Monday, January 29, 2007

Johnny Oilcan

You've heard the legend of Johnny Appleseed, right? He was a mythical character in America Lore, who left civilization behind to travel the vast frontier. Everywhere he went, he planted apple seeds, benefiting those who followed behind with both fruit and shade. (Much of the story is true. He was born John Chapman, and was a missionary in both religion and conservation. Read more on the Wikipedia.)

Sometimes I think I'd like to be Johnny Oilcan... a generous and compassionate mythical bike rider who shares a shot of chain-lube with the needful masses.

What's with bike riders? There are MANY of them - granted, usually on their disposable $79 department store bikes, but not always - whose riding could be made SO MUCH more enjoyable with a 5-cent squirt of oil. (Even WD-40 in a pinch... but it evaporates too fast, so is NOT the ideal lubricant.) Sometimes they are beyond squeaking, and are almost making a chattering sound, they've become so dry and rusty over years of zero-maintenance.

Can't they hear it?!!? Maybe not - due to their iPods and that boom-de-boom that the kids all like to listen to. (Deafness might be a blessing... squeaky chains are akin to fingernails-on-the-chalkboard, for me.)

Maybe I oughtta get me an oilcan - fill it with 2/3 cheap motor oil and 1/3 thinner/solvent (WAY cheaper than the dedicated stuff that's $9 for a few CCs, and seems just as effective to me.) I could ride around with oilcan in tow, and when I hear somebody's squeaky chain as they approach, I could chase 'em down, brandishing my oilcan menacingly, and applying as needed.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Another YELLOW Day

The local media are reporting that it's once again a YELLOW air-quality day.

Which means - no outdoor burning, and limit wood-burning for heat, and limit driving.

(And then right after they announce the yellow day, they go straight to the traffic report, wherein they report that it's business-as-usual on the roads, stop-and-go on the Interstate coming into town.)

How many Yellow days have we had this winter? I haven't been counting, but I'd say more than I can ever recall in the past.

As our area continues to grow (sprawl), both traffic and air quality continue to deteriorate. So far, the "solution" has been the one that has worked so well (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) in other urban areas like Los Angeles, Dallas, and Denver... lay down more pavement!

Since my bike-engine needs air as badly as any of those cars, and is probably more fussy about the air quality, I'd just as soon breathe GREEN air as YELLOW air... know what I mean? But, at the same time, I take some satisfaction in knowing I'm not contributing to either the bad air OR the traffic congestion.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bicycle Cell-Phone Idiots

How many times have you been nearly run into by some idiot-motorist yammerin' on a cell phone? (Some yakkin' junior-executive-type just about took me out one day, then flipped me the finger - using the hand that was holding the phone, while continuing his conversation!) How many times has the light turned green, and the car in front of you just sits there? ... and then you see the "driver" has cell-phone plastered to ear, which explains everything! A colleague at the office was talking to some lady on the phone; suddenly there was a loud banging sound on the other end, and she said, "I'll have to call you back - I just drove into a field."

Did you ever think to yourself, "There oughtta be a law!"?

I know I have. Every time some cell-phone moron puts my life in danger.

Being that I have strong libertarian tendencies, I hate that we need so many laws, but when people prove themselves too stupid to behave responsibly, consequently endangering fellow citizens, sometimes laws are necessary. (If people behaved responsibly, we wouldn't need DUI laws, or motorcycle helmet laws, or speeding laws, or drug laws, or...)

Some people can drive just fine while talking on a cell phone. But some people can't drive and chew gum at the same time. Let's face it - some licensed drivers should NOT be on the roads at all! They just can't handle it. Laws have to be passed for the lowest, least responsible, common denominator.

There are places where cell-phone driving is illegal. And there may soon be a place where cell-phone BICYCLING is illegal - New Joisey!

According to the story (Click to display), "A legislative committee has approved a bill that would make it illegal for people to use a hand-held telephone while riding a bicycle on a public road." (The bill is one of 6,928 introduced this session. Those are some SERIOUS legislators, huh?)

I've had encounters with doofuses on bikes, riding along and yakkin'. But unlike motorists, usually a holler (or horn-blast) can wake them out of their conversation-induced catatonic trance, since they don't have the windows rolled up and the air-conditioner blasting. And unlike motorists, they are likely only putting themselves in mortal danger, with their inane babble.

I say with regard to cell-phone bicycle idiots, NO LAW is necessary. The human race will only get stronger, as these folks are removed from the gene pool.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Alternative Transportation Perceptions

In 1995, shortly after I went to work at the downtown-Boise headquarters of a large corporation, I helped plan and conduct an Alternative Transportation Survey. Of the approximately 700 employees who worked in the building, 393 responded. (I consider that to be an unusually successful survey.)

