Monday, May 31, 2010

Mackie transportation upgrade

My dear friends' kids have outgrown their Tag-A-Long pull-behind bike. And by stroke of luck, my grandkid is just about right for something like that.

They were going to put it on the market to the General Public at a garage sale, but they gave us a sneak preview. We hooked 'er up, and before we'd gone a block, we were sold!

Mackie says it's way better than riding in the trailer! And I agree - I can actually stop pedaling, and she can push us along at a casual pace for some distance. Pretty impressive.

This morning we rode down to Morris Hill Cemetery to check out the beautiful flowers and flags. The cemeteries are always at their most beautiful on Memorial Day.



Garden City cop SUV on Greenbelt

Garden City - (in)famous for their stretch of "bike path" where bikes aren't allowed ... are also a little casual in their understanding of the "No Motor Vehicles" policy that's generally enforced on the Greenbelt.

I snapped this a couple days ago.


Undoubtedly the official response would be, "We were engaged in official business."

To which my response would be, "Yeah, right." I'm sure it's business that would've gone undone, had the officer not been able to park right there. (/sarcasm)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Enjoying the Great Outdoors

There are some other urban folks who seem to enjoy the outdoors, year-round. Here are some personal observations.

There is a corps of dedicated runners who feel the call, year-round, rain or shine.

There are also dog people. I see 'em walking up and down the street, and at the park, year round. Walkin' their dogs. Throwin' frisbees... or better yet, throwin' tennis balls with those arm-extension catapult things. There must be something in certain dog-breed DNA that makes 'em want to chase that ball! They'll keep chasin' for longer than most owners will keep throwin'.

Another group is the smokers. (They enjoy the outdoors, right?) There are probably a dozen at my office building. On beautiful, perfect days, I see 'em out there on the front sidewalk, and I'm a bit jealous. I think I oughtta take up smoking, so I could join 'em! But then I see 'em on wet, windy, nasty winter days, facing away from the arctic blast... shivering and smoking. And I'm always glad I didn't join 'em.

Another group has come to my attention more recently. It's the car movers group at the office. Let me explain.

The office is surrounded by "2 hour parking" stalls. Park there longer, and you risk getting a ticket.

There is a group of people that parks in those spots, first thing in the morning. Then, 2 hours or so later, they take the elevator to the ground floor, walk out, start up the car, and find a different 2-hour parking spot, somewhere else around the block. Repeat every 2 hours all day. Repeat every workday.

What's with that?

(I got curious, because for month after month, I've noticed some of the same cars, parked in those 2-hour spots. And I finally asked the security guy. He confirmed that the drivers are in and out all day, moving their car from stall to stall.)

Their motivation can't be saving time, because how much time would be spent engaged in the cause, by the end of the day? Nor can it be saving effort, I wouldn't think. They could park for free in an all-day spot, 2 blocks away. Surely it would be fewer steps-taken, when all is said and done. Or they could do like other car commuters, and actually PAY for a semi-convenient parking space. Do they think they're being clever, and pullin' a fast one on da man? And I'm no expert... but starting a cold engine, running it for maybe 2 minutes, then shutting it off? That's hard on motors, isn't it? I'd like to get in the head of those folks and understand what they're thinkin'.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Devil's Tricks

An old John Mayall blues tune goes, "There ain't nothin' you can do... when the Devil plays his tricks on you."

I know not from whence it came, but we had some unseasonable weather - more like winter! - on Saturday.

High temperature - 46. Precipitation - 1.41 inches. Both records for the date in Boise.

I got a little work done in the morning before the sky opened up... and as 5pm - the scheduled start time for the Pedal Power Parade - approached, I looked outside anxiously every 15 minutes or so. But when it was cold and not sprinkling but raining vigorously, I chickened out. Frankly I'd be surprised to hear that it happened at all. (But I've been surprised before.)

May is still a gamble in these parts, if you're counting on nice weather. Chances are you'll be pleased. But don't be too disappointed if you get rained out. And there's always next year.

(Nonetheless, I completed Boise Bike Week with nary a trip in a motor vehicle, and cycling on all 7 days.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bicycle Block Party

The weather is looking a little dicey for the last 2 days of Boise Bike Week. But if weather were a major deterrent, I s'pose there wouldn't be very many cyclists. (We are a heartier lot than baseball players, golfers, motorists, and similar sissies!)

