Friday, December 31, 2010


New Years, of course, is the traditional time to make "resolutions." Perhaps in the bleary hangover afterglow, we examine the train wreck of our wretched lives, and decide that changes are in order.

I imagine that more exercise equipment and fitness-club memberships are sold in the last week and first week of every calendar year, than the other 50 weeks combined.

A week or a month after New Years, of course, is the traditional time to break our resolutions. Many "reformed smokers and drinkers" don't go any longer than a week. Some strong-willed folks go longer. But this story says 25% fail before mid-January, half fail before the end of the month, and only 40% go out longer than six months. Obviously our resolutions are too ambitious, or our willpower too weak.

HERE is an interesting story; you can get an "app" to help you keep your resolutions. (Yeah... I bet that'll help.)

Like everybody else, I've made informal resolutions - the kind that are made in my head, but never even written down - and have broken many of them.

But the end of 2010 marks a milestone. As 1986 began - that's 25 years ago, folks - I determined that I would be a transportation cyclist. (I can still remember that my bride was quite skeptical. With good reason, I'm sure. Up to that point, we had bickered over who got to take the family car. When I plopped down 450 hard-earned dollars for a nice bike, she rolled her eyes and grumbled.)

Apparently it "took." (Unlike many of my "resolutions" before and since.)

From January '86 until today, the vast majority of my commuting has been in the saddle of my bicycle. And my resolve has strengthened over the years.

Driving a car to work is something I see 'most everybody else doing, but on a personal level the concept seems totally foreign. The last time I drove a car to work was in September of '97. The last time I even rode my motorcycle to work was October of '05. Since then it's been all bicycle, except for the occasional bus ride, always mandated by either my doctor or really scary-bad road conditions.

Looking forward... I will resolve, in a very public way, to be a transportation cyclist in 2011! I hope my friends will support me in that.

Happy New Year... and good luck with your resolutions. (Make some that you can keep!)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crosswalks are dangerous!

My friend Thomas called me from the ground floor. "There's a bike under the wheel of a car out here. Bring your camera."

It was a scary scene that my eyes beheld. Fortunately and amazingly, it didn't look like any major injuries were involved; the rider was sitting on the curb.

car/bike accident 01

car/bike accident 02

car/bike accident 03

Based on my excellent accident-recreation skills, I'm guessing that the rider was probably headed down the sidewalk, and continued into the crosswalk, and into the path of the vehicle, whose driver wasn't expecting a relatively fast-moving bicycle to suddenly be in her path. The vehicle sent the bike and rider flying; the bike ended up under the wheel. (Thank goodness the rider wasn't under there with the bike. He'll probably ride another day; looked like the end of the line for his vintage Centurion road bike.)

But that's just a guess.

I'll beat this dead horse forever... If a motorist sees you, it's unlikely he'll deliberately run into you. If a motorist doesn't see you, all bets are off. Zipping into a crosswalk can be dangerous; be sure you can clear it.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vehicle as Image Enhancer

I've commented before about how image plays an important role in vehicle purchases.

Perhaps not so much for the driver of a Camry or a Taurus or Civic or some other commonplace sedan. But many Prius drivers are making a statement by their choice of vehicle. They care about the environment, and are happy that other folks see them doing something about it. How about the middle-age guy driving the red Corvette? How about the guy on the chromed-out, $30,000 bar-hopper Harley? And how about the driver of the huge pickup truck, covered with optional accessories, giant tires, aftermarket suspension, etc.? Do you think for a minute that such an ostentatious display isn't intended to get the attention of others?

I recently read a couple books, primarily about bicycling, but with commentary about society and transportation in general. Both authors comment about "vehicle image."

The first is Jeff Mapes, in his book Pedaling Revolution. Mapes is a political reporter for, out of Portland. I decided to read his book after he came to Boise last September to talk about transportation cycling. (I didn't attend his thing, unfortunately, but I checked out the book at the library and read it mostly from cover to cover. Mr. Mapes knows the subject well, and I recommend the book.)

He says, "Let's not forget this, even though it usually goes unstated – we drive because our cars are so wrapped up in our personal identity. Most of us buy as much car as we can afford, and maybe even a little more, in part because it sends a message about our status to the rest of the world. Who isn't a little more muscular or beautiful or stylish behind the wheel of that curvaceous new vehicle?

"The advertising industry isn't selling cycling to Americans because it's just too economical. Cycling was a $6 billion industry in 2007... Automakers spend more than that just on advertising."

The second is David Byrne, in his book, Bicycle Diaries. If the name sounds familiar - he was the creative mind behind the band Talking Heads. It turns out he's been a transportation cyclist since before the Talking Heads days; the book is a collection of his philosophy about bicycles and various other topics, inspired by the cities he's visited and ridden in around the world. He's a deep thinker.

Here is his take on why people drive what they do, even if it isn't the most sensible choice: "Why do people do things that seem to be not in their own best interests? Well, for status, for starters. From a genetic point of view, a step up the status ladder is worth more than just about anything else. Think about the mantis who gets eaten immediately after depositing his sperm – genetically he's actually done okay. The male mantis, the delivery vehicle, is expendable from this point of view – at least if he has done his job. From this perspective, if owning a car improves your image and status, and therefore your mating chances, then the sacrifice – so our built-in instincts tell us – is absolutely worth it. Not really, not ultimately, but that might be what our compasses tell us. And, if an even bigger car proffers even greater status, then sure, get an SUV, or one of those new stretch armored tank-type things."

I s'pose "image" is a minor incentive for bike riding. At least on the really wet and/or cold days, I laugh to myself at the pseudo-macho-men driving their big pickup trucks. The real macho men and women are the ones out there dealing with the weather, even when it's the grim stuff.

I hope to post some other choice excerpts from those books in the near future. If you need something to read, I recommend either. (I'm mostly a non-fiction guy these days.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

This really is a special occasion, when 'most everybody seems to have a small extra measure of patience and good will toward men.

I wish my friends a lovely Christmas season. Take some time to smell the evergreen, or cinnamon, or apple pie, or turkey, or whatever your favorite holiday smell happens to be. Get an extra hour of sleep. (Except on Christmas morning, if you're in a house with kids... of course!) Put together a complicated toy - or a bike - following Chinese-translated-into-English instructions.

Make some plans for the upcoming year. Do some dreaming. Consider the mission and message of our Savior, Jesus Christ. (Of course, the holiday was a celebration of life and rebirth before it became a "Christian" holiday... and long before it became so commercial.)

One of the best gifts you could share with a loved one, is a love for transportation cycling. It's an all-year-'round gift: increased vitality and energy, a taste of nature, a FREE workout, and money-in-pocket!

Whatever form your celebration takes... BE JOYFUL AND SAFE!

Eagle Road

Yesterday (12/23) I had the day off, and the weather was quite suitable, so I ran an errand over to Eagle on the bicycle. (There was more snow in Eagle than in Boise, by maybe an inch or so it looked like.) I took care of business and headed for home.

I had a choice to make: retrace my steps (generally along Hill Road), or to cross the Boise River, either at Eagle Road or closer in at Glenwood. (If there's a river crossing in between those two roads, I'm not aware.) I chose Eagle.

I have memories of riding along Eagle Road when it was a little 2-lane country road, with the fog line right at the edge of the pavement. Times aren't like they used to be - now it's five lanes and nice wide breakdown/turnout lanes, and 55mph. So on one side of me I was enjoying lovely winter scenery (at least in the "river bottoms"), and on the other side I was tolerating the unending roar of a steady stream of motor vehicle traffic.

As usual, everybody seemed in a huge hurry. Zoom-zoom!

My favorite was a big ol' pickup truck with a huge decal in the back window.

Now, it's not unusual to see a pickup with "Ford" or "Chevy" in the back window, or BSU or Idaho, or perhaps the driver's name in Olde English script (seems to be a favorite of Hispanic folk). But this pickup's decal was for "Under Armour." (The only reason I was even aware is because the Utah Utes had the logo on their uniforms, the night before. I watched BSU put the beat-down on 'em, in the Vegas Bowl.) Golly! A guy would really have to like his underwear, to put a 3-foot-wide decal for it in the back window of his pickup truck!

