Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"Hypermilers"? HA!!

There's an article on the AP today about drivers who take extraordinary measures to get good fuel mileage:

Hypermilers slow down and save, by Chris Williams. (Read it HERE.)

Some of their notions:
"Accelerate gently when the light turns green."
"Coast down hills to save gas."
"Avoid jackrabbit starts, avoid stop-and-go-traffic, anticipate lights."
"Slightly overinflate tires to cut rolling resistance."
"Coast with gasoline engines off."
"'Draft' like race cars behind larger vehicles."

Chuck, a computer geek out of Lewisville, TX, says, "I do as few accelerations and brakings as possible to get up to speed and maintain it."

Laurie can coax 57mpg out of her 47mpg (EPA rating) hybrid, and says "You see a little more," since she drives below the posted speed limit.

Anybody who's been a transportation cyclist will get better gas mileage when driving, IMO. After all, you've learned about that "as few accelerations and brakings" and all that other stuff long ago, since you provide your own accelerating power, rather than just tromping on the gas pedal.

I say, "57mpg? That's pathetic!"

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Garden City - bike friendly?

Is Garden City part of Ada County's noble effort to get the Bronze Medal for bike-friendliness?

Ironically, on the same day as the Bronze Medal was newsworthy, there was another story, "No bikes allowed on part of Greenbelt." (Story HERE.)

As reported by Channel 12's Dan Hamilton, "A section of the Greenbelt in Garden City will soon be off limits to bikes. The trail is supposed to be bike-free already, but apparently a lot of cyclists continue to ignore that fact. So Garden City officials are now working to turn the no bikes allowed rule into law."

(There's a similar section a few miles upriver and on the south side, where bikes are banned supposedly to protect the fragile ecosystem. Evidently the furry little creatures have no problem with the mansions along the riverside, or gaggles of pedestrians, but the sound of a rolling bicycle wheel is just intolerable. I don't speak from experience. I've never ridden or walked on the stretch in question.)

The story goes on to say, "Incidentally, none of the people we spoke to along the trail have ever had a problem with cyclists, and many of them have never seen a person riding a bike there. Some of them believe there is just a small group of people making much ado about nothing." But I'm sure the mayor and city council are anxious to nip this thing in the bud.

I tried to find more info on the Garden City website. I didn't find this story, but I found a rather odd goal listed in their 2006-07 Comprehensive Plan (click HERE to read the original.)

Section 5.7.4 states, as a goal, "Support efforts to encourage courtesy and respect among greenbelt users, with the needs of recreational users taking priority over commuter cyclists. Consider licensure of bicycles, more volunteers and police presence on the greenbelt."

Now, I've got no problem with increased efforts to make the Greenbelt bike-friendly, and promote courtesy... but "recreational" users get priority over transportation cyclists? Why? Is this one more evidence that the City Fathers tend to view bikes as toys, not transportation? Are "commuter cyclists" the root of all Greenbelt problems? I believe that goal needs a bit more 'splainin'.

(By the way, I ride in Garden City almost every day. Adams Street is one of my favorites, for bike-friendly design. And the south-shore Greenbelt through Garden City is likely my favorite "urban" stretch along the entire distance. I'm just wondering why they don't like me.)

UPDATE, May 30: The citizens of Garden City will sleep a little easier tonight. The City Council has officially made it a misdemeanor to ride on their pedestrians-only stretch of Greenbelt. (Kate Brusse's Idaho Statesman story HERE.) Why misdemeanor? Why not felony? (Nudge nudge, wink wink)

It's amazing what some folks consider to be priority safety issues. How about enforcing some of the existing laws? Like riding bikes against traffic on the roads? (I know... I sound like a broken a "skipping CD" on that issue.) Against-traffic cycling is "not a priority violation." We need to go after the REAL criminals - the ones who are riding on the unpaved stretch of greenbelt, destroying peace and serenity, and threatening everything we hold dear! Okay... I've vented...

Ada County Wins the Bronze!

It was all over the local news. Back-slapping all around, because Ada County is recognized for being bike-friendly. (And you may have seen the distinctive purple signs that have been put up on roadways into town.)

According to the write-up in the Daily Newspaper (click HERE to read), "This award is presented only to communities with remarkable commitments to bicycling." That according to Bill Nesper of the League of American Bicyclists.

I was a member of the ACHD Bicycle Advisory Committee 2 years ago, when Ada County originally received the recognition. (Click HERE to see what I said at the time. I thought ACHD "fudged" about bike-education efforts in our area, and also on incentives-to-ride.) But the recognition is likely deserved; ACHD has shown a commitment to the infrastructure, and they are stretching their dollars to maximize return. (And ACHD is not in the educatin' business... that duty should be done by law enforcement, with help from the public schools.)

Oh, how I wish there were more done to educate the road-going public, both motorists and cyclists. And along with that education effort must be some enforcement. If there are laws on the books to govern cyclist behavior, but those laws are seldom if ever enforced unless an accident is involved, what's the point of having laws?

I'm somewhat bothered by this (from the article): "ACHD's designation as a bicycle friendly community has already helped secure a federal grant that could help make a scenic byway near Kuna even more of an attraction for walkers and cyclists. An $800,000 National Scenic Byways grant may go toward an expanded shoulder along Swan Falls Road."


