Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Back - Looking Forward


Isn't this the day we're spoze to assess where we've been, where we are, and where we're going?

2008 has been a monumental year, transportation-wise.

Gas prices fluctuated wildly, reaching highs well above $4/gallon for the first time in (U.S.) history. As a result, for the first time since records have been kept, total miles-driven was actually down a few percentage points. (Who woulda thunk?!!)

That, combined with other shaky economic factors, led to plummeting vehicle sales. Suddenly people seem content with their current fleet. And suddenly, people seemed not to be buying big ol' pickup trucks and SUVs just to be "fashionable." The only segment that held fairly steady was in high-mileage economy cars, hybrids, etc.

There was seemingly a new shop on every corner, selling cheaply-built-but-pretty little Chinese motor scooters and the like. One can't help but wonder how many (scooters and riders) will survive to hit the roads again next spring or summer.

I personally observed a huge increase in bicycle ridership at my office, and on the local highways and byways, at least during the warm-weather months. In past years, it was extraordinary to see 15 or 20 bicycles in the office rack, even on the nicest summer day. This year there were routinely twice that many, and on the perfect days they significantly overflowed the racks. Thanks to cold weather and gas prices that have fluctuated wildly downward, bike ridership is currently way down again. Time will tell what next month, or next year, will bring.

At year end, the "Big Three" automakers are clinging by a thread. (Someday kids will probably ask, "Daddy, why were they called the Big Three?") I liked Dave Barry's comment: "The CEOs of the Increasingly Small Three auto makers return[ed] to Washington to resume pleading for a bailout, this time telling Congress that if they can reach an agreement that day, they will throw in the undercoating, the satellite-radio package AND a set of floor mats. 'We're actually LOSING MONEY on this deal!' they assure Congress." Even Toyota says they will lose money this quarter - for the first time in history.

There's not much to be optimistic about, economy-wise, at least short term.

Fuel prices will be driven - as they always have been - by supply and demand. If nobody can afford $4 gas, it will settle in somewhat lower. (No matter what, we can count on developing nations like India and China to be using WAY more gas than they were, say, 5 years ago. Gas is a commodity, driven by worldwide supply and demand. Long term, gas will go up in price.)

By next summer, bike transportation might only seem really economical. Or it might seem really, really, really, REALLY economical! (Like in July of 2008!)

Next year I expect I'll once again ride on 350 or so days, and will probably accumulate 5000 or more miles. Most of it with a big silly grin.

In September I anticipate I'll celebrate 12 years of totally car-free commuting.

My average speed might drop by .1 or .2 MPH... that seems to be happening. I'm no longer a strapping youth with boundless energy. With reasonable caution and some good fortune, hopefully I'll go another year mostly accident-free. (The older you get, the harder that ground is, and the longer you hurt after bouncin' off something!)

I dream of someday riding the Coeur d'Alene Trail - 72-plus miles of paved bicycle Nirvana in northern Idaho. Perhaps 2009 will be the year I can realize the dream. (I'd like to stow my gear in the BOB trailer, and take it at a very relaxed pace, with plenty of detours to see the local historic sites, scenery, etc.)

Hopefully I can continue to make at least a passive effort at being an Ambassador for Bicycle Transportation. I don't foresee any Critical Mass rides in Boise. But I can set an example, both by riding regularly and by being "multi-mode friendly." (Being confrontational seems counterproductive; I can't imagine how getting in a driver's face will convince him that he should be riding a bike!)

Sometimes I wonder if I'm just "preachin' to the choir" here at the Bike Nazi. There are probably blogs out there where people are touting how superior they are to everybody else because they drive a Ford Excursion, or a "monster truck," or maybe even a Toyota Camry. (You know the Prius People think they're at the top of the heap! hahaha) But that's okay... I love the feedback I get from y'all, and my knowledge and understanding have significantly expanded, thanks to you. And... even if I were the only reader, I occasionally enjoy waxing nostalgic and reading some of my rants from earlier days. (I hope to improve navigation, by adding some "tags." Making it easier to find stuff that's about the weather, or about LOCAL riding, or whatever.)

If you happen by, I wish you a joyful and successful 2009. I hope you are prepared for whatever the future may bring. I hope your situation is such that, like me, you can regularly enjoy the savings, and communing-with-nature, and serenity, and increased fitness, and social friendliness, and responsible earth stewardship that are by-products of bicycle transportation. Most of all - BE SAFE AND HAPPY!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


On the way home this afternoon, I deviated from my normal route... to prolong enjoyment of both the dry pavement and the late afternoon scenery. It was worth it.



Monday, December 29, 2008

Outdoors reporter discovers winter bicycling

Pete Zimowsky, the Idaho Statesman's outdoors reporter, describes his winter riding experience HERE.

Apparently his commute is about 15 miles round-trip. Pretty impressive in the winter. (His good fortune is that most of it is apparently on the dedicated greenbelt. I feel MUCH better when bicycling in the nasty stuff, when I'm not also worrying about getting creamed by a 3000-pound, sliding-out-of-control steel missile.)


It's been maybe 2 weeks that we've had winter road conditions here in Boise, and bicycling has been particularly "adventurous."

On Saturday it snowed about 4 inches. I ended up riding maybe 4 miles around my neighborhood. Part of it was in traffic lanes (on mercifully-lightly-traveled roadways) and part on sidewalks. (At least I assume there are still sidewalks down there someplace.) About 2 miles of it was riding with a snow shovel perched atop my handlebars, on a "mercy mission." I crossed paths with a couple cross-country skiers who were headed down the road in the opposite direction. A lone dog stopped sniffing a half-buried fire hydrant, to watch the crazy guy go by on the bike. Slow going with frequent use of my "outriggers" (feet, in emergency no-crash maneuvers), but my zero-crash record is still intact.

When the riding is over snow and ice, and bouncing among piles of snow and frozen slush, it's physically demanding, but in a whole different way from the normal aerobic workout.

Yesterday, the "big melt" finally started; the temperature rose to the 40s and by this morning, the snow and ice had receded considerably, exposing pavement in a lot of places.

Which meant that the bike ride to the office was much more normal, for a change.

I found myself breathing hard where I normally would not. Perhaps a little of that was the ride into a fairly brisk wind, but I'm sure a lot was due to the fact that it doesn't take long at all to start getting "out of shape." A couple weeks of somewhat-involuntary winter layover, combined with questionable diet regimen... and I'm huffin' and puffin' on a 3-and-a-half-mile ride! Pathetic!

At least it's a temporary situation, resolution or no resolution. There are plenty of folks, my age and younger, who wouldn't be able to ride a bike to work if their lives depended on it! It's all about lifestyle choices.

I look forward to more unobstructed riding. And I really look forward to April or so, when they finally get most of the sand and dirt swept up, that they've scattered all over the roads for traction. Bleccch!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Winter Bicycling Challenges "review"

In these parts, we have (unusual) ongoing winter road conditions. In fact, it sounds like this is an unusually snowy winter in most places. (The man on the radio said this is the first year in memory, when every person and place in Canada will have a White Christmas. That seems significant to me.)

There may be some dry-road relief in a week or so, but for now... let it snow, let it snow, etc.!

I was looking at some old stuff that I posted last winter. And found some information I thought would be worth dredging up again.

If you're interested:

Winter Bicycling Challenges: Dark

Winter Bicycling Challenges: Cold

Winter Bicycling Challenges: Slippery

If I don't talk to you before... Merry Christmas, and "God Bless Us Every One!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Boise Bus Tale

This isn't directly related to bicycling... sorry. It's about a bus ride I took yesterday. (The bus is my "alternative transportation.") I wrote it for the Boise Guardian; I don't know if he'll publish it or not.

Merry Christmas!


Public transportation is a contentious issue in the Treasure Valley.

Proponents say it's the inevitable answer to increasing congestion and pollution, and fluctuating fuel prices. Opponents point out that it will always be heavily subsidized by non-riders, particularly if the buses are often transporting very few passengers.

In our generally affluent society, most people can choose whether or not to ride the bus, because they can afford to own and operate a car (or multiple cars, in most households). However, some individuals depend on public transportation to get around; their only other option is shoe leather.

Why do people choose to drive cars? Usually they cite "freedom." Freedom to go where they want to go, and when.

Most people say the bus isn't an option because of inconvenience, or scheduling issues, or difficulty to use.

My own local transportation choice is bicycle. Has been since 1986. I feel it affords the same freedom that a car offers, but without the expense. The main limitations are... it involves some exercise (is that bad?), and weather looms large. Slippery roads can be difficult in a car, but deadly on a bicycle. So occasionally I depend on bus transportation when the roads are snow-covered or icy.

Yesterday was one of those occasions.

