there at the appointed time (5:30pm).

There's a saying - "The attention span of the group is only as long as the attention span of the least-attentive member." And before long, "we" had lost interest. Nonetheless, we waited 'til after 6pm, and the movers-and-shakers were still working out the kinks.

I gave up. (Besides, there was a good cross-section without us. Perhaps a bit heavy on the "lycra sport rider" side.) We took a look at the pond and the fishies, then went on home. Check out the shoe that was floating, serene and boat-like.

Clydesdale among the Thoroughbreds

Dang it! On Monday I got home and noticed my rear wheel was out-of-true. (As had also been the case that morning, when I did a quick-adjust.) I pretty much knew what that meant, and a closer inspection confirmed my fears. I'd busted another rim. (Less than 1700 miles. Dang! The tire outlasted the rim... what's wrong with this picture?)

The harsh reality is... bicycle stuff - at least "road bike stuff" - is engineered for people who weigh less than 200 pounds. And I haven't been on the downside of 200 pounds since I was 15 or so.

Another harsh reality is... I'm, um... "thrifty." I refuse the $100 solution, if I can make do with $25. That's one of the most powerful incentives to have a bicycle as an alternative to a second car.

The broken rim (as in recent past) is a Mavic MA3. It's at the low end of the Mavic line; I think I paid $25-30 for 'em. I'm sure it's a fine rim, and would probably last for years and years if the bike pilot was 150 pounds instead of 250.

I build my own wheels... actually I'm getting quite good at it. It takes about an hour to build, and another hour to fine tune the spoke tension and get it nice and true. (It's science and art, and I take considerable satisfaction in ending up with a sweet-riding wheel when I'm done. And building my own meshes nicely with my "thrifty" approach to life.)

My wheel-building would be suspect if: 1) the wheel were in constant need of adjustment, or 2) it was the spokes that were failing. Both of those symptoms were fairly common with my first couple build-jobs.

But nowadays I ride away on the new wheel, and maybe fine-tune the truing a couple days later... then check it every 500 miles or so... and then the rim fails. (The softer alloy metal around the spoke eyelet gets fatigued and breaks. It's almost certainly caused by a 250-pound rider pounding down on it, and a succession of bumps, ruts, etc., pounding up. I try to pick the smoothest spots, and "stand up" over the bumps, but out there in Public Roadway Land, you take what you can get.)

On Monday night, I swapped my last new MA3 rim onto my riding wheel. (I have a spare built rear wheel hanging in the garage, but I hate to use the spare. The spare is currently MA3, too.) I've got a heavier-duty Mavic touring/tandem rim; it will be the next one. And hopefully this Clydesdale will get a few more miles of service. (A year would be nice...)

The late, legendary Sheldon Brown imparts wheel-building wisdom HERE.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

BULLETIN! Boise-area cyclists needed!

Wednesday June 24 at 5:30 p.m.
Please be at the Boise Depot.

Our Cycling communities [sic] best voice, Kristin Armstrong, will be filming a PSA about Cycling Safety on Idaho Roads.

She Needs as MANY Co-starring Cyclists as we can get to be there to help make the point that Cyclists are just members of the community. Carpenters, students, doctors, neighbors taxpayers, moms, kids, coaches etc. This means you. And pass this email on.

If you ride on Idaho roads we want you there.

Creating this PSA is one step in the solution to the tragedies that cycling families are dealing with. A Bike safety silent ride and Rally is being planned for July 6.

You can be there in Cycling clothes with your bike. Or you can come straight from your Job in your work clothes.

You can wear Fancy Team Spandex or Baggy Commuter Pants or anything else.

You can have a 30 year old 3 speed or the newest swanky Carbon Fiber Rig or other human powered rig

If you are a Cyclist Please We want you at the Depot at 5:45 On Wednesday June 24. Bring a friend.

Get there safely, ride responsibly, drive carefully. parking is limited park at the shops on Boise avenue and Walk up or at Vista Village and walk/ride over.

