Friday, August 30, 2013

"Driving in America has stalled."

According to this article by AP writer Joan Lowy, total [motor] vehicle use peaked in America in August, 2007. It dropped off sharply, no doubt due to the recession and the ever-escalating cost of fuel. It has rebounded somewhat since, but has now leveled off.


The experts cite several contributors:
- The percentage of young people who get driver's licenses has dropped off, suggesting that driving isn't as important as it has been in the past
- Ongoing uncertainty about the economy
- Gas prices
- Traffic, lack of parking spaces, etc., has soured people. "Getting into a car no longer correlates with fun."
- Cars are no longer a "fetish of masculinity" for many in our society
- Changing lifestyles - more shopping online, public transit is more popular in many areas, as are walking and cycling
- The population is aging, and the huge "baby boom bubble" drives less as they retire, etc.
- Unemployment - Young people in particular are having a hard time getting and holding a job that will support a car

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Historic flat tire

I got a flat today! D'oh! It was a goathead (of course!), and in a twist of cruel irony, I'm pretty sure I "acquired" it right behind the ACHD equipment yard. I've been noticing a prolific growth of goatheads along there (like pretty much every place right now), and today it looked as though somebody had been trying to deal with them, and in the process a few got scattered about on the bike path.

It's "historic," because it's only my second flat tire of the calendar year. And for years and years, I averaged 2 or 3 such flats a month, and have dealt with three in a day (!) a couple times. But since I discovered my new favorite tire, Vittoria Randonneurs, dealing with flats is pretty much a thing of the past.

Amazingly, there are a couple of "down sides" to not getting flats very often.

I pulled up to do repairs. And apparently, fixing flats is kinda like... uh... um... riding a bike! Once you learn, you never forget.

I quickly had the tube removed and the offending goathead removed, and the hole identified and the rubber "roughed up" with sandpaper. Then I went to apply some glue. From a never-opened tube. D'oh! The glue was dried up! I guess that's what happens after a couple years, even if you don't use any.

Not to worry! I pulled out my spare inner tube, which I also always carry. Put the compromised one around my neck and the spare inside the tire, and pumped it up, and started on my way. A mile or so up the road, I noticed it was getting low.

Fer cryin' out loud!

I took my place at the side of the path, and once again practiced my tube change-out skills. And I discovered - if a tube goes for many, many miles, folded up in an underseat bag... it tends to wear a hole wherever it's rubbing against something. And that was the case today.

Fortunately, I also had a couple peel-and-stick "emergency patches," and applied one, and limped on in to my destination. I'll fix the leaking spare tube, and maybe wrap it in an old sock or something to prevent it from getting rubbed raw. And I'll try to replenish my patching supplies.

On the bright side, I got a glimpse of the good side of humanity. Three or four people were passing by, and asked if I had everything under control. It's nice to witness compassion and empathy up close from time to time.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Perfectly good rides - SPOILED!

Yesterday at the end of my 8 hours of toil, I stood up and peeked out of my cube. The sky was dark! What the?!!

I headed for the bike locker; the sky was ominous, and I could see rain coming down in the not-too-distant distance. The wind was gusty. Oh well - I'd already been wet twice since morning. (Both times in the shower.) I forged ahead. Made it maybe 1/2 mile before the rain started falling.

I took refuge under a bridge for a couple minutes and called home with the cell phone. No answer; I left a message - "PLEASE put the extenders on our rain gutter downspouts!" (Sometimes when it rains hard, we'll get a little water in the basement if we don't move the roof-water a little farther out on the lawn. Turns out nobody answered because everybody in the household was out on the front porch, watching the thunderstorm.)

The rain let up a bit, and I rode on. The respite was short lived - as I rode over that same bridge, it was pouring rain and the side wind was pushing me. At least it was still warm. And my "fanny pack" is fairly water-resistant, to protect the contents.

At the end of my 20-minute bike ride, I was as wet as I'd been in the shower, and my clothes and shoes were equally wet. Oh, well - that's the occasional price to be paid when you ride a bike every day. I put the downspout extenders in place, and took refuge inside. By 45 minutes, the storm had blown through and the sun came out again. (My shoes were still squishy-wet this morning. I'm wearing another pair.)


This morning the outlook was much better. We had overnight rain, and the pavement was damp but not wet.

I headed for work, taking a route that is slightly longer but oh so much more pleasant, through Ann Morrison Park.