Is the most pressing cyclist-need in Ada County a wide shoulder at Swan Falls?!?

I'm sorry, but that is stupid!!! Reminiscent of Senator Ted Stevens' Alaska "bridge to nowhere"!

How many cyclists in the county ride to Swan Falls? And is heavy traffic an issue out there? (I've ridden out there exactly twice in 22 years. Both times, I was delighted to have the road pretty much all to myself, and in a meaningful way. When you can see 3 miles in front of you and 3 miles behind... and you're the only vehicle in sight, you are not thinking, "Boy, if only there were some nice shoulders on this road, the Ada County Bike Puzzle would be complete.") Your tax (and bicycle) dollars at work.

Friday, May 25, 2007


The missus sometimes accuses me of being addicted to cycling.

Addict (Websters): "to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively <addicted to gambling>."

Perhaps she's right. I've got the Bike Habit at this point in my existence. If I miss a day (and the last day I missed was early September of last year), it kinda puts me in a funk. I love the way cycling makes me feel, both physically and emotionally. (And the smack addict or crackhead would make that same declaration.)

Maybe this is a cop-out... but aren't the vast majority who choose automotive transportation also addicted? Haven't they surrendered themselves? If you choose to live so far from your destinations that the only practical mode of transportation is single-occupant motor vehicle, haven't you made a decision to "habitually" use the SOV? When gas prices go from $2 to $3.50 in a matter of weeks, and demand just keeps going up, isn't that an indication of a national addiction, just like George W. Bush says? (Dubya is famous for putting his foot in his mouth, but it's hard to argue with that declaration.)

Check out these photos. They were captured off the ACHD Traffic Cam on 5/17, 5/18, and 5/24, between 5:15pm and 5:25pm. Are they not photos of people "surrendering themselves habitually"? Some of the same vehicles - and drivers - are likely in all three photos. Check the traffic-cam any Monday thru Friday at around that time... the only thing that will change from day to day is the weather.

It's probably bad to be addicted to anything. But bike-addiction seems relatively benign, compared with drugs, or alcohol, or gambling... or driving that SOV.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Greenbelt Lore #2

Greenbelt courtesy... particularly "passing" courtesy.

Way back in early April, I made some comments about Boise's Greenbelt. (Click HERE to review.) Traffic is getting heavy on the Greenbelt, what with the nice weather, so I thought I'd comment once again.

The City's official Greenbelt page can be viewed HERE.

They've got some "courtesies" listed. Among them:
- All Greenbelt users should stay to the right and use caution under bridges and at blind corners where vision could be impaired.
- Pedestrians should not walk more then two abreast.
- Dogs are allowed only if on a leash - leash not to exceed eight (8) feet.
- Bicyclists and skaters who wish to pass other users along the Greenbelt must notify others that they are passing, either verbally (example: "passing on your left") or by other audible means (bell, horn, etc.).

Seems to me, the Greenbelt is an ideal location for parents and guardians to teach their young'uns about traffic. Particularly where stripes are painted. (For those of you not familiar, much of the Greenbelt has a center-stripe painted, and it's like the stripe on a 2-lane highway... broken white stripe where passing is acceptable, solid yellow where you should stay in your own lane, etc.) Could there be a better place than that, to ride alongside, or just behind, your child and teach him to keep to the right, ride predictably, beware of blind spots, watch out for other users, etc.?

I wish to comment on that part about notifying others of intent to pass.

Perhaps it springs from the fact that most of my riding is on the road... but I've always had a problem with "signaling when passing" in all instances. (I've been scolded before, for not sounding the warning.)

If I'm overtaking a Greenbelt pedestrian who's walking a straight, steady line, and paying attention, and obviously going someplace, and I have plenty of passing room, I'll sometimes go on by (at a reasonable pace) without the "On Your Left" that has become a Greenbelt tradition.

Frequently, a warning startles the person being overtaken and they'll jump right into my path, when if I go right by (at a reasonable pace) without the warning, we all proceed uninterrupted.

To me, it seems a universal warning would be like honking your horn at every person you're going by on the roadway. Who needs the noise? Doesn't that detract from the serenity that should prevail on the Greenbelt?

So, if I pass you without the warning, consider it a compliment. You appear to me to know what you're doing.

If, on the other hand, I'm overtaking a gaggle of pedestrians wandering bovine-like (like a herd of cattle) on and off the path, or a walking "hen party," or somebody with an unleashed dog (review the "courtesies" above, if necessary), or punks who are all-over-the-path on their bikes, or boards, or rollerblades, or a group that includes young, inexperienced children... then absolutely, I'll give the verbal warning. (And I won't pass around blind corners, etc., either.)

And how about my Greenbelt brothers-and-sisters - and there are a lot of 'em these days - whose hearing is iPod-impaired? The courteous warning could be screamed at full lung capacity directly behind some of 'em, without it being noticed. (You will notice that one of the safety tips is "take off the headphones.")

When I'm on the Greenbelt... I promise you I will ride predictably as close to the right edge as is "practicable" (that's the word they use in the book of laws). I won't jeopardize your safety with a passing maneuver. (I've never had an accident, or even a close call, when passing on the Greenbelt.) If you want to pass me in the customary manner - on the left in a place with sight-distance - you go right ahead, without warning. (I've almost certainly noticed you in my rearview mirror anyway.) I won't scold you for breaking the rules.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Gas Notes

Riding a bicycle for transportation just keeps getting better and better!