And thank CableOne for donating the production of the PSA

("Park at the shops on Boise Avenue or Vista Village"? What's with that? I know... that's the folks who are coming in from Nampa. The message originated with the Nampa Bicycle & Pedestrian Citizens Advisory Group. Which is pretty cool. I didn't know Nampa was so forward-thinking!)

I hope EVERYBODY can make it!


I met a regular "Bike Nazi commenter," Bob T, for the first time Saturday, five minutes before Kevin Pavlis' funeral procession began. We rode together the 8 miles to the cemetery, and most of the way home.

Bob enlightened me about visibility.

I've taken some steps to be visible. I never ride at night (or near night) without lights. I try to wear bright or light-colored clothing. And I've got reflective stickers on my bicycle and brain-bucket. Perhaps most significantly, I always try to be where other roadway users would expect a cyclist to be.

Bob takes it a step (or a flight?) farther!

He wears a bright orange vest with dayglo reflective stripes. He has bright lights front and rear, and uses them both day and night. And he has a big slow-moving vehicle triangle on the back.

The Boise Guardian writes more, with photos, HERE.

Pretty much everybody but Helen Keller and Stevie Wonder will see Bob a'comin'!

I've gotta get me one of those vests!

What's the down-side?

As Bob and I talked (riding side-by-side only when we could do it without impeding motor traffic, by the way), he allayed my concerns that it would be too hot on those 100-degree days. He has TWO vests - the warm-weather model (mesh) and the cool-weather model that has even more reflective material!

Some would dismiss the notion of being highly-visible. It's not in keeping with the lycra cool-factor. (Not temperature wise... image-wise.) I would liken them to the "bikers" who dress in black (hard to see) leather and a "do rag," and don't wear a helmet. For some folks, the image they project is a very important consideration. More so than safety, that's for sure!

I thank Bob for the education (by example - the best way to teach). And I pass his wisdom on to any who come this way.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fatherhood and bikes

With Father's Day just around the corner, my thoughts are turned to my deceased dad.

Dad died back in '98, after living a vibrant and productive life, including successfully raising 7 children.

Until you're a dad, I don't think you appreciate what an awesome responsibility it is. Surely it's the most important job you'll ever have. Shaping lives - that's serious business.

Dad rode a bike to work, but not every day. Once or twice a week, when it was "in season." (The ride included a somewhat-rigorous hill climb - up Shaw Mountain Road, if you're familiar - so it was more of a commitment than most people would make.)

He made sure we all had bikes, as soon as we were old enough to ride. Since I was the oldest (lucky!), mine was always new, while my siblings sometimes dealt with hand-me-downs. But not always.

I remember Dad buying an old rusty girl's "cruiser" bike with fat balloon tires, disassembling it, and painting it "Mary Kay pink" for my sister, who loved anything that was pink. You can buy a pink bike nowadays, but bikes weren't quite as "fashionable" back in the early 60s.

Dad was probably as exasperated by flat tires as I am! Frequently there were 2 or 3 bikes in the fleet, with flat tires. Dad fixed 'em. I didn't learn how 'til years later.

One of our favorite family pastimes was group bike rides.

(What happened? Try as I might, I could never get my family very interested. Too many entertainment alternatives 40 years later, I s'pose.)

We used to ride together down Shaw Mountain; we probably looked like the momma duck (Dad) with the babies in tow. Even Mom frequently went; at one point she and Dad had matching lime-green Schwinn "comfort" bikes. We'd ride gingerly down the hill to Reserve Street, then venture to the Fanci-Freez, or the College In-N-Out for softies. I remember once, we went out Boise Avenue a ways. Probably not very far - maybe to Gekeler or so. There used to be a grocery store out there. That seemed like a HUGE adventure! The "ride" back home, up the hill, separated the big kids from the babies! (Frequently there was as much walking as riding, when gravity resisted our efforts.)

