Saturday, May 26, 2012

New trail to nowhere

Earlier in the month, I got all twitterpated when I read about "The New 3.2" - a 3.2 mile addition to the Greenbelt "stretching from Garden city to Eagle." I wasn't able to join the big shots and dignitaries for the official unveiling during Boise Bike Week, but decided to check it out yesterday, one week later.

Pretty impressive!

As expected, the scenery was very nice. In many places, you are just feet from the river. It also goes by some big dredge ponds. It seems isolated from civilization - Chinden Boulevard is a mile or so south.

As advertised, it's packed sand and gravel. There are a couple rough spots and places where the gravel is thick and squishy, but I had no problem riding it with my semi-skinny tires.

Not as advertised, the new stretch is nowhere near 3.2 miles. It's closer to 2 miles. Nor does it "stretch to Eagle," unless they just mean the end of it is within the incorporated area of Eagle. I anticipated being able to connect with a road or path at the Eagle end... but it ends at a sign, "temporary end of trail," with jungle beyond. The only option for a cyclist is to backtrack.  Bummer!

So, at this point it's a nice recreational trail, but it doesn't enhance area bicycle transportation.










Thursday, May 24, 2012

We're number 36!!

... out of 50. Idaho was ranked #36 by the League of American Bicyclists, in "bike friendliness." (Down from #30 last year.) The rankings and some cool interactive charts and graphs can be seen HERE. Idaho's snapshot can be seen HERE (PDF).

Our neighbor to the northwest, Washington, was ranked #1. Another neighbor, Montana, was ranked #46. (Arkansas took the Booby Prize.)

They listed these as "signs of success":
- People Commuting by Bike (More than 1%)*
- Safe Passing/Vulnerable Road User Law
- Complete Streets Policy - Dedicated State Funding
- Active State Advocacy Group*
- State Bicycle Plan (Adopted 2002 or later)
- Share the Road Campaign*
- Bicycle Education for Police
- Bicycle Safety Emphasis in Strategic Highway Safety Plan*
- Top 10 State for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Spending
(The ones marked with asterisks are those that Idaho is recognized for.)

Strangely, Idaho's highest mark was for "education." That surprises me because I don't see much at all in the way of public education. Let me know if I'm missing something, but mostly what I see is good-hearted volunteers who are carrying the torch for educating Idaho's citizens about riding.

Poor Washington! The only direction is down for them! At least in the eyes of the LAB, Idaho still has plenty of opportunity.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Drunks on motorized bicycles

What think ye of those bicycle "conversions," with a little 49cc 2-cycle engine and a gas tank?

Personally I don't care for them AT ALL!

I'm fairly ambivalent about the electric bicycles, because they make about as much noise as a human-powered bicycle. By comparison, the gas bicycles are downright obnoxious.

Plus - where do they belong? They're too slow to be out there moving with traffic in the traffic lanes. But I certainly don't think they belong in the bike lanes, either. I've even seen 'em buzzin' down sidewalks - that can't be legal or safe!

A little over a year ago, I inquired of the police department about what's legal, and where. They sent me a little chart with their policies. I suggested they needed to publicize it; they agreed that was a good idea, but I never saw anything. (Not that I notice everything.)

Well, I saw something on the Craigslist a week or 10 days ago that very much bothered me. It was posted by a guy who does gas-bike conversions, inviting business. And one of the points he was making to his prospective clientele was, "They're legal to ride even without a driver's license - so if you have a DUI conviction and don't have a license any more, tool around on one of these gas bicycles."

What think ye of drunks riding bikes with little gas motors?


A side-note on the electric bicycles. Several times, I've seen a guy riding a very obviously high-tech electric bike. It has those motors that are in the hubs, both front and back wheels (or so it appears). The thing is utterly silent, and obviously moves along comfortably at 15+ mph. (No idea on the range - that would be a consideration. But I assume you can pedal-power the things just like a regular bike, albeit with more weight to push along.) The guy riding it is pedaling... but ever so slowly. You know, one revolution every 2 or 3 seconds. I always want to ask him why he's pedaling; he's obviously not contributing to forward motion. Maybe his legs are just bored. Or maybe he's embarrassed to be seen coasting along on the thing. (It's not for me! One of my rewards is getting a bit of exercise and fitness.)