I was grateful when I was able to get off at McMillan and head on home on (slightly) quieter streets. (36 miles yesterday - all of 'em pulling either the BOB trailer, or the Tag-a-long bike and granddaughter Mackie. Sweet!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WINTER! Off to a good start

I wasn't man enough to get up in the wee hours to observe the total lunar eclipse, but I enjoyed the light of the fullest-of-full moons on the way to the office in the morning. (It helps, on the shortest day of the year, huh?)

Later on the day was sunny and got up into the low 40s. I seized the opportunity and went on an afternoon exercise/recreation ride... the first time in a couple weeks where I really worked up a sweat. It felt fine!! (I rode "the cow loop" - out Warm Springs to the Harris Ranch area, and back into town via Boise Avenue.)

We may have a cold, wet winter ahead. But starting now, the days are getting longer and spring's a-comin'!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Boise Bike Project Plays Santa

One of the main objectives of the Boise Bicycle Project is to "transform donated bicycles into functional pieces of rolling sustainable art." And this time of year is BIG!

According to this news story, they just dispensed 201 bicycles to deserving kids. (Wow! Are there that many good little girls and boys in Boise?!)

The BBP's director, Jimmy Halliburton, says, "For most of these kids this is a present that they're not going to get otherwise. Some of them it's the first bicycle they've ever gotten before, so most of them are absolutely ecstatic." I expect that these 201 kids will remember the Christmas of '10 forever; I remember the year I had a shiny bike - my first - under the tree, and wrote about it HERE.

What a great way to give to the community, huh? Hats off to everybody at the Boise Bicycle Project, including regular reader/commenter Clancy, for bringing about some peace and good will toward men!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bike Bonus!

IKEA, the retailer of trendy put-it-together-yourself furniture (I hope that's right; I've never traded with 'em) has given every U.S. employee a surprise year-end bonus. Not cash, or a gift card - but a bicycle!

"We hope this bike will be taken in the spirit of the season while supporting a healthy lifestyle and everyday sustainable transport," said Mike Ward, IKEA US president.

Additional pro-bicycle propaganda on the press release:

Why a bike? Because when it comes to sustainable transport, a bicycle is a great option. And when it comes to healthy living, riding a bike is one of the best cardio forms of exercise. Here are some facts.
• Bicycling is an excellent cardio-vascular exercise, which promotes heart health.
• On average, commuting 10 miles a day by bike in 30 minutes, instead of driving a car burns 110,250 calories (keeping off 30 pounds of fat each year).
• Cycling just 20 miles a week can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 50%.
• Countries with the highest levels of cycling and walking generally have the lowest obesity rates.

For Sustainable living, bicycling also has many benefits.
• Bicycling reduces polluting emissions. A short, four mile round trip by a bike keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe.
• In 2001 walking and bicycling accounted for 23 billion miles traveled, worth billions of dollars in fuel savings alone.
• In one year, riding a bike versus owning and driving a car will save an individual $8,000 in gasoline and general car maintenance and insurance costs.

[The only point I'd take issue with is "commuting 10 miles a day in 30 minutes." 20mph is a little fast for a "commuting" pace, unless all their employees are very athletic.]

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Decidedly Bike-Unfriendly

"This town ain't big enough for both of us!"

Blackhawk, Colorado, maybe an hour west of Denver (just north of Idaho Springs), is a tourist destination nestled in the mountains. It's a gambling town with a decidedly "wild west" feel to it. I passed through there in 2003 on the motorsickle, as I traveled between Mount Evans and Rocky Mountain National Park, and remember the place well.

CO - Black Hawk

Evidently the city fathers of Blackhawk have passed a no-bicycling ordinance for the entire town, declaring that the streets aren't wide enough for both cars and bikes. You'd think there must've been an incident involving a tourist-on-bike and a local-in-car, or vice versa, prompting the move, but nobody seems to be aware of a glaring problem... just the regular ongoing competition for limited space that some folks feel.

Are those Blackhawk Aristocrats aware that a lot of folks visit Colorado to ride bikes? And that those folks might avoid patronizing their town on account of their rather discriminatory law? (The law was upheld recently by a judge - story Here - scroll down. But I'm confident a determined cyclist could successfully press the issue, since in Colorado and most jurisdictions, public roadways must accommodate cyclists.)

Closer to home (at least for me), the shenanigans continue on the stretch of Greenbelt behind Riverside Village in Garden City.

The Citizens for an Open Greenbelt group is reporting that 11 cyclists have been cited for riding on that stretch of the bike path. Ironically, cops on a motorized ATV patrol the bike path, to make sure cyclists aren't using it! (What's wrong with this picture?)

Stay tuned for further developments. The COG has officially taken it to court, and I totally expect them to prevail. Frankly, I'm disappointed that apparently none of the cited cyclists pleaded not guilty, or appealed their convictions. (But such actions take money.)

NOTES: I took the photo of Black Hawk, when I passed thru in 2003. I lifted the Greenbelt photo from the COG Facebook thing. (Check it out.) Previous commentary HERE.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Transportation Expense

Every year, 'round this time, we get a message from the Accounting folks something like the following (this year's message):

Effective January 1, 2011, the mileage reimbursement rate for the use of personal cars in conjunction with company business will be 51¢ per mile, up from the current 50¢.

The reimbursement rate supposedly covers all aspects of vehicle ownership - car payment, depreciation, insurance, maintenance... plus gas, of course.

No mention of reimbursement for riding my bicycle on company business.

If I could get 50¢/mile for my bike miles, it would've paid for the cost of the bike purchase a little over a year ago, plus all the expenses of operating the bike, and I'd still have several hundred dollars left over.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cycling Safety in Boise - Revisited

Cycling safety isn't on the forefront of our collective minds in winter time. However, it's been a year since the city's Cycling Safety Task Force was convened (in the wake of 3 bicycle fatalities), so I recently asked the City Fathers for an accounting of how it's gone.

One of the Task Force members was Deputy Chief Jim Kerns of the Police Department. I emailed him directly, since I heard him testify about bike safety, and got the clear impression he both understood the issue and was sincere and sympathetic. (Frankly, I think many of our law enforcement professionals view cyclists as a nuisance, rather than as legitimate roadway users.)

Mr. Kerns emailed me back with good information.

- The hoped-for "education outreach program" didn't make much headway. (Mostly due to budget constraints, I'm sure.)
- However, new info is posted on the city's web page, and the BPD is "twittering" and using Facebook to disseminate info.
- The BPD contributed significantly to the Boise Weekly's bicycle issue last May.
- All officers were trained on the new ordinances, and had a "spring refresher" to remind them of their responsibilities. Because of that, there seems to be a (slightly) stepped-up effort at enforcing traffic laws that affect cyclists.

He also sent me an interesting stats sheet about bicycle accidents and enforcement.


- Of 102 reported bicycle accidents, a "vehicle driver" (auto, truck, SUV, etc.) was at fault in 78, compared with 47 where the cyclist was at fault. ("Overlapping data assume both were at fault.")

- YTD, the Boise Police had issued 69 citations for bicycle violations. The most prevalent violation appears to be riding at night without proper equipment, but "position on highway violations" (my pet peeve) was cited 7 times, it looks like. (A HUGE improvement over the 1-per-year average, for the past few years.)

I appreciate the city's effort to keep the issue of bicycle safety in the minds of the road-going public. It's part of being a bike-friendly city, which we take pride in. I hope they keep up - and even step up - the effort as time goes on.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ridin' in a Winter Wonderland

I was a half-hour or so late to work this morning. And that after leaving 10 minutes or so earlier than usual.

Five minutes can be attributed to the winter conditions. The rest can be attributed to multiple "Kodak Moments" along the way. It was so beautiful out there!

- Today is a "catastrophic snow day" in these parts. Many people stayed home on account of the road conditions. The schools are all closed. The garbage truck came down my street this morning, and was getting stuck at every stop. (Pathetic! There's maybe 8 inches out there. The folks in Chicago or Minneapolis or Salt Lake City would mock our wimpiness!)
- I've surrendered the skinny-tire bike, and have relied on the old faithful fat-tire workhorse for the past week or so.
- Our Parks and Recreation folks are doing a fantastic job of keeping the Greenbelt bike path in usable condition.
- It's VERY unusual in these parts, particularly in November, to have snow on the ground for such a long stretch. I imagine it'll be gone by the weekend; warmer temperatures are predicted.