Of course, as I grew older, my circle expanded, but usually solo rides or rides with my buddies. Mom would'a grounded me if she'd known some of the places we rode... out to the motorcycle shops on State Street (where Carl's Cycles still stands), to (the spankin' new) Hillcrest Plaza. (That was a LONG way for a 10- or 12-year-old kid who lived in the east end of town!)

I gave up bike riding for maybe 8 years, in my 20s. I was a poor independent bachelor, and needed the cash (probably for car payments - what a shame!), so I sold my beloved Motobecane road bike. It wasn't until I was married, and we were sharing one car between the two of us, that the bicycle-bell again started going off in my head.

I got back on "for good" in '86. My oldest daughter was not quite five. Our baby was 1. Two kids were born afterwards; they NEVER have known a dad - at least their dad - using anything but a bike for essentially all commuting and local transportation.

My four children all enjoyed bike-riding early on, but also surrendered to the car early-on. (At least so far. My oldest daughter rides a bike to work most days.) Riding a bike is work - riding in a car is easy! I s'pose their friends' dads all drive a car, Homer Simpson, Hank Hill, and that Family Guy all drive cars. Cars are pervasive. And maybe I pushed my agenda too hard - teenage kids have a tendency to dismiss Dad and Mom as clueless as to "what's happenin' now." (And then realize years later - as I do when thinking about my dad - that Dad and Mom occasionally knew what they were talking about, after all.)

Interestingly, NONE of my kids ever tried to convince me that they absolutely needed their own car, to keep their busy schedules, etc. That would've been a VERY hard sell!

Perhaps as they continue to mature, and become more independent, they will appreciate the money they can save by riding a bike. And perhaps they will also discover that riding a bike is an empowering - and fun! - mode of transportation. Well worth the effort.

Happy Father's Day to you dads! If your dad is still around, give him a squeeze. (How I wish I could squeeze MY dad again.) And for you dads who have your kids up on 2 wheels... teach 'em right, and keep up the great work!

Bicycle Commuting 101

Bill Schneider, an outdoorsman/author who lives in Helena, MT, and writes on the NewWest website, has written some good advice for anybody who's thinking about bikes-as-transportation.

"Practical Tips for Making Bicycle Commuting Safer and Easier."

See it HERE.

If you have somebody you care about, who's thinking about abandoning the ranks of losers and joining us winners (nudge-nudge, wink-wink), you might share it.

(Bill writes about a wide variety of outdoor-oriented topics. He's opinionated... as am I. Our opinions diverge from time to time, but he really understands riding a bike on the road.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dumb comment for 6/18

The Idaho Statesman website has had an ongoing series of articles regarding bicycles, as a result of the recent cyclist fatalities. And readers can post their opinions and observations. The rules implore people to stay on topic and to keep it civil, but those rules are frequently either misunderstood or ignored.

Sometimes I start reading the postings. I wish there were some way to filter out all those that are totally off-topic, and the back-and-forth name-calling, etc. (Some people are still in elementary recess school-yard mode!)

Other opinions are very well-thought-out. And in the case of the "bike controversy," some of the "anti-bike" comments make me squirm a little, because people bring up good points about why they're frustrated by bicyclists.

Some of the comments are just plain ignorant. And some are absolutely mind-bendingly ignorant, and I feel they deserve some special recognition.

The undisputed winner for today comes from a poster named Storm180, and goes like this:

I can see a lot of people here in Boise are cyclist and a lot of them are idiots also. I see them always riding side by side on hill, 8th street, bogus, camelbacks, etc. This is dangerous, you want to talk to your friend get a voice activated 2 way radio and talk to him while riding. Don't impede traffic. I especially dislike the morons that ride bogus basin every single one of these idiots think that they own the road, well guess what you don't. You idiots wearing your spandex and colorful jerseys need to respect the other vehicles of the road plain and simple. My method works really well, if they are bigger than you they go first, they have the right away. It has kept me alive even when riding a bike. Also take the damn ear buds out you ear so you can hear the cars or horn beeps.

