Friday, June 29, 2007

More about Garden City's pedestrian-only greenbelt

[Background: A short stretch of the "greenbelt" has been left unpaved in the Riverside Village subdivision of Garden City. The city recently passed a new ordinance which makes it a misdemeanor to ride your bike along that particular stretch. It's probably just a coincidence, but Mayor Evans lives in that neighborhood. Previous commentary on the topic can be read HERE and HERE.]

Today, the daily newspaper features a letter from Riverside Village resident Sue Paul, who takes bike advocate Gary Segers to task.

Ms. Paul: I live on the Greenbelt walking trail ... It is a narrow, gravel and dirt nature trail designed for pedestrian use. There is a wide-paved bike path on the south side of the river, which leaves plenty of room for both pedestrians and bikers to merge comfortably. The Greenbelt throughout the Valley has many areas that are designated "walking only, no bikes" because they are nature trails designed to protect wildlife and preserve the beauty of our natural river banks. Is it so difficult for Mr. Segers and his family to walk their bikes down this lovely, peaceful trail for 1 mile?

I really don't understand his complaint. He is not being denied access to any part of the Greenbelt. He is simply being asked to respect designated walking areas, which harbor bird, duck and geese nesting grounds. Instead of berating Garden City and Mayor John Evans for taking something away from him and his family, perhaps he should step back and thank them for giving him and his family the opportunity to "take the time to smell the roses" — the walking trail winding through Riverside Village allows just that opportunity.
(Statesman online website HERE.)

I've got a couple responses that come immediately to mind. (Let me try to help her understand Mr. Segers' complaint.)
1. There are far fewer "walking only, no bikes" corridors than Ms. Paul envisions. In fact, the only other one I'm aware of is behind another hoity-toity exclusive neighborhood, upstream in the River Run area.
2. Is there something about bicycles that's particularly irritating to birds, ducks and geese? What is her rationale for assuming bicyclists will disrupt the reverie of the little forest creatures, but pedestrians won't? (Or big houses, golden retrievers, lawnmowers, backyard barbecue parties, etc.)
3. She's concerned that a slightly-wider paved path will destroy "the beauty of our natural river banks." This from a lady who lives in a big ol' house a few feet from that natural river bank? Yeah, right! (Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.)
4. She implies that bicyclists can't "take time to smell the roses." Boy howdy, how little she knows! She probably drives everywhere in her SUV, and doesn't realize that one of the main attractions to bicycle transportation is the opportunity it affords to commune with nature. Of course, if you're in a hurry to get to work, you might not have the time to stop to smell the roses, no matter your means of transport.
5. She directs Mr. Segers to the south shore of the river, with its paved path. Well, that might be fine if he's on a recreational jaunt, but what if he's headed for work or some other destination? Evidently Ms. Paul joins the vast majority of citizens (including the vast majority of bicycle riders) who see bikes as toys, not transportation. She may not be aware, but the south-side paved path dead-ends (westbound), and from there you get on Highway 20 (Chinden) to Eagle Road... the next river crossing downstream. Would that be her chosen route, when she's with her family on a lovely bike ride?

I say bring the Riverside Village stretch into compliance with the rest of the Greenbelt, and be done with it. Ms. Paul's resultant suffering will be less than the people on Ustick who are losing their yards to another (motor) traffic lane... and I'm confident the little birdies and bunnies will be impacted even less.

(Sorry... I've got kind of an "attitude" today. Maybe it's all that riding in hot sun and yellow air!)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Future of Transportation in Treasure Valley

[For those of you who aren't part of our community, please indulge me. I see growth, and the related "transportation growth," as serious challenges to my hometown. The following are some thoughts regarding this local-but-universal issue, in light of upcoming mayor/council elections.]

One of the main threats to Boise-area quality of life is growth. (Speak up if you disagree.) And one of the by-products of that growth, that impacts all of us, is ever-increasing traffic. (Speak up if you disagree.)

As the community continues to sprawl in 'most every direction, there are more people on the roads, every week. (By some estimates, the population is growing by 1000 people a month. That probably equates to at least 500 cars a month.)

Since I made a conscious decision to follow the example of my father and live close to where I work, and since I commute to work by bicycle, my first tendency is to say, "They baked their cake. Let them eat it!"

When I listen to the traffic (jam) report every weekday morning on the radio: "Eat it!"

When I ride past long lines of idling rush-hour motorists (getting ZERO miles per gallon): "Eat it!"

I'm not very sympathetic to the plight of somebody who makes a conscious decision to live 25 miles from the (downtown Boise) office, out there on Heaven's Little Quarter-Acre, and then whines because of the traffic woes. Most of 'em seem to be of a mind-set, "Why can't they do something about all these other people in all their cars, so I can quickly and comfortably drive to work alone in my car?"

Eat it!

Unfortunately, traffic affects all of us. Today (June 28) is another "yellow" air quality day. It's not my doing... but I'm breathing it, just like everybody else. (It doesn't impact me nearly as much as it does those poor folks with respiratory ailments and such, whose activity is severely curtailed.)

Some seem to be convinced that the solution is to widen the roads, and add traffic lanes.

You can see it along Ustick Road... the close-in Ustick residents, some of whom have lived there since it was a narrow little country lane, are losing their front yards so the farther-outs will have an additional traffic lane to occupy.