101201 Snow 1

This one's for the Christmas card!
101201 Snow 2

Another rider, Tom, came by and offered to push the button. Nice!
101201 Snow 3
(That HI-VIZ is pretty sweet, huh?)

101201 Snow 4

101201 Snow 5

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


As a cyclist... I have so much to be thankful for!

I'm thankful for excellent health.

I'm thankful for the mild weather I enjoy on so many days of every year.

I'm thankful for a sweeeet, reliable, problem-free bicycle.

I'm thankful that I live in circumstances that enable me to ride to most of my usual destinations.

I'm thankful that I have the strength - both physical and "strength of will" to pedal to those destinations.

I'm thankful for public servants who keep my pavement in good condition, and who diligently try to enforce safety on our public roadways.

I'm thankful for the large majority of motorists who share the road with me ... who are patient and cooperative, who are paying attention to their driving, who understand and follow traffic laws.

I'm thankful for fellow cyclists who are good ambassadors for transportation cycling ... and who smile and wave back at me.

I'm thankful for the bounties of nature - the sights, the smells, the sounds - that are so freely available to the bike rider.

I'm thankful for my princess of a granddaughter who enjoys (at least so far) bicycle outings with her tired old grandpa.

May I never fail to recognize the great blessings that are mine, or fail to feel and express the appropriate gratitude.

(I've just listed the stuff I'm thankful for as a cyclist. If I expanded the scope, I'd get tired and you'd get bored.)

Happy and safe Thanksgiving to one and all!

Texting while driving revisited

IMO, one of the most significant threats to cyclist safety is the motorist who is distracted from that critical task, by whatever it may be. And some of the most common distractions are posed by electronic handheld devices, most often cell phones. More recently and alarmingly, drivers are composing text messages on their tiny keyboards. (Anybody who would do that while driving doesn't have enough common sense or concern for the safety of his fellow citizens, to be using public roadways!)

Many jurisdictions - including both Twin Falls and Meridian here in Idaho - have passed specific laws prohibiting texting-while-driving. Critics claim that the current inattentive driving laws are adequate... and I'd agree, if they were vigorously enforced. But "inattentive driving" is a matter of judgment, and very hard to prove unless an accident is involved. Probably a third of the motorists I see these days could be accused of inattentive driving, but many don't get into accidents... often because of the avoidance maneuvers by more diligent citizens.

State senator John McGee tried to get a statewide ban on the practice enacted last year, and pledges to do so again this year. According to McGee, "Texting while driving is 30 times more dangerous than even drinking while driving."

Another supporter of such legislation is Liz Catherman. Her daughter Kassandra, 18, was killed while texting in a tragic accident, when she drifted into oncoming traffic.

I had a huge change of heart about Liz Catherman and her motives while watching a TV story a couple days back. Her daughter was at fault in the fatal accident. I've always felt that there were other overlooked victims - those who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I was surprised by Ms. Catherman's compassion for those other victims. In the story, she explains, "On Dec 29th, daughter made a couple of poor decisions...she decided to text and drive and not wear her seatbelt. When you're on that public road you're involving the public and the public has a right to be safe on the roads."

My hat is off to Ms. Catherman. I wish other roadway users realized, like she does due to her personal tragedy, that texting-while-driving is a POOR decision!

Previous commentary HERE.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First Snow

The commute this morning was a bit treacherous (enough to use extra caution), but beautiful. I ventured slightly off the beaten path to enjoy the beauty and serenity.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Garden City Greenbelt development

The Boise Greenbelt - oft-described as a "crown jewel" that enhances quality of life - has a bottleneck for cyclists. I've commented before about the arbitrary closing of a section in the red-headed stepchild community of Garden City.

I'm happy to report an interesting and promising development. Below is a "news release" I got from the Citizens for an Open Greenbelt organization.

For almost three years the Citizens for an Open Greenbelt (COG) has attempted to reverse the bike riding ban in Garden City. We have been unwavering in our commitment to eliminate this unjust Garden City bike ban ordinance. During this time countless hours have been spent with officials of both Garden City and the State Land Board to resolve this issue. No doubt both the State and Garden City hoped that our grass roots organization would quietly go away - but we haven’t. Unfortunately the State and Garden City are resolute in maintaining no bike riding along this section in the Riverside Village area; the same section (our public trust lands) that had been called a “bike path” by the State and Garden City for many years.

Having exhausted our efforts to resolve this out of court, this last Friday, November 12, our attorneys filed a complaint on behalf of COG in the Fourth District Court, in Ada County. The defendants in this case are Garden City AND the State of Idaho Land Board. Essentially we are arguing that:

1. This disputed section in Garden City (Riverside Village area) was intended, designed and created for bike riding.

2. The State and Garden City have arbitrarily and wrongfully limited the citizens’ right to utilize a public bike path for bike riding.

3. Garden City enacted an ordinance that is unreasonable, arbitrary and in violation of prior agreements for which they were a party to.

This was not an easy decision for COG as we had hoped either the State or Garden City would respect the interests and needs of the bike riding public in the Treasure Valley. But they chose not to. As much as we’re glad this case is moving ahead, it’s unfortunate that we could not resolve this without the need for legal action. Now both the State and Garden City will be committing taxpayers’ money and resources to defend this lawsuit.

Thanks to the many of you who have contributed your time, support, and money for this cause. We also are very fortunate to have three talented and dedicated attorneys who are willing to devote their time to this case pro bono.

As this case unfolds we will keep you informed.

Best regards.

I donated both effort and money to this cause; I'm glad it's proceeding forward.

The Idaho COG group has a Facebook presence; that may be the best way to get in touch, if you'd like additional information.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dangerous Routes

There's an interesting letter to the editor on the Statesman website today, written by a cyclist.

Here it is, in its entirety.*

Safe walking, riding paths for everyone

I’ve been commuting Downtown via bike since early June. I know that cyclists are rarely “seen” by motorists, and so I ride defensively and restrict my route to the Greenbelt path whenever possible.

Recently, I was struck by a motorist as she was turning onto Glenwood. Luckily, my injuries were limited to scrapes and bruises because my bike took the brunt of the blow and I had a helmet on — had I been a pedestrian, I’d not have been so lucky.

Though several bystanders gave accounts that the vehicle operator did not look both ways before turning, I was cited with an infraction for riding on the wrong side of the road because the sidewalk ends about 50 feet before I was struck, where it exits onto the hotly contested, pedestrian-only path through Riverside Village. Had the path been open to all users or had there been sidewalk available, I wouldn’t have been cited and the accident could have been avoided.

When will we in the Treasure Valley put our money where our mouths are and provide safe walking/riding areas for everyone? We might just lose a few pounds and gain some environmental perspective in the process.


First of all, a snide comment: How about that name?!! I'd sure hate to be Crystal Deschamps-Fogdall, every time I had to sign a check!

On to the content of Ms. Deschamps-Fodgall's (thank goodness for "copy and paste" - haha!) letter.

It sounds like maybe she was riding on the sidewalk, on the against-traffic side of the road, and when the sidewalk ended she drifted over into the breakdown lane and proceeded on up the road, against traffic. And that a motor vehicle entering from the side (likely a parking lot) turned into her path, not anticipating a cyclist approaching from the wrong-way direction.

Is that about right?

Cyclists - if you're in the wrong place, it's no wonder that you're "rarely seen." You'd be MUCH safer riding legally and predictably on the correct side of the road, in bright attire. I'm glad she wasn't severely injured, or killed!

Think about it, if you're also a motorist.

You're pulling out of a parking lot, intending to turn right into busy traffic. The traffic is coming from the left, so you look to the left, eagerly awaiting an opening. Although ideally you'd also look to the right to make absolutely sure there's no approaching hazard, it's certainly understandable that many people don't. I know I've had close calls myself, when some bonehead on a bike comes puttering up the wrong side.

I'm really glad Ms. Deschamps-Fogdall wasn't riding against traffic when another cyclist came along, riding with traffic. (I ride that stretch of Glenwood - sharing the road with cars - probably 4 times a week average. And it's always scary and maddening when somebody is bicycling straight toward me, against traffic.)

