Saturday, January 29, 2011

Don't try this at home!

Every now and then, I check out a Danny MacAskill video on the YouTube. If there's somebody who can control the trajectory of a bicycle better than this fella, you'll have to clue me in.

He's a trials rider from Scotland. The sport likely evolved from motorcycle trials riding, in which the start-to-finish time is irrelevant. The winner is the one who completes the course - which is very deliberately an obstacle course - with feet off the ground.

This guy is unbelievable.

Does this kind of skill translate to transportation cycling? I like to think he'd be an excellent transportation cyclist! (Wouldn't it be a cryin' shame if he goes everywhere in a car?!!)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Do bikes belong?

... on public roadways? Occasionally you can't help but wonder.

Yesterday I was cycling down a nice wide 5-lane arterial here in Boise. Traffic was light. I thought I was doing everything right, and probably 25 or 30 cars went by without incident. Then along comes some guy in his little 4-door sedan, and as he goes by he lays on the horn. Beeeeeee...eeee...eee...eeep!

He was looking in his rearview, so I flipped him the bird. I'm not proud of it, and I felt bad afterwards. IMO, it's stupid to respond to stupid behavior, by engaging in stupid behavior. Most of the time, I prefer to console myself by thinking, "Wow! It was nice of that inferior and marginal driver to warn me of his presence. Otherwise I might have mistakenly thought he was competent!"

I really would like to engage a guy like that in conversation to ask him why he honked.

- Was I doing something dangerous or illegal? (Would the police have pulled me over, if they happened along?)
- Are you just having a bad day, and that's how you "act out"? Did somebody just honk at you for no apparent reason, so you felt compelled to honk at somebody else for no apparent reason?
- Are you bullying me because your vehicle is bigger, and "it's a jungle out there"?
- Was it a major inconvenience to momentarily lighten your foot on the accelerator, and maybe adjust your trajectory by a couple of degrees? Did I delay you?
- Do you think that bicycles don't belong on public roadways?

Would most people prefer to live in a place where bicycles aren't allowed on roadways, but only on separated recreational pathways?

Because I only get honked at maybe 6 times a year, it always bugs me. (If it happened more frequently, I'd wonder if it was on account of something I'm doing wrong. But the infrequency, I believe, attests to the fact that I'm usually in the proper place on the road, and people see me, and they can recognize that I'm doing my best to be a good roadway citizen.)

My friend and blog-reader Bob T recently sent me a link to another rider's commentary, titled "On The Wretchedness Of A Culture In Which People Get So Upset About Bicycles."

I can identify!

The author, Dan Bertolet, says:

"The comment threads on pretty much any online article that has anything to do with bikes in pretty much any publication are guaranteed to be overflowing with hissy fits about cyclists, most of which can be distilled down to the complaint that bikes get in the way of cars, or more bluntly, that bikes are annoying so who cares if they get run down.

"And its not just venom being spewed safely behind anonymous computer screens. Any cyclist who’s spent significant time on the streets has no doubt experienced drivers foaming at the mouth first hand."

Bertolet describes how cars "dehumanize us":

"I say this because I can see it happen to me whenever I get behind the wheel. Egged on by the overpowering goal of getting there faster—which is what traveling by car is all about—I find myself reflexively taking all kinds of little chances that increase the risk I am posing to others around me. And that’s how most people operate. But if not enclosed in a safe metal and glass cocoon, most of us would never behave so callously toward our fellow human beings."

Interesting observations. (Many of the responses to Bertolet's column are by folks commenting on the "helmetless moron on a brakeless fixie" in the photo illustrating the piece.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New bike laws mulled in Oregon

Our next-door neighbors in Oregon - particularly Portland - are famous for accommodating and encouraging cyclists. (Although there is no reason Portland should have more cyclists than Boise. They have the same sprawl issues, and the geography and climate in Boise are more bike-friendly in Boise than in Portland, in this writer's opinion.)

The newly-convened 2011 Oregon Legislature is mulling over two bicycle bills that have been introduced.

One "would prohibit anyone from carrying a child under six years of age on their bicycle or in a bicycle trailer."

That one makes no sense. In essence, it would eliminate cycling as a transportation option for anybody who cares for a young child. I don't think I've ever seen a child over six years old riding in a bike trailer.

