Saturday, February 27, 2010

What bugs America?

The January, 2010, Consumer Reports Magazine has a list of everyday annoyances that really get under the skin of folks like you and me. Of the 20 listed, 5 are directly related to driving and traffic. I can identify!

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most annoying:
Tailgating 8.3
Cell-phone use by drivers 8.0
Very slow drivers 7.0
Traffic jams 6.9
Speeding drivers 6.1

All but cell-phone use can be mostly mitigated by switching to bike transportation. In fact they are a list of reasons that partially compelled me to make the switch.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bike Commuting = Money in the Bank!


I knew it was coming, and I've written about it before, but today was the day! I got an extra 160 bucks in my paycheck, to offset the expenses associated with bicycle commuting!

Yep. Bicycling was a significant mode of travel for me in 2009. (20 bucks a month for each month that I rode. I had 12 months, like always, but the program didn't start until May 1.) I submitted receipts to prove I had some bike-related expenses. Actually it was only one receipt... the receipt for the $500 deductible I paid to replace my stolen bike.

Those poor suckers who park their cars and trucks in the parking garage pay dearly for the privilege. I get paid to park my bike in the bike room. Sweeet!

(Of course in reality, that $160 is Chump Change compared to the total dollars saved by bike commuting.)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Name That SOV!

(SOV = Single Occupant Vehicle)

(This blog is mostly about bicycles... but I reserve the right to switch topics from time to time.)

I was fortunate to grow up in the golden age of motor vehicles. If I'd been born just a few years earlier or a few years later, the experience would've been dimished.


I was born the same year as the Corvette was born. I was a "spring chicken" when shiny new '59 space-rocket Cadillacs were rolling off the showroom floor.

I was 10 years old when James Bond drove his Aston-Martin DB4 in Goldfinger, and the year the Ford Mustang was introduced.

When I was in junior high school, one of the teachers drove a 427 Cobra... the real deal, with aluminum bodywork, big black side pipes, knockoff wheels, and standard-equipment fire extinguisher bolted into the spartan interior. (We would gather around it in the parking lot after lunch; he'd holler at us, "Don't touch it!" We knew better.)

I had an afternoon paper route. Along the way, one of my customers, Walter, had a new shiny red '63 Stingray. It was a convertible (I preferred the split-window), but it had the fuel-injected 327. My papers took 15 minutes longer than they would've otherwise, because I spent 15 minutes each day, checkin' out that sweet ride.

I was hooked on cars by then. Instead of paying attention in class, I was usually dreaming of the cars I would someday own and drive, or drawing crazy car illustrations like those of my hero, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. I picked up CARToons Magazine every month. (Think "Mad Magazine," but strictly about cars.) My dad was amused that his punk kid could name off the make and model and year of 'most every car you'd see on the streets.

I switched to a morning paper route, and wasted time at Brownfield's place, ogling their '66 Jaguar XKE with chrome wire wheels. (Still one of the most beautiful cars ever built, in this enthusiast's opinion.)

When I was in high school, the cool kids drove '57 Chevys. '56 Fords. A kid in vo-tech shop class had a bug-eyed Sprite that they'd wedged a 289 V-8 into... that thing could light up the back tires! Joe had a Plymouth GTX. My friend Rick had a ratty '61 Corvette with a 283, three 2-barrel carburetors on a tunnel ram manifold that stuck about a foot through the hole cut in the hood. It was butt ugly, but it was WICKED fast!!

I worked after school at the Chrysler/Plymouth dealership. The owner's kid, Brent, got a new 1971 'Cuda 440 6-pack as a graduation present... with the "shaker" hood scoop.

I did "new car prep," and that was often some sweet duty for a young car nut!

I washed a purple HemiCuda that some guy in Baker, Oregon, bought. He picked it up with a trailer... his intent was to mostly store it and wait for it to increase in value. (If he followed through, it was a very wise investment indeed.) I cleaned up plenty of new Road Runners, including a dayglo green "Superbird" model. A guy in the parts department bought a new yellow AAR Cuda... the model with the 340 6-pack. It was gorgeous, and I coveted it.

