Thursday, July 31, 2008

What got into me?

A personal milestone of sorts. In July I rode 703 miles on 31 days. 100% bike transportation to and from work. Upon checking, I was somewhat surprised to find out it was my first 700+ mile calendar month since July 1996! I rode at least 20 miles on 23 days in July, including my glorious 50-mile Independence Ride on July 4th.

Probably 100 of those miles were pulling the Bob trailer for various duties, the most enjoyable being hauling my granddaughter around.

Puts me at 3039 miles for the year, 122,627 since I started keeping track back in '86.

If only... if only...

If only more people had taken up bicycling...

We've passed the tipping point. It's now too late to save Planet Earth.

From The Onion, "America's Finest News Source":

Al Gore Places Infant Son In Rocket To Escape Dying Planet

EARTH — Former vice president Al Gore — who for the past three decades has unsuccessfully attempted to warn humanity of the coming destruction of our planet, only to be mocked and derided by the very people he has tried to save — launched his infant son into space Monday in the faint hope that his only child would reach the safety of another world.

"I tried to warn them, but the Elders of this planet would not listen."... Al Gore — or, as he is known in his own language, Gore-Al — placed his son, Kal-Al, gently in the one-passenger rocket ship, his brow furrowed by the great weight he carried in preserving the sole survivor of humanity's hubristic folly.

"As the rocket soared through the Gore estate's retractable solar-paneled roof — installed three years ago to save energy and provide emergency rocket-launch capability in the event that Gore's campaign to save Earth was unsuccessful — the onetime presidential candidate and his wife, Tipper, stood arm-in-arm, nobly facing their end while gazing up in stoic dignity at the receding rocket, the ecosystem already beginning to collapse around them. ...

"Gore expressed hope that his son would one day grow up to carry on his mission by fighting for truth, justice, and the American way elsewhere in the universe, using his Earth-given superpowers to become a champion of the downtrodden and a reducer of carbon emissions across the galaxy."

Read more HERE. (Reading The Onion regularly will improve your perspective. Not recommended for the easily offended, or impressionable young minds that have taken fewer than 18 trips around the Solar System.)

Big Nanny to force bike helmet use?

Our neighbor to the west, Oregon (one of my favorite states) is debating whether to compel all bike riders to wear helmets.

For the last 15 years, they have required riders younger than 17 to wear brain buckets. And apparently Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) feels the state should impose the same law on everybody. (Read more HERE.)

Would Oregon be a safer place for cyclists, if all were wearing helmets?

Statistics seem to indicate such. (Nationwide in 2006, 767 cyclists were killed in accidents. 730 of 'em were not wearing helmets.)

Do I wear a helmet? Never leave home without it!

Do I encourage others to wear a helmet? Every chance I get! My kids get an earful if I see 'em without that brain bucket.

Should helmet use be mandatory? Although it obviously wouldn't affect me personally, I'd be opposed. You see... for years and years, people were free to make their own decisions. And this was beneficial to the human race. Starting in childhood, the dumb kids were punished for their stupidity, for instance sliding down that hot metal slippery slide in the summertime. Ouch! Blisters on the behind! (In many cases, it made 'em smarter.) As they got older the stupid people were eliminated from the gene pool - bad for them, but good for humanity. Nowadays, government do-gooders protect the idiots from themselves! Replacing those hot metal slippery-slides and high (!) swings with Tupperware playground equipment, none of it more than 3 feet off the ground. (Don't want those little dumplings to get hurt!) Forcing adult morons to wear motorcycle helmets and seat belts. Rebuilding imbeciles' houses after they wash away in the flood (like happens 'most every year). Discouraging the half-wits from smoking cigarettes. Making sure we don't set ourselves up for heart attacks by using the wrong kind of cooking oil.

And what's happening? Every generation is stupider than the one before! Criminey! Kids nowadays can't even balance a checkbook! They zoom around in 4000-pound cars while simultaneously punching the buttons on their little handheld gizmos! Do we want them living to a ripe old age and reproducing? Mr. Prozanski, let nature take its course!

My advice on wearing a helmet (voluntarily!) remains, as always:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Car of the Future

There's an interesting program showing on PBS these days; I caught it last night, would recommend it.

It's a Nova episode called "Car of the Future." It's hosted by "Click and Clack, the Tappett Brothers," who host "Car Talk" on public radio.

The premise: their 1952 MG roadster (what an awesome ride!) is finally giving up the ghost, and they go in search of a replacement.

