Thursday, September 30, 2010

Endless Summer

We are having a fantastic late summer!

This evening, Mackie and I took advantage of the warm day to go on a toad hunt. (Actually we found toads a couple weeks back; we returned to gather a couple for a "sleepover." We'll take 'em back home after a couple days.)

We also rode through Julia Davis Park, because Mackie has been hankerin' to sit on Abe's lap. This is an awesome bronze statue; it was designed by Gutzon Borglum.

Have you heard of Gutzon? He's an Idaho boy - was born in St. Charles, down Bear Lake way.

Still haven't heard of him?

Okay... Mount Rushmore? He's the Mount Rushmore guy. (NOT Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, or Roosevelt!)

Personal milestones

September '10 was my fifth consecutive 600+ mile month. Not too bad for an old fat guy. Roughly half of those are "transportation" miles; the rest are exercise/recreation miles.

Just out of curiosity, I've decided to keep track of my "car" miles for awhile. I rode in a car 7 times total in September. Two trips driving to fetch firewood, 2 trips as driver with passengers, 3 trips as a passenger with somebody else.

This month also marks the 13th anniversary of not driving a car to work - even once. (In those 13 years, I have ridden my motorcycle to work, although not for many years. And the bus on occasion. Also as a matter of clarification - September 1997 was not when I took up bike transportation; I've ridden at least 90% of my commute trips since 1986.)

In September 2004, I arrived at 100,000 miles. At the time the notion of riding 200K miles seemed remote. Now I'm closing in on 136,000 miles... there might be some distant light at the end of that 200,000 mile tunnel. We'll see...

Intersection treatment

Seattle has started installing "bike boxes" at some downtown intersections. Portland has some; I've commented about them before HERE.

According to a news article, "the box allows bike riders to move ahead during a red light and sit at the front of the line of cars. When the light turns green, the bicyclists get to pedal ahead of the traffic." Motorists are not allowed to turn right on a red light.

This intersection treatment seems to be the polar opposite of what they do in these parts, where the bike lane stripe goes from solid to "dashed," indicating that motorists can slide over into the bike lane, and cyclists into the motor-vehicle lane, as seems fit. (I recently commented on an encounter I had with law enforcement, following confusion about motor vehicle use of bike lanes... confusion caused by the dashed line.)

Perhaps if I got a chance to put "bike boxes" to use, I'd become a believer. But on the surface, I have problems with lining up cyclists in front of cars at the intersection. It might reduce the number of "right hook" collisions, but I can also totally appreciate how motorists could feel resentment toward cyclists who slow them down when the light turns green. Way down deep, I continue to believe that as a general rule, cyclists fare best when they are treated the same way as drivers of motor vehicles. The bike boxes are one more attempt to "have our cake and eat it too," or a subtle implication that cyclists aren't smart enough to negotiate an intersection without special treatment.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Broncos on Bikes!

Boise State University, known the world over (?) for the shimmering blue football field, is becoming more bike friendly.

Check it out:

At last Saturday's Broncos vs. (OSU) Beavers game, free valet bicycle parking was provided at a bike corral, just steps from the stadium entrance.

The news release says, "The popularity of the Bike Corral far exceeded expectations and Transportation and Parking Services looks forward to providing and even expanding this service during upcoming home football games and future large campus events."

I love it! (For the record, the last time I had football tickets at BSU, I rode my bike to every game. Chained my bike to the stadium fence. Enjoyed quiet greenbelt riding, to and from the stadium gate.)

Besides the special event parking, tomorrow (Sept. 30) a new permanent "Bike Barn" opens in one of the on-campus parking garages, with 65 controlled-access bike parking spaces. It costs $15 per semester. Compare that with the cost of parking a car in the garage - Employees $158/year, Students $106/year. (Those are "general" rates - reserved are a lot more.)