An argument for riding against traffic

Bob T emailed me a letter-to-the-editor on our Statesman website. Tucked between the political rants (I am SO weary of partisan politics!!) is a letter from Sharon Scudder, of Horseshoe Bend. Here it is, in its entirety:

Cyclists, pedestrians should face traffic

Making people ride bikes, jog and walk with their backs to oncoming traffic is the dumbest law on the books.

If a driver is drunk, has a heart attack or falls asleep, is distracted because of a cell phone or veers into a pedestrian, the pedestrian never sees it coming or has no chance of saving his or her own life. The pedestrian is dead.

Come on people, get your heads out of the sand. Change your stupid law. Save some lives. I rest my case.


Did she convince you? Personally I'm trying to imagine a situation where a cyclist sees that oncoming vehicle, with drunk or asleep driver behind the wheel, and reacts with lightning reflexes, scooting to safety. Could it happen? Conceivably, I s'pose. The downside, of course, is that with car and bicycle converging much more quickly, the cyclist increases the likelihood of being killed or maimed by a sober, wide-awake motorist.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no law prohibiting pedestrians from walking/running facing traffic. And in fact, it's recommended.

It's unlikely that Ms. Scudder is reacting angrily to a ticket she received, since that against-traffic law may be in the book, but it's not enforced.

Bike infrastructure improvement in Boise

My friend Clancy and the Boise Bicycle Project are working on a bike-lane improvement effort that they call "Safe Lane."

Clancy: "We are trying to create a user based inventory of bike lanes that are problematic. This information will then be presented to the [ACHD] Bike Advisory Committee later this summer. The survey will run through the end of June."

The group is hoping to get as many area cyclists as possible to comment. They are setting up a booth at various bicycle and outdoor events, but there's also an online survey HERE, where you can identify your pet-peeve challenges.

I have one that immediately comes to mind. Americana Boulevard has 2 car lanes in each direction, plus a nice wide bike lane... but at one point where it goes around a bend, the bike lane peters down to 6 inches or so wide! Talk about second-class citizens! The authorities could do a much better job of striping it, to notify motorists that they're sharing space with cyclists.

 Please support this Safe Lane effort.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Top 50 bike-friendly cities

Bicycling magazine has released its list of the 50 most bike-friendly cities.

Portland reclaimed the #1 spot. No surprise; Portland is "in your face" bike friendly, and proud of it. #2 is Minneapolis. #3 is Boulder, CO. #4 is Washington, DC. #5 is Chicago.

Chicago?!? Really? All I can figure is that this list reflects the aspects of bike-friendliness that can be controlled by people and policies. (The story says, "we evaluated cities with populations of 95,000 or more, using data provided by the Alliance for Biking and Walking and the League of American Bicyclists, as well as input from local advocates and bike-ped coordinators. To make the list, a city must possess both a robust cycling infrastructure and a vibrant bike culture.") It must not put any weight on such trivial details as climate, terrain, etc. Know what I mean? No matter how far they bend over backwards to accommodate cyclists, you'll never see major cycling activity in Minneapolis in January, I'm guessin'. And even if San Francisco (#8) had a dedicated bike lane on every street, some of those streets are so steep as to dissuade cyclists from riding up or down 'em.

Boise is listed at #30. They mention our Greenbelt and trails in the foothills, and tip their hats to our Boise Bicycle Project. And list our biggest challenge as "Figuring out how to reduce incidents of driver hostility in nearby rural areas." So, it's those hayseed rednecks in their big ol' pickup trucks? Well, that challenge may be easier to overcome than "2 straight months of below-zero temperatures every year," or "gridwork of multi-lane freeways that will never be breached."

I would love the luxury of being able to bicycle in all 50 of their favorites, and report my findings. If I can line up a sponsor, I'll spend a week in each, and get back to you in a year. (I'll do Minneapolis and Madison in the spring or fall. Maybe hit Scottsdale in January.)

(An obvious error: As of this writing, Fort Collins, #11, and Tucson #12, both have the same photo of a big college bike-parking lot.)

