Thursday, April 29, 2010

Boise Bike Week '10

In Boise, we are fortunate. In other communities, bike activism occurs as "Critical Mass Rides" and other confrontational events. By and large, bikes are accepted here, even embraced by a large percentage of the citizenship.

For the past few years, in May we've celebrated Boise Bike Week. This year, it's May 16-22. Check out the website and schedule... it's getting better organized, with more events, every year.

You Boise-area peope... pencil in a couple events right now. I'd personally recommend the Pedal Power Parade on Saturday afternoon. It's not as exuberant, perhaps, as the Fat Tire Parade later in the year, but it's a great way to gather in a relaxed setting with like-minded bicycle enthusiasts.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Be Prepared!

This time of year, in this part of the world, it's advisable not to venture away from shelter without provisions for the "what ifs."

The sky was dark all day. I missed my "noon time" ride, and so was hoping to take the scenic route home. But alas, it wasn't to be. The weather didn't cooperate.

I started from the office with jacket in fanny-pack, but only made it a mile or so before the rain was falling. And within 2 or 3 minutes, not only was rain falling out of the sky, but hailstones as well. Perhaps not as big as grapes... but easily as big as raisins. I was glad to be wearing jacket and helmet.

I'm reminded of something I witnessed back in August, 2003, during my only visit to Rocky Mountain National Park.

August is "monsoon season" over there, in the high country. The days typically start off clear as a bell. But as the day progresses, the climatic conditions cause clouds to build up over those 14,000-foot peaks. And as often as not, those clouds open up, at least for a short while, in the afternoon.

As I rode [the motorcycle!] through the breathtaking scenery, the clouds were building. I pulled over and donned the Gore-Tex - just in time! As I was putting the brain-bucket back on, I could hear the irregular "tink... tink..." of good-sized hailstones on the fiberglass.

CO - Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park

It poured! For 15 or 20 minutes. In fact, I didn't even take off down the road; I stayed in place and waited for it to blow over.

While I was standing there, I heard the rumble of other motorcycles... and along came a convoy of 6 or 8. Most of the riders were dressed in their "muscle" style T-shirts, "'do rags," etc. Not a sign of a jacket or a helmet. Many had "mommas" on back, likewise inappropriately decked out... and looking, um... distressed. Yeah, those biker costumes might be appropriate for back in the Big City, but they were obviously ill-prepared for real-life weather conditions.

Be prepared! The Scout Motto. Words to live by.

Friday, April 23, 2010

My motorcycle adventure

If you're interested, I posted some notes and photos about last week's jaunt down to the Desert Southwest, over on my Idaho Rider blog.

Highlights of the trip: DESERT WILDFLOWERS (the main reason for the timing), US50 "America's Loneliest Highway" across Nevada, Death Valley, Hoover Dam (and the new bridge adjacent), Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park.

If you're asking "What does it have to do with bicycling?"... that's a reasonable question.

The only way I could mentally justify spending $13K on a motorcycle 10 years ago is by rationalizing that I've saved that much several times over, by bicycling to work year-round, and thus saving the expense of a second automobile. And I figure I save enough in two months to easily cover 100% of my trip expenses for the 9 or 10 days I'm gone each year.

Not driving to work every day saves a meaningful amount of money! Believe me!

(Oh - and I missed 7 days of bike riding while I was gone. That hurts! But it sure felt good to get back on and pedal, the same day as I rolled back into the driveway.)

TV guy - "30 days without wheels"

I saw a story on the TV news this morning.

In conjunction with Earth Day, a guy at Channel 2 is going to try to ride a bike exclusively for his transportation, for 30 days.

The website story - or his (Michael Calcagno) blog notes - can be seen HERE.

30 days without wheels? Hey - bikes have wheels! Just not quite so many.

He says he got his "bicycle iPhone mount" installed yesterday. HUH? That sounds like trouble a-brewin' to me!

I posted a couple comments to Michael, following his story. (I hope he can go the whole 30 days... and that he enjoys the transition so much that he just keeps on going!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day #40!