The Bicycle Block Party poster caught my eye... check it out.

The party starts this afternoon at 4pm. With a little luck, the rain will be minimal, or postponed 'til after 10pm.

Dunno if I'll get to the Block Party, although it looks to be awesome. I expect to be there tomorrow for the Pedal Power Parade. (With granddaughter Mackie in tow, if the weather is nice. If it's nasty, Grandma will prolly make her stay in.)

P.S. - I'm a little disappointed that they used my likeness on their poster, without getting permission first. But since it's for such a worthy cause, I won't put up a stink.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ride of Silence recap

I'm happy I participated in the Ride of Silence last night. I'd say there were 15 or so riders - not as many as I had optimistically anticipated, but Bob T (who was there this year and last) said that was probably double the number from last year.

I got there moments before departure, after riding from home. (Not a word to my dentist, please! I had a tooth extracted at about 4:45, and was instructed to go home, take it easy, and put my feet up. Sorry, man - I've already got plans! But I did generally take it easy, and the pain pills were doin' their stuff.) George Knight, a very involved transportation cyclist, was giving some last-minute instructions, and then we rolled.

The route was entirely on lightly-traveled North End streets, which was a "plus" for a silent, contemplative bike ride. And indeed it was essentially totally silent. Not one word was spoken, as far as I know. One guy's vintage bicycle rattled a little bit, but not distractingly so. Folks in the North End were going about their generally-quiet business. At one point, 2 or 3 cars queued up behind us, and one guy was impatiently revving his motor a bit, but eventually peeled off.

I was contemplative. I was partly compelled to contemplate the "hillbilly gap" where my tooth had been a couple hours earlier. But I also contemplated the gap left in peoples' lives when they've lost loved ones in bicycling accidents. I contemplated what it must be like, going through life weighed down by guilt over having killed or injured someone else. I contemplated the responsibility we as cyclists should feel, to be good citizens on the roadways. And how critical it is, to not only avoid making mistakes that could jeopardize our safety, but to compensate for the mistakes of others. (Defensive riding is the only way to survive, in the long run.)

We stopped for a few minutes at the corner of Hill Road and Smith Avenue, mere feet away from the "white bike" left in remembrance of Kevin Pavlis. Although I never knew Kevin personally, I still feel a sense of loss. How much better the Ride of Silence would have been, if he and other departed cyclists could've joined in.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Sometimes transportation cycling is an ordeal - I'd be lying if I said otherwise.

When it's down in the single digits (or lower) in the dead of winter.

When the skies are dark and the rain is pourin' down... it takes some will power. (I've had occasional rides home where I literally poured water out of my shoes, after arriving at my destination.)

When it's triple digits on a sultry summer afternoon, and heat waves shimmer on the asphalt, to some degree. (I personally enjoy riding on hot days, as long as I am able to stay well-hydrated. But lots of people ask, "How can you do that?")

When I unexpectedly need to haul something heavy or bulky.

But there are many, many, many days when transportation cycling is an unqualified pleasure! So enjoyable I'm surprised it's not illegal!

On a perfect spring day, with blue skies and big puffy clouds overhead, and just enough breeze to wiggle the brilliant-green leaves on the trees... it is Manna to my Soul!

It invigorates the body. It soothes the spirit. It calms the emotions. It is therapy!

(Can the same be said for getting in a car and spending a half-hour or 45 minutes in freeway gridlock? Perish the thought! For me, that would be an ordeal every day!)

No matter how bad my day is going, usually I can at least look forward to the trip home. Or when I'm totally beat after a day of yard work, it may be hard to get on that bike and ride... but if I do, I'm always glad I did so afterwards.

Pedaling is WAY cheaper than lying on a psychiatrist's couch!

(People who haven't experienced it probably think I'm over-selling it. I am not.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shameless plug for Brain-Buckets

This morning as I arrived at the office on my bicycle, my good friend Mark was just arriving on his sweet Hog. Beautiful shiny black beast! (My favorite non-bicycle mode of transportation!)

Mark's head was covered with - a stretchy beanie cap!

"Is that your helmet?" I asked.