"Gasoline prices soared to levels never seen before as even the inflation-adjusted price for a gallon of unleaded topped the 1981 record spike in price that had stood for 26 years. And higher prices could be on the way as Americans get ready to hit the road for the Memorial Day holiday and the start of the summer driving season."

(Click HERE to link to the story at CNN Money.)

I bought gas on Saturday. At the tail end of a 140-mile motorcycle "joy ride" with some friends, I had to put about 10 bucks' worth in the tank. (Small price to pay, I s'pose, for 3 hours of pleasure. It would really suck if I had to buy gas for something as lame as driving to and from work!)

My daughter lamented that her car's tank is almost empty, and she is facing the terrifying prospect of filling up. She started a new job in January and has been bike-commuting almost 100% of the time. It turns out that January was the last time she gassed up her car, too. I tried to provide some comfort and reassurance... told her she could probably afford 3 or 4 tanks a year.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Boise Bike Week - Grand Finale

Wow! I actually participated in an official Boise Bike Week event! The Pedal Power Parade took place Saturday afternoon. Conditions were close to ideal. It seemed to go off pretty much without a hitch. I'd say there were 200-250 riders; ages ranged from 2 to 82, I'm guessing.

I also finally had a chance to meet my "virtual friend" Danielo in real life, and he's my real friend now. (He shares my enthusiasm for bicycling, and we post comments on one anothers' blogs. I was going to include a link to his, but he's apparently chaning hosts.)

I've attached three photos - one before and two after. (I'm not confident enough to try to snap photos while riding, and I dearly wanted to participate. It looked that there were a couple people snapping enroute photos.)

The middle photo is of one of my favorite families... and they ride together! They are AWESOME! Team Cyclista! (Dad also blogs at about the world of professional bicycle road racing, and they sell some cool bike stuff at .) They were by far the best-looking team in this year's Pedal Power Parade! (-;

Friday, May 18, 2007

Wrong-way bike rider follow-up

Earlier this month, I recounted a particularly uncomfortable near-miss I had with an against-traffic cyclist on the Emerald St. Overpass. (Click HERE to review.) I called the Mayor's voice-mail hotline to complain about non-enforcement.

There have been some developments.

My call to the hotline was transcribed... and the Boise Guardian posted it online, as follows:

Bike Etiquette: The reason I am calling is to express some concern, as I have done before, about un-enforced bicycle laws. In fact, the last time I complained I got a call from the Chief of Police in response, saying that it would be better. I’m certainly not seeing any better behavior on the part of the cyclists. Specifically, I’m calling to complain about bicyclists who ride against traffic, and I believe that I will call every time after I have a near miss with somebody. Today, I was riding east bound on Emerald St. very near the overpass where there’s barely enough bike lane to even operate in, and here comes some bozo flying down from the overpass headed westbound, and right in my lane there’s absolutely no place for me to go. It’s just a very, very, very uncomfortable situation for this bicyclist citizen. I wish something would be done, and I would just like you people to be on notice that since I’ve called about this so many times, and the law obviously isn’t being enforced, if I ever have an accident that is caused by an against-traffic bicyclist that runs into me head on, I certainly will make my legal advisor aware that Boise has a long record of not enforcing that law that is on the books. I’m very serious about this and I wish you folks would get serious about it too, particularly Mayor Bieter who claims to be a cyclist. Thank you very much.

(Please bear in mind that I was working without a script... I didn't prepare the message and then phone it in.)

I thought it was interesting (?) that the transcriber assigned it to "bike etiquette." If I called to complain about people constantly driving down the street the wrong way, would they assign it to "car etiquette"? I believe that in itself illustrates that they don't take the problem very seriously.

However, I feel better that it has been noted in the "official record."

And then today I got a call from a Boise Police officer. I didn't catch his name, but he said he's a sargent on the Bike Patrol.

It was mostly "the usual" - he expressed sympathy, and told me that due to constant shortages of manpower, they have to prioritize violations, and bike-head-on-collisions apparently aren't high priority. (Bikes are toys, not transportation, in the minds of most bureaucrats, including bike patrolmen.)

He offered a suggestion. (And I might just try it sometime.) He said if I feel so inclined, I could call dispatch (377-6790) at the time of an observed violation, and then follow the scofflaw until a police officer arrives... who would issue a citation, with me as the complainant.

Of course, that creates further hazards. I'd have to change directions safely to pursue, and call on my cell phone, and then keep the dispatcher on the line as I ride along, until help gets there. (And then, no doubt I'd have to go to court. And unless the cop saw the violation in progress, it would probably be a matter of "he-said vs. he-said." And if I prevailed, the perp would probably get sympathy from the "bikes are toys" judge, and a $5 fine.)

I guess we'll see what develops. Stay tuned.

Helmets save lives!

A week ago, Ryan Lipscomb was riding a bike in Madison, Wisconsin, when a truck (apparently) turned into his path... and ended up running over his head. (And then driving on - hit-and-run.) Lipscomb's now-mashed helmet kept his skull from getting mashed. Lipscomb: "It feels really strange to have a truck run over your head."

