Monday, April 30, 2012

Indiana Jones -style bicycling

I don't know where this photo was taken - probably in Florida or Louisiana. If a car comes along, are you going to take your chances with the car, or will you move over to the shoulder?? Pick your poison!

Friday, April 27, 2012

New "water park" in Boise

A stretch of the Greenbelt was closed here in town for 3 or 4 months over the winter. And this is what they put in - a water park, designed to appeal to kayakers and such. It apparently has an adjustable water stream that can alter the size and/or shape of the waves. I haven't been around when they've been changing it, but that sounds pretty interesting.

It's already attracting water-goers, even though the river is right at flood stage, and probably only 40 degrees or so. Check out the first photo in particular - I admire the guy who brings his boat to river's edge by bicycle! My kinda guy! The other two photos were taken a few days later from the opposite side of the river... and with some rather ominous clouds above.

12WaterPark2 12WaterPark3

Want to survive a tornado? Wear a helmet!

I heard this on the radio this morning. One year ago today, 8-year-old Noah Stewart was hurled high into the sky by tornado winds as his house in Pleasant Grove, Alabama was blasted. His momma says, "I actually saw him up in the air, stuck up in it, being tossed around as high as the power lines." Then the winds stopped and Noah dropped like a rock. The Little League batting helmet he was wearing likely saved his life. Story HERE.

I've never seen a tornado, other than little summer dust-devils. And if I live to be 100, it won't break my heart if I NEVER see a tornado. They say it sounds like a freight train. I guess the moral of the story is... snap on that brain-bucket and then head for the root cellar, or hunch in your bathtub. But on the other hand, if Dorothy had been wearing a helmet, she mighta never met that nice scarecrow and the others!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

2-wheel riders love costumes!

Maybe it's because they don't have all that sheet metal to express their style... but people who ride 2-wheel transportation seem to like dressing up.

You've got your "bikers"... you know, the ones who ride Harleys and Harley-lookalikes. They don't necessarily ride their "bikes" much; in fact it seems like a lot of 'em are used as driveway ornaments, or to ride to the Harley shop or a bar. That's about it. But when they do ride, they love to dress up in their biker costumes - you know, sinister black leather, "do rag," boots. Like Marlon in that movie. Helmet? Hahahahaha! Good one!

You've also got your punks on the crotch rockets. Some of 'em dress in the leather racing suits. More of 'em dress in cutoffs, a sleeveless T-shirt, and flip-flops, and sometimes with a gal on the back, similarly attired. I'm not sure if that's a deliberate costume choice, or just what they happen to be wearing... but I see it often enough that I'm suspicious they intentionally dress that way.

And then take a look at bicycle riders. Motorists like to poke fun and/or scorn at their spandex gear. (Perhaps there's a bit of jealousy there, I dont' know... or perhaps they don't appreciate the subtle advantages of spandex.) Some cyclists like to wear the "team kit," as worn by cyclists who race in Europe... even when they're just puttin' up and down the Greenbelt! I'm not sure what that's about. Is it a "let's pretend" thing (like the leather-clad "bikers")... or is it like my Raiders t-shirt? (I like the Raiders... do some cyclists follow Astana or Radio Shack in the same way?) (Radio Shack! huh-huh!)

(I'm not much of an expert. About the only recurring "costume" I wear when riding motorcycle OR bicycle is the self-explanatory hi-viz vest and/or jacket. Oh - and brain-bucket.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Earth Day's a-comin'!!

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22. I think I'll... um, uh... go for a bike ride. Yeah, that's the ticket!

Earth is my favorite planet! (But in all fairness to the others, I haven't been to 'em and maybe they're really nice, too!)

It would be hard to add to past commentary. All that's changed is the price of gas. Well, frankly, since the economy went in the tank, Mother Earth has kinda been moved to the back burner. This might be the very last Earth Day, if the Mayans are correct.

Previous commentary:
- On the very first Earth Day, HERE.
- Earth Day 2007, HERE.
- Earth Day 2010 (the 40th anniversary!), HERE.
- Earth Hour 2008, HERE, followed by Earth Hour 2009.
(Dang! Earth Hour 2012 - on March 30 - slipped right by and I didn't even do anything!! Maybe I was sleeping the whole time...)

Another bike-sharing coming to Boise story

Such is the implication of this article at the Boise Weekly. In the form or 140 or so bikes, at 10 or so stations.

Back in November, I commented on an earlier story at the Statesman website. I was amazed at the $650K cost, which figures out to about $4600 per bike. Mostly paid by government grants - those taxpayers NEVER run out of money, do they?!! (Although they are suggesting there will be a $55-75 annual fee, paid by ongoing participants.)

I also commented in October about the similar "Hubway" bike-sharing program we observed in Boston.