"It sure is!"

"You must not value your brain very highly, huh?"

"Not much up there."

Of course that was facetious - Mark is a very bright fella!

I am totally sold on [voluntary] helmet usage - on motorcycle or bicycle.

I never leave home without mine.

It's been a TOTAL waste for probably 9 years - that's the last time my head slammed into the ground with significant force. But that time - and 2 or 3 others in my lifetime of "cycling" - I would not have wanted to be unhelmeted. When you're flying through the air, about to do the FACE-PLANT... too late to quickly strap on a bucket, even with your cat-like reflexes!

(Motorcycle helmets - at least the kind with a face shield - have the added value of keeping bugs from flattening themselves on your face. Take a big grasshopper or june-bug in the face sometime at 70mph, and you'll recognize the value of protecting your face.)

Our healthcare provider has this "propaganda" in the lobby of my office right now:

Pay a little now, or pay a lot later

$30 - protective head gear

$1,075,000 - lifetime care for severe head trauma patient

Preventable injuries are a big reason health care costs are rising. When someone has a bicycle accident while not wearing a helmet, his or her injuries can be much more serious - and much more expensive to treat. ... (blah-blah about insurance costs) ... Your choices make a difference.

I've never (knock on carbon fiber) had a debilitating bike or motorcycle accident. I've done a few body-slams over the years that had me hurting, and losing sleep, for a week or two... but I've been back on the bike the next day or sooner, every single time. If my noodles had gotten scrambled (more than in their natural state), I'm not so sure the outcome would've been nearly so positive. And the Missus and kids have all indicated they're not interested in changing my diapers for me, or feeding me through a straw.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ride of Silence - May 19

Next Wednesday evening (coincidentally the middle of Boise Bike Week), the Ride of Silence will depart from Boise's Camel's Back Park at 7pm.

I hope to be there a little early, and encourage anyone else to join. More about the Boise ride, and a map, can be found HERE.

If you're not near Boise, check out the link below; similar rides are taking place in numerous communities across the Fruited Plain.

The Ride of Silence is "a silent, slow-paced ride in honor of those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways." (And to raise awareness, and to remind all roadway users of the need to share the infrastructure.)

Thanks to Bob T for the heads-up on this event. And I'm sure Bob noticed and appreciated that "Black clothing is not encouraged."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Toot-Toot! Passing...

The days get longer and warmer. The grass and trees turn green. Traffic on bike/pedestrian paths always increases.

Especially early-on, until people get used to being out there again, it seems like a lot of "Zombie traffic" on our beloved Greenbelt. (Props to Danielo, who correctly described the Zombies!)

Us folks who use the facility - at least the convenient stretches - year-round, are suddenly confronted with fair-weather users who are out of practice. It seems like it takes 'em awhile to realize that the path is intended to accommodate multiple modes - pedestrians, cyclists of all ages and abilities, skaters, pedestrians with dogs on 20-foot spring-loaded leashes, pedestrians in herds, pedestrians stopped in the middle of the pathway, engaging in cackling hen-parties, etc.

There is a lot of Greenbelt info HERE, including a map, some history, and significantly some "Tips for Greenbelt Use," and "User Courtesies."

Among the User Courtesies:

Bicyclists and skaters who wish to pass other users along the Greenbelt must notify others that they are passing, either verbally (example: "passing on your left") or by other audible means (bell, horn, etc.). The person wishing to pass is responsible for passing freely and clearly around others, and not hindering approaching users.

Perhaps it stems from the fact that 95% of my miles are accumulated on public roadways - you know, the ones we share with cars and trucks - but I always have a little problem with that.

To me it seems like saying, "Anybody who's passing somebody else has to honk first."

Do we need that? Would we want motorists honking to warn one another of every move?

Might there be a better way?

Nowadays there are long stretches of the Greenbelt that are delineated with center stripes, just like 2-lane roads. (I will take some credit for that. Back when it was just black, bare asphalt, I used to call them regularly and ask them to lay down a stripe. I even volunteered to drive the stripe machine, if they would provide it.)

If the pathway is striped... and everybody KEEPS RIGHT... and everybody understands that there are multiple modes and speeds of traffic... there shouldn't be a problem, even without the "Honk! Honk! On your left!" warning.

