Sunday, May 29, 2011

"Native American" Helmet

We collected some Canada goose feathers at the park, and gave Miss Mackie a custom brain-bucket treatment.

The first time, the feathers were just stuck in loosely, and they blew away as we rode home. Each loss was a tragedy. So we returned and collected more feathers. This time I used an old tube and cut some tiny holes in it to anchor the feathers underneath the visor. It seems to be doing the job quite nicely.

We put some miles on it this afternoon, to visit and feed carrots to our pony friends, and a quick stop at a tractor store. Mackie was thrilled because the horn on the tractor worked.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

140K miles

Anybody who's visited here regularly knows I'm somewhat a slave to my odometer. I keep track of the miles I ride each month, and have since I took up transportation cycling, in 1986. Yeah, it's a little shallow, but it motivates me. I update my Stat Page each month.

On September 1, 2004, I clicked over 100,000 miles. I wrote about it at the time (although that's back before the Age of the Blog) - it can be read HERE (PDF file). At the time, I speculated about the likelihood of my ever seeing 200,000 miles.

So far, I'm maintaining some of my momentum, even if my average MPH has dropped 1 or 2 over those years.

At the end of April, I'd accumulated 139,425 miles, and started counting down the 140,000 mark. The countdown ended today. Woo-hoo! (As it clicked over, I was riding on South Cloverdale, and listening to Muddy Waters "Folk Singer." (I don't listen to music often, just every now and then when it doesn't compromise my safety.) Earlier in the day, granddaughter Mackie and I had "tag-alonged" down to the Boise Bicycle Project to dig through their parts bins.

Onward to 200K!

If I survive another 10 years, and can wrap it up by then, I'll feel pretty good about it. Maybe invite everybody over for cake and ice cream!

(A while back, reader and friend Bob T sent me a link to an article about another guy who hit 200K, so I know it can be done.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gas prices - soaring! "Bicyclers" - soaring!

HERE is an interesting article: "Number of Bicyclers Soars Along with US Gas Prices."

It says road bike sales are up 29% from a year ago. It says "bicycle commuting in America has more than doubled since 2000." Wow!

I'm a little bothered by this, from the article:

[Andy] Clark, president of the national advocacy group League of American Bicyclists, says it’s often hard to recapture that sense of fun [that you fondly recollect from childhood bike riding] when you’re biking to work in the street. Sharing wide roads designed for faster, larger gas-powered vehicles is not just intimidating, it's also dangerous.

This, from the president of a bicycle advocacy group? I'd expect it from the SUV Owners Group, maybe.

If you're clueless and making critical mistakes, then yes - sharing the road can be dangerous. But virtually all of the danger can be mitigated, by riding legally, visibly, predictably, and defensively.

The "road going bicycling community" has always had a conflict.

On the one side are "vehicular cyclists," disciples of John Forester, who boldly declare that cyclists should share the road with motor vehicles (obeying traffic laws, of course).

On the other side are the L.A.B. and numerous other organizations who emphasize the need for dedicated bikeways, lanes and other facilities. They are the advocates for more casual cyclists, and although I definitely line up with the vehicular cyclists, I acknowledge that dedicated facilities are invaluable for occasional cyclists, children, etc. - those who aren't comfortable sharing a lane. (Of course, the hope is that those casual cyclists will evolve into vehicular cyclists. Because the reality is... there will never be bike lanes going to every destination.)

Speaking of dedicated bike facilities... Mia Burke talked about bike boulevards when she was in town a week ago. I've never experienced them in person, but the concept is interesting and attractive. An existing roadway is converted into a "bicycle priority" roadway. Cars are allowed, but the street has features (blockages, speed bumps, etc.) which discourage motorists from using it as a "through street." I'd like to see a couple of local experiments; maybe Boise is ready. Check out this info, and video.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

BBW Diary - Days 6 and 7

Frankly, I'm surprised to even be writing this, since The Rapture was spoze to have happened. (It just doesn't pay to make plans, huh?)

