Thursday, March 28, 2013

More adults (than teens) text while driving

Do you wonder why kids think it's OK to yap on the phone, or text, while driving?

Because they see the grownups doing it.

A new study indicates that while 98% of adults know that texting or emailing while driving is unsafe, 49% of them do it anyway. (This compares with the 43% of teens who admit to texting while driving.)

Apparently "awareness" and laws (it's illegal in 39 states and D.C.) aren't incentive enough. I hope each one of the miscreants doesn't have to kill somebody or damage somebody's property to get the message.

"Researchers at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds — about as long as it takes to drive the length of a football field at 55 mph. The researchers found that texting creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted."

(I've said it before and I'll say it forever! I'm conservative, and all in favor of people making their own choices, and then being responsible for those choices. If people only endangered themselves by clicky-clicking, yapping on the phone, driving drunk, running red lights, etc., I'd say let each person decide! But the harsh reality is... those irresponsible yahoos are out there killing innocent bystanders... and I don't want me or one of my loved ones to end up being one of those bystanders!)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Meet Bonnie!

By summer time, I'll have to get the BOB Trailer baby-carrier rig out of mothballs... I've been blessed with a new granddaughter.

Bonnie was born on February 27, and we're mighty excited!  Her cousin Mackie in particular... she's already planning the bike adventures the three of us will go on.



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Greenbelt update (2) - west of Boise

A month ago, I was thrilled to report that the westbound Greenbelt was passable all the way to Eagle Road.  It was a little mushy in spots, but for the first time it was looking like a transportation corridor, rather than a recreational "out and back" pathway.

Alas, the situation has deteriorated.

Last Saturday, Mackenzie and I bicycled out that way once again.  And when we got to the end of the pavement, a mile or two east of Eagle Road, we also got to the end of the Greenbelt.  Further progress is now blocked by a big steel gate, and stern-looking Private Property signs.

Is this another case of the "haves" locking out the "have-nots," as is the case in the Riverside Village subdivision??

I've sent a letter to the Eagle "city fathers," reminding them that they were vocally on the side of the cyclists in the dispute regarding Riverside Village, and expressing my hope that they'll also eventually make sure the south-bank Greenbelt continues to their community.

Here's part of that letter:
... a "bike path" that ends abruptly might be a nice recreational facility for people who have time to ride out to the end and then backtrack... but a bike path that leads to DESTINATIONS (like Eagle Road) also becomes useful as a transportation corridor.  And what a lovely (and safe) corridor the Greenbelt would be!  (NOTE: A graded dirt trail isn't as nice as a paved trail, but it's perfectly functional for 90% of bicycle traffic.  There were a couple "squishy" spots in February, but I got the impression it would be passable by most cyclists, once it dried up in a few more weeks.)

As a lifelong Boise resident, and a 27-plus year veteran transportation cyclist, I'm pretty sure I've heard implications that "the dream" is to eventually extend the Greenbelt all the way to Eagle Island, and perhaps even to points beyond!  But if passage on the Greenbelt is prohibited due to private property restrictions, such a dream will never be reality.

I hope you can give me and other cyclists (particularly those who live in Eagle) some reassurance that eventually the "Greenbelt" will also be a functional transportation corridor to your community.  You can rest assured I'll be much more inclined to visit - often with other family members who like treats/incentives at the destination! - when we can travel on the Greenbelt, rather than on State Street or some other route we are sharing with high-speed motor traffic.

What bugs you about Spokane bicyclists?

A writer named Paul Turner, at the Spokane Spokesman-Review, puts together a blog called "The Slice." I check it out regularly - it's good stuff for an attention-deficit guy like me.

Today's question is about cyclists. (See title above.) Mr. Turner doesn't regularly write about cyclists, but I'd say he gets it! Perhaps he rides himself.

Here are his multiple-choice answers - enjoy!

