Thursday, April 23, 2015

Trek Recalls 1 million bikes after loose front quick release caused crash, paralysis of rider

Go to these two links for an explanation.

 My understanding is from those two links, so read those rather than my muddled interpretation. The basic problem is some Trek bikes were supplied with a quick release lever  that seems to open so far that it can get caught in the brake rotor. If your bike is one of them, please get it fixed. Its too easy to forget these things until the "holy shit" moment.

I checked my Salsa LaCruz and Specialized Stumpjumper, which have disk brakes. These QR doesn't even open 180 degrees, so cannot interfere with the brake or wheel if they open up. The QR on my Surly Long Haul Trucker opens a little past 180 deg but not enough to extend beyond the fork blades and interfere with spokes. I checked 8 other front wheels with a variety of brands of skewers (Campy, Shimano, Salsa, Bontrager). I did find one QR lever that extended well beyond 180 degrees. It almost touched the spokes, but on a loose wheel and if there was a fork tip in the way I don't think it would reach. It is a really old QR skewer on a circa 25 year old Shimano 600 hub/wheel left over from my racing days.

Loose quick release skewers are a failure mode of quick releases. Quick releases, in my opinion, are a convenience device added to bicycles and they require the operator  (not the bike company or your mother) to be educated and diligent to make sure they are ALWAYS TIGHTENED PROPERLY. Retention tabs, aka "lawyer tabs" are a failsafe added after lawsuits happened.

I never even thought of this particular failure mode, i.e., the quick release lever getting tangled up in the rotating bits, before today. Generally, as a League Cycling Instructor, I tell people that the failure is the wheel being loose in the fork, compromising handling, or potentially falling out with all hell breaking loose if the "lawyer tabs" don't hold. I suspect someone failed to do a failure mode analysis, or someone got a defective bunch of skewers that were not tested. Oops.

Teachable moment, eh?

Add this thought to your Quick Safety Check: Can anything open up, fall off, or come loose in a way that will cause an instant and catastrophic failure? Take a good look at your bicycle and its critical components. Fiddle with them. If you see something that leaves you wondering "is this rather strange?", take a closer look or get a second, qualified opinion.

The video below courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Its Business As Usual on Earth Day

I'll add a rant later tonight, but snapped this picture as I passed the High School Student Parking Lot. Nice day for a bike ride to work, though.

Earth Day? Meh....

So I ride my bicycle to work today. Not because it is Earth Day, but because that's what I usually do, just for shits and grins. I actually thought of tying my commuter bike to the hood of the pickup truck like a freshly bagged deer and driving to work. Just to be an SOB.

Fair Weather Commuter in Current Form
Yes, I did check the front quick release 
to make sure it is not an interference design
 Earth Day has gotten to be a cliche, kinda like Motorist Ride Your Bike To Work Day. Frankly, we take Ma Earth too much for granted. Back in 1970 (and yes, I remember that far back) we started Earth Day because there were soap suds in the rivers, Lake Erie was on the way to becoming a nutrified swamp, we had high levels of lead aerosols in city air, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio was polluted enough to literally catch fire, and massive oil spills were hitting beaches. We actually had plenty of reminders all around us that we could really screw up the place if we continued to shit where we eat.

In the aftermath of a lot of environmental law, a lot of this stuff is not so bad, at least in the First World. Lead is no longer in gasoline or paint, outfalls are in much better shape, and cars are amazingly efficient and low in emissions (specific smog emissions per gallon of gas or miles driven, etc) of traditional pollutants. Their engines are more efficient, although we traded conservation for more horsepower. But the place is so cleaned up that a few bozos, er, I mean people with short memories, are now calling for rescinding regulations that solved the problem in the first place. Law doesn't necessarily stifle business. Lack of intelligent responses to changing technologies sure don't help. But every once in a while we have a massive blowout like the Gulf Oil Spill or Fukushima to remind us that we need to pay attention to stuff and sweat the details.

