Friday, June 21, 2013

How to ride in traffic

I have been meaning to post for a while about how to ride in traffic. Since the last few weeks in Seattle have been amazing, more cyclists have taken to the roads. The problem is that many of them ride badly. This has nothing to do with their speed, type of bike, or clothing. Instead what scares me has to do with the strategy that other riders use to navigate the roads with traffic.

I was going to write a big step by step set of instructions for how to do this. But I found someone has already done that work for me. I think these instructions are really pretty good. There are two big points I want to emphasize, then I will make a third point of my own.

First, don't ride on sidewalks. Cyclists aren't visible there. At most cars are expecting a person walking at 4 miles an hour (if they even think about them at all). A cyclist going even 12 miles an hour is in serious danger of being hit. Sidewalks are death traps, don't ride on them.

Second, ride in the middle or even to the left side of the lane. It is cyclists who ride to the right side of the lane that really scare me. That is an invitation for cars to pass without moving over. Unless you think there is enough room to pass you, don't do it. I only ride to the right of the lane if it is actually safer. Usually this is on a main road with only one lane. There is one section of my commute like this, and it is the most dangerous thing I deal with. Even riding with big trucks is safer. If there are two lanes going your way, ride in the middle of the right lane. An added bonus is that you are more visible to cars going the other way as well. This is a good thing.

These two points are the opposite from what most people were taught. This article explains a lot of the history and politics behind pushing cyclists to the side of the road. Most drivers, and even police, think that cyclists have to ride as far to the right as possible. This video shows why that is a bad idea. Worse, it isn't factual from a legal basis. Cyclists only have to be to the right if they are slower than traffic. Even then, you only need to be as far over as is "safe". Remember, you determine what safe is. Also, you cannot be fined for "impeding traffic" if you making a good faith effort and are moving at your top speed. Learn the laws for you where you live. They are on your side.

The third thing I would like to say is: look out for turning cars. It doesn't get mentioned a lot, but that where the really bad accidents come from. Cyclists don't often get rear ended. A rider is more likely to be hit by a car making a turn. Learn to watch for them and assume they don't see you. Be aware that you can be "hidden" behind other vehicles. Also, look for common problem spots on your normal routes and be extra attentive. Watch out for drivers heading to a Starbucks early in the morning. They are tired and haven't had coffee. Their only thought is getting their latte, not the cyclists they are about to hit. Seeing the problem ahead of time is half the battle to avoiding it.

Finally I wanted to point out this video from my home town. It does a pretty good job of covering the basics of what you need to get out there.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tragic Accident

A man died on my route to work today. I noticed the flashing lights of the police cars as I made my turn onto East Marginal Way. I was hoping that it was just a collision of two trucks that also navigate the same road. The mangled bicycle lying in the road and the shape under the white sheet told me that something terrible had happened.

I don't know much more than that right now. I don't know exactly how it happened. It isn't even clear who the man is, but if you are reading this just take a moment for him and his family.

What makes this even more tragic isn't just that it is the first day of Bike Month. It is also that, I believe, this accident could have been prevented. A little paint, a tweak to software, maybe a bit of concrete, and just a little planning could make that intersection much safer.

Lets face it, that is a dangerous intersection. It has heavy traffic on it during morning rush hour, both bikes and trucks. For bikes this is the main route that leads to the Spokane Street Bridge. That bridge mind you is the only direct route from West Seattle into downtown. This makes it one of the most used bike routes in the city. On top of that this road is also filled with trucks in the morning. (The evenings tend to be much quieter.) It may seem strange but I tend to like truck drivers. They just have more experience driving than your average person. I often find that they are courteous and get what is going on. That doesn't mean they have clear visibility or the ability to stop however. In general I don't mind biking down that stretch of road. There are bike lanes on each side of East Marginal and even a sidewalk on the west side. (Not that I recommend biking on sidewalks.)

So what makes this intersection so dangerous? Most of it comes down to poor planning. The roads make sense from the perspective of a driver, but it is clear that no one thought about who bike riders would use the road. The cyclists who come from West Seattle are routed along the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road. To use the bike lane they are forced to cross over three lanes of this heavy truck traffic. There isn't even an indication of a crosswalk in the area. This is just dumb. It was bound to happen. I was wondering just last night why that intersection hadn't hurt or killed someone more often. Now it has.