I had to travel across town (from downtown to the Cole/Ustick area) after work, for a family Christmas gathering. If I caught the 5:15pm bus, I thought I could easily arrive at my destination by the 6pm gathering time, despite the 3/4 mile walk at the other end. (Amazingly, no bus gets closer than 1/2 mile from Cole/Ustick, other than one "high school" route change in the morning, and again in the afternoon.)

I was at the downtown bus stop five minutes early, and watched as other buses arrived, loaded passengers, and departed. I got anxious. But other people were there, waiting for the same bus, which provided a bit of comfort.

Finally at 5:28, the Fairview bus arrived. I paid my fare and sat, still somewhat optimistic that I might get there on time if I hurried.

But as it turns out, that was the 5:45 bus. Apparently there wasn't a 5:15 bus yesterday, for whatever reason. But at least I got to wait another 15 minutes in a nice warm bus (and arrived fashionably late).

I'm a lifelong Boise resident, and have no plans to leave. So I have a stake. And for that reason, I would love to see a viable bus system. The traffic jams don't have much impact on a cyclist, but the air pollution certainly does. Transportation is a quality-of-life issue for everybody.

I'm asking myself: Would most of my fellow citizens be willing to walk 3/4 mile to get to a bus stop, or from a bus stop to their destination? I'd have to say no... particularly when it's 3/4 mile of ice and frozen slush. Would they choose a transportation option where the scheduled bus might or might not show up... at all? I'm thinkin'... um ... no. (Yesterday I was wondering if the Boise Bus system is run on the same computer that does the BCS football thing!)

The bus system is severely underfunded. Nobody would deny that. Federal funds have dried up over the years, and there is no local funding either. But the harsh reality is, without more riders it's hard to justify more dollars. And without better routes and reliability, I can't envision more voluntary passengers. Right now it serves desperate citizens who have no choice (like me), and the lucky people who it's convenient for.

I jokingly (at least half-jokingly) say that "cars are for losers." But I sure didn't feel like much of a winner yesterday.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Studded Bike Tires

Danielo mentioned that he switched over to his Kenda Klondike studded bike tires a few days back, and feels very comfortable on 'em.

In the bike rack at the office, there are four bicycles today - two of the four have studded tires. One is a "mountain" bike with some nice-looking Nokian tires at both ends. The other is a touring bicycle - very similar to my own - with fenders and some nice Schwalbe tires. A guy said he actually saw some studded bike tires at Wal-Mart. Weird. (I'm confident they would've been in 26" mountain-bike size.)

When the snow falls and the roads get covered with slippery stuff, it always puts me to thinkin' about studded tires. But the pleasant reality is - here in Boise, Idaho - it's rare (but not unheard of) for snow to stick for longer than a few days, or a week at the most. So, do I buy a $100+ set of tires that I'll only have legitimate use for, maybe 10 or 15 days of the year? So far, I've resisted for strictly financial reasons.

(I haven't missed a day of bicycling so far this time around. One icy afternoon I had a distant caroling gig, so I left the bike at the office overnight, and caught a ride with a colleague. The next morning I took the bus to work, then rode home in the afternoon.)

Peter White, of the New Hampshire bike shop named after him, has some good information about studded snow tires HERE, if you want to study up. There is a wealth of information on his website about everything-bicycle. (I also lifted the cool photo - of his shop - from the website.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cars slippin' and slidin'

I mostly adhere to John Forester's assertion that "cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles."

The only time I ever call that into question is when there's crusty, frozen snow and slush in the gutter pans, and I'm in the traffic lane on my bicycle going 15mph, and an impatient motorist is bearing down on me from behind at 25mph. Or tailgating me and revving the engine.

In fact, if it weren't for cars, winter bicycling would be nearly as enjoyable as any other time of year.

Yesterday (Sunday, 12/14), I accumulated about 7 miles of bicycle riding on fresh-fallen or snowpacked neighborhood roads, with essentially no motor-vehicle interaction. It was fantastic!

Last night it looked pretty obvious that the snow is here to stay, at least for a few days. So, I took off the "skinny" (28mm) tires, and put on the "fat" (35mm, with tread) tires for the season.

This morning (Monday, 12/15) I rode up the street to the bus stop, thinking if it was brutal, I'd catch the bus on in to the office. It wasn't too bad, so I forged ahead.

I like to think that my life and health are more important to my fellow citizens, than 5 seconds of their commute time. But sometimes I don't see much evidence of that notion. (And the news coverage, mostly showing pickup trucks and SUVs lying smashed and upside-down, doesn't give me a lot of confidence in the skill and good judgment of those people I'm sharing the road with.) So maybe when the roads are treacherous, I'd prefer separated bike/pedestrian paths, just as a matter of survival.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Caroling by bicycle

I'm in a little caroling group at the office. Every year, we get together and brush up on our material, then make the rounds to various assisted living facilities, hospitals, retirement homes, etc. Our repertoire is a fairly standard mix. About half the songs are "Baby Jesus" songs, and half are "Frosty/Rudolph/WinterWonderland" songs.

(I think of us as "real-life little drummer boys." I may not be able to share fancy gifts, etc., due to my own always-tenuous financial situation. But I can sure join my friends in trying to provide a little happiness in the way of some Christmas music.)

My singing colleagues have come to grips with the fact that I always arrive at our destinations by bicycle... and with the Christmas lights a-flashin'! (To their credit, they make a real effort at carpooling; I admire them for it.) Day or night, rain, snow, or shine, I pedal on through.

There is occasionally a situation where it's night, and wet snow/rain is pelting me in the face, and I wonder myself if I'm insane as I ride across town. But I try to avoid genuinely dangerous situations, and be highly visible [the Christmas lights help!], and pedal on. I remember once when I was sloppin' around in semi-frozen slush in the bike lane - which, of course is not a bike lane when it's night and the bike-lane stripe is covered by snow. It would have been scary-dangerous, except all the cars for a half-mile in every direction were bumper-to-bumper, standing still, in gridlock.

What's particularly satisfying is when we have the occasional noon-time gig. They leave the office at 11:45; me too. They arrive by car at the destination; me too - on bike. They drive back to the office; I ride back. We all return to our cubicles in the same elevator. Sweeeeet!

Monday, December 8, 2008


Here in Boise, we're fortunate to only have maybe 2 or 3 weeks' worth of days each year when peoples' jaws drop as they ask, "You rode your bicycle - today?!?"

The "morning ride" was borderline. Fat, wet snowflakes coming down steady, and starting to accumulate. Temperatures near freezing.

Other than the snow that accumulated on my shoes and britches as I rode, no problems. Traction was fine and traffic was mercifully light and slow-moving.

By contrast, we have 100 or more days every year when the weather is so nice I want to ask people, "You're driving your car - today?!?"

Saturday, December 6, 2008

5200 Miles in '08

I rolled over the 5200 mile mark today, for 2008.

I've got a few milestones that I can use as goals, this time of year. Of course, the 4000 - 5000 - 6000 marks are good milestones. As are the 500 marks in between each.

5200 is meaningful, because it means I've averaged 100 miles per week.

If the weather holds out, I expect I can make 5500 ... or maybe 5555. (Yeah, I'm kind of a numbers-nut.)

I also installed my blinky LED Christmas lights on my bike today - NOW we'll have some fun!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Alternative Transportation

I don't s'pose ANYBODY would ride a bicycle or drive a car if they could get ahold of one of these:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Bicycle Commuter Act

If you commute to and from a job by bicycle, as of January 1 you may be eligible for some new employer incentives... if you can get your employer on board. Now is the time to do some lobbying, I'm thinking.

(I mentioned this before, last October. Thanks to bob t for reminding me.)

The Bicycle Commuter Act was added as a "sweetener" to get at least one congressman (Earl Blumenauer, D-OR) on board with the recent $700 billion taxpayer-sponsored bailout. (Ironically, he voted against the bailout anyway, and he has my admiration for that. Of course, the bailout passed.)

In a nutshell: "For employees who regularly commute to work by bicycle, employers may offset the costs of bicycle purchase, improvement, repair, and storage at the rate of $20 per month. Based on how the employer chooses to offer the benefits, the employee may bring receipts to be reimbursed, may sign up for regular monthly payments, or devise some sort of voucher system with their employer."

I sent a message to my Human Resources manager at the office. She promised to look into it, and to advocate for some bike-rider props.

(We've always had sheltered and fairly secure bike parking - they could probably just start taking the $ credit for providing parking. But I hope they'll choose to encourage more employees to bike-commute, by dangling some kind of carrot in addition to the parking.)

If your employer provides free car parking to employees, seems to me you'd be on pretty solid ground asking for some decent bike parking, if nothing else. And Uncle Sam (the taxpayers, actually) will help foot the bill, starting in January.