The big issue now is climate change. Today I got a shrill email from Sen. Heinrich telling me to send one of those mass e-mail petitions to Congress castigating Republicans for being climate deniers. Sigh. This is just after I read another post on Judy Curry's web site talking about a study of aerosols that suggests we can put stronger constrains on negative (cooling) feedbacks from aerosols, which may help put stronger constraints on positive feedbacks (sensitivity) of climate forcing gases such as CO2. Some jumped on the study as being a nail in the coffin of climate alarmists. The author of the study shot back with his own blog post saying "not so fast". Setting aside the alarmists and the deniers, maybe we just ought to concentrate on putting better constraints on climate forcings so we can discuss, rationally, the cost-benefits of controls vs. adaptation.

The problem with climate is it usually changes slowly on a human timescale (well, we hope so), while corporate profits and one's gas bill show up today. Human nature being what it is, one puts out the fire that is here and now, not the one that might be here in fifty years. That said, the reason we have retirement plans is because the future eventually does get here and one wants to have a good one.

Oh, hell. Just go ride yer bike.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Get Your Kicks On Old (Bicycle) Route 66

Stealing from Patrick O'Grady's site, The New Mexico Touring Society, New Mexico Bicyclist Educators and the Adventure Cycling Association are throwing a hoedown on Sunday at Balloon Fiesta Park, right down in the Duke City, to celebrate the new Bicycle Route 66 with presentations and speechifying, New Mexican grub and (of course) a bit of cycling. Go to Patrick's site for more details.

Adventure Cycling's Route 66 web page is here.

Sunday's route map and sponsor list is here. Meanwhile, enjoy the music.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

League of American Bicyclists Puts Cleats to the Pedals to Review Santa Fe's Silver Bicycle Friendly Community Status

BCNM board member and urban planner Tim Rogers (l), 
a city/county staffer (c) and LAB's Stephen Clark (r) 
tour the City Different
Here, at the Rail Trail crossing at St. Michaels
"...I’ve had fewer negative interaction with motorists here in six months than I did when we lived in Santa Fe. It’s not scientific, but I’m inclined to credit the extensive bike infrastructure..."  Patrick O'Grady, in his comments on Albuquerque's proposed 50 mile bike loop. (Patrick lived in Santa Fe in the 1980's, racing bikes and writing for the New Mexican)

Stephen Clark, the Bicycle Friendly Community Specialist for the League of American Bicyclists, was in the City Different yesterday to pitch the bennies of bicycle-friendly community status to the Mayor, Council, and some of the local city, county and state staff and bicycle advocacy community** and to do a cleats on the pedal tour of the city from a cyclist's perspective. Figuring it was easier for me to spend a few hours relaxing sick in Santa Fe rather than put in a 9 hour day being sick at work or being restless at home (thank Campagnolo for Cipro), I drove down and did about five miles of easy riding on the Long Haul Trucker with Steve and some city and bikie folks looking at the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Some of the good. New gates and lights on Zia 
rail-trail crossing. From the New Mexican article
 The good included the many quiet if narrow streets in the older parts of town and the relatively recently and greatly expanded trail networks in progress. Its been a non-starter to convince the State DOT to make "the bad and the ugly" stroads like Cerrillos, St. Francis, and St. Michaels bicycle-friendly (assuming that is even possible), so pathways such as the Rail Trail, River Trail, Acequia Trail, etc. are put into service as alternative connectivity. I'm never fond of having to cobble together bike paths as substitutes for complete streets, but one does what one has to do while negotiating change and those trails are a lot more amenable to riding than getting into dogfights with driving-while-texting motorists in hulking SUVs on a high speed stroad.