Most of it is just fairly typical rant. (Stuff that you can't take too seriously, that might've been cut-n-pasted from 50 other comments. You hope ol' Storm is just blowin' off some steam.) But that part about determining who has right-of-way ("right away" - hahahahaha!) based on who's bigger... interesting!

I'm curious... what's the method of measurement? Would it be vehicle dimensions (length x width x height)? Or GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating)? Would a fully-loaded dump truck get the right of way over an empty one?

Do you s'pose Storm drives a Geo Metro? Not likely, huh?

Maybe at registration time, each vehicle should get a "big score" from 1-9, that's posted prominently on the front and back. Bikes are ZERO, of course! Geo Metro, 1. Camry, maybe 3. F150 pickup, 5. F250, 6, F350, 7, etc. If you've got extra chrome and a gun rack, maybe you should get one bonus point. And of course at every intersection, lane change, etc., you have to carefully scan the horizon for vehicles with a higher score than yours, and the highest number goes first.

Interrupting my dance

See if you can identify with this.

At its very best, riding with motor-vehicle traffic is like choreography as I blend beautifully with the motorists. I'm a regular Fred Astaire on 2 wheels!

I'm not surprising anybody, and nobody's surprising me.

If I'm riding defensively, I'm aware of my surroundings - all 360 degrees - and of any potential hazards that I may be getting closer to. Obviously, I deal with the most-nearby stuff primarily, while maintaining that longer-distance awareness.

I do not like to be suddenly surprised! But if I see a car approaching from the side, or even the other direction, who will be legally required to stop or yield, defensive riding dictates that I must assume the car might go blasting on through. My trajectory must not be in its path at the critical time.

Even more critically, I do not like to suprise motorists! (At least those who are paying attention. Some are surprised by anything outside of their phone conversation or that Starbucks double-latte they're juggling.)

I adjust my speed so that I can keep rolling wherever and whenever possible. (People who haven't ridden a bike in years have perhaps forgotten... it takes a lot more energy to accelerate, than to maintain speed. If they remembered, they wouldn't gripe so much about Idaho's awesome bike-stop-sign law!)

If the folks I'm sharing the road with would only do the predictable thing, every time, my ride would be pure graceful bliss.

Unfortunately, one price I pay on account of the high number of irresponsible clumsy doofuses-on-bikes is... some concerned motorists treat me like one of those doofuses!

For example... I'll be approaching a 4-way stop. A car is approaching from the side. I slow down, so that the car can stop, and then proceed, before I arrive at the intersection. The choreography calls for me to roll on through, when the car is finished at the intersection. But the concerned motorist, not knowing my intentions (expecting me to "blow through" that stop sign), comes to a complete stop, and then waits to see what I'm going to do, before proceeding. At that point, I must stop... because it's a 4-way stop and I don't know what the motorist is going to do, either.

Dance interrupted! Momentum lost!

At that point, the motorist sometimes waves me on through. Very polite, but it doesn't really matter much.

Just do the predictable thing!

(And if one of those irresponsible clumsy bike-doofuses reads this and recognizes himself - unlikely - you be a little more predictable too, huh?)

A side note: I occasionally put the earplugs in, so I can enjoy some righteous tunes while I'm riding. But it always makes me very uncomfortable, at least in urban traffic settings. My sense of hearing is just one more valuable tool that I can use for that 360-degree awareness, and I don't like to surrender it. And I feel a sense of dismay at the large number of cyclists these days who feel they don't need to hear their surroundings. (Of course, in most instances, they're also the "doofuses.")

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More bike laws needed?

There is a movement afoot in Idaho to adopt a "three foot law" on behalf of cyclists. (In essence, the cyclist gets a 3-foot force field - the safety-zone that motorists can't encroach upon, when passing, etc.) Currently, the law states that it has to be a "reasonable" distance... but apparently some people's "reasonable" isn't very reasonable to others, particularly the cyclists who are out there being put in harm's way.

I could support that legislation, I s'pose. There are similar laws in numerous other states, including recently in Utah.

