Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cycling like your life depends on it

In 2009, middle-aged attorney Elizabeth MacGregor's life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She endured a regimen of chemotherapy, but like anybody who has been stricken with cancer, was worried about its recurrence, and asked her oncologist how to improve her odds.

His immediate reply: "If you want to prevent a recurrence, you need to get your weight into a healthy range and get an hour of vigorous exercise every day."

She has an active background, and had bicycle commuted before, somewhat casually. "My return to the bicycle was accompanied by an urgency and seriousness of purpose that I’d lacked before. At the beginning, I felt as if I were starting from scratch. I rode slowly and got tired quickly. But I was patient, telling myself I was in it for the long haul."

Her twice-a-week regimen increased to three, and then four. She discovered some of the hard-to-describe side-effects of bicycle commuting, and became a true believer. Read her words HERE.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Greenbelt to Eagle Road - another update

In February, I wrote about having successfully navigated the Greenbelt downstream to Eagle Island. It was exciting to see that it might soon be a transportation corridor. A few weeks later, I wrote that perhaps I was premature - a gate and "private property" signs were blocking the way a mile or so east of Eagle Road. I was quite disappointed; any path that you ride to a dead end, and then turn around and return on, is of little value except for recreation. And it looked like maybe it was another power-grab by the "NIMBY" property owners who didn't want bike riders, with their crimes and disease and whatnot, in their neighborhood.

Since then, I've ridden to that same gate a couple times, including once with granddaughter Mackie. A bike-riding friend, Paul, suggested I take a close look... 50 yards or so before you get to the gate, there's an obscure "nature trail" that continues off the right side of the pavement.  (He hadn't traversed the trail, at least on bike, but he had noticed it.)

Last Saturday (4/20), I decided I better check out that "nature trail." And Paul was right.

I took to the trail. There are no signs, indicating "private property" or "no bicycles" or any other such restrictions. I anticipated that I might get hollered at, but I've survived hollerin's-at in the past. (But just in case, I was glad Mackie wasn't along; she doesn't take well to getting hollered at.)

Lo and behold, the "nature trail" was pretty easy to ride, even on skinny tires, and 50 yards or so behind the gate it joined up once again with the main (gravel) path. I proceeded on, quietly and cautiously, so as to minimize potential conflicts with other pathway users or difficulty in the dirt... but other than a couple folks fishing and some people off in the distance, I didn't see a soul. And, the path, although gravel and dirt, was no problem. I figure just about anybody on fat tires could do it... and 'most anybody with skinny tires and practice wouldn't have a problem, either.

MORE good news - along the way, there were 20-inch-high wooden stakes, marked with survey flags and bright orange paint and the word "EASEMENT" on them. So, I once again feel some optimism that in time it will "officially" be a path available to the public. In the meantime, I can't see any reason to NOT use it, if one is cautious and courteous. (And realizing that if you continue on Eagle Road, you'll be sharing the pavement with heavy, 55mph traffic.)

(I wrote to the City of Eagle more than a month ago, to get their take. So far, no reply.)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day!

Today would be the 44th celebration of Earth Day, since the first was in 1970. Back when I was an enlightened student... now I can barely keep up!

Granddaughter Mackenzie reminded me yesterday, when we were bike riding together.  They talked about Earth Day in Kindergarten; she said it's our planet's birthday, and we should do something nice for our environment, like pick up some litter.  (She's very conscientious about throwing away her own litter, as well as picking up debris left behind by others.  Good for her!)

I've commented several times about Earth Day - links can be found at last year's posting. Do something good for our planet today. I'd suggest riding your bike.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Celebrity awseomeness on a bike

The other day, I commented about Alec Baldwin's irresponsible riding style, and how he sets a bad example for his legions of adoring fans.

In stark contrast... I believe this fella was once a celebrity, too.

Check it out... he's not yappin' on his cellphone or riding down the wrong side of the street. In fact, he's obviously safety-conscious, since it looks like he's wearing Levis 501s tucked into his dapper Wellington boots. And I assume he's in the process of signing an autograph for one of his fans.

Thank ya. Thank ya verruh much.

(One has to wonder... does the kid in the photo keep a copy to show his friends his "brush with greatness"? Or better yet... maybe he had his head bronzed while the ballpoint-pen impression still lingered in his scalp.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Driving to work costs $9100/year

The American Automobile Association (a pro-car group if ever there was one!) released its annual estimates on what it costs to own and operate a car. That's up from $8900 last year. The estimate includes the cost of the car itself, plus fuel, tires, insurance, and repairs.

And that's for a sedan. SUV drivers pay a premium - instead of 61 cents/mile, their transportation is 77 cents/mile. Boy howdy! Imagine what those rednecks in their $45,000 F350 Super-Duties pay for the privilege!