About the same time, Jace Muir of Salt Lake City was playing "skeleton" on a skateboard. "Skeleton" is what it's called when you're lying on your stomach and going head-first. He was riding out of his friend's driveway and into the street. You probably know the rest of the story. (Sounds like Darwin Award material... but Jace is 5 years old so I'm gonna cut him some slack.) He luckily had his buddy's helmet on, because the neighbor's car rolled right over his head. The helmet is now chunks of styrofoam... but Jace will live to "skeleton" again!

Now folks... bike helmets are not designed to be run over by the full weight of a car. Do NOT try this at home! But these stories illustrate how much punishment a helmet can absorb.

If you ride a bike - strap on that brain-bucket first! If you love somebody who rides a bike... INSIST that they go with the helmet.

(Links to news stories HERE and HERE.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Cyclist-Friendly Workplace

A couple days back, I posted a couple photos of the office bike racks. One of them sitting empty in winter, another of them full-up, just this week.

I've gotta hand it to the company I work for... the racks are very adequate. (Much better than leaving us to fend for ourselves.) They are sheltered from the elements, and a security guy and security cameras are in line-of-sight. (Amazingly, I've had stuff stolen off my bike while parked there - a pump and some tools, etc. One guy got overconfident - left his shiny new bike out there unlocked. Bad move... it wandered away, despite the precautions.)

My company also provides some additional facilities that every employer should provide - at least anybody who employs 10 or 15 or more people. A sweet locker room with showers. I've attached a couple photos.

If I were in charge, it would be written into the building code. I've had much worse facilities - at one former employer, they had a room full of batteries for emergency backup power, and an OSHA-mandated shower to wash off the acid from exploded batteries. I used that emergency battery-acid shower. I also worked for the City of Boise, where I took my "shower" in a sink in a back-hallway bathroom at City Hall. You learn to adapt.

NOTE: Currently I'm fortunate to live less than 4 miles away, so the locker room is a non-factor for my commuting. But it sure is nice when I (regularly) go for exercise-pleasure rides during the day. I take a shower when I get back - my associates thank me for it.

Did the "gas out" work?

Earlier this month (click HERE to review) I shared an email message that encouraged everybody to boycott Big Oil on May 15th. According to the message, when it was done back in '97, "gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight."

I'm just wondering if it worked again this year. (I don't get to the gas station much... but I did my part and honored the boycott.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bike Week Status Report

Dang! I feel a little bit guilty.

As I anticipated the upcoming Bike Week last Sunday, one of my hopes was, "I hope we have BAD inversion... but it doesn't matter because nobody's spewin' nasty emissions into the air."

Be careful what you wish for! Half of my wish appears to have come true.

Today is a yellow-alert air-quality day, and according to the DEQ website (click HERE to link), "The AQI may rise over 100 to the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (Orange) Category tomorrow." I believe the Air colors correspond roughly to the Terrorist colors... and orange is worse than yellow.

That was NOT one of the planned Boise Bike Week promotional events! Well, I may be breathin' it, but I'm not contributing to it. Some comfort.

Of course, I also hoped for a lessening of traffic. If that has happened, it's negligible... I've attached a couple this afternoon's traffic-cam photos. (All those people out there, voluntarily engaging in one of my least-enjoyed pastimes. It just makes me scratch my head in wonderment.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

World of Bicycles

Is it the $3.20 gas that's causing it? Or the gorgeous weather? Or is it Boise Bike Week?

Whatever it is... the bike rack in front of the office is pretty much full-up today!
Compare with a photo I took in December 2004 (and very typical of mid-winter):(My bicycle is on both shots... in the very back. It just looks very lonely in December.)

I'm counting around 15 bikes today... that's 3-4% of the workforce. The motorist might scoff, and point out that 90% of the drones arrived in single-occupant motor vehicles. To which I'd retort, "Would you prefer that 15 more cars were queued up in front of you, as you do your bumper-to-bumper rush-hour commute thing?"


My friend Bob invited me to come get some free tomato plants last night. I surprised him by showing up bike-trailer enabled. It's a bee-yoo-tee-ful thing. (I'm thinkin' I can almost certainly go all week without ever getting in the wife's Family Truckster.)

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Taste of the Bitter

Friday afternoon, I left town on a little overnight motorcycle adventure. Since I was headed west, I wanted to get away early to beat the afternoon rush.

I was on the road at about 3:15pm. My route - Orchard north to Chinden, west to Veterans Parkway, north to State Street, west out of town.
If I missed the rush hour, I'm glad... because traffic was awful, even at 3:30pm! Eagle is maybe 10 miles; it took me 'til 4pm to get there. 45 flippin' minutes! Once I got beyond Eagle, it quickly started improving, thank goodness.

A bit of philosophy... If you never taste the bitter, you can't fully appreciate the sweet. If you never get sick, you start taking your good health for granted. "There must needs be opposition in all things." So, it probably did me good to see what that traffic is like; it renewed my appreciation for how blessed I am to live close to work and to not have traffic exasperation as a regular part of my life.

(I can't imagine a circumstance in which I'd be willing to spend an hour or two sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, five days a week. Life is too short! I'm too prone to road-rage... or perhaps road-insanity is more accurate.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Boise Bike Week - starts tomorrow, runs thru next Saturday.

What does it mean?
- I hope I'm a little frustrated all week long because the bike paths I normally have mostly to myself are jam-packed with fellow cyclists.
- I hope the bike racks are filled to capacity and the parking lots are empty.
- I hope we have BAD inversion... but it doesn't matter because nobody's spewin' nasty emissions into the air.
- I hope the morning traffic guy is befuddled all week because there is no bad traffic to report.