Of the 393, 276 indicated they drive to work alone 100% of the time. Another 50 said they drive to work alone 90% or more of the time. (27 respondents said they carpool to work at least 90% of the time.)

Why do people choose to drive alone?
(Respondents were free to cite multiple reasons.)
273 said for "convenience" (running errands, appointments, etc.)
157 - independence and autonomy
129 - family responsibilities
92 - solitude / time alone to de-stress
66 - bus routes not convenient
51 - bus schedule not convenient
32 - don't know anyone to carpool or vanpool with
8 - bikes can get stolen
6 - riding the bus is difficult and/or confusing
6 - bikes are unsafe

What INCENTIVES might make you choose an alternative?
80 said they'd be attracted to bus routes closer to their homes.
79 - casual dress code
60 - more frequent bus service
57 - free bus passes
49 - company-sponsored transportation if an emergency arises
49 - better shower/cleanup/storage facilities at work
41 - more flexible work schedule
40 - reduced-fare bus passes
30 - assistance finding someone to vanpool or carpool with

I'm guessing that for most people, most transportation is a matter of habit. We're creatures of habit… or in other words, we're "in a rut."

I must comment on a couple of misperceptions that are evident in the poll results.

BIKES ARE UNSAFE – Well, sure they are, if you're riding in an unsafe fashion. Cars are unsafe, too, if you're blowing through red lights, driving down the street against traffic, driving at night without the lights on, darting back and forth in squirrel-like fashion, etc. I rarely feel "unsafe" on my bicycle. (But then, I'm riding totally predictably, highly visibly, assertively, defensively, and legally.)

I DRIVE FOR INDEPENDENCE AND AUTONOMY – I declare the opposite is closer to true. When you choose a car as your dedicated mode of transportation, you're totally dependent on the eeevil greeedy big oil companies, to deliver fuel, at a price of their choosing. To a lesser degree, you're dependent on the people who provide well-maintained roads and infrastructure, parking, etc. And it's hard to be "autonomous" sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic at 7:45am or 5:30pm on I-84, or Chinden, or Franklin Road.

TIME ALONE TO DE-STRESS – (Are you serious?!!?) Every now and then, I'll borrow the wife's minivan to run an errand or two that require hauling stuff. And almost without fail, I once again realize how BLESSED my life is, to not deal with the stress of traffic on a regular basis. I really can't stand, anymore, to be queued up in a long line of cars, engine idling, watching the traffic signal up ahead… green light and a few people creep through… red light and the line moves up a couple hundred feet and then waits... waits... waits … repeat the cycle… repeat the cycle, until finally it's my turn to go through and drive up the road to the next traffic signal. DE-STRESS? I can TOTALLY understand the road-rage phenomenon. Sure, an empty road and a sweet car (like in the car TV commercials) can provide an emotionally satisfying experience. But - traffic and red lights? – I'd NEVER trade even a bike-ride-in-the-rain for THAT, every day!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Reason #137 to prefer Bike Transportation

It's nice to take the "scenic route" home from the office, every now and then.

Photos are hosted on Flickr - if interested, you can see and/or download these and additional bikeboy photos there.

Friday, January 19, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

(Photo Credit: I found this photo on Flickr - - under EcoSnake's account, and taken by Garren.)
On January 22, Algore comes to town. The Algore faithful snapped up the $5 tickets in near-record time. In fact, he was originally scheduled to appear at the BSU Student Union (1200 seats); by popular demand the venue was changed to the 10,000-seat Taco Bell Arena. Al Gore Superstar!

[A side-note: many experts are predicting that Algore will be the dark horse Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, due to weak alternative candidates.]

Why is Algore coming to town? To share his passion about the Inconvenient Truth, and his opinion about Global Warming and how our warm-livin' ways are causing it. (And also probably to reward Mayor Bieter for signing the "U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement." Boise is leading the way – the first city in Idaho to sign on (280th nationwide).

Whatzit mean? So far, Boise is "encouraging the development community to construct environmentally-friendly buildings," and forming a "Steering Committee." Golly! Mission Accomplished!

Meanwhile, the Idaho Statesman on January 18 published an editorial titled, "Changing our behavior will improve air quality." According to the editorial:
- The Legislature created a Treasure Valley Air Quality Council, to deal with the problem, and
- There are things the general public can do, like walk or ride a bike, carpool, and/or only make one motor vehicle trip a day.

Yeah, right. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink. Blah, blah, blah. Business as usual.

Am I overly cynical?