(More specific information, including the actual statute, can be found at Congressman Blumenauer's website. He's arguably the bicycle commuter's best friend in Washington, D.C.)

Frankly, I'd much rather see Congress remove the tax incentives that encourage people to drive single-occupant motor vehicles to work. That would be the fiscally-responsible thing to do. But since that obviously ain't gonna happen, and since Congress is totally detached from the concept of fiscal responsibility, we might as well get a small slice of the pie, huh? Our kids and grandkids can pay for it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cost of Driving

We got the memo yesterday... for the first time in (my) memory, the reimbursement rate for use of personal cars on company business is dropping!

From 58.5¢ per mile to 55¢ per mile, starting January 1.

Dang it!

That means in 2009, I'll only be saving about 51¢ per mile by riding my bicycle, rather than the current 54.5¢!

(Estimates only - your cost-of-riding may vary. I figure about 4 cents, but even if it were 10 cents, I'd still be saving a WAD of money!)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Give the Gift of Clean Air"

One of the bicycle mini-floats in the Holiday Parade had that message. (Photos of the bicycle brigade can be seen here, on Danielo's stream-of-consciousness.)

I was thinking about the Gift of Clean Air as I bicycled home yesterday, which happened to be a "yellow alert" air-quality day. I took the scenic route, and was riding along the Federal Way bike/pedestrian path, looking out at the soup.

(For those not familiar, Boise lies in a valley at the base of some mountains. Frequently, the air tends to stagnate in the lowest point, trapping the bad stuff. Federal Way is an arterial highway that runs along the opposite rim of the valley.)

Anybody over 30 or so will remember when smoking was pervasive. In offices, restaurants, hospitals, etc. - people smoked everywhere! (I grew up in a non-smoking household. When I was a kid, I took trumpet lessons. I can remember how appalled I was that my teacher would drag deeply on his cigarette, and then blow the smoke through his trumpet as he played.)

Over the years, non-smokers asserted their right to breathe non-tainted air, and smoking bans were enacted. Nowadays it's the exception, rather than the rule, to be in a public place where smoking is tolerated. (As a non-smoker, I appreciate breathing the non-smoky air. But it's disappointing that it has to be another rule; people should just respect one another without a rule having to be in place.)

In all likelihood, the pollution spewing out of exhaust pipes is more toxic than cigarette smoke, yet we all seem very tolerant of breathing that stuff! It's a small price to pay, so we can all drive around whatever, wherever and whenever we want, right?

Well, here's something to think about.

Imagine we were all getting around on foot, or by horse and buggy, in 2008.

Along comes some innovator - Mr. Daimler, or Mr. Ford, or Mr. Toyota, or whoever - who proposes a new method of mobility. It's a carriage propelled by an internal combustion engine. It operates on volatile, explosive fuel that is poured into the vehicle by common folk (except in Oregon). As it runs, it emits carcinogens into the air... yep, the same air that we're all breathing.

Do you think it would get the time of day? I'm speculating that it wouldn't get any traction - the obvious hazards would outweigh the benefits. But since motor transportation evolved 100 years ago, when far less was known about the effects of environment on health, it's ingrained. Everybody's doin' it.

Okay - I've digressed. Sorry about that.

I'm happy to offer the Gift of Clean Air to my community. I hope they appreciate it, and perhaps consider giving the same gift back.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Parade

Anybody who rides a bicycle year-round in Boise should be proud of the "ambassadors for year-round cycling" who participated in the Holiday Parade on Saturday. The weather was very cooperative - overcast and mid-40s. The pavement was mostly dry, but toward the end there was a bit of drizzle. Very "Portland-like" weather.

I'm thinkin' there were maybe 10 or 12 of us, total. (Did somebody count?) And on a wide variety of bicycles, although no high-end hardware.

One guy was on his dad's old "ten speed" - the kind with stem-mounted friction shifters and the brake extensions for grabbin' when your hands are on the top tube. (Does anybody else remember that nostalgic stuff?) Another guy was on a vintage German road frame that he'd built into a single-speed. A cruiser... a tandem... Clancy and his son on his beautiful Xtracycle. Danielo on his "Celebrate Infertility" commuter bike, his son riding on a ride-along "trailer," and then his cargo trailer behind that. (Musta been 15 feet, from front to back!) Clancy's other son (I believe) on his "Rat Rod" 20-inch bike.

I was on my "everyday" Cannondale touring bike, pulling the Bob trailer with "ghetto blaster" accessory pack. (Since all the seasons were well-represented, I dressed summer-like, but brought the Christmas tunes along.)

Immediately notable was the stark difference between the Harley group near the front of the parade, and our group. They were roaring - making noise for the sake of making noise - and we glided along in relative silence, except for the tunes I was totin,' and the happy ding-a-ling of bells and squawk of bulb-horns. (As a guy who probably rides more miles on a Harley than most of those parade riders, frankly I'm a bit embarrassed by all the racket they produce. But I can kinda understand it, too.)

Our position in the parade was right behind the "recycler drill team" - young ladies doing drills with blue curbside recycle boxes. And strangely, right in front of the County Coroner, I learned later. (They interviewed him on the teevee, and asked him about the crazy bike riders. He said we looked to be doing okay.)

As is always the case, the parade was stop-and-go. (Very similar to rush hour motor traffic.) During the stops, I'm guessing our group had more fun than any of the others - from start to finish of the parade, moving or stopped, we were riding in circles, figure-8s, loop-de-loops. Very unorganized, yet strangely synchronized. I'm guessing the parade route was a mile from start to finish. I ran up about 3 miles on my odometer; I bet others rode more than that! I only came to a feet-down standing stop maybe 3 times. It was actually VERY satisfying to ride with cyclists who can really handle those bikes! Despite many opportunities for disaster (coroner standing by!), I don't believe there were even any near-misses! Just courteous and skilled riders wearing odd clothes and big smiles, and demonstrating some deft bicycle maneuvering!

My only regret is that I was concentrating so much on riding accident-free, I didn't do much interacting with the spectators along the route. But whenever I looked up or waved, I seemed to get a positive response, and I saw a LOT of smiling faces! (Maybe somebody walked away thinking, "Hey! I could ride a bike year-round, at least when the roads are dry...")

My favorite moments were a couple times when Julia, representing Autumn, and dressed in a fantastic beaver-suit, complete with buck teeth and tail, rode along next to me. I had the upbeat Christmas tunes playing (Beach Boys, Ronettes, etc.), and she would start bouncing along happily in time with the musical beat. It was like a weird real-life Disney cartoon or something, and I laughed out loud! (What's wrong with this picture?!!?)

My brain-bucket is OFF to my awesome cycle devotee sisters and brothers. I'm so glad I got to spend a couple hours with you on Saturday morning! Keep representing us as well as you do!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Boise-area cyclists - Ambassadors-for-a-day Needed!

Dear readers/cyclists who are in and around Boise...

You are cordially invited and encouraged to join in an opportunity to put year-round transportation cycling in the public eye... in the annual HOLIDAY PARADE!

Saturday, November 29th, in the morning. (That's just a couple days from now.) The staging area is in the Morrison Center parking lot, just off Capitol Boulevard.

Come one, come all!

Some detailed information from #1 Organizer Danielo follows, but in a nutshell, the idea is to put a positive spin on our passion, in front of a happy holiday crowd. (This isn't a "critical mass" mentality; fortunately we don't have much reason for animosity or self-preservation instinct, with a few exceptions.) Ideally, we'll raise awareness and maybe even recruit a convert or two.

Here's the detail from Danielo:

Thanks for you interest in joining us in the Boise Holiday Parade! I'm Daniel, and along with my friends Clancy, Elizabeth, and Julia, we are entering the parade with a bicycle-themed float (under the ad hoc group name "Year 'Round Riders"). Actually, our entry is a series of 4 mini-floats, each one decorated for one of the four seasons. Spring (Elizabeth) will lead off, followed by Summer (Clancy), then Fall(Julia), and finally Winter (Daniel). The overall message of the parade is "Dreaming of a White Christmas," and our float's theme proclaims that the best way to have a joyous white Christmas is to ride a bike year round. We're not trying to make a political message, just a fun, happy one.

We have decided to invite other Boise-area cyclists to ride along with us. To do so, please review the parade "rules" below. Then, you should plan to choose one Season to ride along with, and dress appropriately. If you have a particular one you want to ride with, let me know and I'll put you in touch with the appropriate person who is leading that mini-float.

