Saturday, December 31, 2011

Strong Finish

Got in a 20-plus mile ride today (December 31) ... in shorts! (If I had a do-over, I'd choose long pants. It was in the upper 30s and I knew I was pushin' it.)

For the month - 496 miles. For the year - 6606 miles. My second-best-ever year for cumulative miles, and my 9th year with more than 6000.

If only success were measured solely by bike-miles, huh?

A year ago, as I contemplated the topic of new years' resolutions, I "publically" resolved "to be a transportation cyclist in 2011." I guess I did allright... I showed up at work 228 times in '11, all of 'em on the bike.

In 2012? Um, I'll try to be a transportation cyclist. And... 150K miles* is just over 6000 miles distant. I'll shoot for that.

(Cumulative miles, since I started "transportation cycling" and keeping track, in 1986)

If you're reading this, I hope you got in some quality saddle time this year... and that you do even better next year! Be safe. May the wind be at your back. May the goatheads be scarce.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Big - and illegal - bike load

I hope a trailer was involved...

Dude gets stopped by the cops (in Pasadena), riding at night without the required headlight and rear reflector. (It's nice to see the police doing their job and enforcing bicycle laws, huh? Not enough of that!)

During the traffic stop, dude is busted for having 23 pounds of Narcotic Cannabis in a cooler. (Story Here.) Bummer, maaannnnnn!

I'm no expert, but I'm thinkin':
1) That's too much reefer for the guy to claim it was just his personal stash, and
2) That much reefer would be like a bale! It must've been one of those big Igloo football-team-size coolers. And I hope the guy wasn't packin' it under one arm as he rode or something.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ever bike?

"Ever bike? Now that's something that makes life worth living! ... Oh, to just grip your handlebars and lay down to it, and go ripping and tearing through streets and road, over railroad tracks and bridges, threading crowds, avoiding collisions, at twenty miles or more an hour, and wondering all the time when you're going to smash up. Well, now, that's something! And then go home again after three hours of it ... and then to think that tomorrow I can do it all over again!"

― Jack London

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pain at the Pump '11

According to a CNBC Story, "the typical American household will have spent $4,155 filling up this year, a record. That is 8.4 percent of what a median family takes in, the highest since 1981."

The Missus fills up the Family Truckster every 3 weeks or so... she probably poured $2000 worth of gas into the tank in '11.

I spent maybe $500 on gas this year, and 90-plus percent of that was for two motorcycle adventures - to the California Redwoods, and to eastern Washington.

That's bad! A story last spring said the Energy Department estimated the cost would be $3235 for the year - up 28 percent from the previous year. Turns out that estimate was way low. Mamma mia!

$4155 - that's a big hit on the budget of us "99 percenters," no? I think of the stuff we would've gone without, if we'd spent that much on gas. That thought helps motivate me to get pedalin' on some of these cold winter mornings.

And speaking of cold winter mornings... like everybody else, I'm growing a bit concerned that I'm not seeing any snow up on those nearby mountains. December has been as dry as dust! But on the bright side, I sure love riding my bicycle on dry, traction-sand-free roads. That is a luxury this time of year.

From the story: "Next year isn't likely to bring relief." But taking up bicycle transportation could bring a huge amount of relief! Plus, if a few million people did it, it would modify the supply/demand equation in a meaningful way... maybe gas would drop by $1/gallon. (Of course, if that put everybody back in their cars, the price would go back up. Like most businesses, the oil companies will charge for their product what the market will bear.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

We need a bike-riding president!

Yeah, I'm a special-interest group. A one-issue voting bloc.

Can our president ride a bike? Competently?

George W. Bush attracted plenty of detractors and criticism, but he set the bar for bike-riding presidents. His Secret Service guys were frequently huffin' and puffin' to keep up. He even flew out to Idaho and rode at the Tamarack Resort. (Sadly, because of security issues, it's unlikely we'll ever have a bike-commuting president.)



President Obama has proven that he can at least keep his bike upright. He has been seen occasionally riding a "comfort bike," most often with his family. Nothin' wrong with that.



How about the others who are vying for president?

Ron Paul (my favorite candidate in many respects... but I digress) recently had his photo - riding a bike - on the Drudge Report. So he, too, can at least keep the bike upright (while riding with one hand!), but his quadriceps don't give the impression he's "king of the mountain."



I found a photo of Mitt Romney riding a bike - many years ago in a previous life as a Mormon missionary. And once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget... right?



(That's Mitt on the right... the one with the awesome hair!)

Regrettably, I can't find a photo of Michele Bachmann on a bike. And not too surprisingly, no photos of the Newtster on a bike, either. (haha!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The cyclists' Christmas carol

Isaac Watts must've been a cyclist.

Watts wrote "Joy to the World."

Consider:

No more let sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground...
(Verse 3)

Santa on a Bicycle - Germany

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Riding in the Canal

Once farming season is over in these parts, they turn off the water in the canals.

Years ago, my daughter Hollie and I enjoyed a ride up the channel of the Ridenbaugh Canal, from Protest Avenue eastward. On Saturday I invited Miss Mackie to give it a try, and she was game.

The temperature was in the upper 30s, but not warm enough to melt the ice. We rode carefully over the shorter patches, and walked across the longer ones. We rode under Broadway Avenue, which was an adventure all to itself.

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I can't in good conscience recommend this ride. The concrete is rarely sidewalk-smooth, and three of our four tires came back with goatheads. And there are a lot of rocks, dirt piles, weeds, patches of water or ice, and other obstacles.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The first "mountain bikers"?

The modern "safety bicycle" came into being in the late 1800s, and was embraced by the public at the time... and is largely responsible for starting the evolution toward paved roads. The hoardes of cyclists demanded better-quality roads than the muddy thoroughfares that crossed the Fruited Plain up 'til that time. (That would be a hard pill to swallow, for many in our car-centric society nowadays.)

(For anybody interested in bicycle history, I recommend the book Bicycle: The History, by David V. Herlihy. It's comprehensive... and has lots of good photos and illustrations.)

Normally we think of the "mountain bike" as originating in the Bay Area, in the late-70s, early-80s. And indeed, that is when cycling enthusiasts first had the vision of a recreational bicycle ideally suited for trails and dirt-road travel.

However, it could be argued that "mountain biking" was already 80 years old by then. A couple weeks back, I was watching a show on PBS about Yellowstone National Park, and an old photo caught my eye - of a group of cyclists posed on the geologic features at Mammoth Hot Springs.



I did a bit of digging, and discovered The 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps.

They were organized in 1896. According to the Fort Missoula Museum website, "The Corps, consisting of eight black enlisted men, soon was riding in formation, drilling, scaling fences up to nine-feet high, fording streams, and pedaling 40 miles a day. Each bicycle carried a knapsack, blanket roll, and a shelter half strapped to the handlebar. A hard leather frame case fit into the diamond of each bicycle and a drinking cup was kept in a cloth sack under the seat. Each rider carried a rifle (first slung over the back, later strapped to the horizontal bar) and 50 rounds of ammunition."

As for the bikes... they had steel rims, tandem spokes, heavy-duty frame components, and weighed 32 pounds.

In 1897, they rode, essentially cross-country, from Missoula to St. Louis, a distance of 1900 miles, in 34 days. Provisions were dropped along the way at intervals, but they rode - or pushed, in the really gnarly stretches - the whole distance. It wasn't easy. They were "greeted triumphantly" at every whistle-stop along the way.

Frankly, I'm a little surprised that bicycles never caught on in certain situations, for military transportation. Probably too cheap.



Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cycling at the southern axis

Dacre, the son of my friend Crystal, is working/adventuring in Antarctica. And he's discovered Antarctic cycling! (Some nice photos there...)

Suddenly I feel like a wuss for getting all dressed-down when it goes below 20 degrees. (Of course, it is summertime down Antarctica way... or at least late spring.) I doubt Dacre bike-commutes to work, but I'm happy he's able to saddle-up. Also, looks like there aren't quite as many trees as back home in Colorado.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Elite Snobs?