As I rode in one direction, I saw a couple approaching from the other direction. Nothing unusual there; happens all the time. But just as I got to them, suddenly the underbrush on the side parted, and their big dog came bounding out, right into my path! I braked hard and rode off the path; fortunately I didn't go down. (I'm too old to be slamming into the hard ground - that's a pastime for the young bucks.) As I rode away, I suggested they should put their dog on a leash.

The fella replied with that ever-persuasive "F*** you!!"

What the?! Hey, jackass - I'm not the problem - you are the problem.

I did a U-turn and rode to them and said, "There's a leash law - you are breaking the law, and if your dog causes me to crash, there will be a problem."

The woman pushed against me and said, "Please just go! My husband is a vet, and has P.T.S.D." And indeed he was making his buggy-eyed World Wrestling scary-face and acting as though he wanted a piece of me. (Oh, brother!)

The woman did tell him to put their dog on the leash. And I just went.

So much for the ever-pleasant ride through the park. I felt like telling the woman, "If you can't take your dog and your psycho husband out in public without endangering other citizens, maybe you better keep 'em home." I'd much rather deal with bad weather than big unpredictable animals - both canine and human.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

One more Tour de Fat follow-up

According to the Boise Weekly, 6000 (!) people participated in the morning bike parade. That's a LOT of people and bikes! Perhaps the local mainstream media should do a better job of reporting on an event with so much local participation. Also, as Clancy commented, the most long-term fallout from the event was $55,000 collected for three local nonprofit bicycle organizations.

Well done, Fat Turistas!!

A couple other happy memories of the parade that I failed to mention earlier:

We're all familiar with the kind-hearted spectators who hold out cups of water for the contestants in big-time bicycle races, marathons, etc., right?

Well, early on, along the Tour de Fat course, a heart-of-gold lady had a little table set up, and as people rode by she was offering Ice Cream Cones!! Seriously! Holding a cone out at arm's length and inquiring, "Ice cream? Ice cream?" I asked Mackie if we should get some ice cream - she declined, being afraid that she might crash her bike if she was riding and licking her cone at the same time.

If I had it to do over, I would've told her to pull over. We could've leisurely eaten an ice cream cone, and then pulled back into the mob, a little farther back.

(Somehow it seemed SO APPROPRIATE that the "Tour de Fat" parade riders would get the opportunity for Ice Cream Relief!)

There were some security personnel on hand for the event, including some Boise motorcycle cops. (Although I've never seen a more content, well-behaved crowd of people, at least during the parade event!) In their motorcycle-cop fashion, some of them would block the side streets as the parade started through, and then race on ahead to the next intersection. Frankly, it made me a little nervous; a big, loose pack of bicycle riders is a little more free-flowing than a float rolling slowly down the middle of the road, or even a band marching to J. P. Sousa, in nice, straight lines.

Well, one of the cops - I happen to know the guy - was riding his big BMW motorcycle up the sidewalk, to get to the next intersection. A parader on a bike was on the sidewalk ahead of him. Certainly not trying to disrupt in any way... he just happened to be on the sidewalk. When he heard the motorcycle engine revving behind him, he cleared the way, and the cop zoomed on ahead... into an area of the sidewalk that was under repair. There were barriers, places where the sidewalk was buckled or missing altogether. By then, he was moving fast and all he could do was try to "ride it out." To everyone's horror/delight (can you feel both at the same time?!), he actually "caught some air" and did the motocross thing for a few feet, then came down with a crash! But he's obviously a skilled rider - he controlled everything and zoomed on up the sidewalk... leaving his big black Cop Flashlight twirling on the ground in his wake.

Paraders hollered, "Look! He lost his weapon!!" Somebody collected it - I got the impression they were riding ahead, hoping to catch up. I never saw how it ended, but it added to the excitement for everybody in the immediate area.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tour De Fat - Boise - 2013

What is the Tour de Fat?

When I announced to my bride that Mackie and I would be attending, and told her it was sponsored by the brewing company that produces Fat Tire Ale, she was surprised. She thought it was an event to celebrate getting fat people on bikes, so they can become less fat. (And I can totally understand how she could get that impression, when looking at me. She probably always wondered how Mackenzie could possibly fit in.)

So, what is it?

It's a celebration for New Belgium Brewing Company, no doubt! It is also a huge celebration of bicycles, and bicycle culture, and bicycle fun! It's also just another reason for people to get together and party.