(1) Safety is paramount. If you don't look safe, you won't go down theparade route. Helmets are STRONGLY encouraged, but not required. As this is the first time (to our knowledge) that a bicycle-themed float has been in the parade, we're not completely sure how the organizers will treat us. It's probably wisest just to wear a helmet.
(2) The parade goes on … rain, sleet, hail, snow, or otherwise. Bring raingear and warm items for everyone. If you need help/advice in that vein, check with me.
(3) No throwing candy or handing out advertising pamphlets, etc.
(4) Do NOT dress as Santa. There is ONE Santa Claus and he will be at the end of the parade.
(5) No blasting of sirens or airhorns! However, you may, and should,bring bells and other bicycle-appropriate sound-makers. and most importantly....
(6) Be happy! We are trying to spread the idea that it's not just practical, but FUN to ride a bike year-round. Whatever you have to doto get yourself in the mood to wave and smile LOTS, do it.
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CHECK IN: is at University Dr. & Capitol Blvd. We (the main organizers) will be there at 7:30am. We are arriving early for judging. If you can be there then, great! If not, be there no later than 9:00am. Parade step-off is 9:45am, and we won't know where we're at in the lineup until that day. Just look for the bicycle mini-floats!

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ROUTE: North on Capitol Blvd, west on Battery, south on 9th, ending at University Dr.
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Off-Season Bicycling

Are you noticing fewer cyclists on the road, now that the weather is cooler and the days shorter? (And now that gas isn't $4/gallon?) I suspect a majority of the fair-weather riders have hung it up until the glorious days of late spring are once again upon us. And that's their choice.

Dana Lucas had an awesome letter in the Idaho Statesman yesterday:

This summer, I saw a lot of bicycles on the Greenbelt. Way to go, Boiseans! You reduced smog, got some exercise, and most importantly, saved gas money and thumbed your noses at rapacious oil companies. The best way to tell them that you're unhappy with being overcharged for gasoline is to stop using it.

However, now that fall has arrived and it's getting colder outside, the number of bicycle commuters is declining rapidly. This is alarming - increasing winter gasoline will likely halt the slide of gasoline prices, which will make it very difficult for a lot of us to heat our homes this winter. I would like to see oil company executives to get hit in the wallet this winter, not us.

To this end, I urge all of you to continue biking this winter! Gloves, a windbreaker, a hat, bike lights and a helmet can all be had for the price of a couple of gallons of gas, and will enable you to extend your biking season considerably. (Be safe - leave your cell phone and iPod in your backpack, and follow traffic safety rules.) Protect your community and your wallets, Boise, and keep pedaling!

The only thing I would add is - when the temperatures are below freezing, watch for all forms of slippery stuff on the roadway surface. Cyclists are more vulnerable to of hazards than the people who are stuck in their steel cocoons ("cages," as bikers like to call 'em). Small price to pay. But those hazards can be dealt with as long as there is awareness and proper caution.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Can Lance win again?

(I don't follow competitive cycling much. But when Lance Armstrong says he's back in the game, his countrymen sit up and pay attention, even if they're not close followers of the sport.)

Just in case you've been in the woods for a few months, Cycling Great Lance Armstrong says he will race in the 2009 Tour de France, and pursue his eighth win.

Can he do it? I guess we'll find out.

He's older than his competitors, but he has a proven record of being prepared, and more significantly, of overcoming incredible odds. I hope he wins.

Unfortunately, the entire sport (professional road cycling) has had its reputation tarnished by the ongoing doping allegations. The problem has been so pervasive that in many people's minds, the winner is guilty until proven innocent. Which is a shame, because frankly, I can't think of any human endeavor that's a better test of physical endurance, than a weeks-long bicycle stage race. (I get sore just thinking about riding 120 miles... and then getting up the next day and riding another 130 miles, 95 miles the next day, etc., etc.)

Armstong is concerned about the possibility of a hostile spectator ambushing him.

And he's got a point. Spectators line the route; they don't need a ticket or a screening to get in. And there are some wack-jobs among us. Eddy Merckx (who I consider to be the all-time greatest road cycling champion) was ambushed by a disturbed spectator, and was injured after being shoved. He couldn't finish the race.

An interesting interview with Armstrong can be read HERE.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bike Nazi? ... I think NOT!

We're switching over to a different internet provider, in order to get higher speed service at the homestead.

So, we're losing our old email addresses.

So, of course we need new email addresses.

I tried to register "" - it wasn't allowed.


*** Irony Alert! Irony Alert! Irony Alert! ***

Didn't I wake up in America, Land of the Free, this morning?

Surely, if we can put a black man in the White House, we can send email to a Bike Nazi!

But seriously... I wasn't totally shocked when they wouldn't accept my handle. (Frankly, I was a little surprised when I was able to register the blog name.) Most content-filters aren't smart enough to do anything more than look for forbidden words. They can't judge intent, or "content of character."

(That's also a good lesson for all of us people out on the Worldwide Web... when we're just looking at a stream of words, it can be difficult if not impossible to determine if the author is pounding forcefully on those keys with total, sincere intent, or typing happily with a silly grin, or eyes-rolling.)

I'm confident my regular readers are aware I'm NOT professing any fascist political leanings, but rather paying homage to the "Soup Nazi." I may not be the polar opposite of the Nazis, but I'm totally unsympathetic to their "cause." They can go straight to Hell.

Regarding newly-elected President Obama... I did put down some thoughts about his hard-fought victory HERE, should you be interested.

Monday, November 3, 2008

October Riding Report

In October, your Bike Nazi host accumulated 610 miles on 30 riding days. (What a fantastic month it turned out to be!)

Fuel cost for a month of commuting: $0.00.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Brian Grieger

Brian passed away just a few days ago.

I didn't know him, but he's been described by those who do as a friend and advocate of bicycling, and an expert mechanic / wheel guy. (And, he lived just off one of my favorite bicycling streets - the "Homer Loop." I've ridden right by many times, and never knew.)

Brian's family and friends have scheduled a reception and Remembrance Ride in his honor:

Natalie Grieger will hold an open house and Memorial Reception to honor Brian from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm on Saturday, November 1. The location is the Grieger home / Brian’s Pro Bike - 2422 N Haven Dr., Eagle, ID. (Near Ballantyne / Homer, north of Eagle)

The Brian Grieger Remembrance Ride will start that morning from Camel’s back park and finish at the Memorial Reception. The ride will depart from Camel’s back at 11:00 and will head to the Idaho Velodrome and Cycling Park. It will then depart from there at 11:30 and go the Grieger Home.

Team Dobbiaco/Boise Cycling Club & IO/Lost River Cycling are asking for a small ($5.00) donation from each rider to help us purchase a Velodrome block in Brian’s memory.

Natalie is thankful for the cycling community’s support and the love that has been expressed. She asks that those who wish to bring food bring appetizers for the memorial reception.

Friday, October 24, 2008

$3 Gas - Woo-Hoo!

The road-going Car Zombies (hat-tip to Danielo) are rejoicing. Happy days are here again, as area gas prices are around $3 per gallon. (Story HERE.) Last night on the teevee news, they showed a guy pouring the not-quite-so-precious fluid into his Hummer - it only costs $75 to fill up now (for a week or so of transportation), rather than the $100 he's grown accustomed to over the summer.

Who'd-a-thunk? Gas is $3, and it brings a sense of contentment across the Fruited Plain.

(Have people given the Bush Administration their proper due? After all, a great number of folks blamed them for the upward trend we've suffered through. I'm surprised Obama and McCain and every local-yokel politician aren't taking credit for the drop. Or maybe they are.)

As usual, I don't expect my commute-cost to be affected one way or another.

Of course, some realities need to be faced.

As gas prices drop, people will take their vehicles out of mothballs and start driving more. Which will result in more congestion on the roads. (And I expect some bikes will quit showing up on the rack at the office.) Also - of course - more consumption will result in more demand, which will tend to drive oil prices back up.

Also, long term, reduced fuel prices will result in less incentive to develop alternative energy sources. (I don't forecast that happening - this drop is likely to be a temporary downward spike. By next driving season, gas is likely to be back at $4, or maybe even $4.50.)

But for now, let's enjoy, and get to consumin'! (I'm happy for the people who heat their houses with oil. Or natural gas - like me.)

My advice to you? Do not celebrate by going out and buying a new F350 4x4 dually diesel turbo super-cab Xtra Duty Paul Bunyan Edition, to drive to the office in!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Freedom Rider

One of the "excuses" I frequently hear from motorists, for their choice of transportation, is "freedom." They need the freedom that a car or SUV or truck affords, to go where they want, when they want.

As occasionally stated here, I just don't understand that mentality. I can go anywhere on a bicycle that a car can go, and any time. (Granted, if I find a unit of sheetrock at a bargain price, I can't load it up and take it with me. And I can't do my quarterly Costco run on a bike. But I seem to avoid those situations with a bit of planning.)

PLUS... here are some places I regularly go, that those poor souls in their cars just can't go.

Freedom? Sorry - I'll continue to prefer "bicycle freedom."