Of course, free parking is available in racks all over campus... and those racks are likely closer to the destination. The upside of the Bike Barn is - bikes are out of the weather, and obviously less likely to draw the attention of vandals or bike thieves.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Clancy's north Idaho bike vacation

I consider Clancy to be a faithful friend, correspondent, and all-around bike nut. (In the very best sense!)

He and his brother recently rode the Coeur d'Alene Trail - a 70-plus mile former rail line that's been replaced with glass-smooth asphalt. It winds through forests, along lakes and rivers, almost from the Washington border to the Montana border.

Clancy's nicely detailed write-up, with lots of compelling photos, can be seen HERE.

I've commented before, HERE. For several years, I've dreamed of experiencing this trail over a 2 or 3-day period, with side trips to see little snips of Idaho history. Next summer, I'm going... even if I have to do it alone. (I work with some Venturer youths, and I try to interest them. And they are interested in the experience. But when I tell 'em they can't just hop on a bike one day and ride 40 or 50 miles without some training, suddenly other options become more attractive than training.)

More information about the Coeur d'Alene Trail, Route of the Hiawatha, etc., can be found HERE.

Forget Moab! (Or better yet, leave Moab to the unwashed masses. And North Idaho can be the "secret fishin' hole" for people who ride bikes instead of catchin' fish.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Autumn wonderment

Every year, it surprises me.

It's almost as though after Labor Day the bikes get put away along with the fashionable summer attire. The bike storage room goes half-empty or more, even though this is absolutely and consistently the nicest time of the whole year to be cycling in the Boise area. (Lots of sunshine, lows in the 50s, highs in the 70s.)

More room on the infrastructure for those of us who know better, I guess.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Distracted Driving Summit '10

On September 21, a National Distracted Driving Summit was held in Washington, DC, chaired by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Is distracted driving a problem?

According to the NHTSA, almost 20% of all crashes involve some type of distraction. Nearly 6000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver (2008), and more than half a million were injured.

The federal Distracted Driving Website categorizes distracted driving as one of more of:
Visual - taking your eyes off the road
Manual - taking your hands off the wheel
Cognitive - talking your mind off what you are doing

Any one of the three can have fatal consequences. And unfortunately and unfairly, it's not always the distracted driver who ends up with the consequences. Far too often, victims of distracted drivers were doing everything right... they were just in the wrong place and time, when a distracted driver victimized them.

The parents of Kassy Kerfoot, who live in Meridian, testified at the Summit.

Their daughter was 18 when she died. She was texting while driving, and swerved into the oncoming lanes, colliding with 2 other vehicles. Her parents are convinced that a law banning texting-while-driving would result in lives saved. And perhaps it would. But why does the government have to compel people to exercise some basic common sense?

My opinion:
- I'm in favor of laws banning texting-while-driving, and phoning-while-driving, for that matter. It would be wonderful if people could make those choices on their own, but apparently some folks assume that anything not illegal must be safe. (Sigh...)
- I wish more drivers would be cited for Inattentive Driving. Currently it seems to only be enforced in an accident situation, and when the error is egregious.
- As tragic as Kassy's accident was... how much more tragic it would've been, if she'd killed an innocent bystander! (And it's safe to assume that many of those 6000 fatalities and half-a-million injuries occured through no fault of the victims.)

Personally, I'm much more worried about getting plowed into by a distracted driver than by a drunk driver. (Although the results could be the same in either case.)

(Previous commentary - 2009 Distracted Driving Summit - HERE.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More evidence...

... of the superiority of bicycles to cars.

The missus bashed the front end of her car last week. She says that as she pulled into a parking space, she made a mental note of an obstacle she might hit as she exited. But then she forgot. (Can you imagine?!!? I can't fault her; I've forgotten about a bike on top of the car and driven into a carport before!)

For one thing - I've never bashed my bike into something I didn't see, unless I was riding at night without a light, in which case I deserved what I got. (Oh - and the carport! Du-uuuh!)