The galling thing is that the solution to this would be simple. Don't direct bikes onto the sidewalk. They aren't safe there. Instead ensure that bikes have a place on the roadway. Yes, even with the big trucks. All that is needed is a protected lane for getting off the sidewalk from the Spokane Street Bridge. Something similar is in place on the Fremont Bridge. Then a few sharrows along Spokane Street before East Marginal. Now instead of being on the opposite side of the road, cyclists would end up naturally in the bike lane. This would only require a bit of cement, some plastic posts and a couple cans of paint.

Even worse the Mayor and the Seattle Department of Transportation are patting themselves on the back for saving almost $12 million on the widening of the Spokane Street Viaduct. If just some of that money and a bit of common sense had been used, we might have one more cyclist in the city tonight.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Women and Cycling

I ran across this article today. The article discusses how women in particular respond to cycling infrastructure. Or, more accurately, how they respond to the lack of infrastructure. The article claims that only 25-30% of people who commute on bikes are women. I could be way off, but even that number seems quite high to me. On a typical day only 10% of the cyclists I see are women. That could be a selection bias based on my commute. It could also be a problem of recognizing gender through a rain parka. Any way you slice it though, it appears that less women cycle as their main mode of transportation.

If you go back to the four types of cyclists I feel female cyclists are much less likely to fall into the "Strong and Fearless" camp and more likely to be in the "Enthused and Confident" group. I am not trying to be sexist here. I just think women tend to be more sensible. I asked a male cyclist who was riding the wrong way down the street at night without any lights on if he was concerned about the cars racing towards him at 35 miles per hour. His response was "fuck 'em". I have not seen many women who are that cavalier with their safety.

Strangely enough, this levelheaded style might not be a good thing. Here is a depressing article which claims that women in London are more likely to be hit by a truck because of their responsible behavior. Riding aggressively may not be required to ride on the roads, but it seems to help. I have talked with quite a few women who said they would like to ride more, but they don't feel safe. (This would be the "Interested but Concerned" category.) I wonder how many women feel that way because they aren't comfortable riding aggressively. Maybe that is where better cycling infrastructure could be useful. Fighting with cars just to be safe really shouldn't be something cyclists have to deal with. More cycle paths and protected bike lanes would encourage these more timid cyclists to ride more often.

That isn't the whole equation though. From commuting daily I have noticed that during a cold, pouring rain I don't see many ladies cycling. On sunny days the total number of cyclists increases, which isn't all that surprising. What is interesting is that the proportion of female cyclists increases.  In my estimation inclement weather is at least as important to women as safe paths to cycle on. Now it could be that women are just more squeamish about disagreeable atmospheric conditions, but I seriously doubt it. I know women who are quite capable of taking on even the most miserable weather.

My guess is that most women have different requirements about getting ready for work. There is an expectation that a woman be well groomed at all times. Clean hair, elegant make-up, pristine clothing. Men do tend to get away with a shabby appearance more often (for which I am grateful). I don't think this is fair, but it has as much to do with the pride a woman takes in how she looks as much as what other people think. Showing up all bedraggled to work may bother women more than men. Not to mention trying to put on make up and do your hair in a bathroom stall. Men tend to wear less make-up and have shorter hair, so grooming takes less time. Even so, I would rather shower at home then have to do it at work. So I can understand the current situation. I will not begrudge anyone who doesn't want to get all wet and dirty on the commute.

What I am not saying is that we accept that women can't ride in the rain. Women are no more water soluble than men. Instead what I am suggesting is a change in our culture. Not just that cars shouldn't be seen as the only mode of transportation, but also that women are capable of navigating and being safe no matter how they travel. I wouldn't claim that women can't drive at night. Why should we, men and women, accept that a woman shouldn't cycle at night? Or in the rain? Instead we should be looking for ways to be more inclusive of all cyclists. This blog post gives a bit of advice on that matter. I still think the most encouraging thing we can do is to tell people they are capable, then let them try it.

Then again I am not a woman, so most of this is just guess work. I would love to know more. If there are ladies out there who have insight about this, please feel free to comment. 


Monday, March 4, 2013

Bikes & Pollution

This weekend I have been enjoying this story about Ed Orcutt, a local Washington state lawmaker, who angered much of the nation's cyclists with his comments about how much carbon dioxide they add to the atmosphere. At some point he stated that they pollute more than cars. This was all in relation to the bike tax idea from a week ago.