(Photos snapped on 10/21/2008. For larger views and download options, click on any of the images.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Motor Voters

I caught a small bit of an interview between NBC's Matt Lauer and Presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

The question posed to Mr. Obama was something like, "If you are elected president, are there any sacrifices that you'll expect the American people to make, to help resolve the current economic crisis?"

Obama's reply was something like, "The American people need to continue to be conscious of their energy usage."

Hey, Obama - that's not what we want to hear! We want unlimited supplies of $1 gas! We don't want to have to think about it before hopping in the SUV and driving across town!

(While I have serious reservations about Obama because of my own philosophy that "small government is good government," I fully agree with him on that point.)

In a related development, Orange County, California, has implemented drive-up electronic voting. Apparently you drive up to the weatherproof voting kiosk, kinda like driving up at Jack in the Box, and punch in your choices. (Story HERE.)

We wouldn't want our overburdened citizens to have the inconvenience of getting out of their cars, and actually walking into a building, huh? They might get mad and stay home and not participate!

For the people who are waiting in line... if it's hot or cold on Election Day, it's okay to sit in the car with the engine idling, and with either the heater or air-conditioner going... right?

Friday, October 17, 2008

We're Number 37!

The League of American Bicyclists recently ranked the states based on "bike friendliness."

We (Idaho) are number 37. Our neighbor, Washington, is number 1. It's always good to be ahead of Mississippi - they're number 47.

How is "bike friendliness" measured?

Maybe we don't smile and wave enough as we're riding, here in Idaho.

But seriously... the LAB's broad categories are: Legislation, Policies and Programs, Infrastructure, Education and Encouragement, Evaluation and Planning, and Enforcement.

Those sound like good categories to base their rankings on. (An ongoing mantra of mine is... we've got generally good infrastructure and laws, but education and enforcement are essentially nonexistent. Admittedly, that's based on my very geographically-limited viewpoint. I'm unqualified to compare the Boise area with any other area.)

The list of states-by-rank can be seen HERE. (The questionnaire they based their rankings on can be seen HERE. It's long... some of it is rather mumbo-jumbo... but it's interesting.)

Some good analysis and commentary by Bill Schneider can be read HERE.

(Ada County is currently the holder of a "Bronze Medal" as a bike-friendly community. But IMO, they were deceptive on the questionnaire, implying that there's a lot more education and enforcement than there really is.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cycling in the Spotlight

I am really enjoying the chocolate milk promotional campaign, fronted by our own Kristin Armstrong.

(The web presence can be seen HERE. There are some nice wallpaper files, etc., available.)

Sure... she's promoting chocolate milk. But she's also putting cycling out there in the public eye, in a significant way.

(Regarding chocolate milk... I've always loved the stuff. And I've always thought somebody who doesn't is probably a Communist.)

I've seen some awesomely-clever billboards around town.

Every day I ride past one at the corner of Roosevelt and Rose Hill that says:

More Throttle Per Bottle

My favorite was one I saw out on I-84 someplace. It says:

Fuel Crisis? What fuel crisis?

You go, Kristin Armstrong!

(She's probably a relative. As is Lance, most likely. I've got lots of Armstrongs from Denmark in my family tree.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


... the number of "Bike Nazi" bike miles for 2008, YTD.

(Kinda meshes with the 123,456 cumulative miles, reported recently.)

My 35-day doctor-mandated hiatus cut deeply into my miles for the year. But with a bit of weather good fortune, I shouldn't have too much trouble accumulating 5000 miles for the year. (The last year I didn't make it to 5000 miles was 2002... gotta keep the streak alive!)

Cell Phone Silver Anniversary

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the first commercially-available cell phone. It weighed 2 1/2 pounds. (All those vacuum tubes, circuit boards, cooling fans, etc., add up, huh?)

I'm not sure that society is better off, as a result of that particular development. (But admittedly I'm one who loves to put distance between myself and the phone!)

Are doctors treating "cell phone elbow" on patients who hold a phone jammed up to their ear for 12+ hours a day? How about "Bluetooth Cauliflower Ear"? (I see people - almost exclusively men - walking around with one of those little Mister-Spock earpieces. Sometimes they are twaddling; other times they are silent. I guess it goes on right after the necktie, and comes off just before the necktie.)

There is no question that they have made our roadways more dangerous. Jay Leno said it best last night, in recalling that anniversary. "The first conversation lasted for 30 seconds. And then the car ran into a tree."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Autumn Attire

This is a "funny" time of year, when daily wardrobe adjustments are part of the bike-transportation experience. For example, in the morning when the temperature is around 40 degrees, I wear a jacket (and occasionally regret not wearing my thicker gloves, which will come out in another 10 degrees). By afternoon, I'm usually riding in shirt sleeves and shorts, with jacket stowed in fanny-pack. (It works out pretty good, because I carry my sack lunch in the fanny pack, and that space is vacant for the jacket in the afternoon.)

Yesterday I was riding home, at 5:30pm or so. I was wearing my work slacks and had put on my T-shirt. I was very comfortable; in fact I was gloating about how fantastic I felt.

When lo and behold, here comes this gal on her bike in the opposite direction. She was wearing what looked like a down-filled expedition parka, several inches thick. She had on a thick stocking cap and earmuffs (!), heavy knit scarf around her neck, and what looked like a neoprene cover over her face. Thick gloves. Napoleon Dynamite moon boots.

What the?!!?

Maybe she's not from around here... maybe she was visiting from Phoenix. Either her thermostat, or mine, is busted.

(I realize that I'm blessed with some awesome physiology - I have a layer of fat that many cyclists have to do without! Poor pathetic beings! And I'm also the first to declare that I seem more tolerant of temperature variations than most people are. I think regular cycling helps in that regard. Danielo has mentioned the same thing. It is a blessing to be comfortable, whether the temperature is 45 or 95 degrees. The Missus prefers the 70-73 degree range, and if it's not there, she takes measures to fix the problem.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Otter: Garden City can keep bikes off Greenbelt

The Idaho Statesman is reporting that Governor "Butch" Otter and the State Land Board have concluded that Garden City can make up the rules as it goes, with regards to the Greenbelt (defined in the rest of the community as a multi-modal path for all varieties of non-motorized traffic).

Story HERE.

"Local authorities generally are in the best position to determine public use and safety concerns. Therefore, it is Land Board policy to encourage local regulation wherever that is feasible and prudent."

So, here's a question for ya... Does this mean Garden City could also arbitrarily close other sections of Greenbelt to cyclists... or roller-bladers, or geezers using crutches, or whoever? If not... why not? Like the folks in Mayor Evans' beloved Riverside Village, the people in the new "Waterfront District" might decide that cyclists are disrupting their garden parties and frankfurter roasts. Can of worms!

I hate to see the cycling community pitted against anybody... but that's kinda how it seems to be stacking up.

Bicyclist shame

Last night I was riding home from work.

A couple teenage punk kids came up behind me on the 4-lane road, in a beat-up old Honda sedan.

Rather than cautiously passing in the other lane, as any sensible motorist would do, they got right behind me and laid on the horn. (Yeah... funny!)

Unfortunately, instead of reacting by slowing down, smiling and waving (which is an awesome way to react), I flipped the bird at 'em.

Immediately I regretted it. It didn't make me feel any better... and of course, they flipped the bird back at me.

I'm blaming it on the economy. If the stock market had only dropped 400 points, instead of 600, I probably wouldn't have been in such a foul mood. (I flip the bird at somebody about once a year. And don't think I've ever felt any better afterwards.)

Bike riders on parade!

This will mostly be of interest to Boise area cyclists. (I hope it is of interest to you!)

The Boise Holiday Parade will take place on Saturday, November 29th (Thanksgiving weekend).

Fellow cycling enthusiast Danielo got the ball rolling for an ad-hoc BICYCLE -oriented entry, and we've been accepted! Of course, for maximum impact, we hope to recruit a large number of cyclists.

Here's Danielo's vision, as accepted by the Parade Committee:

Our entry is a series of four mini-floats featuring the four seasons, starting with Spring and culminating in the main float featuring Winter. Each mini-float will be pulled by a bicycle and will feature decoration and color appropriate to the season. Operating on the common psychology of the color white reflecting cleanliness and purity, our goal is to impress that cycling, because it is environmentally and socially responsible, is the best way to have a truly WHITE Christmas. Our message is that cycling is a practical and joyful way to commute in all seasons, and that a White Christmas is best enjoyed from the saddle of a bicycle.

In addition to the seasonal mini-floats and the final Winter float, we will invite public participants to join the Winter finale of our entry on their own bikes. We will require helmets for all participants, and will restrict the number of participants as necessary to assure that we stay within the parade entry length limitations.