I've made up my mind. I believe I'll ride to work EVERY DAY next week! I'll also do everything I can to participate in the grand finale Pedal Power Parade (Saturday, 3:30pm, Healthwise on Bogus Basin Road).

Join me! Get somebody else to join us!!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Surviving on the Street

Rule 2 - BE SEEN

(Previously we discussed "SEE." To review click HERE.)

FACT: A person on a bicycle is not as readily-visible as a person in a car. If you don't get noticed by other roadway users, you are much more vulnerable than if you are highly visible.

Frequently, following a car/motorcycle accident, the person driving the car will say, "I just didn't see him!" Pathetic! And that is probably even more true of bicyclists.

Wearing brightly-colored clothing is better than dressing in "Johnny Cash Black," at least when you're bicycling. No brainer. Lately, I've been seeing a lot of cyclists wearing "hi-viz" fluorescent-green attire. GOOD MOVE! That color is visible from a distance, and in a variety of light conditions. (I'm "old school" - my Gore-tex jacket is bright yellow. But that hi-viz is probably even better.) I used to have a bright-yellow helmet, too. When I replaced it, the only color available was dark "carbon fiber replica" gray... but it's covered with bright yellow stick-on reflectors. (Does it look dorky? Most likely. Who cares? Not me!)

But your choice of attire is just one consideration.

Some others:

- BE WHERE YOU SHOULD BE. You will be most noticeable to motorists if you are on the right (correct) side of the road, traveling in the same direction as traffic. If you choose another strategy - riding against traffic, or riding on sidewalks, etc. - you will indeed need to ride like you are invisible, because fewer road-sharers will notice you. (It's not a bad strategy to assume others don't see you. But if you can do that while simultaneously riding where you will most likely be noticed, it's a win-win... no?)

- BE PREDICTABLE. You see kids all the time on the greenbelt, swerving from one edge to the other, yappin' over their shoulder to a friend, no-hands, oblivious to the world. You see 'em on the roads, too... but not as frequently. Because they'll get eliminated. "Squirrely" is the best way to describe it... and observe what happens to street-squirrels this time of year.

- Don't "hide" between parked cars. If you're riding down a stretch of road with parking on the side... ride a straight path, rather than darting over to the curb between cars. You're much less likely to take somebody by surprise.

- Make noise when necessary. Cars have a horn to warn other motorists. Do you? I don't hesitate to shout when somebody's attention needs getting. (And it doesn't need to be laced with profanity - hahaha. I usually just holler "HEY!!" at the top of my lungs.)

- Night riding? Most jurisdictions require lighting and/or reflectors. (Idaho - light on the front, reflector on the back. That is bare minimum.) It amazes me - if you go look at a bike in a department store, it'll have a permanently-affixed decal with something like this: "This bicycle is not designed to be operated at night without optional lighting." DUH! You can thank an attorney for that one, I'm sure. If you can't figure that out on your own, maybe you don't belong in the gene pool anyway.

There's almost a ZERO-PERCENT chance that you'll get deliberately run into by a motorist who sees you beforehand. (You might get honked at or hollered at... that's okay. It rarely happens to me... but it happens. You can ride on home afterwards.) But don't do less than everything possible to get noticed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Another minor personal milestone

Bike Nazi - 2000 bicycle miles for 2007.

(Strangely, in 2004 I arrived at that milestone on May 6, in 2005 on May 5, and last year on May 16. Is there some sort of cosmic synchronization that I don't understand?)

I've not missed a day in 2007, so far.

Most of the reasons I ride are difficult to quantify, although I explained 'em with a recently-completed "top ten list." (Click HERE to review.) But the economic factor is something even an accountant can understand! (That's just a joke, if any of my accountant-friends happen to see this.)

Here's my out-of-pocket so far in 2007:
- Replacement new tires front and rear on March 10 - $28.* (The old ones weren't tossed; they're my "fat" tires and are hanging up waiting for next winter.)
- 8 flat tires repaired. (3 in the last 2 days... that sucks! But not like a Ford Excursion!) That's about 1 1/2 flat kits, which have 6 patches and cost a couple bucks - $3.
- 2 tubes replaced - $3-4 each - $7.
- Chain lube - maybe 25 cents?*

So... around 38 bucks. Sweeet!

If you drove, what did your last 2000 miles cost?

* A note on bike-tire cost: I can't use the Wal-Mart/Target tires - wrong size. For a "700c" diameter rim, a wide variety of tires is available both locally (bike stores) and via mail/web order. You can spend $7, or $70 (ouch!), per tire. I watch for sales, and usually buy my tires in the $12-16 range, 3 or 4 at a time. They might not ride quite as smooth as the $70 tires, and may have more rolling resistance, and might not even last quite as long... but a road hazard can trash a $70 tire in the blink of an eye, just like my $12 tires. (Since it may be apparent I have a minor obsession about economy... you can understand that would break my heart!)

* A note on chain lube: You can buy fancy Teflon lube at the bike store for $8.95, but I mix my own with mineral spirits and motor oil. A lifetime supply can be made with a quart of 30-weight and a quart of mineral spirits. Directions - combine 2 parts oil to 1 part mineral spirits and mix. Apply to chain, ride a couple miles, wipe off the excess with a rag or paper towel. I do that every 7-10 days... a squeaky chain is a burden so easily avoided!

