Thursday, June 22, 2017

Greenbelt choke point (congestion)

This is a message I sent to the Boise City Council, Parks Department, and Police.

I’m writing to express concern about the summertime “descent of humanity” that has hit the area near Quinn’s Pond, and Esther Simplot Park the past several years, and the resulting deterioration of Greenbelt transportation access.

The best word to describe it is ANARCHY.

There are herds of pedestrians who are meandering, bovine-like, IN THE TRANSPORTATION CORRIDORS, as if they were the only people on the planet.  There are people swinging paddleboards, paddles, etc. around like ninja-sticks, seemingly oblivious to other people on the pathways.  There are people who park their bikes, or flip them upside-down to do some mechanical work, right in the pathway.

I s’pose there are folks who arrive in their cars, and perhaps are unaware that for 12 months of the year (unless interrupted by occasional flooding) the Greenbelt is a transportation corridor for some of their fellow citizens.

Today (for example), I ventured thru.  (It’s nice that the closed stretches of Greenbelt are starting to open again!)  In the concrete “roundabout” circle adjacent to the little surfer-wave dam, two gals were laying on the concrete, working on their tans, as other pathway users milled all about them.

I was headed toward town, zig-zagging between the pedestrians and stander-arounders who don’t understand the concept of a transportation corridor or the “keep right” markings.  As I rode along, next to Quinn’s pond, there were a couple teenage kids directly in front of me, who were dodging back and forth like kickoff return specialists.  Puzzling.  Suddenly, one of them hollered “Look out!” – apparently for my benefit – and a football came crashing down directly in my path (!!), not 3 feet in front of me.  Surely there are better places for a football game, than on the Greenbelt!

I’ve voiced my concerns in the past… and I believe a couple of small signs have been put up, that say “Don’t block pathway,” or something like that.  Obviously the response is inadequate, because the problems persist… and get dangerous (in my opinion) on the really hot, crowded summer days.

So – what can be done?

Increased bike-cop patrols, and an education/enforcement campaign, might be somewhat effective.  But that solution seems pretty labor-intensive.

I’d suggest maybe painting the corridor (“Greenbelt” pathway) a solid bright color – yellow? – with big black letters, “TWO WAY TRAFFIC – PLEASE KEEP MOVING” or something to that effect.  (And occasional enforcement, to keep people honest.  I try to have faith in humanity… surely most of those people aren’t intentionally blocking the pathway… right?)

You might also take a look at the treatment they’ve recently put in across the river, at the Riverside Hotel.  They’ve done some landscaping improvements, patio expansion, etc. – and, they also have installed some fences along either side of the Greenbelt corridor, turning it into a “controlled access highway.”  There are openings every now and then, so people can enter or cross the pathway… but they aren’t able to just meander onto the pathway at any location they please.  It seems to be quite effective, even for the occasional slightly-intoxicated patron.  (It is WAY more relaxing to ride through on the south side of the river, at least this time of year.)  If similar fencing could be installed on the publicly-owned stretches where congestion becomes problematic, it would be fantastic!

Since I ride year ‘round (bicycle and motorcycle), I’ve come to realize that the key to survival is to be prepared to compensate for any stupid thing another roadway user might do.  It’s called defensive riding.  So, I’m often annoyed, but rarely placed in harm’s way myself… with the occasional exception of a football dropping out of the sky, etc.  However… a sizeable percentage of Greenbelt traffic is made up of more casual riders, pedestrians, roller-bladers, dog-walkers, etc. … who aren’t as expert at defensive techniques, and who may not realize how important it is to “share the pathway.”  I’m hoping “the authorities” can do more to be proactive about preventing conflicts, mishaps and injuries, and also educating the population.

Thanks for your attention.  Please let me know if there’s anything more I could or should do, to alleviate the problems I’ve mentioned.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Top-tier bicycle parking

One of the common excuses used by people who choose not to bike-commute to work is, "There's not a good place to park my bike."  That has NOT been a problem at my office, over the 22 years I've been working there.