Happy Earth Day, everybody! Do something nice for our Mother - I'd suggest flowers. (She likes chocolate, but she's getting pretty, uh, um... ahem... round...)

The organizers of the first Earth Day, back in 1970, were skeptical that our planet would still be hosting life forms by 40 years later. (And they're probably taking credit, since we made it after all.)

Steve Cotton, of the national Earth Day staff (nice gig!): "Environment is the whole system – and the whole system is screwed up. Poverty, racism, imperialism – the whole environment needs changing."

Kenneth Watt, professor of zoology at UC Davis: "... crude oil will be gone in between 24 and 32 years ... at the moment when I say that we’re moving into an ice age, most people say, 'Hah. That types him – you know, he’s nuts.' But ten years from now, things will be weird enough that people will be saying, 'By God, so that’s why it’s snowing in May!'"

Thank goodness that predicted Ice Age didn't materialize!!

Perhaps Mother Earth is more resilient than we give her credit for.

But don't get me wrong - I'm TOTALLY in favor of minimizing our impact on the planet. Ideally it should be something we keep in mind 365 days, and not just one, each year. I'm trying to tread lightly.

Previous Earth Day commentary: 2007, 2008, 2009.

About the illustration: Hopefully you're not offended. I did a web search for pictures of "Mother Earth," and this one was on the AmericanNeoPaganism website.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fair-weather cycling upon us?

What a difference a week makes!

Today I counted 23 bicycles in the office bike-parking room! In mid-to-late April!

I'm sure it helps that the morning temperature was in the high 40s and highs near 80 are predicted for the day. Yep, even the lightweights can do it on a day like this!

I don't know the exact number of people who work in my building, but that could be close to 5% of the building population, who arrived via 2-wheeler. Very awesome.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Driving cost up; cycling cost steady

There is much unrest across the Fruited Plain, as gas prices are suddenly going up sharply. (It's over $3 in Boise for the first time in several years; significantly more in lots of places. Over $9 in the UK! Ouch!)

Drivers are moaning, "How can this be? Doesn't Exxon know we're still in a recession?" One of the Idaho candidates for governor even asked the state Attorney General to investigate the apparent gouging. Reviving fond memories of an earlier AG who would occasionally threaten to investigate... and the price would drop a few cents for a couple weeks, then edge back up.

You drivers, I can explain how this can be.

If you're in traffic, take a look around. Perhaps you are surrounded by fellow motorists. Each is paying the same $3 for gas as you are. Each is contributing to the demand. That demand causes the price to settle at a level where the oil companies and vendors can make a profit. If demand goes up, the price will follow. If demand drops way off... guess what? The price will likely follow.

Meanwhile, every time there's a story suggesting that more people are choosing bicycles or mass transit to get around, some folks whine that this country is becoming more "third world," while China and India are becoming more like us. Where's the justice?!!

An "inconvenient truth" is that indeed, auto usage is up significantly in other places. And all those foreigners are putting a strain on the supply/demand curve, too. If Exxon can sell gas for $6 in China or India, why would they sell it to Americans for $1.50? They're not running a charity, ya know.

My advice?

Combine trips. Eliminate trips. Use a bike, or perhaps a bus, for transportation. Carpool. If you need to drive a couple blocks for a half-gallon of milk, maybe you deserve to be paying $3 or $4 for gas. Reduce your contribution to the worldwide demand for fuel!

It may be a little "third world" to ride a bike or take the bus... but at least ValleyRide still won't let people bring their chickens and goats onboard...

(If anybody has a right to complain about expensive gas, it would be me! And other folks who do minimal driving. We don't use very much, yet your insatiable appetite for the stuff makes the price to go up for us too, on those rare occasions when we need to buy a tankful.)

If the water don't rise, I'll be signing off for a week, and buying some of that precious gas. Planning on throwin' my leg over the Iron Steed and heading south for a few days of ridin' and gas-buyin' and sightseein'. (Anticipated highlights: US50 through Nevada, "America's Loneliest Highway," Death Valley wildflower bloom, Zion Nat'l Park, Bryce Canyon Nat'l Park.) Hasta la vista, baby.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

We're Number 32!