I s'pose proponents of the bill would argue that it would reduce the number of injuries or fatalities suffered by kids under six, while cycling. If that's the objective, shouldn't they also force kiddies out of cars?? Thousands of kids are maimed and killed in car accidents!

I hope that bill never sees the light of day.

The other would prohibit operating a bike "while wearing a listening device that is capable of receiving telephonic communication, radio broadcasts or recorded sounds."

Obviously people perceive cyclists with earbuds to be a safety menace to themselves and others.

IMO, this is an instance where cyclists shoot themselves in the foot. There is a sizeable percentage of cyclists who are NOT very responsible and law-abiding. And a sizeable percentage of that group is also wearing earbuds.

The Libertarian in me is against that law. I see it as an ever-expanding nanny government. Music-listening cyclists are mostly risking their own lives and safety (although one could argue that they put other roadways users in risky situations as well). As the government regulates more and more behavior, it leads the clueless to conclude that if it's not against the law, it must be safe. (Case in point - people who text while driving, and who won't stop unless it's made illegal. And many still won't stop; they'll just be sneakier about it.)

It seems like we're approaching the day when common sense will only be spoken of in nostalgic terms... something that existed back in Grandpa and Grandma's day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Noise Pollution

President Obama just signed legislation - the "Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009" - that requires all motor vehicles to emit a minimum amount of noise (to be determined by the Secretary of Transportation). The law is primarily intended to benefit blind folks, who depend on their hearing to know of the proximity of approaching vehicles. (Obviously cyclists are expected to watch out for blind folks, since we aren't required to emit noise. Although maybe that will change - maybe all bikes will be required to have playing cards in the spokes.)

That got me to thinkin' about road noise.

There's an interesting Wikipedia article about roadway noise: "In the USA it contributes more to environmental noise exposure than any other noise source, and is constituted chiefly of engine, tire, aerodynamic and braking elements." It explains how vehicle speeds, vehicle types, roadway surface and geometrics, and tire types all affect overall road noise.

For every extraordinarily quiet vehicle, there are 20 extraordinarily loud ones. Some roadway users seem to get satisfaction from making an obnoxious amount of noise - bikers, punks in their rice-burners, and rednecks in their huge pickups come immediately to mind. (I ride a Harley, so I'm sensitive to that issue from several aspects. I've got an aftermarket exhaust pipe that "rumbles" more than the factory setup, but it's not annoyingly loud. My neighbors wave at me when I ride by, rather than shaking their fists.)

This time of year, tire studs generate a painful amount of noise. Drivers of those cars probably aren't aware, since their windows are rolled up and they've got the ol' CD player and heater blasting away.

Although I usually feel safe when I'm sharing the road with motor vehicles, riding on dedicated bike/pedestrian paths always provides some noise relief. It's a sweet thing when the roar of roadway noise is a distant rumble, rather than constant and immediate.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Little Bike --> Big Bike

I got my granddaughter a 20-inch bike ($5 on the Craigslist, and a couple hours of TLC). It turned out pretty nice. I gave it to her for a 4th birthday present, earlier this month.

It seemed so tiny when I was working on it... but it seems huge when compared with her 12-inch bike, or when she's trying to get on board.

It's got the coaster brake, which she's used to, but also has a caliper hand-squeeze brake on the front wheel, so she can start getting a feeling for that.

It's still too big for her, even with the seat at its lowest. (Oh - I got the seat upgrade over at the Boise Bicycle Project; the old one was scuffed up and not pink enough.) She can ride it fine, but starts and stops are just a little too much. By the time warm weather is upon us, hopefully she'll have grown another inch or two. She is much faster and more steady on the 20-inch wheels, than on those little roller-skate 12-inchers.

I'm happy about her enthusiasm for cycling, and for the ability she has already started developing. I was six, maybe seven, before I ever rode a bike. She was riding without training wheels at 3 1/2 or so. (She suggested I put the training wheels on her "new" bike, but I explained she'd never be satisfied to ride a training-wheel bike again.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Best (mileage) year ever!

Pardon me for a moment, while I wax braggadocious.

Way back in 1996, a younger and more energetic Bike Nazi rode 6589 miles, on a bicycle, in one year.

Ever since, that has been a lofty and distant mark - my Everest.

Well lo and behold... in 2010 I've surpassed that milestone... by 122 miles.

"Hey, wait a minute!" interrupts the modern-day Pharisee. "This ain't even 2010 anymore, dad-gum it!"

And right he is... but let me explain.