As I write this (Saturday afternoon, Aug. 17), I'm confident the celebration is still going strong. The revelers are probably worked up to a frenzy of Pentecostal Bicycle Fervor by now. Or something like that. (-;

We attended the parade. And what a parade it was! The front of the staging area was very near Americana Boulevard, and there literally had to be thousands of riders! Much, much larger than I recall in years gone by. We arrived early enough to take a look-see at the gathered masses, but we walked for five minutes without ever getting close to the back of the line... I bet it was close to the Royal Boulevard entrance of the park... and I bet it stretched for at least a mile as it rolled leisurely down the parade route.



Mackie did an excellent job of riding - she kept pace (no problem - it moved SLOW!), she didn't cause anybody else discomfort, and she avoided a couple of slightly-close calls. We didn't costume up much, and we both wore helmets (probably half of the riders had helmets on - many festooned for the occasion).

Next year, we've decided she will gather a costume and we'll decorate her bike. And I intend to hook up the BOB trailer with rolling sound. (Yeah, as if that crowd needed a boost of enthusiasm.)

The announced that it was the 12th straight year of TDF in Boise. And based on attendance, I'm sure it's permanently established at this point.

I'm sure many of the participants are pretty casual about their cycling and serious about their partying... but that's OK.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

No bike racks at new SLC high school

Corner Canyon High School, in Draper, Utah, is all set to receive its first student body, estimated to be 1,750 students. The 311,000 square foot school was built with "the future in mind," including "substantial wiring for student laptops and tablets, as well as Wi-Fi throughout the school."

The school's design "aims to improve indoor environmental quality," has natural light, etc. It features three gymnasiums, astroturf football field with seating for 4700 spectators, tennis courts, and a baseball/softball complex.

Laura Murdoch of Draper recently toured the shiny new $65 million school, and wrote an interesting letter to the Salt Lake Tribune. After noticing the 1,232-space parking lot, she asked where the bike racks were located, so her son could ride his bike. There aren't any bike racks. For you see, riding a bike and locking it could raise some legal issues. There isn't a school in the entire district that has a bike rack.


I don't understand that AT ALL! I can say with total confidence that those 1232 cars - being driven by teenagers - will create more legal issues over the life of that shiny new school than those same students could ever cause, if they were all riding bicycles.

Ms. Murdoch also cites the "obesity epidemic" that our society is facing, and the importance of teaching our kids "healthy living habits," instead of "encouraging them to hop in their mom’s SUV for the short ride to school." Amen to that!

And besides - if the administrators truly have the future in mind, they should realize that cars are less important to today's teenagers than those a generation ago. And as the cost of operating a car continues to increase, and kids continue to embrace new forms of technology and communication, miles-driven is almost certain to decrease.

There is no excuse for building a shiny new high school without bike racks!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tour de Fat - Aug 17 in Boise

If you live in the Boise area, mark your calendars! (Yeah! Like they haven't been marked since January 1st!) Tour de Fat is once again headed our way.

I've never really immersed myself in the Tour. In fact, my level of participation in the past has been to arrive a little early, make some observations, and then ride in the parade. But if you want to go bike-evangelical, you can stay for the performances by various offbeat entertainers, contests, and the highlight (for at least one lucky attendee), the "Car for Bike Trade." The lucky one agrees to surrender his car for a year, and use bicycle for all local travel. I believe it's the "honor system," and also that if an emergency arises the car can be used, provided the battery still has a charge. The reward? The bike! And typically it's a fancy custom cruiser-style machine.

Details of the event can be found HERE. (You need to enter your date of birth to proceed, but you kids can put in the month and day, and just "fake" the year. What the? Is it illegal for minors to view the website? If it features nudity or alcoholism or other adult themes, I haven't done enough clickin', apparently.)

Don't forget the SPF30! It'll probably be a sunny day.

What makes this event worthwhile, other than a few hours of Bicycle Bacchanalia? Proceeds from the event will benefit the SW Idaho Mountain Bike Alliance, the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance, and my favorite, the Boise Bike Project.

(On an unrelated note... apologies for not much new material as of late. I've just been kinda "in the groove," there's not much noteworthy or new to comment on, and I've got other irons in the fire. Also, I recently went on a 9-day, 2000+ mile motorcycle jaunt, covering Oregon, Washington, and N. Idaho... pretty sweeet! I'm racking up Quality Miles on the bicycle - hope you are too!)