Sunday, May 18, 2014

Boise Bike Week '14 - personal recap

Well, another Boise Bike Week has come and gone.

I rode every day, and ticked off a little over 160 miles, Sunday thru Sunday.  But my participation in organized activities was marginal

I took my two granddaughters, Mackenzie and Bonnie, for the Pedal Power Parade.  It was supposed to start at 5pm, from Capitol Park.  We got there 10 minutes or so early.  It's difficult to wrangle a 7 year old and a 15-month old who both are fairly attention-deficit, so I tried to time it close.  Too close, apparently... the park had maybe a dozen cyclists, rather than the hundreds that Mackenzie and I have joined in years gone by. (HERE is my report on last year's PPP.) The lady in charge said somebody got anxious, and the main group departed at 4:36pm - 24 minutes early.

The later arrivals - the dozen or so of us - went on an abbreviated ride, maybe 1/4 the length of the intended route, and without police escort and VIP treatment and revelry that are supposed to surround the event.  We returned to the starting point.  My granddaughters and I enjoyed some ice cream, then went on home.

(Photo snapped upon returning and joining with the remainders of the bigger group.)

NOTICE TO ORGANIZERS - if you want to enjoy a broad participation by area cyclists who have busy schedules this time of year, you better stick to your announced schedules!! Please and thank you.

Greenbelt - west update

I saw a story a few days back, reporting on the ongoing conflict between an "affluent Eagle subdivision" that's balking at the prospect of a public bike path being developed adjacent to a few back yards. (I've posted on it numerous times... it's essentially a repeat of the "Riverside Village" debacle. The developer agrees to provide a public bike/pedestrian path as a condition of development... then the homeowners want to back out.)

The most recent story says, "The Laguna Pointe Homeowner's Association recently hired a private contractor to clear a new pathway near the Boise River and away from the homes. Construction on the path was completed on Wednesday. The cost was approximately $4,000. Members of the HOA hope the city will develop that pathway and give up plans to seize the current path now in use." I was curious enough, and the day was beautiful enough, that I decided a personal observation trip was in order.

Here's where the "new pathway" begins, at the east end - the Boise end.  The "traditional" disputed path is on the left, the new one on the right.

It's extremely loose, dusty dirt as of today... I had to walk my bike for the first couple hundred feet.  But it gets better... and that problem is easy to fix.

The route isn't a bad alternative, frankly.  Closer to the river and farther from the palatial estates - what's not to like?

Except... eventually it merges back into the traditional path, just before where it crosses the flood overflow canal.  And - the stout plank that replaced the destroyed bridge has been removed.

I had the choice of either returning the same way I got there... or fording the canal.  The socks and shoes came off.

The rest of the path remained unchanged from previous visits, over the past year or so.

I rode north a half-mile or so on Eagle Road, and then headed back in on the north side of the Boise River... my reward was several miles of well-maintained dirt paths mostly, and lots more very nice scenery.


(And of course I was compelled to take to the streets, when I arrived at the exclusive Riverside Village "nature path.")

It's about 10.5 miles, round trip, starting and finishing at the Glenwood Bridge.  There are a couple tricky places - forks in the road and such - where it helps to have ridden it before.  And I'm guessing that 6 of those 10.5 miles are dirt/gravel surface, generally quite well maintained.  (It may be marginal for super-skinny high pressure tires.)  But if the weather is nice and you've got some time, I recommend an exploratory adventure out that way.

It's a shame that the public status of this pathway will likely be mired down in legal limbo for the foreseeable future.  But I've done the round trip 4 or 5 times now, and have ridden west to Eagle Road at least that many more times, and I've never had a confrontation with anybody.  Hopefully your results will be similar.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mackenzie's new bike!

What better way to celebrate Boise Bike Week, than to do a hardware upgrade?

Mackenzie could've probably made it through one more summer on her 20-inch bike.  But I swear, I've had to adjust the seatpost up another half-inch every month or so.  She's growing!  It was just about maximum-extended.  So, I've been casually watching the Craigslist for a decent 24-inch bike.

Lots of department-store throw-away 24-inchers, and the bike-shop models have all been going for a premium price.  But patience paid off, and I found a nice little Kona "Hula" in pink and white.  If Mackie had spec'd it out herself, that's what she would've wanted.  And, it's been owned by a bike-riding family, meticulously maintained, and stored indoors.

