Friday, December 31, 2010


New Years, of course, is the traditional time to make "resolutions." Perhaps in the bleary hangover afterglow, we examine the train wreck of our wretched lives, and decide that changes are in order.

I imagine that more exercise equipment and fitness-club memberships are sold in the last week and first week of every calendar year, than the other 50 weeks combined.

A week or a month after New Years, of course, is the traditional time to break our resolutions. Many "reformed smokers and drinkers" don't go any longer than a week. Some strong-willed folks go longer. But this story says 25% fail before mid-January, half fail before the end of the month, and only 40% go out longer than six months. Obviously our resolutions are too ambitious, or our willpower too weak.

HERE is an interesting story; you can get an "app" to help you keep your resolutions. (Yeah... I bet that'll help.)

Like everybody else, I've made informal resolutions - the kind that are made in my head, but never even written down - and have broken many of them.

But the end of 2010 marks a milestone. As 1986 began - that's 25 years ago, folks - I determined that I would be a transportation cyclist. (I can still remember that my bride was quite skeptical. With good reason, I'm sure. Up to that point, we had bickered over who got to take the family car. When I plopped down 450 hard-earned dollars for a nice bike, she rolled her eyes and grumbled.)

Apparently it "took." (Unlike many of my "resolutions" before and since.)

From January '86 until today, the vast majority of my commuting has been in the saddle of my bicycle. And my resolve has strengthened over the years.

Driving a car to work is something I see 'most everybody else doing, but on a personal level the concept seems totally foreign. The last time I drove a car to work was in September of '97. The last time I even rode my motorcycle to work was October of '05. Since then it's been all bicycle, except for the occasional bus ride, always mandated by either my doctor or really scary-bad road conditions.

Looking forward... I will resolve, in a very public way, to be a transportation cyclist in 2011! I hope my friends will support me in that.

Happy New Year... and good luck with your resolutions. (Make some that you can keep!)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crosswalks are dangerous!

My friend Thomas called me from the ground floor. "There's a bike under the wheel of a car out here. Bring your camera."

It was a scary scene that my eyes beheld. Fortunately and amazingly, it didn't look like any major injuries were involved; the rider was sitting on the curb.

car/bike accident 01

car/bike accident 02

car/bike accident 03

Based on my excellent accident-recreation skills, I'm guessing that the rider was probably headed down the sidewalk, and continued into the crosswalk, and into the path of the vehicle, whose driver wasn't expecting a relatively fast-moving bicycle to suddenly be in her path. The vehicle sent the bike and rider flying; the bike ended up under the wheel. (Thank goodness the rider wasn't under there with the bike. He'll probably ride another day; looked like the end of the line for his vintage Centurion road bike.)

But that's just a guess.

I'll beat this dead horse forever... If a motorist sees you, it's unlikely he'll deliberately run into you. If a motorist doesn't see you, all bets are off. Zipping into a crosswalk can be dangerous; be sure you can clear it.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vehicle as Image Enhancer

I've commented before about how image plays an important role in vehicle purchases.

Perhaps not so much for the driver of a Camry or a Taurus or Civic or some other commonplace sedan. But many Prius drivers are making a statement by their choice of vehicle. They care about the environment, and are happy that other folks see them doing something about it. How about the middle-age guy driving the red Corvette? How about the guy on the chromed-out, $30,000 bar-hopper Harley? And how about the driver of the huge pickup truck, covered with optional accessories, giant tires, aftermarket suspension, etc.? Do you think for a minute that such an ostentatious display isn't intended to get the attention of others?

I recently read a couple books, primarily about bicycling, but with commentary about society and transportation in general. Both authors comment about "vehicle image."

The first is Jeff Mapes, in his book Pedaling Revolution. Mapes is a political reporter for, out of Portland. I decided to read his book after he came to Boise last September to talk about transportation cycling. (I didn't attend his thing, unfortunately, but I checked out the book at the library and read it mostly from cover to cover. Mr. Mapes knows the subject well, and I recommend the book.)

He says, "Let's not forget this, even though it usually goes unstated – we drive because our cars are so wrapped up in our personal identity. Most of us buy as much car as we can afford, and maybe even a little more, in part because it sends a message about our status to the rest of the world. Who isn't a little more muscular or beautiful or stylish behind the wheel of that curvaceous new vehicle?