I figure my transportation costs at least $8000 per year less. The problem is... how do I convince the Missus that all the savings should put more foldin' money in MY pocket, from the family budget?!!

Story HERE. (It's the UK Daily Mail, so it has the "bonus" tabloid story headlines - hundreds of 'em! - along the right-hand column!)

NYC bike share - a winner!

NYC is in the process of introducing the world's largest bike share - according to this news story, registration/memberships went on sale Monday, and by 3:30pm Tuesday, 5000 people had purchased annual memberships ($103).

Membership allows riders to use a bike for 45 minutes at a stretch, without any additional charge.

Bike sharing programs are launching all over the country, and all over the world. In huge places like NYC and London, and in small places - like Aspen, Colorado.

Some movers-and-shakers want to launch a program in Boise. Their vision is relatively modest - 140 bikes at 10 or so stations. But in contrast to NYC's program, which is 100% sponsored by users and local corporations, the $650K startup cost of Boise's proposed system would be paid by the deep-pockets taxpayers in the form of government grants. I've commented HERE. (Executive summary: the startup cost of $4600 per bike seems inordinately high, and the taxpayers are already bankrupt, and Boise's demographics are far different from NYC's ... or even Aspen's.)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


The civilized world is outraged and horrified when something like the "Boston Marathon bombing" takes place. Hearing of three innocent people killed and hundreds injured takes us out of our Comfort Zone. Terrorism is a horrible thing, because it makes peaceful people uncomfortable and brings war-zone strife into neighborhoods.

(As a matter of perspective and reality, such incidents are much more common in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, even Israel and India. How blessed we are if we live where such incidents are rare occurrances. But the world would be a better place without any such horror.)

Also as a matter of perspective and reality, consider:

Yesterday across the Fruited Plain, probably 15 people were killed, and 1227 people injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved distracted driving. It's likely more people were killed and maimed yesterday by cell phone yakkers, than were killed and maimed in Boston by terrorists with bombs. And far more by people who were distracted in other ways, while driving.

Just as many people will be killed and injured today.  And tomorrow.  And the day after that, and the day after that, etc. ...

(That's based on 2009 statistics. In that year, 5474 people were killed and an estimated 448,000 people were injured in distracted-driving accidents. 995 of those fatalities - 2.7 per day - involved reportss of a cell phone as a distraction. Those NHTSA statistics can be found HERE (PDF file).)

Where's the outrage?!?

Yeah - I admittedly obsess about distracted drivers.  It's probably because I see so many of them every day.  Cyclists are extremely vulnerable - the only way for us to avoid being injured or killed is to avoid accidents, and distracted drivers are out there causing accidents!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Upside-down flat repair

Sometimes when I'm riding, I'll see another cyclist by the side of the road, obviously repairing a flat tire.

I can identify - I used to do that a lot myself. On a couple horrible days, three times in a day! (That will make you want to hang up the bike!) Thankfully, since I switched to Vittoria Randonneur tires, my flat quotient is WAY down. I haven't fixed a flat so far this year.

Years ago, I was a "professional" bicycle flat-tire repair instructor. Well... "professional" may be a stretch, but over the course of 2 or 3 years I taught a one-hour Community Education class. Probably 25 or 30 people learned the art of flat repair under my expert tutelage. (You can definitely save some cash... I understand most bike shops don't patch tubes, but rather replace them. My personal policy is - 3 or 4 patches, then the tube gets replaced.)

Whenever I've been repairing a flat enroute, I've always thought it was VERY nice when a passing cyclist asked if everything was OK, and I generally try to do the same thing, or at least make sure they're equipped with what they need, to get the job done.

If the flat-tire victim has his bicycle turned upside down, I tend to dismiss that person as an "amateur." Is that wrong? Do y'all turn your bikes upside-down, to fix a flat tire?

I used to, years and years ago (probably 1000 flat repairs ago! haha). But I observed, and learned from practice, that it's at least as easy to separate a wheel from a bike by lifting the bike... and that keeps your saddle, brake hoods, handlebar tape, bike computer, etc., from getting scuffed up in the dirt.

Nowadays, if you see me fixing a flat tire, my bike will be lying on its side, or leaning against a support... or after the third flat in a day, maybe crumpled in a heap where it landed after I tossed it! (Just kidding about that last one. As much as I've felt like it a time or two, I've never tossed my bicycle.)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wrist-slap from the "legal system"

Suppose your vehicle had a frosted-up windshield one cold winter morning. And let's suppose you were in a big hurry - no time to scrape that windshield - so you hopped in and drove away, peering through the defrosted "peep hole."

(I know what you're saying. C'mon! Something like that could never happen!)

Furthermore, let's suppose that you were stopped in that frosted-up vehicle, near the railroad track... and suddenly the train was coming! Oh, no! Gotta do something! But due to your frosted-up windshield, you failed to notice the guy on the bike, directly in front of you. As you stomp on the gas, you hear a crunch - you know you hit something! But, the train's a-comin' - you gotta get out of the way!