Day 6 - Friday

Ride to the office - routine. (Short sleeves! It's starting to get pretty nice! But with hi-viz vest...)

Afternoon ride - out Hill Road, Castle Drive, State, Glenwood, Adams. Routine. Less windy than the last couple days.

Ride home - routine.

In the evening, I hooked up the BOB trailer, and ran an errand to pick up some junky Chinese merchandise at Harbor Freight Tools.

Ended the day with 31-odd miles.

Day 7 - Saturday

I hit the motorcycle road with some friends at 6am... we rode to Twin Falls to attend the Temple down that way, and to enjoy the scenery, including a pretty awesome Shoshone Falls. I'd hoped to be back to Boise in time to attend the Boise Bike Week Pedal Power Parade, but bummer, it didn't work out that way.

I ran some errands in the evening, with BOB trailer attached... but finished the day with only about 4 or 5 miles. (With 300+ motorcycle miles, however. Yeah, I know - that doesn't count.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

BBW Diary - Day 5

Day 5 - Thursday

In a word... WINDY! (Not a complaint, just an observation. One should not complain when it's in the 70s and sunny.)

Ride to the office - routine.

Routine mid-afternoon exercise/recreation ride, out Hill Road, Gary/Glenwood, and back in on Adams. (Very routine route.)

Ride home - routine. Other than the wind.

My friend Aaron brought his mom's bike over - a pretty purple "cruiser" bike that had a slightly-wobbly back wheel. Got the wheel trued up nicely. Ride on, Mom!

Aaron is doing springtime prep on his bike and his mom's. He's hoping to put his car under a bird-poop-resistant cover, and do a lot of bike commuting over the warm months. (Since he's from Idaho Falls, I'm trying to convince him that all months are warm months in Boise!)

In the evening, Princess Mackie and I rode to a nearby playground, and I spent a blissful 45 minutes pushing her on the swing and merry-go-round. And she went 4 rungs on the monkey-bar without assistance - a triumphant moment! We watched the bright orange sun-ball drop behind the western horizon, then headed for home.

Finished the day with 25+ miles. (Turned over 400 miles for May.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ride a bike - save your heart!

A study of 10,000 civil servants in the UK indicated that bicycling 20 or more miles a week reduced the chances of coronary heart disease by 50%. Not insignificant.

Propaganda HERE.

This perplexed me a bit: "The popularity of cycling in the United States as a form of exercise or as a recreational activity is marginal." Maybe it's just my little corner of the world... but in these parts I see a lot of "recreational" cycling (mountain biking, cruising the greenbelt, etc.); it's just hard to get those toy-bike riders to envision how rewarding it can be as transportation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BBW Diary - Day 4

Day 4 - Wednesday

Ride in to the office - routine.

I went on an afternoon ride at 4:30 or so... and disaster befell me! While riding along Fairview near 23rd or so, next to some large vacant lots, suddenly I heard the telltale click-click-click and could see that I'd picked up something in the front tire. Turns out it was somethings - FIVE goathead thorns! What the?!!? I've never had more than two at any given time! If somebody didn't deliberately scatter 'em, I s'pose it's possible the wind blew 'em out. Fortunately that's pretty close to my office, and the tire hadn't deflated by the time I arrived. The tube already had two patches; I normally replace a tube once it has four or so patches - so this one was done.

The flat tire adventure made me fashionably late for the Mia Burke presentation at city hall. But I didn't miss too much, hopefully. What I heard was excellent. She is an awesome advocate; she really has the technical savvy, plus she's genuinely passionate and smart about cycling. (On the questionnaire they asked attendees to fill out, I suggested that she move to Boise... you know, maybe for five years... to become our pro-cycling bomb thrower!)

