Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ever-friendlier streets?

Boise-area residents are probably aware that the annual chip-seal ritual is once again underway. Every 9 years, ACHD puts a new coat of chipseal on 1/9 of the roads that they maintain. They say it's the cheapest way to keep the roads in good condition.

Cyclists don't care for the chipseal. But taxpaying cyclists can deal with it.

The chipseal surface increases both friction/resistance and noise, compared with the much more expensive glass-smooth asphalt.

This year, the ACHD news release states, "This time around those roads will get a smaller, one-fourth inch chip which will make the streets noticeably smoother." Indeed, I have noticed the smaller chips, and they are an improvement.

The release also states, "This year the ACHD Traffic Department will look for locations where the lines can be repainted so there is more room for bicycles on the shoulder." Ya gotta like that - good for everybody. (Some "purist" vehicular cyclists like to share a lane. Personally, I don't mind sharing a lane, but I'll always appreciate and use a delineated space, when it's available.)

The local news is also reporting new bike-friendly traffic cameras, designed to detect the smaller profile of a cyclist and trip the light at intersections.

Are they an improvement?

The jury is still out. I've not been awestruck yet. And correspondent Bob T reports, "as of last week the camera was still not detecting me. I ride a few loops across several lanes until the signal changes (I know that the law allows me to go, but I would rather get the green light if possible)."

I've always found the ACHD responsive to cyclist complaints and concerns. If you're having problems on the roads, let them know! The email address is .

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Greenbelt scare

I was headed home this afternoon at about 5:30. On the Greenbelt - right where the Firefighter Memorial is - I happened across the aftermath of some kind of mishap.

A lady was lying face-down, diagonally, across the asphalt.

She was already surrounded by concerned folks, so I didn't think I could contrubute much. And since it's adjacent to the firefighter training facility, and a fire truck was just getting ready to pull out, I expected that she had the best possible care nearby.

I didn't see anything on the evening news. Hopefully she just had the wind knocked out of her.

Friday, June 18, 2010


... That's the size of the socket I use, to remove and reinstall the training wheels on Mackie's bike. I've got it down - like a pit-stop!

I got her the bike for five bucks on the Craigslist last March. And that's when the photo was taken. I invested a bit of labor in cleaning it up, greasing the bearings, and I bought $15 worth of new rubber. The previous owner had worn the old tires down to the cord. (Good for her!) We also upgraded her helmet, to a pretty pink-and-green one that she really likes to wear.

Mackie still does a lot of riding with the training wheels, but 'most every session, I take 'em off and we practice the 2-wheelin'.

Early on, she insisted, "I can't do it!" And each time she got a little wobbly, she'd say "See? See?!" as if to reinforce the notion that she can't do it. But that's changed... now I'm barely involved other than walking alongside. And she giggles like a three-year-old! (Can anything be more satisfying to a tired old grandpa?)

I suspect that around Independence Day, the training wheels will come off, and stay off.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Third-rate domestic terrorism

There was a weird story in the local news this week. Police nabbed 74-year-old Joy Cassidy after she dumped mayonnaise into a library book drop. They believe she's the culprit in a string of similar vandalism events going back several months, and causing several thousand dollars' worth of property damage.

What would motivate such behavior?

I'm guessing she probably had a bone to pick with the library over lost books, or an unpaid fine. I'm grasping here... if it was just a random act of destructiveness, it might fit if it were a bored, trouble-prone punk kid... but a 74-year-old woman? One of the news stories mentioned that she flies a "Don't tread on me!" flag at her place. Which is ironic in a sad way, since the taxpayers are the ones who end up paying for her condiment spree. (Past incidents have been perpetrated with ketchup, corn syrup and hotcake syrup. Yuck!)

Halfway across town...

This morning my friend Greg was riding his bicycle in to work. Greg lives in Emmett, but regularly drives about halfway and then hops on his sweet bike for the rest of the trip.