A guy traded in a '69 Dodge Charger with 4-speed and 440 motor. They asked me to drive down to the DMV office on State Street and drop off paperwork; I took the Charger. Turns out it was set up for the strip, with exhaust headers and no mufflers. Rumble-rumble!

When I wasn't working, I was checking out the other brands. I saw a brand new Boss 302 Mustang at the Ford dealer. Plenty of Mach 1s and Torinos. Once I saw a new Boss 429 Mustang in pastel blue, already with a "sold" sign in the window. (Wikipedia says only 1358 were built, total.)

I graduated the year after Brent. Joe's grandpa, who had plenty of "old money," bought Joe a new Porsche Targa for the occasion. Mike's dad musta had money, too - he bought Mike a new shiny blue Corvette with the 425HP, 454 cubic inch motor.

Perhaps my best "brush with automotive greatness" happened in the summer of '72. My buddy Mike and I went on a road trip that included Harrah's Car Museum in Reno. Harrah was also the importer for Ferraris. And just by sheer chance, there were a half-dozen or so Ferrari 365 GTB/4s, sitting between 2 of the museum buildings. Fresh off the boat from Italy... not even cleaned up yet. I couldn't resist - I walked over. The driver's side door of the first one was open, so I set myself gently in there to admire and imagine for a couple minutes. Mike stood a few feet distant, figuring I was courting negative attention. And indeed, my brush was relatively brief; a couple of security guys hustled over and politely but firmly encouraged us to move on.

Back in those days, car names conjured up mental images.

Barracuda. Galaxie. Rocket 88. Falcon. Coupe de Ville. Wildcat. Thunderbird.

Maybe the Camaro changed that trend. What's a Camaro? (Besides the car.)

Jump ahead 40 years.

What happened?

For one thing, heightened environmental awareness beginning in the late 60s, combined with the "fuel crisis" of the early 70s, put an end to the era.

Something happened to me too, though. I'm guessing it was the ever-increasing price of cars, combined with the Grim Adult Reality of paying for my own gas and insurance. My sights were considerably lowered. The reality became even more grim when we were a one-car family, and even on those occasions when I did get the car, I was sitting in traffic, trying to find a free parking spot, etc. I (re)discovered that a sweet bike could be had for thousands less than the most ordinary car.

I suppose a lot of folks still consider their vehicle an extension of their personality. (Especially pickup drivers.)

But cars all tend to look alike nowadays. And their names mostly suck! (I believe at some point, computers took over the naming of cars. And the car-naming software is a buggy beta version.)

Alero? What's an alero? Prius? Scion? SONATA?? What would Mozart say? Touareg? Yer kiddin' me! How do you even say that?!?

Other vehicles nowadays just have a string of racy-sounding characters for a name.


That would be pretty impressive sounding, if it were an Aston-Martin, or even a BMW, huh?

It's a Ford Focus! Bleah! (Is it a "performance" package? Instead of the zero-to-60 in 20 seconds, it only takes 18.5 seconds!)

Here are some others:
GSX - Kia
SXT - Neon (Chrysler)
... and perhaps the ultimate...
GVX - Yugo!!

There are two others that I see somewhat regularly, that are real noodle-scratchers.

What self-respecting man would let his wife or daughter drive one of these vehicles???

And... don't any of those Toyota people speak English? Check this one out...

(This particular specimen even looks to be painted with the special "TRD Factory Racing Brown"!)

Pending bike-friendly legislation in Idaho

If you are an Idaho resident and a cyclist, it would be in your interest to familiarize yourself with these bills that are pending in this year's Legislature. And to contact lawmakers to express your support, if you support them.

Senate Bill 1348 - establishes a "3 foot buffer zone" requirement for passing bicycles. (Similar to laws recently passed in 18 other states.) Makes it legal for motorists to cross a double-yellow line to pass a cyclist or pedestrian. Mandates that cyclists who are impeding traffic must pull off to the side, when safe to do so.