Today he apologized and retracted some of the statements. I am still not sure he understands how the carbon cycle works. When I read about this though I went and did some basic calculations for my carbon footprint. If I bicycle 18 miles round trip to work each day and use 50 calories a mile the I use 900 "extra" calories. If a more sedentary person makes 2.3 pounds of CO2 with a 2000 calorie diet, then my commute puts an extra pound of CO2 in the air each day. Compare that to 19 pounds created by a gallon of gas, which I would otherwise be adding to the atmosphere in my car. Stating that cyclists pollute more than cars is grossly inaccurate.

There is also a big difference in the how I produce carbon dioxide by breathing and how cars do it. Most of the food that you eat is made up of carbon molecules, just like cars run on hydrocarbon molecules. The difference is the carbon I eat is pulled from the atmosphere by plants. The net carbon in the atmosphere is zero. Cars, factories, and power plants run mostly on fossil fuels. Carbon that was trapped underground is now released into the atmosphere. The net carbon in the atmosphere is increased.

Now, I will say the idea that commuting by bicycle is not "net zero" is absolutely true. The food I eat is trucked to the store. That releases carbon. Often chemical fertilizers are used to grow the food. More carbon. Even my bike took energy to make. Most of that energy comes from fossil fuels. It then had to be shipped to me on trucks, trains, or aircraft, releasing more carbon into the air.

That more than anything proves the point that cyclists do help pay for the roads, even if they don't drive cars on them. Cyclists not paying their fair share is still a claim made by Rep. Orcutt in his apology. Yet, when I buy and apple at the store the truck that brought that apple had to pay gas taxes. That means the very thing that makes me not carbon neutral when I ride also means that I do, in an indirect way, pay for the roads.

That is just the gas tax, too. I also pay Federal, state, and local taxes that go to roads. I also pay excise taxes on my car, no matter how many miles I drive it.

While I am happy for the apology, I still wonder how much Rep. Orcutt actually understands what he is talking about. He is making several very basic mistakes in science, economics and tax policy. Hopefully he will use this as an opportunity to understand things before speaking about them publicly.


In defense of DFL

Dead Fucking Last. In the cycling community this is a general term of derision. It implies that you are the slowest most unworthy cyclist at the event. You will hear about it at every race. You are sure to hear about it if you are that guy. Even at the Greenlake races there was a prize for DFL. I always thought of this as a booby prize. But maybe that is the wrong way to think about it.

Last we at the FHR we had one rider who arrived late. Way late. About two hours after the first riders finished. After the prizes were handed out. When there was just about no chili left. It wasn't a mechanical issue, or a flat tire. The guy was just slow.

At the same time I think he put in a harder race than anyone else that day. Trust me, if you had seen the guy you would know. Isn't that what we are looking for in sporting? What makes the Tour De France or the Iditarod so amazing is people pushing themselves to their limits. (Maybe that is what offends everyone about doping in sport. If you use performance enhancing drugs, you aren't truly pushing yourself to your limit.) This is why we are excited about people climbing the highest mountains, or diving deeper than anyone else. We talk about the people who ran the four minute mile, or a 2 hour marathon.

While we are always going to look for the person who is fastest or goes farthest, we shouldn't look down on anyone for not coming in first. Frankly, I have more respect for the guy who went gave everything they had to come in last than someone for whom winning was easy. For all of the guys and girls out there who came in exhausted, weary, and in last place, my hat is off to you.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

FHR - 2013

Distance: 32 miles
Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Average Speed: 18mph
Max Speed: 40mph
Song of the Day: Knock Knock - Band of Horses

It is that time of year again. The FHR was last Sunday. This one one of the reasons I love my bike club. This year was especially good because it didn't rain. It wasn't sunny exactly, but no rain is good. I also perfected my calorie intake a bit. Last year I ran out of energy towards the end. This year, that wasn't a problem. My solution? Donuts.

The race itself didn't have that much drama to it. I rode pretty well, except for dropping my chain. There were a number of people who would draft off of me, but I didn't find myself behind anyone else almost the whole race. The one time I did get stuck behind a clot of Cascade riders I had to pass them again once the line of guys hit a hill.

One change this year was the vodka stop had become a whiskey stop. It is still a performance reducing drug. I only wanted a little bit, so I pulled the cup away before Scott had finished filling it. He was kind enough to throw the rest at me any way. Thanks Scott!

