Monday, March 31, 2008

March Riding Report

March 1 thru 13 - 251 miles on 13 days
March 14 thru 31 - 0 miles on 0 days

A disturbing trend, but I expect to rebound in April.

In the meantime I've become a faithful patron of ValleyRide, which provides quality service. My aversion to Single-Occupant-Vehicle remains in force.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Back to the Future

There have always been visionaries who boldly predicted what life would be like, in a brighter future. And perhaps all of us enjoy fantasizing about such things.

Remember "The Jetsons"? I was all for a future where everybody putt-putted around in levitating space cars, taking the direct route landing on rooftops. Bye-bye traffic jam!

Imagine going back 100 years, to the year 1908.

What was "transportation reality" back then?

Motor vehicles - cars, trucks, and motorcycles - had been around, at least in small numbers, for 15 years or so. But they were still a novelty; most people got around in streetcars, or by horse-drawn transportation. Or walking. Or maybe on a bicycle. The "safety bicycle" - and the pneumatic bicycle tire - had revolutionized society, by providing quick and efficient transportation to individuals. Millions were built and sold.

Intercity travel was mostly by rail, or by animal power, or by boat if there were a waterway between Point A and Point B.

I found an interesting post card image from 1907. It is Liberty, New York, "Main Street looking North, in the near future."

Their brave new world consisted of current transportation modes, plus a monorail and various airships. (I like the flying barrel!) Not quite "The Jetsons," but moving in that direction.

100 years ago, science-fiction writer Jules Verne had recently left his mark, and H.G. Wells was very popular, with books like War of the Worlds and The Time Machine.

How would those 1908 people react, if you took the Time Machine back to their era, and described the reality of transportation, 100 years in the future?
- People travel from city to city in "airplanes" that go 500 miles per hour. (Fantastic!)
- A vast network of paved roads connects cities both large and small. (Wonderful!)
- Railroads are still around, but mostly used for freight, rather than passenger transportation. (Okay.)
- People travel from place to place in privately-owned automobiles that are reliable, easy to operate, and very comfortable, with nice seats and even climate control. (Wow!)
- Public transportation - the equivalent of your streetcars - operates in the larger cities, but most people prefer their private automobiles. (Well... okay... I can understand that.)
- Bicycles are still around, but most people use them for occasional recreational riding, not for transportation. (Hmmmm...)
- Because of the abundance of private automobiles, people no longer live close to where they work. Many live 10, 20, or even 30 miles away. They have NO transportation options other than automobile. (Absurd!)
- Most automobiles have 4 to 6 seats. Some even have 8 or 10. But 100 years from now, in the cities, most automobiles are carrying only the driver. (Huh? What's with that?)
- Twice a day, five days a week, the impressive network of paved roads becomes congested with automobiles as many people use them simultaneously. Cars that will go 100 miles per hour are barely moving in what we call "bumper to bumper traffic." People don't like it, and complain, but don't do much more than complain. (Eeewwwww!)
- Most of this vast population of automobiles burn petroleum-based fuel, which has become precious due to its scarcity. And in many cities, thousands or even millions of car engines result in a cloud of black, unhealthy air pollution. We call it "smog." We don't worry much about it; that's the price we pay. (WHAT?!!) (The 1908 people would identify with the pollution - heating and manufacturing would've created a similar cloud of unhealthy air.)
- Thousands of people are killed every year, in high-speed accidents involving those automobiles. We don't worry much about it; that's the price we pay.

Would our ancestors have been comfortable with that scenario? Would it seem utopian? Would they have done things differently - policy and planning -wise - to change anything?

In this observer's opinion, living close to my destinations and riding a bicycle is a model that has not been improved upon, in 100 years.

What will transportation be like in 2108? (I still like levitating space cars! But in the meantime... the bike is the best thing going.)

"The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world."
- Susan B. Anthony, 1896

(And men, too!)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Earth Day too much?
How about Earth Hour?

I intend to write about Earth Day next month (4/22 is officially the day). But I saw an article (click HERE to link to it) about the new Earth Hour celebration.

