Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bike Rider's Burden

In most every way, bicycle transportation is superior to pretty much every alternative that I'm aware of.

(I'm referring, of course, to transporting a PERSON. The pickup guys like to get all redneck and say, "Oh yeah? Well, let's see you carry a snowmobile!" Or, "Let's see you pull a campin' trailer!" Or, "Let's see you haul around fifty empty beer cans and an egg-suck dog on that $*@%# bike!" But I digress.)

Unfortunately, bicycles are inferior in one way... we've discussed it before. You might say it's the Achilles' heel of bicycling, at least in these parts.

I refer, of course, to GOATHEADS. Puncture vine. "Tribulus terrestris," for you botanists.

(And I bring it up because I've been "back in the saddle" for less than 2 weeks, and I've fixed TWO goathead-induced flat tires already! And this isn't even the time of year! And I've got Kevlar-belted tires!)

The species is identified on the Idaho Weed Awareness website. But NOTHING is being done!

I think it's time for some accountability! What has Obama promised? Primary season quickly approaches... as those candidates come a-knockin', ask 'em, "What are your plans for tribulus terrestris?" If they can't provide an intelligent response, look elsewhere.

There's a guy out of Umatilla, OR, who falsely claims his hometown as Goathead Capital of the World. He's got motive - he sells "puncturevine weevils" as the earth-friendly solution. (Website - GOATHEADS.COM) Wouldn't it be a sad irony if the only things that these so-called puncturevine weevils will eat is puncturevine and bike-tire rubber?

Look Ma! No Pants!

Don't forget that this Friday, May 2, is the first annual Boise No Pants Day!

More info HERE.

It's somehow supposed to be related to bad public transportation; I haven't figured that out yet. Hopefully cyclists without pants will be embraced by the movement, as well.

(Weather? No excuse! They're predicting partly cloudy, mid-60s.)

From the website: Participants are encouraged to dress as they normally would, sans pants, and respond to inquiries about their trouserless state with quips such as: "Damn... I forgot my Pants Again", "Someone Stole 'em", or simply "It's No Pants Day Silly".

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's Air Quality Awareness Week!

Did you know?

Wow - it really snuck up on me this year!

There's an article in the local newspaper today: "Improving air quality won't be easy."

The main focus of the State Division of Environmental Quality is on encouraging people to not mow their lawns when pollution is bad.

Isn't that a little like quilting for peace? A nice gesture, but definitely "symbolism over substance."

They say lawnmowers and other small engines are BIG polluters, since they are not engineered to be low-emissions. But when I think of a few thousand lawn mowers running, and compare that mental image with the daily 20-mile-long flow of bumper-to-bumper traffic, it just seems silly to emphasize the lawn-mower part.

To their credit, the DEQ also encourages us to:
- combine car trips
- carpool
- take the bus

But those suggestions are with a nudge and a wink. Most people seem to think, "That would be wonderful. Let everybody else do that! I'll keep driving alone."

SOMETHING will have to give... maybe. If you've been paying attention, you know that the Federal EPA has lowered the ozone pollution standard, effective this year. And the new standard puts Treasure Valley out of attainment, at least historically. Which would threaten federal funds for road expansion, etc. Except that frequently the standards end up being symbolism over substance, too.

Maybe we can buy some "pollution credits" or something.

Monday, April 28, 2008


(Just some random thoughts about squirrels.)

Do you have squirrels in your community?

We've got 'em in droves here in Boise.

Squirrels. The Hells Angels of the animal kingdom. Their motto: "Live fast, die young, and leave a furry patch on the roadway."

In an urban environment, squirrels don't have many predators. So I s'pose we should be grateful for automobiles - without traffic, mashing our furry friends into the pavement, our community might be overrun with 'em. I saw one get missed by mere inches, just this morning on my way to the office. 9 or 10 months of the year, their carcasses litter the roadways.

Some folks see 'em as tree-rats with furry tails. And in reality, that's probably pretty close. But the thing I like about squirrels is... they always seem to be trying to have fun. Rats - at least the non-domesticated type - don't seem nearly so recreation-oriented as squirrels. Or as curious.

When I was riding the bus for a month or so, I struck up an acquaintance with a squirrel near the bus stop.

Almost every morning, he'd come tightrope-walking along the power line that went directly overhead. I'd talk to him, or whistle, and he'd usually stop directly overhead and look straight down at me. A couple days ago, right at the base of the nearest power pole, I saw a squirrel mashed on the road. I fear the worst.

Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee - from Arkansas - generated quite a bit of attention when he described how, as a poor college student, he used to cook squirrels in a popcorn popper. I guess Arkansas folks are just more resourceful than Idaho folks.

I've never run over a squirrel on my bicycle. (I did run over a cat once.) I've had numerous close calls with squirrels over the years. My philosophy is to brace myself for a collision, because it's silly to try to outmaneuver them. You never know which direction they'll be going next. Once a squirrel fell out of a tree, directly into my path... he was fighting with another squirrel and lost his hold. I was able to brake and avoid him. He sat there, stunned, for a second or two, then got his bearings and ran off.

"Squirrely" bike riding - mostly by kids but sometimes by adults - is very hazardous. You've seen it... when they're riding nonchalantly along, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings, and changing direction without any rhyme or reason. (Squirrely is the PERFECT definition for that mode of bicycling.) Thank goodness the kids don't get hit so often... and when they do, somebody usually drags 'em off the road instead of letting 'em slowly meld into the blacktop.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Celebrity Champion of the Environment

What do you do to minimize your impact on the environment? I mean on a personal level.

We're all aware that Algore's main contribution is to "raise awareness." And I've made the point before - a valid point, I believe - that he's a poor choice for Pope of the Enviromental Movement, since he does so little outside of showing his PowerPoint and hawking his DVDs. But I s'pose he's a nice match for the people whose level of commitment is to observe "Earth Hour," or drive a sedan instead of an SUV.

Well, guess what?

A new celebrity champion may be emerging. He's much more charismatic and well-known than Algore could ever hope to be. The characters he has portrayed in movies are known the world over.

I'm talking about Harrison Ford. Yep - Indiana Jones.

And he's apparently WAY more committed to the movement than Algore. For you see... he got his chest waxed for the environment! (As Dave Barry would say, "I am not making this up!" Story HERE.)

Yep, as vice chair of Conservation International, he got his chest waxed "to showcase the pain involved in deforestation."

Wow that's committed! (And kind of a stretch... he's obviously either got a vivid imagination, or dementia is setting in.)

And then, of course, he jetted off to Brazil (in the private jet he owns and operates) to check the condition of the rainforest. (I am making that up. The part about his itinerary... not the part about the jet. He has a bunch of planes, and a helicopter, too!)

(An aside... my bride lost faith in Mr. Ford when he got his earring. She's got this thing about geezers with earrings...)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Transportation on the Tube

Earlier this month, I posted some comments on the portrayal of bicycles in TV commercials.

There's a new commercial for Farmers Insurance that you may have seen.

It shows this pathetic schmoe who's been the victim of an auto accident. The message is how tough it is to get around without your car, while your loser-insurance-company twiddles its thumbs with your case. The guy is relegated to riding a tiny bicycle with 12-inch wheels. As he pedals along furiously, in all the wrong places, he's met with road rage and near-disaster at every turn.

(The commercial can be seen HERE if you haven't seen it.)

To its credit, a transportation cyclist on a normal-sized bike is seen for a brief instant as he passes the schmoe... and he seems to be doing just fine.

I like to imagine, with some irony, people who are "victims" of the obesity epidemic, sitting on the sofa eating Cheetos and watching "The Biggest Loser" when this commercial comes on. Yeah, and they all laugh at the lame-o on the bike.

There's another TV commercial trend I've noticed - you may have, too. A meaningful percentage of the motor vehicle commercials these days show cars driving right past gas stations! Isn't that awesome?! Cars that get such good mileage, they can drive right past a gas station!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gettin' My Groove Back

When I told my friend "Woody" (who's also a cyclist) I hadn't been in the saddle for 35 days, he said, "Oh, man! You're startin' over!"

Here's how the start-over has gone, so far.

Friday - 6 miles (after work).
Saturday - 9 miles.
Sunday - 3.5 miles (just to church and back, and to a friend's in the neighborhood and back).
Monday - 12.5 miles.
Tuesday - 15 miles.
Wednesday (today) - at least 18 miles. It's also the first day I actually "dressed down" for the occasion, putting on my cycling shorts. (And the lightweight Gore-tex jacket, which came in handy in a spring rain shower.)

I also stepped on the scale for the first time in almost 2 months. I'd gained 5 pounds, without even trying! Ouch! That hurts. It'll take a bit more effort to shed that blubber, than it took to put it on.

Unless something weird happens, I'll be well on my way to form by the end of April.

Yeah - it's all coming back to me! All the things that I love about transportation cycling. What's not to love about it?