To make sure we don't overtake our predecessors in queue, we will incorporate some Shriner-esque twists and turns in our progress. One of our organizers has experience with this type of thing, having led similar, though much larger, groups of cyclists in parade form in California. This will engage the audience and help assure that all sides of our floats are seen by all.

We will use no recorded sound, but will instead create real-time sounds that capture the joy of cycling. Bicycle bells and other pedal-powered live sounds will make us a truly unique and exciting entry.

We have chosen to forgo corporate sponsorship, and intead are funding this project entirely out of our own pockets. We are of the opinion that a corporate sponsor would only detract from our message that cycling isn't a sport or another expenditure, but rather a practical reality for everyday folks, like us. Our aim is to have our enthusiam for cycling be apparent in our parade entry.

I'm tellin' ya... Danielo has some powerful creative mojo going, plus he's an awesome ambassador for the pastime! (He prudently refrained from going off on the "car zombies" and such... a car zombie might be on the Parade Committee! Ha!) I hope his description peaks your interest, and you'll join us. I'd love to see 400 enthusiastic bike riders, 100 for each season! (Hey - think big! Tell your friends!)

If you'd like to contact Danielo directly about this project, I'm sure he'd like to hear from you. To send him an electronic message, use the word "huzzah" followed by the at sign, followed by "danielo" followed by a dot and "org." (Hopefully I've effectively deceived the web spam crawlers.)

A bit of Holiday Parade history... Back in the day, when I was first observing and later participating (usually playing trumpet in a school band), it was called the Fairyland Parade. But at some point - in the '70s, I believe - the name was changed to the Holiday Parade, in an effort to appeal to the area's sizeable non-gay community. Nowadays, it's "Don't ask, don't tell." (That's a joke! No offense to anybody intended.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bailout Pork to benefit cyclists?

Since I strongly embrace a "small government is good government" philosophy, I've been totally distressed and disgusted by the Wall Street Bailout Plan. Firstly, if those Wall Street Geniuses are so incompetent they can't successfully run their businesses, should we let them squander even more of our citizen dollars by the semi-truckload? Secondly, the haste to pass the bill is uncomfortably similar to the classic carnival-hawker Hard Sell: "Act today, because the offer expires today!" I'm not comfortable at all with it, like a meaningful majority of my fellow citizens. Like it or not, our "representatives" have sent it on through, and President Bush, a proven proponent of Big Government, immediately signed it.

But wait! Do I detect a silver lining in that dark cloud?

Turns out that one of the "sweeteners" the second time around was the attachment of the "bicycle commuting tax credit."

What is it?

It's a $20-per-month tax credit per cycling employee. (Make sure your CEO knows!) If your employer provides safe haven for bicycles, or showers and lockers, or what-have-you to benefit bike commuters, the credit is available.

Essentially, it levels the playing field on behalf of cyclists. For quite some time, employers have benefited from providing parking for employees who drive to work, or assisting with mass transit -using workers. It has long been championed by Congressman Earl Blumenauer, the cyclists' best friend in D.C. (I have more admiration for the man now; he voted against the Bailout, even with the added pork... which was obviously put in there to tempt him.)

For more info, check HERE.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

11 years of car-free commuting

As September 2008 rolls to an end, I celebrate another anniversary.

The last time I drove a car to work - in downtown Boise, Idaho - was in the month of September, 1997.

Since then, it's been essentially all bicycle transportation, with occasional forays into motorcycle (but not for 3 years), bus, and the ever-so-occasional carpool. (The carpool thing has always been when I was running a car-specific errand, like dropping the wife's Family Truckster off at the shop, or something like that.)

Ah, freedom.
Free from being at the mercy of Big Oil.
Free from parking hassles.
Free from being on Algore's black list.
Free from bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go, traffic jams, etc. (For me, that is probably the sweetest of all. I hate driving in heavy traffic!)

Yep, I'm breathing deeply of the fresh air of freedom.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kristin Armstrong Rolls with Chocolate Milk!

I've been seeing the bicycle-oriented billboards around town, promoting chocolate milk.

And this evening for the first time, I saw the teevee commercial featuring Boise's Gold Medal Cyclist Kristin Armstrong, promoting chocolate milk as bike fuel. Fantastic!

Kristin says, "Chocolate milk is my secret weapon! The protein helps me maintain healthy muscles and the carbohydrates help refuel my muscles after I exercise. This, combined with milk’s vitamins and minerals, is important for my overall health."

I've enjoyed chocolate milk for my entire life. But now I can stand on the street corner and drink it proudly, rather than being sneaky about it!

(The only thing that would make this picture even more beautiful is if Kristin was advocating washing down a donut with that chocolate milk! Remember John Belushi's Decathlon commercial... "Little Chocolate Donuts"?)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Caltrops are antipersonnel weapons, with sharp points arranged so that one is always pointing skyward from a stable base. According to the Wikipedia, back in the day (as early as 331 BC), they were used to slow down the advance of human troops as well as horses, camels, and war elephants. In more modern times, their use was expanded to also damage pneumatic tires.

Hmmmmm... sound or look familiar?

The Wikipedia goes on to mention "the plant Tribulus terrestris, whose spiked seed case can also injure feet and puncture tires."

Yep, my friends. Goathead Season is once again upon us. The vines are at their peak, and the seeds are getting crispy. (I don't know where that fancy name came from, but "tribulus" immediately makes me think of "tribulation - distress or suffering resulting from oppression or persecution.")

Goatheads can be totally discouraging for bike riders. I average about 25 flat tires a year, and 20 or so are goatheads. I personally know people who have given up regular bike riding as a direct result of surrendering to the goatheads.

Reader boisecynic contributes this:

"My latest pet peeve is goatheads, or rather, property owners being too lazy to get rid of them.
"I ride to school every morning with my kid and we try to keep to the sidewalk. One property had a 20 foot long section of goatheads so we were forced into the street. As you may know, eventually goatheads make their way out into the street too. After fixing several flats, I took matters into my own hands, went over there with a long-handled floor scraper and scraped the sidewalk cracks from which they were growing. I threw the large mat of offensive pricks onto the property's driveway, where they still remain 2 weeks later. It's a vacant small office, not a home."

I had a small goathead infestation going at a far corner of my lawn (next to the street... of course!), earlier this year. I have no idea where they came from, but they will not be growing on ground I manage! I took the garbage can out and carefully pulled maybe 20 small plants (before they had mature seeds, thankfully) and canned 'em. Then I canned all the seeds I could find. (In years past, I used to patrol several right-of-ways along the roads between home and school. Kids' bike tires are definitely goathead magnets.)

My friend Tara was telling me she pulled and canned several big plants, then used her shop-vac to vacuum up the seeds. (If you don't get the seeds, the plants will be back the next spring, if not sooner.)

Boisecynic's excellent advice: "To all you cyclists out there who hate goatheads, you can call the Ada County noxious weed department at 577-4646. They have the authority to force property owners to abate the nuisance, as goatheads are on the State's noxious weed list. They will also take care of goatheads in public rights-of-way. We all pay for this service in our property taxes..."

I've never called the Weed Hotline. (I've thought about it.) I will give it a try and report back.

Previous commentary on Goatheads:
- Man's Ruin (03/2007)
- The Goadhead Czar (05/2007)
- Bike Rider's Burden (04/2008)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Is bike ridership up?

That's the question ACHD (our local highway district) will be trying to answer this week, by doing bike-rider head counts at various strategic locations.

More info HERE.

Since their baseline counts were done in the month of April, it doesn't seem like very high-quality research. But I'm no expert. (I would expect the numbers to be substantially higher in September 2008, than in April 2007, not only because more people are riding bikes on account of high gas prices, but because September is a more solid month weather-wise, than April.)

You local bike riders - if you see an earnest-looking person with a clipboard and a little hand-clicker as you do your riding, go around the block 3 or 4 times to artifically inflate the count! (Of course I'm jesting.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I'm somewhat of a numbers fetishist. I derive mild amusement from something as simple as watching my monthly mileage meter turn over 222.22 miles. Or even 131.31. Yeah, I'm easily amused.

So, it was significant, or at least amusing, that I turned over 123,456 miles on September 21, 2008 (today).

That's cumulative miles, since I started tracking and logging bicycle miles back in 1986. And I didn't actually get to see the odometer roll over on that number. I've probably worn out 4 or 5 bike computers since '85, and I reset 'em to zero at the beginning of each year anyway. But I've kept a month-by-month log of miles ridden, as well as a cumulative total. And I've watched that 123,456 thing approaching for a couple months now.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Welcome Newbies!

There have been a lot of "new" cyclists on the highways and byways this year. Particularly in all the familiar places, like the Greenbelt. (I ride a short stretch of Greenbelt on most afternoons... a couple days ago, I felt like I was in bumper-to-bumper Greenbelt Traffic!)