Senate Bill 1349 - requires bicycles to have at least one brake. Requires cyclists to transition from sidewalk to roadway in a safe manner. (Duh!)

Senate Bill 1350 - makes it a misdemeanor to deliberately harass or throw stuff at cyclists. (Big duh!!)

Senate Bill 1351 - Establishes a "Safe Routes to School" funding mechanism.

Some personal commentary: The first three bills are "mirror images" of laws that were recently enacted by unanimous vote in Boise. They are pretty common-sense. The only possible reservation I have with them is... do we really need those laws when it's so common-sense? Do we have to define that it's a crime to throw stuff at a cyclist, or that a cyclist can't legally come blasting off a sidewalk into the path of traffic?

(I would like to see the first one - 1348 - get passed, mainly so motorists can legally cross the double yellow line when overtaking a pedestrian or cyclist. It's common practice, even though it's technically against the law. Ironically, there is a law that says you must move into the adjacent lane when overtaking a law enforcement officer on the side of the road... which conflicts with the law that says you can't move into the adjacent lane, if there's a double yellow line.)

I'm not informed enough about the "Safe Routes to School" thing to offer an informed opinion. The goal sounds noble indeed, but if funding is involved I don't give it much hope, at least in 2010. Ain't gonna be no funds for anything, this year!

I've uploaded a PDF file - HERE - prepared by the Idaho Safe Cycling folks. It has more info on each of the bills, and also contact info for the key legislators. (My senator - Elliot Werk - crafted the bills, so I'm pretty confident he's on board.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Four Thumbs Up!

Mackie and I went to the movies by bicycle last night!

We bundled her up with an extra blanket, due to the suddenly-seasonal weather. And the cheap movie house is pretty close... about a mile each way, I'm guessing.

We saw the 7:20pm showing of The Princess and the Frog.

The movie is geared to an audience slightly older than Mackie, I'm sure. The story isn't "Snow White" or "Cinderella" in its simplicity. But the characters are interesting and endearing, and the production quality is top-notch. Randy Newman wrote the score, but I was mildly disappointed that it didn't have more of his trademark irony. (I've been a Randy Newman fan for almost 40 years - scary!)

It was very loud! They could've cut the volume by 30%, and it would've been about right. (Mackie was holding her ears.)

It was my first movie trip with her. Interesting. It was almost impossible to coax her away from the video games in the lobby. (Even though she had no quarters!) She tried out every chair in the row we were sitting in. We had to make a restroom trip, despite the fact that we took care of that business just before leaving home. (I lurked in the hallway, like an overcoat guy, while she was in the Ladies' Room.) During the musical interludes, she got up a couple times and danced in the aisle. Since she wasn't much taller than the chair-backs, I figured she wasn't blocking anybody's view; I let her dance away! (Free bonus entertainment for the other moviegoers.)

I recommend the movie. I highly recommend going to this or ANY movie by bicycle! (I've parked my bike in the lobby numerous times; management seems good with it.)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Another beautiful sunrise

Friday morning, Feb. 19

River Crossing Sunrise

Public Beaches and Private Paths

In 1967, a landmark piece of legislation was enacted in Oregon. It established public ownership of 362 miles of oceanfront beach, from the low tide mark up 16 vertical feet. In essence, if it's sand along the ocean front in Oregon, it's public property, from the California state line to the mouth of the mighty Columbia.

Developers, of course, said the bill was a threat to private property rights. But strangely and uniquely, the interest of the commoners prevailed and Governor Tom McCall signed the bill he supported into law on July 6 of that year.

Contrast the Oregon coast with, say, Malibu. Theoretically, all beaches below the high tide mark are public property, even in California. But private security guards, gates and fences, and deceptive signage keep those beaches off-limits except to the Beautiful People who reside there. (In practice, it reminds me of "public lands" in Idaho, that have been allotted for grazing or other special interests.)

Drive 450 miles or so inland from that magnificent and public Oregon coast, and you just might arrive in Boise, Idaho. And in Boise, you just might happen to stumble upon the Greenbelt, frequently described as one of our "crown jewels."