A) I don't like people who have made choices that are not identical to my own.
B) They get in my way on the road.
C) Some are erratic.
D) The costumes.
E) Many of them seem reasonably fit and I am not.
F) A city exists to serve the drivers of automobiles and they don't seem to understand that.
G) They don't fight back with adequate vigor when a cyclist-hater makes the ludicrous assertion that bicyclists don't pay taxes.
H) Unlike those behind the wheel of cars, they don't always obey the law.
I) I suspect some of them don't have sullen children and crushing mortgages.
J) It bugs me when I'm in my car and I inappropriately stop to unnecessarily yield the right of way and the guy on the bike acts like I've simply confused everything. Well, excuuuuuuse me.
K) I just know that at least half of the ones illegally riding on sidewalks downtown are named in outstanding warrants.
L) They're always whining about having their bikes stolen.
M) Some who ride in the dark don't have lights.
N) I suspect many of them do not vote for candidates of whom I would approve.
O) Bikes on city streets? Isn't that the sort of insanity you would encounter in Seattle or Portland?
P) I don't approve of the Idaho stop law.
Q) Those helmets — it's like they don't trust me and my fellow car drivers.
R) I'm sorry, but I just don't like seeing butts ahead of me in traffic.
S) I don't enjoy being reminded that I get zero exercise.
T) Those people who ride their bikes to work? They're all doping.
U) They want special rights.
V) Letting them use the roads robs me of my freedom.
W) Bikes are for children.
X) They are so smug. They pronounce “France” as if it's “Frahns.”
Y) A cyclist will ask what bugs you about bike riders and then offer multiple-choice answers largely designed to make cyclist-haters seem like uninformed, reactionary pinheads.
Z) Other.

Monday, March 18, 2013

City Cycling - Effective Speed

My commute – from door of house to door of office – takes probably 15 minutes.  It's approximately 3.4 miles.  Under optimum conditions, and traveling the speed limit, the car commute would probably take 8 minutes or so.  However, once I got downtown, I'd be faced with locating a parking space and then walking from that space to the door.  So the real-life "travel time" would be a wash.

However, in the book City Cycling, the concept of effective speed is explored... and the author makes an interesting assertion:

"Effective speed is calculated using the standard formula: speed equals distance divided by time.  However, in this calculation, all the time costs are considered.  For car drivers, a significant (and usually ignored) time cost is the time spent at work to earn the money to pay for all the expenses associated with the mode of transportation."

How much time does a motorist spend at his job, to earn what he spends on car payment, fuel, tires, maintenance, insurance, etc.?  When I thought I needed a car as a teenager, my father accurately observed that I'd spend every penny I earned at a part-time job, supporting my transportation so I could get to and from that job. Some people grow out of that situation... others don't.

If you want to get even fancier, some transportation scientists came up with the concept of Social Effective Speed, which also involves "external" costs such as pollution and congestion, as well as direct costs.

Most motorists would just as soon ignore "effective speed" as they zoom past the toiling cyclist.  Ha!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope Francis - bicyclist

Catholics and non-Catholics alike have watched with interest the election of a new pope. And us western-world people celebrate that Pope Francis is the first from the Americas. (I spent nearly 2 years in South America on an LDS mission, including several visits to Argentina, and I can imagine the Catholics down that way are particularly enthused.)

Health concerns are always present when a new pope is elected, since they tend to be "seasoned citizens." And Pope Francis is no exception; he's 76 and has had part of one lung removed. But those who know him best declare he's in very good health. And - according to this article, he's known for riding around his native Buenos Aires on a bicycle and using public transportation.

The more I hear about the new guy, the more I like him!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How many days would you like to ride?

I got a new catalog from Aerostich yesterday. (They sell gear for touring motorcyclists... an awesome selection. I also happen to be a touring motorcyclist, but sadly only for a couple weeks each year. I hope to increase that someday.)

Just inside the front cover, they posed the question, "How many days would you like to ride?" On a map of the USA, with a number for each of the major cities. The "fine print" says it's the average number of days when the temperature is above 25, and below 95.

Boise's number is 284.

For comparison purposes... Seattle's is 356. Portland - 358, Salt Lake City 229, Spokane 291, Denver 269. San Diego is 364! Honolulu - the champ at 365.

Interesting. And might be truly meaningful if temperature were the only indicator of quality riding.

How about precipitation? How about traffic? (Heck! Anchorage has 233 riding days! But if it's 28 degrees and snowing heavily... is it really a good riding day? And just because the weather is lovely in 360-plus-day San Diego or Los Angeles... do you feel like riding the super-slab rolling parking lot?)