Nice view of the Rail Trail, pic courtesy of Steve Clark
Given these paths are by definition basic transportation routes, they deserve high quality safety systems; these increasingly are provided by important touches such as the gates and lights at pathway RR crossings such as at Zia, Cerrillos, and St. Michaels. Sadly, the fast, six lane stroad ped crossing where the Rail Trail crosses St. Mikes, while having a protected center island refuge, is otherwise unregulated. The adjacent roadway RR crossing makes that a difficult but not impossible problem; one would probably need a couple of doglegs on the trail crossing to enable stopping cars safely. As Steve and most of us agreed, the present situation could be a real show stopper to many peds and bicyclists, at least when traffic is heavy (which is much of the time).
Lunch at the original 2nd Street Brewery was quite tasty!
So while I supported (and still do) Santa Fe's Silver application, I don't know how it will advance further up the noble metal route without some changes in the relationship with the NMDOT. Given that the DOTs stroads cut up Santa Fe like a freshly butchered chicken, it seems hard to make the City Different a platinum quality bike gem without some serious change in how the state handles its highways when then enter a city, or by either yanking the jurisdiction entirely and calming these highways or finding a way to bridge, parallel, or bypass them efficiently. Heck, even the state Bike-Ped coordinator seemed a little too accommodating to the rude treatment the state hands non-motorists when a state route cuts into a city's lifeblood. Then again, I don't ride a mile in her cleats.

Its an admittedly tough problem balancing all the interests when a heavily used highway enters a town, but unless getting people (not just people in cars) across and along the street is as important as moving trucks and cars cross the state, we have sacrificed urban connectivity to long range transport. Strong Town's Chuck Marohn (PE, AICP) doesn't think stroads should exist, period, for a variety of reasons he can explain better than I. Alternatively, I mentioned a concept I've been mulling over in BombTown with Trinity Drive, i.e., Complete Corridors. Basically, one has to find an ingenious way to provide equivalent bicycling and walking connectivity along a major corridor, either by calming the arterials or by hopping, paralleling, or bypassing them. Such an idea takes some ingenuity and (a lot of) money but suggests that rather than trying to pound a square bikeway into a round stroad, there may be a smarter solution. To go gold or beyond, its worth finding it. I suppose one could look at the right of way along something like St. Francis and engineer a buffered bikeway--left to me, I would snatch a couple lanes back. Or, suggest something else. I'll toss that to the folks who live there and know way more than I do.
Here, a narrow cut-through on the Acequia Trail connects to streets and a neighborhood north of Cerrillos near the Cerrillos-St. Francis intersection. Stephen Newhall (yellow jacket), a BCNM Board member and manager at Rob and Charlie's Bike Shop, leads the way through as the LAB's Stephen Clark, Tim, yours truly and others prepare to follow. We saw several cyclists use this priceless connectivity to make the trails network work when riding from their communities. But as someone noted, a bike trailer would probably not fit.
Thanks to all who attended, helped, or were invited due to their involvement and persistence in making Santa Fe a better place to live, work, and oh yes, ride a bike. Thanks to Bob Siqueiros, the City's Railyards Project Administrator and BTAC Liason, for herding the cats and Tim Rogers for planning the route. The list of invitees is below (I crashed the party late), along with a group shot taken at the Plaza.
Photo courtesy of Tim Rogers

**Javier Gonzales, Mayor (Tentative)
Patti Bushee, City Councilor
Bicycle Trails Advisory Committee BTAC (3)
Gretchen Grogan
Shelley Robinson
Paul Cooley
Ron Pacheco
Leroy Pacheco, City Engineering Staff
Melissa McDonald, Engineering Staff
Robert Siqueiros, BTAC Liaison
Maria Lohmann, County Trail Staff
Rosa Kosab, NM State Staff
Tim Rogers, SFCT, Trails Program Manager
Bob Ward, REI Store Manager
Chainbreakers Staff, Tomas Rivera (BTAC)
Keith Wilson, MPO Staff
Stephen Newhall – Educator/Public Advocate
Santa Fe Fat Tires Society Representative(s)
Bicycle Technologies Inc. Representative(S)

"What do you expect us to die of? Old age? "
--Hub McCann, in Secondhand Lions

Saturday, March 28, 2015

What LA Monitor Opinion Writer Harold Morgon Does Not Understand About Bicycling Infrastructure

Bicycle "Cultist" and former Laboratory Director Harold Agnew
Although Harold Morgon's "Fixing Roads Is Better Than Building Bicycling Underpass" in last week's Los Alamos Monitor seems more political agit-prop than analysis (referring to cyclists as a cult, and to the funding of bike facilities as the spending orgies of liberal Democrats), it's worth, in its wake, reviewing a few things about bicycle infrastructure.

