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 ( 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.



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.)



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.




Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Clean Energy" comes to Boise

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


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...