Elite (Merriam-Webster): The choice part.

Writer Will Doig asks, "Are urban bicyclists just elite snobs?" in an very interesting column at Salon.com.

It looks like thousands have commented; I just read the first page of (predictable) comments. Doig: "Railing against bikes, in fact, [is] a great way to sell papers. A hundred years ago, newspapers ginned up scare stories about the threat that hapless women on bicycles posed to pedestrians. Today, old-school tabloids like the New York Post have found that the bicyclists-versus-everyone narrative still resonates."

Never discuss politics, religion, guns, or bicycles at the family holiday party! haha

Doig believes that cyclists need to turn the attitude down a few notches, because they're often unintentionally rubbin' people the wrong way. "Jeff Mapes, author of 'Pedaling Revolution,' thinks the smugness factor is almost accidental: 'I know a lot of cyclists who say their commute is the best part of their day' — not exactly the kind of thing that the co-worker who just spent an hour in gridlock wants to hear at the water cooler."

He writes from the big-city (Manhattan) perspective... feels that drivers feel threatened as their infrastructure is shrunk to make way for bicycle infrastructure. I know we have some of that resentment in less-populated Boise, but it's not felt as acutely, I'm sure.

Do I feel "elite" because I ride a bicycle? Heck yes! That makes me totally superior to those losers in their cars! But if I wear it on my sleeve, maybe I'm doing more harm than good. Besides, I'm not sure I'm part of the "elite snob" demographic, which Doig portrays as "young people and newcomers," encroaching on the establishment. Heck - I was cycling before most of those "trendy hipster" cyclists were even born, and I've been here for the duration. (My contemporaries are the ones who are complaining about those whippersnappers on their velocipedes.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Be in court on 12/15!

From the Citizens for an Open Greenbelt Facebook presence:

Mark you calendar for December 15th. For those who can attend, a reminder that our hearing before Judge Cheri Copsey is on Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 3:30pm at the Ada County Courthouse. Our attorneys would like as many of you to be there as possible to demonstrate to the judge that this is an important issue in the Treasure Valley for those who believe that our Greenbelt should be truly open. The judge will be hearing COG's Motion for Summary Judgement and Garden City's Request for Dismissal.

I hope to be there.

If you're a cyclist, but wouldn't often have occasion to use that stretch of the Greenbelt... why does it matter?

Here's why I'm involved:
1) The Greenbelt is envisioned, by those who first envisioned it and by many Greenbelt users ever since, as a contiguous bicycle path that will eventually go all the way from Lucky Peak Dam to Eagle Island... and perhaps points beyond.
2) It's the principle of the thing. I'm offended by a 2-bit provincial mayor - John Evans - whose power has evidently gone to his head. All Idaho citizens should be offended, since it was us who gifted that stretch of Greenbelt to Garden City, with the stipulation that it be maintained as a bike path. Yep - that's the wording in the agreement. Garden City's citizens should be offended that the mayor has spent $15,962 of their dollars (as of October) to fight those who are trying to get it reopened.

I expect Judge Copsey to do the right thing for THE PEOPLE. And I hope to be there, to watch her do the right thing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bike-sharing - coming to Boise?

There was a brief article on the Statesman website about a possible bike sharing program coming to town.

The Central District Health Department (State of Idaho) envisions deploying 140 bicycles, in 14 stations scattered about town. I s'pose it would be similar, but on a smaller scale, to Boston's "Hubway" scheme that I commented on last month.

The Health Department is involved, because they want to fight back against the "obesity epidemic" and bad air quality. Noble motives, to be sure... but as much as I'd like to, I can't imagine that local-errand bikes will make much of a dent. (I snidely commented that the bikes will enable people to run for a big fast-food lunch.)

Another eyebrow-raiser is the cost... the grant the CDHD has applied for is $650,000. That figures out to about $4600 per bike. Mamma mia!! I'm thinkin' private enterprise could do it for substantially less... they ought to let out a contract. (Or perhaps they don't think people will participate, unless it's on Italian racing bikes with the full Campy Record setup!)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Autumn on the Greenbelt

Mackie and I enjoyed a leisurely 7-mile ride on the Greenbelt over the weekend. It was beautiful!

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

LDS missionary killed while cycling

Actually missionaries.

20-year-old Derek Walker, from Fairfield, Idaho, was killed while riding a bicycle in Donna, Texas. He and two other missionaries were struck by a hit-and-run driver; two were fatally injured, the third was treated and released. The driver later turned himself in. Story HERE. (Another story from the Deseret News can be read HERE.)

I see 'em now and then when I'm riding. They're easy to spot... 19- and 20- year olds, always two-by-two, wearing the trademark white shirt and tie and name tag, often a suit jacket. In these parts at least, usually wearing helmets. (If they're not, they're breaking the rules.)

I always greet them warmly. "Hello, elders!"

Although I never met Elder Walker or his companion, I take this rather personally. Two of my brothers have gone Up Yonder.

Many, many, many years ago, I was a white-shirt-wearing elder. I served a 2-year Church mission in Uruguay.

It was probably much different in Uruguay in 1973, than in Texas in 2011. Except for Montevideo, the capital city, there weren't really any traffic issues because relatively few people owned cars. Public transportation, bicycles, etc. - that's how you got around.

I once had a bicycle mishap, and have always felt that I received some "divine protection."

My companion and I were riding home at night, after a visit went longer than expected. It was a dark, moonless night... really dark, because it was a couple miles out of town in a rural area. I was riding a gnarly old "beater" bicycle, with "drop" handlebars that had been rotated around for a more upright riding stance. I was also carrying a briefcase in one hand, and a filmstrip projector (roughly the size of a toaster) in the other. No headlight. Foolhardy, in retrospect. At the time, we were just anxious to get slowly and safely home.

I never saw the pile of dirt on the shoulder of the road. It was maybe 18 inches high, and it stopped my forward progress immediately. And it should have caused a disastrous face-planting crash. But it didn't.

As the bike catapulted, somehow I completely cleared those turned-up drop handlebars, and hit the ground running on the other side of the dirt-mountain. (I can't explain it.) Not only did I not land in a heap... I didn't drop the briefcase or projector! I shook my head in wonderment at my good fortune, and went back to check out the bike. The front rim was badly bent. "Taco'd," as they say. We walked our bikes the rest of the way into town... me holding my front wheel in the air since it wouldn't turn.

I took a photo of my bent bike the next day.

Why didn't the Good Lord protect His servants in Texas? (We missionaries are all on the errand of the Lord.)

I don't know. He rarely intervenes in human affairs, or there would be no tragedies.

I do know this: when you consider that there are 52,000+ missionaries* scattered across the globe... many assigned to work in unsavory, dangerous places... it is truly amazing how few of them are victimized by tragedy.

May the Lord bless and comfort the families and loved ones of Elder Walker, and his deceased companion Elder Strong, of Taylorsville, Utah.

* There are 52,000 full-time missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to the website. That number, of course, doesn't count the thousands of missionaries serving for other denominations, who I believe also enjoy special blessings, and perhaps special protection, because of the cause they are dedicated to.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Boise elects pro-bike leaders

According to Talyn Brumley over at the Boise Weekly, yesterday's election keeps pro-bicycle leaders at City Hall.

Wow! Do those 12% of voters who made the effort, realize what they've done?!!?

"[Reelected Mayor] Bieter told Citydesk that he believed bicycle transportation would become a higher priority in the near future."

"[Newly-elected Councilman] Quintana said that he was eager to begin improving alternative transportation such as bike paths."

That's all hunky-dorky [SIC], but ACHD, not the city, does the roadways in these parts. (Although I acknowledge City Hall surely wields heavy influence.)

If our city fathers seriously want to make our community more bike-friendly, IMO the place to start would be at the police station. The stated position of the BPD is, "Bicycle violations are not a prioroty for the department." When yokels on bikes are breaking the law all over town, it fosters resentment as well as making bicycling less safe. Surely Bieter and Quintana could be more effective than I am, at encouraging a little more vigorous enforcement and education effort by our law enforcement people.