I also had the pleasure of crossing paths with several old friends - Clancy who reads and comments here regularly, plus Lynn who used to serve on bicycle committes with me, and Gary Richardson, who was an ACHD Commissioner some years back, and was famous (infamous?!) for his bike-friendly attitude. Unfortunately, his attitude was played up as anti-car. "Can't we all just get along?" (We could use more people of conviction and courage serving in public office.)

The ride home from City Hall was routine. (No more flats!) I finished the day with 21-odd miles. (And turned over 2500 miles for the calendar year.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

BBW Diary - Day 3

Day 3 - Tuesday

It barely stayed above freezing last night. (Not a huge deal for the cycling - but I'm glad my tomatoes survived, out in the garden spot!)

The ride in was fairly routine.

The afternoon "joyride" was sweeet! Today the wind seemed (gentle) from the east, so I rode east. I always like the "into the wind leg" to be first... so the ridin' is easier on the return leg. Went out around Barber Park. Warm Springs & Greenbelt out; Boise Avenue back.

The ride home was fairly routine, except a bit more hurried than usual, due to an early-evening commitment.

A little over 22 miles total... very routine.

BBW Diary - Days 1 and 2

I might as well make note of my bicycling over the course of Boise Bike Week 2011. By the end of the week, I'll know if anything was out of the routine and ordinary.

Day 1 - Sunday

In the morning, I rode to church and back. For years, I had an early meeting and so I needed to arrive independently of my family, and always rode the bicycle. As of fairly recently, I no longer attend that early meeting, but church is barely over a mile away over flat terrain; I can't bring myself to ride in the car (even though the car is making the trip, with or without me). Maybe on rainy nasty days...

In the afternoon, I had another meeting at the church - Scout Committee. It was somewhat cold and rainy, but just the same I took the scenic route, to get a few extra miles in. But I ended the day with only about 8 miles.

(In the evening, I rode in the Wagon Queen Family Truckster - a fairly rare occurrance for me. We rolled across town - maybe 12 miles round trip - to a family gathering. There were 6 of us in the vehicle, so it almost rose to the level of efficient transportation.)

Day 2 - Monday

It was pouring rain at go-to-work time! I busted out the Gore-Tex pants; the last time I wore 'em was last year sometime. Put some grocery-store plastic bags over my shoes. (I really oughtta get some decent shoe covers.) My efforts paid off - I was dry when I got to the office.

It was nicer in the afternoon at go-home time. No rain, insignificant wind. (Rather than go on a fitness/recreation ride in the early afternoon, as is typical, I worked on through and left at 4:30 or so, to run an errand.) Today is my son's birthday - I rode to the bicycle store and got him a blinky back light and frame-fit pump. (He's riding to work himself, on a lot of days.) I finished the day with 15+ miles.

(Other obligations precluded me from participating in any of the official Boise Bike Week scheduled events. BUMMER! I really wanted to go hear about the Vogel family's 3-year bike adventure from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego!)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Self-driving cars!

Is the world ready for self-driving cars? Apparently, we better be. The nerds at Google are lobbying the State of Nevada to legalize self-driving cars on their roads. Story HERE.

Supposedly, the cars are safe. They use "roof-mounted video cameras, radar and a laser range finder to detect surrounding traffic." They've logged thousands of accident-free miles in testing (with a human driver behind the wheel, ready to intervene if need be).

If I was driving a White Freightliner, or even an H2 Hummer or Ford Expedition, I probably wouldn't be too worried. Those cameras and lasers would probably detect and avoid plowing into my vehicle. But as a guy on a bike, I can't help but be concerned. Those intersection traffic cameras don't give me a lot of confidence, if the auto-car technology is similar. They are very hit-and-miss with a target as small as a guy on a bike (and I'm a pretty big guy on a bike!). When the only consequence of not being detected is red-light frustration, it's not that big a deal... but the stakes are considerably higher if a moving vehicle is comin' at ya!