Surely it is due to $4 gas.

After all, that's really the only thing that has significantly changed in 2008, comparing with previous years.

Danielo has boldly predicted that they'll fade as quickly as they blossomed, and return to their total dependency on motor vehicle transportation. Time will tell - gas prices have dropped a bit, and the days are getting shorter and cooler. (For me, it's hard to imagine surrendering the satisfaction of bicycle transportation for a car, but I'll concede that others have not seen the light.)

Many of the newbies probably haven't ridden a bike AS TRANSPORTATION for years and years, if ever. People forget the joy of childhood bike riding as soon as they get that driver's license, and never look back. But maybe that's changing.

I say WELCOME!! One more bike almost always means one less car!

As a somewhat experienced transportation cyclist, I'd like to share some suggestions that I believe will enhance your bike transportation experience. The more you enjoy riding, the less likely you are to slide back into motor-vehicle dependency.

1. Know the BIKE LAWS AND REGULATIONS, and be willing to follow them.

If you live in this area, Boise's bike laws can be reviewed HERE (PDF), and Idaho's HERE. No matter where you live, it is illegal AND STUPID to ride against traffic! (Sorry - I know I'm the proverbial broken record on that one. Probably because I play "bike chicken" almost every day!)


(There's some "bike philosophy" to ponder as you're riding.)

3. Be prepared to deal with flat tires.

One of the very few disadvantages of bikes, as compared with cars, is the increased instance of flats. You WILL get flat tires - don't be one of those poor, forlorn people who ends up taking his bike on a walk! (Flats can be minimized by taking precautions. But you WILL get flat tires if you ride a bike. This time of year - prime goathead season - is particulary risky.)

4. Oil that chain!

Apparently many people believe that bikes are totally maintenance-free. Not so! Sure, their maintenance needs are a fraction of the typical motor vehicle, particularly expense-wise, but they do need some care, and the occasional inspection.

Sometimes you'll hear a bike approaching from a block away - squeak-squeak-squeak... (Pausing for shivers up and down the spine.) A couple cents' worth of oil - even 30-weight or 3-in-1 - would greatly improve the aesthetic quality of your bike ride. I oil my chain every 2-3 weeks, or after it gets wet. (In many cases, I s'pose the rider probably isn't even aware. I see more and more cyclists with their little white earplugs jammed in. Good luck with that!)

Our communities would uniformly be better places if more people depended less on motor vehicles for all of their transportation needs. Particularly for the short jaunts. I wish safe and satisfying riding to all my sister and brother cyclists, whether they've been riding for 45 minutes or 45 years!

Text messaging = dead brain?

I was riding up the street yesterday - a street with a nice wide sidewalk alongside.

Three youths who appeared to be high school age were walking in the same direction, one on the sidewalk and the other two in the gutter pan. (I'm not sure why all three weren't on the sidewalk; there was plenty of width.) The two in the street were slowly drifting away from the sidewalk, and farther out into the street.

By the time I overtook them, the two youths in the street were almost halfway between the sidewalk and the center stripe. And I determined what had their undivided attention. All three were staring intently at their handheld digital devices, and punching the buttons.

I responded in what seemed like the appropriate way, with a loud "MOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" (A confession: when I encounter cows in the road and am by myself, I do the same thing. It's a greeting.)

They looked up momentarily, saw where they were, and meandered bovine-like back toward the sidewalk, still concentrating on their handhelds.

At least they were on foot, and therefore not posing much danger to anybody but themselves.

Unlike the conductor of the ill-fated commuter train in Los Angeles last week.

And unlike motorists, whose text-messaging behavior is arguably more hazardous than that of chemically-impaired drivers. (See article HERE.) Half of all drivers 18-24 in the UK admit to texting-while-driving. I'd guess the numbers are similar this side of the Pond. ("Grownups" don't seem to exercise any better judgment, although I'm sure they fancy themselves as much more responsible than kids when they're texting-while-driving.)

As a road-going bicyclist, my biggest fear is that I'll be victimized by a distracted or impaired driver.

I can ride legally and predictably, and be in the right place on the roadway. I can try to be highly visible. I can be watching out - riding defensively. (Including regular glances at my omnipresent helmet rear-view mirror.) But I can't fully compensate for the bad behavior of a driver who has chosen to impair himself, whether it be through chemical intake or total lack of attention to his driving.

I'd much rather deal with cows in the road!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Moonlight Riding

Is the "Harvest Moon" in September, or October? (Maybe it used to be September, but now it's October due to Global Warming, huh?)

On of my life's little unusual pleasures is the occasional moonlight ride on the bicycle.

Traditionally I pick a route where I don't have to share space with motor vehicles, just to be on the safe side. (And also to get away from the din of motor traffic.)

My favorite route is probably on our Greenbelt east of town. Starting from the Warm Springs Golf Course or thereabouts, and riding out to Sandy Point. Summer and early autumn is particularly nice, when you can hear the grand summer chorus of crickets and frogs.

Although it's not the safest practice, I personally like to ride without the lights, depending on the moonlight for illumination. When it's shining bright, it provides plenty of shine for seeing the pathway and other denizens of that pathway (both other users and the critters that cross much more frequently at night). The moon-illumination and the quiet both contribute to an almost other-worldly experience.

Last night, I rode a loop out around the airport on Gowen Road, and watched as that big orange moon came up over the foothills. Awesome! Then I took Broadway down to Federal Way, and got on the bike/pedestrian path to complete the loop. (I had my blinky taillight going for safety, although traffic was extremely light. And was carrying a handheld flashlight, which I turned on at appropriate times. In a few more weeks, the handlebar-mounted headlight will go on for the "dark" months.)

NOTE: I do not endorse the notion of riding at night without a headlight, particularly where it's important that you be seen by other roadway users. It's stupid and illegal to ride in traffic without lights. The only time I feel comfortable in that mode is when I'm out of traffic, and when I'm intimately familiar with my route.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mileage DOWN this month

Sorry for the extended silence - I hope my readers/friends haven't lost interest. (That happens quickly, in our attention-deficit-disorder society.)

For ten days this month - from 9/2 through 9/11 - I was off on my annual MOTORCYCLE adventure. (I bicycled on 9/2 before I left, and on 9/11 after returning, but completely missed 8 days.) Now I'm back in the saddle again, and it feels great.

I don't know if it's related, but it probably is - after I've not bicycled for a few days, I have a tendency to get really BAD leg cramps, particularly in my hamstrings (back of thighs). When combined with sleeping in a small tent that severely limits mobility, that's a bad combination. I spent a couple nights sweatin' and groanin', and anxiously hoping the cramps would subside. (Which they always do after a few minutes.) I can't help but think it's a change in physical activity level, combined with a reduction in water intake. Normally, I probably drink 4-6 quarts of water per day; that drops WAY off when I'm motorcycling, although I try to make an effort. (A water faucet isn't always right at hand.)

I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining. The adventure was fantastic... my path took me to Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and back home through Utah again. For interested parties, my favorite photos can be seen HERE.

Since I got back, I ran 35+ miles worth of bike-errands on Friday and took my granddaughter on a sweet 15-mile Greenbelt ride on Saturday. I hope to get back into the groove here. (Although frankly, if it weren't for the finances, I could probably see myself spending 6 months each year on the road on that motorcycle. Maybe someday...)

Monday, September 1, 2008

August Riding Report

613 miles, accumulated on 31 riding days.

(Golly! Weather-wise, what an awesome summer it has been in 2008!)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Idaho Bicycle Justice

Take narcotic pain pills, get behind the wheel of your Hummer, and kill a bicyclist. Get 9 years probation.

That's how it turned out on August 27th, in Mike Wetherell's courtroom.

Harsh, huh?

Executive summary:

On October 19, 2007, oncology nurse Sarah Howard was riding her bicycle on a nice, wide road with striped bike lanes. She had stopped at an intersection, waiting for the light to turn green.

Alas, at the very same time, Erika Hanson was motoring down the very same road in her Hummer H3, with narcotics in her bloodstream. As she approached the intersection where Howard was stopped, her Hummer swerved into the bike lane and straddled the curb. She plowed into Howard from behind. The cyclist was probably already dead when she hit the pavement, over 100 feet away.

Am I missing any meaningful details?

Hanson's sentence: one year of "house arrest," nine years of probation, and loss of driving privileges for life.

Pretty tough.

Has justice been served?

Why do I feel a little less safe today than I did yesterday, as a transportation cyclist?

More details on the Statesman website HERE.

Previous "Bike Nazi" commentary HERE and HERE.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bike Lanes = Pollution?

(Thanks to reader mcarp for the heads-up.)

An article in the Wall Street Journal is quite interesting.