There's a big difference between Boise and Boston, or Denver, or any of the other big cities where bike-sharing is taking root. Many big-city dwellers don't have a private motor vehicle; they make do with public transportation. And many don't have a garage or other place to conveniently park a bike in their 500-square-foot, $3000-per-month dwelling space. How many Boiseoids have similar constraints? I'm unconvinced we have the population density to make such a project feasible, even if we are "a bike-friendly city," as asserted by Ms. Sanders of the Downtown Association.

Bike sharing would be a nice thing to have in Boise! It would be particularly nice for visitors, who aren't lugging their own bikes with them, and would like to rent a bike for day trips up and down the greenbelt, etc. But when we're already $15 trillion in debt, I don't feel good about spending $650,000 of my great grandkids' money to subsidize the thing. Call me chintzy!

(Thanks to Ellen for bringing this Boise Weekly article to my attention!)

Multi-tasking behind the wheel

This morning I was headed for the office, when suddenly a right-turning car was blocking the striped bike lane, coming up to the intersection. This despite the fact that two cars farther ahead were also turning right... but the drivers had the presence of mind to stay in the automobile lane.

Not an unusual situation by any means. Lots of motorists seem to think that the bike lane is also a right turn lane.

As I went around her I couldn't help but notice... she (the driver) was holding a fork in one hand and had a big bowl of breakfast in her lap. Salad, maybe? It's hard to say. I don't think it was Captain Crunch, because you eat Captain Crunch with a spoon.

(The folks who resist a texting-while-driving law point out, correctly so, that there are multiple ways that drivers distract themselves. And that there's a rarely-enforced Inattentive Driving law. If this lady crashed while eating breakfast, she'd likely spill it on her fashionable outfit AND get a ticket. But most folks figure if they don't crash, they're not driving inattentively.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Buying bikes like you buy shoes

A week or so ago I was headed for home on my bicycle. It had sprinkled off and on that day, so I skipped the midday ride and took the "scenic route" home. (I've been doing that a lot over the past couple months.)

A guy came up next to me on his bike, at a traffic signal.

He looked my bike over and asked, "Is that your rainy-day bike?"

I replied, "It's my all-the-time bike."

He was riding a "comfort" type bike with upright bars and fenders. He said "This is my rain bike."

I said, "I'd love to have a bike for every occasion, but I can't afford that, so I've got one that will work well in most of my situations."

He said, "I'd like to have bikes like women have shoes - one for every possible occasion."

I agree! But - I'd like several color options for each of those occasions, so I could make sure the bike matches my outfit and bling!!

Turn Signals

The first car in my life was Mom's '53 Chevy. (Coincidentally, I'm also a '53 model.) Mom's car had a 3-on-the-column manual transmission. A key was optional (you could start it without a key, or you could lock the ignition with a key). There wasn't much plastic used on that car... the shifter had an ivory-colored plastic knob; that's about it. And... it didn't have turn signals, other than hanging your arm out the window.

Turn signals were mandated on all cars shortly after - possibly the very next model year. Well over 50 years ago.

The first car with blinky-light turn signals was the '38 Buick, and in 1940, Buick added an automatic shutoff mechanism. (Before that, as early as 1909, a few of the more upscale model cars had little semaphore-like mechanical pointers called "trafficators," that the driver could activate to signal intent. But the mechanism was never very reliable.) So, more than 100 years ago, some folks thought that signaling turn-intent would be advantageous from either a safety or traffic-flow perspective.

There's a law that mandates use of turn signals. (This would come as a surprise to many.) In Idaho, it states, "A signal of intention to turn or move right or left when required shall be given continuously to warn other traffic. On controlled-access highways and before turning from a parked position, the signal shall be given continuously for not less than five (5) seconds and, in all other instances, for not less than the last one hundred (100) feet traveled by the vehicle before turning."

"What about bikes?" you ask. In Idaho (and in most states, I imagine), the law states, "A signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given during not less than the last one hundred (100) feet traveled by the bicycle before turning, provided that a signal by hand and arm need not be given if the hand is needed in the control or operation of the bicycle." Some people like to use the dedicated left-arm signals - you know, point straight out for left turn and point up for right turn. I prefer the no-brainer - I point left with left arm to signal a left turn, and point right with right arm to signal right turn. Either is legal. (I like no-brainer; the left-arm thing requires both signaler and other roadgoers to do more mental processing, IMO.)

Almost every day, I find myself wondering if turn signals, and a turn signal law, are obsolete. After all, they came into being back when people were able to concentrate more on their driving. Back then, they didn't have to hold a cellphone in one hand and that big Starbucks cup in the other hand. Those old fogey lawmakers couldn't have foreseen a time when driving would be an unplasant distraction from all the other tasks at hand. Turn signals are hard!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The hidden costs of commuting

Reader Jen emailed me a link to a piece provocatively named "The Killer Commute." See it below.