I subscribed to Bicycling Magazine for a couple years, and enjoyed it. (I only gave it up for the same reason I've given up lots of magazines... I'd rather do something than read about doing something, if I don't have time for both doing and reading-about.)  Every issue was chock-full of new bikes I'd like to have. But IMO they mostly cater to "toy bike" riders and just give the occasional nod to transportation cycling. I wonder how many employees of Bicycling actually use their bikes to get to and from work. The corporate offices are in Emmaus, PA, but the editorial offices may be in the big city.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"Private" Pedal Power Parade

Granddaughter Mackie squeezed some time into her busy social schedule for a few miles on the Greenbelt. She's getting quite comfortable on her 20-inch pink wheels, and it's a pleasure to tag along.

She likes to turn the center line into her training course, slaloming between the dashes, or riding straight along the solid line.  That's fine, but I warn her how important it is to watch for approaching traffic in both directions, so she can move back over to the right.

The sunlight got a little "weird" during our ride, due to the partial solar eclipse... or at least I think I noticed it.







Pedal Power Parade '12

Well, another Boise Bike Week - the 10th, I believe - has come and gone. As always, I wish I'd been able to attend more events. I dunno about y'all, but this always one of the busiest times of year for me, what with putting the garden in, springtime chores, and numerous other warm-weather distractions.

 I did make it to the grand finale - the Pedal Power Parade. Sadly, my ridin' buddy, granddaughter Mackenzie, was previously committed. (A picnic!) So I was a lone wolf. But, I got a few snaps of the festivities.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

I ran a bunch of errands Saturday - the day before Mother's Day. Accumulated 20+ miles pulling the BOB trailer. And a few miles just ridin'. BEAUTIFUL day!

The first trip was to the nursery to pick up some tomato and melon plants for the garden. (Yep - I got lucky this year and didn't gamble at the first of May. It got below freezing a couple nights ago.) The cantaloupe plants didn't do well on the bumpy 6-mile trip back home; most of the dirt fell out. But everything else seemed to arrive intact.

The second trip was to pick up a hanging basket for Mom, and deliver it. I've got an awesome mom, and I'm blessed that she's still quite healthy and independent and engaged. (She seems a bit bewildered by my bike transportation, but after 27 years she takes it in stride when I almost always arrive at her place on the 2-wheeler.)

Then I returned to "Hanging Baskets R Us" and got a couple for my bride.

(Front-door delivery via BOB!)

My kids' mom is another awesome mom who has blessed my life in so many ways. I hope my kids have the courtesy to recognize her. (Yeah - I know - Mother's Day was probably invented by Hallmark, or Hanging Baskets R Us. And I also know that every day should be Mother's Day. But hey! It should be Father's Day too!) Let's hear it for moms (and dads)!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Boise Weekly Annual Bike Issue

Every May the Boise Weekly publishes a Bike Issue. And, it usually has some interesting stuff. This year it seems to be rehashing some much-covered bicycle topics, for the most part. I'm a little disappointed. (But being more involved than BW readers, it's likely they'll read about topics that are new to them.)

Bike Share program. I've mentioned it several times, including the most recent post. BW's most recent take is HERE.

Garden City bike path that bikes aren't allowed on. I'm a member of the "Citizens for an Open Greenbelt," and have followed the issue closely and commented extensively. BW's status report can be read HERE.

LBS review. This is more of a sales pitch than an objective comparison, but they list all the local bike shops, and what they offer bike-riding consumers, HERE. IMO, Boise has some outstanding bike shops. If I didn't do essentially all of my own maintenance, I'd have no reservations about trusting several of them. I have particularly good feelings for the Boise Bicycle Project - they have hearts of gold! My only negative comment about a couple of the LBSs... some of their mechanic-types are a little scary looking! I'm glad they have employment... but guys who cover themselves with tattoos, metal bits and piercings are marginalizing themselves somewhat. If they scare me, I imagine they also scare families, housewives, etc.