I imagine that the nice-for-motorcycling weather is also nice-for-bicycling weather. And that 25-to-95 range is meaningful, because I'd say it's pretty easy to be comfortable within that range, as long as you're wearing the proper gear, or staying hydrated.

It's been a long, long, LONG time since I didn't bicycle at least 284 days in a year.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Yuppie car detects bicycles

It's news to me, but apparently Volvo has had some car models with "pedestrian detection." And they are upgrading those models to also do "cyclist detection."

According to the article, the technology consists of a grille-mounted radar and a camera mounted on the inside rearview mirror. The radar detects moving objects in front of the car, and the images captured by the camera are used to identify the object. The car applies the brakes.

The author of the article asks, "Would you feel more safe if all cars had this technology? Or do you think it would cause drivers to pay less attention to bikers?"

Yes ... and yes.

I like the idea of technology supplementing safety. Every little bit helps. But technology can and does fail from time to time. And motorists are already prone to driving irresponsibly; all we need is for technology to give them an excuse for being even less attentive!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bicycle Emissions Tax?

A couple weeks ago I commented about a proposed $25 bicycle "luxury" tax, making the rounds in the Washington State Legislature. (I call it a luxury tax, because it would only apply to bikes costing upwards of $500.) The authors of the proposal feel it would at last assess cyclists for their fair share of roadway expenses.

My reaction is two-fold. First, I don't believe most transportation cyclists would begrudge paying a "fair share" of roadway maintenance expenses. But - second - in order for it to be fair, it would somehow have to be based on the actual cost of roadway improvements and repairs that are bicycle-related. An arbitrary $25 surcharge on every expensive bike sold hardly does that. Some of those bikes might accumulate 10,000 miles a year on public roads. Others will spend their existence hanging in garages.  And - there are some $450 bikes that will put far more wear-and-tear on the roads in a lifetime, than some $4500 bikes.

Now, in a very interesting twist, a fella who fancies himself a conservative anti-tax sorta guy has come out in favor of the bicycle tax.

Representative Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama, WA) "is staunchly opposed to taxes of any kind, and is opposed to the gas tax increases in this legislation." But he's in favor of the bicycle tax, and explains his "reasoning" in an email:

"... you claim that is is environmentally friendly to ride a bike. But if I am not mistaken a cyclists [sic] has an increased heart rate and respiration. That means the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride."

(He also explains that motorists pay a gas tax and cyclists don't. Like so many of his motoring constituents, it appears he conveniently ignores the fact that a large percentage of roadway revenue comes from the property tax.)

Story HERE.

I'm thinkin' Mr. Orcutt is lucky that they don't assess a surcharge based on the amount of methane gas that people emit... if ya get my drift.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Book - City Cycling

I've read an informative book - City Cycling.

It's not so much a "how to" book, but rather an "advocacy" book.  It does a good job of detailing the various reasons why bicycles-as-transportation are an attractive option.

It's edited by John Pucher and Ralph Buehler; multiple authors have been enlisted to write specific chapters on their ares of expertise.  All of the editors and authors appear to be "academic" types - they teach topics such as urban planning, infrastructure, transportation, public health, etc.  However, it's not "textbook dry" - they obviously have feelings and enthusiasm for the topics, as well.

Here's a list of the topical chapters:

1. Introduction: Cycling for Sustainable Transport
2. International Overview: Cycling Trends in Western Europe, North America, and Australia
3. Health Benefits of Cycling
4. Effective Speed: Cycling Because it's "Faster"
5. Developments in Bicycle Equipment and Its Role in Promoting Cycling as a Travel Mode
6. Bicycling Infrastructure for Mass Cycling: A Transatlantic Comparison
7. Cycling Safety
8. Integration of Cycling with Public Transportation
9. Bikesharing across the Globe
10. Women and Cycling
11. Children and Cycling
12. Cycling in Small Cities
13. Big City Cycling in Europe, North America, and Australia
14. Cycling in Megacities: London, Paris, New York, and Tokyo
15. Promoting Cycling for Daily Travel: Conclusions and Lessons from across the Globe

Over the next couple days, I'm going to share some info from various chapters that were of particular interest to me, along with some commentary.

(Thanks to my friend Ellen at Boise Public Library, this book will soon be available for checkout by any other local interested party... as soon as I return it, which should be in the next few days.)