Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Well, now we are renting in Spokane, and it was difficult to find a house with a reasonable yard. I purchased the Scott Classic Reel Mower, and finally used it for the first time this weekend.
It works fairly well, and is fun to use. One hassle is that the cutting blades jam on tiny sticks, so one has to pick up loose debris in the grass prior to mowing. It is difficult to get up close to obstacles, and it leaves a few random uncut blades, but overall, results in a cut that is good enough for me.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
There are definitely some pros and cons with an older house, but we enjoy many of the peculiarities. The neighborhood is absolutely filled with older, interesting homes.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
The highlight was a 14-mile ride near Beauty Bay, on the northwest corner of the lake. The ride involved an 1800-foot climb up a narrow, mostly paved road, along a lush creek. Then, four miles on some of the best singletrack I have ridden in years. Narrow, roller coasty and scenic. The trail section of the ride is the Caribou Ridge Trail.
After four sweet miles, the final two miles of the trail involved rocky sections with intense exposure, so we walked significantly. We were warned ahead of time about this last section, so it was no surprise. Despite not being able to ride this part, the scenery just got better, and the ride was well worth it.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
My bike commute is now only seven miles roundtrip, between the South Hill and downtown. It is so short I take frequent detours, not just to learn more of the local streets, but to achieve a ride of a respectable length.
Today was my first post on Spokane's page of MyBikeLane.com. There are very few bike lanes in Spokane, so I feel I need to do my part to protect what we do have. I report each violation to the police, so we will see if it eventually does any good.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Some of these fools are kids, who will always be doing stupid things. Some are brand new cyclists, who will hopefully learn quickly, and get some traffic common sense, before they kill themselves or others. But many are experienced riders, who just think it is okay to buzz pedestrians in crosswalks, blow traffic stops at high rates of speed, and zigzag between moving cars. Just because you CAN do it, does not mean you SHOULD do it. WTF?
I ride a lot, but I also drive, and I know it is hard to avoid hitting some of these fools.
This has nothing to do with following the letter of the law. Slowly rolling a stop, at a perfectly clear intersection, may be illegal, but it is safe. And therefore not stupid. Just illegal. Two very different things.
At first, I theorized that maybe cyclists, on average, are just dumber than drivers. That would be awful, because there are a lot of stupid drivers out there. And hell, most cyclists ARE drivers, some or most of the time. On further reflection, I think cyclists and drivers share relatively equal levels of idiocy - there are just fewer consequences when cycling, so the stupidity of some people is more likely to shine through in all its blazing glory.
Ironically, the consequences to individual safety are greater when on a bike, compared to inside of a steel cage. But who worries about such a thing like death? The more prominent concerns are traffic fines, dealing with insurance, and expensive car repairs - all these issues are are much more likely to result when stupidity exists behind a wheel, instead of on a bike.
Well, that's great. What to do? Tougher fines for cyclists? There's not enough cops to make a difference. Licensing of cyclists? As if you could read a mini-plate on the back of a bike as it weaves through traffic? C'mon.
Besides, licensing of cyclists, like mandatory helmet laws, have some advantages to society, but in general significantly reduce the number of people riding bikes, which is the last thing we want to do at a time when many more people are finally making more responsible environmental choices. And more bikes on the road also results in increased safety for everyone, as drivers become more aware of bikes, pedestrians and other traffic deviations, and eventually become more careful.
Unfortunately, drivers are also becoming more aware of the plethora of idiots on bikes.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Monday, August 4, 2008
I have been running Bontrager Hardcase tires, which are quite flat resistant. No tire is fool proof, however, and I believe there has also been some luck in the equation, as well as the Slime tube I have been running in the rear tire. This is a tube that comes filled with gooey green gunk, which is intended to fill small tears and holes the instant they occur.
Apparently, the Slime substance works damn well. Upon removing the tire, I was almost doused with a pool of green goo. It had leaked out of the tube, but was still sealed between the tube and tire, and was sloshing around outside of the tube as I rode. There appeared to be mulitple puncture spots in the tube, and amazingly the goo still held on and prevented a flat.