After the whiskey (yuck), Baker Hill didn't seem that bad. I wasn't amazingly fast, but I wasn't running out of energy. From there it was just a rush to the finish. I was a little tired coming up the last couple of hills. I could still push myself a bit to get up them. I passed one rider on the last hill. I ended up coming in 6th, which I thought was pretty good all considered. (We had about 120 riders all told.) Then again, that is the unofficial number. I asked Derrick and he said "You weren't top three, so I stopped counting."

I also heard the police had been by to say no alcohol was allowed. The keg of beer had to remain in the back of the truck. Not that I minded, I don't drink beer. Even worse though the whiskey stop had been shut down by the police not long after I had been through. While in retrospect I can understand that announcing free liquor with a megaphone may not have been a good or even legal idea, it was all part of the tomfoolery that makes the race so fun. Not vomiting while going up the biggest hill of the race is part of the challenge. I realize this is not a solid legal defense, but there is a difference between illegal and doing harm. Really the worst harm to come from this was to my sense of taste. I hope we can work something out for next year because I would hate to loose the tradition.

Thanks to Derrick and all the sponsors for putting this on. I had a great time, and I look forward to next year.


Friday Tune, Saturday Race

I received the shifter for my commuter bike back on Friday. I guess they just sent me a whole new one instead of a refurbished copy. No complaints from me on that. Thanks Shimano.

After work on Friday I headed over to Back Alley Bike Repair. They were having a Derrick from Point83 had arranged for "wrench party" there. That was great. I got my new shifter installed. That was the easy part actually. I also got my cable housing replaced. I probably should have done that a while ago. The inner sheath that holds the cable was coming out. I got those changed out and re-wrapped my bars. Now it shifts like a dream.

This is good because I hit up the Up & Down alley cat on Saturday. It wasn't a long race, but fun. The haul up Yestler was a bear. I saw a number of the fixed gear riders just walking their bikes up it. Frankly, I wasn't that much faster even in my lowest gear. At one of the other stops we had to ride off a stone bench. It was only a foot and half off the ground. I got up there, rode off and over the handle bars. There wasn't enough space to build up any speed. I heard later that only a couple of the riders actually landed that jump. The lame thing was that my shifting was all messed up after that. I just got it working! At least I made it through the rest of the race okay. Came in 8th place, which was about the middle of the pack. In all it was about 10 miles in less than an hour. Though when I got home I spent another hour fiddling with my shifting. I did get that tuned up again, no harm done.

Good way to start the weekend.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bike Tax - Dumb Idea

This week the democrats in the Washington State house released a new transportation plan. In it, the proposed bill would put a $25 dollar tax on bike over $500 dollars. It is a bad idea on so many levels I am not really sure where to begin.

Let start with the idea of the tax being a way for cyclists to pay "their fare share". This is a stupid and dangerous notion. The roads are a public service available for all. This is just the same as the service provided by the police or the public school system. Making the link between tax payments and road usage only encourages the asinine idea that some people deserve to have more right over the roads because they pay more in taxes. Imagine not being able have all your kids go to public school because you don't live in an affluent zip code? Or the police not arrest your assailant because you didn't pay enough in sales taxes? Public services don't and have never worked that way. Roads are a public good that everyone can use, regardless of how much any specific user pays in taxes. The government needs to be out front in making sure that all road users understand this. Hiding behind a $25 fee is an abrogation of that responsibility.

Beyond that, the way the fee is implemented is idiotic. Users like myself who build their own bikes would likely not have to pay anything. Someone who buys a decent downhill mountain bike however would have to pay this fee, even though that bike will never ride on public roads. It seems like this fee is designed to punish small bike shops. For a businesses that make vary narrow margins they can ill afford the fee or giving their customers one more reason to buy out of state, online, or not at all.

What does this tax get for cyclists? According to the plan, nothing. Specifically "0%", really 0.6% (about $60 million out of the $10 billion plan) will be spent on improving cyclist and pedestrian infrastructure. The majority of the money will be spent on highway and freeways, which cyclists aren't allowed to use. Remember, this is the state transportation budget. Most of the cycling infrastructure comes from the city or local government budget.

There you have it. The new tax is likely to shut down small businesses, tell drivers they own the road, and do nothing for cyclists. This will bring in a whopping $1 million dollars in revenue. Most of which I imagine would be spent on administration costs for the new tax. Well done. Well done, indeed.