I s'pose if they log a few million safe miles up and down the Las Vegas Strip, dealing with drunken pedestrians and more distracions and roadside "clutter" than pretty much anyplace, my confidence would be elevated. And... they can't be much worse than a human-behind-the-wheel, who's mostly driving his little fancy-fone and only occasionally looking up to see what's in front of his moving car.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Anybody who's ridden a bicycle for any amount of time has probably dealt with the hilarious "Bee in the Shirt" routine. You know - where a bee (or stinging relative) flies into your shirt, and hilarity erupts as you try to rid yourself of the critter, while simultaneously not crashing.

It's even more exciting on a motorcycle! In fact, it's probably a good exercise in mental concentration... when you're traveling along at 50 or 60mph while being stung.

I rode right through what must've been a swarm of bees today. Suddenly there I was - in the cloud. I must've bumped a dozen or so, and missed a lot more.

Fortunately, I emerged at the other end, not having irritated them so bad that they sent the Attack Signal... and none of 'em flew into my shirt. Whew!

Bike Rodeo Saturday

This is short notice, but it's the first I heard about it.

There's a Bike Rodeo this Saturday, 5/14, 10am - 2pm at the Overland Park Shopping Center.

More details HERE.

Highly recommended, if you know kids who are of bike-riding age. (Do they also educate clueless teenagers and adults about the rules of the road??)

Since one of my biggest complaints is lack of any formal bike education, this sort of thing is VERY welcome! The police may not be the very most informed people about bicycle law, but there's a better chance of getting accurate info from them, than from a family member who's obviously clueless, and not very interested.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thinkin' GREEN!

Maybe it's because in these parts, even the desert is green right now. But this seems to be the time of year when everybody starts thinkin' green.

The local Toyota dealer is peddling cars by claiming they sell more "green vehicles" than everybody else. You'd think George's Bike Shop would have something to say about that. (But then again, perhaps metallic green is the most popular color in Toyotas right now... and you do not see very many green bicycles.)

The Idaho Green Expo takes place this weekend in Boise. According to the website, it is brought about by a "collaboration with businesses, non-profit groups, concerned individuals and government agencies seeking to promote sustainable products, services and behaviors in Idaho. Among the many volunteers working helping to produce the Expo, you'll find architects, farmers, doctors, builders, restaurateurs, "green" retailers, community activists and publishers. Basically…people like you."

Okay... I admit a bit of cynicism, but I'm guessing most of the movers-n-shakers are in it for a different kind of green... foldin' money! And, I'm guessing that the vast majority of attendees will arrive in their motor vehicles. They'll drive downtown in the SUV (or perhaps the Volvo or Subaru or Prius) and circle the block a few times, looking for a sweet, nearby parking spot. They may end up buying a refillable water bottle to use, instead of the Yuppie Water they've drunk in the past. Perhaps a reusable shopping bag - made of recycled materials. And maybe a bumper sticker to put on the back of the car, proclaiming their "awareness."

Individuals can sign up to be a member of GreenWorks Idaho HERE. It's free (which was a pleasant surprise, frankly), but members need to adhere to the GreenWorks Pledge:

I believe a sustainable community is built on a healthy environment and a strong local economy. Therefore, I support GreenWorks in their efforts and pledge to do my part by continually improving my sustainable living practices and to clearly demonstrate my commitment to the environment.

I pledge to do my part to continually:
- Minimize my use of resources and reduce my ecological footprint in my daily actions
- Support businesses that are equally committed to the environment, and
- Strive to be an example to others of sustainable living practices

Sounds pretty good... on paper. I expect they are mostly interested in your support of "businesses that are committed to the environment."

I'm sorry! I obviously woke up on the cynical side of the bed this morning. Or maybe it was the business-as-usual bumper-to-bumper traffic during the morning commute. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, and please prove me wrong if you can:

For the vast majority of Americans, the single most significant choice they make, when it comes to impact on the environment, is their routine choice of transportation.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Transportation cycling: "Conservative" or "Liberal"?

