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?)

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


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!)