(By the way, I voted. Mostly for the non-winners. And I've gotta admit I paid no attention to their viewpoints on bike issues, figuring that's a function of ACHD.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What gets cold first?

What part of your anatomy gets cold first... to the point of being uncomfortable?

Ears? Nose? Fingers? Toes? Somethin' else?

My fingers are always the first thing that "stings," if I'm not wearing the full-finger gloves. Maybe it's because I'm using my fingers, and my ears and nose are just up there, hangin' useless on my head.

Below 40F, my fingers get uncomfortable. I'm good down to about freezing, without ear protection. Pretty much everything else can handle the 15-minute commute ride without discomfort, down to single digits or so.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bike Snob NYC on sharing the road

BikeSnob NYC waxes snobbish (or more accurately, he's reacting to snobbishness) with regards to sharing the road with motorists. You know... the motorists who have an attitude that they own the road and cyclists have no business on the road, particularly if it inconveniences said motorists.

Sometimes, when drivers violate my space or demand I get out of the way, I simply ask them, "Why?" The answer is always the same: "I'm in a car, and you're on a bike." Ah, of course, that's an excellent reason. See, they don't give cars to just anybody. Only really important people get to drive. Plus, you've got to take a test to drive a car, and it's so hard that they don't let you do it until you're in your teens. Never mind that these people are usually driving cars with Blue Book values significantly lower than what our bicycles would fetch on eBay; either that, or they're driving some really expensive contraption that any sane person would be embarrassed to be paying for, like a Cadillac pickup truck, which allows you to look like an idiot at the country club and at the ranch. The fact is that a motor vehicle is a "major purchase," and major purchases are how people express their self-importance and project it to the rest of the world. But they're not important, they're merely self-important.

(From the book Bike Snob, P.102. I love the part about the Cadillac pickup truck. That notion is almost as absurd as the Porsche SUV!!)

Previous BikeSnob excerpts here and here.

(Apologies if your internet reader doesn't do well with my hard-coded color.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New back tire

I replaced my back tire last night.

The old tire - a Vittoria Randonneur, 28 width, in white rubber. (For summer, you know.) It had 2400-odd miles on it and I knew it was time to replace because I could see the red underneath the white. (I assume it's the puncture-resistant layer. In those 2400 miles I only had one flat.)

I was a little disappointed in the mileage. The previous tire - a 32 width with black rubber - accumulated 4000+ miles. Both tires are about the same price. I'm not sure if the mileage difference is due to the different rubber compound, or the width. I suppose the 32 has somewhat more rolling resistance than the 28, but not appreciably more. I'll take the increased mileage, if I have to choose one or the other.

I put another "32 black" on the rear - we'll see how she does.

In another month or so - when wet or icy roads become more common - I'll switch over to tires with more tread. Or just break down and ride the fat-tire bike.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cycling up 27% in Salt Lake City

An article at Deseret News says that there's been a 27-percent increase in bike commuters in the past 12 months. Impressive!

The findings are based on volunteer counts taken at specific locations, and comparing this year's with last year's. It may not be a truly accurate indicator... but it's all we've got.

What drove the increase? No doubt the poor economy is a factor. Everybody seems to understand that riding a bike is meaningfully cheaper than driving a car. The bike/ped coordinator also cites the positive health and environmental impacts, and improvements on certain bikeways around town.

One of the reader comments is interesting. "Red" suggests that cyclists should volunteer to drive a street sweeper down the primary bike corridors from time to time. (I'd get on board with that notion!)

The article also links to SLC's official bicycle website. I need to check it out - it looks like it has a LOT of good info. For one thing, I didn't realize that SLC is a SILVER level Bicycle Friendly Community (as recognized by the League of American Bicyclists). They passed up our Bronze level. SLC has obviously changed since the days when I visited somewhat regularly. (20+ years ago.) I still envision those big wide awesome streets, but with few cyclists or cycling facilities.

Counting bikes?

Fellow bike commuter Bob T sent me this note:

I noticed something interesting on the way to work today. I was heading east on Emerald and just after turning south on Maple Grove I noticed one of those rubber hoses on the road used to measure traffic levels. Except the hose extended over the bike lane only. I have never seen anything like this before. In the past I think that the ACHD has had to count bikes manually, but this appeared to be an automated system.

Hmmm. I know the device he's talking about - a pneumatic hose that, when run over, increments the number on a traffic counting device.

Like Bob, I've not seen one of those in use solely in a bike lane before. I'm also a little bewildered at the timing. Late October seems an unlikely time to be counting bike traffic. (Unless it's being counted by somebody to support a position that too much is being done for the very few people who ride bikes. And that seems unlikely.)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Off-season riding

For many casual cyclists, after Labor Day the bicycles and the white clothes go back into storage until next June.

Now in these parts, it's occasionally dropping below freezing. Adios, tomatoes.

But - even in winter conditions, bicycling is a viable form of transportation with the proper gear. And that gear isn't necessarily expensive - especially compared with driving a car.

A few years back, I categorized the winter challenges as DARK, COLD, and SLIPPERY. Dark and cold can both be easily dealt with; slippery not quite so much. (If 2-ton motor vehicles are slippin' and slidin', it can be downright hazardous.) I refer you back to the POST FROM YESTERYEAR.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Decidedly MALE bicycle!

Now this is funny, and clever!

The Seattle Sperm Lab (?) has deployed a custom-built utility bicycle, used to transport sperm samples to reproductive centers and fertility clinics. It is getting a lot of attention.

Story HERE.

(I hate to be judgmental, but they really need it to be piloted by a virile-looking bike guy wearing some blue-and-white lycra and a color-coordinated bucket. Also... they apparently pay $60 for a "viable sample" of sperm. Sixty bucks?!! Nice work if you can get it, huh?)
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Boise not a bicycle town?

Ever heard of Ignite Boise? I hadn't, until I was pointed at it by fellow cyclist Ellen. "Ignite Boise brings together an inspiring and unexpected blend of thinkers from business, art, technology, government and academia. All with ideas. And all willing to share them." Evidently the speaker has 5 minutes (and 20 slides) to make a presentation and a point. One after another. (Sounds just about right for our ADD society, huh?)

Steve Burns is making a presentation, "Bicycle Town USA - Not Yet!"

The synopsis: "Boise is considered one of the best bicycle towns in the country. Imagine if you could actually ride all over town (and not just in the foothills) safely! It’s time to do for the roads in town what we did for the trails in the foothills–come up with a plan and fund a comprehensive system of bike paths so you can travel all over town. This talk will show how that could be done."

Now, I don't know the background of this Steve Burns fella. But I'm guessing he must either be new to these parts, or he's not very serious about his on-road cycling. Because you can ride all over town safely! I feel qualified to make that claim, because I've been doing just that for 25+ years.

Furthermore, Ada County already has 180 miles of bike lanes, and 46 miles of bike routes. I'd suggest that's a pretty good start on Mr. Burns' envisioned "comprehensive system of bike paths." Our road-builder, ACHD, has a demonstrated track record of bike-friendliness. They're putting bike lanes wherever feasible and practical. (There are some roads where it just ain't gonna happen... not enough real estate.)

And finally, I believe it's counter-productive and "bike unfriendly" for Mr. Burns to suggest that it's not safe to ride on Boise's streets. He's propagating a widely-held but incorrect viewpoint. (In my viewpoint.)

(I did a web search for "Steve Burns Boise." The director of our local zoo is named Steve Burns. Could it be the same guy?)

(Hat-tip to my friends Ellen and Paul for pointing me at "Ignite Boise.")

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New England bike-commuting snapshot

We're fortunate to be spending a few days in New England, to visit family and enjoy a change of scenery. (Unfortunately for us, the famous fall foliage is a few weeks behind schedule, and the autumn colors are just starting to emerge. But hopefully a jaunt to northern Vermont will give us a better glimpse.)

We're "headquartered" in Providence, RI, a hilly community with old, narrow streets. I've seen very little here in the way of bike facilities, although the narrowness of the streets lends to slow traffic speeds. (Also, the streets tend to be in pretty poor condition. People slow down when they're dodging potholes.) I've been somewhat surprised at how few cyclists I've seen here.