Anybody who thinks we can keep up with additional traffic with additional asphalt is a fool. It hasn't worked anywhere else... why would it work in Boise, Idaho? "The Connector" was supposed to be the solution. Remember?

There's some handwriting on the wall. 2007 will almost certainly be the year that the Boise Valley falls into air-quality non-compliance. The movers and shakers will have to come up with a mitigation plan, if they want to get more federal dollars for road projects.

What will they do to lessen air pollution, while continuing to add 500 cars a month to the mix?

Any ideas?

Are you willing to do anything?

In November, we'll be voting on who we want for Boise's mayor.

Although the mayor's direct involvement in traffic issues is minimal, he has a big bully-pulpit from which to voice his opinions. And he is charged with representing the interests of his constituents - the citizens of Boise. (NOT the Citizens of Treasure Valley, nor the developers.)

What has the current mayor done to mitigate the impact of the thousands and thousands of people driving to their jobs in Boise, from the boondocks of Ada County... and also Canyon, Gem, and Elmore, and Boise Counties? Should he be doing more? Just let nature take its course?

I'd support a mayor who would, in turn, support these measures:

- Support improved mass transit, both rhetorically and monetarily. (Mass transit will always have to be subsidized by the taxpayers, just like the roads. But I don't think it's adequate to just keep throwing taxpayer dollars at the current system, which is obviously of very limited value to very few citizens. Perhaps the traditional "spoke and hub" system has run its course. Maybe it's time to explore alternatives, like shuttle buses for downtown and other business/office centers, more park-and-ride lots out at the periphery, etc. I am NOT an expert, but I know people will be reluctant to ride a bus that's a major inconvenience at both ends.)

- Support tax incentives, building codes, etc., that will encourage more alternatives, fewer single-occupant vehicles.
... For establishing and maintaining those park-and-ride lots.
... Building codes that encourage lockers, showers, sheltered bike parking, wherever a certain number of people will be employed (to facilitate walking, bicycling, etc.).
... Less reliance (via building codes) on huge parking lots.

- Support the establishment of HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes on I-84. I'm thinking from Boise to Nampa, and only during "rush hour" (From 6:30 to 9:00 am eastbound, from 3:30 to 6:00 pm westbound). If you want to drive alone, that's your privilege. But people who pool up, or take a bus, will get an advantage.

- Support development of bike/pedestrian paths along the numerous canal banks. Canals run everywhere! They're not convenient for everybody, but they could provide transportation corridors for a certain percentage of the population. (Some people wring their hands and cry how dangerous they would be for the children. So are roads, when used irresponsibly. Kids don't belong on canal banks if they're not mature enough to do so safely and responsibly. We need a change of attitude, and a lot of pressure brought on the canal companies. Who better to do it than the mayor?)

Maybe someday a light-rail system could be established between Boise and Nampa/Caldwell. And the right-of-way should be maintained with that as a long-term goal. But I'm not convinced it would be in our best economic interest to do any more with that idea at the present time.

Or... just go ahead and Eat it! Sit back and watch, as the federal road dollars dry up and "rush hour" becomes "rush two hours," and then "rush three hours." And Boise drops off the "desirable places to live" lists because of the sprawl and pollution and terrible traffic.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ultimate Hybrid

You know those fancy "hybrid" cars? Like the Prius? They actually only use one type of fuel - gas. They have two motors - a gas one and an electric one, but the electric one is dependent on the gas one, and/or the principle of inertia, to charge up the batteries.

They are complex compared with a regular internal-combustion-only drivetrain... but they are primitive compared with the engine of a bicycle.

Today my hybrid engine was running on Mexican food. (Yum!) Tomorrow it will be running on Swiss steak and mashed potatoes, and a nice salad. (It is both a blessing and a curse to have two awesome cooks under the same roof! I'm what they call a "Clydesdale cyclist" on account of the good food that's put before me.)

This was a rather interesting entry in my Bike Cult book...

Favorite Bike-Touring Foods

In a survey of cross-country touring cyclists, Kevin Kelly asked "What do you eat the most of?"

Here are the replies. (I'm clever! I detected a "common thread"! See if you can...)

- Peanut butter and jelly sammiches
- Peanut butter and bananas
- Mountain Dew, bananas, and peanut butter
- Bread, peanut butter, yogurt
- Peanut butter and honey sammiches on whole wheat bread
- Massive quantities of fruit, and peanut butter and jelly sammiches
- Pancakes, also peanut butter and jelly sammiches
- Granola and peanut butter and jelly
- Bread, cookies, pasta, fruit, and peanut butter
- Peanut butter, ice cream, oranges
- Peanut butter and noodles
- Peanut butter

(Makes you wonder if the survey was sponsored by Jif, or Peter Pan!)

More about "bicycle fuel" in the next few days... come back.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Good Road Design

There is, and always will be, an ongoing debate about how urban bike-transportation infrastructure should be designed.

The separate path has advantages and disadvantages. So does the delineated "bike lane," running along the edge of the "car lane."

I put "car lane" in quotes, because it illustrates the main drawback of the "bike lane" - people who don't get educated may think bikes only belong in "bike lanes." When in reality, by statute at least in Idaho, bikes can legally operate on any public road (including Interstates). (Now, don't think that legal law and common-sense law always go hand in hand. Good judgment should always be exercised.)

I really like this roadway design. It's Adams Street in Garden City, and in my opinion, it's "how to do it."