He was on Hill Road near the soccer fields (between "Old 55" and Dry Creek) when he suddenly heard a distinctive "crunch - crunch - crunch" sound and felt stuff being flung up into his face. His tires immediately lost air, bringing him to a quick halt. He thought maybe he had ridden over smashed glass, which is frequently left behind by unthinking Neanderthals. But no - he had ridden over a big patch of goathead thorns, obviously scattered in a deliberate fashion in the bike lane.

What would motivate such behavior?

Most likely a disgruntled motorist ended up stuck behind a slower-moving cyclist, or more likely beind some two- or three-abreast cyclists. (One cyclist would've been using the designated bike lane, one would think.)

Greg limped on in to the office - walking part way and getting a ride from a sympathetic fellow cyclist (in his pickup truck). Upon closer inspection, each tire has at least 30 thorns, still sticking out. A couple new tubes and some elbow-grease will resolve the immediate problem. Somebody will have to sweep the goatheads - there are likely other victims besides Greg.

So - did Joy Cassidy extract some sweet revenge? Did the scatterer of the goatheads get some righteous payback?

Both of these incidents expose the dark side of human nature. And both are totally senseless, in that those who suffer are almost certainly not the ones who provoked the irrational rage.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bicycling hazard in Anchorage

Sean Berkey was riding across town to work when he was attacked by a female brown bear. Story HERE.

My understanding is that the difference between a brown bear and a grizzly bear is just a matter of scale. The experts believe this was a mama bear with her cub. Berkey tried to put his bike between himself and the bear - sounds pretty instinctive - but the bear was not dissuaded. She slapped him around a little, and it sounds like she bit him on the leg. Then HE PLAYED DEAD. Apparently that's the best course of action unless you can really ride fast!! The bear lost interest and left.

The fish & game people wanted to close the area where the attack occurred. The city just put up warning signs, encouraging folks to proceed with caution.

Yeah... that would add some excitement to the morning commute, huh?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Intersection Interaction

There's a letter on the Idaho Statesman website today, that got my interest.

Polite drivers might get cyclists killed

Bicycles are subject to all the rules and privileges of the road, just like cars. As a biker, sometimes drivers try giving me undeserved right of way. That needs to stop.

Often, bikers will be at a stop sign, and cross-traffic will randomly stop and wave them on. However, the well-intentioned driver doesn't mind the car behind him or her that isn't stopping. Accepting that courtesy would then end in disaster, as the biker rides out into moving traffic.

It's irresponsible to wave someone on in front of you if you can't be 100 percent certain that every single other driver is also stopping. The only person who can best be sure that the way is safe is the one who bears the risk of being hit, not you.

Also, the time it takes for the driver to stop, for me to realize he or she is stopping for me, and for me to double-check for not-stopping traffic is actually greater than if the driver had just gone through the intersection without interruption and I had gone normally. It's a nice thought, but it's ridiculous.

Don't give me right of way that isn't mine. It's illegal, confusing, and it will get people killed.


Mr. Roemer makes a good point, and I agree. In fact, the topic has arisen before on this blog.

I've seen the same thing - the occasional well-meaning motorist who has the right of way, but waves me through.

Although the kind gesture is appreciated, it is rarely helpful. A transportation cyclist anticipates side-traffic at the next intersection and times his approach carefully, to mesh as smoothly as possible. If I have a stop sign up ahead, I'll speed up or slow down so as not to arrive at the intersection at the same time as cross traffic. If the guy coming from the side slows down even though he has the right of way, it puts the entire ballet in jeopardy!

I'm sure part of the reason is, these nice motorists deal with clueless bicyclists on the roads (since bike laws aren't enforced in this town and there's no formal education), and want to give us every advantage to survive.

But - as Daniel's letter said (previous blog entry), "You can rest assured that I'm paying far more attention on the road than you are — that's how I survive daily, year-round cycling." As for the clueless cyclists, it could be that they've developed an "entitlement mentality." They've come to expect motorists to compensate for their incompetence. Bad situation for everybody! Sometimes I wonder if we'd be better off if the herd were thinned a little.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lonely at the top

When I went out for my afternoon bicycle constitutional yesterday, it was raining. So, for a change of pace, I decided to do a quick ride to the top of the parking garage and back down.


