Friday, December 21, 2012

Cardboard Bike Helmet

Here is an interesting design for a helmet made of cardboard. It looks interesting. I know cardboard is stronger than it looks, at least end on. I do have questions about the durability though.  They did mention that it would have a plastic shell. Also the cardboard is treated to be water resistant. I don't know if the plastic shell covers the inside? Otherwise you might get mushy cardboard where it touches your sweaty head. Still I am always excited for new and cheaper helmet options.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bike Lanes

I really like having bike lanes. I think they are great, and do make riding safer. Often though, the bike lane was just leftover space between the lane and the gutter. It ends up filled with rocks, glass, water, grates, and other debris. Another unfortunate side effect is that everyone seems to think a bike must ride there. So when a cyclists needs to move out of the bike lane it seems to anger drivers.

This is the story of a guy who was ticketed for not riding in the bike lane. It is an amusing look at the hazards that often populate the bike lane.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Exercising Your Mind

I like commuting to my job on my bike. When I arrive I am pumped up and excited to get the day started. (Also cold and wet on the days that it rains.) There has been a lot of research about how exercise helps your brain. It really does seem to be one of the best things for problems like depression. Here is some new research that says cyclist may be better than other forms of exercise.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Disaster

The Christmas Disaster ride was yesterday. I love any chance I get to do something crazy and unexpected. This ride/race was that and more. There are some nights that are just so awesome you can't help but love your life.

Of course that isn't the way I was feeling when I got to the start. The meetup was at Twilight Exit and by the time I got there I was soaked and freezing. It was raining and in the mid thirties. I had a lite windshell on to keep out some of the rain. My gloves were soaked through freezing my hands.

I had hurried over because I was afraid of being late. I need to remember that nobody does anything on time around here. By the time we left though the rain had stopped. It was still cold, but at least it was dry.

I hadn't been to a Disaster before so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. To make this worse, the rules were complex which only added to the confusion. From what I understood from Ben, who was running it, this was intentional.

I headed out for the first checkpoint which was at the end of Lake View park above the switchbacks. There were actually two spots that fit this description. I was one of nine people who selected the wrong one. Whoops.

Then it was off to the Arboretum for a round of golf. Nine "holes" or destinations to reach. Each scored in order of who got there first. When the group started I headed off in front to head for one of spots I didn't think anyone would be going for. But then everyone was following me. That would have worked except I dropped my chain on the way and a bunch of people passed me. I ended up getting there 6th. My best scoring was 3rd. At the hole I skipped because I thought everyone was going to head to it, I came in 4th. I guess the whole group skipped it as I rode by. There I go overthingking things.

At the finish line Ben had a couple of "reindeer games" to play and make up a few lost points. I won a couple of these. One by jumping into the ship canal... at night... in December... It wasn't that bad actually. Though I did push my way into a spot by the fire.

From there it was over to The Zoo for prizes and gift exchange. I even won an award. Not for winning the Disaster race though. (Ended up in 3rd place, even after my swim.) My award was for wear shorts and a t-shirt in all weather, handed over with the admonition "get a coat hippie".

The whole night was a blast. I want to give another thanks to Ben for putting this on. Also thanks to everyone who manned a checkpoint in the cold. It was an awesome evening. I am looking forward to doing it again next year!


Friday, December 14, 2012

I am tired of the "chaos"

I am not tired of the chaos on the roads. I actually like that. It means I have to be on my game when I leave the house every morning. You never really know what is going to happen out there. Each day is a different group of trucks and cars driving by. I can't be sure how they are all going to react. My way to deal with this is to be predictable and aware. The chaos also means that my ride is a bit different each morning. This morning I didn't know the lower Spokane street bridge was going to be open. It never gets boring.

What does get boring is all the crap I read about the coming bike caused chaos. Could we stop already? Chaos is the state that we currently exist in. There are laws, but that is just camouflage for random and bizarre behavior. Everybody does it. Quicks stops. Unexpected turns. Moving without any warning. This is the world that we live in.

This isn't a car vs. bike thing either. Cyclists go the wrong way. Drivers run red lights. (I have almost been hit by two this week.) Pedestrians step out into the road without looking. It is time to face the fact that we can't make people follow the rules all the time. (Have you ever seen a car go the speed limit on the West Seattle Bridge?) Even if we could make all the people do that, animals don't listen. Try telling a moose to put on a reflective vest and stop running the wrong way down the streets at night. Each road user (drivers and cyclists) has to be prepared to stop or avoid objects all the time.