And once again I'm riding past long queues of people sitting in their SOVs, burning their $3.50 gas. Glad I'm not them!

Wake-up Call

Our local newspaper, the Idaho Statesman, had a fine editorial in yesterday's "Earth Day" edition.

Keep an eye out for bikes, scooters and motorcycles

"If the ideals of Earth Day aren't enough to inspire alternative commuting, then the lofty price of gas certainly might. We can all expect to see more scooter operators, motorcyclists and bicyclists in our future. That means four-wheeled and two-wheeled commuters need to keep an eye out for each other."

Click HERE to link to the editorial on the Statesman website.

Speaking of "Earth Day," I noticed Danielo is promoting the upcoming Earth Minute (on June 28), for people who are too busy to celebrate Earth Day or Earth Hour in a meaningful way. (Nice work, Danielo!)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cell Phone Carnage

The debate rages, as to how much motorists are distracted by cell-phone conversations, and whether driving-while-talking should be illegal.

My own opinion on the matter is... most people can probably do fine, talking and driving. Some people can't chew gum and drive at the same time. Unfortunately, we have to pass laws to protect other citizens from the Lowest Common Denominator... so perhaps restrictions are justified. Unfortunately.

There is a sad story today about a teenage girl in Kent, Washington, who was hit by the Amtrak as she walked across the railroad tracks, yammerin' on her phone. (Link to story HERE.)

What a shame.

But on the other hand... thank goodness she wasn't driving, huh? If she missed the train while walking, surely she could've missed another motorist, or a pedestrian, or a cyclist, while driving.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day #1

What a relief! We've survived another trip around the sun, and Earth Day (April 22) is once again upon us. 

Last year I posted some info from the Wikipedia on the origins of Earth Day. A Wiki contributor observed (humorously, I thought) that it coincided with Eddie "Green Acres" Albert's birthday. Since then, I've dredged up a relic from the past, that shines an interesting light. I have in my possession "Volume 2" of Earth Times, published in the spring of 1970. In 1970, I was an idealistic high school lad, concerned about the precarious environmental situation, and I bought it off the rack at Albertson's. You don't remember Earth Times? It was published by Straight Arrow, the folks who also published Rolling Stone, which I used to read regularly. (Back before they went "Hollywood;" I haven't picked one up in years.) It was in the same tabloid format, and on the same newsprint. I doubt it lasted more than a few issues. (It's just by chance I still have it - I gave all my old "Rolling Stones" to the public library a few years back.) My Earth Times is all about the (then-upcoming) first Earth Day, which was April 22, 1970. I'd like to share some of it with you... stuff I found fascinating. Excerpts from the magazine are in light green, below...

[Page 9] April 22nd is Nikolai Lenin’s birthday, the day of Bernadette Devlin’s maiden speech before the House of Commons and the time of the fourth full moon of 1970. It is also Earth Day, the date a bunch of environmental activists have set aside for a nationwide teach-in about the accelerating deterioration of our planet. Steve Cotton, a member of Earth Day’s national staff: “Environment is the whole system – and the whole system is screwed up. Poverty, racism, imperialism – the whole environment needs changing.”

Don't you love "teach-in"? How nostalgic! It was all about being counterculture and groovy back then! (Very "Austin Powers"!! It seems a little silly and juvenile in retrospect.) Also interesting to note that the selected day officially coincided with Lenin's birthday! And that's not John Lenin, my friends! Maybe the John Birch -types were right... maybe "environmentalism" is a Communist Plot! (-; 

And how about ol' Steve Cotton? Rather than blaming the Commies, it sounds like he's blaming "the system" for everything that's wrong! Yeah! It's the military-industrial complex that's harshin' my buzz! Fight The Man!

Issue 2 also had an interview that's rather enlightening. Editor Stephanie Mills interviewed a fella named Kenneth Watt. At the time, Watt was "professor of Zoology at UC Davis. Research and systems analyst at Davis. Adviser to the Prime Minister of Canada, and CA Commission on Environmental Quality." The interview begins on Page 18. Here are some excerpts.