On the bright side, I'm glad the cop did his job and issued a citation. (Although that rarely happens unless an accident is involved.)

I agree with Ms. Deschamps-Fogdall that it would be really nice if the Riverside Village path was open to all users. (And I expect it will be soon... I sense "something in the air.") But you can't blame facilities, or lack thereof, for illegal and ill-advised behavior on the streets.

* NOTE - My experience has been that the Idaho Statesman web content isn't a permanent archive; the link will go stale in a few weeks. Thus, I chose to copy the letter over. I hope the folks at the Statesman wouldn't have a problem with that, since I acknowledge the source.

Safety Warning

To my fellow leisurely bicyclists: Please keep in mind that we're sharing the road with people in cars and trucks and SUVS who, unlike us, are very very busy, with important schedules to keep. That's why they're forced to multitask - you know - drive with their knees while jockeying a large coffee in one hand and a cell phone in the other hand.

And this time of year - sometimes their vehicles have frost on the windows, at least in these parts. Due to their extremely busy schedules, these folks don't have time to scrape those dad-blame windows - they've gotta run! They have the skills to safely navigate while peering through a tiny peep-hole, with phone in one hand and coffee in the other... as long as you stay out of their way. Let's not slow them down - PLEASE - they're busy!

Why just this week, a schoolgirl here in Boise was smacked by a guy in his frosted-up car, as she rode her bike through a crosswalk. (Story HERE.) What a thoughtless child! She's lucky that poor driver wasn't injured! (In seriousness, it's hard to say if her crossing in a crosswalk played a role. Motorists aren't expecting relatively fast-moving bike traffic where they might be expecting pedestrians. She probably would've been safer carefully navigating the traffic lane. Of course, the sidewalk - or in your house - is safer than sharing the road with frosted-windshield motor vehicles.)

LET'S BE CAREFUL! We are obviously sharing the road with some very thoughtless folks, who figure they're willing to take calculated risks in their harness-and-airbag equipped steel chariots.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bicycle helmet backfires

This is a tragic story.

An Emmett 3-year-old died as a result of wearing a bicycle helmet.

He had been cycling, and didn't take his helmet off upon arriving home. Instead he headed straight for the swing set. And apparently the helmet got stuck in the set, and the strap choked the little guy to death.

I can't imagine the grief the family must be feeling. What an unfortunate and unexpected accident. My heart is heavy.

When my Princess Mackie and I go riding, we frequently stop at a playground. She's usually off the Tag-Along, and running for the swings and slides, before I can even dismount! I usually ask her to come back so I can take her bucket off. (Even though I watch her the entire time.) As a result of this tragedy, I am going to teach her to unbuckle her own helmet, and encourage her to always remove the helmet, the minute she's done riding.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

1 year old

My newest bike is 1 year old today. On November 7, 2009, I threw a leg over my new Cannondale bike for the first time.

I rode her 563 miles in 2009, and I've ridden her 5683 miles in 2010, for a total of 6246 miles. Not too bad for an old fat guy. I would've had a few more miles, if I hadn't been grounded for 30 days over December and January.

Today I gave 'er a good drivetrain cleaning, and rode 21+ miles.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Flat #19 for the year

Yesterday afternoon I got a flat.

Big deal, right?

This wasn't a goathead flat (like probably 15 of the first 18 were). I ran over what looks like a 6-penny finishing nail. Took about 3 revolutions of the wheel before it was completely flat. The nail pierced the tire and both sides of the tube. Fortunately it didn't damage the rim.

Being a pathological cheapskate, I tried to patch the tube, rather than replacing it. I should've known better. I missed one of several nail-holes... and I'd also sustained a "snake-bite" puncture, by riding over something pointy while the tire was quickly deflating.

At least it was daylight, and a lovely day. (It's no fun to patch a flat while getting rained on, in the dark.)

This flat was notable because it was the first rear-tire flat I've repaired this year, thanks to the Vittoria tires I've been using. I'm TOTALLY sold on those tires! Because I'm a cheapskate, I'll use up the other tires I have on a hook, but I think I'll buy Vittorias from now on.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Autumn Splendor

Miss Mackie and I accumulated 16 easy and beautiful miles together on Saturday.

Nothin' fancy... just a ride along the Greenbelt. We crossed paths with a few other souls; I'm always amazed (and somewhat gratified) that the paths aren't jam-packed this time of year.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Caloric Conspiracy!

This is the time of year that must challenge even Jared the Subway guy. (If you've got that blast-furnace metabolism, and have to eat constantly to just maintain your weight, you might not be so sympathetic.)


1) The weather is turning for the worse and the days are much shorter, making long and fast bicycle rides more of a challenge.

2) Starting with Halloween and going through Christmas, food seems particularly abundant. And I'm not talking rice cakes and celery. (Unless it's celery filled with cheese or peanut butter.) People get together and EAT!

3) I'm a little skeptical of that whole Darwin thing... that my great-great-great-great grandpa was an orangutan... and that his great-great... grandpa was primordial slime. But there is SOMETHING from our caveman past - some primal instinct - that makes us want to pack on some extra calories as the weather gets colder and lean times loom ahead. (I'm just speaking for myself. My observation is totally subjective, but I'm much hungrier in late October than I am in late July.)

A major fringe benefit of accumulating a significant number of bicycle miles is... you can pretty much eat whatever you feel like eating, without worrying about the weight repercussions. But at least for me, starting around October I need to at least exercise some "awareness," and pass up some of the delicious stuff that's spread out in front of me.

Maybe I'm particularly sensitive today... because last night I took the missus to Tucano's Brazilian churrasco. Oh dang, was that ever decadent!

We should change Halloween to July 31, and Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in August.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Driving with reckless abandon!

Yesterday in Magna, Utah (in suburbia out of Salt Lake City), a high school girl was celebrating her 17th birthday.

Apparently her friends painted polka-dots on the windshield of her pickup truck, and stuffed it with balloons as it sat in the high school parking lot.

Over the noon hour, she and a male friend were driving when she inexplicably swerved into the oncoming lane.

Tragically, electrical engineer / avid cyclist Karen Johnson was cycling with a friend in that oncoming lane. Seeing a pickup headed directly toward them, her friend swerved right off the road; Karen swerved left in an evasive maneuver. At the last second, Birthday Girl swerved right to get back into her lane and smacked Karen; she was dead before she got to the hospital.

It was unclear whether distractions, or limited visibility, played a role in the accident.

Deseret News story HERE.

What a tragedy!

The comments following the story are somewhat disturbing to me.

Sarah B says, "How tragic. This young lady's birthday will foreveer be marred by this."

Awwwww! That's so sad! Her birthday was spoiled!

How will Karen Johnson's family be "celebrating" October 19, from this year forward?

(I s'pose that other distracted drivers identify more with a distracted driver, if they've not ridden a bicycle recently.)

Many fingers of blame are pointed at the pranksters who painted the windshield.


It was Birthday Girl who assessed the situation and got behind the wheel, making the choice to pilot that 4000-pound lethal missile.

Several people call for more restrictions on teenage drivers.

I would agree, if I didn't see drivers of all ages making some really stupid and dangerous choices while driving. Teenagers may be less experienced and therefore less predictable in their reaction... but poor judgment comes in all ages.

"utopia381" (nice!) chastises commenters who were apparently a little too tough on Birthday Girl: "Such harsh words for people who have no idea what they are talking about. As tragic as the circumstances are we still don't know the whole story."

What details will make the story less tragic, oh wise one?

PEOPLE! YOU PEOPLE WHO DRIVE CARS! You have voluntarily undertaken some serious responsibility! It is YOUR responsibility - not anybody else's - to make sure that vehicle you are driving is operated in a safe manner! You could kill somebody with your car! If you are doing something stupid and kill yourself, that would be a tragedy, but those you leave behind could rationalize, "It's tragic, but I s'pose he had it coming." You do NOT have the right to be doing something stupid and kill somebody else!!! PLEASE get serious about your driving! If you can't do that, just hang up the keys for the rest of us.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Buffalo Bills Bike Commuter

Here's an interesting STORY about Buffalo Bills safety Bryan Scott - the only member of the team who bike-commutes to work.

He's only been at it since June... but it sounds like he's seen the light.