No delineated bike lane, but plenty of width, including a striped center turning/passing lane. Bikes and motor vehicles share the space, but there's plenty of safe width (and visibility, thanks to the nice sidewalk treatment) for faster traffic to pass slower traffic.

I'd like to see more of this.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Great idea from Danielo

Danielo was on the Opinion page of the Idaho Statesman yesterday. And a fine opinion it was.

A suggestion for local TV news stations: Add another traffic camera to morning reports. On the new camera, show a live view of the traffic on the Boise River Greenbelt! You would be providing a community service, as it would remind commuters that there are other much more pleasant commute options besides the usual single-occupancy, vehicle drive, and it would also demonstrate the beauty of a city treasure — the Greenbelt! You'd be celebrating Boise and encouraging people to make wiser commute decisions.

Web View - click HERE.

If you ask 100 people why they choose their transportation, 90 will likely tell you they have no choice. (Or will quickly start rationalizing why something else might work for others, but not for them.) I say the more exposure they have to other options, the more likely they might be to choose one... especially one as pleasant as cycling. (Better yet if they're lucky enough to be on the greenbelt line.)

Thoughts for Bicycling Women

From my awesome Bike Cult book:

"What enjoyment to a cramped and warped women's life is the whirl of the wheel, bringing back as it does God's gift of health, and the memory of childhood's delight in out of door activity. With a sense also of rest to the brain, and by raising the thoughts in gratitude above the household cares and drudgery, it gives a woman for one brief while the chance to rejoice in the feeling of liberty and delight in her own strength."
- From Wheelwoman (1896)

Bicycling and Pregnancy
Pregnant women have been able to carry on with moderately vigorous bicycling up to their eighth month. One prominent racing cyclist, Mary Jane "Miji" Reoch, reportedly rode her bike to the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia to give birth to her daughter, Solange. [Is that taking cycling enthusiasm one step too far? I hope she remembered to lock her bike securely!]

Friday, June 22, 2007


The human body is a fantastic thing. So many critical systems - circulation, pulmonary, digestive, muscular/skeletal, etc., all working in unison, and all controlled by an operating system that never crashes. The most advanced human-engineered machines are primitive by comparison.

Take, for example, the cooling system. When it gets hot, sweat glands open (automatically... you don't even have to think about it) and deposit water on your outer surface, where evaporation provides cooling power. Conversely, when it's cold, the glands pinch shut, and you get "goose bumps."

(Based on observation, I'd say there are a lot of people whose focus in life - whose definition of provident living - is to keep those sweat glands from ever opening. Unfortunate.)

What you do have to think about is keeping that water tank filled up. On a hot day, if you're exerting yourself, you can lose 8+ ounces of fluid every 15 minutes. And if you're riding along on a bicycle, you don't even notice, because most of it evaporates. If you get thirsty, it's too late. You have to think about drinking before you get thirsty.

I know from experience. When I'm riding on a scorching summer day, sometimes I wonder if I'm even sweating at all... until I stop at a traffic signal. 20 seconds later, water is pouring off, and puddling underneath. Yep - I'm sweating.

What are the risks of getting dehydrated?
- increased heart rate (the circulatory system provides backup, but isn't nearly as efficient)
- more perceived exertion (riding gets harder)
- decreased performance
- increased body temperature
- cramps (The only time I ever get leg cramps is after a lot of hard riding on a hot day.)

If you don't take care of it, you can develop some serious problems and risk your health:
- heat stroke
- heart attack

So... what to do? Here's what I do.

I drink a lot of water... all year 'round, but particularly in the summer. (A guy at the office told me I'm probably rusting my innards! I keep a 32-ounce glass at my desk, and drain it 4-6 times a day.)

A half-hour or so before I ride, I'll consciously tank up on water (20-32 ounces).

I normally only carry one water bottle on my bike, and sip regularly as I ride. If I know I'm going on a longer ride (more than an hour), I'll take two bigger-size bottles. If they get low, I start watching for a place - gas station, convenience store, public restroom, etc. - to refill. I'm not fussy, and generally people are very willing to share a bottle's worth of water.

Does the water get hot? You betcha! If it's 98 degrees out, the water is 98 degrees. But it's wet. And after 20+ years, the warm water goes down just as easy as cool. (And easier than cold. I don't like drinking cold water on a hot, hot day.)

If my route takes me by a canal, or river, or creek, on a scorching day I'll stop and take my shirt off and soak it with cool water. It is absolutely amazing how much difference that makes... for 10 minutes or so until all the water evaporates.

If I know I'll have ample opportunity to refill my water bottles, I'll also use them to supplement the water-cooling, by squirting water on my head (through the helmet-holes), over my shoulder onto my back, etc. (Same effect as the canal-break, but not as dramatic.)

When I finish my ride, I love to soak my head and trunk with the hose, and drink up. Sweet relief! (I frequently say, only half-jokingly, that the reason I enjoy riding a bike so much, is because it feels so good to stop!)

What I don't do:
- Drink soda. (I'll have one every so often, but never to quench thirst.)
- Use a "hydration pack." Some people use the back-mounted packs, but that's always been a bit too complicated for me. I love simplicity. (They make sense if you're riding for hours, and no opportunity to refill your bottles.)
- Drink Gatorade or some other special drink. Nothing wrong with that, I'm sure... but water has always worked for me. (If I need salt, I'll eat some potato chips!)