According to the Boise Convention and Visitor's Bureau, "The Greenbelt concept was originated by Boise civic and political leaders to protect the quality of and assure public access to the Boise River. Designed as a linear park for leisure and recreational use, the Greenbelt is enjoyed by Boiseans and the city's visitors of all ages. ... The Greenbelt accommodates walkers, bikers, skaters, joggers, runners, wildlife observers and fishermen."

A bit of history:

Way back in 1963, a consultant accused Boise city fathers of ignoring their most important asset - the river.

Parks Board member Alice Dieter said, "You could hardly get to the river in Julia Davis and Municipal parks. It was all wild and brambly. Trucks were dumping cement into it. The zoo was hosing its cages into it. The river wasn't something people gave much attention to or even thought about very much."

Bill Onweiler, a Boise city councilman, was trying to figure out how to prevent building in the floodplain. He says, "We were discussing it when [Parks Director] Gordon [Bowen] came by and, with a twinkle in his eye, said, 'We could make it parks.' The Greenbelt was born at that moment."

There wasn't a strong public sentiment at first, but the enthusiasm of Onweiler and Bowen eventually took hold, and by 10 years later, the interest of Boise's commoners had prevailed. Years later, nobody could deny that the Greenbelt is a fantastic public facility.

Except perhaps for a few, ahem, "civic leaders" in Boise's red-headed stepchild bedroom community, Garden City.

Mayor John Evans and his toadies declared a section of "their" greenbelt off-limits to bicyclists, complete with signage and misdemeanor-speak in the City Code.

Their allegiance is obviously to the few citizens who live directly along that section of the path, at the expense of the balance of the commumity. Their mindset is obviously more "Malibu Beach" than "Oregon Coast"! (Coincidentally(?), Mayor Evans was the developer of Riverside Village, the subdivision that is "protected" from the Subversive Bike-rider Element.)

Since then, more signs have appeared along the Garden City stretch of Greenbelt. Signs declaring that it's closed if the sun is down. Signs declaring that you better not stray off the path.

Might Treasure Valley's Greenbelt someday be "the people's," in the same sense that the Oregon coast is "the people's"?

One would hope.

- Steve Hulme (aka "bikeboy," aka "The Bike Nazi," Feb. 2010)


Click on photos for larger views. (The "Bicycle Dismount Zone" photos are from the Idaho COG website; the author snapped the others.)

I do not harbor a naïve viewpoint that citizens have unrestricted and unregulated access to the Oregon Coast. It is heavily regulated - where motor vehicles may and may not operate, where camping is and isn't allowed, where there are seasonal wildlife closures, etc. Nor do I want to infer that Garden City is unique in arbitrarily closing a section of the Greenbelt to cyclists. There is a section in Boise's "River Run" area that is equally perplexing. (The closure is ostensibly to protect fragile wildlife areas. But one must ask, "Why are cyclists so disruptive, while pedestrians, dogs, and backyard lawnmowers and garden parties don't bother the wildlife?") However, I feel my characterization of Garden City's "Malibu Beach" attitude is entirely accurate, and despite my conservative tendencies, I believe a contiguous and uninterrupted Greenbelt is feasible and worth the effort to fight for.

More Reading:

Idaho Statesman articles:
Walking the Greenbelt? Think of Gordon Bowen (12/11/97)
The potential of a 'green belt' brings out volunteer spirit (9/28/99)
Among the challenges: buying land and getting easements (9/28/99)
Love the Greenbelt? Thank Bill Onweiler (2/16/10)

Idaho Citizens for an Open Greenbelt (Idaho COG) - information about Garden City's co-opting of the Greenbelt (a treasure-trove of information and documents about the Greenbelt)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Melting Pot

When I was growing up right here in Boise, many, many, many years ago, it was a pretty homogeneous place. Yeah - like homogenized milk - pretty much all white.

In fact, different-colored folks were a rarity. We had maybe 2 at my elementary school - Roosevelt.