My friend Thomas is an engineering/manufacturing genius.  His "day job" is keeping the big office building operating properly... but as a moonlighter, he's truly a Renaissance Man.  He has a passion for hot rods... his tastes lean toward American muscle cars, but I think he can make anything run.

Probably six years ago, the office was dealing with a sudden onslaught of bike riders - due to nice spring weather and expensive gas.  They did some shopping and discovered that there aren't a lot of sturdy multiple-bike racks out there.  Thomas and the management decided that manufacturing a rack would be the way to go.

I'm proud to say I was a "consultant" on the first one.  I explained to Thomas the pitfalls of commonly-occurring bike racks... we measured tire widths, etc.  He took the assembled information and built a sweet rack.

Since then, he's built three or four more.  Each one is a little more refined than the one before.

He's currently finishing one up, and he gave me a tour.  This one has one meaningful functional enhancement... he's added one slot for a "fat bike" tire.  And - this one is "personalized" for the building where it will reside.

There's no need to bolt these racks down... when they're empty, they probably weigh 500 pounds.  I told Thomas our great grandkids will still probably be using them.





Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bike commuting reduces cancer and heart disease

"Want to live longer? Reduce your risk of cancer? And heart disease? Then cycle to work, say scientists."

A five-year study of 250,000 UK commuters suggests that bicycling to work can reduce your risk of death by 41%, your risk of getting cancer by 46%, and your risk of developing heart disease by 45%.  The bike commuters averaged about 30 miles per week... but the further they rode, the more they reduced their risks.

Dr. Jason Gill, of the University of Glasgow: "This is really clear evidence that people who commute in an active way, particularly by cycling, were at lower risk."  (Walking also had positive results, but primarily for people who walked at least six miles per week.)

He also points out the benefit of bike-commuting, as compared with exercising just for the sake of exercising: "You need to get to work every day so if you built cycling into the day it essentially takes willpower out of the equation."

Clare Hyde from Cancer Research UK said: "This study helps to highlight the potential benefits of building activity into your everyday life. You don't need to join a gym or run the marathon. Anything that gets you a bit hot and out of breath - whether it's cycling all or part way to work or doing some housework - can help make a difference."

Of course, the naysayers will declare that cyclists run a higher risk of being involved in a life-altering collision, than a SOV driver or a bus passenger.  However, by riding in a common-sense fashion - legally, visibly, predictably and defensively - you can mitigate most of that risk.  And I prefer to deal with the threats that I can see and maybe do something about, than those I have little control over.

The BBC story can be read HERE.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Can't keep the wheels dry!

We've had unusually abundant precipitation this winter.  The mountains have lots of snowpack, and the water managers are releasing as much as they can, to make room for the snow that's still melting.  (Anybody who's lived in these parts for any length of time realizes that this is NOT unprecedented.  Some years are below average... others are above average.  But some of the newcomers who live in fancy McMansions in the river bottoms are probably a little nervous.)

There are sections of Greenbelt that are under water.  Par for the course.

Below are a few photos I've snapped over the last month or so.







Saturday, February 25, 2017

Electric bikes = bikes?

There's an interesting column at the Idaho Statesman website: "Should some electric bikes be treated as bicycles? Legislator says yes; Boise says no"

It refers to the legal sense.  Should electric-powered, or electric-assist bicycles, be treated the same in the eyes of the law as bicycles?  A legislator has introduced a proposal to do just that.  The bill is supported by electric bicycle retailers, and similar legislation is in effect in several other states.  It specifies that electric bicycles that go less than 20mph and have 750 watts or less can go wherever bicycles go.

The bill is primarily opposed by the Boise Parks and Recreation people, who don't want electric bicycles on the Greenbelt, except when in use by people with disabilities.

I posted some comments, using my real-life name (Steve Hulme).  I would not oppose a "pilot program," as has just been started in Steamboat, Colorado.  However... all parties, particularly the people who administer the Greenbelt, need to realize that laws are meaningless without enforcement of violations.  As I said in my comment, it's not too unusual to see some above-the-law yahoo riding a gas-powered bicycle from time to time!  (Also, unless I'm WAY mistaken, the City could still prohibit motorized bicycles on the Greenbelt if they choose to, just as they prohibit muscle-powered bicycles along certain portions.  So I don't see a conflict between a new state code clarification and the City's desires.)