Apparently, that is exactly what happened to Maria Fregoso-Avina, down in Provo, Utah.

The guy on the bike was Douglas Crow. He was 69, a custodian at BYU... a job he'd held for 30 years and was planning on retiring from this year. He was the father of seven children, an avid transportation cyclist, and loved the outdoors. He was pulling a trailer with some gear in it behind his bike. Ms. Fregoso-Avina pushed him onto the tracks with her frosty SUV, where he was run over by the approaching train.

"Just a tragic accident," right? That's what her attorney said.

Could it have been avoided, with reasonable and responsible behavior?

So - what should the penalty be, if your irresponsible behavior - your willful negligence - directly results in the death of another person?

Well, in this particular case, Ms. Fregoso-Avina was sentenced to 210 days in jail. (A bit over 6 months.) With credit for the 56 days already served.

That will send a stern message to all drivers... right?

You are responsible for safely operating that vehicle! You better scrape that windshield, cuz if you don't and kill somebody, you could end up spending a few months in jail!

I'm disgusted.

Story HERE.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Health: We're "older" than our parents were at the same age

Today's adults are 15 years older, in the sense of "metabolic health," than their parents were only one generation ago.

6000 adults aged 20-50 were observed over a 25-year period, and younger people were significantly more likely to be overweight or obese, and to have higher blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
- Men over 30 were 20 percent more likely to be overweight than previous generations.
- Women over 20 are twice as likely (!) to be obese, than those just 10 years ago.

The life expectancy rate has traditionally gone up as new medicines and treatments came to market, workplaces became safer, health risks have been better identified, etc. Could the kids of today be the first ones to deal with decreasing life expectancy?

What are we doing wrong?

Those who conducted the study say it's simple... we need to encourage increased physical activity and a balanced diet. For all of recorded history, we've sought good food and enough of it, and less physical labor. Now that we've gotten what we're after... it's killing us!

(One bit of good news - smoking is down. So you'll die of diabetes instead of lung cancer.)

I've been 10% or so overweight, according to the chart, since I was in junior high. My doctor says it's a non-issue since I have good blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, and get plenty of exercise. If I dropped the exercise - primarily bicycling - it would definitely have an impact on my health and/or I'd need to make significant adjustments to my diet. (I love red meat and chocolate and ice cream as much as the next guy! That's one of the reasons I'm motivated to hop on that bike every day.)

Story HERE.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Celebrity makes ass of self on bike

"Rock stars - is there anything they don't know?"
- Homer Simpson

People sit up and take notice when celebrities do stuff. And people noticed when Alec Baldwin took a spin on his bike, in NYC.

I don't know if helmets are required by law, in New York. (If not, Nanny Bloomberg has really dropped the ball, hasn't he?!!) But if you yap on your cellphone while riding... it's smart to wear a helmet. But now that I think about it, it's not too smart to yap on a cellphone while riding... so there's no reason to expect somebody who's talking on a cellphone while riding, to be smart enough to don a bucket.

The worst part - because I know it's illegal - the esteemed Mr. Baldwin is pedaling along on the wrong side of the road! That'll get you MASHED in lots of places.  Particularly if you're wrong-side riding while yappin' on your phone, and not wearing a helmet.

Fortunately for him, his arrival and intact departure, and the time in between, apparently went unnoticed by the "authorities."

Story and photo can be seen HERE.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Women can now ride bicycles in Saudi Arabia, but...

This has to be one of the strangest bicycle stories I've seen. (Maybe it's an April Fool, and I've been "punked"!)

Saudi Arabia's religious authority has given his (yeah, like it would be a woman!) blessing for women to ride bicycles in the country, "in parks, seafronts, among other areas, providing that they are wearing fully modest dress and a male guardian has to be present in case of falls or accidents." Driving is still off-limits for women, of course.

They also advised women to "steer clear of youth rallies, to avoid confrontations with protest groups."

Can that be right? Gangs of punks are protesting the newfound women's lib? "No wife of MINE will be seen riding a bike!" (A person would think that the youth of the country would protest in favor of relaxing the old-time restrictions. The times, they are a-changin'!)

Samia al-Bawardi, who apparently is an advocate for womens' rights, points out correctly that wearing abayas (the Islamic gown worn by women) and riding erratically "could result in terrible accidents."

Interestingly (and coincidentally?) in this country 120 years ago, bicycles played a significant part in the "emancipation" of American women. Munsey's Magazine, in 1896, stated: "To men, the bicycle in the beginning was merely a new toy, another machine added to the long list of devices they knew in their work and play. To women, it was a steed upon which they rode into a new world."

(More info about women's emancipation and bicycles, including some awesome photos and illustrations, can be seen HERE.)