But I have a plan. Scrap the $25 fee and add a checkbox to the motor vehicle registration form. Have it say "I would like my registration fee to go to bicycle improvements". You see, most cyclists do own cars as well. I have to pay to register my van regardless of how much I use it. That said, I would much rather see money spent on making new bike lanes than on new freeways. If just 1% of the state would check that box the amount of money raised would be around $20 million dollars. That is twenty times what the bicycle fee would raise. If the point of the whole thing was to show that cyclists pay their taxes like everyone else, what better way. It would be yearly proof that people who own and pay for their cars would rather bike.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Change of Pace

For the last few months the shifter on my commuter bike has been acting up. It was still under warranty so I thought I might as well send it back while I was gone in Singapore. It wasn't back by the time I got home though. I know I could have been riding the bike, but using a 48x11 single speed bike in Seattle isn't that much fun.

For the last three weeks I have been riding other things. For the first week I was riding Molly, my touring bike. Most of that bike has been through the trials of Africa. It has a lot of interesting mods and two very sturdy racks. These make it about a 40 pound bike. That is double what my commuter bike weighs. I hate to say it, but she really isn't built for speed. Beyond that I didn't have a long enough seat post for the bike. I couldn't use the saddle without my knees coming up to my ears. Commuting around was taking a lot longer, and not really as much fun.

Sweet Jump
Fortunately I was able to locate my Mzungu mountain bike after the first week. It does weight a third more than my commuter bike, but still almost half as much as the touring rig. I do find myself enjoying the smooth ride over the rough pavement though. The cracks and pot-holes I dodge on my commuter I can glide over on the fat tires. That has been much easier. Except for the wind, which we have had a lot of recently. Cutting through the wind with 3 inch tires is like cutting a watermelon with a baseball bat. It might be fun for Gallagher, but not very efficient. While I can't go fast on it, the bike does have other advantages. For instance, they put in a sweet jump on my route to work. It has been nice. Between the sunny days and the molasses smell on Harbor Island, things have been great.

Still, my shifter arrived back yesterday. It has been a nice change to my regular routine, but I can't wait to get back on my normal bike. I will probably get it installed Friday night. That should be fun. I want it ready for this weekend. I have an alley cat race on Saturday and the FHR on Sunday. Should be a great weekend.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Final Notes on Singapore

I wanted to put in a couple of last notes about bicycles in Singapore. Sadly I never got to ride there, which does grind my gears a bit. There is always a next time, I guess. I wish I had known about the East Coast Park earlier. There is a great path along the ocean and they rent bikes for cheap all along the beach. So that is more of a note to any avid cyclists planning to travel to the region.

That said, what I really wanted to mention was the work bike culture in Singapore. I love the idea of a bicycle as an integral part of commerce. A way for everyone to get around. A way to transport goods to market. It appears that the Singapore used to be much more dependant on bicycles than it is now. There is this article from Copenhagenize. I also found two different forms of tricycle that I thought were pretty cool.

The first is the heavy duty cargo trike. I have seen this style before, just nothing so burly. It is as engineered for hauling heavy loads as a dual-suspension mountain bike is for going downhill. The wheels look more like they were made for a car or motorcycle. I imagine it would hold a couple hundred pounds. Then again, you would need some real legs to get that thing going. I also like the brake. That is the handle right below the seat. If you look carefully you will notice that pushing down on the handle pulls the brake pads into inner rim of the back tire. That is very much like the style of push-rod brakes.

The second one I wanted to mention is the tricycle rickshaw. At first I thought it wasn't that much more interesting than the rickshaws Seattle has. I was wrong. The side-car for the passenger is completely separate. So unlike the cargo bike above, it doesn't require a custom built bike frame. You simply bolt the side-car on in three places and you are ready to go. I love the ingenuity of the whole thing.

So, there you have it. A couple of interesting work bikes from my trip to Singapore. The bikes in the pictures come from museums. I did see examples of both out on the streets though. The use of work bikes is still alive in Singapore.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Cycling in Singapore

I am off travelling again, this time to Singapore. Coming from a place that is cold and rainy this time of year to one that is 80° and sunny all the time  has made me itch to get on a bike. At the same time I have been reading about a tragic accident that killed two young cyclists here. This has me thinking about how people use the roads here and how that is different from what I am used to.

The biggest thing I have noticed since being here is that pedestrians and cyclists are not respected on the roads. The drivers here seem to have a consensus that they have the right of way in any situation. Even a crosswalk or a pedestrian signal is no guarantee that a driver will be looking for you. Pedestrians and cyclists here need to be extraordinarily careful at traffic interchanges because the drivers are not prepared to stop.