SM: You look really spiffy tonight. If I had known, I would have dressed for the occasion myself.
KW: I was out talking to the Kiwanis.
SM: How was it?
KW: Very square. Listen, the reason I look like this is that I decided that sounding like Che Guevara was bad enough; I don’t have to go around looking like him.
SM: The other day, I inadvertently called a woman a rabbit for having eight kids. She really got mad at me and all of a sudden I had visions of Roman Catholic vigilantes coming down and setting fire to my lawn.
KW: But you told the truth. She is a rabbit.
SM: How did you come to your present notoriety?
KW: Last July or August, Senator Nicholas Petris tried to push legislation through the California legislature to ban the internal combustion engine from California by 1975. He got it part way through, but didn’t succeed. I was just outraged, so I decided that I would write a letter to all the California newspapers … [instead] I had the University put out a press release to the effect that the legislature had made a very bad move. … I became well known for that press release. Amazingly, it’s probably all going to turn out to be true and everybody has forgotten about it. 
SM: What did the release say?
KW: I pointed out that … there might in fact be mass smog deaths in Long Beach by 1975 if nothing is done about air pollution. … The funny thing is – since that media fluke, I’ve won a gold medal and an honorary Ll.D. and there’s been no news about that. 
SM: Where are we with respect to energy? 
KW: N. King Hubard of the U.S. Geological Survey says that we have between 13 and 50 billion recoverable barrels of crude oil left in the world. This was being used up at the rate of eleven billion barrels a year 1965, and the rate of consumption doubles every ten years. This means that crude oil will be gone in between 24 and 32 years. 
SM: How long will it be before administrators pay attention? 
KW: The only thing that will get people to change is the severity of the problems. Like at the moment when I say that we’re moving into an ice age, most people say, “Hah. That types him – you know, he’s nuts.” But ten years from now, things will be weird enough that people will be saying, “By God, so that’s why it’s snowing in May!” … Everybody is alerted to the fact that there is a large and obviously educated group frightened stiff. All kinds of people are running around making dire and legitimate projections. But I don’t think that the public is really alarmed. Look, an ice age is a six-degree drop in temperature, and we’ve already got a third of that in New York City, and nobody even notices. I think you have to drop blocks of ice on people before they become aware that the weather’s changing. 
SM: If you had a mastodon charging down Wall Street you might get some action. 
KW: Stephanie, there are mornings when I get up and think, “It’s got to be all wrong, it’s got to be a dream. It can’t be this bad.” 

What can we learn from this? The first thing I noticed is the air of snooty elitism. No? Is it any wonder these people don't resound as much as they'd like with Kiwanis members, Catholics, etc.? It's ironic that he seems to be apologizing for his "square" appearance... if he's so counterculture, why is he so concerned about his "image"? Second, the enviro-academo-scientists - "a large and obviously educated group" - of the age were predicting with alarm: - mass smog deaths in Long Beach by 1975 - crude oil will be gone sometime between 1994 and 2002. - a coming ice age(!!), the signs of which would be obvious by 1980, ten years hence. Well, at least at the end of that excerpt, he acknowledges that he might wake up and realize "it's got to be all wrong... it can't be this bad." I wonder when that happened. Can you imagine a ban on internal-combustion in California? (And Mr. Watt LIVED in California! What was he thinkin'?!?)

Of course, the "large and obviously educated group" has done a 180-degree turnaround since 1970. Silly scientists! They once thought the earth was flat! Later they thought the universe was revolving around the (spherical) earth. And much, much later, they were wringing their hands and predicting the upcoming Ice Age. Ultimately, the critical question is... when we arrive at 2046 and gaze back nostalgically at 2008, will we get a big chuckle out of the hand-wringing predictions of Algore and his global warming disciples? Or will the survivors be saying, "Dang! I sure wish people had paid more attention"? Time will tell.

Here's what I would say, if I had the attention of all six billion -plus of my fellow humans (my Earth Day message for 2008):

Dear brothers and sisters:
Happy Earth Day!
If you've been paying attention, you realize that some folks who should know are very concerned about the health of our planet, and claim that human activity is causing climate change on a global scale. We must recognize that legitimate science is constantly evolving as new discoveries are realized. However, we cannot dismiss the theory that we may indeed be contributing to global climate change. If it's true, it is a serious issue.
Regardless of whether we are changing the climate, we all can and should try to minimize our impact on the environment. The environmentalists describe it as living a "small-carbon-footprint" lifestyle. Long before "small footprint" became fashionable, I learned the concept of "leave no trace" in Boy Scouts. The best lifestyle is the one which impacts our environment the very least. (You can choose to disagree, but you would be wrong, at least from an environmental standpoint.)
If you're serious about it, every day should be "Earth Day" for you. (And every hour should be "Earth Hour.")
Don't just profess "awareness" - talk is cheap! Commit to yourself to waste less. Send less stuff to the landfill. Use less power and water. Make fewer trips in your motor vehicle.
Evidence suggests the single most significant thing you can do to reduce your impact is to drive less. Seriously! (A bonus is that in most cases, a "low impact" lifestyle is also a less-expensive lifestyle.)
I realize that the vast majority of you can't even comprehend what I'm talking about. You don't have power or heat or motor vehicles. You don't send anything to the landfill. You depend on everything you can gather for mere survival. This message isn't for you.
But if you're fortunate enough to have a dwelling place with heat and power, and a private motor vehicle, or several, this challenge is for you. If your level-of-commitment is to wear a flannel shirt and Birkenstocks, and drive a Volvo (or even a Prius), and subscribe to Outside Magazine, and eat organic produce, and wring your hands and preach to the rest of us, please just SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!!! Thanks, and have a groovy Earth Day.
Sincerely, Bike Nazi
(Sorry - this one ran a little long. I hope it's worthwhile reading.)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hallelujah... Free at Last!