My brother and sister-in-law used to live in Nampa. Many years ago on a hot summer Saturday, I rode over there. They weren't home, but a hose was running in their front yard, onto the lawn. I drank, and drank, and drank out of that hose. So fine! Later I told them. They said, "You don't want to drink that water! It's pressurized irrigation water, out of the canal!" Doh! Fortunately, I never suffered any side effects... and it sure was cool!

Drink [water!] to ride... ride to drink!


Stereotype (v) - to form a standardized mental picture that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment.

We all tend to do it, even though it's not fair.

After all, not every man in a pickup truck is a dumb redneck who thinks he owns the road. And not every woman in a giant SUV, with phone plastered to ear, is a silly twit whose severely-limited focus is anywhere but on her driving duties. (And not every middle-age guy in a shiny red Corvette has "ED issues." hahahaha)

And likewise, not every bicyclist is a clueless self-destructive jerk who thinks traffic laws apply to everybody else (not to mention the laws of physics).

I wish everybody who straddled a bike and rode in public would realize that, like it or not, he (or she) is an "ambassador" for cyclists. Other roadway users will observe his behavior and form stereotypes, either positive or negative. His behavior might result in other cyclists getting cooperation from motorists, or it might create resentment and hostility. And who knows? You might even inspire somebody to think to himself, "Hey! I could do that! I don't need to drive a car everywhere!"

Every time I see a cyclist riding against traffic (especially when other roadway users are having to take extraordinary measures to avoid running into him), or riding at night with no lights, or swerving in and out of traffic, or ignoring traffic signals as if they weren't even there... I feel considerable resentment and hostility. And even if I'm on a bike myself, I think to myself, "Look at that clueless self-destructive jerk! There sure are a lot of 'em on bicycles..."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bike Cult

I've got a fantastic book.

Bike Cult, by David Perry.

Unfortunately, it's out of print. It was published in 1995; ISBN 1-56858-027-4. Paperback, 570 pages with lots of black-and-white illustrations.

It's available at the Boise Public Library; that's where I first encountered it and spent 4 weeks with it. But it's an encyclopedia; if you love bicycles and bicycling, you need it handy. So I found one on the eBay. (It, and my Rand McNally's, are at my bedside.)

It has pretty much everything you'd want to know about bicycling - bike history, design, transportation, politics, sport, advocacy. I intend to share some information contained therein, from time to time.

For example:

Bicycle in Hawaiian: ka'a paikikala (Don't forget!)

Do you know when popular bicycling got its start? According to Bike Cult, the number of cyclists in America grew from 100 in 1878, to about 50,000 in 1889, to over five million by 1898... mainly because more women were riding bicycles.

"Smooth" roads were first developed mainly to accommodate bicycles.

"[The bicycle] stood for independent locomotion, movement through a world which most urban Americans had hitherto seen only through the windows of a streetcar or train, or on foot. Free locomotion became an attribute of the individual. It offered, in short, an individual unstructured experience of the environment, combined with healthy exercise and a very mild exhiliration from rapid motion.

"The bicycle had, and still has, a humane, almost classical moderation in the kind of pleasure it offers."

- J. B. Jackson, founder of the journal Landscape

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Roads, Dollars, and Air Quality

There's an article in the local Daily (click HERE for the online version), reporting that Congressman Bill Sali wants to remove the bureaucratic red tape that's holding up road construction in Idaho.

(The article should be titled, "Sali asks for Study of Studies.")

Sali says, "Many of Idaho's highways are dangerous, inadequate or plain worn out, and yet the federal government's mandates slow down the state's ability to fix those problems."

Since I'm of a "small government" philosophy, my first reaction was, "Right ON, Bill!"

But then I got to thinkin'.

One of the agencies doing the holding-up is the Environmental one (EPA). It's their job to try to hold the line on air quality, and determine how roads will affect air quality. And since I breathe Boise's air, 350-plus days of any given year, they're working for my benefit.

But then I got to thinkin'.

Repairing dangerous and worn-out roads seems like a no-brainer. If pavement isn't being expanded, the EPA shouldn't get in the way.

But how about adding pavement? For example, will another lane on I-84 result in better, or worse, air?

Tough question.

On the one hand, it would seem that another lane would result in more traffic.

But on the other hand, maybe the existing traffic would move faster (averaging 23mph, instead of the traditional 18mph), thus resulting in less pollution.

It's the EPA's job to figure all that stuff out.

I'm guessing that in the short term, a new freeway lane would result in marginally improved air quality. In the long term, traffic will expand to fill the available space. (Anybody who's convinced that more lanes will resolve traffic problems should go spend a week in the Los Angeles Basin... that's been their methodology for 60 years. Try breathing some of their air, too. It's not good, but it's been recognized as "The Best Chunk-Style Air in America.")

The harsh reality is... the number-one factor in Treasure Valley's air quality is motor vehicle traffic. And we're right on the edge of getting additional restrictions. Our growthophile elected "public servants" should be chewing on that regularly. If I thought it would result in more responsible transportation choices, I'd be in favor of shutting down a lane or two that we already have! After all, I breathe that stuff! (So does Mr. Sali's constituency.)

So, after some consideration, I'm in favor of removing any bureaucratic red tape for repairing and maintaining existing roads. But I want some checks-and-balances oversight when it comes to expanding. If the EPA doesn't do it... who will?