Thought provoking tidbits:
- We spend an average 38 minutes/day, 165 hours/year, getting to and from work.
- 1 in 6 of us commutes more than 45 minutes each way.
- 34% of drivers honk their horn every day, 27% yell, 19% give the finger, 17% flash their headlights... 2% try to run somebody off the road!
- Couples in which one partner commutes for >45 minutes are 40% likelier to divorce.
- When you're driving, your risk of heart attack triples.

I didn't take the time to fact-check all of those assertions, but there are links on the website. This is undeniable - your commute takes a toll that's above and beyond the dollars-and-cents cost of your transportation. In any case, I'm a strong proponent of living close to where you work, so as to minimize your commute time and maximize your choice of transportation modes. I feel very blessed to substitute a nice bike ride every morning and afternoon, in place of a motor-vehicle commute with its expenses, both monetary and otherwise.

Killer Commute
Created by:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Idaho cops - gettin' some bicycle training?

My friend Bob T sent me an interesting press release from the Idaho Transportation Department. (Specifically Steve Grant, Public Information Specialist, dated March 27, 2012.)

ITD sponsors bicycle and pedestrian safety training for law enforcement

Spring weather will bring more bicyclists and pedestrians on or near Idaho’s highways. In anticipation, the Idaho Transportation Department will sponsor a statewide training for law enforcement officers to brush up on Idaho’s bicycle and pedestrian safety laws.

ITD’s Office of Highway Safety awarded WE BIKE, etc., LLC, a contract to provide bicycle and pedestrian safety training to Idaho law enforcement officers beginning this month. The contract includes the “Continuum of Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Training for Law Enforcement” developed by WE BIKE in 2006.

The “Continuum” is a planned succession of safety information and multi-faceted training, from basic to in-depth, delivered over several months to law enforcement officers. Concluding two-day pedestrian and bicycle safety workshops tentatively are scheduled for Boise and Coeur d’Alene in June.

“The goal of this joint effort is to eliminate pedestrian and bicycle traffic crashes with vehicles on Idaho’s urban roads though education and enforcement,” said Donna Vasquez, with ITD’s highway safety office.

While I'm sure the law enforcers of Idaho are totally interested in minimizing crashes of all types, including bicycles... and while I'm sure that this training exercise can't hurt... I can't help but worry that there remains an underlying prejudice against bicycles. The majority of road-going citizens, and likely cops, perceive bicycles as recreational toys. And therefore many question whether they legitimately belong on roads - you know, all those "roads that were designed and built for motor vehicles."

Know what I mean?

Unless you're Amish, you probably think those little black horse-drawn buggies have no business on the roadways, either. Even though they were rolling those same routes - as were bicycles - before cars took over the world.

In any case, I welcome the training, and would that every cop in Idaho gets a thorough exposure to it!

I'll have to check out this "WE BIKE" group. Never heard of 'em.

(Thanks for the heads-up, Bob!)

(HERE is a link to the WeBike organization. Looks like some interesting stuff there...)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pain at the pump

Last week we drove down to Twin Falls. The morning of our departure, the Missus says, "The car needs to be filled with gas, and I don't have the money to do it." So, I drove to the gas station and filled 'er up.

Sixty-four bucks!!!

Good gracious! I keep hearing talk about those ultra-rich "one percent" people. Are they the ones who can still afford gas? Makes me glad that my trips to the gas station are few and far between.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Water's high!

As is often the case in these parts, the floodgates are opened, and the water in the Boise River is running high to make room for the spring snow melt.

On Thursday, I rode a stretch of the Greenbelt that was officially closed with a barricade at either end, but the water was only an inch or so deep.


As I rode through, I thought my granddaugter Mackie would enjoy the adventure of riding through it. And Saturday (yesterday) was unseasonably gorgeous, so the two of us headed for the Greenbelt.

Mackie has graduated to the 20-inch bike! She needs a little practice with starting and stopping on the seat that's a couple inches higher than the 16-inch bike, but once she's underway she's smooth, steady, and smiling!


The Greenbelt was crowded, but she handled the crowds like a champ. Joy was in the air. Everything went flawlessly... until we got to the spot with an inch or so of water. We rode around the barricade.

Lo and behold - the water was a good 4 or 5 inches higher than 2 days earlier! We were suddenly riding through 5-6 inches of water that was running fairly swiftly in the opposite direction. Poor Mackie! She slowed to a stop and tipped sideways. We were both standing shin-deep in cold water!

We made our way to higher ground. I ended up riding my bike and dragging hers to the end of the water obstacle, then going back for her.


Thankfully it was sunny and warm (75+ degrees - very unusual for so early in the year), and wet shoes and britches didn't put a permanent damper on the adventure. We completed our loop in style, and look forward to the next ride.