I remember going home with a friend for lunch. He's a member of a well-known, well-heeled Warm Springs Avenue family. (For those who aren't from around here, Warm Springs is the "old money" street in town.) Lo and behold... his family had a black maid! It's probably the closest I'd ever been to a non-white person! She made us chicken noodle soup and bologna sammiches for lunch. (Pretty pedestrian fare, for such hoity-toity folks!) I ate the soup, but didn't want a sammich... because I had seen her touching the bread! What was going through my 8-year-old brain? I don't know... maybe I was afraid I might "catch it" from her!

Years have passed, and times have changed. I've lived in, and visited, places where white folks are the decided minority. I've learned that even if I'm exposed to non-Caucasians, I'll still be a white guy. I'd eat that bologna sammich in a heartbeat, now!

Boise isn't as "white" as it once was.

When I ate lunch on Warm Springs, I'd guess it was 98% white.

But on my very-typical bike ride to work today, 48 years or so later, I waved at the Hispanic guy who lives down the street. I said "good morning" to the crossing guard near the school. (He's an older gentleman with a cheerful face, and I don't think he's from around here. He always says "goot morneenk" back to me, but he probably doesn't know a lot of English.) I saw an Asian-looking young gal riding her bike - in a T-shirt! (It was pretty chilly this morning! Hopefully she didn't have far to go.) And I saw a tall, beautiful black woman, dressed in flowing, sequined robes, standing at the bus stop... and blowing bubbles with her bubble gum! Sweeet!

I think we're better off, with a little more cultural diversity.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spokeless rear wheel - interesting

The mechanical engineering students at Yale came up with a novel bicycle design, featuring a spokeless rear wheel.

I don't imagine it will become the default setup any time in the future, but it's interesting. (The mechanicals residing underneath that upper plate that holds the rear wheel in place? I imagine they add considerable "rolling resistance.")

When you think about it, the "traditional" double-triangle bicycle frame design has been in production for well over 100 years. What other vehicle even comes close? That speaks volumes about the simplicity and elegance of the design.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Does cycling prolong a cold?

I am blessed with generally excellent health. However, every winter it seems like I catch a head cold, that invariably migrates down my throat and becomes bronchitis for a week or 10 days. Maybe it's a good thing in the sense that it makes me better appreciate being totally healthy, 50 or 51 weeks each year.

What I'm wondering is... does cycling (or exercise in general) make it last longer than it otherwise would?

Some brief research on the web hardly reveals a consensus. Some folks declare that you're compromising recovery when your body is simultaneously "recovering" from a cardiovascular workout. Others declare that it makes no appreciable difference one way or another, as long as the workout is within reason. Also, they make the point that if it boosts morale, it can't hurt.

I remain undecided. I keep riding, but cut back a bit on the intensity and duration. (I like to rationalize that breathing that cold outside air makes the dwelling-place less hospitable for those nasty ol' cooties.)

(Yeah, I'm currently about a week into a nasty cold.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Steel? Aluminum? Carbon fiber? How about... WOOD?

I've commented previously about exotic and unusual frame materials, including bamboo and Clancy's wooden bike. (See link.)

There's a very interesting story on the KBOI TV website about an Oregon craftsman who builds handcrafted wooden frames. They look gorgeous, and apparently ride very nicely. Surprisingly, at least to me, the weights are very comparable to the super thinwall tubes we're all accustomed to.

According to the Renovo website:

Why Wood?
- Lightweight; a frame weighs from 3.5 to 4.5 pounds--bikes, 16.5 to 20 pounds.
- A magically smooth ride thanks to wood's unique ability to absorb shock and vibration--you feel the difference immediately.
- Stiffness to order: from carbon-stiff hickory and others, to the supple smoothness of laminated bamboo; you can tailor the stiffness and ride to what you want, not just what comes off a production line.
- The hardwood frame is remarkably tough. It easily withstands impacts that ruin butted metal or carbon frames.
- The fatigue life of wood rivals carbon and is substantially longer than aluminum or steel. The Renovo is an heirloom quality frame.
- The Renovo frame is environmentally friendly, with sustainable woods, bamboo and low VOC waterborne sealers and finishes.