BUT... when current laws-on-the-books aren't being enforced, it makes me wonder if there's value in putting yet another law on the books.

Here's another interesting legal development...

Columbia, Missouri, just passed a law that prohibits "verbal and physical harassment by aggressive motorists." Story HERE.

Frankly, it's hard to believe that we need a specific law that says you can't throw stuff at cyclists. (Wouldn't that be assault and/or battery?) But maybe that's where we're headed.

I don't know if I'm just lucky... but since 1986 I believe I've had stuff thrown at me two times (and nothing "dangerous" ever). I get honked at, I'd say, 3 or 4 times a year, almost always by little blue-haired ladies or punks... both groups have marginal driving skills, so maybe it's a good thing that they honk. (Maybe if you're always getting stuff thrown at you, or are getting screamed at or honked at regularly... you should take a look at your bike-riding techniques. Just sayin'...)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Law Enforcement Needed

We've had three fatal bike accidents here in Boise this summer. Tragic for the families and friends of the deceased. And very unsettling for us cyclists who got left behind.

All three accidents are still reportedly "under investigation" by the Prosecutor's Office.

While their delibration is probably well-founded and beyond the ability of us common folk to understand, two of the accidents seem like open-and-shut cases. (One, an intersection accident in late afternoon when sunlight could've been a factor, isn't so clear. It has not been reported who had the green light.)

It would be a GOOD thing if the folks in the prosecutor's office heard from citizen/cyclists who expect to be represented. The email address is adacountyprosecutor@adaweb.net

(If you're experiencing "writer's block," below is the letter I just sent. Maybe it'll give you some ideas.)


Dear Prosecutor's Office:

I'm going on 23 years as a transportation/recreational cyclist here in Ada County. I've ridden pretty steadily since 1986, averaging around 5500-6000 miles and 350 riding days each year. (I haven't driven a car to work, here in Boise, since 1997.)

As you can probably understand, I'm suddenly more concerned about my safety on our streets!

Does a cyclist who's riding legally, visibly, predictably and defensively have a reasonable expectation of being able to arrive safely at his destination?

Several times a week I take evasive measures to avoid colliding with motorists. In most cases, it's people who are operating their vehicles either illegally or inattentively. The stakes are high for me to avoid accidents, no matter who might be to blame.

Unless you don't use our roadways, you are surely aware that there are a substantial number of motorists out there whose primary attention isn't safe vehicle operation. They're talking on their phones, or worrying about the traffic or that they're late, or yelling at the kids in the back seat, or fiddling with their iPods or radios... or just plain have their head in the clouds. I've nearly been run into by people who I swear are looking directly at me - but they seem to not see me! (Despite my being exactly where I should be, and dressed in bright-colored gear.)

Apparently the three recent bicycle fatalities are still "under investigation."

Based on what I've read, the Gowen Road one appears to clearly be the fault of the motorist. (Rear-end collision.) As does the one on Hill Road. (Crossing into the path of an oncoming vehicle.) Why a protracted investigation into those two? (The accident at Emerald / Milwaukee would be equally clear, if witnesses can ascertain who had the green light.)

Now, PLEASE don't get me wrong. I see irresponsible and illegal cyclists every day, too. Some of them are obviously VERY lucky, because they sure aren't operating safely! And they are rarely if ever prosecuted, unless an accident is involved. (Which leads to considerable motorist frustration and resentment.)

The police are dropping the ball on enforcing bicycle laws. I've complained to them numerous times. Their response is always, "Bike violations are not a priority for the department." (At least they're consistent.)

I am expecting you to do your civic duty and hold irresponsible motor vehicle operators accountable! You have the opportunity to send a loud-and-clear message to motorists. It will be either:
1) If you kill a cyclist while driving, and it's your fault, you WILL be held accountable. -or-
2) Hey - accidents happen. Bikers are "asking for it" if they get out on OUR streets! Streets are for cars!

PLEASE do the right thing!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New southeast-of-town loop

Boise-area riders might be interested in a recently completed stretch of roadway - it made my day when I happened across it.