Here's an idea. How about making the new I-84 lane an HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane, at least during rush hour? Give carpoolers a bit of an advantage, and incentive.

UPDATE: I happened across an article on the Idaho Business Review website (click HERE) - "The air quality in the Treasure Valley could be designated a non-attainment area by the [EPA] by the end of the summer. Pollution, generated mostly by automobiles, could exceed the maximum amount allowed by the federal government. ... if the Treasure Valley slips into non-attainment status, the first thing the government will likely do is withhold highway funding." Maybe that's what got Sali's knickers in a wad. And the solution is to eliminate the ability of the EPA to declare non-attainment.

Photo credit: (BSU student newspaper) Yep... that's Boise.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Vatican's 10 Commandments for Drivers

It's unlikely they came down off the mountain on stone tablets, but the Vatican has released 10 Commandments for Drivers. Click HERE to see all 10.

I'd say most are pretty common-sense. Don't kill is #1. (Duh! I coulda sworn that one was in the original Ten Commandments!) (How about squirrels?) Others seem to deal with being a good Samaritan, having charity and forgiveness rather than vengeance, etc.

The one that caught my eye, as a cyclist:

9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

Ya gotta like that concept. High-five Pope Benedict!

I'd say it would be easier to just have a Golden Rule for Roadway Users - Treat other roadway users the way you'd like to be treated - and be done with it.

Second-class Citizens

You may have heard - the Greenbelt east of Boise is temporarily closed.

From the Local Daily (pay particular attention to the last sentence):

Greenbelt section closed due to leak

The Greenbelt between Idaho State Parks headquarters on Warm Springs Avenue and the Idaho 21 bridge is closed due to an irrigation canal leak.

Boise Project Board of Control Monday discovered a leak in the Penn Canal, which runs along the Greenbelt in the area. Crews will need at least three or four days to remove a section of the Greenbelt and repair the leak.

Greenbelt users have no way to detour around the repair zone.

Now, imagine if it were Warm Springs that was closed due to infrastructure problems, and they said there was no way to detour around the repair zone for a few days.

That ain't gonna happen. They'd have flaggers and pilot cars and oddball work hours... whatever it takes.

Now, granted, a large percentage of Greenbelt users are "recreational," at least in that stretch. But the same could likely be said for the roads in that direction.

(By the way, using Warm Springs will provide a good way to detour around the repair zone. Believe it or not, some of us old-timers used to ride out Warm Springs back when the Greenbelt was a railroad line. Perhaps the highway people, and/or the news reporters, aren't aware that bicycles can legally and safely use the roadway.)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Garden City Bicycle Renegades

Garden City is in an enviable position. They've taken care of all their really big problems, so now they can focus on issues like bicyclists on the walking path.

Here's their new ordinance...
(Garden City Code Title 10, Chapter 1, Section 3) No person in any park shall ... Ride a bicycle on portions of the Garden City Greenbelt system that have been officially designated and signed by the City as "pedestrian only" sections of the greenbelt.

If you do so, you are guilty of a misdemeanor.

The "pedestrian only" section at the heart of the controversy is an unpaved stretch of the Greenbelt that runs between houses and the river, in the Riverside Village subdivision.

I wrote about this before (click HERE to review), but new information is coming to light.

According to a guest opinion on the Idaho Statesman website, written by Garden City resident Gary Segers, Mayor John Evans lives in Riverside Village. Coincidence? (I s'pose it could be argued that Mayor Evans knows of the bicycle crisis firsthand, since he's been personally victimized by the unauthorized bicycling.) Also, Segers states, "... in the early 1980s, Mayor Evans was a principal in the company that developed Riverside Village." Coincidence?

Apparently the Riverside Villagers were given the assurance that the path would be for pedestrians and dog-walkers, and that bicyclists would be forbidden.

Why is it an issue?

Because, as Mr. Segers points out, the only real alternative is State Street (or Highway 44, if you prefer), a 5-lane, 55mph highway. Experienced cyclists can handle it fine... but you really don't want children out there on their training-wheel bikes, etc. If I had young children bicycling on State Street, I'd consider that a bigger issue than the backyard reverie of a dozen or so homeowners who have the extreme misfortune of living along the river (and the pedestrian path).

If Mayor Evans lived in Boise, he'd probably be familiar with the concept of Eminent Domain... where private property is appropriated for use by the public. (Kinda like those folks on Ustick Road, who are losing their front yards so the farther-out people can have a speedier commute on a wider road.) Also, Mayor Evans seems rather myopic. Does he understand the concept of the "Greenbelt"? Theoretically, it will stretch all along the river, even in Garden City. To have one short forbidden patch along the way kinda defeats the purpose, no?

Is there something about bicycles, or bicyclists, that is particularly repulsive to the Riverside Village People? Is it the squeaky chains? (I bet it's the squeaky chains!! I know they annoy me!) Frankly, I'd rather have passing-thru bicyclists on a path in my back yard than passing-thru dogs... know what I mean? Why don't they widen and pave the Riverside Village path, and bring it into conformity, and be done with it? In the immortal words of Mr. Spock, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." (Commie!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Remembering Barry Bastian

You've probably never heard of Barry Bastian, so let me tell you a little about him.

Barry was a 60-year-old farmer, over in Canyon County. A family man. A good, God-fearing, taxpaying citizen.