Brothers and sisters... I once was lost, but now I'm found! I was in the dark, and have emerged into the light! I've served my sentence.

Of course, I refer to the fact that my doctor ordered me off the bicycle for 4-6 weeks, due to a medical procedure. As the date approached, we debated, him taking the 6-week argument and me arguing for 4 weeks. We ended up compromising at 5 weeks. And Friday, 4/18 was the day. Coincidentally, Friday was the day my 31-day bus pass expired. (I took 44 trips.)

35 days out of the saddle... the last time I did that was 1985... 23 years ago!

It was TOUGH, my friends, actually having to PAY for my transportation!* I'm happy to report I never debased myself to the point where I was paying to own and operate a motor vehicle... heaven forbid!

Friday after work I topped off the tires and went on a 6-mile ride.

Brothers and sisters... what they say is true! Once you learn how to ride a bicycle, you don't forget! Can I hear an "Amen!!"?

Winning the Fiesta Bowl. Stepping foot on the Moon. Going on a bike ride. Humanity at its finest.

My smile muscles are aching!

Freedom. Freedom from being over the oil-company barrel. Freedom from stop-and-go traffic. Freedom to go wherever my own strength can take me. Thank God Almighty!

I can't wait 'til Monday, when I can bicycle to the office! (It will take me a few weeks to get up to speed. I'll ride every remaining day this month; it'll probably just be to and from the office for a few days, but I hope I'm doing 20-milers before the month is over.)

*Full disclosure... there is a price to pay, even for bicycle transportation. But per mile it's a tiny fraction of motorized transportation, particularly private motor vehicle. However, IMO, the "rewards" for paying that price are incalculable.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Driving is so boring!!

This morning as I awaited my bus, a lady drove by. She had a cigarette in her left hand, and her neck was crooked awkwardly, to hold a cell phone up to her ear. Hopefully the car had an automatic transmission, huh? (Although over the years I've seen people go no-hands-on-the-wheel because they were phoning with one hand and shifting with the other.)

I'm sure her ability and/or reaction time weren't affected in any way. (/sarcasm)

You may recall that a few months back, Washington passed a law banning text-messaging while driving. Apparently 21 other states are considering similar legislation.

To me, that seems absurd. Like passing a law saying you can't drop a bowling ball off a skyscraper, or you can't bring your pet wolverine to City Council Meeting. Do you need to make something so obviously hazardous, not only to the perpetrator but to bystanders, a crime?

I enjoy Jay Leno's "Headlines."

This last Monday, he showed the results of a "man on the street" poll.

The question was, "Should using a cell phone while driving be made illegal?"

Here's Mariel's response:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bike Nazi Sellout!

Danielo has come up with a fantastic Imaginary Food Product. The guy is a freakin' genius - the Ron Popeil of his generation!

He's calling it Bike Nazi Sandwich Moistener - "The Final Solution for Sandwich Dryness!"

Frankly, I think he's onto something. Who among us hasn't suffered on account of a dry sammich? And wouldn't pay dearly for a solution to the heartbreak of sammich staleness? I know a gal whose boyfriend broke off the engagement (and broke her heart!) because when they got to the romantic country picnic spot under the tree... the sammiches were stale!

I can see this being the next product you just can't live without... like canned beer, or sliced bread, or tap-water-in-a-plastic-bottle-with-a-fancy-label, or SUV with electric power fold-down seats!

But I've got some reservations.