I recently commented that some folks see everything through their political glasses. They see the people who lean "the other way," politically, as the source of all the world's ills.

IMO, that level of polarization oversimplifies a lot of complex problems. And, it results in a lot of contentious stalemates, when the zealots refuse to budge. (As for the Republocrats and Demicans - I say throw 'em all out!)

BUT... is transportation cycling a "political" thing?

Personally I think not. The whole environmental thing seems to lean liberal. But at the same time... the conservatives pride themselves on their frugal ways and "conserve" seems to jibe with "conservative"... no?

Reader Marcus pointed me at an article at the "Momentum" website... the Question of the day: "Is conservatism necessarily harmful to progressive cycling policy?" Elly Blue and Lolly Walsh do an interesting point/counterpoint. The article is HERE. (It's too short!)

Marcus recommends the Momentum website; he says it has all sorts of information to help establish and/or maintain a "utilitarian lifestyle." I'll be checking it out.

(Thanks, Marcus!)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Two books

I recently read my granddaughter one of my favorite childhood books, The Little House, authored and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton.

It's the story of a little house (strangely enough!) in a pastoral setting, surrounded by tranquility and the beauty of nature. As time goes on, however, the distant big city expands, first bringing roads, then neighbors, and ultimately tenements, elevated trains and the rest of the ugly urban package. The little house falls into disrepair, and of course can no longer be happy until descendents of the original owners happen upon it, and remove it to a new pastoral setting far from the teeming masses. The story has a happy ending.

As a child, I obviously understood from that book that country living is far superior to urban living. In fact - urban living is something best avoided. Just see how everything turns brown and gray and dingy, as urban blight surrounds that poor little house!

In the book, we never get much of a glimpse of the occupants of the little house. But it's a safe bet that they worked the land. After all, it was just a little dirt lane connecting their charming home with the rest of civilization - unlikely that dad or mom commuted. (And it's unthinkable that they might've been able to bicycle into the big city, at least back when it was just a nighttime glow over the horizon.)

It was harsh to become an adult and discover that the big, ugly gray city is where the jobs are. Of course, I've also been fortunate to discover that with some effort and imagination, one can still have some quality of life in the city, even if one does without the expansive vistas in every direction.

I still love the book, as did my kids, and as does my granddaughter.

I also recently read another book, Joyride by Mia Birk.

Ms. Birk was the official tireless advocate for bicycle transportation in Portland, Oregon, as it became recognized as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the land. And Joyride recounts some of the struggles that she encountered, as she battled, in a firm but gentle way, on behalf of her vision.

She was fortunate to be surrounded by other "visionaries" who got on board mostly, and sustained her. But I'm guessing they'd all acknowledge her as the catalyst.

I was particularly interested in reading Ms. Birk's book, because she's coming to Boise in May, to do a presentation about "Bikes and Cars: Sharing our Roads in the Treasure Valley.

(The fact of the matter is... if Portland can be bike-friendly, Boise has more potential. Our climate is considerably more bike-friendly, as is the geography. Everything else can be tweaked.)

From Joyride, describing the dilemma of urban sprawl, which is probably our biggest challenge:

Fact: If we build houses far from work places, groceries, parks and schools, and provide no mass transit service, bikeways or walkways, the vast majority of us will drive. Obesity, stress and pollution levels are all higher in sprawling areas, which are less safe overall, factoring in both crime and traffic safety. Older suburbs often have no sidewalks. Schools are often located on major roads. Parents are expected to be chauffeurs. At a young age, kids become addicted to auto transportation. It's hard to break these habits later in life. Suburban residents are so acculturated to driving everywhere that they simply cannot imagine doing it any other way. (Page 163)

She could be describing The Little House!! (And she's most certainly describing Boise and vicinity.)

(I'd recommend The Little House for everybody. I'd recommend Joyride for Portland residents, and for people who are interested in making their hometowns more bike-friendly.)