Do you know exactly who the highways were built for?

15pr34-1“Hey – do you know who the highways were built for?!?!”

It has always been a source of contention in the debates over how to allocate road space. “Roads are made for cars,” “Motorists pay the taxes that build our roads,” and “Why should I have to pay for infrastructure for cyclists” are among the many complaints that are made about the allocation of transportation funds in our municipalities. I’m going to avoid the tax issue for the moment (planning on a much longer post about that in the future.) Besides, many others have taken this issue on already.

I would like to address the idea of who roads were actually built for. And interestingly enough it would seem that the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) has some thoughts on the matter themselves. Keep reading →

Another bike month is here

Ah the month of May….

The flowers return from a long winter’s absence (if there is any water left), the sun is appearing (if it actually every went away), fans flock to baseball games (if allowed) and numerous employees are encouraged, berated, bribed and pressured into throwing a leg over a bike to get to work. That’s right folks – May is bike month. And while I’ve made fun of it before, you gotta love it.

I will say this though. My current hometown of San Francisco definitely seems to embrace the event whole heartedly. Sure, many of the local bicycle advocacy groups continue to use fear of death and dismemberment as their primary means to gain political power and thus “improve cycling.” But despite what some might like to say, this city is pretty damn supportive of cyclists.

Which has lead me to be a whole lot less cynical about this particular May as compared to every bike month prior. What have I really noticed? Well, aside from folks weaving all over the bike lane at 10 miles per hour, unstable on the bike they haven’t ridden since last May*, I’ve noticed something a lot more wonderful. Clusters of folks with bikes , pulled off on the sidewalks and out of the way, smiling, chatting. Phrases like “Oh – you rode today too?” and “Oh hey – what a great bike” flowing forth from smiling lips.

Ah the month of May.

 

For the record, I have no problem getting stuck behind these folks. I would never want to deny anyone the joy of rediscovering the simple pleasure of riding a bike. I just may chose NOT to upload that particular commute to Strava….

The good and bad of hands free laws

Just a short, simple observation for you today. I’ve noticed a good thing, and a bad thing, about the “hands free” or “no texting while driving” laws enacted across the country.

Good Thing:

Fewer distracted drivers on the road, looking at where they are going instead of LOLing the latest selfie from their bestie.

Bad Thing:

An increase in the number of people parked in the bike lane, having pulled over to LOL the latest selfie from their bestie.

 

 

… You win some, you lose some.

Neil Hanson, Author of Pilgrim Wheels

Pilgrim Wheels - front cover

Cyclist and author Neil Hanson has just released a book titled Pilgrim Wheels: Reflections of a Cyclist Crossing America. The book describes the first half of a somewhat-impromptu journey across the United States by bicycle. Having something of an interest in folks taking off on long distance bike rides, I decided to share a few responses to questions posed to the author.

Note: You can also read a review of Pilgrim Wheels on VeloReviews.com: Pilgrim Wheels book review

What was the original inspiration for your bicycle trip across America?

I wanted to take a bike ride. A long bike ride. Hundreds of miles, just me and my bike. Why? No particular reason, it just sounded like a neat thing to add to the checklist of “fun and exciting things I’ve tried.” The idea became an adventure. An adventure to plan for and to move toward. A box to check off. Eventually, I was clipping into my pedals in Monterey, California, pointing south along the coast on a beautiful summer day, discovering America and me. Keep reading →

UC Denver doing cycling behavioral study

ucd_rgb_h1The University of Colorado Denver is engaged in a study of cycling behavior on the roads, and has created an online survey to help gather data. Lead by principal investigator Dr Wes Marshall, the survey asks questions about your driving habits, cycling habits, and opinions on both.

The survey was mentioned in a well written discussion in a Washington Post article about why cyclists may be motivated to ignore, bend or even break traffic laws – a good counterpoint to another article from the same publication basically arguing that bikes should be banned from the roads.

My one concern about the survey, however, is that the title itself seems to imply an inherent bias. While it did not influence me (that I know of) using the title “Scofflaw Biking Survey” seems a bit too biased for an accurate cycling behavioral study. And for those prone to more subtle input, the URL is worse: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1885930/bikingbad.

 

Are Brilliant Bicycles really Brilliant?

1932316_929536510407999_5379744506276974419_nBrilliant Bicycles web page is full of some video and imagery of folks doing the kinds of things I love – riding some beautiful looking bikes. While there is no text yet indicating the details of their products, they seem to be crafting beautifully adorned steel “city style” bikes – similar to San Francisco’s Public bicycles. Their twitter page lists them as from New York and Los Angeles (but don’t confuse them with the Brilliant Bikes out of the UK). They have all the standard social media offerings one would expect of what appears to be a brand new bike brand just launching. So I went searching for more information.