Morgon overlooks that transportation is about moving people to where they need to go.  To create an efficient system, the tool should fit the need.  For short distances, bicycles work well as people movers. By contrast, short distance driving is not particular good for the car, the human, or the built environment. Such driving is often referred to as "severe use" as it doesn't give the vehicle's lubricating fluids time to heat up and drive out volatiles. For the human, sedentary lifestyles lead to a host of health problems. Finally, someone (customers, storekeepers, the local government) has to pay to store cars; as land values go up, storing cars drives up the cost of government and of doing business. So building a "complete" transportation system that gives people maximum options, including bicycling, can have an attractive cost benefit ratio and lead to a culture where bike mode share can approach the level seen in some European cities. The League of American Bicyclists notes that many Bicycle Friendly Communities, including Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Denver and Lexington, Ky., have more than doubled their bike commuter share since 2000.
BombTown from the air: note all the space devoted to parking cars

As far as whether special facilities are needed to provide safety, New Mexico ranks second only to Florida in statewide fatality rates of bicyclists. This is due to a variety of factors including drug and alcohol use by motorists and poor facility design. Albuquerque, for example, has designed its surface transportation system around high speed, very wide arterials that attempt to maximize motor vehicle level of service but which make a cyclist vulnerable to being overlooked in fast traffic, where a crash can be devastating since impact speed directly correlates with bicyclist and pedestrian fatality rates. This sort of urban design, which overlooks non-motorist safety, has in retrospect, necessitated targeting key problem situations with separate facilities to provide a safety margin for cyclists. In this context, the occasional  million dollar bicycle facility that solves a problem created by the construction of multimillion to multibillion dollar fast arterials and interstate highways is a necessary part of the transportation system. 

Finally, it is misleading and inaccurate to say that we can fix our roads by cancelling a few high profile bike facilities. A recent FHWA report states that the U.S. needs to increase spending on our roadway network by some 25 to 50 billion dollars a year just to fix what is broken. Morgon admits that fixing one New Mexico highway alone will cost close to 200 million dollars. Cancelling a million dollar bike project would not even be noticed. Plus, such illogical thinking would result in putting more cars on the road in urban areas, increasing the pressure on a crumbling system. To fix those potholes and creaky bridges, we need to both prioritize what to fix and raise the funds to do so, either by raising the gas tax, which has not been raised since 1993, or tapping into the general fund, which bicyclists pay into via Federal, State, and local taxes.Or both.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How To Kill With A Car, The Story Continues....

Matt Trujillo
 Following up on last night's post about the dangerous driver, someone at work sent me this:

"About 3 weeks or so ago, one of our engineers observed a driver on Pajarito road that appeared to be drunk.  As he was leaving work at TA-55 heading east, he observed a Nissan Maxima in front of him wandering back and forth across the road.  He followed the car down to White Rock.  The car headed north on NM 4 and went down off the hill.  Between TA-55 and the light in WR, this car ran two west bound cars off into the dirt (off past the wide paved shoulder) on Pajarito and hit both curbs several times heading north on NM4 in WR along the new section with center divider.  Our engineer got a license number and called 911 and also LANL security and gave them the license.  Hard to imagine a drunk LANL worker with a badge driving on Pajarito."
Drunk? Texting? Putting on mascara? Nothing surprises me. 

Its not too hard to imagine people getting the willies about bicycling, even on six foot bike lanes or wide shoulders, when one sees and hears this stuff. Heck, even David Anderson was not safe when  a careless driver autocrossed off the road and through a barrier to kill Anderson on a nearby bike path in Albuquerque. 

Sadly, when I wrote to Chief Sgambellone last night reporting the incident with last night's wobbly driver, the Chief said such stories were not surprising to him or the force and that they see plenty of it. One wonders when an inept, careless, inattentive, reckless, or drunk driver will next intersect with a pedestrian or bicyclist. 

If you see them, don't be shy. Call 9-1-1 and get these clowns off the road. It could be your own life you ultimately save.