Barry also loved to ride his bicycle.

Early one beautiful morning in June, 2003, Barry was riding on a rural road near his farm. He was an experienced rider; he was on the southbound shoulder, right where he should have been.

He probably never knew what hit him - it was a spraying boom on an agricultural trailer that was overtaking him from behind. It killed him dead.

According to the story in the Idaho Statesman, "Deputies said a latch failed and the boom extended several feet from the trailer's side. Truck driver James Delfino, 56, of Nampa told deputies he didn't know the boom was loose…" Apparently Mr. Delfino wasn't aware of the extended boom until he'd driven a little further down the road, and it started whacking cars parked alongside.

I never met Barry. But since I'm a "cycling brother," the story caught my attention, and I followed it closely.

I doubt Canyon County Prosecutor Dave Young remembers Barry Bastian.

I asked the Prosecutor's office several times what was being done on the case. Young got tired of my inquiries; he eventually emailed me saying that he hadn't gotten an accident report from the Sheriff's office, and "Next time you might want to get your facts straight..."

No charges were ever filed against the driver of the vehicle that killed Mr. Bastian.

While I'm sure the accident was just that - a tragic accident with no ill intent - Mr. Bastian is just as dead as if he'd been deliberately whacked in the head with a baseball bat.

The Idaho Driver's Manual* states, "Under Idaho law, you may not drive any vehicle that is mechanically unsafe. If your vehicle needs repairs, lacks vital equipment, or presents some other danger, you are responsible for correcting the problem." (Chapter 9, Page 9-1, emphasis added) I'd say it's fairly evident that the other vehicle presented a very real danger to Mr. Bastian.

If the driver of a vehicle isn't responsible for its safe operation... then who is?

I'm no legal expert. But it's surprising to me that the Prosecutor's office can't act independently of the Sheriff's office. Also… isn't there a law? I'm not trained in legalese, but "involuntary manslaughter" comes immediately to mind. Can't you "involuntarily manslaughter" someone using an unsafe vehicle?

One of my underlying concerns as a cyclist is that I'll encounter somebody in a much larger, heavier vehicle who is impaired. It could be a drunken driver. Or SUV Soccer Mom, distracted by her cell phone or screaming kids. Or a teenager, distracted by a carload of friends. And apparently, it could also be somebody driving an unsafe vehicle - hitting the guy on the bike whose only mistake was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. No laws to protect me in that last case. Or at least that's apparently the situation in Canyon County.

Again from the Idaho Driver's Manual: "Cycling has become an important means of transportation as well as recreation. Bicyclists are legally allowed to ride on all Idaho roadways [and] have the same rights as motorists. ... To increase the safety margin when passing a bicycle rider, move into the left lane if possible. If you are not able to change lanes, pass with as much clearance as possible." (Page 5-4, from the "Sharing the Road" chapter.) Common sense - but is there no rule of law to back it up?

If there is no law - shame on the State Legislature, for passing increased seat-belt fines when there isn't even a law prohibiting killing somebody with your vehicle! (And for those of you who are contemplating "whacking" somebody… using your vehicle may be the perfect way to do it. Just make it look like an accident, and you're home free.)

(A side-note: In a different case, Mr. Young's office did file charges against Aaron Sogoian, 26. He's the young man who accidentally lit his younger brother on fire while gassing up his car, over in Nampa. He's been charged with aggravated second-degree arson, despite the pleas for leniency from the victim and other members of the family.)

* Click HERE to link to a PDF of the current Idaho Driver's Manual.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Northwest gas use down!

According to an article out of Longview, WA (click HERE to link), gas usage (per person) in WA/OR/ID is down from 1999 levels. It's an interesting article; tells about a family in Bellevue, WA, who decided not to fix their broken SUV, but rather to try life without a car for awhile. (Partly to cut down on expenses, partly on account of the environment, partly to protest the war in Iraq.)

The study indicates gas usage is down 14% in Idaho. The article says, "The decline is due in part to the fast-growing Boise area, where population is increasing at a far faster rate than rural Idaho." I'm trying to understand that statement. Maybe it's because people have shorter distances to drive in the Boise area, than people who live 15 miles out of Dubois or St. Maries, huh? (Because it sure seems like 95% of the Boise-area population gets around in motor vehicles. They're not all walking or taking the bus.)

(It says Idaho residents use the equivalent of 17.4 gallons, per person, per week. That is a LOT of gas - 87 gallons at my household! It compares with 16.2 gallons for Oregon, 15.3 for Washington, and 10.9 for British Columbia.)

Word Power

Here's my new most-useful word:


Websters: Enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others

I saw it used in the context of Paris Hilton being sent back to jail. All of America is feeling schadenfreude about her self-inflicted woes.

It's not a particularly good thing to derive pleasure from the woes of others, but I s'pose it's human nature. In fact, the opposite is probably better - feeling compassion or empathy when we see our fellow humans suffering. (And hopefully all of us are capable of feeling compassion and empathy when appropriate... but maybe not towards poor little Paris.)

But it put me to thinkin'. And I've got to confess - I feel a certain amount of schadenfreude when those Hummer and F350 commuters are pumping $3.50 gas. I feel it when I see the bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic on I-84, State Street, Eagle Road, etc., every weekday.