Yesterday we spent the day in Boston. I saw more cyclists there, although fewer than I expected. I saw a few bike lanes, and some "sharrows." (Sharrows have a bicycle logo and some arrows painted on the pavement; frankly I don't know how they would be any different from what we call a "bike route" back home... a street that's specifically designated as "bike friendly.")

Also in Boston I saw sidewalk riders (which quickly gets complicated when they're attempting to ride on sidewalks occupied by thousands of pedestrians). And the usual complement of "salmon" going against the flow. I guess they annoy everybody else, everywhere. And everywhere you look, bikes are locked to parking meters, trees, railings, fences. Some have obviously stayed too long; every part that isn't physically locked up has gone missing.

Boston has also recently started hosting a "Hubway" bike sharing program. All over the city in strategic places, you can find a rack with a row of shiny silver comfort bikes. Swipe your credit card or your membership token and it releases a bike. Then you just drop it off at a rack close to your destination. So - you can be a dedicated big-city transportation cyclist without even owning a bike. What'll they think of next?!!

boston rental bikes

Early reports are very encouraging. In the first month there were 36,000+ station-to-station trips on the shared bikes, and 2,319 Bostonians signed up for an annual membership.

Overall, I'm happy to be a transportation cyclist back home in Boise. Our rush hour is small potatoes compared with what you see in the big city. Our streets are wider and better organized. And despite obvious problem areas and bottlenecks, it's pretty easy to get anywhere you might be going on a bicycle in Boise.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Motorist-Hypocrites

The AAA is reporting that drivers text and yap on their phones, even though they know it's dangerous.

According to the AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index, 95% of drivers believe that clickey-clickin' on those tiny keyboards while driving is dangerous, but 35% of 'em do it anyway. 88% of drivers believe that talking on a cellphone while driving is dangerous, and 67% of 'em do it.

From the article: "Texting and cell phone use are not the only distractions in the car, but they are the major preventable ones that have drawn the attention of researchers, safety advocates, lawmakers and the general public. The threat is real, researchers say, because studies of cell phone records of crash-involved drivers suggest that using a cell phone while driving is associated with roughly a quadrupling of crash risk."

The NHTSA estimates that 16% of fatal crashes involve distracted driving. In Idaho, 60 people died in 2009 in distracted-driving accidents, yet Idaho is one of 16 states that don't have a texting- or phoning-while-driving law, despite public opinion favoring such laws. AAA-Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson: "When we reached out to Idahoans last February to hear about their experiences with drivers who text and use cell phones, we were overwhelmed by the responses supporting specific bans on cell phone use."

Frankly, I remain amazed that the auto insurance industry doesn't have graduated rates, or a discount for motorists who don't engage in such dangerous driving practices.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

BikeSnobNYC on cyclists' supernatural powers

Awhile back, I commented on the book Bike Snob. I found the author to be very "well informed" as only practical experience can inform. I intend to share some favorite bits from time to time.

Here he describes how cycling transcends many of the annoyances suffered by other forms of commuting:

When you're stuck in your car on the highway because an accident or construction has suddenly transformed a twenty-five minute jaunt into a three-hour nightmare, or you've been sitting in a stopped subway train in a tunnel for half an hour after a particularly miserable day at work, you feel impotent - and nothing is more frustrating than impotence. These are the times when you attempt to bargain with the universe: "If you make this train move now, I swear I'll be a better person." Then you try to think of people worse off than you. "Well, at least I'm not in prison." But really you are in prison, and even worse, you don't deserve it. Eventually you might try the stuck-in-transit last resort: meditating until you attain enlightenment and transcend the material plane altogether. Unfortunately, it's the very rare traveler who can pull this one off.

But you'll almost never feel that maddening impotence on a bike (unless your saddle is adjusted improperly, causing crotchal numbness). Sure, you've got to travel by car, train, or bus sometimes, but the truth is that you can actually do it a lot less than you'd think. A bicycle can often make a trip that might take an hour take just a fraction of that hour. Or, even if the trip does take longer by bicycle, at least you've got almost total autonomy. You can pick your own route, you can make your own schedule, you can weave through traffic. And when you get to where you're going, you don't have to look for parking. On a bike, you're self-sufficient, and you're virtually immune to delays.

When it comes to commuting or running errands, your outlook changes considerably when you bookend your day with a little recreation. ... Being packed onto a subway or a bus or even stuck in your car in traffic makes you feel like cattle, and that's an awful way to feel. If you never want to feel like a cow again - physically or mentally - start riding your bike.

(Good stuff! Pages 51-52. The author can also be read on his blog. Oh - and I'm jealous! I want manufacturers and suppliers to send me stuff to use and review!)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Flat tire!

I finally got a flat tire! On September 26. Cause - undetermined. The hole was there, but no evidence as to what caused it.

My most recent flat was on June 6. 3 1/2 months and 2251 miles ago.

A testament to the tires I'm rolling on - Vittoria Randonneurs.

Last year, between June 6 and September 26 - 8 flats. 2009 - 6 flats. 2008 - 7 flats. Yep, the tires are the difference. (I know what you're thinkin'. This guy keeps track of his flat tires? What a freak! I'm just happy that they seem to be taking less of my attention lately! If I start only getting one flat every 3 or 4 months, I'll probably quit keeping track.)

Those tires are a little harder to mount than some others. And they may roll ever-so-slightly more harshly. But I've got a new undisputed-champion favorite tire.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Out-of-town ridin'

For several years I've dreamed of traveling to northern Idaho to ride the Coeur d'Alene Trail - 71 miles of paved rail-to-trail Nirvana. And early this year I penciled in the second week of September to finally make it happen. But alas - circumstances that have arisen have changed my plans. Next year we'll try again. (Early September is spoze to be the prime time, because the crowds have tapered off but perfect weather continues.)

So, to partially ease the pain, I instead took Thursday off, and rode a round-trip between Banks and Lowman. It's nothing spectacular, like the offering in northern Idaho, but it was pretty sweet. It, too, is another ride I've wanted to go on for years, and finally turned dream into reality.

It's 34 miles in each direction. Lowman is roughly 1000 feet higher than Banks. And there's a higher "summit" in between the two. But frankly, it's not a grueling ride by any stretch. The shoulders are generally adequate, and there are few places with really tight "blind" curves. I wouldn't recommend it on a busy weekend day, but it was pretty nice on a Thursday.

It's probably been 15 years since I last rode 68 miles in a day. The first half was cake. And the second half was tolerable... but by the time I was 20 miles or so from the finish, I was counting down the miles and looking forward to the finish line. It took a little over 5 hours of "saddle time" and about 6.5 hours on the clock.

The day was mercifully cool; in fact, precipitation sputtered a bit as I started the return leg... but just enough to be refreshing.

The thing I really noticed was how quiet it was. Sound always seems to carry in the forest, and in retrospect I believe it's an illusion... it just seems to carry because there's so much less background noise.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

With friends like these...

I was riding up the street this afternoon when a gal in a white convertible pulled out from a stop sign, into my path. It happens frequently enough that I always try to anticipate, and as I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting her, I also yelled out the customary "HEY!!!" - my horn substitute.

She slammed on her brakes - right in my path (as is frequently the case) - and I was able to change directions and pull around the front of her car.

Then she said something that kinda caught me off guard: "I didn't see you. I'm a bicyclist too!"

What? Am I somehow spoze to feel better about almost getting slammed into, if the person doing the slamming rides a bike from time to time?

Actually it distresses me if a fellow cyclist is so careless when driving. I was right where I should be on the roadway. I was wearing my hi-viz reflective vest. What else can I do?

Hopefully she rides more responsibly than she drives... or she wouldn't last long. (But on the other hand, if she bicycles irresponsibly, it's still highly unlikely she'll kill anybody. And careless motorists kill innocents all the time.)