Gowen Road is a favorite loop, due to its proximity and general bike friendliness. (I say that despite the fact that our brother Jim Chu was recently killed on that road.) I occasionally will take a detour out Eisenmann Road (the road that fronts the Factory Outlet Mall), or Federal Way (Micron).

But always before I've had to do a U-turn and retrace my path, back to Gowen.

Well, my friends, as of quite recently, Eisenmann has been extended on out another half-mile or so, and finally hooks up with the I-84 interchange out there. (There's a huge new Winco warehouse a couple hundred yards west of Eisenmann, too.) So - you can ride out Gowen, turn south on Eisenmann and take it to the end, cross over I-84, and come back in on Federal Way.

From my house (near Kootenai/Roosevelt), it made for about a 20-mile loop. And conditions were perfect for a nice ride out that way today - overcast and cool.

[I post this information with confidence that my suggestion won't be life-changing for the cyclists who don't venture out of the north end, Hill Road, or the Greenbelt. Gowen and Eisenmann are no place for posers!]

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another Boise bike fatality

It's depressing... and a little unsettling.

Another cyclist was taken out by a motorist last night. All indications are that it was the motorist's fault, and that Kevin, the cyclist, was doing everything right.

I posted some thoughts - mostly about the Statesman's story and the reader comments - on the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance forum; HERE.

Bad drivers, dangerous roads

This less-than-comforting info was in a motorcycle magazine I subscribe to:

A recent poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research found that 54 percent of respondents felt driving is less safe today than it was five years ago, and more than half of them think they're more likely to be involved in a motor-vehicle accident. Many of them cited the behavior of other motorists as the cause for that belief, as well as their own poor driving habits.

[American Rider, August 2009 issue, P. 16]

"Yeah... I have poor driving habits, and I'm likely to be in an accident because of it."

Is that a good attitude to take, as you get behind the wheel of your 3500-pound cruise missile?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Water's risin'

In these parts, the Boise River typically runs high this time of year, as they try to make room for the spring snowmelt in the reservoirs upstream. And of course, the Greenbelt runs alongside the River... which is currently lappin' at the edges in places, and even spilling over.

On Sunday, I pulled my granddaughter under the Broadway bridge, boldly entering forbidden territory. (There was a "closed" sign at each end. I rode down to where the water crossed the path. There was a pretty good crowd, and it looked pretty obvious that the water wasn't more than maybe 3 inches deep... so we forged ahead slowly and deliberately. Mackie was impressed! Of couse, she loves jumping into mud puddles, too!)

Today in Garden City, I got the free bike-shoe and sock wash, as I rode through another submerged stretch. The water was a result of "splash" - it looked to be about ankle deep, and I thought it would be best if I didn't pedal. (Don't want that water in my pedal bearings if I can help it.) So I went through with enough momentum to take me to the other side. Worked out great.

(Obviously I'm very familiar with the places I'm venturing - if I didn't have a notion of how deep it was, I wouldn't forge ahead. I can swim, but don't want to swim in 45-degree water while trying to rescue a bike that can't swim!)

In a week, everything will most likely be back to normal.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Down-pressers hassle bike riding activist rooster

The City of Miami Beach, Florida, is trying to evict Mr. Clucky.

Mr. Clucky is a rooster that rides around town on the handlebars of Mark Buckley's bicycle.

That's not the only thing that makes Mr. Clucky unique among roosters - he's also quite the activist. He was voted "Activist of the Year" in 2008, after participating in the "Walk for the Farm Animals," Critical Mass, EarthSave, the KFC Chicken Protest, and serving as Grand Marshal in the King Mango Strut parade. (Wow! Busy rooster!)

Unfortunately, Mr. Clucky is similar to other roosters in his propensity to start crowing at 6am, so Miami Beach is trying to run him out of town using the "keeping a farm animal" ordinance.

News story HERE.

Mr. Clucky's website HERE.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Teaching Bike Safety - Who?