Their Facebook page is filled with eclectic and decidedly artsy cycling related posts, Keep reading →

Life is a crit, not a stage race

There are so many clichés about it. Buddhism and Hinduism both teach the concepts of the circles we travel through the course of our life. Bands have devoted entire albums to the concept. And for most of my life I thought this was all total crap.

I always looked at life as more of a meandering journey. To me, life was like a stage race. Each day is different. Sure – there are general categories. Some stages are for sprinters, like first love: long hours waiting and preparing in the peloton until a final, quick culmination in sheer joy for a few, bitter defeat for others. Some stages in life are long grueling climbs punctuated with decisive, strategic attacks (*ahem* my professional life). Of course the climb is then followed by blistering fast descents where your tires are barely holding on to the edge of the tarmac – sounds like high school to me.

10683671_709453322442017_4224128923658989640_o Keep reading →

Cycling through a midlife crisis

car-n-chick
Hey – you better not scratch the paint!

When I was a kid I actually looked forward to having a midlife crisis. I’d have a societally accepted excuse to buy a dangerously fast car and hook up with a young blond (of course at that time in my life ‘hook up’ loosely meant getting to second base.) Those of you that have followed this blog over the years may be surprised to know that I actually was quite a motorhead when I was younger. Classic American muscle cars were my thing. And I poured ridiculous amounts of money into making sure they would suck up as much gasoline as possible. All speed limit signs read “As fast as you can go and still keep it mostly in your lane.”

But I digress…

Somewhere between then and age 40 – which is when I’d always planned to have my midlife crisis – that passion for cars switched to a passion for bicycles. Well – first I bought a Prius in a lame attempt to somehow atone for all the carbon I’d dumped into the atmosphere drag racing on the streets of my home town through high school. That pretty much cured me of the fast car midlife crisis cliché. Instead, my first step in my midlife crisis was to open a bike shop. It failed. And being the silver-lining guy that I am, I’m kinda glad. In an effort to recover from the debt incurred running a failed, unprofitable bike shop I looked for expenses to cut. One of my larger monthly bills was my damned car payment.

So instead of buying that incredibly fast car, I did just the opposite and became car free.

Turns out I was right in line with what I was supposed to be doing. For me part of the point of a midlife crisis is to reset the clock and roll back to a mental attitude of half your age – hopefully taking along some of the good wisdom with you. It is the realization that, yea, I probably did waste my youth, but that doesn’t mean I need to be a boring old man. Many people lament “Gee, if only I could go back then knowing what I know now.” Well that is exactly what I planned to do.

And what does that have to do with being car free? Well, turns out the people that are chronologically half my age don’t much want to drive either. With improvements in health care and quality of life, more and more people are doing things in their 40’s that were previously reserved for those in their 20’s. Since 40 is my new 20, I’m off to do slightly reckless things in the pursuit of happiness, with just a slight tinge of older wisdom. In my case doing something new means, among other things, riding one of those funny bikes with knobby tires and squishy forks on dirt. And getting faster on the road. I ditched the car addiction, but not the addition to speed.

And the tempered with wisdom part? Well, that involves watching guys like this and realizing “That looks like a ton of fun – but you guys are fucking nuts…”

Are Police Electronic Device Laws Justified?

California, like many other states, has laws on the books to control the use of electronic devices while riding. As in most (all?) jurisdictions with such laws, there is an explicit exception for operators of emergency vehicles – which on the surface makes sense to most. While the intent of this exemption makes sense to me, a recent case has caused me to seriously reconsider the implications of an unrestricted exemption.

It started when former Napster COO Milton Everett Olin Jr. was struck and killed by a LA County Sheriff’s patrol car. Keep reading →

Attacking Bike Thieves

bait_bike_stickerBike thieves suck. Plain and simple.

A recent article on Gawker tells the story of one unique approach to the problem – public shame and fear. But does this approach actually work?

San Francisco Police Department has been using this approach for some time now in full force. Part of their active approach involves the deployment of bait bikes – bikes locked up around the city with GPS tracking devices in them. This program has been coupled with a PR campaign run in conjunction with the nonprofit Safe Bikes in an attempt to erode the brazen attitude of serial bike thieves. Local cyclists have snapped up the free stickers, placing them on their personal bikes. This proliferation serves as a constant reminder to bike thieves of the presence of the bait bike program.

Only time (and statistics) will tell if these programs have an impact on the alarming number of bike thefts occurring here in San Francisco. Until then, of course, the best action to take is to learn how to protect yourself and your bicycle.