The first stop is the Detroit Auto Show, where, among other vehicles, they see a 500HP Mustang Cobra. And they speak of the visceral attraction of piloting a powerful machine. (I can identify!) They also talk about how horsepower and performance has always sold cars, particularly in America, and speculate on whether fuel economy can become the new major selling point. (Maybe it already is.)

Some interesting facts: There are currently 800 million motor vehicles in use worldwide, 95% of them burning hydrocarbon fuels in an internal-combustion engine. By 2020, the number of vehicles will likely be 2 billion. Amazingly - I did not know this - the average weight of motor vehicles has increased by 1000 pounds since 1985. So they need more power than ever before, for the same level of performance.

Here's something scary: "A quarter of all the petroleum ever consumed in the history of the world was consumed in the last 10 years."

Another startling "fact" (presented as fact on this program) - only one percent of a car's power is actually used to transport the occupant(s). 90% of the power is lost through inefficiency - "between the engine and the rear wheels." And 9% is used to move the mass of metal and plastic and rubber.

Click and Clack go on to visit an "alternative energy vehicle fair" in Boston. A lab that's trying to make ethanol more efficiently. The country of Iceland, which has abundant renewable energy (hydro and geothermal) and also has the only commercial hydrogen filling station. (They also have a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses up there.)

My favorite car, besides the MG, was the Tesla sports car. It has an electric motor (plug in to recharge overnight), a 200+ mile range, and zero to 60 in 4 seconds. The first generation is currently being hand-built in Europe at $94K a copy. That's certainly not "mass production," but hopefully they'll catch on, and the price will drop a little.

The conclusion seemed to be that slow progress is being made, but it might take 50 years to phase out internal combustion in a big way. (Dang it! I might not last that long!)

In the meantime, I've been so VERY satisfied with my current transportation model - human power and infinite-MPG for my local transportation, with the internal combustion standing by when warranted. If those 800 million vehicles were only used now and then when needed, rather than for everything, gas would probably cost $1/gallon, rather than $4.

Stay-cation Plans

So, have you already taken your Staycation? Or are you planning one?

I've heard that a lot of motorists, faced with skyrocketing gas prices, can't afford to go on vacation this year. So they're staying at home.

Me? Since I ride a bicycle, my transportation budget hasn't been affected in a meaningful way by gas prices. So a vacation is still in the cards. In fact, since my "dream vacation" is motorcycle touring, but I hate heavy traffic, I'm looking forward to fewer cars on the road this year!

(Fuel cost will obviously factor into my plans. I typically average about 250 miles a day; that's about 5-6 gallons of gas. So my gas will cost maybe $5 or so more than it did last year, per day. I can deal with that.)

My plan is to visit northern Arizona and New Mexico - from Flagstaff/Grand Canyon to Taos, and points in between. And of course, riding down there and back. And I'm even toying with the notion of riding from Taos on over to Boise City, Oklahoma, and the tip of Texas... just so I can say I've been there. I hope to leave shortly after Labor Day, and will probably be gone for 10 days or so.

For those of you who drive, and are planning a Staycation, here are some ideas:
- Sit on the edge of the bed and stare at the floor. Or curl up into a fetal position.
- Write letters to your elected officials, bemoaning how miserable you are on account of high gas prices. (If you're from Idaho, Senator Mike Crapo was specifically asking his constituents to send in their gas price sob-stories.)
- Watch the thermometer on your back porch, to see if the globe is really warming.
- Get a driving simulation video game and play it for 8 hours a day. (My friend Woody got himself a sweet PS3 and a bigscreen with his check from George W. Bush. He's got a car-racing game that is just mind-blowing, the graphics are so good!)
- Pull that big rig of yours out into the driveway. (Or put it in neutral and roll it, if you can't afford the gas.) Give it a good washing and a wax and thorough detail-job. A lady who lives up the street bought a shiny new red Hummer a few months back, probably when gas was between $2.25 and $2.50. She could get that thing lookin' spiffy over her Staycation!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bike Lane Riding

(And riding right of the fog stripe)

A question/comment/complaint I frequently hear from the Motoring Public is... "Why do you bike riders have to straddle the stripe for your precious bike lane, rather than riding over on the far right?"

That's a valid question, I s'pose.

I don't try to ride on top of the stripe, but when there's a stripe I ride just barely to the right of it, close to the motor lane.

Here's why, roughly in order of significance.

1) VISIBILITY I have this theory. I'm much less likely to get hit by a motorist who sees me, than by a motorist who does NOT see me, all other things being equal. And I believe that a cyclist is more visible and less likely to blend in with the background, when he's kinda out there in traffic.