My non-expert assessment is that it would cost $1000 if fixed by a body shop. (So in this day and age, a VERY minor accident!)

I disassembled stuff and determined what was broken. I pounded on the backside of the plastic "bumper replica" and turned the large dent into a tiny dimple. (Sweeet!) I called the salvage yard; they have a similar vehicle if I'm willing to pull the parts. So - I'm hoping I can get away with $200 or less, plus maybe 3 hours of labor. (The parts will travel home via BOB trailer.)

A huge percentage of car parts are strictly cosmetic. By comparison, essentially everything on a bike is functional. Since I'm a "function over form" type of guy... bikes are beautiful!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

New driver's license!

My hair is brown!

(I've asked my granddaughter what color my hair is - she says "I don't know." I don't recognize it on the floor on haircut day; I s'pose it's half brown and half gray. But the driver's license lady renewed it as "brown.")

Yep - on Friday I got my new driver's license. I actually have a Commerical Driver's License. Pretty good for a bike rider, huh? A neghbor lady up the street once said to me, "I saw you driving - I didn't realize you knew how to drive!"

You fill out the form. You take a vision test. You pay your money. You get your photo snapped, and walk out with new plastic.

To me, it's a little sobering that there is absolutely no test - either written or actual - of driving skills. Yeah, that would complicate things, and goes against my general "small government" philosophy. But at the same time, if you want the privilege of piloting a 4000-pound steel missile around on public roads, shouldn't you have demonstrable ability?

Do the Amish ride bikes?

That question just occurred to me.

Jay Leno recently joked that according to the Census Bureau, the Amish religion has grown by 10% in just 2 years.

"Those aren't Amish! Those are just people who had their power shut off and their cars repossessed!"

It put me to wonderin'.

The Amish shun electricity and internal combustion, and 'most everything high-tech. I can't help but wonder what their sentiment is toward bicycles. Do they own and ride bikes? (Perhaps just single-speed bikes with coaster brakes and balloon tires.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Pedaling Revolution"

Jeff Mapes is a political journalist for The Oregonian. He is also a transportation cyclist, and has written a book, Pedaling Revolution, "How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities."

He is speaking in Boise on Thursday evening, September 16. (At the Linen Building, five bucks.) Might be interesting. (I just heard about it on BSU radio this morning.)

The book sounds interesting; I've reserved a copy at the library.

The online synopsis: In a world of growing traffic congestion, expensive oil, and threats of cataclysmic climate change, a grassroots movement is carving out a niche for bicycles on the streets of urban cityscapes. In Pedaling Revolution, Jeff Mapes explores the growing urban bike culture that is changing the look and feel of cities across the U.S. He rides with bike advocates who are taming the streets of New York City, joins the street circus that is Critical Mass in San Francisco, and gets inspired by the everyday folk pedaling in Amsterdam, the nirvana of American bike activists. Mapes, a seasoned political journalist and long-time bike commuter, explores the growth of bicycle advocacy while covering such issues as the environmental, safety, and health aspects of bicycling for short urban trips. His rich cast of characters includes Noah Budnick, a young bicycle advocate in New York who almost died in a crash near the Brooklyn Bridge, and Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN), who took to bicycling in his fifties and helped unleash a new flood of federal money for bikeways. Chapters set in Chicago and Portland show how bicycling has became a political act, with seemingly dozens of subcultures, and how cyclists, with the encouragement of local officials, are seizing streets back from motorists. Pedaling Revolution is essential reading for the approximately one million people who regularly ride their bike to work or on errands, for anyone engaged in transportation, urban planning, sustainability, and public health—and for drivers trying to understand why they’re seeing so many cyclists. All will be interested in how urban bike activists are creating the future of how we travel and live in twenty-first-century cities.

As a cyclist in Boise, Idaho, I s'pose I'm sympathetic to the notion of transportation cycling as "political statement." It's a political thing in several urban settings across the Fruited Plain. Personally, I've never felt like I was making a "political" statement when I ride. But I like to think I'm making an economic statement and perhaps a "lifestyle" statement.