"The advertising industry isn't selling cycling to Americans because it's just too economical. Cycling was a $6 billion industry in 2007... Automakers spend more than that just on advertising."

The second is David Byrne, in his book, Bicycle Diaries. If the name sounds familiar - he was the creative mind behind the band Talking Heads. It turns out he's been a transportation cyclist since before the Talking Heads days; the book is a collection of his philosophy about bicycles and various other topics, inspired by the cities he's visited and ridden in around the world. He's a deep thinker.

Here is his take on why people drive what they do, even if it isn't the most sensible choice: "Why do people do things that seem to be not in their own best interests? Well, for status, for starters. From a genetic point of view, a step up the status ladder is worth more than just about anything else. Think about the mantis who gets eaten immediately after depositing his sperm – genetically he's actually done okay. The male mantis, the delivery vehicle, is expendable from this point of view – at least if he has done his job. From this perspective, if owning a car improves your image and status, and therefore your mating chances, then the sacrifice – so our built-in instincts tell us – is absolutely worth it. Not really, not ultimately, but that might be what our compasses tell us. And, if an even bigger car proffers even greater status, then sure, get an SUV, or one of those new stretch armored tank-type things."

I s'pose "image" is a minor incentive for bike riding. At least on the really wet and/or cold days, I laugh to myself at the pseudo-macho-men driving their big pickup trucks. The real macho men and women are the ones out there dealing with the weather, even when it's the grim stuff.

I hope to post some other choice excerpts from those books in the near future. If you need something to read, I recommend either. (I'm mostly a non-fiction guy these days.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

This really is a special occasion, when 'most everybody seems to have a small extra measure of patience and good will toward men.

I wish my friends a lovely Christmas season. Take some time to smell the evergreen, or cinnamon, or apple pie, or turkey, or whatever your favorite holiday smell happens to be. Get an extra hour of sleep. (Except on Christmas morning, if you're in a house with kids... of course!) Put together a complicated toy - or a bike - following Chinese-translated-into-English instructions.

Make some plans for the upcoming year. Do some dreaming. Consider the mission and message of our Savior, Jesus Christ. (Of course, the holiday was a celebration of life and rebirth before it became a "Christian" holiday... and long before it became so commercial.)

One of the best gifts you could share with a loved one, is a love for transportation cycling. It's an all-year-'round gift: increased vitality and energy, a taste of nature, a FREE workout, and money-in-pocket!

Whatever form your celebration takes... BE JOYFUL AND SAFE!

Eagle Road

Yesterday (12/23) I had the day off, and the weather was quite suitable, so I ran an errand over to Eagle on the bicycle. (There was more snow in Eagle than in Boise, by maybe an inch or so it looked like.) I took care of business and headed for home.

I had a choice to make: retrace my steps (generally along Hill Road), or to cross the Boise River, either at Eagle Road or closer in at Glenwood. (If there's a river crossing in between those two roads, I'm not aware.) I chose Eagle.

I have memories of riding along Eagle Road when it was a little 2-lane country road, with the fog line right at the edge of the pavement. Times aren't like they used to be - now it's five lanes and nice wide breakdown/turnout lanes, and 55mph. So on one side of me I was enjoying lovely winter scenery (at least in the "river bottoms"), and on the other side I was tolerating the unending roar of a steady stream of motor vehicle traffic.

As usual, everybody seemed in a huge hurry. Zoom-zoom!

My favorite was a big ol' pickup truck with a huge decal in the back window.

Now, it's not unusual to see a pickup with "Ford" or "Chevy" in the back window, or BSU or Idaho, or perhaps the driver's name in Olde English script (seems to be a favorite of Hispanic folk). But this pickup's decal was for "Under Armour." (The only reason I was even aware is because the Utah Utes had the logo on their uniforms, the night before. I watched BSU put the beat-down on 'em, in the Vegas Bowl.) Golly! A guy would really have to like his underwear, to put a 3-foot-wide decal for it in the back window of his pickup truck!

I was grateful when I was able to get off at McMillan and head on home on (slightly) quieter streets. (36 miles yesterday - all of 'em pulling either the BOB trailer, or the Tag-a-long bike and granddaughter Mackie. Sweet!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WINTER! Off to a good start

I wasn't man enough to get up in the wee hours to observe the total lunar eclipse, but I enjoyed the light of the fullest-of-full moons on the way to the office in the morning. (It helps, on the shortest day of the year, huh?)