Another issue is that the lanes here tend be narrow. The people that do bike in the road do so over on the outside edge of the lane. You don't see people taking the lane. Yet because of the narrow lanes there is no way for any cars to pass safely. Instead the riders have to trust that drivers will see them and move around.

Also, I have yet to see a bike lane in the city. For a city of five million people, the infrastructure made for cyclists is non-existent. Instead pedal-pushers are relegated to the gutter. It is almost as if they have become road debris that needs to be avoided. Not people.

The whole system seems designed to push riders off the road. Yet it appears that using a bicycle is remarkably popular. People ride all throughout the city. You see bikes parked at every street corner. Some of this must be due to the nature of the bicycle. It is a cheap, fun, and effective way to travel. That doesn't mean it is safe.

This isn't helped by the fact that most riders don't wear helmets. In a tough city, I would imagine you would want any protection you could get. Even worse, most bikes have no lights. Riding on the side of the road with no lights in the dark makes the bike almost impossible to see. That is really taking your life in your hands. 

Singapore is such a modern city in many other ways, but conditions for bicycle here remind me much more of cities in Mexico, China, or Africa. Cities across North America and Europe are competing to encourage bike riders. This city appears to have done nothing for them. If Singapore wants to be seen as a truly modern city, I am afraid some changes in this area will be necessary. I hope that the changes will also help to prevent accidents like the one that claimed the lives of those two boys earlier in the week.

The first change is to make an effort at providing space for cyclists. There are many things the city could do, from adding bicycle lanes to simply painting a sharrow on the road. Seeing the conditions here only reinforces my belief that people will ride bikes, even if it is on dangerous roads not designed for them. It is better and faster for everyone if bikes are given a bit of space to ride.

The second, more important matter, is to change the culture. That isn't easy, and it has been slow to shift in the United States. People are coming around to the idea that bikes aren't an impediment to traffic, but an alternative to it. Doing so is critical to creating a bike friendly city. Once you change the mindset from bikes as road debris to bikes as little cars, the safety condition get much better.

If Singapore can work on these two things, they will be come a safer and much more exciting city.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Politics of Cycling in Seattle

Over the past decade the city of Seattle has done a lot to encourage cycling throughout the city. Even within the last few months the city has painted a new bike lane on my normal route home. With this shift has come some debate about how the roads should be used in the city. I have recently been reading a couple of articles about the state of bike infrastructure in the city. Or, more specifically, the politics surrounding it.

The first is an article from the Seattle Times about the Cascade Bicycle Club and their efforts to promote safer places for cyclists to ride. I have never been a member, but I do find myself more politically aligned with them than I do these guys. I thought the most intersting part was a quote from mayor Mike McGinn.
"Whether or not you like bicyclists, they're out there biking and they deserve to be safe."
For me that really comes to the core of the issue. This is not an issues of cars vs. bikes. Cars are not being overlooked in favor of bikes. It is just a understanding of the new reality. People are going to be riding their bikes on city streets, period. Adding bike friendly routes not only improves safety for cyclists, it adds a place for people to ride without slowing down cars.

I think the second piece from the stranger covers that pretty well. It sources a new study to say that bicycle improvements are generally supported by the people of Seattle. It is good to see that a majority of the citizens have a favorable opinion of cyclists. It is just a guess, but I think that most people who live in the city come to realize that having safe ways for bikes and cars to use the same roads isn't just part of being a modern, thriving metropolis, but actually improves traffic congestion.

I think the one problem with the study is that it only covered people in Seattle. I would like to see what the opinion of people from outside the city would be. I know that most drivers will understand and be supportive of cyclists.  I would also have no doubt that a large number of CBC members come from outlying communities. However I do think that people who commute mostly by freeway never get to see the advantages that cycling provides. The benefits just aren't that obvious to people who only come to the city for work. You never see the cars that aren't on the road, just the part of the road that has been converted to bike use. If you only drive in the city during rush hour, you never see the people riding out for lunch, or getting groceries in the evening. For the freeway crowd, I imagine it can also be easy to see bike improvements as money that could be better spent on problems of highway traffic congestion. Never mind that they come from completely different budgets (city vs. state/federal). This also forgets the fact that adding lanes to freeways costs billions, while restriping a road will cost thousands.