At the beginning of 2010, I was recuperating from surgery, and ordered off the bike. I was able to resume cycling last January 15, so I gave myself a little fudge factor. I've ridden 6711 miles in the last 365 days. (For the record, I rode on 355 of those days.)

If you reject my fudgin' ways, I rode 6485 miles in calendar 2010, making it my second-best year.

I was particularly motivated this year:
- desire to self-affirm my ongoing good health,
- shiny new bicycle to ride,
- 25th year of transportation cycling.

It worked out good.

Will I ever surpass 6711 miles?

Seems unlikely. But until I did it, breaking my 1996 record seemed unlikely. Once I don't have to spend 40+ hours a week toiling for pay, it will likely free up some time. So if my health holds up, I'll never say never.

I dedicate my 2010 record to a couple fellas who are largely responsible for my good health: Dr. William Jones who has monitored my condition for years, and Dr. Avery Seifert who performed the surgery and had me back on the bicycle 30 days later.

Keep on ridin'!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Safety football uniform

Are you a college football fan? If so, it was a historic and recently-ended season.

Once our beloved Broncos were out of the picture, I was cheering for the Oregon Ducks. And was disappointed when they lost the championship game. (But not by much... it was a good game, particularly if you like world-class defense.)

Of course, Oregon is famous (?) for their uniforms. They are at the opposite end of the spectrum from Penn State, with their "generic" look. If Oregon plays 13 games in a year, there are several uniforms they won't get to wear that year, if they wear a different one for each game. (That is largely because they're just down the road from Nike, and are "guinea pigs" of sorts.)

I seriously want some of those socks, like they were wearing in the championship game! They'd go nice with my hi-viz jacket and vest! And one of the beanies would be nice, too... in that same color, of course. I could wear it under my brain-bucket, just like the football players.

NIKE... are you listening? (-;

Monday, January 10, 2011

At last! A motorcycle bike rack!

You see a lot of automobiles in these parts with bike racks - either atop the roof, or attached to the trailer hitch receiver. Folks apparently like to take their bikes on car trips. (I've not had good luck with rooftop bike racks - I don't have the attention span. Twice I've driven underneath overhead barriers, much to the detriment of front forks. I gave it up many years ago, and pretty much just stick to the bicycle any more.)

But at long last, there's a bike rack for us motorcycle enthusiasts.

(That took awhile for me to process. Motorcycle bike rack? Yeah - it's a rack that attaches to your motorcycle, so you can take your bicycle with you on motorcycle trips.)

It's the brainchild of 2x2 Cycles founder Garrett Blake, who apparently loves both motorcycling and bicycling. (Hey - I like this guy!) Blake: "I didn’t want to drive my 15-mpg truck to far-away bike trails and charity rides, and miss out on some great road rides without the motorcycle. Nor did I want to ride my motorcycle somewhere and see all those great trails and have no bicycle to use. I knew this rack would truly open up a whole new world of adventure to motorcycle enthusiasts around the world."

I'd like one of these, but I don't think I'd use it often enough to justify the $300 selling price. (If the guy wants to send me one, I'll install it and give it a thorough workout over the course of 2011, and write my impressions, including how often it came in handy.)

The company also makes a gizmo that allows you to attach your golf bag out back, for golfing motorcycle riders.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Our area is having another "yellow alert" air quality day. To us common folk, that means the air isn't necessarily unhealthy to breathe quite yet. "... However, some sensitive people including children, the elderly, those with existing health conditions, and people who work, exercise or spend extensive time outdoors may want to take precaution."

It could be worse; at least we don't have Red Alert air, like those poor schmoes down along the Wasatch Front.

They like to call it "haze." Sounds prettier than "smog."

ZZ Top referred to it as "Squank."

Woman, grab your children, run and hide.
Don't let it catch up with you.
You gotta fight it to stay alive,
and if it gets you, man, you're through.

It smells so rotten and rank.
Well, everybody calls it the squank.

It's sick, depressin', gettin' bigger all the time.
Don't help it any way you can.
It's grey and brown and sometimes lime
and it's spreadin' all over the land.

And soon we'll be all breathin' out of tanks
if somethin' ain't done about the squank.

The meanest thing the world's ever bred
by me and you and kinfolk too.
A monster can't live unless it's fed,
and it's being fed by me and you.

And soon it's gonna leave the world blank,
and we'll all be erased by the squank.