(NOTE: When I post a comment like this, it's with mixed emotions. This is not in keeping with my mission of being an advocate for bicycling. But it is the reality of being a cyclist. Riding defensively and expecting the unexpected is a matter of survival. And every time I avoid an accident, I demonstrate that survival isn't so far-fetched.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Optical illusion

The days are getting shorter; lately as I ride in to the office the sun is very low on the eastern horizon and a lot of headlights are in use.* (Sigh. I like when the days are getting longer...)

This morning as I rode in the bike lane toward downtown, I saw a cyclist up ahead, in the bike lane. He had a steady-glowing red light. I assumed it to be a taillight, but was baffled because it seemed to be closing distance on me. And sure enough, by the time we were a block or so apart, I figured out what I was looking at. It was an adult male cyclist, wearing a helmet, riding up the wrong side of the street... with a red light clipped to the visor on the front of his helmet. We crossed, me in the bike lane, he in the parking area between the bike lane and the curb. (Sigh again...)

* I haven't started using the lights again yet, under normal circumstances. (Bob T swears by using lights all the time, even in the daytime... and there's doubtlessly some wisdom in that. Motorcycles are mandated to have always-going headlights because it enhances visibility and thus safety. I really oughtta switch to rechargeable batteries and go that route. But that's a different topic.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Car free? Not quite.

I've stated before that it would be difficult to function without at least occasional access to a motor vehicle. Most of us have the need to haul big stuff occasionally, and/or travel with passengers or as a passenger, and/or go on longer out-of-town trips.

When the Tour de Fat comes to town once a year, they challenge a participant to abandon the car and ride a bike exclusively (or at least mostly exclusively) for a year... and that participant gets the bike! This year there was a bit of a dust-up when Josh Gross of the Boise Weekly accused last year's cyclist convert - Lisa Brady - of breaking the rules. She defended herself quite well, and pointed out that car transportation isn't expressly prohibited. Hmmmm... various interpretations. The whole cantankerous debate can be seen HERE.

I decided to keep track of my own car-transportation ways for 12 months.

Over the course of a year - September 2010 thru August 2011 - I kept a journal of my car trips, both as a driver and as a passenger. And in that time I traveled by motor vehicle 50 times. (I may have omitted a trip or two from the journal, but that's my best effort to keep an accurate record.)
- Three of those were out-of-town family excursions - to the Oregon Coast, McCall, and Sumpter, Oregon.
- 20 were local trips, and I was a passenger.
- 23 were local trips when I drove and had passengers.
- One trip was to take the car for an emissions inspection. (Why me?!!?)
- Ten or so trips were to procure and transport large and/or heavy stuff. Three trips were to get Craigslist bicycles! One for the granddaughter, one for my son, and one for myself.
- I only went car-trippin' 2 times in April, and again in July.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bike thefts - up!

Thanks mostly to the harsh economy, I'm guessing, bike thefts are up this year, according to an article on the Idaho Statesman website.

May-July thefts this year: 223. Last year: 179.

The cops are advising people to lock their bikes securely. They say thieves unload 'em at second-hand stores or on the Craigslist. Which somewhat surprises me... when my sweet bike was stolen a couple years ago, I scoured the Craigslist for probably 3 months, watching for any sign of it.

Also noted is the free bike registration with the Boise Police. (Which prompted the comments - predictably - to become a debate about those freeloading bike riders who aren't paying their fair share. Some folks just aren't informed, and obviously enjoy their state of blissful ignorance.)

(Illustration grabbed from the "One Less Van" blog.)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

92 playgrounds in 84 days

We did it! Princess Mackenzie and I have visited every public playground in Boise by bicycle, since June! We mopped up today with a 20-mile loop in southeast Boise, visiting 6 playgrounds.

Playground - 35 Sunset-Park

- 44 playgrounds are at parks.
- 25 or so are at elementary schools.
- The rest are playgrounds at churches, neighborhoods, apartment buildings, etc. If they didn't have a fence around 'em or a stern "no trespassing" sign, we gave 'em a whirl.

Most were visited using the bicycle/Tag-a-long setup. Recently, however, Mackie has ridden her 16" bike (her dad's bike 20 years ago). We cheated on one hot July afternoon, driving to a point in west Boise and then riding a 10-mile loop and visiting 10 playgrounds out in that corner of town. But the rest were visited on rides from our front door, and returning to the front door. If I had to guess, I'd guess that we rode 300-400 miles on our quest.

Will a 4-year-old remember the Summer of the Playgrounds? Time will tell. I've documented most with photos. I also got a little antique-looking statue of a pretty little girl on a trike to gift her, to commemmorate. I know I'll always treasure the memory of the happy hours I spent with my princess.

More, should you be interested:
- Photos (not all the playgrounds, just my favorite photos) - here
- List of all playgrounds, with dates visited and Google Earth "overlay" of all playgrounds - here





Book Review: Bike Snob

My daughter gifted me with this book on Father's Day. (Sweet and thoughtful of her!)

It has no author name, other than "BikeSnobNYC" - also the name of his blog. I've visited the blog from time to time - he's prolific, and obviously a deep thinker. He can write more than I can read! haha

He is identified as "a frequent racer, daily commuter, and former bike messenger himself. He has been published and profiled in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Outside, and Bicycling Magazine."

From reading his book and occasionally the blog, he seems to mostly be snobbish toward motorists (I can identify!) and "hipster" cyclists, whom he regularly scorns, or at least pokes good-natured fun at. "Hipsters" would be the folks whose main motive for cycling seems to be making a fashion statement.

The book was enjoyable to read, and I'd recommend you pick up a copy. I intend to post a few excerpts over the next few days, always attributing the commentary.

BikeSnobNYC on hipsters (pages 122-123, 126):

[An] important fact about hipsters is that kleptoparasitism is an essential component of their survival technique. Kleptoparasitism is when one animal steals another's prey or nesting materials. ... Hipsters kleptoparasitize their vintage band T-shirts, haircuts, and tattoos from other humans in order to make themselves attractive to other hipsters. With the shants of a mailman, the knuckle tattoos of a prisoner, and the haircut of a young Rod Stewart, the hipster kleptoparasite walks the streets of his habitat like a mating lizard with his throat pouch engorged.

So once the bicycle became trendy, the migratory pattern of the hipster changed. ... In a way, the fixed-gear bicycle was the lightning bolt that struck the primordial soup of trendiness...

Clearly, the hipster's standing in the community is defined by his or her bicycle-having status. Either hipsters have some cool bike and want other hipsters to notice it, or they need an excuse to talk to other hipsters so they comment on their bike, or they don't have a bike at all but are acutely aware of this absence so they use it as an opportunity to engage another hipster to help them find one in the hopes it will serve as the pretense for a blossoming love affair, like the plot of a bad romantic comedy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hat-Tip to ACHD

Ada County Highway District, or ACHD, is the agency that maintains and builds roads in these parts. And I have ongoing appreciation for those folks.

First of all, they are proactive about trying to make the infrastructure as bike-friendly as possible, given space and budget constraints. Their efforts have been rewarded with a "Bike Friendly Community" recognition ("Bronze") from the League of American Bicyclists.

And second, they are very responsive to input from citizens.

On August 15, I emailed them (tellus@achdidaho.org) with concerns about:
- tree branches that were partially blocking a bike lane on a busy street,
- goathead vines that some yokel had harvested from his vacant lot, and tossed into the gutter pan,
- my ongoing concerns regarding the camera-activated traffic signals.

August 15th was Monday. By Wednesday or Thursday, the branches had been trimmed and the goatheads swept up! Amazing!

They promised to get back to me on the traffic cameras. I'm hopeful something can be done to make them more "sensitive" to cyclists.

Motorists often mistakenly believe that cyclists pay no highway taxes, since they don't buy gas. The reality is, property owners also pay highway taxes. (Which makes sense - you benefit from having a road to your house, even if you don't use it as often as the guy with the Hummer next door.) In my experience, ACHD is by far the most responsive government agency in these parts. The city, county, state and especially the Feds could learn something from ACHD.