Nice. Much easier to change a tube at home, compared to a flat on the side of a road with cars screaming by...
Sunday, July 27, 2008
This was the first known bike move in Vancouver. Brenda was moving about twenty blocks, from downtown Vancouver, north to the Uptown neighborhood. Fortunately, she had a small apartment, so the ten or so cyclists that showed up were able to move almost everything in two trips. It is amazing how many large items can be moved by bike, given the correct equipment. I was impressed with how much I was able to haul with my little Burley Nomad trailer, but it was nothing compared to the expansive homemade flatbed trailers.
The actual transport was a very slow process, up some minor hills and through several busy intersections. The loading was even slower - it takes some time and skill to get a large load balanced on a relatively small trailer. We were successful, despite several tipsy and otherwise dicey moments, and after the hard work were rewarded with delicious pizza and drinks at the new apartment.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Occasionally, there are people so stupid, the entertainment value merits documentation. Well, today was no exception. Today, we actually have multiple SPOT's. Gosh, get out the sponge and let's scrub.
First, on the way into work, southbound on Broadway, stopped at a red light at Burnside. Several other cyclists are waiting, as well as many cars. But not Me First - also on a bike. Me First decides there is no stopping - hell, never mind the multiple people already waiting at the light, and never mind the lack of visibility of cross traffic.
But, we get to see Me First again. Me First is slooowwww. Like, fat old lady slow. Within a block of the light turning green, several other cyclists are now bunched up in the bike lane, while Me First plods along at a walking pace. Lovely. Nothing wrong with slow, but maybe consider your pace before flying around other people through a traffic signal. As well as blatantly contributing to the perceived bike vs. car ruckus. What a SPOT.
Later, on the way home from work, in Vancouver eastbound on Evergreen at Grand. Stopped in the bike lane at a red light. A trashy Honda pulls up, looking as if it spent the last decade under a sand dune in the Australian Outback. Is that sand stuck on the windshield? Old woman with a huge cigarette hanging out of her mouth, at the wheel. Do they even make cigarettes that long? Huh, must be custom rolled...
Light turns green. We both go. Unfortunately, Tobacco Ho is turning right, across my lane. She bellows, "You FUCKER! Yo' lights red!" I stop, with her bumper resting on my calf, as she is halfway across the bike lane. I refuse to move. Not smart - I could become a SPOT, myself - so to speak.
Conveniently, her window is open. "Actually, I have the right of way, because you are crossing a lane, and there is somebody in it - ME." Tobacco Ho is getting furious. "No, I have a green light, you punk!". Several more phrases are exchanged, some of which I am unhappy about, given my goal of assertive but friendly interactions with other road users. Oh well.
We quickly part ways, swear words still flying out of Tobacco Ho's wrinkly mouth. It takes me a moment to realize she actually thought the crosswalk signal, which was red, applied to me on the road surface, in the bike lane. WOW, no clue. Another SPOT! Imagine that.
Be safe out there - lots of SPOT's to watch for. And no worries - I will be the first to admit that I will often be a SPOT myself. Look for that soon...
Friday, July 18, 2008
Passing Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver, a young man with an extremely loaded down bike and backpack waves me down. He looks like he has been on the road, ahhh... his entire life.
"Dude, how do you get into this park? It's all gated, like prison."
"Oh, there was a concert last night - just go around to the back side."
"Dude, you have STRANGE lights. I can even see them in the morning!"
"Yup, these are bright ones. Morning, evening, afternoon - pretty much anytime. Ummm... see ya later."
Several moments later I am jettisoning myself across the narrow bike way on the I-5 bridge across the Columbia River, and hear a buzzing whirly sound. I glance up, being careful to avoid weaving into the metal structure flying by about 18 inches on either side of me. Silver wings everywhere! Pigeons are launching off the bridge, flying within inches of my head, and then sweeping out over the water. I had no idea these chunky winged rats could fly so quickly and aggressively.