Preserving area wildlife habitat

Does this seem "funny" to you?

Check out this sign.

It can be found on the Greenbelt, south side of the Boise River. (Between the Veterans Parkway bridge, and the Riverside Motel.)

It's on a gate that can be used to block access to the Greenbelt, to keep pedestrians and cyclists from disturbing the fragile ecosystem.

Now check out what's behind the sign.
(I pulled the gate out just far enough so the sign could be read. You can see my bicycle behind the sign.)

Nearby, there's an ACHD equipment yard surrounded by chain link fence. The first time I encountered the closed gate, there were big dump trucks and front-end loaders scurrying about in that yard, loading sand. (There's a 30-foot high pile of sand, that's used to sand the roads in the wintertime.) You could hear the incessant roar of big diesel engines, and the beep-beep-beep backup warning signals.

Immediately beyond the ACHD equipment yard, you can see a fabulous new housing development towering up. Those tall structures are condos or apartments - I saw a big crane stacking prefab sections a week ago. It's truly startling how fast they've gone up. (There used to be an old, abandoned mill of some kind on the property.)

So, why does it seem "funny"?

- Where's the wildlife habitat? Is it that little 3-foot strip of grass between the fence and the Greenbelt path? (On the other side of the path is a thin strip of land between the path and the river... but it couldn't be more than 5 or 10 feet wide.)

- How is it that pedestrians and bicyclists will spoil everything for our feathered and furry friends, but they are oblivious to roaring dump trucks, beeping heavy equipment, and stacked-up housing units?

Perhaps all those pesky critters have finally been driven off. (To be honest, the gate hasn't been closed for probably 2 or 3 years now.)

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Goathead Czar

Roger Batt is conducting Idaho's "Weed Awareness Campaign."

The state is spending $9 million on the "War on Weeds." It seems as futile as the "War on Drugs."

Oddly, there seems to be more focus on Eurasian watermilfoil, than on goatheads. What's with that? Does that Eurasian stuff have thorns? (This despite the fact that Roger says, "We have puncturevine really bad around our property - that's how we spent last weekend." Puncture vine is a fancy name for goatheads.)

Click HERE to read the story on the daily-newspaper website.

If you see a goathead plant, it says, "Report weed infestations to the local county weed superintendent, listed under County Government in the phone book. The Ada County Noxious Weed Control office is at 577-4646."

(My experience has been that the ONLY way to get rid of goatheads is to pull the plant out by the roots and bag it and send it to the landfill. Then pick up as many of the goatheads as you can - they're seeds and will try to sprout - and get rid of them. If you do this faithfully for 5 or 6 years, preferably getting 'em before they start dropping the seeds, you might get lucky and rid yourself of 'em. But don't ride your bike out there, or let your kids ride... your great-grandkids, someday, maybe.)

Head-on collision averted

I had another close encounter with an against-traffic cyclist.

I was eastbound, just starting up the Emerald Street overpass ramp. If you're not familiar... it's a 2-lane roadway bridge, going over the Interstate "connector," that's generally quite busy. The overpass is too narrow for full-width bike lanes; they're maybe 2 feet wide. I ride Emerald Street quite regularly; it's actually one of the more bike-friendly connector crossings.

That is, unless some bonehead is coming straight at you in your lane, on a collision course.

He looked to be a young Hispanic fella (¡cabeza de hueso!) - early 20s - definitely old enough to know better. He was coasting down the ramp (illegally against traffic on my side of the road). There was a steady stream of motor vehicles in both directions. He slowed down; they usually realize they're in the wrong, but it's too late to do much about it in such a limited space.

I hollered "Wrong Side!" at him as we passed, missing each other by inches. Jackass.

I went home and called the "Mayor's Hotline" as I've done in the past. I described my near miss. I also said the city's ongoing pattern of non-enforcement was noted, and if I were ever in a collision caused by an against-traffic cyclist, I'd make sure my legal counsel knew I had complained about it on numerous occasions.

Our mayor is an attorney. Maybe that'll get his attention. He also claims to be a regular bike commuter; I wonder if he rides with traffic, or against it.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Guys like this scare me!

(Former) baseball pitcher Josh Hancock died in a traffic accident early Sunday morning. He plowed into the back of a stopped tow truck in his SUV, and died instantly of massive head and chest trauma.
- He was legally drunk (blood-alcohol .157, twice the legal limit)
- He was going 68 in a 55 zone (at 12:30am)
- He was yappin' on his cell phone
- He had reefer and a pipe in the vehicle (drug test results not back yet)
- He wasn't wearing a seat belt

Thank goodness it was himself he kilt, and not somebody else! What do other roadway users have to do, to protect themselves from an irresponsible bonehead like this? (My biggest fear is getting plowed into by an impaired idiot.)

An AP article about the fatal accident can be read by clicking HERE.

Surviving on the Street

Rule 1 - SEE

FACT: A cyclist is more vulnerable in an accident than the vast majority of roadway users, who are cocooned away in their big, secure, padded, air-bagged steel cocoons. In fact, we need to avoid a collision, because it will almost certainly result in at least injury, and possibly death.