The garage has 7 or 8 levels of parking, I believe. It's about a 1.5 mile round trip to the top and back. (Bikes are "officially" banned in the structure - I'm sure it's a liability and accident-prevention issue. So I've been very careful on the couple of occasions when I've done the loop.)

It's a private garage - parking by permit only. The top 2 levels are closed off, most likely because the lower levels cover the current clientele.

I believe there are 650 stalls - that's a LOT of cars! Of course, consider this - one corner of the ground floor is the dedicated "bike room." In the space that would otherwise be occupied by 5 car parking spaces, there's room for almost 50 bicycles!

Oh - the rain cleared up a bit, before I got back to ground level. So I did a nice little ride in the nearby north end, as well. Even a short ride gives me some very meaningful stress relief.


I recently saw a story on the TV news about a new bike-recreation pursuit that originated right here in Boise. It's called Velocaching. (Whenever I hear the word "bicycle" on TV, I arouse myself out of my TV-zombie stupor and try to pay attention.)

When I heard velocaching, I assumed GPS receivers must be involved, like Geocaching.

Not so.

It seems to involve paying attention to the details of your surroundings... and riding a bike (Optional? I didn't understand how a bike is an essential part of the game).

The person stashing the cache takes some photos of the cache location, and posts 'em on the website. Then the cache-hunter uses those photos, and his/her photographic memory of local geography, to home in on the stash. The find is reported on the website... and of course, as in Geocaching, the finder is expected to reload the cache, I believe.

Is there no end to the fun people can have on bikes?!!?

The most amusing part of the TV story, for me? The reporters seemed absolutely astounded that these crazy bike people play the game year-round! Imagine! Riding a bike when the weather is less than perfect! Apparently like many folks, they believe the old myth that cyclists turn into gumdrops if exposed to a sprinkle of water... like the Wicked Witch of the West. ["Wizard of Oz" reference... I watched it recently with my granddaughter.]

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Driving while fingernail-painting

On Sunday afternoon, May 2, 2009, Anita Zaffke, 56, was on her motorcycle waiting for the light to turn green. From all indications, she was extremely conscientious about safely operating her bike, including wearing hi-viz clothing.

She never knew what hit her, most likely.

It was an automobile being driven by Lora L. Hunt. Although I use the term "driven" loosely. The car never even slowed down. After the accident, Ms. Hunt told attending officers that she had been painting her fingernails at the time of the accident. Nail polish was on the airbag, and all over the inside of the car.

Anita Zaffke's son Greg paints his fingernails black in memory of his mom. He has also formed the Black Nail Brigade, the "Foundation Against Distracted Driving."

Hunt was convicted of criminally reckless homicide on May 6, 2010.

I find this troubling...

Her defense attorney says that if she'd been eating a sandwich or dialing a cell phone instead of polishing her nails, she wouldn't have been convicted.

And the prosecutor said, "It is not the same as biting a sandwich - it's a voluntary disablement. She might as well have been in the back seat making a sandwich."

To me, his comment implies that if you kill somebody with your car while eating a sandwich, it's somehow forgivable.

I can hear it now! "Citizens of the jury! My client didn't intend to kill anybody when she was texting behind the wheel... it was just a tragic accident."

People! That car is a missile - a lethal weapon! Anything you do while driving it, that distracts you from safely operating that vehicle, is your responsibility! And the driver should be held accountable! I don't care if it's eating, or putting on makeup, or texting or phoning, or adjusting your defrost, or being distracted by kids in the back seat. There is no excuse for your car being uncontrolled while you are distracted. If you can't deal with that, get out and walk!

As the victim's son says, "There is no legal difference between unintentional recklessness and intentional recklessness to establish the charge of Reckless Homicide ... No one is saying that Lora Hunt intended to kill Anita Zaffke, nor that she intended to kill anyone, nor even that she intended to be reckless. But no one can deny that Lora Hunt was recklessly oblivious of another human being."