Later on the day was sunny and got up into the low 40s. I seized the opportunity and went on an afternoon exercise/recreation ride... the first time in a couple weeks where I really worked up a sweat. It felt fine!! (I rode "the cow loop" - out Warm Springs to the Harris Ranch area, and back into town via Boise Avenue.)

We may have a cold, wet winter ahead. But starting now, the days are getting longer and spring's a-comin'!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Boise Bike Project Plays Santa

One of the main objectives of the Boise Bicycle Project is to "transform donated bicycles into functional pieces of rolling sustainable art." And this time of year is BIG!

According to this news story, they just dispensed 201 bicycles to deserving kids. (Wow! Are there that many good little girls and boys in Boise?!)

The BBP's director, Jimmy Halliburton, says, "For most of these kids this is a present that they're not going to get otherwise. Some of them it's the first bicycle they've ever gotten before, so most of them are absolutely ecstatic." I expect that these 201 kids will remember the Christmas of '10 forever; I remember the year I had a shiny bike - my first - under the tree, and wrote about it HERE.

What a great way to give to the community, huh? Hats off to everybody at the Boise Bicycle Project, including regular reader/commenter Clancy, for bringing about some peace and good will toward men!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bike Bonus!

IKEA, the retailer of trendy put-it-together-yourself furniture (I hope that's right; I've never traded with 'em) has given every U.S. employee a surprise year-end bonus. Not cash, or a gift card - but a bicycle!

"We hope this bike will be taken in the spirit of the season while supporting a healthy lifestyle and everyday sustainable transport," said Mike Ward, IKEA US president.

Additional pro-bicycle propaganda on the press release:

Why a bike? Because when it comes to sustainable transport, a bicycle is a great option. And when it comes to healthy living, riding a bike is one of the best cardio forms of exercise. Here are some facts.
• Bicycling is an excellent cardio-vascular exercise, which promotes heart health.
• On average, commuting 10 miles a day by bike in 30 minutes, instead of driving a car burns 110,250 calories (keeping off 30 pounds of fat each year).
• Cycling just 20 miles a week can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 50%.
• Countries with the highest levels of cycling and walking generally have the lowest obesity rates.

For Sustainable living, bicycling also has many benefits.
• Bicycling reduces polluting emissions. A short, four mile round trip by a bike keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe.
• In 2001 walking and bicycling accounted for 23 billion miles traveled, worth billions of dollars in fuel savings alone.
• In one year, riding a bike versus owning and driving a car will save an individual $8,000 in gasoline and general car maintenance and insurance costs.

[The only point I'd take issue with is "commuting 10 miles a day in 30 minutes." 20mph is a little fast for a "commuting" pace, unless all their employees are very athletic.]

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Decidedly Bike-Unfriendly

"This town ain't big enough for both of us!"

Blackhawk, Colorado, maybe an hour west of Denver (just north of Idaho Springs), is a tourist destination nestled in the mountains. It's a gambling town with a decidedly "wild west" feel to it. I passed through there in 2003 on the motorsickle, as I traveled between Mount Evans and Rocky Mountain National Park, and remember the place well.

CO - Black Hawk

Evidently the city fathers of Blackhawk have passed a no-bicycling ordinance for the entire town, declaring that the streets aren't wide enough for both cars and bikes. You'd think there must've been an incident involving a tourist-on-bike and a local-in-car, or vice versa, prompting the move, but nobody seems to be aware of a glaring problem... just the regular ongoing competition for limited space that some folks feel.

Are those Blackhawk Aristocrats aware that a lot of folks visit Colorado to ride bikes? And that those folks might avoid patronizing their town on account of their rather discriminatory law? (The law was upheld recently by a judge - story Here - scroll down. But I'm confident a determined cyclist could successfully press the issue, since in Colorado and most jurisdictions, public roadways must accommodate cyclists.)

Closer to home (at least for me), the shenanigans continue on the stretch of Greenbelt behind Riverside Village in Garden City.