- The Treasure Valley has had numerous "yellow air quality" days this winter. Whatzit mean? No open burning; fireplaces and woodstoves discouraged; try to limit your driving by carpooling, using public transportation, walking or bicycling, etc. (Limit driving? Hahahahaha! That's a good one!)
- I predict the 10,000 Algore devotees will arrive to listen to him in at least 5000 cars, probably more, since it's too cold to ride a bike or walk, and Boise doesn't have bus service in the evenings. (And they are the ones who supposedly care about air quality, global warming, and all that stuff.)

So, what's the Inconvenient Truth?

Here it is – pay attention. The vast majority of citizens, INCLUDING the ones who purport to be environmentally aware and concerned, are willing to do precious little about it. Particularly if it means leaving the car in the garage.

Algore's timing STINKS!

Since the Global Warming Kum-ba-ya-Fest was announced, Denver has had three major snowstorms, resulting in thousands of stranded travelers camping for days at the airport. There's been a cold snap in California that ruined $1 billion worth of citrus and other produce. A killer storm descended on the Midwest, coating everything in ice, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands, and killing dozens. The Pacific Northwest has had shock-and-awe blizzards. Here locally, Intermountain Gas has announced they are setting records, due to a colder-than-normal winter.

(IMPORTANT! I'm not discounting Global Warming. Please don't read that between the lines. I believe there is evidence to indicate our planet is warming. I also believe it has always been either warming or cooling. I'm just saying Algore is a smart guy, and oughtta figure out… it would be better to go on his Global Warming tour in July, instead of January. But – he's probably jetting to beautiful vacation destinations in July…)

The enterprise I work for has facilities scattered across the Fruited Plain. This winter, we've had weather-related closures in Denver, Portland/Vancouver, Seattle, and Dallas.

One of my duties is to notify people across our enterprise, when a closure occurs.

On January 16, I sent out a message to notify people that due to bad snow, our Lake Oswego office was closing for the day.

I added this snippy remark:

In related news, Al Gore will be in Boise on January 22, preaching to a packed house at the Taco Bell Arena, on "Beyond Global Warming - An Inconvenient Truth."

(I'm not discounting the Global Warming theory, but the timing couldn't be worse for a guy who's trying to make that point, huh?)

One of my good friends is "Jerry" [name changed]. Jerry is a proud liberal Democrat. His response to my message:

You should move a little left, and go see "An Inconvenient Truth" it is actually a pretty good film instead of lambasting Mr. Gore.

Which started a brief flurry of email exchange. I believe it illustrates the "Inconvenient Truth" quite nicely.

Steve: I grow weary of people TALKING about the problem, Jerry. (And feeling good about how much they CAAARRRE.) I ride a bicycle for 99% of my local transportation, and have for 22 years. If it were up to me, our thermostats would be 65 in the winter and 80 in the summer. (We don't have an air conditioner; we make do with our swamp cooler.)

I'd rather follow a LEADER than Mr. Gore - somebody who sets the example. (He'll be arriving in Boise via private jet, most likely, and taking a big limo from the airport.)

Oh - by the way, I DO believe that the earth is likely warming. In 8th grade Earth Science, they said it has always been either warming or cooling. But I also believe that most of the causative factors are out of human control. Even if we cut down drastically on CO2 emissions, I'm skeptical that it would make much, if any, difference.

Is global warming a conservative/liberal, right/left issue?

Jerry (showing his liberal colors – blaming the problem on "conservatives"): Wouldn't you say that if everyone rode a bicycle to work instead of these honkin' SUVs, that we could ALL contribute to the lessening of Co2 into the atmosphere? And if BIG business (the right side) wasn't producing these big vehicles the Bourgeoisie (the right side) wouldn't be purchasing them to contribute to the warming effect.

Of course, this is just my opinion, and like my son would say, "Opinions are like ***holes... everyone has got one."

I think that is great that you are doing your share, and I'm sure about what you say about Mr. Gore. My wife and I have said that when we die we'll be able to say that we never owned an SUV. That's why we keep buying Subarus.

I think my point is that people should be more aware of the global issue and help preserve this world for our kids. Because quite honestly, I won't be around to see what really is going to happen.

Steve: My view of the world:
Hummer - 10mpg
Subaru - 25mpg
Prius - 45mpg
bicycle - 113,000mpg (SO FAR)

From MY viewpoint, it looks silly to be finger-pointing at the SUV people from the seat of your Subaru. (And from time to time, I'll see some smug Prius driver, with a bumpersticker declaring he's doing more than everybody else. I call "BS" on that one, too!)

Oh - by the way, I LOVE Subarus! I had a '79 4wd wagon, and it's one of my all-time favorite cars. If I were shopping for a car, a Forester would be near the top of the list. (Is a Forester a SUV, or do you "get a pass" since it's a Subaru?) I've noticed the Birkenstock trekking-pole poser-people seem to really like the Volvos, too.