Fortunately, no permanent damage. Maybe a few nightmares...
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The simple truth is that building more highways and widening existing roads, almost always motivated by concern over traffic, does nothing to reduce traffic. In the long run, in fact, it increases traffic. This revelation is so counterintuitive that it bears repeating: adding lanes makes traffic worse. This paradox was suspected as early as 1942 by Robert Moses, who noticed that the highways he had built around New York City in 1939 were somehow generating greater traffic problems than had existed previously. Since then, the phenomenon has been well documented, most notably in 1989, when the Southern California Association of Governments concluded that traffic-assistance measures, be they adding lanes, or even double-decking the roadways, would have no more than a cosmetic effect on Los Angeles' traffic problems. The best it could offer was to tell people to work closer to home, which is precisely what highway building mitigates against.
Across the Atlantic, the British government reached a similar conclusion. Its studies showed that increased traffic capacity causes people to drive more--a lot more--such that half of any driving-time savings generated by new roadways are lost in the short run. In the long run, potentially all savings are expected to be lost. In the words of the Transport Minister, "The fact of the matter is that we cannot tackle our traffic problems by building more roads." While the British have responded to this discovery by drastically cutting their road-building budgets, no such thing can be said about Americans.
There is no shortage of hard data. A recent University of California at Berkeley study covering thirty California counties between 1973 and 1990 found that, for every 10 percent increase in roadway capacity, traffic increased 9 percent within four years' time.For anecdotal evidence, one need only look at commuting patterns in those cities with expensive new highway systems. USA Today published the following report on Atlanta: "For years, Atlanta tried to ward off traffic problems by building more miles of highways per capita than any other urban area except Kansas City…As a result of the area's sprawl, Atlantans now drive an average of 35 miles a day, more than residents of any other city." This phenomenon, which is now well known to those members of the transportation industry who wish to acknowledge it, has come to be called induced traffic.
The mechanism at work behind induced traffic is elegantly explained by an aphorism gaining popularity among traffic engineers: "Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt." Increased traffic capacity makes longer commutes less burdensome, and as a result, people are willing to live farther and farther from their workplace. As increasing numbers of people make similar decisions, the long-distance commute grows as crowded as the inner city, commuters clamor for additional lanes, and the cycle repeats itself. This problem is compounded by the hierarchical organization of the new roadways, which concentrate through traffic on as few streets as possible.
The phenomenon of induced traffic works in reverse as well. When New York's West Side Highway collapsed in 1973, an NYDOT study showed that 93 percent of the car trips lost did not reappear elsewhere; people simply stopped driving. A similar result accompanied the destruction of San Francisco's Embarcadero Freeway in the 1989 earthquake. Citizens voted to remove the freeway entirely despite the apocalyptic warnings of traffic engineers. Surprisingly, a recent British study found that downtown road removals tend to boost local economies, while new roads lead to higher urban unemployment. So much for road-building as a way to spur the economy.
If traffic is to be discussed responsibly, it must first be made clear that the level of traffic which drivers experience daily, and which they bemoan so vehemently, is only as high as they are willing to countenance. If it were not, they would adjust their behavior and move, carpool, take transit, or just stay at home, as some choose to do. How crowded a roadway is at any given moment represents a condition of equilibrium between people's desire to drive and their reluctance to fight traffic. Because people are willing to suffer inordinately in traffic before seeking alternatives--other than clamoring for more highways--the state of equilibrium of all busy roads is to have stop-and-go traffic. The question is not how many lanes must be built to ease congestion but how many lanes of congestion would you want? Do you favor four lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic at rush hour, or sixteen?
This condition is best explained by what specialists call latent demand. Since the real constraint on driving is traffic, not cost, people are always ready to make more trips when the traffic goes away. The number of latent trips is huge--perhaps 30 percent of existing traffic. Because of latent demand, adding lanes is futile, since drivers are already poised to use them up.