The Citizens for an Open Greenbelt group is reporting that 11 cyclists have been cited for riding on that stretch of the bike path. Ironically, cops on a motorized ATV patrol the bike path, to make sure cyclists aren't using it! (What's wrong with this picture?)

Stay tuned for further developments. The COG has officially taken it to court, and I totally expect them to prevail. Frankly, I'm disappointed that apparently none of the cited cyclists pleaded not guilty, or appealed their convictions. (But such actions take money.)

NOTES: I took the photo of Black Hawk, when I passed thru in 2003. I lifted the Greenbelt photo from the COG Facebook thing. (Check it out.) Previous commentary HERE.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Transportation Expense

Every year, 'round this time, we get a message from the Accounting folks something like the following (this year's message):

Effective January 1, 2011, the mileage reimbursement rate for the use of personal cars in conjunction with company business will be 51¢ per mile, up from the current 50¢.

The reimbursement rate supposedly covers all aspects of vehicle ownership - car payment, depreciation, insurance, maintenance... plus gas, of course.

No mention of reimbursement for riding my bicycle on company business.

If I could get 50¢/mile for my bike miles, it would've paid for the cost of the bike purchase a little over a year ago, plus all the expenses of operating the bike, and I'd still have several hundred dollars left over.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cycling Safety in Boise - Revisited

Cycling safety isn't on the forefront of our collective minds in winter time. However, it's been a year since the city's Cycling Safety Task Force was convened (in the wake of 3 bicycle fatalities), so I recently asked the City Fathers for an accounting of how it's gone.

One of the Task Force members was Deputy Chief Jim Kerns of the Police Department. I emailed him directly, since I heard him testify about bike safety, and got the clear impression he both understood the issue and was sincere and sympathetic. (Frankly, I think many of our law enforcement professionals view cyclists as a nuisance, rather than as legitimate roadway users.)

Mr. Kerns emailed me back with good information.

- The hoped-for "education outreach program" didn't make much headway. (Mostly due to budget constraints, I'm sure.)
- However, new info is posted on the city's web page, and the BPD is "twittering" and using Facebook to disseminate info.
- The BPD contributed significantly to the Boise Weekly's bicycle issue last May.
- All officers were trained on the new ordinances, and had a "spring refresher" to remind them of their responsibilities. Because of that, there seems to be a (slightly) stepped-up effort at enforcing traffic laws that affect cyclists.

He also sent me an interesting stats sheet about bicycle accidents and enforcement.


- Of 102 reported bicycle accidents, a "vehicle driver" (auto, truck, SUV, etc.) was at fault in 78, compared with 47 where the cyclist was at fault. ("Overlapping data assume both were at fault.")

- YTD, the Boise Police had issued 69 citations for bicycle violations. The most prevalent violation appears to be riding at night without proper equipment, but "position on highway violations" (my pet peeve) was cited 7 times, it looks like. (A HUGE improvement over the 1-per-year average, for the past few years.)

I appreciate the city's effort to keep the issue of bicycle safety in the minds of the road-going public. It's part of being a bike-friendly city, which we take pride in. I hope they keep up - and even step up - the effort as time goes on.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ridin' in a Winter Wonderland

I was a half-hour or so late to work this morning. And that after leaving 10 minutes or so earlier than usual.

Five minutes can be attributed to the winter conditions. The rest can be attributed to multiple "Kodak Moments" along the way. It was so beautiful out there!

- Today is a "catastrophic snow day" in these parts. Many people stayed home on account of the road conditions. The schools are all closed. The garbage truck came down my street this morning, and was getting stuck at every stop. (Pathetic! There's maybe 8 inches out there. The folks in Chicago or Minneapolis or Salt Lake City would mock our wimpiness!)
- I've surrendered the skinny-tire bike, and have relied on the old faithful fat-tire workhorse for the past week or so.
- Our Parks and Recreation folks are doing a fantastic job of keeping the Greenbelt bike path in usable condition.
- It's VERY unusual in these parts, particularly in November, to have snow on the ground for such a long stretch. I imagine it'll be gone by the weekend; warmer temperatures are predicted.

101201 Snow 1

This one's for the Christmas card!
101201 Snow 2

Another rider, Tom, came by and offered to push the button. Nice!
101201 Snow 3
(That HI-VIZ is pretty sweet, huh?)

101201 Snow 4

101201 Snow 5