Earth Hour originated in Sydney, Australia, last year. For one hour on March 31, 2007 (8pm to 9pm), the lights went dark in that City Down Under. At least the lights on the famous bridge and opera house. (It's hard to say whether it would've been noticed from the International Space Station or not.)

Apparently the idea has really caught on! It's become what you might call "a movement"!!

The article says Trail, BC (north of Spokane, WA, and just north of the US/Canada border) is officially going to join the movement. Trail has a population of 7320, so it won't have the impact of a Sydney, but hey - every little bit helps.

Lots of folks like to wring their hands about Global Warming and the environment and such, but seem unwilling to do anything, lifestyle-wise, on a personal level, about it. You know, like recycle, or limit their vehicle trips, or turn down the heat. Earth Hour might be PERFECT for them!

Referring back to the article... Nelly Furtado, "Canada's First Ambassador for Earth Hour," is doing a celebration concert in Toronto. ("Unplugged" - DUH!)

Ms. Furtado will probably be illuminated using candles, or lanterns, or something non-electrical. And if it's an "unplugged" concert, I picture acoustic guitars. (But - does she realize that unless she has electric-powered sound reinforcement, only about 3 rows of people will hear her sweet celebratory sounds?)

Participating should be easy in Trail, or in Boise, Idaho. Consider... when it's 8pm in Sydney, it's 3am in Boise, and probably 2am in Trail. Criminey - my lights are off at 3am anyway!

JOIN ME IN CELEBRATION OF EARTH HOUR! 3am, Monday, March 31. (Check your local time zone.) And wear a jacket the next day - April 1st. It's sure to be noticeably cooler! (Don't say I didn't warn you...)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Watching from the sidelines

Dear friends:

Due to a recent minor surgery, I'm temporarily stoved up. DOCTOR'S ORDERS - no bike riding for 4-6 weeks. OUCH! (That hurts way more than the incision, which is healing up nicely at this point. That incision is where body meets bike-saddle; I'll not go into more detail than that.)

In the meantime, I'm riding the city bus, and gazing jealously at people on their bikes.

I'm grateful for my overall excellent health. I attribute that good health at least partially to my regular bicycling.

"You don't quit riding a bike because you get old; you get old because you quit riding a bike."
(You can quote me on that.)

I had surgery to fix a chronic but non-malignant condition, and I've been contemplating it for years. I would've preferred getting it done in January or February, but I couldn't get started without my doctor, and he was available in March. In any case, it's now a waiting game. I anticipate accumulating some miles in April, and quickly getting back to full speed.

(My doctor is sympathetic - he knows how much I enjoy, and rely on, cycling, since I come to all my routine checkups - at the St. Lukes Meridian complex - on bicycle. But not for now... "do-over" is NOT an option!)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Air Trouble!

Our local air deteriorated in a meaningful way last year.

Specifically, we had 120 "yellow-alert" days, 10 "orange-alert" days, and 1 "red-alert" day. A total of 131 bad-air days (36% of the total).

That compares with 77 in 2006, 58 in 2005, and 48 in 2004. Far as I know, that "red-alert" day, which occurred in July, is the first on record.

Air Pollution 101

People tend to over-complicate this.

There are two requirements for air pollution. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)
1) Source of air pollution,
2) Atmospheric conditions which cause that pollution to collect and stagnate, rather than dispersing.

If either is absent - air pollution is not a problem.

Boise is situated at the base of a mountain range, in a valley. Additionally, the prevailing winds tend to blow from the west - from the direction of Caldwell, Middleton, Nampa, Meridian. The winds blow up against the mountains (just northeast of town); the bad air collects in the valley.

Since we have little control over the atmosphere, all we can try to control are the sources of pollution.

Human activity - particularly our mechanized/industrial practices - are the source of most of it. (I'm guessing that when the Shoshone-Paiute Indians were the only residents of the area, there wasn't a pollution problem, even on the "inversion" days. Unless a range fire was raging, of course.)