From the article: He [Terry Sherry, who sells electric bicycles] has heard all the arguments, including the one about how riding an electric bike takes the exercise out of cycling. He points out that most kids don’t ride for exercise and even hard-core cyclists pursue the sport because it’s fun. “You’re not selling cycling as a sport,” Sherry said. “It’s recreational fun.”

True!  Most kids don't ride for exercise - they ride because it's fun!  However... a side-benefit of riding a pedaled-power bicycle for fun is, it provides some exercise!  That cannot be said of a bicycle that you hop on and push a button, and it goes by itself.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mid-winter bicycling

It's nice to be seeing some dry pavement once again.  I heard on the news that Boise has had 45 consecutive days of snow on the ground!  Almost unheard of in these parts!  (If every winter were more like this, I'd probably have to give some serious consideration to becoming a more-than-one-car family.)

I've been celebrating the pavement, by taking longer rides... usually at the end of the day after work.  (In the morning it's still dark, and I'm usually trying to get to the office at the expected time.)

Friday, I did a loop that included the new Esther Simplot Park and Veterans' Memorial Park.  It's beautiful, in a stark winter way...








Bigger vehicle = superior rage

In almost every way, I consider my bicycle to be the superior form of local transportation, when all I need to move is myself and my sack lunch.  However, from time to time, I get to witness an area in which motor vehicles are superior.

The lingering snow and ice has resulted in my needing to "take the lane" more often than I would, in better circumstances.  I don't think it's a problem for most motorists... if there's more than one lane in the same direction, they can just cautiously move over to the next lane and go on by.  On a 2-lane, 2-way street, traffic is rarely so heavy that I delay them for longer than 5 or 10 seconds, if at all.  (I'm happy that I don't delay very many people - that would never be something I'd do intentionally or without good reason.)

I occasionally get a chuckle out of the response, every now and then, when an impatient motorist feels he's been delayed and wants me to know of the huge inconvenience I've caused.

A couple weeks ago, I was behind a couple cars at a red light... waiting for my turn to make a right turn (onto a less-crowded roadway).  A guy in a big pickup waited behind me.  The light turned green; I proceeded... never more than a car's length behind the car in front of me.  When I got to the intersection, I turned.  The pickup guy surged forward with a huge roar - I'm sure he floored it!  He probably sent an extra pint of gas into his carburetor, as he blasted forward to fill that car length that I'd been occupying.  So very impressive!  He showed me!  (And I was jealous!  On a bicycle, I have no equivalent way to express my impatience!)

A few days later, at a different intersection, I was waiting for clearance to go straight through.  Unfortunately, a guy behind me was waiting to turn.  (Just as he would've been, if I'd been in a car instead of on a bicycle.)  Finally - a break in the traffic.  I rolled on through.  The little rice-burner revved mightily, and I could hear his tires spinning, trying to grab the slippery pavement.  Fast AND furious!  But sadly, it sounded like an over-revving sewing machine or blender, compared with the brutal snarl of the earlier pickup truck!  Pitiful!  (But better than a bicycle, I guess.  haha!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ten Year Anniversary

How time flies! I first posted here on January 18, 2007. (After much consideration.) Since then, I've deposited 1077 additional posts... some are throwaways, but I'm quite happy with many. "I stand by my words."  (An odd side-note about the timing... my first grandchild, Mackenzie, was born two weeks before my first post.  She just turned ten.)

I'll have to plow through all those posts, and pick out some favorites to re-share.

How has the world changed since January 2007?

Well... that was the same month that Steve Jobs stood on the stage in his denim britches and long-sleeve black turtleneck (just a guess on what he might've been wearing), and announced the first iPhone. (From a cyclists' viewpoint, "smart phone technology" was probably a big step backwards, at least in fostering cyclist safety.)