"It's amazing, how you view the world differently. Places that you've driven before, you pass everything so quickly. Then, all of a sudden when you start bike riding, you notice little things just around your neighborhood. It's pretty cool."

His commute is five miles round-trip, but he figures he's riding 100-150 miles per week. He's got the high-end gear - a 17-pound, $7500 road bike. (So he may not have realized significant savings yet, in his transportation budget.) And he keeps the Escalade handy for those famous Buffalo winters.

(Story and photo from the Washington Post website.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stayin' alive for 82 years

There's a curious letter to the Idaho Statesman editor today, from Rodney Burwell of Boise. Here it is, in its entirety:

The reason I am still riding my bicycle after 82 years is that I follow one rule. I never do anything on my bicycle that would cause a motorist to take his foot off the gas pedal.

First of all, good on Rodney! You don't see many 82-year-olds straddling a bike, but I hope to fit that stereotype someday.

However... if Rodney has never caused a motorist to alter his velocity, he must either not ride very much, or he must have the flexibility to keep himself apart from motor traffic.

A transportation cyclist will not always have a dedicated bike facility. The matter of fact is, most of us are trying to share the infrastructure graciously and efficiently. I try to be where I should be, but from time to time, a motorist is going to have to cut me a little slack. I'm good with that, and the vast majority of motorists seem comfortable with the notion.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Stories of people who have seen the light

Boise is fortunate to be one of the host cities for the annual "Tour de Fat."

(If you're not aware, the Tour is a bicycle oriented weekend event sponsored by New Belgium Brewing Company, the "Fat Tire" brew people.)

One of the events is having one participant surrender his or her motor vehicle, in exchange for a sweet new bike and a pledge to adopt a cycling lifestyle for at least a year.

HERE is a good follow-up story about two people who made that commitment - Lisa Brady just a couple months ago, and Brook Slee in 2009.

How are they doing?

In a nutshell... GREAT! They have definitely dealt with some major adjustments, but both are absolutely satisfied with the change.

Lisa: "I accept that my hair doesn’t look perfect or I won’t get to work exactly on time every time ... [Biking] is just fun."

Brook: "It’s been a good thing for me and our family. We really have to plan better on how to use our time."

Both are in a situation similar to my own... they have a spouse with a car, who can provide the occasional lift of people and/or cargo. "Car lite" is more practical for most people than "car free," at least in the wide-open wild west.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thoughts about maintenance

One of the undeniable advantages of transportation cycling is the relative economy of maintenance.

Parts are simple and relatively inexpensive. Problems are usually pretty easy to diagnose, and with a minimum of training and tools, the shade-tree bike mechanic can do most of his own wrenching. (About the only component I haven't replaced yet is a headset. And I've disassembled and cleaned and lubed a headset.)

I must confess... in the past, I've generally taken that "maintenance economy" to the extreme. Rather than practicing some "preventive maintenance," in many cases I've just gone 'til something broke, then replaced it.

With my "new" (as of last November) bicycle, I've tried to be more proactive. Once a month, I've given the drivetrain a pretty thorough scrubbing, using degreaser and a brush to knock the gunk back. (Figure it costs maybe 2 bucks and 20 minutes per session... it's not like my maintenance expenses have risen dramatically.) And I've also tried to replace or adjust stuff when symptoms first started displaying, rather than waiting 'til I was grounded until I took action.

And it has paid off. My riding experience has been more pleasant and more stress-free.

And in the long run, my new proactive approach may be more economical.

The new bike has "10 speed" drivetrain componentry.

Don't say, "Big deal! My Schwinn Varsity was a ten speed!"

The "new" ten speed is ten on the back, and two or three on the front! (I've got 30 flippin' gear ratios! Frankly, I'd be delighted with half that many, if they covered the same range.)

The ten speed cassettes and chains are correspondingly more pricey than the nine speed, and eight speed, and seven speed...

I'm still on my original cassette and chain, and I expect they'll last for at least a year. I hope they last 'til next spring; I'd hate to change out that stuff going into the bad-weather months.

I'm spoiled! If I spend $100 or $150 a year on bicycle maintenance, it makes me start sweatin'. But compare that with the cost of maintaining an automobile, to keep it providing reliable transportation. Ouch! (The wife's minivan needs a new catalytic converter - $825.10!)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Endless Summer

We are having a fantastic late summer!

This evening, Mackie and I took advantage of the warm day to go on a toad hunt. (Actually we found toads a couple weeks back; we returned to gather a couple for a "sleepover." We'll take 'em back home after a couple days.)

We also rode through Julia Davis Park, because Mackie has been hankerin' to sit on Abe's lap. This is an awesome bronze statue; it was designed by Gutzon Borglum.

Have you heard of Gutzon? He's an Idaho boy - was born in St. Charles, down Bear Lake way.

Still haven't heard of him?

Okay... Mount Rushmore? He's the Mount Rushmore guy. (NOT Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, or Roosevelt!)

Personal milestones

September '10 was my fifth consecutive 600+ mile month. Not too bad for an old fat guy. Roughly half of those are "transportation" miles; the rest are exercise/recreation miles.

Just out of curiosity, I've decided to keep track of my "car" miles for awhile. I rode in a car 7 times total in September. Two trips driving to fetch firewood, 2 trips as driver with passengers, 3 trips as a passenger with somebody else.

This month also marks the 13th anniversary of not driving a car to work - even once. (In those 13 years, I have ridden my motorcycle to work, although not for many years. And the bus on occasion. Also as a matter of clarification - September 1997 was not when I took up bike transportation; I've ridden at least 90% of my commute trips since 1986.)

In September 2004, I arrived at 100,000 miles. At the time the notion of riding 200K miles seemed remote. Now I'm closing in on 136,000 miles... there might be some distant light at the end of that 200,000 mile tunnel. We'll see...

Intersection treatment

Seattle has started installing "bike boxes" at some downtown intersections. Portland has some; I've commented about them before HERE.

According to a news article, "the box allows bike riders to move ahead during a red light and sit at the front of the line of cars. When the light turns green, the bicyclists get to pedal ahead of the traffic." Motorists are not allowed to turn right on a red light.

This intersection treatment seems to be the polar opposite of what they do in these parts, where the bike lane stripe goes from solid to "dashed," indicating that motorists can slide over into the bike lane, and cyclists into the motor-vehicle lane, as seems fit. (I recently commented on an encounter I had with law enforcement, following confusion about motor vehicle use of bike lanes... confusion caused by the dashed line.)

Perhaps if I got a chance to put "bike boxes" to use, I'd become a believer. But on the surface, I have problems with lining up cyclists in front of cars at the intersection. It might reduce the number of "right hook" collisions, but I can also totally appreciate how motorists could feel resentment toward cyclists who slow them down when the light turns green. Way down deep, I continue to believe that as a general rule, cyclists fare best when they are treated the same way as drivers of motor vehicles. The bike boxes are one more attempt to "have our cake and eat it too," or a subtle implication that cyclists aren't smart enough to negotiate an intersection without special treatment.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Broncos on Bikes!

Boise State University, known the world over (?) for the shimmering blue football field, is becoming more bike friendly.

Check it out:

At last Saturday's Broncos vs. (OSU) Beavers game, free valet bicycle parking was provided at a bike corral, just steps from the stadium entrance.

The news release says, "The popularity of the Bike Corral far exceeded expectations and Transportation and Parking Services looks forward to providing and even expanding this service during upcoming home football games and future large campus events."

I love it! (For the record, the last time I had football tickets at BSU, I rode my bike to every game. Chained my bike to the stadium fence. Enjoyed quiet greenbelt riding, to and from the stadium gate.)

Besides the special event parking, tomorrow (Sept. 30) a new permanent "Bike Barn" opens in one of the on-campus parking garages, with 65 controlled-access bike parking spaces. It costs $15 per semester. Compare that with the cost of parking a car in the garage - Employees $158/year, Students $106/year. (Those are "general" rates - reserved are a lot more.)

Of course, free parking is available in racks all over campus... and those racks are likely closer to the destination. The upside of the Bike Barn is - bikes are out of the weather, and obviously less likely to draw the attention of vandals or bike thieves.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Clancy's north Idaho bike vacation

I consider Clancy to be a faithful friend, correspondent, and all-around bike nut. (In the very best sense!)