(Ironically, the book is listed at under "Outdoor Recreation.")

Useless Helmet

3 or 4 times lately, on my morning commute, I've seen a tall, pretty gal on a pale yellow "cruiser" bike. She has a great big messenger bag slung over her shoulder, and she goes pretty slow. Oh - and she has some SWEEET boots!

This morning, she was wearing a thick knit cap and mittens, a coat, etc. (Wow! If she's already cold when it's in the mid-50s, she won't do well over the winter.)

Perched on top of her stocking cap was her helmet. She must've loosened the straps, so it would sit a couple inches higher than normal.

The problem is - the only job that helmet is doing is keeping her cap from flying off. (If she were going 25mph faster, that could happen...)

I s'pose if she was using the top of her head for a battering ram, it might help. But in any realistic crash scenario, it's more likely the front of your head, or the back of your head, or perhaps the side of your head, that's going to need some cushioning protection. Every bit of bike-helmet advice I've ever heard says - SNUG helmet, riding low on the forehead.

A week or so ago I saw a little guy riding on the front of his dad's bike. He had a helmet on - but it was on backwards! With the pointy part in the front! (It looked very stylish, and appeared to be keeping the sun out of his eyes.)

(I wear a balaclava under my helmet on cold winter days, but it's made of thin material and has negligible impact on where the helmet rides on my head.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Defusing Road Rage, Part 2

This week, over at the, Bill Schneider lists five ways motorists can defuse road rage for cyclists. He's right on, IMO.

1) Accept it. (That cyclists are legitimately and legally on the road.)
2) Share the road, not the lane. He gives some good common-sense advice about passing cyclists safely, and with a minimum of stress.
3) Understand why cyclists do things. (Like riding away from parallel-parked cars, not riding in the gutter pan, etc.)
4) Cut them some slack.
5) Appreciate the effort.

On its own, this little essay might seem like just another rant from another uppity ten-speed rider... but a week ago he told cyclists what they oughtta be doing to improve the karma out there.

If you have a motorist friend who struggles with the notion of bikes on the roads, this might be a good one to share. Be safe - and courteous!

When is a bike lane not a bike lane?

A week or so ago, I was pulled over by a cop.

I s'pose I had it coming.

He was in a police vehicle (actually a pickup truck, but with logos and lights), and had drifted over into the "bike lane" in anticipation of a right turn. He was behind two other stopped vehicles, all waiting for a green light. I was approaching from behind, and as I went by, I hollered out "bike lane!" (I sometimes do that when motor vehicles are in a marked bike lane. And it particularly disappointed me that a police officer wouldn't set a better example.)

Since police generally always need to have the last word, I wasn't surprised when the light turned green, he didn't turn but instead turned on his flashers and "pulled me over."

The officer was very polite and professional; I'll give him credit for that.

He explained that he was in the right. According to him, a bike lane that ends with a "dashed stripe" at the intersection is available for use by both bikes and right-turning motor vehicles. He said it's in the book, and that's what they're teaching drivers. Theoretically it will reduce the number of "right hook" accidents.

The current Idaho Driver's Manual (link HERE - PDF, 3+ MB) says on Page 3-10, "The dashed bike lane stripe indicates that drivers turning right can merge to the right and bicyclists turning left can merge to the left."

I was aware of that. However... how far back can the merge take place?

I would contend that once a driver reaches the dashed stripe, he can (carefully!) merge to the right. The officer was behind two stopped vehicles, one being a city bus, and was well back from where the line changed from solid to dashed.

He admonished me to exercise restraint when shouting at drivers (good advice always!), because "they might be right."

I presented several confusing/contradictory/hazardous scenarios.
- What if a car in the real traffic lane is turning right? Can another motorist drive up next to him in the bike lane and turn right? Who goes first?
- Why do cars on Eagle Road get ticketed for using the bike lane as a right-turn lane?