(Side note: I was a charter member of ACHD's Bicycle Advisory Committee. I stepped aside after a couple years, because I believe such a committee is best served by rotating citizens with various viewpoints and ideas in and out, to keep things fresh and interesting.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Playground Vandalism

Granddaughter Mackie and I can see "light at the end of the tunnel." We are trying to visit every playground in Boise by bicycle between June and August. The current count is 84 - of 90 playgrounds that I'm aware of.

On July 3, we visited Nottingham Park in west Boise. A lovely little neighborhood park and playground. It was the first time either of us had been there.

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On the night of August 15, vandals torched it. Here's what it looks like now. (The photos were grabbed off the Idaho Statesman website - story HERE.)

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You can be either part of the problem, or part of the solution. An asset, or a liability. It's pretty easy to decide which group these miscreants belong to.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"No idling" campaign

An "idling reduction campaign" kicks off this week in Boise. No - it's not about getting city workers to quit loafin' on the job. It's about getting motorists to not sit there with their engines running, when they're not moving.

The memo can be read HERE (PDF document).

Facts - according to the "Be Idle Free Boise" website:
- Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel that restarting the engine.
- Each gallon of fuel burned emits about 20 lbs. of carbon dioxide.
- Frequent restarting has little impact on car engine components such as the starter and battery.
- Inhaling exhaust fumes is linked to increased risk of heart and lung disease, asthma, and allergies, especially in young children.
- Idling gets you nowhere!

A couple of personal observations...

The worst offenders, as far as idling vehicles go, would be government-owned vehicles. I regularly see buses at bus stops idling away. And the only place you'll EVER see a cop car with the motor shut off is in the overnight parking lot. Don't they create CO2 emissions?

It's a little distressing that when gas is $3.50+ per gallon, the City still needs to conduct a campaign to get people to switch off the motor when they're just sitting there. But sitting in traffic, engine running, is the norm. (On those rare occasions when I take to a motor vehicle, that drives me nuts! I can barely tolerate sitting at a traffic signal, and if it's gonna be a wait, I always shut off the motor. If other people are in the car, they look over at me like maybe I don't know what I'm doing.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hand-mounted blinky turn signals... ?

Jack O'Neal of Portland has invented some motion-activated LED-blinky turn signals, mounted on the back of bicycling gloves. Theoretically they will make urban cycling safer, by providing better visibility of cyclist turn-intentions to other roadway users.

Story HERE.

He's trying to secure $50K in startup capital. He thinks they'll sell - and people will buy - for $50 or less.

If I did much cycling in nighttime or overcast conditions, I'd probably be more interested. They may be a hit in a place like Portland, where the sun doesn't shine quite as often.

My own strategy is to be aware of traffic in front of me, to the sides of me, and behind me (using a rearview mirror), pick my openings carefully, never be unpredictable, and signal my intentions. I've never had even a close call. (I regularly see cyclists putting themselves in peril by riding in a more "squirrely" fashion.)

Here's a suggestion... how about if motorists signal when they're turning? Oft-times, that seems secondary in importance, if they're holding a phone or a beverage in their turn-signal hand. And then they get uppity if I don't read their mind.

(I liked one reader's comment - I had the same thought - "Forget this. Give me one with the LEDs lining the length of the fingers. I like to make my middle finger visible at night.")

Monday, August 8, 2011

Power to the bike-riding people! Sat., 8/13

On Saturday, 8/13 at 10am, there is going to be a bike-rider rally to protest the Garden City Greenbelt bicycle ban.

If you live around Boise and ride a bike, you should be interested. And I hope you'll join us - strength in numbers!

Meet at 10am (be 5 minutes early) at the northwest corner of Glenwood and Riverside Drive (near the Moxie Java).

I've commented before on the bike ban. In a nutshell, there's a stretch of publically-owned Greenbelt between an exclusive housing development (developed by the guy who is now mayor, and who lives in the development... but I'm sure that's just coincidence) and the Boise River, that has been decreed off-limits to cyclists. The Citizens for an Open Greenbelt group is suing to have it reopened, but in the meantime, this protest is a "raising awareness" type event.

If several hundred cyclists showed up and walked their bikes along the path, it would be a beautiful thing. Please spread the word between now and Saturday... and join in! I hope to ride to the event with my granddaughter, participate, then ride home, enjoying the relative coolness of a summer morning ride/stroll.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Epic ride with granddaughter

By the time we'd completed our loop, Mackie and I had:

- ridden >20 miles (using the bike / Tag-a-Long),

- visited 6 playgrounds (bringing the total for the summer to 73!)

- fed carrots to three miniature horses and three full-size horses.

We dealt with 90+ degree temperatures by staying well-hydrated and soaking our noggins and shirts with cool water.

Those miniature horses are a kick! If you don't have carrots, they won't give you the time of day, but they come a-running if you have carrots. I've never figured out how they even know, but they seem to know.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Clean Energy" comes to Boise

Earlier this week, the first commercial CNG (compressed natural gas) station opened here in Boise.

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17 years or so ago, the public transit provider at the time, Boise Urban Stages, switched their buses over to run on CNG, and accordingly built a private CNG filling facility. And a couple years back, apparently the trash service converted their vehicles over, mostly to avoid new diesel regulations. (How ironic! Trash trucks that smell better than those big ol' diesel pickup trucks! haha!) They have now opened it for private citizens to fill 'er up.

The sign says "clean energy." And it's certainly much cleaner than diesel, and apparently more so than gasoline. The main advantage, at least for now, is that it's about 2 bucks cheaper than gas.

Of course, everything is relative. From my seat, this new energy doesn't look particularly clean - OR cheap.

If CNG gained widespread popularity, it would doubtlessly cause the price to rise... along with the cost of natural gas for everything else... like heating houses.

I s'pose if I were shopping for a motor vehicle for local transportation, I'd take a serious look at CNG. At least it's an American product, unlike a large percentage of that terrorist fossil fuel that people burn. (I guess Honda is the only manufacturer who builds such a vehicle at a factory, although other vehicles can be retrofitted. The main issue is the high-pressure tank needed to hold the fuel. Oh - and the very limited availability of filling stations.)

Bike lane enforcement

Now and then, when I see a car - or more often a pickup truck it seems - parked in the bike lane, I wish we had a no-nonsense mayor like the one in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Seems that Mayor Arturas Zuokas got tired of bike lane violators, and used a tank to crush the car of one of the scofflaws. Fortunately, the car was only a Mercedes-Benz... Zuokas says, "In the past few days, expensive cars have been illegally parked in almost this exact place – a Rolls Royce and a Ferrari." Story HERE.

Boy howdy! What's the penalty for speeding, or running a red light?!?

Auto repairs - too 'spensive

According to the AAA (hardly an anti-car organization!), one-fourth of American drivers are unable to keep their cars in good repair, due to the economy.

So what?

Are those vehicles prowling the streets with defects that could affect safety? It's a sobering thought. (On the bright side, it's fairly rare to hear about an accident caused by mechanical failure. In most situations, the failure is the brain operating the vehicle - you know, the one behind the steering wheel.)

I can identify with those expensive fixes, though! Back in the day, a competent, mechanically-minded person could do many of his own repairs. But nowadays you open the hood and can't even see the motor... and unless you have a computer that talks to the car's computer... fuggeddaboudit!

I found an easy solution to car repairs - DITCH THE CAR! Even if you can only cut your driving in half, your car should go for twice as long between fixes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

National Night Out, in retrospect

Last night I attended, and briefly spoke at, the N.N.O. event in a neighborhood across town.

The event was very impressive, and I told 'em so. A good neighborhood is made up of good neighbors. I'm guessing there were 60 to 70 people in attendance. They arrived walking, in cars and on bikes - even one kid on a skateboard. They ranged from infants to probably 80+ years old. The "potluck" was ample and tasty. I followed a protein-loving teenager through the line, who got pizza and chicken. (He might've been the kid who arrived by skateboard.)

They started out with a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the National Anthem. Sweet. (I'd be comfortable in such a neighborhood.)