The basic bicycle hasn't changed nearly as much. Although there are considerably more variations - cargo bikes, electric-assist bikes, etc. - oriented toward the transportation. (The meter has probably moved somewhat in a positive direction, on the percentage of Americans using bikes for their commuting. But there's no denying that the price of gas is a major motivator, or de-motivator. When gas is $4, I see a lot more bikes on the roads than when it's $2.)

In the past 10 years, there have been considerable advances in automotive-propulsion technology. The Toyota Prius and Honda Insight were both around in '07, but the Prius (and other hybrid models) have become best-sellers. In addition, there are now "plug-in" electric cars, thanks to improved battery technology. I expect new, amazing and unexpected automotive technologies will continue to emerge. If people will buy it, they'll build it.

In my very first post, I declared that bicycles are "the most efficient form of human transportation ever devised." (And I referred to the people-powered bike. FORGET about electric assist, etc.)

Has that changed? You know - with all the new hybrid and electric cars, etc.? I emphatically declare NO! But I'd welcome any evidence that might prove me wrong!

Will this blog endure for another 10 years? Will your friendly neighborhood Bike Nazi continue to spout? Hard to say. I don't seem to spout as prolifically as I once did... much of what I had to say on the topic, has already been said. I sure hope to still be riding in 10 years! Maybe more, because I expect to have 40 more discretionary hours each week, than I've had for the past 10 years.

I'm very grateful to my ten or so readers (grin)... particularly I'm grateful for the 2200+ comments (Wow! About 2 per post!) you have posted over those ten years! I particularly appreciate MY FRIEND Clancy. I didn't even know him 10 years ago - but he first posted when I was about two weeks (!) into this project. His astute observations about cycling, and his good-natured devotion to it, have been educational and inspirational to me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

One-hour distance cycling record broken!

Just in case you didn't see this - pretty cool!

A Frenchman just broke a record for the most bicycle-miles in an hour.  He rode 22.5 kilometers in one hour!  That's about 14 miles.

"Hey!  Wait a minute!" you might be saying.  "I can ride 14 miles in an hour!" (Heck!  Even I might be able to ride 14 miles in an hour!)

Yeah... but I'm not 105 years old!  Robert Marchand is, and he set the record for the "105-plus age category."  Score one for the OLD GUYS!!

Almost 100 years ago, a cycling coach told him to give it up - he didn't have the size or physique to be a competitive cyclist.  I wish the coach could see him now!  Those close to him say he could've done even better, but he quit eating meat awhile back, which may have compromised his training.  But - how many 105-year-olds are trying to build muscle mass?!!

The story says he rides an indoor trainer every day, and rides outside when the weather is nice.  And "at 105, [he's] not making plans for the future."  Just the same, I hope in five years he can set a record for the 110-plus category!  You go Robert!

Tough sleddin'!!

January has been more "bike-unfriendly" than usual.  It snowed mid-December, and we've had several significant snowstorms since, keeping a beautiful-but-slippery covering on our fair community.  Just now (January 11), the snowpack is starting to scale back a bit.  According to those who keep track of such things, the on-the-ground snow peaked at 15 inches... and it's been more than 30 years since we had that much.

I'm aware of some intrepid cyclists (like Clancy!) who soldiered on... I've definitely scaled back, at least for the past couple weeks.  (I have less than 20 miles total on the bicycle, so far in 2017.  I've been taking the bus to work... a couple times, I stuck my bike on the front and rode home in the afternoon... but the conditions have been marginal, with the super-saturation.  I've been wearing my heavy leather Gore-Tex hiking boots - ankle-high - but when you have to walk in knee-deep slush, the ankle-high boots don't git 'er dun!)

This afternoon - the first day in several weeks where the sun actually peeked out (and temperatures in the high 30s) - we started seeing a bit of dry pavement here and there.  I took a reconnoitering ride, covering part of the route to work, and it's about time to get started again - if the creek don't rise!  (The forecast is for another week or so of cold, but clear, days.  Any farther out than that, I don't pay much attention to the forecast anyway.  I do know this - we've gotten more than the average amount of snow in town for an entire winter, and we still have a couple months to go.)