The Heavyweight Champion of air polluters is - the motor vehicle. It competes with airborne dust, agricultural dust and burning, manufacturing byproducts, wood burning for heat - but there's no contest, according to the State Division of Environmental Quality.

There are a couple of recent developments that are worth paying attention to.

1) The Legislature is deliberating on a bill (HB586) that would authorize the State DEQ to require vehicle emission testing wherever there's a problem. (Sounds good on paper. But I explain HERE why it's nothing more than Window Dressing, at least as currently administered in Ada County.)

2) The Federal Environmental Protection Agency just lowered the ozone "standard" from 84 parts per billion, to 75 PPB. (I guess we can all feel pretty good if we're breathing 75PPB air, huh?) That puts Boise and many other areas out of compliance. (They, of course, are predictably complaining, while health-advocacy organizations are complaining that the new standard didn't go far enough.)

Non-compliance threatens federal funding for road projects and other "expansion" type stuff. Unless the non-compliant communities can prove that they're really trying. That's what the emissions "window dressing bill" is for. (See 1 above.)

Let me explain the problem, my friends. It's easy... but pay attention. THE PROBLEM, at least in Boise, isn't a few non-compliant vehicles, it's 250,000 COMPLIANT vehicles, all contributing to the total. Most occupied only by the driver.

I'm happy to NOT be part of that group, and I resent them for sullying the air that we're stuck sharing.

I'm hoping we don't get too many stagnant "inversion" days in 2008, because I have no confidence that the cause of air pollution will decrease in any meaningful way this year or in the future. (Maybe $6 gas will help, a year or so from now.)

Monday, March 10, 2008


Today I rolled over 4 digits on the odometer - 1000 miles in 2008.

It was a fantastic day - the first 60-degree day in Boise, with filtered sunlight and a 12mph breeze from the southeast.

I'm nothing if not consistent: in 2007 I hit that milestone on March 12, in 2006 on March 11, in 2005 on March 6, in 2004 on March 14, in 2003 on March 12. That's actually very odd.

I also got my first flat tire of the year today. Which is truly extraordinary - I checked my records and my last flat tire was on October 9, almost 2400 miles ago! WOW! (I've been riding on cheap Nashbar "comfort" tires - the extra width and tread obviously help.)

Cell-Phone Idiocy

I must admit a bit of prejudice against cell phone users - at least those who go about their buisness in public, while babbling on their phones or punchin' the buttons. I've seen too many of them do too many stupid things because they're not paying attention.

There was a story in the news last week, that seems to reinforce the notion that cell-phone and text-message distraction is indeed dangerous.

According to the story (click here to link), 68,000 people were injured in the U.K. last year, while using their mobile voice/text devices. And many of those injuries were a result of... walking into objects like lamp posts!

What to do?

Put padding on those dangerous objects, of course!

In a pilot program of sorts, an advertising company will pad the lampposts on a street in London, and in turn will paint their advertising on the padding. If the trial is "successful" they'll expand it.

How do you determine if it's successful? "Victims" bounce off and land on their butts, instead of sustaining injury?

All of that would be mildly amusing... if you don't consider that those same people, with those same distractions, are driving around our public streets in 3000-pound steel missiles! If somebody can't negotiate a sidewalk without walking into a lamppost, I don't want that same person, in a 35-mph SUV, closing in on me... know what I mean?

Thou Shalt Not Pollute

The Vatican has ruffled some feathers. The Pope apparently thinks pollution is not a good thing, and has told his followers that it's a sin to cause environmental blight. (Article HERE.)

That's gonna shake some faith, and cause some apostasy, huh?

I'm not Catholic. But I'm a Christian. And I'm good with the pope's directive.

Consider... way back in the day, just after God created the Earth, and then stuck Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden... He gave them some instructions. He told Adam that he could subdue the Earth, and have "dominion" over all the other creatures, plants, etc. He also instructed Adam and Eve to "dress and keep" the Garden.

(If you want to get out your book, check in Genesis 1 and 2.)