We shook hands and went our separate ways, after agreeing that the law is ambiguous and mostly not understood. The whole experience reinforced my notion that "cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles." (John Forester) Perhaps bike lanes, particularly at intersections, cause more problems than they solve.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Defusing Road Rage

Bill Schneider writes some good cycling-related articles over at the NewWest.Net. I almost always find myself enthusiastically agreeing with his opinions, at least on cycling.

The current fare: Five Ways Cyclists Can Defuse Road Rage.

His suggestions (expanded upon in his article):
1) Attitude Adjustment
2) Obey Traffic Laws
3) Hold Your Line
4) Be Bright
5) Safety in Numbers

Great suggestions all.

Unfortunately, there seem to be a few souls out in their motorcars (and big ol' pickups) who have concluded that cyclists have no business on the roads... and it's their job to properly intimidate cyclists. Almost universally, these are the same folks who resent everybody else on their roads, not just the cyclists. So I try not to take it personally. We may not be able to change their viewpoint... only stay out of their way when possible.

The vast majority of folks, I believe, just want to get to their destination and are willing to share our limited infrastructure. We can do much to leave them with a favorable viewpoint of cyclists... or we can reinforce the uppity-cyclist (or almost as bad, clueless-cyclist) stereotype.

(Schneider is promising a column about ways motorists can defuse road rage. I'm looking forward to reading it.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Labor Day plans?

I thought I might pull the Airstream up to Redfish Lake. (Hope everybody else doesn't have the same plan!!)


Nah - just funnin'. I hate "getting away from it all" with everybody else. We're planning a little field trip down to Cleo's Ferry Museum, and I'm sure I'll do a couple nice long bike rides, but other than that, we'll lay low this weekend.

Have a lovely Labor Day - and BE SAFE!

Powered by Spin Bike

I confess I've always harbored a bit of disdain for "exercise bikes." You know - the kind that are stationary, in a room.

My attitude is because of personal experience... one winter I decided to join the "company gym" and ride the exercise bikes on cold winter days. For me, it was the equivalent of "hamster on a treadmill." I just couldn't do it more than a few times; I sorely missed the scenery going by and the weather in my face.

But lo and behold, suddenly stationary bikes have become useful!

A new gym opened in San Diego, with spin-bike-powered dynamos. The power generated by those toned, sweaty bodies is put back on the grid.

Story HERE.

They plan on adding elliptical generator bikes... as well as doing "green" projects like cleaning up the beach, to achieve a "carbon neutral" footprint. No word on whether they'll be able to neutralize all the environmental damage done, as the spin people drive to the gym in their Volvos and Subarus.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Car Report Card

The Obama administration is redesigning the EPA stickers on new cars. Based on their fuel economy and environmental impact, they will have a grade letter assigned, from A-plus to D.

Story HERE.

From a transportation cyclist's viewpoint... that is so wrong!!!

Seems to me, the grades should run between, say, C-minus and F, if the grade is on fuel economy and environmental impact. The very best car - say, a Prius or the new Chevy Volt - is PATHETIC when compared with a bicycle! 50mpg? I scoff at such horrible mileage!

A couple other points:

Apparently the environmental impact is measured only by the "tailpipe emissions." That is bogus. To be realistic, it should include the greenhouse gases emitted by the power source. (If it's a plug-in car, someplace a dynamo is spinning to generate that power, even if it isn't onboard the car.) Also, it should take into account the projected life of the car, and how much it will impact the environment at the end of that life. (Is it loaded with poisonous, highly-polluting compounds in the batteries, the plastic, etc?)

If carmakers can get an "A" strictly on the tailpipe emissions, that is what they will focus on. They can afford to ignore everything else.

In a similar way, if kids are tested to gauge the performance of the Educational Industry, their instruction can be limited to what's on the test, rather than a well-rounded education.