Boise's Cycle Pub. Since I'm not much of a "night-lifer," I wasn't even aware of this, but a guy from Bend, Oregon, has imported a rolling bicycle pub, that he hopes to make a fixture on downtown streets during the nice months. It's "a 14-seat, pedal-powered bar that Boiseans can rent to facilitate their downtown pub crawl." Hmmmm.... Read more about it HERE.

Boise teacher trades car for bike. This is my favorite story. Elementary school teacher Matt Monette had serious misgivings when, at last summer's Tour de Fat, he agreed to abandon his car and use a bicycle for transportation. But 9 months later, he's sold! "I'm healthier. We're spending less. We're polluting less. I have no regrets. I'm so happy I did it." (Amen, Brother Matt!) Story HERE.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bike Sharing - coming to the Big Apple... and Boise?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting about the upcoming NYC bike-share program. The startup cost is $47.5 million, which will pay for 10,000 bikes at 600 stations around the city. Pretty impressive! Even more impressive - the taxpayers aren't on the hook! It's being sponsored by Citibank and MasterCard. (The bikes are rolling advertisements - they are called citibikes.)

Not only does the program have a sponsor; Mayor Bloomberg is predicting it might actually pay for itself and generate a profit! Can you imagine?!? (Use of the bikes does NOT come cheap; the Boise Weekly says the bikes will cost $14/hour, or $131 for six hours. OUCH! You could probably buy a decent bike for less than $131, if you looked on the Craigslist.) I guess they don't want po' folk ridin' their fancy Citibikes! (You can use a bike for a half-hour for free, once you're registered.)

Boise is wanting to introduce a similar bike-sharing program; I wrote about it on the Boise Guardian website. It provoked a lively debate, mostly about who foots the bill and who will benefit. Unlike NYC's plan, Boise's will be sponsored by the taxpayers (via a federal grant). And it's less ambitious - 140 bikes, stationed around downtown and extending out to BSU and the North End.

I'm a little skeptical. I'm not sure we have the population base to make it viable. And as a fiscal conservative, I'm ALWAYS skeptical about spending our grandkids' money for more government. (But as Gary Richardson points out in a couple of his comments, we hardly bat an eye when the government spends millions to widen or extend pavement, and that money comes out of the same pockets.)

I wish the City of Boise could find some benevolent sponsors who would pony up for the startup costs. If they can somehow keep the bikes from falling victim to vandals or thieves, it could conceivably pay for its own operating costs, once the check has been written to set it up.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ultimate bicycle horn

Do you ever find yourself wishing you had a nice, loud horn to wake up a zombie driver?  Hardly a day goes by, that I wouldn't put one to good use!  (I've got a sweet squealing after-market air horn on the motorcycle that does the job quite nicely.)

The "Hornster" is definitely overkill, for a bike.  But it's pretty awesome.  Dude took a train horn and mated it with a scuba tank for compressed air supply.  (I know what you're saying... "Why didn't I think of that?!!"  Yeah, I'm kickin' myself, too!)

The sad reality is... it's a little impractical.  The gear is both heavy and bulky.  The horn-equipped bike can be had for a mere $8000.  Read about it HERE.  (Check out the video clip.  You may notice, like I did, that the rider has some protective earmuffs on.  Good idea.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Boise Bike Week

Now is the time to pencil in some events for Boise Bike Week - May 14-19. It'll be upon us before you know it.

Website HERE. Click on "Schedule of Events." My hat is off to the organizers; each year it seems to get bigger and better.

Some interesting events:
- Bike Maintenance 101 class, Tuesday at Boise Bicycle Project
- Ride of Silence, Wednesday at Camel's Back Park
(Memorial ride for fallen brother and sister cyclists. I did it last year and the "silence" aspect was meaningful - an emotional experience.)
- Block Party, Thursday in the Linen Building area (Grove @ 14th?) Booths, live music, etc.
- Bike-In Movie Night, Friday at Boise Bicycle Project. ("Quicksilver." I think I'll pass, but if you like that movie... I'm more of a "Breaking Away" or "The Bicycle Thief" guy.)
- Pedal Power Parade, Saturday afternoon at Capitol Park. The grand finale, and always fun.
(I hope to bring Mackie, maybe on her own bike but more likely on the tagalong, just because of the interaction with lots of other riders.)