It reports on the successful efforts of "local gadfly" Rob Anderson to block San Francisco's implementation of their 527-page bicycle infrastructure expansion plan, until a comprehensive environmental impact study is completed. The article can be read HERE.

Irony of ironies.

Actually, if you're being objective, you'll agree that Mr. Anderson has a point. If you have limited road width and want to stripe a bike lane, something's gotta give. There are thousands of such roads in 'Frisco, and realistically, the only thing you can do is to surrender motor vehicle road width.

(What else is there? The other options would be to eliminate sidewalk, or condemn and buy up roadside real estate, which is some of the most expensive anywhere.)

If you eliminate a motor vehicle lane, or even make the existing lanes a couple feet narrower, it will have an impact on other roadway users during peak hours. So from an environmental standpoint, the question is... will the addition of a bicycle lane have enough of a positive impact that it will counter the inevitable negative consequences of the loss of a car lane?

One thing that Mr. Anderson (and many bike-transportation skeptics) seem willing to ignore: in San Francisco, bicycles are legal and legitimate transportation vehicles. And as such, doesn't the city have a legal obligation to provide a relatively safe infrastructure, whether it be lane-sharing with motor vehicles or a dedicated bike lane? In nature - "big dogs rule" - the cyclists would get squished by the Corollas until a pack of Camrys shows up. They rule until a Suburban or Hummer takes 'em out. Then along comes the King-of-the-Jungle Huge Dump Truck! No natural predators! But laws are supposed to protect the little guy, in human society.

A small-scale local example of the problem might be the State Street bottleneck, from about 18th to about 22nd or so. State Street is a significant arterial, and in that area is 2 well-packed lanes in each direction. They've already expanded the roadway into the front yards in that stretch; the only way to widen is to knock some houses out of the way. I s'pose cyclists probably ride that stretch during rush hour. I've done it a time or two over the years, but it's an experience I don't relish... a bit too close to the edge for this rider.

When I read (in the WSJ article) that "at least four bikers have died and hundreds more have been injured in San Francisco since mid-2006," it makes me appreciate how blessed we are here, where the roads are generally well-equipped for cyclists, and traffic (so far, at least) isn't so bad that it pushes people to desperation.

(Obvious question: Does that 527-page plan include a bike lane on Lombard Street?)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Democrats on Bikes

Day 1 of the Democratic National Convention, Denver Colorado.

According to Rocky Mountain News, 1348 people rented "Freewheelin" bikes in Denver today. (Sounds pretty user friendly - no cash required. You use your credit card, and get use of the bike, plus helmet and calorie/mile counter.) They report that the bikes were rented by "locals, delegates, and media."

1348 bikes rented... those bikes traveled 1559.21 miles. If my calculator is working, the average distance traveled, per bike, is... 1.157 miles.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha..... GASP..... Bwaaaaaaaaa-haaaahaahahahahahahaha!

(Sorry, I couldn't help myself!)

Vehicle Snobbery

Have you ever checked out It's the chat room for the Prius People. (I s'pose if you're not a Prius Person, you've probably never heard of it, like me 15 minutes ago.)

Alex, aka "priusaurous," sounds like he might be quite the catch for some lucky gal.

He's from Chicago and describes himself as "22, Male, attractive. Law Student." He also boasts of his Salsa Red Prius.

Alex thinks Prius owners "need a dating/whatever program, to hook us up with other Prius owners."

In a subsequent post to clarify, he says, "... it stems from my inability to look at people with gas burning cars as attractive."

This guy's in Law (or so he claims), not Engineering... but doesn't a Prius burn gas? (Maybe a little slower than that ugly gal in the Chrysler minivan, but still...)

It's hard to disagree with Alex... people in cars are UGGGG-LEEEEEEEEE!! But I think Prius drivers are even uglier, with their noses stuck up in the air like that. Besides - 45mpg really SUCKS!

(I'm serious about the 45mpg. But not about ugly car drivers. I see beautiful people driving around in gas guzzlers. Mentally picturing Christie Brinkley driving that red Ferrari 308 in "National Lampoon Vacation" ... Also, I'm aware that transportation cyclists can rightly be accused of snobbery. We know we're better than - and better-looking than - "people with gas burning cars.")

Poor widdle Alex just can't get a date. And apparently his red Prius isn't helping, the way he thought it might. Maybe it's his dinosaur mentality - specifically "Priusaurous."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Boise Landmark

As of last weekend, there's a very impressive new landmark along the Greenbelt - the Fallen Firefighters' Memorial.

Fallen Firefighters' Memorial, Boise, ID

It's definitely worth a trip to see.

It can be found on the NORTH side of the Boise River, on the Greenbelt, a block or so west of the Americana bridge.

(Click on the photo for larger viewing options, etc.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Giving up the car for a bike

A year ago at about this time, the Tour de Fat came through Boise.

(It's scheduled again this weekend, for those who enjoy a bit of social revelry, with an underlying pro-bicycle theme. And who have the free time.)

A lucky contestant was selected to give up his motor vehicle(s) in exchange for a sweet bicycle and a pledge to live life car-free. Micah Deffries is his name.

On the bright side, he has paid $0 for gas in the last year (or car insurance, maintenance, etc.). And he's dropped 30 pounds. (Awesome, huh?)

Of course, he's had some frustrations that any transportation cyclist can identify with - mostly flat tires.

Good trade-off?

Strangely, he moved from Boise, where he works downtown, to Nampa. Now he "often commutes by bus to Boise and bums rides with his girlfriend." To this observer, that doesn't make a lick of sense!

Deffries' story can be read HERE.

In conjunction with the story, the informal daily poll question on the Idaho Statesman website today is...

Would you give up your car for a bicycle?

The multiple-choice responses are:
- Yes
- No
- For electric bike

As of this writing, the respective responses are 103, 392, and 33.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Driving is Down!

All across the Fruited Plain, folks are driving less.

Obviously it has to be attributed to the price of fuel.

It has affected Idaho in a big way. They say the miles driven in Idaho in June 2008 was 7.7% less than one year earlier.

What does that mean?

- A significant reduction in consumption of our precious fossil fuel (much of which we buy from terrorists, who use the money to wage war against us).

- A corresponding significant reduction in pollution spewed into the atmosphere.

- Less road congestion, and less wear and tear on our roadway infrastructure.

- More responsible transportation choices, and trip planning. Less blasting out of driveway on a whim. Fewer trips to the store to get a bottle of ketchup. (Or is it catsup?)

- An increase in alternative modes of transportation, ride sharing, etc.

It's also obvious that there is much more effort being made to develop meaningful alternatives to fossil fuel. And believe me, that would NOT be happening if gas were $2, instead of $4.

Is diminished fuel consumption a bad thing?

It is if you ask the government!

The movers and shakers are lamenting that the fuel tax revenues aren't coming in the way they used to. Oh, the humanity! Unless us taxpayers pony up, expect potholes and collapsing bridges!

Watch your backs, people! Idaho's governor (who likes to think of himself as a Libertarian) is leading the charge to drastically increase the registration fee for a vehicle. (So you can share the pain, whether you drive 50 miles or 50,000 miles per year. Of course, the result will be far fewer vehicles registered, so they'll have to figure out some other way to squeeze blood out of the turnip.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Boise's Golden Girl

Her name may not be as well-known as Michael Phelps, but Kristin Armstrong is bringing an Olympic gold medal home to Boise, Idaho! WOO-HOO!!!

She won the women's individual cycling time trial, completing the 23.8km course in 34 minutes, 51 seconds, almost 25 seconds faster than the silver medalist, the UK's Emma Pooley. That's about 24.5 MPH average, if my calculator is working. (A long-time hero of mine - Jeannie Longo - finished 4th at age 49!)

Kristin: "It's the most amazing day of my life... I've been working for this for the last eight years, especially the last four, and to time everything right on one day is an accomplishment of its own."

Talk about a "Hometown Girl Makes Good" story! Even the National Peanut Board congratulated her. (Kristin likes yummy peanut butter. You wannabes - listen up!)

Kristin says she wants to come home and bask in the glory for awhile, then get on with her life.

BUT - She also realizes she's become a role model and has a "bully pulpit" that she never had before.

THIS cycling brother dreams that she might promote bicycles-as-transportation, and bike safety. I envision spot TV and radio commercials, with Kristin encouraging us to ride bikes, get exercise, wear helmets, go with traffic not against it, use a headlight, etc. Danielo wrote about how Kristin inspired his son with her performance and accessibility at Boise's Twilight Criterium, the last race she did before heading for China. "Thanks, Kristin, for boosting my efforts to raise a son that loves cycling. Huzzah!"

Maybe I'll get lucky and cross paths with her someday out on Hill Road... just before she drops me like a bad transmission! My brain-bucket is off to you, Kristin Armstrong!

Los Angeles Times
Idaho Statesman
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