I've had a few accidents over the years. But my last one of any consequence was probably 5-6 years and 30,000 miles ago. Thankfully, I've never been seriously injured. So - I must be doing something right, or you'd be reading "He loved his bicycle" on my tombstone!

Besides being a dedicated tranportation cyclist, I ride a motorcycle. And every few years I take the "Advanced Rider" refresher course offered by Idaho Star (highly recommended, if you putt-putt). Many of the hazards - and survival skills - are remarkably similar for bicyclists and motorcyclists. I'm a better bicyclist because I ride a motorcycle... and I'm a much better motorcyclist because I do so much bike riding.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and the Idaho STAR program, teach a technique called SIPDE.

Kind of a stupid acronym. But strangely, I've remembered it. (Usually I can only remember totally trivial stuff!)

SIPDE means:
S - SCAN... keep eyes constantly moving... look up the road as far as you can see
I - IDENTIFY potential hazards
P - PREDICT the behavior of those hazards; determine worst-case scenario
D - DECIDE on your best course of action

I've found that if I can think about doing the "scan" thing, the rest automatically follows, unless I'm totally on "automatic pilot." (I love to think about anything and everything while I'm riding... but I try to dedicate some of that central-processing power to SIPDE.)

SCAN! It's actually a heady experience to "get in the survival-mode scan zone" - eyes constantly moving about, watching for lurking danger.

Anything that is moving - or might start moving - is a potential hazard.

Anything that's big enough to hide something moving is a potential hazard.

If the hazard is not moving - curb, parked car, road debris, etc. ... well, if you can't avoid it, maybe you better stick to walking (with a football helmet on!). (Watch the cars parked alongside the road! Look for heads inside. They can suddenly be not parked... or a door can fly open into your path.)

The sooner you see that hazard, the more time you have to do the "..IPDE" thing.

Including your peripheral vision, unless you're wearing some totally stylin' sunglasses, you can probably see 180 degrees or more. Concentrate on what's ahead, but have those side-motion-detectors in full function.

I always use - and strongly recommend - a rear-view mirror. I feel vulnerable without it. (It makes all the difference when riding in traffic.) Mine is helmet-mounted, but if you don't like that, you can get 'em frame, or handlebar, or sunglass-mounted. Besides a helmet, I'd say a rearview is the best money you can spend on safety gear.

Another benefit I've realized by "scanning" up the road is... my stops are minimized.

By observing up-ahead trafffic lights, pedestrian walk/wait lights, how many cars are already waiting, etc., it's much easier to predict when my light will be green. Using that, and a few other "veteran tricks," I can frequently make my entire commute nonstop. (Which is way cooler than those Car-Bozos who win every stoplight-to-stoplight drag race!)

Side Note... Besides SEE, I'd also recommend HEAR.

I take great comfort in being able to hear other roadway users.

I've got an "iPod-like device" - the poor man's model - that I very occasionally wear when I'm cycling. But only when I'm on a dedicated bike path like the Greenbelt, or in very light traffic with unlimited visibility, like out on Gowen Road. (Hearing-impaired and no-rearview? Fuggeddaboudit!) I see people riding nonchalantly along in heavy traffic with their buds jammed in their ears, and it makes me hope their friends won't be reading "He loved his bicycle and Eminem" on their tombstones! Exercise some judgment! The stakes are mighty high. There is a time and place for righteous tunes.

(Of course, if one of those big diesel pickups is within a quarter-mile or so... or one of those Bozos on his "Loud Pipes Save Lives" motorcycles is roaring down the street... you can hear them loud-and-clear, earbuds or not.)

Photo credit: Jim Emery (

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Show Big Oil Who's Boss!

I got the most fantastic email yesterday! Why didn't somebody think of this before?!?

The Austin paper indicated that prices could go as high as $4 per gallon later this on


In April 1997, there was a "gas out" conducted nationwide in protest of gas prices. Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

On May 15th 2007, all internet users are to not go to a gas station in protest of high gas prices. Gas is now over $3.00 a gallon in most places.

There are 73,000,000+ American members currently on the internet network, and the average car takes about 30 to 50 dollars to fill up.

If all users did not go to the pump on the 15th, it would take $2,292,000,00000 (that's almost 3 BILLION) out of the oil Companies' pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the gas station on May 15th and lets try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day.

If you agree (which I can't see why you wouldn't) resend this to all of your contact list. With it saying, ''Don't pump gas on May 15th"


Actually, somebody did think of it before... this notion gets recycled every year. (Frankly, I'm surprised that it was mailed on; the senders are bright, educated folks. They sent it to me and probably 50 other people.)

The idea is loosely based on the theory of supply and demand. Which is actually more than theory - it works.

Trouble is... if you top off your tank on the 14th so you can boycott the 15th, or wait 'til the 16th to fill up, have you truly affected demand? The notion is ludicrous!

I wrote back to my friends: "I'm with you! I won't buy gas on the 15th... or the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 18th, etc. I'll ride my bike instead!"

If the 73 million "American members currently on the internet network" (grin) all quit buying gas for a year, indeed they'd affect the demand side. I wish they'd join me! But one day ain't gonna make it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Gas-Guzzler Notes

A week or so ago I saw this HUGE Ford pickup truck parked in downtown Boise. (Taking up about 1.5 spaces, by the way. NOTE - the accompanying graphic is not the observed truck, just a similar one. Ha!) It was one of those that's so high you need really long legs, or a ladder, to get into. And it was all tricked out. (I guess it was "pimped," to coin the current urban vernacular. Can you still say "pimp," following the Don Imus Moment of Clarity?)