Before I'm willing to lend the trusted Bike Nazi name to the product (for which, naturally, I would expect a handsome Imaginary Royalty Payment), I've got a couple of concerns:
- Will there be different strengths of Sandwich Moistener for your regular bread sammiches and your "submarine" type sammiches?
- Suppose your sammich is on a plate with some potato chips or Doritos? Is there some way to moisten the sammich, without simultaneously moistening the chips? Because that would be disastrous! Maybe if each bottle comes with an accessory Bike Nazi Chip-Gard Moistener Diverter or something.

What would be REALLY cool is if Danielo could get that Jared dude as Bike Nazi Sandwich Moistener Official Spokesman... that guy knows a thing or two about sammiches! I bet he didn't lose 300 pounds or whatever eating STALE sammiches! (Or maybe I'm wrong! Maybe that was his secret... who wants to finish a STALE sammich?)

The Bike Nazi Poetry Corner

I'm not that big on poetry. (My loss.) If it's not a limerick with the word "Nantucket" in it (nudge-nudge, wink-wink), it's usually too cerebral for my simple tastes in literature.

But - I found this poem in the bus this morning, and it provoked some thought.

Traditional Realism
By Julie Erb

After I’ve been painting a while
and stop to walk the dog,
I see everything in brushmarks –
foothills, trees, buildings, people.

A stroke of color placed here,
a darkest dark daubed there,
the final brushwork evident
in the tiniest details of things.

The view a panorama of paint
laid side by side and blending
just so, making everything look
stunningly, surprisingly real.

I identified.

Julie sees the world through a painter's eye.

I do something similar, at times.

When I go on my annual "motorcycle adventure," on which I typically snap 500 or 600 photos (thank goodness for digital cameras!), I start seeing everything as if through the viewfinder. Riding along trying to anticipate how a photo would compose. Occasionally I'll even ride down the road a mile or two, thinking about a "Kodak moment" behind me, only to eventually do a U-turn and ride back to try to capture it.

I know what you're thinking at about this point... "Poetry? I didn't realize the Bike Nazi was gay..."

Nah... just funnin'. You're probably thinking, "So, what does any of this have to do with bicycling?"

Bicyclists (and pedestrians, like Poet Julie) are lucky!

They have the least-distorted, least-filtered, "surprisingly real" perspective on the world!

Even on the motorcycle, it all goes by so quickly! And although one can notice the smells and temperature changes, I find myself missing out on the whisper of the wind blowing through the trees, or a meadowlark's lyrical call. (Meadowlarks in the springtime... truly one of the most wonderful sounds to ever carry over the airwaves.)

There's an old truck-driver song: "I'm lookin' at the world thru a windshield..."

People in their MSDS's (Mobile Sensory-Deprivation Chambers) do the same thing. They miss out on a large portion of the amazing sensory palette. Particularly when the "view" is the back end of the car just in front of 'em in the stop-and-go traffic.

(In the interest of "full disclosure," the breeze-in-the-trees and birds-chirping is largely absent, even on a bicycle, when you're hammerin' along in rush hour traffic.)

(NOTE: The Valleyride has a "poetry in motion" program, in which poems are posted in the transit buses. Very nice. I hope Julie Erb would approve of my "lifting" her fine poem and commenting on it.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Awesome Transportation Option

It's hard to feel too sorry for the poor, beleagured single-occupant vehicle drivers, who are dealing with stop-and-go traffic, record gas prices, etc., when so many other options are available for anybody willing to exercise them.

This morning on the (bus) ride to the office, a guy put his bike onto the front rack of the bus and for $2, he bought a full-day unlimited bus pass. Then he sat down in the sunshine, pulled a paperback novel out of his backpack, and got to readin'.

I felt a tinge of jealousy. (I bet he wasn't headed for work.)

THAT, my friends, is quality transportation. Think about it - he relaxes while somebody else takes him to anywhere on the Valleyride grid (not sure about Canyon County - I think it's more expensive). And when he gets to a point close to his destination, he just hops on his bicycle and completes the trip. And the most it will cost him is 2 lousy bucks, whether he takes 2 trips or 20, or travels 5 miles or 50. (By the way, 4 miles is about as far as you can go on 2 bucks, as a car owner.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Coming Soon - BSU Bicycle Congress

I got a mailing from the folks at ACHD, about the upcoming Bicycle Congress.

It's an all-day event, that day being Friday, April 25, at the BSU Student Union Building. It's open to the public - and free!

The agenda looks ambitious and interesting - a PDF document can be seen HERE.

They intend to introduce the Roadways to Bikeways ACHD bicycle master plan. I'm assuming they mean the latest reincarnation, incorporating changes that were discussed during a series of open house / workshops held over the past 12 months or so.