Motorists probably have the same reaction when they see me floundering along on a triple-digit-hot day, or in a downpour. Or when they see me repairing a flat tire by the side of the road. Their feelings may be merited when I'm fixing that flat. Other than that, what they are feeling is pseudoschadenfreude. Because I may not relish the single-digit or triple-digit temperatures, or the downpour, but taken in measured doses I enjoy the variety that they provide. And they make me appreciate the perfect days. (And no matter how bad it gets, it's better than being totally dependent on a motor vehicle.)

(Pseudoschadenfreude - isn't that one of the ingredients the meth-cookers use?)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

World Naked Bike Ride

How committed are you? And how scared are you of road rash?

It's a worldwide phenomenon, apparently - London, Paris, Madrid, Montreal, Mexico City...

Under the slogan "As Bare As You Dare", protesters felt the wind in their hair -- and everywhere else -- as they pedalled along demonstrating the risks they face on the roads and the impact that cars have on the environment.

Authorities generally turned a blind eye to one of the world's more outlandish environmental protests, apart from in Paris where five of the unabashed riders were arrested for so-called "sexual exhibition."

Story HERE. (More photos are also out there, if you want to go Googlin'.)

My question... is this more about bicycling, or getting naked?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Call of the Wild

Yesterday as I was bicycling home, I saw my friend Danielo going in the opposite direction on the Greenbelt. (The stretch that goes over the railroad trestle, a few blocks west of Americana.) As usual, my brain was otherwise engaged, so I only greeted him after the fact, and over my shoulder.

Moments later, I glimpsed wildlife out of the corner of my eye. Urban Bambi.

This is always so cool in an urban environment... she was right there literally within sight (and the dull roar) of "The Connector," but all those automophiles are totally oblivious. She looked quite content. (She's between the Greenbelt and the canal... Kathryn Albertson Park is just on the other side of the canal.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Blood for Oil?

You may have seen the bumpersticker: NO BLOOD FOR OIL!

I assume the message is, we shouldn't be fighting wars for ongoing access to foreign oil. And I tend to agree with that sentiment. (But it's always a bit confusing when you see the sticker on an oil-burning vehicle. It must be one of those Algore things, where "awareness" is more important than actually taking any personal action.)

Well... there's an interesting Red Cross promotion taking place in Philadelphia this summer.

People who donate blood in Pennsylvania or New Jersey can win gas! Every day, a randomly-selected donor will win a $25 gas card... and everybody's name goes in a hat to win $3500 of gas.

Link to original article - HERE.

Build your own Bike Trailer!

Can't afford a BOB trailer, or an Xtracycle? I happened across this, and thought it would get Clancy's juices flowing in particular.

It's a website with DIY bicycle trailers - made out of plywood, bamboo, conduit, etc. (Click HERE.)

My favorite is the expandable "Bike Camper" built by a "25 year old Chicago youth." Looks to be out of an old Popular Mechanics or something. It also looks eerily like a coffin to me... dunno if I could get comfortable in it, especially with the lids closed during "adverse weather"!

(Most of the trailers look more practical than the camper... it just caught my attention in particular.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Bigger = Better?

I've seen this truck before, and mentioned it on the Bike Nazi. Well... it was back!

I don't know who drives it, but I can make a few guesses. I'm guessing he subscribes to the theory that bigger is indeed better. (It's gotta be a "he" - women grandstand in a different way.) I'm guessing his truck is a big part of the image he wants to portray to his fellow Americans. I'm guessing he's a "git 'er done" kind of guy. (And he must earn a halfway-decent living, because what does a truck like this cost? $40K? $50K? And once you sign the papers, what does it cost to move it down the road? It probably costs $200 to fill it with gas, which I bet it burns with astonishing enthusiasm.)

If you asked him why he chose this particular vehicle, would he deny that he's trying to impress others, or would he gladly acknowledge it?

He'd probably declare that he needs all that capacity to haul stuff, or to tow his boat. Or to go on 4-wheel-drive adventures. (Good one, huh?) But on most days, it probably moves him and his briefcase.

He'd almost certainly wax patriotic - citing his freedom to drive whatever the hell he wants to drive.

And indeed, that freedom is a great thing.

People are free to make all sorts of stupid decisions. And those decisions frequently have an impact on others.

Think of the space it takes to park a beast like this, in private or in public. (It probably won't fit in a conventional garage. You could likely park 20 bicycles in the bed of the thing!) Think of traffic congestion... a big problem in this booming community. If everybody chooses a twice-as-big vehicle, traffic congestion is doubled. Think of how it impacts the fuel supply/demand ratio.

You might say, "Ah, Bike Nazi - you're just envious."


Would I trade my bike for his truck?

Only if I could immediately turn around and sell the truck, buy a sweet new bike and pocket the difference. If I had to trade modes of transportation, and the accompanying expense and baggage... no thanks!

(I ride a bike for the "macho" image. I don't want to harsh his truck-buzz, but it seems to me Mr. Git 'er Done in his giant pickup is just a girly-man. Criminy! My momma could drive that big ol' truck, if she could climb into it!)

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Comfort Zone

The other day at the office, a guy asked, "Are you still riding your bike in this hot weather?" (Strangely, it was on a perfect spring day when the high temperature was in the mid-80s.)