This isn't easy. I understand, because I feel the same way when I get behind the wheel. I want to get to the store before it closes. I want to pick up my girlfriend before she gets mad that I am late (again). I want to just get home so I can have a little dinner and relax. Having to go slow because the conditions don't allow me to go faster is frustrating. Needing to be vigilant for cars, bikes and pedestrians makes driving much more like work. I have to push myself to relax and take my time. I struggle to be aware of my surroundings at all times, but I do it. I know that is the cost I pay for being able to go 60mph.

That isn't what I hear in the media though. It is always that bicycles cause chaos. Not that drivers need to get off their cell phones and pay attention. Where is the call to stop fixing pot-holes until drivers can learn to use a turn signal? When do you hear someone asking to stop building more highways until drivers stop speeding? But cyclists hear this same message every time a new bike lane is put in. Or whenever a traffic signal is changed to make it safer.

When someone writes that bicycles are wreaking havoc on the roads, what the person is telling you is "I am a dangerous driver." What make it worse is that it proclaims to other drivers that this is okay. The problem isn't that people must pay attention when driving, it is that cyclist are the cause. They aren't big enough. They aren't bright enough. They are too nimble. For someone who has built their life around the notion that driving a car is a right, having to really think about how badly they drive can be scary. Instead it is easier to think it is someone else's fault. When you put it into print, or on the internet, it feeds the fear and frustration. It leads to cyclists being harassed and run off the road. Being yelled at and run into. All the while the driver is thinking that the man in the paper or the guy on TV said it was okay. That cyclist had it coming.

That brings me to my point. To the journalists, pundits, and commenters out there, before you go running your mouth off, chew on this. When was the last time you were driving in a car and were scared by a bicycle? I mean you thought a cyclist was going to kill you? The answer is never. Sure, that cyclist riding the wrong way down the street with no lights on is shocking, but not deadly. I haven't seen any reports of a driver who has been killed by a cyclist. Don't give me any crap about dangerous bikers while you are wrapped in 2000 lbs. of steel. If I can ride with nothing to protect me but a pair of aluminum wheels between my legs, you are going to be fine. Embrace the chaos. Be prepared for it. Slow down, pay attention, and relax. If we can do that, we are all going to get there just fine.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Interesting Blog

I found the blog Bikeyface the other day, and so far have quite enjoyed it. It is mostly drawings from a cycle-commuter on Boston. Most of it is practical advice for both cyclists and drivers. I hope you enjoy it.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Engineering a City for All Road Users

I found this TED talk, and I am very impressed with it.

I think there is an interesting point here about the competition of cars vs. bikes. Roads used to be for all public users. Walkers, cyclists, horse riders. With the advent of the car, the concept of the road went from "ours" to "mine". The attitude has changed from roads as a place for gathering, protesting, and selling to something that is for cars only. It has gone so far that special pedestrian areas had to be created. With the general use of sidewalks, the prevailing view came to be that roads were for cars only. This is a viewpoint that I believe is both false and dangerous. I like that this talk points out both how recent (>100 years) that idea is and how it has never been true. The roads are "ours". They are public, and for everyone to use.

I also enjoyed the idea of "desire lines". People, weather in cars, walking, or on bikes, travel in a way that makes their travel as fast and efficient as possible. When pedestrians jay-walk, or cyclists run red lights, it is because the rules and the infrastructure isn't there to support them. If you  are driving and see a cyclist acting badly, the best thing to do is to call your representatives in congress. Tell them there aren't enough cycle paths. We are just starting to engineer cities that cater and encourage biking. That make roads safer by reducing the number of cars. It also brings back the community that once existed before we locked ourselves away in boxes of glass and steel.

Finally, I want to make a point that I will probably make over and over again on this blog. The roads are for all people. When you are driving, you should be looking out for cars, motorcycles, walkers, joggers, runners, cyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers, city buses, school buses, taxis, horses, carriages, pram pushers, construction workers, animals and hot dog stands. There is a place for all of these on the road. As a driver you have to be able to stop. You can't assume that you can pass, even if another road user is going slower than you want. If you can't drive safely, you shouldn't be driving.