He and his brother recently rode the Coeur d'Alene Trail - a 70-plus mile former rail line that's been replaced with glass-smooth asphalt. It winds through forests, along lakes and rivers, almost from the Washington border to the Montana border.

Clancy's nicely detailed write-up, with lots of compelling photos, can be seen HERE.

I've commented before, HERE. For several years, I've dreamed of experiencing this trail over a 2 or 3-day period, with side trips to see little snips of Idaho history. Next summer, I'm going... even if I have to do it alone. (I work with some Venturer youths, and I try to interest them. And they are interested in the experience. But when I tell 'em they can't just hop on a bike one day and ride 40 or 50 miles without some training, suddenly other options become more attractive than training.)

More information about the Coeur d'Alene Trail, Route of the Hiawatha, etc., can be found HERE.

Forget Moab! (Or better yet, leave Moab to the unwashed masses. And North Idaho can be the "secret fishin' hole" for people who ride bikes instead of catchin' fish.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Autumn wonderment

Every year, it surprises me.

It's almost as though after Labor Day the bikes get put away along with the fashionable summer attire. The bike storage room goes half-empty or more, even though this is absolutely and consistently the nicest time of the whole year to be cycling in the Boise area. (Lots of sunshine, lows in the 50s, highs in the 70s.)

More room on the infrastructure for those of us who know better, I guess.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Distracted Driving Summit '10

On September 21, a National Distracted Driving Summit was held in Washington, DC, chaired by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Is distracted driving a problem?

According to the NHTSA, almost 20% of all crashes involve some type of distraction. Nearly 6000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver (2008), and more than half a million were injured.

The federal Distracted Driving Website categorizes distracted driving as one of more of:
Visual - taking your eyes off the road
Manual - taking your hands off the wheel
Cognitive - talking your mind off what you are doing

Any one of the three can have fatal consequences. And unfortunately and unfairly, it's not always the distracted driver who ends up with the consequences. Far too often, victims of distracted drivers were doing everything right... they were just in the wrong place and time, when a distracted driver victimized them.

The parents of Kassy Kerfoot, who live in Meridian, testified at the Summit.

Their daughter was 18 when she died. She was texting while driving, and swerved into the oncoming lanes, colliding with 2 other vehicles. Her parents are convinced that a law banning texting-while-driving would result in lives saved. And perhaps it would. But why does the government have to compel people to exercise some basic common sense?

My opinion:
- I'm in favor of laws banning texting-while-driving, and phoning-while-driving, for that matter. It would be wonderful if people could make those choices on their own, but apparently some folks assume that anything not illegal must be safe. (Sigh...)
- I wish more drivers would be cited for Inattentive Driving. Currently it seems to only be enforced in an accident situation, and when the error is egregious.
- As tragic as Kassy's accident was... how much more tragic it would've been, if she'd killed an innocent bystander! (And it's safe to assume that many of those 6000 fatalities and half-a-million injuries occured through no fault of the victims.)

Personally, I'm much more worried about getting plowed into by a distracted driver than by a drunk driver. (Although the results could be the same in either case.)

(Previous commentary - 2009 Distracted Driving Summit - HERE.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More evidence...

... of the superiority of bicycles to cars.

The missus bashed the front end of her car last week. She says that as she pulled into a parking space, she made a mental note of an obstacle she might hit as she exited. But then she forgot. (Can you imagine?!!? I can't fault her; I've forgotten about a bike on top of the car and driven into a carport before!)

For one thing - I've never bashed my bike into something I didn't see, unless I was riding at night without a light, in which case I deserved what I got. (Oh - and the carport! Du-uuuh!)

My non-expert assessment is that it would cost $1000 if fixed by a body shop. (So in this day and age, a VERY minor accident!)

I disassembled stuff and determined what was broken. I pounded on the backside of the plastic "bumper replica" and turned the large dent into a tiny dimple. (Sweeet!) I called the salvage yard; they have a similar vehicle if I'm willing to pull the parts. So - I'm hoping I can get away with $200 or less, plus maybe 3 hours of labor. (The parts will travel home via BOB trailer.)

A huge percentage of car parts are strictly cosmetic. By comparison, essentially everything on a bike is functional. Since I'm a "function over form" type of guy... bikes are beautiful!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

New driver's license!

My hair is brown!

(I've asked my granddaughter what color my hair is - she says "I don't know." I don't recognize it on the floor on haircut day; I s'pose it's half brown and half gray. But the driver's license lady renewed it as "brown.")

Yep - on Friday I got my new driver's license. I actually have a Commerical Driver's License. Pretty good for a bike rider, huh? A neghbor lady up the street once said to me, "I saw you driving - I didn't realize you knew how to drive!"

You fill out the form. You take a vision test. You pay your money. You get your photo snapped, and walk out with new plastic.

To me, it's a little sobering that there is absolutely no test - either written or actual - of driving skills. Yeah, that would complicate things, and goes against my general "small government" philosophy. But at the same time, if you want the privilege of piloting a 4000-pound steel missile around on public roads, shouldn't you have demonstrable ability?

Do the Amish ride bikes?

That question just occurred to me.

Jay Leno recently joked that according to the Census Bureau, the Amish religion has grown by 10% in just 2 years.

"Those aren't Amish! Those are just people who had their power shut off and their cars repossessed!"

It put me to wonderin'.

The Amish shun electricity and internal combustion, and 'most everything high-tech. I can't help but wonder what their sentiment is toward bicycles. Do they own and ride bikes? (Perhaps just single-speed bikes with coaster brakes and balloon tires.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Pedaling Revolution"

Jeff Mapes is a political journalist for The Oregonian. He is also a transportation cyclist, and has written a book, Pedaling Revolution, "How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities."

He is speaking in Boise on Thursday evening, September 16. (At the Linen Building, five bucks.) Might be interesting. (I just heard about it on BSU radio this morning.)

The book sounds interesting; I've reserved a copy at the library.

The online synopsis: In a world of growing traffic congestion, expensive oil, and threats of cataclysmic climate change, a grassroots movement is carving out a niche for bicycles on the streets of urban cityscapes. In Pedaling Revolution, Jeff Mapes explores the growing urban bike culture that is changing the look and feel of cities across the U.S. He rides with bike advocates who are taming the streets of New York City, joins the street circus that is Critical Mass in San Francisco, and gets inspired by the everyday folk pedaling in Amsterdam, the nirvana of American bike activists. Mapes, a seasoned political journalist and long-time bike commuter, explores the growth of bicycle advocacy while covering such issues as the environmental, safety, and health aspects of bicycling for short urban trips. His rich cast of characters includes Noah Budnick, a young bicycle advocate in New York who almost died in a crash near the Brooklyn Bridge, and Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN), who took to bicycling in his fifties and helped unleash a new flood of federal money for bikeways. Chapters set in Chicago and Portland show how bicycling has became a political act, with seemingly dozens of subcultures, and how cyclists, with the encouragement of local officials, are seizing streets back from motorists. Pedaling Revolution is essential reading for the approximately one million people who regularly ride their bike to work or on errands, for anyone engaged in transportation, urban planning, sustainability, and public health—and for drivers trying to understand why they’re seeing so many cyclists. All will be interested in how urban bike activists are creating the future of how we travel and live in twenty-first-century cities.

As a cyclist in Boise, Idaho, I s'pose I'm sympathetic to the notion of transportation cycling as "political statement." It's a political thing in several urban settings across the Fruited Plain. Personally, I've never felt like I was making a "political" statement when I ride. But I like to think I'm making an economic statement and perhaps a "lifestyle" statement.

(Ironically, the book is listed at under "Outdoor Recreation.")

Useless Helmet

3 or 4 times lately, on my morning commute, I've seen a tall, pretty gal on a pale yellow "cruiser" bike. She has a great big messenger bag slung over her shoulder, and she goes pretty slow. Oh - and she has some SWEEET boots!

This morning, she was wearing a thick knit cap and mittens, a coat, etc. (Wow! If she's already cold when it's in the mid-50s, she won't do well over the winter.)

Perched on top of her stocking cap was her helmet. She must've loosened the straps, so it would sit a couple inches higher than normal.

The problem is - the only job that helmet is doing is keeping her cap from flying off. (If she were going 25mph faster, that could happen...)