Despite the high-temp of 97 degrees, my granddaughter, Princess Mackie, attended with me. She wanted to go, because we planned on hitting some playgrounds afterwards, as we took the "scenic route" home. She's a fussy eater, but ate a plate of food.

Dottie - the gal who invited me and was "hostessing" the gathering, is a spark-plug! During our phone conversations, she told me of her personal love for bicycling. Her daughter is also an enthusiastic transportation cyclist, although she's currently stoved up following an intersection near-collision crash. (Which also partly explains their interest in bicycle safety.)

My presentation was quite brief, actually.

When I asked the audience if they harbored some resentment towards cyclists because of near-misses they'd had, or their observation of cyclists flagrantly violating the law or being bad roadway citizens, I saw a lot of folks nodding in agreement.

I covered my philosophy of being a safe cyclist:
- Be Legal!
- Be Visible!
- Be Predictable!
- Be Defensive!

... along with explanations and examples of each.

Predictably, there was much interest in Idaho's famous "bicycle stop law." We discussed it at some length.

Folks seemed impressed that I've ridden 4000 bicycle miles this year. (A milestone reached earlier the same day, coincidentally.) They also were impressed that Mackie and I are bicycling to all the playgrounds across the city.

I told 'em that if there is ONE THING I would ask of motorists, it's to give the appropriate amount of attention to driving. Piloting a 3500-pound lethal missile around is a big responsibility. If your inattentiveness can end up killing somebody... it deserves a lot of attention.

Fortunately, I was just wrapping it up when the fire truck came roaring down the street, horn blaring... because the audience attention was gone. (Dottie invited the fire and police departments, as well.)

I sincerely hope that I was a good Ambassador for Bicycle Nation, and perhaps they went home feeling a little better about sharing the road with cyclists. Or... maybe even bicycling themselves! If nothing else, I'm a living testament to the fact that you don't have to be Lance Armstrong - or even particularly athletic - to be successful at getting around on a bike.

On the way home, we visited playgrounds at Cole Valley Christian School, Valley View School, Mountain View School, and Mountain View Park. (Bringing our count for the summer to 64!)

Easy LBS pickins?

My colleague Bill* was shaking his head ruefully, and wondering how he'd explain the $240 bike bill to his wife.

Bill recently started riding his bike to the office, a few times a week. He noticed that his back tire was worn down to where he saw some of the casing showing through - time to replace. So, he took his bike to a nearby bike shop to get the work done. And somehow, before they were done with him, he had laid down 240 bucks. Ouch!

Bill: "Since I was getting the back tire replaced, might as well replace the front tire, too." That was the only other detail I heard. (I told Bill - after the fact - that my front tires typically outlast 2 or 3 rear tires.)

Even if he got top-of-the-line tires - $40 to $50 - how could he have ended up with such a huge expense?

I like the notion of supporting the LBS - Local Bike Shop - but I also like the notion of the LBS treating customers with respect and honesty. And frankly it bothers me a bit that Bill paid so much. Fer cryin' out loud! Even with the upgraded tires, there's no way he could sell his bike for anywhere near $240!

There may be further explanation - maybe he decided that since he was replacing the tires, he might as well replace the wheels, too. (??) But on the surface, it would appear that he was "had" by a local retailer. Too bad. Makes me feel somewhat better that I do most of my own work.

* - his real name, but hopefully not enough to positively ID him...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

National [Bike] Night Out

No... it's not an opportunity for me to announce that I'm gay. (Ha!)

N.N.O. is, according to the website, "an effective, inexpensive and enjoyable program to promote neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships in our fight for a safer nation."

And - it's almost upon us again! Tuesday, August 2.

I'm participating! A neighborhood group has invited me to come and talk about bicycle safety. An active member, who is very interested in bicycle safety for various reasons, heard me on Doug McConnaughey's "Weekend Idaho" radio program a few weeks back. And apparently my wild-eyed zealotry didn't seem totally nonsensical to her.

I'm even invited to enjoy some potluck beforehand! Sweeeeeeet! (I love to "fuel up"!!)

If things go according to plan, I'll share some notions about bike safety with the group for 7 or 10 minutes, and then entertain questions and discussion. I'm really looking forward to it. And, unless the temperature is oppressively hot, I hope for Mackie to tag-a-long with me, because there are 3 or 4 playgrounds in the neighborhood, that we haven't visited yet. We can do all of that, and still be home before dark!

(I love the concept of promoting neighborhood spirit. We've lost a lot of that, just during my lifetime. When I was a kid, we knew pretty much everybody within a half-mile radius. Now I'm barely acquainted with my closest neighbors. We all tend to just hunker down in our bunkers any more. Of course, unlike driving a car, riding a bike at least gives me an opportunity to say "hello" when I ride by and see a neighbor out-of-doors.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Moment of Clarity

Epiphany: the sudden realization or comprehension of the larger meaning.

I've been seeing a lot of this, the past few days.

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A week ago, granddaughter Mackie was reluctant to ride. I believe it's because she's outgrown her 12" bike, and just never got comfortable on the next bigger size. (Going from 12 inches to 16 inches is a huge commitment!)

But after some coaxing, she got on board. We rode a lap around the park - about 1/2 mile of nice, smooth sidewalk. She wanted to go another lap... and then another.

Since then, she's been very persistent in her efforts to talk me into going riding with her. Every night, we've ridden 3 or 4 loops around the park. Every lap, she's a little less wobbly and a little more confident. When we get home, she rides around and around and around in our driveway, until I insist that it's time to stop. This weekend, I hope we can expand her horizons by getting on some paths a little farther from home. She's excited - I'm excited!

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Bike-commuters beat Jet-commuters

This is pretty funny.

In the great Los Angeles Basin - not exactly a stronghold for transportation cycling - JetBlue Airlines was promoting a $4 fare (!) for a flight from the Burbank Airport to the Long Beach Airport. (I'm assuming it must've been some kind of promotion, since I can't imagine a plane even taking off, let alone going someplace, for $4 per passenger.)

Somebody threw down the gauntlet - challenged cyclists to race the airplane from the one airport to the other.

A cycle group called the "Wolfpack Hustle" made the trip in about an hour and a half.

The advertised flight time for the JetBlue is 20 minutes. But then factor in the trip to the airport, the arrival at least an hour before departure time, etc., etc. - "by the time the plane took off, the cyclists were already in Long Beach." Sweeeet!

Story HERE.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

9 Months Straight!

October 10, 2010 thru July 9, 2011 ... that may be the only episode of my life in which I accumulate some bicycle miles every single day for nine consecutive months. I haven't left town for more than 1 night in all that time, and unless I spend the whole day "abroad," I've lately been trying to ride every day.

Now I admit... a few of those days have seen rides that were only done to "keep the streak alive" because of time constraints, conflicting duties, etc.

Of course, all streaks eventually come to an end... and today is the day. For you see, the asphalt ribbon beckons seductively. I'm going to straddle the other 2-wheeled contraption that vies for my attention - the motorcycle - and spend some "quality time" rumblin' down the highways and byways. (Specifically the Oregon and NoGollyfornia coast and points in between.)

[NOTE: If you're one of those Facebook burglars we've heard about, who preys on the folks who announce their departure and burglarizes their houses during their absence... fuggeddaboudit! The house will be occupied for the duration. And the occupants are heavily armed, with clear instructions to make sure your body falls into the house instead of ouside the house... for legal purposes, you know.]
:-O

Hasta la vista, baby. I'll be bach.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hawk attacks cyclists in E. Oregon

I've commented before on my bird observations. Audubon I'm not... but every now and then, a bird and bicyclist cross paths in interesting ways.

On July 4th I was riding east of town, when an enthusiastic blackbird aggressively defended his nesting area. I tried to reason with him, in English, explaining to him I wasn't there to rob his nest.

Over in Pendleton, cyclists are being targeted by a bigger and scarier aggressor - a hawk! Story HERE. A swainson's hawk swoops down on 'em and smacks 'em on the brain bucket. One guy said it was like a baseball bat whackin' his lid. Another guy is sporting talon-holes. (Better the bucket than his skull, huh?) One more reason why a helmet is a good idea!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Boise is #1 for skin cancer

According to The Daily Beast, Boise is the number-one skin cancer city. (Based on number of sunny summer days - 51 - and instances of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.) Interesting, and a little disturbing, since I do all of my bike riding in the great out-of-doors.