Jerry: Nope ... Forester is, in my opinion, a SUV!

Steve: So, is it the SHAPE of it that offends you? Because a Forester prolly gets ALMOST as good MPG as the Subaru wagon, and it may be more practical in some ways. (I'm just trying to understand how you'd draw the line between the planet-savers and the planet-destroyers.)

Jerry: When Subaru came out with the Forester, it was their attempt to capture a portion of the SUV market, by offering a miniaturized version of a full size SUV. Therefore I am not in support of that. Even if it gets as good maybe better mileage than a normal Subaru, to me it is still an SUV and I am not supporting it.

Steve: So… is it the shape? I'm making an honest and sincere effort at understanding why a "SUV" is inherently inferior to a "non-SUV," if fuel mileage, economy, parking-space size, etc., are all comparable. To me, an SUV is a boxy-looking station wagon, and most have totally-unnecessary 4wd (that never gets used, or only 2 times a year when it snows). But if you're choosing between a 20mpg SUV or a 20mpg Volvo sedan, why should the SUV be rejected?

Jerry: ... no response ...

So evidently, his level of commitment is to go see "An Inconvenient Truth," and not drive a SUV. Others aren't quite so committed. They'll settle for "raising consciousness" by going to see Algore and putting a tree-hugger bumper sticker on the back all 4 family cars/trucks/SUVs. And that, my friends, is an Inconvenient Truth.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

2006 Bicycling Statistics

BACKGROUND - I abandoned my motor vehicle, at least for most local transportation, in 1985. Since then, I've accumulated 113,000+ bicycle miles, mostly in and around Boise. This is what 2006 turned out like.

Total bicycle miles – 5606
Total days ridden – 354
(Explanation… it would be 365, if I hadn't taken a 3-day auto trip to Utah, and an 11-day motorcycle trip to No. California.)
Total work days – 234; days the bike was ridden to work – 234.

"Mastercard" Statistics:
Gas - $0
Monthly payments - $0
Insurance - $0
Parking - $0
Vehicle registration - $0
Tires, tubes, and patches - $75 (approx.)
Misc. parts and maintenance - $75 (approx.)
Sense (some would argue false sense) of physical, mental, and social superiority over all those pitiful slugs in their cars – PRICELESS.

Bike Nazi?

My first choice woulda been "Bikeboy." That's usually my handle out there in the Bit Bucket. But it was already taken. (By some IMPOSTER!) And... if there's a SOUP Nazi, there should obviously be a Bike Nazi!

I try to be a tireless advocate of bicycles-as-transportation. And my intent here is to use this blog as one more vehicle (vehicle - get it? get it?) to get the word out about why you're SUPER COOL if you ride a bike (as transportation). And why you're a LOSER if you don't. (That's about as NAZI-like as I'll get. I'm not a social engineer to the point where I would mandate a certain mode of transportation... just making the argument for MY preferred mode, in the hopes that somebody else might see the light.)

I like to embed LINKS to other articles and websites in my posts. If a word is a different color, point at it and if it lights up, you should be able to click-and-go.

If you're new here, be sure to check out the Best of Bike Nazi, and my LINKS page.

If you'd like to email me... 43bikeboy, followed by the "at" sign, followed by gmail dot com . (Sorry for being so cryptic. If you're a spammer or a web crawler, please DON'T email me! There is already too much spam, without you adding to it!)


"But, Bikeboy," you say. "What's this about bicycles being the most efficient form of human transportation ever devised?"

Automobile (1 occupant) - 1,860
Transit Bus - 920
Transit Rail - 885
Walking - 100
Bicycling - 35
(Source, "Cycling's Efficiency," Vance Tucker, Duke University)

Now, sure... it's way easier to step on the gas pedal of that big metal monster you drive around in, than to actually pedal. But the real measure is... getting out and PUSHING that scrap-iron for a mile! It takes energy to move that cocoon you've grown so accustomed to. And think of the space-occupied per person being moved! That, unfortunately, is affecting my community's quality-of-life in a big way, with jam-packed pavement. SOV (Single-occupant vehicle) is probably the least efficient mode of transportation ever devised.

I abandoned my automobile - for commute transportation, for all intents and purposes - in January 1986, and will never go back. I can barely endure sitting in traffic any more! Even running occasional errands in the wife's minivan has become an emotional burden. (Out-of-town car trips usually aren't so painful.) I've not driven a car - even once - to work since September 1997.

My (lifelong) home is in Boise, Idaho. So much of my perspective is colored by my Boise experience. There are many places with much worse bicycling conditions; a few that may be better. (Boise is actually an awesome place to be a bicyclist! For me, 12 months of the year. For "normal" people, at least 9 months of the year.)