Seems to me that the Greenbelt is the ideal place to introduce your kids to safe traffic guidelines. Keep to the right. Be predictable and defensive. Don't park in the middle of the traffic lane. (Duh!) Look before entering traffic, or crossing the street.

When I come up behind slower traffic, I generally slow down and observe. If the slower traffic is moving steadily and predictably, I'll pass at a reasonable speed without (gasp!) sounding the audible warning.

If I pass you without a warning... consider it a compliment! My conclusion, based on watching your behavior, is that you look like you know what you're doing.

If the slower traffic is darting around, squirrel-like... or moving 2 or 3 abreast and occupying the entire width of the pavement... or dog-in-tow... or any other scenario that looks like a pass could pose a risk to any of the involved parties, I'll sound a warning. Usually it's "Excuse Me," at what I feel is the proper sound pressure level. ("On your left!" seems to cause panic and confusion.) Sometimes it's a more urgent "Beep! Beep!" And I confess I've used a loud "MOOOooooo!" a time or two, when it seemed I was stuck behind a bunch of cows.

For those who would criticize my not following the proper published guidelines... here are a couple others for your consideration:

•Stay alert and tuned into your surroundings. Take off headphones and be aware of what's going on around you.
•All Greenbelt users should stay to the right and use caution under bridges and at blind corners where vision could be impaired.
•Pedestrians should not walk more then two abreast.

And finally,

•Bicyclists and in-line skaters are encouraged not to conduct serious training or to maintain fast speeds.

I think all of us are a little put off by Lance Armstrong Wannabe Poser-Boy, riding down the Greenbelt at 25mph! Take it out on the road, Mario!

(It's those guys, and rude/inconsiderate cyclists, who have caused the problem in Garden City which have resulted in a section of path being temporarily closed to cyclists.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Smoked turkey!

Every now and then, even an old guy like me sees something and can honestly declare, "Wow! I've never seen that before..."

It happened today.

I took a little stress-relief bike ride, up in Boise's north end. I was riding west on Good Street, approaching 32nd, when I saw that there was traffic jamming, up ahead. There was a dark lumpy-looking thing, right in the middle of the road. Since it was around get-out-of-school time, my first and worst thought was that somebody had just hit a child crossing the street. (What a horrible notion!) But as I got closer, it turned out to be... a mature male turkey, with tail feathers fanned out and struttin' his stuff! Awesome!

As I rode slowly past, I "gobbled" at him in my very best turkey voice. He gobbled back happily, but looked to be in no hurry to go anywhere.

I rode about a block down the road and decided to get involved. I pulled my cellphone out of my pocket (after pulling over, of course), and called the "non-emergency" dispatch line. I told the nice lady who answered of the situation. She said unfortunately there wasn't much she could do, and gave me the Animal Control number. I called - it was busy. By then, the turkey had wandered from the road to the sidewalk, so I elected not to get involved further.

Hopefully Mr. Turkey survived to gobble another day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Studded snow tires

I'm not talking about BIKE studded snow tires, but rather MOTOR VEHICLE studded snow tires.

One of the nice things about this time of year, from an Idaho transportation-cyclist standpoint, is that studded snow tires are illegal on Idaho roadways after April 30. Except for fire trucks, oddly. The rules are HERE.

There are some places in Idaho's high country, and in the eastern half of the state, where studs might make sense in April or September... but certainly not in Boise. I question whether they're needed at all in Boise. I've lived here essentially my whole life, and I've bought two studded tires total... back in the 70s. They might help on our 1 or 2 weeks each year when there's actually ice on the roads. But skillful and careful driving is far more significant than studs, in preventing accidents.

What's my objection to studs?

Besides tearing up the roads - which is why the State mandates that they be removed for the fair-weather months - they are noisy!!

Transportation cycling is an inherenty quiet mode of transportation, but transportation cyclists are victimized by NOISE pollution as well as internal combustion pollution and dirt-thrown-up-into-the-air pollution.

Yeah, I know... whine, whine, whine!

(Or maybe it would be better described as a loud clatter. You can hear 'em - those studded tires - from a block away. Of course the drivers don't hear 'em so much - they have their windows rolled up and their climate control and radio blasting.)