I remember a couple years back - an overheard conversation in the elevator. (The most inane conversations seem to take place in elevators. No... wait! I take that back. Perhaps nowadays the most meaningless yammer is by people trying to use up their 3000-anytime cell-phone minutes. But I digress.) It was on a partuclarly nasty winter morning when I'd ridden the bicycle in with slush spraying up from the road, and slush falling in my face from the sky. A man and a woman were talking on the elevator. The man was boasting of the power-heated seats in his SUV, and the lady was lamenting that she had passed on the heated-seat option, and how much she regretted it on days like that. Yeah - that's pretty tough allright - not having heated seats. I was totally sympathetic... NOT!

So what's my point?

I consider it a blessing to have a very broad "comfort zone." Sure - I love it when it's 70 and sunny. But I'm not particularly un-comfortable when it's 30 and dreary. Or 99, with the sun beating down.

Isn't that a blessing, compared with people who need to turn on the heat when it drops below 68, or the air-conditioning when it rises above 73? I certainly think so. And frankly, I pity those (and there are many!) whose definition of success seems to include being as comfortable as possible, as often as possible... because they are deliberately shrinking their comfort zones.

I believe bike-commuting has contributed to my broad comfort zone. The body has some awesome built-in systems to compensate for hot, or cold, weather. I love observing those systems, and marveling at them. On a hot day, as long as I stay hydrated, I love riding. I'm water-cooled. (It's scary to stop... even if it's just for 30 seconds at a red light, it's pretty amazing to see the puddle that forms.)

I'd appreciate your feedback... whether there's some merit to today's psychobabble, or if you think I've been out in that hot sun too long. (I did a Gowen / Federal Way loop ride today. Granted, I was taking it at a relaxed pace. But it was 97 when I left, and 99 when I got back. Summertime... and the livin's easy.)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Sidewalks for Bikers?

There's an interesting letter-to-the-editor at the Daily Paper today. (Click HERE to link to the online version; the letter is titled "Thank you, ACHD.")

The author, Heather Culig, is lauding the Highway District for installing sidewalks along Cloverdale Road, between McMillan and Ustick. (For those who may not be familiar, much of the west side of Boise is a grid of arterial roads, exactly 1 mile apart, with neighborhood roads in between. All three roads mentioned are such arterials; Cloverdale is a busy 2-lane, but with pretty good width.)

Ms. Culig is glad that finally "... bikers have a designated area away from traffic..."

Now, I think it's wonderful that kids on bikes, etc., have a place where they feel a bit more secure. And I hope the sidewalk gets worn out from the mixed use Ms. Culig envisions.

But it just goes to show how different two peoples' viewpoints can be. I am traffic!

I ride that stretch of Cloverdale on a regular basis. Unless the pavement width has been altered by the new sidewalks, I would never even consider using them, because I've never felt uncomfortable on the road. (Sure, during "rush hour," it might be unnerving to someone who is not accustomed to having all those cars go by in fairly close proximity. But I watch my rearview, I'm where I should be, I'm riding predictably and visibly and defensively... and I've never had a problem.)

(I should also mention... all those cars going by during rush hour? Almost without fail, I overtake them, and many others, at the next traffic signal anyway.)

I'll be disappointed if Ms. Culig or somebody else hollers at me to "get on the sidewalk where you belong!" (I get that on very rare occasions - I'd say 2 or 3 times a year. It distresses me, because it's always hollered by somebody who isn't aware of traffic laws or the principles of effective transportation cycling.)

May Bicycling Report

581 miles in May, accumulated on 31 riding days. 100% bike-commuting to and from work, once again. 4 25+ mile rides. (Zero days over 30 miles... I've gotta work on that one.) The most dubious statistic - 6 flat tires! DOH!!!

"Healthy Choices"

I love irony. When I observe it, I enjoy sharing it with others.

The company I work for is doing a "Healthy Choices" campaign this year. Each month is a different focus - on diet, exercise, healthy habits (or avoiding unhealthy ones), etc.

This morning when I got to the office, the lobby was jumping with activity! Including a guy in a carrot suit. Awesome! (And attention-getting!)

They were / are promoting "Strive for Five" in June - eating 5 servings of fruit and/or vegetables.

Nothing wrong with that. Definitely a challenge.

I probably eat 5 on some days; on others maybe 3 or 4. I s'pose it depends on how loosely you define "fruits and vegetables." F'r instance... if your pizza has both onions and tomato paste, does that count as 2 vegetables? If you put ketchup on your burger, is that a vegetable or a fruit? (Hat-tip to Ronald Reagan... I love Ronnie!) And of course, I would be remiss if I didn't fondly recall (sensible) Lisa Simpson's visit to the nuclear plant. Her conversation with daddy Homer went like this, as Homer chomped into his beloved donut:
Homer: "Donut?"
Lisa: "No, thanks. Do you have any fruit?"
Homer [offers some of the donut he's eating]: "This has purple stuff inside. Purple is a fruit."

(Bicycle is the ultimate hybrid, huh? Mine runs on carrots, or apples, or purple-filled donut, or a burger, or oatmeal, or peanut butter and jelly... well, you get the idea.)

So... where's the irony?

The promoters of the veggies and fruit almost certainly arrived at the office in their single-occupant vehicles. And on a yellow (or maybe orange) alert air-quality day! Are they really serious about practicing a healthy lifestyle? Just the easy part? (Of course, sitting in that go-home traffic will give 'em a chance to munch on a delicious apple, I s'pose.)