One of my ongoing gripes is that there is absolutely NO widespread availability of education for road-going bike riders. And unfortunately, some never get educated about what's proper and improper; or worse yet, they get bad information.

(Somebody has probably told all those wrong-way doofuses that, like pedestrians, they're somehow safer if they're riding towards oncoming traffic. You'd think that their on-street experience would quickly make them realize how many additional hazards they expose themselves and other roadway users to. If you're not observant enough to recognize it... maybe you don't belong on public roadways.)

But... who should take the lead in an education effort?

Supposedly everybody who possesses a driver's license has taken both a written test and a driving test. (Which would suggest competence. However we've all observed that while some licensed drivers are extremely competent, others really have no business on the road, licensed or not. Humorist Dave Barry observes that "We all share one thing in common - we think we are better-than-average drivers.")

Since you don't need a bicycle operator's license, there is no equivalent written or practical test. Thus you lose a bit of incentive to learn safe cycling skills.

Also - and I believe this is significant - since the police rarely enforce bicycle laws unless an accident is involved, there is also not the incentive to ride legally and safely to avoid getting a traffic ticket. (The police are totally responsible for that situation; I sincerely wish they'd prioritize bike traffic at the same level as motor traffic. If tickets were regularly handed out to cyclists who break the law, I can almost guarantee more compliance would follow, and subsequently fewer bike-involved accidents.)

What would my suggestion be?

I would like to see the police teach a 2-hour OUTSIDE bike safety course, maybe starting in 4th or 5th grade, and every year up through high school. Geared to the level of the students. They could do it in the autumn while the weather is still beautiful, and resume in the spring. Outside - where safety practices could be demonstrated and perhaps even rehearsed - would be much more effective than a "theory lecture" in a gym or classroom.

Portland is doing something different - the Portland Water Bureau is sponsoring a "Bike/Truck Safety Event" on Saturday, June 6th. (Info HERE.) The event is intended to "spotlight safety concerns of bicycles and large trucks sharing the road." The Bicycle Transportation Alliance is helping; evidently they did one last September that was quite successful.

(Hmmm... who woulda thunk that the Water Bureau could teach bike safety? That seems unlikely, but also demonstrates some "out of the box" thinking. I like it!)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Living in Luxury

Luxury: a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort; sumptuous environment; something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary; an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease.

What do you consider a luxury?

For some, it's a waterfront mansion in the Hamptons, a yacht, a vacation bungalow in the Bahamas, and a private jet to get there comfortably.

Maybe a ski vacation at Sun Valley. Or Switzerland.

For probably 90% of the world's population, having readily-available clean and safe water would be a luxury.

In other words, "luxury" is largely dependent on a person's current environment and status.

"Luxury" might be a Mercedes-Benz or Escalade or Lexus. (Especially if it's somebody else behind the wheel!)

For me, it's luxurious to be able to pass every gas station. To be able to ride along the banks of the Boise River every single day, on my way home from work. (Pleasure... satisfaction...)

My front brake failed unexpectedly over the weekend. I thought how satisfying and easy (characteristics of "luxury") it was, to be able to fix it with a $2 replacement cable, in ten minutes.

Yep - my bicycle transportation provides me with luxury that few people will ever realize. (And enables me to leave a meaningful amount of money in the bank, for other indulgences or necessities.)

May riding report

I accumulated 602 miles, riding on 31 days during May.

Probably 100+ of those miles were with the BOB trailer in tow, so I could haul cargo of various sorts - everything from tomato pony packs, to an assortment of shovels and rakes for a landscaping project, to a couple bags of junky tools from Harbor Freight Tools. (I've got a weakness for their sales. I buy stuff there that I know won't last, or that will never get heavy use... the stuff that I'll probably only use 10 times over the rest of my life.) Of course, my favorite "Bob cargo" continues to be my marvelous granddaughter, Mackenzie. I'd guess she went 50+ miles with me in May - mostly trips up and down the Boise River, to various parks and playgrounds, and as a participant in the "Pedal Power Parade."