2) DEBRIS AND OBSTACLES The closer you get to the gutter-pan, the more junk you'll typically encounter. It gets blown over there by motor traffic that blasts by. Where it joins with dirt, goatheads, etc., that encroach from the side of the road. Pay attention; I think you'll agree.

3) "PROTECT THE STRIPE" I believe in this area, the maintenance people typically repaint the stripes twice a year. Even with that fairly ambitious schedule, it's amazing how quickly those stripes are eroded to an invisible state, but the motor-yokels who fancy themselves as Dale Junior and drift over it at every bend in the road. (At least I'm acknowledging the stripe!)

4) SLIPSTREAMING (Speaking of Dale Junior!) When a large vehicle passes me in the same direction as I'm traveling, I get a little "push" from all that air they're pushing along with their $4 gas. Sweeeet!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Higher gas = more bikes

Perennial local columnist Tim Woodward believes that more people on bicycles is a good thing. His column in today's edition, "Maybe expensive gas isn't such a bad thing," can be read HERE.

I feel compelled to comment on a couple of his comments.

Woodward: "The new bike is a cruiser. It isn't as fast as my old bike, but it has a comfortable seat and you can sit upright on it instead of being in a constant crouch. Serious cyclists will snicker at this, but I don't care. A time comes in every life when comfort is more important than speed. If I'm comfortable and my butt doesn't hurt, I'll ride more."

It's interesting how casual cyclists, and non-cyclists, equate a fat padded saddle and upright riding position with "comfort."

And that may be true, if your cycling is limited to infrequent rides of 5 miles or less.

But if you ride every day, and go on longer rides, you discover:
- A narrow saddle (that fits you well - it's all in the "sit bones") is more comfortable because there's less "rubbing surface"
- The dreaded "crouching" position lets your arms and shoulders take part of the load that would otherwise be perched on your saddle, and enables your leg muscles to work much more efficiently as you pedal.
All of that results in MORE, not less, comfort in the long run.

Woodward: "For decades, the conventional wisdom has been that nothing would get Americans out of their cars. So much for conventional wisdom."

My own "conventional wisdom" has been that Americans would only get out of their cars when driving was more painful than the alternatives. $4 gas, combined with rush-hour traffic, has resulted in the tipping point for many local Americans. If gas dropped back to $3 (which seems highly unlikely), most would be right back in their cars with A/C blasting, and back to buying new Hummers and Yukon XLs.

Woodward: "Some pedestrians seem only dimly aware that they're sharing the Greenbelt with people on machines going faster than they are. They hold hands while dreamily walking at the speed of congressional reform, effectively blocking a lane. They stroll three and four abreast, partially or completely blocking both lanes. They stand in the middle of the path and chat in groups of five or six. And that doesn't include the dogs on expandable leashes stretching across the path like trip wires."

Amen, brother!

Woodward: "Strategically located air pumps along the Greenbelt would be a wonderful public service."

Is he talking about bicycle TRANSPORTATION or RECREATION? He seems to be assuming - as do so many non-cyclists - that all cycling destinations are along the Greenbelt. The Greenbelt is a fantastic resource, particularly for idyllic recreational riding. But if you're using your bike for transportation, unless you are extremely lucky, most of your riding will be on city streets, and you better just carry your own pump (and patch kit, etc., and know how to use them). Part of the beauty of bicycle transportation is the independence it provides from gas stations, repair shops, and perhaps community pumping stations.

All in all, an excellent column that helps to get the word out.

My favorite paragraph: "Riding a bike or walking to work makes you feel better, sleep better, look better. I hate to exercise, but I've actually come to miss the ride on days when the bike stays home because I need the car for work."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Paradigm Shift

Sorry to use that worn-out "company meeting" title... at least I didn't use "thinking outside the box."

On Thursday - a 90-plus degree day - I counted fully 36 bicycles in the racks outside the office. Even Captain America is riding his bike... how patriotic is that?!? It's phenomenal! As recently as a year ago, a banner bicycle day would've been half that many.

Realize that 36 bicycles represent 36 fewer motor vehicles on the road, no matter how you count it.

Surely a large part of the motivation is $4 gas. And time will tell if gas will ever be less than it is now, in a meaningful way. But regardless of future fuel prices, some of those 36 riders are likely to catch the vision. They will say, "Wow! I've really been missing out all these years, by driving my car." They'll appreciate feeling invigorated as they arrive at their destination, and will realize what a blessing it is to not deal with traffic jams, gas stations, parking. And they'll be reluctant to return to that world they've abandoned.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lane Splitting

A friend just got back from a visit to California - specifically the Sacramento area.