I s'pose if she was using the top of her head for a battering ram, it might help. But in any realistic crash scenario, it's more likely the front of your head, or the back of your head, or perhaps the side of your head, that's going to need some cushioning protection. Every bit of bike-helmet advice I've ever heard says - SNUG helmet, riding low on the forehead.

A week or so ago I saw a little guy riding on the front of his dad's bike. He had a helmet on - but it was on backwards! With the pointy part in the front! (It looked very stylish, and appeared to be keeping the sun out of his eyes.)

(I wear a balaclava under my helmet on cold winter days, but it's made of thin material and has negligible impact on where the helmet rides on my head.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Defusing Road Rage, Part 2

This week, over at the, Bill Schneider lists five ways motorists can defuse road rage for cyclists. He's right on, IMO.

1) Accept it. (That cyclists are legitimately and legally on the road.)
2) Share the road, not the lane. He gives some good common-sense advice about passing cyclists safely, and with a minimum of stress.
3) Understand why cyclists do things. (Like riding away from parallel-parked cars, not riding in the gutter pan, etc.)
4) Cut them some slack.
5) Appreciate the effort.

On its own, this little essay might seem like just another rant from another uppity ten-speed rider... but a week ago he told cyclists what they oughtta be doing to improve the karma out there.

If you have a motorist friend who struggles with the notion of bikes on the roads, this might be a good one to share. Be safe - and courteous!

When is a bike lane not a bike lane?

A week or so ago, I was pulled over by a cop.

I s'pose I had it coming.

He was in a police vehicle (actually a pickup truck, but with logos and lights), and had drifted over into the "bike lane" in anticipation of a right turn. He was behind two other stopped vehicles, all waiting for a green light. I was approaching from behind, and as I went by, I hollered out "bike lane!" (I sometimes do that when motor vehicles are in a marked bike lane. And it particularly disappointed me that a police officer wouldn't set a better example.)

Since police generally always need to have the last word, I wasn't surprised when the light turned green, he didn't turn but instead turned on his flashers and "pulled me over."

The officer was very polite and professional; I'll give him credit for that.

He explained that he was in the right. According to him, a bike lane that ends with a "dashed stripe" at the intersection is available for use by both bikes and right-turning motor vehicles. He said it's in the book, and that's what they're teaching drivers. Theoretically it will reduce the number of "right hook" accidents.

The current Idaho Driver's Manual (link HERE - PDF, 3+ MB) says on Page 3-10, "The dashed bike lane stripe indicates that drivers turning right can merge to the right and bicyclists turning left can merge to the left."

I was aware of that. However... how far back can the merge take place?

I would contend that once a driver reaches the dashed stripe, he can (carefully!) merge to the right. The officer was behind two stopped vehicles, one being a city bus, and was well back from where the line changed from solid to dashed.

He admonished me to exercise restraint when shouting at drivers (good advice always!), because "they might be right."

I presented several confusing/contradictory/hazardous scenarios.
- What if a car in the real traffic lane is turning right? Can another motorist drive up next to him in the bike lane and turn right? Who goes first?
- Why do cars on Eagle Road get ticketed for using the bike lane as a right-turn lane?

We shook hands and went our separate ways, after agreeing that the law is ambiguous and mostly not understood. The whole experience reinforced my notion that "cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles." (John Forester) Perhaps bike lanes, particularly at intersections, cause more problems than they solve.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Defusing Road Rage

Bill Schneider writes some good cycling-related articles over at the NewWest.Net. I almost always find myself enthusiastically agreeing with his opinions, at least on cycling.

The current fare: Five Ways Cyclists Can Defuse Road Rage.

His suggestions (expanded upon in his article):
1) Attitude Adjustment
2) Obey Traffic Laws
3) Hold Your Line
4) Be Bright
5) Safety in Numbers

Great suggestions all.

Unfortunately, there seem to be a few souls out in their motorcars (and big ol' pickups) who have concluded that cyclists have no business on the roads... and it's their job to properly intimidate cyclists. Almost universally, these are the same folks who resent everybody else on their roads, not just the cyclists. So I try not to take it personally. We may not be able to change their viewpoint... only stay out of their way when possible.

The vast majority of folks, I believe, just want to get to their destination and are willing to share our limited infrastructure. We can do much to leave them with a favorable viewpoint of cyclists... or we can reinforce the uppity-cyclist (or almost as bad, clueless-cyclist) stereotype.

(Schneider is promising a column about ways motorists can defuse road rage. I'm looking forward to reading it.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Labor Day plans?

I thought I might pull the Airstream up to Redfish Lake. (Hope everybody else doesn't have the same plan!!)


Nah - just funnin'. I hate "getting away from it all" with everybody else. We're planning a little field trip down to Cleo's Ferry Museum, and I'm sure I'll do a couple nice long bike rides, but other than that, we'll lay low this weekend.

Have a lovely Labor Day - and BE SAFE!

Powered by Spin Bike

I confess I've always harbored a bit of disdain for "exercise bikes." You know - the kind that are stationary, in a room.

My attitude is because of personal experience... one winter I decided to join the "company gym" and ride the exercise bikes on cold winter days. For me, it was the equivalent of "hamster on a treadmill." I just couldn't do it more than a few times; I sorely missed the scenery going by and the weather in my face.

But lo and behold, suddenly stationary bikes have become useful!

A new gym opened in San Diego, with spin-bike-powered dynamos. The power generated by those toned, sweaty bodies is put back on the grid.

Story HERE.

They plan on adding elliptical generator bikes... as well as doing "green" projects like cleaning up the beach, to achieve a "carbon neutral" footprint. No word on whether they'll be able to neutralize all the environmental damage done, as the spin people drive to the gym in their Volvos and Subarus.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Car Report Card

The Obama administration is redesigning the EPA stickers on new cars. Based on their fuel economy and environmental impact, they will have a grade letter assigned, from A-plus to D.

Story HERE.

From a transportation cyclist's viewpoint... that is so wrong!!!

Seems to me, the grades should run between, say, C-minus and F, if the grade is on fuel economy and environmental impact. The very best car - say, a Prius or the new Chevy Volt - is PATHETIC when compared with a bicycle! 50mpg? I scoff at such horrible mileage!

A couple other points:

Apparently the environmental impact is measured only by the "tailpipe emissions." That is bogus. To be realistic, it should include the greenhouse gases emitted by the power source. (If it's a plug-in car, someplace a dynamo is spinning to generate that power, even if it isn't onboard the car.) Also, it should take into account the projected life of the car, and how much it will impact the environment at the end of that life. (Is it loaded with poisonous, highly-polluting compounds in the batteries, the plastic, etc?)

If carmakers can get an "A" strictly on the tailpipe emissions, that is what they will focus on. They can afford to ignore everything else.

In a similar way, if kids are tested to gauge the performance of the Educational Industry, their instruction can be limited to what's on the test, rather than a well-rounded education.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Riding Like the Wind

A few days back, I was motorcycling in eastern Oregon, and ran across these guys:


Anybody can ride enthusiastically with a sweet tailwind! (I'm Lance Armstrong when a 20mph wind is pushing me along!) But these fellas were riding enthusiastically, no matter which way the wind blew!


Training Wheels Off

August, 2010, is the last month my granddaughter, Mackenzie, needed training wheels.

As recently as a week ago, she was wobbly and tenuous as she rode in circles. But with practice it's taken hold, and now the only thing she needs a little help with is her start-from-stop. (I give her a gentle push, and she's off!)

We are fortunate to be very close to some public tennis courts. The asphalt in our driveway is fine, as are the neighborhood sidewalks. But the tennis courts are glass-smooth.

She still needs some practice before she's ready to take to the roads - you can't be weaving back and forth, trying to maintain balanace, when you're sharing the pavement with cars.

I have truly enjoyed sharing her enthusiasm as she's caught on.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Boris is back!

Musta been a substitute for the first couple days last week.

Boris was back at his post. (Actually he hadn't manned his post yet, but I saw his familiar car, and he was sitting in it. I look forward to exchanging "good mornings" with him over the course of another school year.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Boris is gone!

For several years, during the school year I've enjoyed bicycling through a certain intersection and greeting "Boris."