While the befuddling fact of induced traffic is well understood by sophisticated traffic engineers, it might as well be a secret, so poorly has it been disseminated. The computer models that transportation consultants use do not even consider it, and most local public works directors have never heard of it at all. As a result, from Maine to Hawaii, city, county, and even state engineering departments continue to build more roadways in anticipation of increased traffic, and, in doing, create that traffic. The most irksome aspect of this situation is that these road-builders are never proved wrong; in fact, they are always proved 'right': "You see," they say, "I told you that traffic was coming."
The ramifications are quite unsettling. Almost all of the billions of dollars spent on road-building over the past decades have accomplished only one thing, which is to increase the amount of time that we must spend in our cars each day. Americans now drive twice as many miles per year as they did just twenty years ago. Since 1969, the number of miles cars travel has grown at four times the population rate.· And we're just getting started: federal highway officials predict that over the next twenty years congestion will quadruple. Still, every congressman, it seems, wants a new highway to his credit.
Thankfully, alternatives to road-building are being offered, but they are equally misguided. If, as is now clear beyond any reasonable doubt, people maintain an equilibrium of just-bearable traffic, then the traffic engineers are wasting their time--and our money--on a whole new set of stopgap measures that produce temporary results as best. These measures, which include HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes, congestion pricing, timed traffic lights, and "smart streets," serve only to increase highway capacity, which causes more people to drive until the equilibrium condition of crowding returns. While certainly less wasteful than new construction, these measures also do nothing to address the real cause of traffic congestion, which is that people choose to put up with it.
We must admit that, in an ideal world, we would be able to build our way out of traffic congestion. The new construction of 50 percent of more highways nationwide would most likely overcome all of the latent demand. However, to provide more than temporary relief, this huge investment would have to be undertaken hand in hand with a moratorium on suburban growth. Otherwise, the new subdivisions, shopping malls, and office parks made possible by the new roadways would eventually choke them as well. In the real world, such moratoriums are rarely possible, which is why road-building is typically a folly.
But the real question is why so many drivers choose to sit for hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic without seeking alternatives. Is it a manifestation of some deep-seated self-loathing, or are people just stupid? The answer is that people are actually quite smart, and their decision to submit themselves to the misery of suburban commuting is a sophisticated response to a set of circumstances that are as troubling as their result. Automobile use is the intelligent choice for most Americans because it is what economists refer to as a "free good": the consumer pays only a fraction of its true cost. The authors Stanley Hart and Alvin Spivak have explained that: We learn in first-year economics what happens when products or services become "free" goods. The market functions chaotically; demand goes through the roof.
See original article link for references
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Obviously, this is a ride to, shall we say, prepare for.I arrive downtown late afternoon. My goal is to hit as many never-been-to-before food, coffee and beer destinations as possible, all before the 9 pm event. Nothing like mixing depressants and stimulates with bike fun, and all on a hot afternoon in the mid 90’s. I plan on meeting a friend for the official ride at 9 pm, but I am on my own for the rest of the merriment.
4 pm - Fox Tower to Hawthorne Bridge. Then 7th to Belmont to 32nd. Not much of a hill, but my goal is to ride slow and not get too soaked. Glaring sun, but the breeze feels good. Ah yes, here we are, the Pied Cow Coffeehouse. A new haunt for me, and I like it. The inside of the Victorian house is relaxing and quaint, but today calls for a beer on the thickly shaded and expansive garden patio. Okay, maybe two beers - it is early...
5 pm – Back down Belmont, down 26th and finally Powell. And then back up the hill several blocks to Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB). I have been aspiring to visit this bike & organic themed pub ever since it opened in March. The beer is fantastic – I am pacing myself so I only have the IPA, and the happy hour German sausage. Tasty. Especially the beer. HUB is large and pretty, but unfortunately also sterile and rather chain-like. Where am I, Red Robin with a dash of cannabis? The poor service probably further taints the atmosphere for me. The waitress totally blanks on my food order, and I have to remind her I still have no food, after my beer is long gone. Fake apologies abound. On the way out I leave a tip, and I have yet to figure out why.