Monday, June 7, 2010

BOB Trailer Irony

I dragged the BOB trailer to the office with me today.

It's empty now, but on the way home I'll stop at the motorsickle shop. My front forks have been in for repairs, but they're good to go.

I imagine I'm their only customer who routinely drops off and picks up using a bicycle and trailer.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Tale of Two Tires

"It was the best of tires, and the worst of tires."

"Good tires, bad tires - you know I've had my share..."

Wow! The creative juices really seem to be flowing! ... NOT! (Sorry!)

On March 12, I installed my "summer" tires. And since I'm always searching for the most economical rubber, I tried a couple different, and new, models.

On the back, I installed a Vittoria Randonneur, with "double shielding." It's a mid-to-high priced tire, at $27 or so. (That's at the HIGH end of my purchasing history.)

On the front, I installed a Michelin Dynamic. At $13 or so, it was at the lower end of the tire price range.

The Michelin lasted 1474 miles - that's BAD! I bought 3 of 'em - I won't buy more after those 3 are used up. (Typically one front tire will last me the entire "summer season," and 3 times that many miles.)

It failed due to what appears to be "carcass failure." It deformed to the point where there's a lump that goes thump-thump-thump as I roll. That's happened to me before, occasionally, with low-end tires from Continental and Hutchinson.

Here's what it looked like, a couple miles before I retired it:

On the other hand, the Vittoria on the back is going strong. It looks like it could easily go for another 1000 miles. (On the back, my "summer" tires tend to last about 1500 miles at the low end, and about twice that many at the high end.)

Oh - I had 3 flat tires on the front, since March. I've not had a single flat on the back! That double shielding stuff seems to work!

The Vittoria could go onto my "favorites" list. Possibly my all-time favorites have been the Continental "Top Touring" model - no longer made. And I had good luck with a pair of Specialized Armadillo models... but they're pretty spendy.

(At some point, when I have the nerve, I still intend to try some of the Schwalbe Marathon tires that several readers/correspondents have spoken highly of. But I'll need to fortify myself to buy a $45 bicycle tire! Ouch!!)

Five-star cars; one-star drivers

One of the selling points of cars is their crash-worthiness.

As of 2010, car occupants are strapped in securely, and surrounded by engineered "crumple zones" and airbags.

(It wasn't always that way. When I was a kid, seat belts were essentially uneard of. Jay Leno once described a 50s-era Buick: "The metal knobs stick out at you like Bowie knives. If you crash it, just hose off the dashboard and sell it to somebody else.")

All of this is a little disconcerting to the transportation cyclist, who is aboard a ZERO-STAR crash-worthy vehicle! On a bike, the only way to avoid injury, or worse, is to avoid the accident! And it's troubling to share the road with folks who are driving vehicles that were chosen specifically to allow them to survive the accidents they will be getting involved in.

At the same time, there is essentially no ongoing skill test to get a driver's license. Maybe it's different in other places, but once you have a driver's license in Idaho, all you have to do is pay your renewal money and pass the eye exam, and you're good to go. (I believe once you reach a certain old-age threshold, you need to prove your abilities.)

There also seems to be little incentive to be a good driver. You don't need to prove you know or understand traffic laws. And even if you get your license suspended... there are plenty of folks out there driving without a license. The situation seems to be generally tolerated by society.

Idaho's drivers are some of the better ones - #8, down from #1 - at passing the GMAC "written test." Take that, New York and New Jersey! Of course, knowing the answers is different from adhering to them. There seems to be a prevailing attitude that "Traffic laws are for the common people... my superior skills entitle me to treat them as merely suggestions."

This photo is the aftermath of a crash that was caused by a text-messaging kid. He was driving the smaller vehicle and sustained serious injuries. If his brain still functions, perhaps it's wondering how such a skilled motorist could've had such misfortune. Story HERE.