Boris was the crossing guard. Although the intersection has traffic signals and crosswalks, he was there apparently to add visibility by wearing his hi-viz vest and carrying his stop sign as he accompanied kids across the busy streets.

I don't know where Boris was from, but he sounded like he had a "slavic" type accent, and English was obviously his second language - if he knew English at all. But he always had a cheerful smile, and countered my "Good morning!" with a "Goot morneenk!" back at me.

Often times, his wife (I assume) was sitting a few feet away in their car. And we'd exchange waves as Boris and I were exchanging our "good mornings."

Today is the first day of the '10-'11 school year... and there was a new crossing guard.

We exchanged "good mornings"... and I suspect we'll develop a casual friendship that never gets past the "good morning" stage. But that's all right.

I hope Boris is okay... I'll miss seeing him.

(Previous Boris commentary HERE.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Car-Lite" Livin'

Practically speaking (from personal observation), it would be pretty hard for a family to get by without a family car, in a car-centric place like Boise, Idaho. There are destinations that the entire group travels to, across town or out of town. There are occasional heavy or bulky loads that have to be transported. Even the most charitable friend might grow tired of loaning you his pickup truck, if it happened every couple weeks or so.

For most of us, myself included, "car-free" isn't practical, but "car-lite" is something we can do.

Particularly in the summer, I go for weeks at a time without getting into a car, either as driver or passenger. But inevitably, I'll need to drive across town with the wife and kids (who are bike-averse). Or haul a load of Venturer Scouts to Donnelly. Or I'll have to get some bags of concrete mix or a stack of 2-by-4s at Lowes... and the car comes in handy. (Sometimes I amaze myself at the loads I can transport on my BOB trailer. I've carried everything from tomato plants, to bakery-outlet bread, to 2-liter soda bottles and ice cream, to shovels and rakes, to 8-foot sections of crown molding. But now and then, it just ain't gonna happen.)

A student, on the other hand, might have an easier time. Biggest load - might be all those books. The most distant destination might be the convenience store (with fake ID in hand). And - it's a significant hassle and expense to operate AND PARK an automobile on campus.

Boise State University just made it easier for students to go "car-lite." Starting this fall, students (over 18 with good driving records) can join ZIPCAR. Zipcar is a cooperative of folks who join up and have a fleet of cars available for rent, either by the hour ($8) or the day ($66). Gas and insurance and 180 free miles are included. (I'm assuming that's for the day - that would be some serious driving - even by a student - to rack up 180 miles in an hour!)

According to Wikipedia, Zipcar is "a for-profit, membership-based carsharing company providing automobile rental to its members, billable by the hour or day. ... [It is] the world's largest car-sharing service, sharing 6,000 vehicles among 275,000 drivers in 49 U.S. cities, Vancouver, Toronto, and London..."

Interesting concept. I hope it works out for Bronco Nation. (For non-students, on the website Boise is listed as a "Zipcar city," but it says "There aren't any Zipcars at Boise... Check back soon.")

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tour de Fat 2010

If you can schedule it, I'd strongly recommend you make time for the Tour de Fat. The parade is at 10am, at Ann Morrison Park. Other festivities follow.

The Tour is sponsored by New Belgium Brewing Company, of which transportation cycling is a big part of their culture. (Oh - and they make Fat Tire Amber Ale, too, for the imbibers.)

Here's the "First Commandment": Put no means of transport before thy bike: Come by bike because not only are bikes fun, but they help stave off some of our most wicked ills: Traffic, laziness, and pollution. Tour de Fat has a solution: ride this day, every day, and definitely when Tour de Fat heads your way.

Boise is fortunate - one of 13 tour stops, most of which are in much bigger cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver and San Francisco. Which speaks highly of our "bike community" in Boise.

I took my granddaughter last year, not knowing for sure what to expect. (And realizing that as a teetotaler, it might be of limited interest to both of us... we weren't expecting to stay long.)

As it turned out, the spectacle was well worth the effort of getting there. Wow! What an assortment of both humanity and "bicycles." (I use the term bicycles very loosely - they ranged from store-bought bikes to elaborately decorated store-bought bikes, to wildly imaginitive "Dr. Seuss Meets Rube Goldberg" contraptions.) The crowd was festive but not raucous - I never felt my granddaughter was in danger of being bruised, either physically OR emotionally. I'd rate it PG. May not be for extremely "sensitive" viewers, or the very easily offended... but for most of us, it's fine.

Comments from last year can be read HERE.

A nice YouTube video that captures the essence of the 2009 celebration can be seen HERE.

(It's very likely I'll be out of town on Saturday. But if I'm in town, I'm at Tour de Fat, at least for the parade!)

Intersection Encounter

Last week I was bicycling on a one-way arterial-type street (16th southbound, near "the connector"). I was in the bike lane on the right side of the pavement.

As I approached an intersection, a car that had been stopped (at a stop sign) began pulling out from the left side, on an apparent collision course with me. Assuming that the driver hadn't seen me (it happens!), I used my horn substitute - I shouted "HEY!!" - and covered the brake levers, ready for evasive maneuvering.

The driver slowed down about halfway across the intersection, allowing me on through. It was a woman - and her face was contorted in an expression of barely-suppressed rage. (Think "Cruella DeVille.") Her mouth was moving 100-miles-a-minute... thank goodness I'm not a lip reader!

I don't know if Cruella was angry because of my mere presence on the road, or because I hollered, or because I was holding her up and wasting her valuable time. (Or maybe she was mad about something totally unrelated to the intersection situation... who knows?) But she and all motorists have to understand something.

If I don't know whether you intend to proceed into my path, or slow down and allow me on by, or what... I have to anticipate the worst. It's not a matter of courtesy as much as a matter of survival. I'm confident if Cruella had pulled out as another car was approaching the intersection, she would've got at least honked at!

When you start rolling out into the intersection, you waste everybody's time, besides being the cause of unneccessary anxiety on everybody's part. Be a good roadway citizen and just wait patiently until it's your turn to proceed. Thanks!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Are you superstitious?

Yesterday I gloated about the 3000-plus flat-free miles I had enjoyed with my Vittoria tire.

Today - at about 3017 miles - flat tire! D'oh!

UPDATE - "Later That Evening"...

My assessment that my tire was good for another 500 or 1000 miles was way off. Upon closer inspection... the red "Double Shielding" layer was showing through in several places. Time to swap out the tire. I replaced the 700x28 size with a 700x32... the odometer starts clicking tomorrow, on the new one.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My New Favorite Tire

I can report that I'm really happy with a tire-ownership experience!

As of today, my rear Vittoria Randonneur tire has 3000 miles on it... and it still looks like it's good for another 500 or maybe even 1000 miles.

Over the years, I'd say I've averaged probably 1700 or so miles out of the admittedly "entry level" tires I've used. If I've gotten 2000 miles out of a $15 tire, I've felt pretty good about it. A few years back, I tried some Specialized "Armadillo" tires, after the guy at George's Cycles told me I could expect a "full riding season" out of them. I can't remember how many miles I accumulated, but it definitely wasn't a full season, and I'm almost positive it wasn't 3000 miles.

(I replace rear tires much more frequently than front tires... which I've often used for a full riding season. Must be those smoky burnouts I do, to impress the kids! Hahaha)

Also of considerable note... the Vittoria tires have "Double Shielding puncure protection"... and I haven't had one single flat tire in those 3000+ miles! Incredible! (Even with the Armadillos, and with the Continental "Top Touring" tires which were a past favorite, I'd get the occasional sidewall goathead. It may just be good luck... but whatever it is, I'll take it!)

Some of my BN correspondents swear by Schwalbe Marathon tires. I've heard nothing but good about them. And - they have the additional reflective-sidewall feature which is pretty awesome for night riders. But the Schwalbes are $45 or so per skin... the Vittorias go for $32 or so retail, and I paid about $22 for them, after discount, from a popular online retailer. (Begins with "N.")

I'm happy that I have 3 more Vittorias on the tire-hook in my basement. I may not have to buy another tire for a couple years!

(By contrast, I ironically ordered some "Michelin Select" el-cheapo tires at the same time. After barely getting 1000 miles out of 2 of them on the front before they deformed, I sent all three back for a refund. You win some, and you lose some...)