In the end, I am excited to see Seattle doing what it can to make biking easier in the city. I am also encouraged that my fellow city dwellers are with me, even if they don't bike. I would still like to see the opinion of people who commute into the city for work. Then again, unless you live here I am not sure you have anything to complain about.


Monday, January 21, 2013

What is that smell?

One thing people miss out on when commuting by car is the smell. In a car, when there is an odor in the air, it is generally something bad. Something like burning oil, melting belts, or even skunks.

Riding your bike isn't always much better. Riding over the Spokane Street Bridge across the Duwamish I often get a whiff of something that smells like molding pork fat. I also get my fair share of diesel fumes and car exhaust.

On a good day though my olfactory sense is given a wonderful reward. Sometimes by and actual old factory. A smell of cooking steel often emanates from the Nucor Steel plant. Some mornings Harbor Island has a pleasant molasses smell. The old Hostess plant would also smell amazing right around 2:00 AM.

This is one of the things people miss when they drive. Cars have a way of separating people, both physically and mentally, from the world in which they live. It is something that diminishes the community as a whole. So if you get a chance when you are out in the city, take the opportunity to give it a whiff.


Know your laws!

Th League of American Bicyclists has put together an interactive map of the the laws for each state. Check it out. I found it very enlightening.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Lance... again...

I thought that I should say something about Lance Armstrong's admission to the world's worst kept secret. There just isn't any more I have to say about it though. What the man has to say isn't shocking and it is as boring as watching him race.

On a similar note, I am finding George Carlin is often ahead of me in putting how I feel into words.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Alaskan Cyclists

A couple of weeks back my brother in law came out on a Thursday night ride. The weather that night was some of the worst I have been out on. The rain was coming down and it was just warm enough to keep it from snowing. I appologized to my brother in law for it being so lame. He told me the weather is what it is. You just deal with it and move on with your life. Part of this attitude might come from the fact that he lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. When he wants to ride in the winter he knows it will be cold. That doesn't keep him inside.

I came across this article today about other hearty souls crossing that state on bicycles early in the last century. It is an impressive, and for me, a little known history of that state. I will admit to being a bit incredulous about the practicality of these machines. Still, I am continually impressed by the ability of people to endure and triumph.

The more I read, the more I realize that cycling is not a new fad. People have gone farther and faster on a bike long before I would have expected. Their stories are worth a little bit of reading into.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Burnination 2013

Last week was the annual Point 83 christmas tree burn. Unlike the previous week the weather was great. Cold, but not raining. I love to see all the people hauling what has to be one of the most inconvenient items on a bicycle. One person with a christmas tree on their bike is a sight to see. A whole group of them, that is just down right jaw-dropping. I wish I was that badass, but no.

I counted 74 people leaving Westlake and I know more joined up along the way. We stopped at Peddler Brewing to pick up more trees stashed there. By the time time the group arrived at Golden Gardens I think we had over 100 people.

The bonfire was amazing as usual. Also it tended to dwarf the tiny firepit. Even in my usual attire I wasn't cool. What a fun night.


Monday, January 14, 2013

James May, glad to have you with us

I read this article by James May recently. He is one of the guys form Top Gear. In other words someone who you would expect to hear more about cars than bicycles. Contrary to that opinion he is actually an avid cyclist. I doubt you are going to see him in spandex out doing intervals. He seems more the tweed jacket and flat cap type of rider. Someone who is out for a constitutional or popping down to the shop. Basically like most people on a bicycle.

There were two points in the article that I really liked. The first is about the freedom of cycling. That people all over the world do it. How riding a bike affect our lives in good ways. He also mentions that it should be free, both in a monetary (tax) sense, but also in the sense that there really shouldn't be any laws about it. We don't regulate walking, why would we regulate cycling?

The second point is that he calls cyclists "miserabilists". Sadly I have to agree with this. I see so many cyclists ridding with grim faces. I will admit that when it is 35 degrees and raining, the ride may not be that enjoyable. Hitting a stiff headwind isn't loads of fun. Aside from that it seems there are those who ride not for fun but because of a bizarre fixation on "training". I don't get it. If you aren't having fun you shouldn't be doing it.

I have my own issues here. I often push myself to go faster than I acutally need to. Not every ride is that all that fun. I try to enjoy what I can though. I know that even on the worst days it was my choice to ride and I feel good about it. So when I see another hearty soul out braving the weather on a bike, I can't help but smile.