6 pm – Back up 26th to Harrison, Ladd, Hawthorne and downtown. Then up Jefferson to 14th, and eventually 21st. Time for stimulants to balance out the beer and tasty sausage. Coffee Time, to be specific. One of the best coffeehouses in the city. Clearly, today will be iced coffee, given the temperature. Let’s add a shot of espresso as well - hell, I’m feeling silly. The coffeehouse has great music playing in the background, but I forget to ask about the artist before leaving.
7 pm – Need to stop back at the Fox Tower to get my helmet in the car. Required for the official event later this evening. Hmmm, where to now? Back down 14th to Bridgeport. I like the remodel completed a year or so ago, although it is more stark and modern, with much less of the cozy brick. But the beer is delicious, as always. What was it? I think a Ropewalk Amber. Actually I am fairly sober. I have been spacing out the beers, and consuming food and plenty of water. Sat at the bar next to a young lady in the midst of a thick book, who turns her shoulder away from me as I sit down, just to clarify she is not interested in any cheesy bar come-ons, as if there was any doubt. Ah, that’s okay – I have a date with a bike.
The start of the ride is sprawling chaos, and I never find my friend. Our respective phones ring several times, but we miss each other and don’t hear the rings over the noise of the crowd and the beating drums. That’s okay – the evening is cooling off and I am looking forward to a good ride. And donuts.
It takes some time to get going, given the tapered wave start (we don’t have a closed course), but by dusk I am off. I’ve never seen so many twinkling red and white lights. Everyone is having fun and bantering back and forth. Hmmm, one more beer sounds really tasty. Just for giggles. A quick stop at the Mississippi Pub at the top of the first and only real hill on the course. A relaxing fifteen minutes out on the warm patio, and I am back on my bike. Most cyclists are riding politely, and most drivers are being careful. I am probably in the middle of the long, extended pack.
After Albina, Ainsworth and Willamette, we come to St. Johns. Filmed by Bike movies are showing amidst crowds and popcorn, but I keep moving. I dawdle a little more at the disco party on the north end of Vancouver Avenue. Nice - pretty girls dancing... Even better, yummy chocolate bars and sour candy. Okay, let’s go. The friendliness and chattiness on the road continues.
11:30 pm - Back over the Broadway Bridge, and I have finally stopped at the finish for my free donut (a chewy maple bar), lots more water, a little rest, and I am ready to head home. I am only slightly tired from the seven-hour splurge. I hope I am in town to do it again next year.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Back in town, the bottom of the out-and-back connected with the valley loop, which dropped along the White Salmon Rive down to BZ Corner, and then up over a nasty climb, over to Glenwood. At first there were endless farms to sidetrack me, including delightful goats and fluffy llamas. After the steep ridge climb from BZ Corner - actually tougher than the longer upper climb - we dropped back down into a large marshy valley and wildlife refuge, with sprawling Mt. Adams always in the background. Very beautiful. By this time it was getting hot, and the high angle of the sun made shade a rarity.
I finally made it back up over another ridge and down a steep grade back into Trout Lake, where I moseyed around for the last 20 miles. By the time I finished it was 92 degrees, and I had been out there well over six hours, including 45 minutes of stoppage time. I was trashed, but recovered quickly. The last five miles were excruciating, especially given I had been back in town for what seemed like forever, and was plowing on in the heat, attempting to obtain an arbitrary distance goal.
The scenery was definitely the best part of the ride, but the friendly volunteers were a close second. I would not have made it without multiple food and water stations, even though I was packing supplies myself. And just stopping in general, on a long ride like this, is a huge relief. Racing 100 or 200 miles without taking breaks would be super difficult. I had plenty of aches and pains on this ride, and although I was pushing the pace on a personal level, I also stopped five times, which made a world of difference.