I haven't heard the mayor, or Chamber of Commerce, excitedly declaring "We're number one!"

Do you sunscreen before a ride? I don't, but probably should. (When I take the granddaughter and we're anticipating being gone for more than an hour or so, we'll grease up. But usually I don't take the time.)

Since I ride year-round, and since the intensity of the sun builds as it gets higher in that summer sky, I rationalize that I get naturally and gradually accustomed to those more intense summer rays. My exposure to direct sunlight is most often limited to an hour or less at a time. And I rarely get sunburned... when I do, it's almost always when I'm working in my garden or some such activity, rather than cycling. (And it's usually my head that gets burned... because when I'm riding, I'm wearing the brain-bucket. The top of my head doesn't get much sunlight at all.)

A good friend, Damon, developed melanoma 15 years or so ago. (He lived in Boise, but moved to the Sacramento area.) It really changed his life... whenever he's outdoors now, it's with a wide-brim hat and long sleeves. He scrupulously avoids direct sunlight whenever possible.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Summer Tires

A couple days ago, my daughter saw me mounting my new white Vittoria Randonneur tires, and commented, "Oh! You're putting on your summer tires!" Yep! Of course, they'll have to come off after Labor Day...
(-;

I acquired some white ones, just for kicks and giggles, because they were the same price as the black ones. (And possibly they might contribute ever so slightly to my being visible.) After a couple days, I'm a bit disappointed - I didn't know the roads had dirty stuff on 'em! At least the sidewalls are still pretty white...



The old tire finally came to the end of the line... when the tread of your [black] tire is no longer black because the stuff underneath the tread is showing through, that's the sign. (That tire - a 700x32 Vittoria Randonneur - lasted an incredible 4016 miles... on back! And on top of that, in all those miles I had two flats TOTAL!! Yep - definitely my favorite tire.) (Anybody wanna buy a tire pump? HAHAHAHA!)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Doctor makes house calls on his bike

A doctor still makes house calls? In 2011?

Dr. Tony Ohotto, a geriatric specialist in Portland, makes house calls on his bike! Story HERE. He is joined by Kevin Callahan, a therapist, as they visit oldsters around Portland.

That is too cool!

Callahan travels almost exclusively by bike. Ohotto splits bike trips and carpooling with other medical staffers. I s'pose if your doctor told you to get more exercise, it would mean more if he arrived on his bike, than if he arrived in his Mercedes-Benz.

My dad was a doctor, and one of the last I knew of who would make house calls when the situation warranted it. (I remember his big tan leather "doctor bag." I sat in the car on a few occasions while he visited a patient. Yeah... he went in a car, rather than on a bike.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bike Rodeo

There is essentially no formal effort to educate bike riders on how to be safe and do things right. And one gets the impression that a lot of kids learn from clueless teachers. So it was exciting to help put on a Bike Rodeo yesterday evening, to give 10 or so Cub Scouts a bit of education. (I'm a cubmaster these days, and every June is the traditional Bike Rodeo... intended to provide both fun and education.)

I enlisted the help of a couple gifted and willing volunteers - Clancy, who reads and occasionally comments here, and Dave, who works in the same office building as me. Clancy is very mechanically-inclined; works at the Boise Bike Project and builds up bicycles... including a bike he built out of wood! Clancy rides a lot, too. And Dave is the only other guy at my office - maybe 800 people - who rides his bike year-round. I've ridden with him and have observed his safety skills.

During preparation, I had a couple setbacks. I made the mistake of storing some milk for refreshments in the church refrigerator overnight. It was gone. ("Thou shalt not steal" is a hard concept to understand, apparently.) And the night before, I drew out a little road practice course in the parking lot with sidewalk chalk. A half-hour or so after I was done, a fantastic thunderstorm blew up out of nowhere - it poured rain for 15 minutes or so. The next morning I went to survey the damage... there was absolutely no evidence that a course had ever been there! D'oh! Fortunately, I'd used less than half of the chalk, so my assistant Jared and I were able to redo the course in 45 minutes or so.

As for the Bike Rodeo, we started with a couple learning sessions. Dave and I taught about how to ride safe - my rules in a nutshell are BE LEGAL, BE PREDICTABLE, BE VISIBLE, and BE DEFENSIVE. Clancy and Andrew (a Varsity scout with considerable bike skills and a sweet single-speed) taught the ABCs of safety-checking your bike before you ride.

Following the learning sessions, we sent the groups to: 1) a big loop - 5 times around is a mile, and 2) our chalk-outline road course, where they could practice straight-line riding, signaling their turns, stopping and starting in a smooth fashion, and riding the slalom course.

I got the impression that the evening was a success. Nobody got hurt, and I didn't kill anybody! (I struggle a bit with the limited attention span of 8-10 year olds, but my granddaughter gives me experience with that almost every day.) The chocolate milk (as plugged by Kristin Armstrong) and peanut butter cookies (all cyclists love peanut butter!) topped the evening off nicely.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bike Nazi hits the airwaves!!

Does anybody still listen to radio? Besides me?

(Some of the youngstas are asking themselves, "What's radio??")

On Saturday morning, bright and early at 7am MDT, I've been invited to be on "Weekend Idaho with Doug McConnaughey" on KBOI radio, 670 on the AM dial. The topic is supposed to be "transportation cycling." (Give me a soapbox and a megaphone, and I love to "preach the word"!!)

I've listened to Doug for a long time, early (5-8am) on Saturday and Sunday mornings. His program is quite relaxed and not "hot headed" like most talk radio. It's a call-in show, with guests and a wide variety of topics, mostly "local" topics as opposed to ranting about Washington, D.C. And I particularly like it because he plays an eclectic mix of music, as well.

If you're interested in listening, but don't have a radio, or are outside of broadcast range, it can be heard on the web HERE.

Doug frequently gives the phone numbers to call in - DO IT if you feel so inclined! (Don't call just to whine about those crazy bike riders, though.)
:-O

---

If that weren't enough, also this weekend is the "Boise Rec Fest" at Ann Morrison Park. I'm helping staff a "Citizens for an Open Greenbelt" booth. The COG group is working - now in the courts - to get a short stretch of Garden City Greenbelt opened for bicycle use. It's currently closed to cyclists, even though the state deeded the land to Garden City with the stipulation that it be maintained as a "bike path." (Ironically, I've never seen the stretch of path in question - it's on the north side of the Boise River, west of Glenwood Street. But the Greenbelt is supposed to be a multi-modal path - including bicycles - so that's why I somehow got into the fight.)

Anthing bike-related will probably be mostly "toy-bike"-related at something called the "Rec Fest." But most toy bikes could also conceivably be used for transportation.

Come by and see me from 1-5pm. (The weather should be perfect for outdoors stuff, and there are a lot of other goings on at Ann Morrison Park. Saturday and Sunday - my shift is on Saturday.)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Summer Bike Fun!

My granddaughter and I have a daunting task in front of us ... in the three summer months, we intend to visit every public playground in Boise. By bicycle.

Daunting - why?

Boise has 44 city-park playgrounds listed on the website. Garden city has 2 or 3. Plus - most of the elementary schools have a playground. Plus - there are few playgrounds in church yards and other quasi-public places.

The closest is across the street - we visit it several times a week anyway. The farthest from us are 10 miles or more. We'll need to build up some momentum to get to those! (And hopefully pick days when it's not 100 degrees.)

We're off to a decent start - since the beginning of June, we've already visited 17 playgrounds. (Mackie gets upset with me when, after a 10-minute stop, I say, "Okay - we've gotta go." But when we're headed for another playground, she's pretty quick to forgive.)

Whittier School:
Playground - Whittier-School

Manitou Park:
Playground - Manitou-Park

Liberty School:
Playground - Liberty-School

Phillippi Park:
Playground - Phillippi-Park