(He hand-carves and paints these awesome wooden duck decoys. There was a convention of like-minded folks down there; he reports that he entered his ducks in six categories and won five. He also sold several ducks, which I'm sure financed his trip, and enables him to buy another log to start more ducks. But I digress.)

He expressed some consternation about "lane splitting" on the freeway.

In case you're not familiar, "lane splitting" is the term for motorcyclists (legally) riding down the striped line in between traffic lanes on the freeway. It's a common practice down there. I s'pose the locals get used to it, but to us foreigners it's quite disconcerting.

As a motorcyclist, I've got mixed emotions about the practice.

On the one hand, it seems like you would be exposing yourself to hazards that you wouldn't otherwise have - cars abruptly changing lanes in your path, disgruntled motorists deliberately trying to block your progress, cell-phone yappers who don't notice you, etc.

But on the other hand, when there are six lanes of standstill "parking lot" traffic, and it's legal to ride between those lanes, I can understand the attraction.

I'd probably do it under such circumstances... very cautiously. (I don't think you'd see me out there going 75 in between lanes, when everybody else is going 60.)

So... what does any of that have to do with bicycling?

I see a form of "lane splitting" going on these days, involving bike lanes.

In this era of $4+ gas, it seems there are many folks who are too lazy to ride a bike, but they've resigned themselves to some form of scooter or moped or powered bicycle. And I see them taking to the BICYCLE lanes regularly, when it's convenient to do so. (And sidewalks, too, sometimes.)

Some are probably afraid to ride in traffic. And I bet many of them don't have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver's license.

A lady at the office bought this little electric-powered scooter thingie. I was looking it over - it has a "power" setting and a "distance" setting. I asked her about that. When it's in the "distance" setting, it tops out at about 15mph. The power setting allows for quicker acceleration AND 20mph. She said, "That seems VERY fast to me - I like the distance setting." Maybe she's gotten used to it now, and 20mph doesn't seem so daredevil. But in either of those settings... where do you operate such a vehicle? Hard to imagine it would be legal OR SAFE on a 35mph street. But it hardly seems appropriate to be driving motorized vehicles in the bike lane or along the shoulder of the road, either.

Of course, the local constabulary is happy to look the other way. Ignorance is bliss for them. Their official policy seems to be "bike violations are not priority violations," and I'm sure that would extend to bike lane violations, as well.

But to my BICYCLE-riding friends, BE CAREFUL! (Of course, cars have routinely used bike lanes as turn lanes, when it's convenient for them.)

(Some good info about MOTORCYCLE lane-splitting can be found HERE. The photo is also from that website.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Make a Statement!

Mamma mia!

My readers who drive Ferraris are probably already aware of this... but just in case.

Colnago has released a 2008 "Ferrari 60th Anniversary Limited Edition" bicycle that looks top-of-the-line in every way. If you haven't spent your Economic Stimulus windfall, this might be the way to go.

Description: "Colnago presents the Ferrari 60th Anniversary Limited Edition model. The gorgeous, Italian-made carbon frame features triple-butted, oversized tubing paired with reinforcing ribs on the tube interior for stiffness with comfort at the same time. A CNC-machined titanium bottom bracket and Colnago's oversized chainstays deliver the brutal efficiency and speed of a red-lined Enzo. Emblazoned with the Ferrari stallion, the heritage is unmistakable. And of course, the full Campy Record gruppo adorns this rolling tribute. Plus, you get FSA's impressive Plasma bar/stem combo and the whole bike floats along the road on custom painted Lightweight carbon wheels."

Just the thing for posing on the Greenbelt! You can get a lycra Ferrari jersey, too!

I poked some good-natured fun at the Lamborghini bicycle a few months back. ($250 at Of course, Clancy pointed out that entrepeneurs can license a name, and come out with a Lamborghini bicycle, or Edsel, or John Deere. Whatever. But this "Ferrari" model looks more legit.)


You'd have to ask. And by asking, you've already proven you can't afford it.

$14,999. (And they're only making 60 of 'em, so hurry and get your name on the list!)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Ride To Work Day?

July 16th is the 16th annual Ride To Work Day. (Ride your motorcycle to work, that is.)

The purpose of the event is "... to demonstrate:
- The number of motorcyclists to the general public and to politicians.
- That motorcyclists are from all occupations and all walks of life.
- That motorcyclists can reduce traffic and parking congestion in large cities.
- That motorcycles are for transportation as well as recreation.
- That motorcycling is a social good."