We took it on a quick around-the park on Night One.  Tonight we gave it a better workout - Mackie put 7 miles or so on it, and was rewarded with a refreshing root beer float.

She declares, "I love this bike!"  I'm guessing it will serve her nicely for next three summers, at which point she'll be ready for a grown-up size bike.

We'll be riding in the Pedal Power Parade, along with Baby Bonnie.  Hope you can make it!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bicycling to work - Census

Okay - this is pretty remarkable.

According to a U.S. Census report released today, bicycling to work has seen a 60-percent increase over the past ten years.  But even cooler from a local standpoint... Boise, Idaho is listed as the #4 "large city" with the highest percentage of transportation cyclists, at 3.7%.  Portland is #1 at 6.1%, and Minneapolis and Madison, WI, are both ahead of us... but we have more cyclists per capita than such traditional cycling cities as Seattle, San Francisco, and Tucson.  (Nationwide, the Census people say 0.6% of people use bikes to get to work.)

Why the uptick?  Here's my "expert analysis" (nudge-nudge, wink-wink):
- Gas is considerably more expensive than it was 10 years ago.
- Despite suggestions to the contrary, the economy is still pretty stagnant; people have to economize.
- The young adults of 2014 don't have the same perception of a fancy single-occupant vehicle as their parents did.  It's no longer an essential symbol of status and "success."

I expect bicycles-as-transportation will continue to become more popular over the next ten years.

Might Boise move up on the list?

I sure don't know why not!

Think about it - the weather and "geography" of Boise are more bike-friendly than those of Portland or either of those Northern-Midwest cities.  We get less rain than any of them... a lot less than Portland.  Our winters are shorter and milder than Minneapolis or Madison winters.  And our terrain is relatively flat.

More and more, the local administrators seem to be willing to provide accommodations for casual or timid cyclists... witness the month-long test project downtown.

What's working against us?

Urban sprawl will always be the enemy of bicycle transportation.  People who live in their Little Piece of Country Heaven, 20 or 25 miles from where they work and 5 miles from where they shop, are never likely to do much bike-transportation, all other things remaining the same.

We are lacking in education and enforcement.  There are still too many idiots-on-bikes who either don't know how to use the public roadways, or are willfully disobeying the rules of safety and common sense.  And as long as there are no consequences, that's unlikely to change.  (As the percentage of cyclists increases... MAYBE "peer pressure" will have a positive impact.  If just one guy is hollering "Wrong way!" at the against-traffic cyclists, nothing will change.  But if they get hollered at every block or two, maybe they'll take notice.)

Boise Bike Week starts this Saturday!  I believe we have good reason to celebrate, now more than ever... pick out an event or two or five to participate in. I'd suggest the Pedal Power Parade on Saturday 5/17.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bike awareness cop car

These are heady times for cyclists in Boise.  The street developers, ACHD, have laid down several miles of "demonstration" bike lanes downtown... at the expense of car lanes on significant thoroughfares.  They will remain in place for a month, and citizens are asked to comment on them.

I've tried the bike lane up Capitol Boulevard... I won't use it regularly because it's off my most direct route.  But I can say confidently it's a boon for cyclists who travel that way... but at what cost?  A traffic lane can carry a lot of cars, that are suddenly squeezed into other lanes.

I've got this theory - and I may be totally wrong.  Our mayor and ACHD have had some public spats over the years, and the mayor is a proponent of more bike lanes downtown.  I'm suspicious that ACHD is maybe doing this pilot project in such a massive and potentially-disruptive way, specifically so the general public will oppose it, and they can shelve the plans.  (But on the other hand, I have to give props to ACHD... I think they have a track record of including bike infrastructure in their projects, when it makes sense.  Does it make sense to steal traffic lanes and on-street parking for downtown bike lanes?  I s'pose the community should decide that.)

"But... what about the bike awareness cop car?" you ask.

The police department today deployed a shiny new cop car with bike awareness graphics on it.  Sah-WEEET!

(Now if only they would use it to prosecute scofflaw cyclists... and impatient or inattentive motorists who increase the danger factor for law-abiding cyclists!)