For what it's worth, Bicycling Magazine has released its new list of America's Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities.

Minneapolis, with "a thriving bike community, 210 miles of on- and off-street bicycle facilities, plus indoor bike parking and other cycling-friendly facilities," stole the #1 spot away from perennial Portland.

Boise, with the famous Idaho "stop as yield law," took number 32.

How do you judge "bike friendly"?

Friendly means "showing kindly interest and goodwill; not hostile." Or so says Webster.

Bicycling says it means "segregated bike lanes, municipal bike racks and bike boulevards ... a vibrant and diverse bike culture, and it must have smart, savvy bike shops."

I prefer Webster's. I'd trade my bike lanes and bike racks any day, for fellow citizens who are not hostile, and who are kindly interested! Of course, the harsh reality is that cyclists must deserve non-hostile, kindly-interested citizens; nobody has a right to friendliness. And 'most every day I see people on bicycles, in public places, who seem to be doing their best to alienate non-cyclists. It's a shame.

The best thing Boise cyclists can do to enjoy a truly bike-friendly community is KNOW AND FOLLOW THE LAWS. Ride legally, visibly and predictably, and you'll be an ambassador for goodwill and non-hostility.

Bicycling has a list of 8 "innovative bicycle facilities" for reader consideration. They're pretty good ideas, all right, but facilities and friendly don't necessarily go hand-in-hand.

Pedal-powered jailhouse television

"Sheriff Joe" Arpaio, down there in Maricopa County (Phoenix) has become an icon for believers in "tough on crime." From his tent accommodations, to pink underwear, to no coffee (can't the ACLU do something?!?), to bologna-sammich lunches, his philosophy is that prison should be a place you want to avoid! (I like the notion, but don't know whether Arpaio's criminal-recidivism rate is better than that of all those weenie milquetoast/liberal sheriffs scattered across the Fruited Plain or not.)

Sheriff Joe's latest notion has particular appeal to this bike rider.

Noticing that many of his guests are struggling with overweight issues, he has set up stationary bicycles that spin generators, which in turn provide power to television sets. You wanna watch TV? Get to pedalin'!!

Personally, I'm glad not to be in Sheriff Joe's lockup. Maybe I could handle the pink underpants, but I don't like stationary bikes at all! However, like he says, "This gives them a reason to get moving and a way to burn up to 500 calories an hour." No word on whether the pedalers get two bologna sammiches, instead of just one.

Story HERE.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring Break on Campus

I've been enjoying a refreshing route change on my way home from the office this week, riding across the Boise State University campus. (The home of the world-famous blue turf, over at Bronco Stadium.)

The route is almost exactly the same distance as my normal route (4 miles roughly), and the scenery is arguably better. I ride through downtown (in a bike lane mostly), then through a lovely riverside city park (Julia Davis) and over a footbridge to the campus. Up a gentle hill, and homeward.

Under normal circumstances, I generally avoid the route... because of the on-campus foot traffic. At the time I'm normally headed home (5:15, give or take), pedestrians are thick. And they'd normally be fine; I can easily slow to comparable speed and mesh in a harmonious fashion.

EXCEPT WITH THE CELLPHONE PEOPLE. I swear... the minute class is out, at least 80% of those college kids are punchin' the buttons on those phones and yammering away. And a meaningful percentage of them are wandering bovine-like, with no apparent direction or destination, and with a bovine-like expression on their faces. Mooooo!

If you doubt that using a phone has a negative impact on the navigational skills of at least some people... take a walk on the Wild Side, between classes on campus. (I bet you'd see people walking into posts, bumping into each other, etc.)

[It doesn't seem to affect everybody that way. Some folks are talking, and heading in a definite direction, and even paying attention to their surroundings, all at the same time. Perhaps an aptitude test should be administered... because I'm not comfortable with the notion of the cellphone Cow People behind the wheels of their cars.]