Go and feast your eyes at the website, lots of nice photos. I kinda like the two-tone ones... the bloodwood/curly maple is pretty sweet! (They are very expensive, but certainly not out of line with other high-end bicycle frames made of more conventional materials.)

The only downside? If you live in Beaver Country, you do NOT want to leave your sweet wooden bike outside! (nudge-nudge, wink-wink)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How long is a new bike new?

I hit the 1000-mile mark on my "new" bike today. It still feels new to me, although I regularly get teased for not cleaning it. (Yeah, I should do that. It would probably enhance the riding experience. It's just one of those things I don't get around to often enough.)

It took a little over 3 months. That would be embarrassing during prime riding season... but since it's winter, and since the doc ordered me off the bike for a month, I guess that's not too bad.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Origins of Idaho's "rolling stop" law

HERE is an interesting article about how Idaho's "famous" bicycle rolling-stop law came into being. (28 years ago.) You know - the one that says cyclists have to slow but not necessarily stop at a stop sign, and stop but not necessarily remain stopped at a red light.

The law continues to foster discussions, both within the bicycling community and the community in general.

"Vehicular cyclists" argue that if bicycles are legitimate vehicles, they should be subject to the same laws as other vehicles - no exceptions. Another obvious discussion point is whether inexperienced and/or incompetent cyclists (for example, kids) have the necessary judgment skills to safely cross without stopping.

I support the law, although I can certainly understand those points. It seems common-sense for a responsible roadway user... accelerating requires considerably more energy than maintaining speed. It also respects the judgment of the cyclist... he or she can use that gray matter to decide when and if it's safe to proceed. Stimulating! And there is nothing in the law requiring cyclists to proceed. Inexperienced cyclists are free to stop at every stop sign. And concerned parents can direct their kids to do the same.

The article points out that there's not a "presumption of fault" clause. (If you go past a Yield sign, you are presumed guilty if an accident ensues.) The bike law should probably have that same clause - if you don't stop and end up causing an accident, you are at fault... case closed. I could live with that.

The article is on Bob Mionske's "Bicycle Law" website. It looks interesting; I'll be checking back. Bob is a former Olympic cyclist who is now an attorney specializing in bicycle law.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"The Right Hook"

An all-too-common accident involving a bicycle and a car occurs when a right-turning driver crosses into the path of a cyclist to his right.

Who is to blame for such an accident? Sometimes it's not easy to determine.

The Boise City Council recently voted unanimously to clarify one scenario.

"When a motor vehicle and a bicycle are traveling in the same direction on any highway, street, or road, the operator of the motor vehicle overtaking such bicycle traveling on the right side of the roadway shall not turn to the right in front of the bicycle at an intersection, alley, or driveway until such vehicle has overtaken the bicycle and has sufficient clearance to safely turn without requiring the bicyclist to brake or take evasive action to avoid a collision with the vehicle."

Anybody who has been riding on public roadways for any length of time has had a close call or two.

One of my first was when a 50-something redneck cowboy in a big Buick (I know, because he had his 10 gallon hat on) went around a corner in exactly the maneuver described by the new ordinance. And he was looking straight at me the whole time... obviously he was of the opinion I didn't belong, and was going to demonstrate why. (I had to go halfway around the corner with him to avoid the collision, even though my intended direction was straight.)

Some cyclists like to "take the lane" as they approach intersections, and that is a sound strategy.

I'll tend to remain "as far to the right as practicable," keep a close eye on my rearview mirror, and proceed cautiously. If there's a red light and plenty of room for me to roll on up to the intersection (or a bike lane), I'll roll on up. It is NOT illegal to do so, although rider beware! Make sure the guy next to you knows you are there, and don't block the path of a right-hand turn. (What is illegal is for a motorist to make a right turn without signaling. But I'm amazed how often I end up in a situation where some bozo is turning without signaling... and it's somehow my fault I didn't know his intentions! Cyclists are not psychic... although surviving, healthy cyclists tend to be quite intuitive.)