Now, I grant you that it's subject to interpretation. Some might believe that Adam had God's permission to rape the planet, and to take whatever he could use, without regard to the consequences. But I see it as saying:
1) Adam and Eve, you have been given this earth, and everything on it, by a loving God. But realize that:
2) You have the responsibility to care for it, to "replenish" it, and to be good stewards.

In my opinion, a good Christian will lovingly care for this planet, and will do everything in his power to leave the place at least as nice as he found it, for future generations. And the Pope's message is right in line with that.

It's even more important now - we have 6 BILLION little Adams and Eves running around on the planet, and their pollution stretches a lot farther than the original Adam and Eve coulda.


What would Jesus drive? I'm guessing if He chose a Ford Extinction, it would be because He's traveling with all 12 apostles! (If all 12 or 16 seats are occupied, it would actually be quite an efficient way to travel! If only the driver's seat is occupied... um, I think not.) And I bet Jesus has NO problem with bikes!

(Here's a related observation... why is it that those who identify themselves as "conservative" are, as a rule, less concerned about conservation of our resources, and preserving our environment, than "not-so-conservative" people profess to be?)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Transportation Cost

(This is a recurring theme, since one of the main comparative advantages of bicycle transportation is the cost.)

I just got my "Annual Auto Issue" of Consumer Reports. (April 2008)

It has an interesting article, What that car really costs to own. And they give some good, practical advice on how to choose a car that will cost less "over the long haul."

When they study 300 different models, the average ownership cost, over a period of five years, breaks down as follows:
- Depreciation (the big one!) - 48%
- Fuel - 21%
- Interest - 12%
- Insurance - 11%
- Maintenance and repair - 4%
- Tax - 4%

It would stand to reason that if you went out 10 years rather than 5, depreciation and interest would decrease, and maintenance/repair would probably increase to partly fill the void. And here's a bold prediction - fuel will cost more in 5 years than it does now. (But the second five years would still likely be significantly cheaper than the first five years of ownership.)

So... let's talk some numbers.

The cheapest car to own, from new to five years old? The Toyota Yaris Hatchback, at $12,596.


How does that compare with the cost of owning a bicycle?

(I know... there's really no comparison!)

Here are my bicycle numbers for the past 5 years...

I paid $900 for my bicycle, so if it depreciated 100%, that's only $900. My fuel is 0% of the total. Interest? 0%. Insurance? 0%. Maintenance and repair? Figuring in EVERYTHING, it's not more than $200/year. (I probably go through 4 tires, 8 tubes, 25-30 patches, a chain and cassette in a year. Everything else lasts longer than a year.)

So - the Yaris costs AT LEAST $10,700 more, over 5 years.

(By the way, the most expensive car was the Mercedes-Benz SL550, at $105,885 for 5 years. Obviously they're only considering mass-market production-type cars. No doubt you could find a Ferrari or Lamborghini or McLaren that would cost more than the MB's $21,177 per year.)

Why the Long Face?

Why isn't this gal smiling?

Anybody who rides a bike should SMILE! (After an hour in the saddle, my face hurts from smiling so much!)

Even when I was a kid, I wondered how Miss Gulch could look so con-founded ANGRY!

I figure in her case, it's gotta be one of three things:

1) She's still smarting from the bite allegedly inflicted on her by that naughty little dog Toto,


2) She can see that Kansas Tornado off in the distance, and is concentrating on figuring out an alternate route,


.... 3) Her saddle fits poorly. Yeah - that's the ticket! Her saddle is rubbin' her wrong!

February bicycling report

I managed to accumulate 433 miles in February, riding on 29 days.

The trend-line was positive - the riding was MUCH better on 2/29 than it was on 2/1. (All that nasty frozen slush, etc., seems a distant memory already!)

My best day for the month was 30+ miles. I did a "lunch time" ride out around Barber Park - in shorts! And then that same evening I rode down to Garden City Hall to make my feelings known about their closing the Greenbelt to cyclists.

March is looking promising... I always appreciate the click over to Daylight Savings Time. (I wish DST went all year!)