Of the scheduled presentations, these look most interesting to me:
- On-Road Bicycle Facilities for Children and Other "Easy Riders" (11am)
- Rural Bicycle Accommodation Plan and Decision Aid Tool (2:55pm)
- Active Transportation - Fitness and Motivation for Everyday Cyclists (3:55pm)
(Presented by Rebecca Rusch; apparently she's a world-class endurance mountain bike racer. Which is cool... my perception is that a large percentage of competitive cyclists would never dream of riding a bike for transportation.)

I've got mixed emotions about events like the Bicycle Congress.

I've attended many such events, sat on committees, etc., etc., over the years. And although they have the most lofty motives, I tend to get frustrated because of the perception that it's just "preaching to the choir," and not making much of a difference in the diverse "real" world.

Another point... how many attendees will ride a bicycle to the event? I would hope that 100% of the participants, except for maybe the out-of-town guests, would arrive on bicycles. If not, why not?

I also ride a motorcycle, and for a while the Missus and I belonged to the local chapter of the Harley Owners Group. I quit after about a year, because I figured I had limited time, and I could spend that time either: 1) riding my motorcycle, or 2) sitting around talking about riding motorcycles. I kinda feel that same way about "talking about bike riding."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Catching On?

This is the time of year when you expect to see coverage of "bicycling" topics in the media. After all, the days are getting longer and warmer, the trails are drying up, and bicycles are coming off the hooks in the garage.

Traditionally, however, the stories are all about "bikes as toys." Places to find good mountain-bike trails, or Sunday fun on the Greenbelt, or an upcoming bike race, or the like.

But as $4 gas is forecast, "bikes as transportation" seem to be getting some well-deserved attention.

The website for our local paper has organized their bike stories into a catch-all - click HERE to check it out. You might even want to make it a "favorite" - I plan on checking back regularly to see if there's some good content.

Us dedicated, 5-days-a-week, year-round bicycle commuters tend to look down our nose at people who are more casual about their riding. But that is wrong - ANY use of bikes-as-transportation is better than dedicated single-occupant-vehicle.

There's a guy at my office who rides his HUGE recumbent bike (I call it the "lawn chair bike") maybe 5 times a year, when conditions are absolutely ideal. That's cool.

A good friend rides his bike every Tuesday and Thursday. That's WAY cool.

They just added another bike rack at my office, in anticipation of more bike traffic. That is AWESOMELY cool! (Imagine if they were deliberating about adding more BIKE lanes to deal with the heavy traffic, as opposed to slappin' down more asphalt along I-84, or "eminent domaining" 20 feet of peoples' front yards to add another CAR lane!)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cut transportation expenses by 50%!

I keep hearing that the cost of gas is going up. Is that true?

For the last few weeks, I've been riding the bus for my local transportation needs.

If gas is so expensive, why do I see a half-dozen or so cars idling in the driveway every morning, so they'll be nice and warm for that 10-minute commute? Or the guy who pulled over because he had an icy windshield... but instead of getting out and scraping it, he sat there for 2 or 3 minutes, revving his motor to warm it up to "defrost temperature"?

My bus-riding has given me the opportunity to do an informal, unscientific traffic survey, as I've stood at the place where I catch the bus.

Over the course of 6 or 7 mornings, I've counted 292 "passenger vehicles." (I've deliberately excluded service trucks, delivery vehicles, etc., that normally wouldn't be expected to carry passengers.)

Of those 292 vehicles, 266 had only the driver on board. Over 90% were single-occupant vehicles.

If those folks would take on one passenger, the actual cost of transportation would immediately drop by 50%.

Tell me if I'm wrong.

Of course, allocating expenses fairly would be an issue. Gas is only a small part of the total expense of operating a vehicle, which is typically around 50 cents per mile, depending on who you ask.

An obvious side-benefit of doubling up would be a drastic reduction in road congestion and vehicle emissions. Win-win-win!

On a related note... I paid $32 for a 31-day bus pass. As of this writing, I've ridden 29 times, so I'm almost to the break-even point, as compared with the standard fare of $1 per trip. At 50 cents / mile, that same transportation, in SOV, would've cost me right around 50 bucks, figuring 3.5 miles per trip.

Of course, the bicycle is WAY cheaper than either SOV or bus! I'm so anxious to get back to pedalin'.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Bicycle as Marketing Tool

There are several TV commercials running on TV, that feature bicycles prominently.