It had this huge kind of hood-scoop treatment. But it looked like the original hood-scoop treatment wasn't adequate, so the owner sent it back for more. Kind of a small-hood-scoop-on-the-big-hood-scoop thing. (Chances are it was non-functional, but it looked pretty impressive. And that would be very important, because the driver would be spending every driving moment looking at it... or around it.)

I was hoping to take a photo of it... but when I returned to the spot, alas it was gone.

And then...

Yesterday I was bicycling on Glenwood Street, out near State. I saw this big shiny white Hummer. (Not the real Hummer, but one of the big civilian Pretend Hummers.) Its license plate read:


I'm assuming that's what the owner does with his wallet, every time he goes to the gas station... which would be pretty frequently with a big honkin' vehicle like that.

Bicycling Against Traffic

"If riding with the traffic is like playing Russian roulette (quite an exaggeration), then riding against traffic is like playing Russian roulette with five bullets in the chambers."
- Ken Kifer

One of the nice things about "off-season" bicycling is... I am rarely disrupted by other cyclists, since I'm almost alone out there. (Other than thousands of motor vehicles, of course.)

Once the weather starts getting nice, they're back.

Who are they?

The against-traffic cyclists, riding straight toward me on a "chicken" collision course.

They come in all sizes and ages.

Evidently they learned that pedestrians fare best when they can see oncoming traffic, and assume the same is true for bicyclists.


You are far more likely to have an accident when riding against traffic, than you are to be rear-ended.

Think about it. You are an accident-waiting-to-happen at every intersection, where motorists aren't expecting you, or looking for you. You're approaching oncoming traffic way faster than if you're moving in the same direction as traffic, giving both yourself and the oncoming driver less time to react. Since you're obviously not concerned about the rules of the road, or the established order of things, you're unpredictable. (Squirrely.)

I'm rarely as exasperated by motorist behavior, as I am by an against-traffic bonehead cyclist, approaching straight toward me on a busy road, and intending to occupy the same space as I am (legally) occupying.

Where will they go when we converge? Where should I go?


Against-traffic cycling is illegal in all 50 states.

Idaho: "Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway ..." (49-717 - there are some exceptions for one-way streets, passing, etc., but none of the exceptions permit riding against traffic.)

If you're in an accident while riding against traffic... you're the guilty party. Case closed.

Unfortunately, the behavior perpetuates itself, because adults who ride against traffic teach their kids to ride against traffic. And at least in this jurisdiction, there is nobody "officially" teaching otherwise. If you're riding against traffic and a cop happens by... there's almost a 0% chance you'll get hassled by The Man. Pathetic!

Imagine if cops ignored drivers headed down the street the wrong way!

I've called and emailed the police on numerous occasions to complain... usually after I have a scary near-miss with somebody. The standard reply is... "It's against the law, but it's not a priority violation." (In other words, they'll give it some attention when a bike fatality is involved, at least until the victim is scraped off the road. I just hope it's not me they're scraping.)

If I try to correct somebody's against-traffic riding, the kids ignore me, and the "adults" [I use the term loosely] curse at me. I imagine the law-enforcement community could command a bit more respect. If cops were on bikes, dealing with cyclists coming straight toward 'em (an almost-daily occurrance for me, for 5 or 6 months of the year), I'm thinkin' it might get the cop's attention!

Further reading:
Street Smarts
Ken Kifer

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Boise Bike Week

May 14-19, 2007

What is Boise Bike Week? According to the website (click HERE), it is "a week promoting cycling in every form."

All Boise-area cyclists should mark it on the calendar NOW! And tell your 2-wheeling friends!

There is an ambitious (and fun) schedule of events listed at the website. I'm going to try to cajole my family into joining me for the 5/19 "Pedal Power Parade," if nothing else.

(I stole this photo off the website. Some of you big-city-dwellers may appreciate it... it's the closest thing we have to a "Critical Mass" ride in these parts.)
Can an event like Boise Bike Week have any long-term impact?

I'm optimistically (but cautiously) declaring, "yes."

- Hopefully it will be high-profile enough to raise awareness, and maybe provoke some thought, among the non-cycling public. Maybe somebody out there will say, "Hey... I could ride a bike." No matter the motivation for riding - whether it be to save money on transportation, or exercise, or recreation - there is NOT a down-side that I can think of. (Unlike motor vehicles, where you have to weigh the good against the bad.)

- Maybe a "toy" bike rider - somebody who uses the bike exclusively for playing - will consider trying it for transportation, as well.

- Maybe the policymakers and the general public will see a large number of cyclists in one place, and realize that cycling appeals to the masses. (Cyclists are typically seen alone, or in groups of 2 or 3. And they're far outnumbered by people in cars. So the people in cars tend to get all the attention.)

(There's a "Ride To Work Day" for motorcyclists, as well. Supposedly for the same general reasons as a "bike week" - to encourage participation and raise awareness. I commented on it HERE. I believe "Boise Bike Week" is a totally-volunteer effort, unlike "Ride To Work Day." How do I get the "Ride To Work Day" CEO job?)