More info can be found HERE, at the official website.

Motorcycling (and motor-scooting, etc.) seem to be an easier sell in 2008 than in years gone by. Could it be the $4 gas? On most nice days, there are as many motorcycles parked at the office as on the "official day" a few years back.

I actually participated in 2005. My motorsickle is the one with the flag on the right side. I've not participated since, and don't think I will again. Although I agree with their principles as listed, and although I am very fond of motorsickles, from my bicyclist viewpoint they share essentially all of the hassles of other motor vehicles, for day-to-day transportation:
- You're sitting in the same traffic,
- You're still paying for gas (but likely not as much),
- You're still hunting for a parking spot (albeit a smaller one),
- etc.

Besides, I'm a bit skeptical about a one-day "show of force." People who are sold on motorcycling for transportation should be doing it regularly, "ride to work day" or not.

Another thing... what's with this "501 c4 non-profit organization" that promotes Ride To Work Day? What a gig that must be, huh? How about the other 364 days each year? And how do I get on the payroll?


Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Ride 2008

Back in March, when I was stoved up for a few days, I dreamt of riding a big circle around Boise. And planned out such a ride, using the Google Earth.

I'm happy to report:
- I seem to be securely back at 100% (or as close as I'm going to get, for a middle-age fat guy)
- I completed the circle, and a bit more, this morning - INDEPENDENCE DAY.

What better way to celebrate Independence Day, than on a meaningful bike ride of some kind? I declare my independence from the established mode of transportation (motor vehicle). More importantly, I declare my independence from "big oil," and from terrorists states that have us over the proverbial [oil] barrel.


The Route:

080704 tour de boise

(Click on ANY of these images for additional/larger viewing options. If you have Google Earth, you can see it in turn-by-turn detail by clicking HERE.)

It's just under 42 miles, and I figure it encloses probably 90% or more of the official Boise City Limits. (I clicked over 50 miles, getting from home to the starting point, and then back home again from that same point.)

The biggest traffic issues were large groups of lycra-clad yuppies, riding their "toy" bicycles on the Greenbelt toward Lucky Peak. (In other words, NO traffic problems!)

Temperatures were tolerable (70-85, I'd say, during the ride). The air was very hazy... I'd guess "yellow" air quality. Must be some new fires.

Sights along the way:








Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Calm in the Global Warming Storm

On Sunday June 29th, the Idaho Statesman declared, "The greenhouse gas debate is over. It's time for action."

In the editorial, they went on to cite the well-understood but rarely-acted-upon reasons for more CO2 in our area: traffic, sprawl, agriculture industry. They also ripped the State Legislature for failing to fund more research by "the state's scientists."

(Interestingly, every solution they cite is something that the "officials" need to do. I guess they didn't want to upset their subscribers by encouraging them to do something about it. Also interestingly, they didn't specifically equate the increase in greenhouse gases with global warming.)

Two days later, an editorial in The Wall Street Journal was titled, "Global Warming as Mass Neurosis."

Author Bret Stephens says the evidence of a global warming pattern isn't persuasive. "Six of the 10 hottest years since 1880 antedate 1954." (NASA data) But most of the piece is psychoanalysis of the global warming disciples. Stephens thinks many of them are largely motivated by a belief that our society's "successes are undeserved and that prosperity is morally suspect."

He compares them with those who embrace religion: "What we have here is a nonfalsifiable hypothesis, logically indistinguishable from claims for the existence of God. This doesn't mean God doesn't exist, or that global warming isn't happening. It does mean it isn't science."

So... who or what to believe?

I tend to believe that like so many fads that preceded it, the popular "global warming movement" will eventually be supplanted by some other popular movement in our short-attention-span society. Either because the evidence won't pan out, or because it's happening so slowly that the "American Idol Audience" will lose attention.

I also sincerely believe - and have stated previously in this blog - that whether or not human activity is having an impact on the global climate, I can personally live a "tread-lightly" existence. It won't hurt ANYTHING if I have the minimal possible impact. (My fellow citizens can do the same thing if they so choose, and I encourage that voluntary choice.)

As a Boy Scout, I believe in "leave no trace." That's pretty self-explanatory.

As a religious individual, I believe that God gave man dominion over the earth. But He also charged Adam (and his descendents, of whom I am one) to be stewards of this beautiful planet and care for it. It's hard to say I'm doing a very good job, if I'm leaving a trail of rubble and pollution in my wake. (But that's a nonfalsifiable hypothesis, so I'll never convince a skeptic, nor will s/he convinve me that I'm wrong.)