Portland has a rather innovative effort to mitigate the right hook - they call it the "bike box." According to the website, "the bike box is an intersection safety design to prevent bicycle/car collisions, especially those between drivers turning right and bicyclists going straight. It is a green box on the road with a white bicycle symbol inside. It includes green bicycle lanes approaching and leading from the box. ... it's all about visibility and awareness." (Of course, such innovation could only be found in the "most bicycle-friendly city"!!)

Back to the earlier question... who is to blame when there's an accident? Ultimately, that is of secondary importance. A smart cyclist will expect the worst, and will therefore never be (too) surprised by lack of awareness on the part of a motorist. (It's much better to mentally take the credit for accident-averted, than assigning the blame for the accident!)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gas - up by $1!

According to a story at the Statesman yesterday, gas prices are up by almost a dollar from a year ago.

One more sign of the robust economy, huh? (/sarcasm)

When I read a story like that, it makes me grateful that I'm largely a curious spectator standing on the sidelines. It would be awful to be at the mercy of Supply and Demand, unable to do anything but whimper helplessly about that significant expense!

Of course, all that demand created by Big Oil's captive audience does have an impact - those everyday and every-trip drivers keep the prices up high for when I do have to occasionally gas up. (Mostly on my annual summer motorsickle adventure.) And, the Missus and my kids are slaves to Big Oil as well, so it does have an impact on our household expenses, even if it's not money coming directly out of my wallet.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ambitious bike plans in Portland, OR

20 years from now (2030), the movers and shakers in Portland want their citizens "to make more than 25 percent of their daily trips by bike."

That sounds okay to me. I'm a little suspicious of their motive... they want to make and keep Portland "the most bike-friendly city in the country." And of course, so they can pat themselves on the back for doing their part to fight global warming.

Story HERE.

The wrench-in-the-cogs, of course, is money.

They currently have about $1.5 million / year for bicycle improvements. It's estimated it would cost $600 million to fully implement "the plan." And about $5.9 million / year for ongoing costs.

Wow! That seems like a lot of money! (Unless you're looking at it from the Washington DC viewpoint. Less than a billion? Chump change!!)

$600 million is about $1000 per Portland resident. And $5.9 million is about $10 per.

I know Portland has bridges over the river, etc., etc., to deal with. And that could add up quickly. But I'm just contemplating what we could do in this area, if we had $600 million to throw at "bike friendliness." (ACHD's total budget is about $79 million / year.) We could have wide, smooth bike lanes on every collector and arterial road. We could have bike-lane ground loops to trigger green lights, at every signaled intersection. We could put money into an endowment fund for bicycle promotion and education... LOTS of it! And - after all that I bet we'd still have hundreds of millions left over!

And no matter how much money Portland has... they still have wide rivers with lots of old, crowded bridges. They have old, established neighborhoods on steep hills. And they have... rain! Unless they have more power over the climate than I'm giving 'em credit for, they'll have +-36 inches of rain per year, no matter how bike-friendly they are otherwise!

(Another notion. What is "bike-friendly"? From what I can gather as an outsider, Portland's cyclists are notorious for being snooty and confrontational with motorists. Does bike-friendly only go one way? Is there some money in that $600 million to make cyclists more friendly?)

What would it take for Boise residents to meet a "25% of daily trips threshold"?

Winter would be daunting. It takes a certain level of commitment to ride a bike when the weather is nasty. But 8 months of the year, I believe I can say with some level of confidence that the existing infrastructure could absorb that level of usage, with very few upgrades. Especially if you consider that all those folks would be out of their single-occupant vehicles.

However... a large percentage of Boise traffic is generated by "outsiders" - people who live outside the Boise city limits, or even outside Ada County. People who have to drive 15 or 20 miles to work every day are not going to eagerly abandon their cars and take up cycling. (A major reason why I've always lived relatively close to work!!) I don't know how that compares with the metro Portland area, but I've got to think they have that same issue, to some extent. The folks who drive in from Vancouver or McMinnville or Oregon City aren't gonna put their cars up on cinder blocks.

(This is somewhat of a "stream of consciousness" post. Sorry about that... just thinkin'...)