A couple of 'em are yuppie-oriented "financial" commercials. In one, the lone sprinter, attired in red, is way out in front of the pack. But then, the disciplined, working-together blue team slowly reels the sprinter in and overtakes him, leaving him and the peloton in the dust. (Losers!) Of course, the blue team represents the services offered by this particuar investment firm.

In another commercial, a group of yuppie-types is riding along the coastline, and pause to enjoy the magnificent whale that's leaping out of the ocean. (It's that "whale" life insurance company. I believe the message is, if you take advantage of their services, you can join your retired yuppie friends in bike rides along the coast to see the whales, instead of being the greeter at Wal-Mart.)

At least in those two commercials, bicycles are portrayed as a positive, desirable sort of thing.

I saw another commercial - from State Farm Auto Insurance - this morning for the first time.

In the commercial, gas has become so prohibitively expensive that a suit-wearing businessman has abandoned his car for a bicycle. Of course, the fact that he rides a bike makes him the target of scorn and derision from his fellow workers. (Perhaps the ridicule is understandable, since he's dressed in a shirt, tie, jacket, and shorts.) Imagine! The pathetic loser is riding a bike! The point of the commercial seems to be - if he calls State Farm and saves $ on his car insurance, the savings will let him get back into his single-occupant vehicle, and rejoin life's winners.

Yeah, I s'pose it's understandable that a company that sells auto insurance wants everybody to drive a car. After all the businessman is saving on both gas and insurance by switching to a bicycle.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bicycle As Art Form

Now and then I see a road-going bicycle that just looks too beautiful to actually ride. More like something you'd want to hang over your fireplace. Usually they are Italian, brightly-painted, and look fast even when they're standing still.

But there are other bikes that were designed to be looked at, rather than ridden.

I happened across some awesome "show bikes" on IowaHawk's photo-blog... check these out. They are definitely designed to be looked at, rather than ridden. (If I'm interpreting correctly, the photos were snapped by Mr. Hawk at the Detroit Auto Show. Check out his blog sometime... he writes some awesome stuff!)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Mamma Mia! Lamborghini exotica!

If you've even been an automotive enthusiast, the name Lamborghini is sure to conjure up vivid mental images. The Italian company builds high-strung ultra-performance sports cars that most of us will only dream about.

Yeah... I'd buy one, but I can't afford the tickets!!! (hahahaha)

I actually sat - for a couple minutes - behind the wheel of a Countach like the one pictured here, at a dealer in San Diego many years ago. It was no easy task to wedge myself in there. (They were pretty kind to accommodate a country hick who obviously wasn't in the market. It's not like I parked my Turbo Carrera out front... know what I mean?)

So, I was intrigued when I happened across a Lamborghini road bike - at, of all places. And it's painted in Italian Blood Red! Sweeeeeet!

You'd expect such a bike to show all the signs of fine Italian craftsmanship - exotic Columbus tubing, investment-cast lugs, flawless welds, maybe with a Campagnolo Record carbon gruppo. And a price tag to match.

SURPRISE! It's got Shimano components, and a kick-stand! And it can be had for $250! (Yep! I didn't leave off a zero or two! Misprint?) I imagine it's from China, and probably weighs 30+ pounds. But still... it would sure impress people on the Greenbelt, huh?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Remembering Sheldon Brown

Sheldon was a bicycle guru extraordinaire. And not in the sense of sitting on the mountain and spouting bicycle philosophy, but rather a (grease-covered) hands-on guy who knew pretty much everything about bicycles both old and new, and freely shared his knowledge and passion.

He was the parts manager at Harris Cyclery in West Newton, Massachusetts. He was also a "renaissance man," who knew a lot about a lot of different things.

His website (HERE) reflects his interests. In particular, it is a treasure-trove of articles about bicycle mechanics and physics, and also reflects a good deal of his enthusiasm and humor.

Sheldon passed away on February 3 of this year.

So why remember Sheldon today?

One of his projects was... every April Fools' Day, he would announce a new bike-related product or technique to hit the market, and you'd say to yourself, "Hey - why didn't I think of that?!!?"

Here are a few examples.
- The ShelBroCo Bicycle Chain Cleaning System
- The FasterCard Titanium - a weight-saving credit card for cyclists, with holes drilled in it for additional weight-saving
- "Product W" - The Ultimate (and legal!) Performance Enhancer (I love this one!)
- The Carrababy bicycle baby carrier
- "Real MAN" bicycle saddles - made of granite, to separate yourself from the girly-man posers.

I never met Sheldon, but I read his stuff regularly and losing him feels like I've lost a friend.