(Golly! ZZ Top - the little ole band from Texas - Environmental Activists! Who knew?!!)

In these parts (probably 'most everywhere), three things combine to cause the squank: 1) geography, 2) atmospheric conditions, 3) pollutants.

We obviously have no control over the geography, since lots of people would complain if the mountains were flattened. (The mountains tend to "trap" bad air in the valley, under an inversion-type air pattern, which we deal with now and then. That's the "atmospheric condition.") Of course, humans and human activity are the biggest contributors of pollutants, unless there's a volcano or earthquake or prairie fire going on.

Burning is banned. Makes sense. (And honestly, the pollution is less of a problem now than when most houses were heated by coal or stove oil.)

But it always cracks me up that they advise people (obviously with a nudge and a wink) to limit car trips, combine driving errands, etc. Yeah, right! Like people are going to voluntarily inconvenience themselves over something as trivial as poison air! That ain't gonna happen.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Garden City Greenbelt Intrigue, part 2011A

(I apologize for those who aren't interested in our local political infighting, and uninterested in the Greenbelt bike path. But it's of interest to me and some local cyclists... so here goes.)

An article on the Idaho Statesman website declares, "Garden City plans to build new Greenbelt bridge."

The bridge is proposed to span the Boise River, between Glenwood Road and Eagle Road. This isn't news; GC has proposed that bridge for a number of years. Of course, they bring it up now as though it will be an acceptable "alternative" to opening up the bike path on the north side of the river, that is closed to cyclists behind the exclusive Riverside Village.

Ironically, they intend to ask the State of Idaho - which gave them the land behind Riverside Village contingent upon their maintaining a public bike path - for $900,000 to build the bridge. (The timing is bad; there's another article today, bemoaning Parks & Rec's ongoing budget woes. If they can't afford toilet paper for the state parks, how can they buy a bridge for Garden City?)

They are also hoping for private donations, to help with the financing.

I sent the following email to Nancy Merrill. Ms. Merrill is on the State Parks & Recreation Board; she is also an icon of Eagle politics, having served as mayor.

Dear Nancy Merrill:

For a number of years, Garden City has occasionally talked about building a pedestrian bridge on the Greenbelt, between Glenwood and Eagle Roads. According to an article on the Idaho Statesman website today, they intend to petition the State Parks and Recreation Department for funds. Because you are affiliated with that state agency, and because you are a long-time Eagle resident, you should be very interested. And that's why I'm writing to you.

I'm a lifelong Boise resident, and for the last 25 years I've been a dedicated transportation cyclist. I've very much enjoyed and appreciated the expansion of the Greenbelt over those years; it is truly a "crown jewel" of our metro area.

But alas, one section of the Greenbelt that should be open to cyclists is not. It's the part right behind Garden City's Riverside Village. Coincidentally, that stretch is on land that was deeded to Garden City by the State of Idaho, conditional upon their maintaining it as a bike path. (The "bike path" wording is part of the agreement.) Garden City has reneged on that agreement, as I'm sure you are aware. Not only is the pathway closed to cyclists, but Garden City has gone so far as to make it a misdemeanor for a cyclist to ride that stretch of path, and have issued citations for riders who had the nerve to ride their bicycles on the bike path.

As a 4th-generation citizen of the State of Idaho, I would favor state financial support for the proposed river crossing bridge... but only if that support is contingent upon Garden City's living up to the agreement they made to the citizens of the State of Idaho 30-odd years ago - by opening up the "Riverside Village" stretch of the Greenbelt to all non-motorized transportation. (Your fellow Eagle citizens would particularly appreciate not having to take a long and potentially-dangerous detour.)

Thanks for your attention.

It would be delicious if Garden City had to agree to finally open that stretch of bike path, in order to get funds to build the bridge that they myopically view as an "alternative" to opening the bike path! I'd call that "Catch-23"!!


- I got a nice response from Ms. Merrill. All she had to say about the Riverside Village Forbidden Path was, "I also enjoy riding on this jewel of the Treasure Valley. I am aware of the struggles through the years regarding Riverside Village pathway." Sounds pretty non-committal.

- Jacki corrected a misconception. It's an infraction if you violate the no-bikes law, not a misdemeanor. Heck, you might not even get tased over it, bro'!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Look for '11

Happy new year!

Just to keep things from getting too boring, I decided to go with a different template for 2011.