Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The One Mile Solution

Andy Cline makes some compelling comments on the relative psychological ease and economic/political value of short range bicycle commuting in his essay "The One Mile Solution". Short range commuting provides good exercise and eliminates those incredibly inefficient short car trips that get the worst gas milage.

The piece is especially relevant if you live right in town. Even out on North Mesa, the most daunting climb on the way to town is Conoco Hill. This is also a strong rationale for fixing NM502 so it encourages cycling and walking.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Winter Gear post I wish I'd found 10 years ago

According to our flaky wireless thermometer, tt was a brisk -5°C when I rode in this morning. My neck started to hurt after a few minutes, so I went back home and put on a wool scarf. It occurred to me that I could have saved a lot of money if someone had just told me what a scarf was for at some earlier point in my life.

I'm the sort of commuter who likes to wear normal clothing on my ride, and these choices reflect that. I really feel like for any possible trips in this town you don't need fancy high-performance clothes: in my mind, cycling is just a way to get there, not the end goal.

Presented, then, for your edification, my list.

Things that go on you (I've bolded the cycling-specific items):

  1. Thin wool cap: keeps your ears and brain warm. SmartWool makes a nice merino wool hat that you can wear under a helmet or by itself when walking.

  2. Windbreaker: if you just take it easy, a normal sweater under a normal windbreaker is plenty warm for -5°C and below. Remember, you're exercising.

  3. Bright reflective vest: so you can wear a normal-looking windbreaker.

  4. Wool scarf: to keep your face warm when it's really cold. Also looks stylin' when you're off the bike.

  5. Lobster-claw mittens: These are mitten/gloves, with only two "fingers" and a thumb. A good compromise between warmth and mobility.

  6. Long johns: if it's really cold out, these keep your tuckus warmer. I haven't worn them in years but I may start to.

Things that go on the bike:

  1. Lights: to see and be seen. Check out the photo below of my battery-powered LED strand. Everybody notices my two front lights, one rear light, and string of colored LEDs.

  2. Reflectors: these work even better than lights when headlights hit them (which isn't all the time). I have 6 rear reflectors (on seatpost, rack, fender, two panniers, and under-seat bag) or 4 side reflectors (one on each wheel and each pannier).

  3. Cage pedals: so you can wear whatever shoes (or boots) you need for walking. You may as well put reflectors on these too: they're cheap and my tests show they're the most conspicuous reflector when viewed from the front of the bike. After years of fiddling around with pedals, I've decided that commuters just don't need toe clips, much less clipless pedals.

  4. Fenders: they keep freezing muddy water off your legs.

  5. Fat tires: studded tires are great, but also expensive. Fat tires are the next best option. Just take it easy.

  6. Panniers: they hold your stuff and provide another reflector location. I have one traditional zip-up pannier with coats and an insulated coffee mug, the other side is a folding grocery pannier that carries my lunch and whatever else I tote around.

  7. Rear rack: it holds the panniers to the bike.

  8. Bungee cords: to hold gift boxes, packages, etc. to the rack. I recently acquired a motorcycle "helmet net" which so far has been superior to bungee cords for the few things I've needed to tie down.

Lots of reflectors

Festive lights!

More take to bike commuting?

Picture and story from National Public Radio.  More links to this at the LAB blog.  This includes some recent work by Rutgers Professor of Planning and Policy John Pucher.

I wonder if we can get Michael Anastasio and Tony Mortillaro to commute by bike. When the boss rides a bike to work, folks will notice.

With rumblings in Congress to take away the tax benefits connected with job-based health care coverage, more Americans may want to think carefully about the health quality of their lifestyles rather than expect someone to hand them a pill and a health card. Sedentary behavior? Not. Personal mobility? Right answer.

Thanks and a tip of the skid lid to Andy Cline for reminding me to comment on this story, which I heard on the radio this morning.

National Geographic Society CEO John Fahey (left), pictured with Cole Ingraham, has a long-standing invitation for his employees to join him for a lunchtime bike ride.

Friday, November 26, 2010

This Road Is Your Road, This Road is My Road...

Somehow it seems to work. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Road Rage comes to Bomb Town (updated)

The proverbial cheery greeting
The potential impact of road rage on public safety was brought home to us in Los Alamos right down on NM-4 in White Rock. This reminds us that it is easier for a confrontation to get out of control than for it to stay in control. Once out of control, it is hard to undo a fractured skull or a felony conviction.  Yeah, people can be buttheads. But lets be careful out there; take a deep breath and let some stuff go. These days it can get ugly, and get ugly real fast. Smile, wave, ride correctly, and then call the cops.

From the Monitor, courtesy of Managing Editor Carol Clark. Police chief breaks up road rage incident  From Carol Clark's report: "While driving along N.M. 4 within the last hour, Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy came upon a scene resembling something out of an action movie. A truck was parked in the middle of the highway and the driver was wielding a 3-foot-long metal jack handle in the air. A bicyclist was clutching his bicycle in front of himself in a protective manner against the threatened blows from the rod. ....According to reports at the scene, the truck driver passed closely to the bicyclists and they in turn voiced their displeasure. The truck driver slammed on his brakes and the melee ensued."

Here is a brief page over on Edmunds.com about dealing with road rage. Some motorists become enraged simply because we are riding in the road and perhaps slowing down their drive to destiny. That crap needs to stop. On the other side of the coin, from what I have seen, cyclists who engage in rage often do so after a near miss with a motor vehicle. Believe me, I realize that when you see your life flash before your eyes because someone is doing something to you that is (or seems) dangerous, outrageous, insulting, or aggressive, all the while shielded by 5000 lbs of steel and tinted glass, it is easy to lose one's composure. Been there, done that, and don't recommend it.

One thing the general public has to address is the double standard out there. Some motorists consider it their right to be beeping at or gesturing to or buzzing a cyclist to "get outa my way", but get offended when someone on a bicycle tells them where to stow the bad attitude. From my saddle, no one should have a sense of "entitlement" to harass other law abiding operators (and cyclists, obviously, should be law abiding operators). A cyclist, of course doesn't have a big ole horn to beep back with either, often leading to the next best attention getter, The Gesture. There needs to be a lot more mutual understanding out there if we are to ratchet down this endless circle of confrontation.

Is a minute's bad judgment worth three years? My understanding from the Monitor article is that the truck driver in this case is now getting a cot and three squares as a guest of the county after a felony arrest: “...(the motorist) will be arraigned in Magistrate Court within 10 days,” Deputy Chief Kevin Purtymun said. “Aggravated assault is a fourth degree felony and if convicted, the sentence could be as high as three years in prison and up to a $2,500 fine.”   That driver is probably kicking himself.  His family's Thanksgiving ain't exactly pleasant. The victims are lucky to not be in the hospital and if they were, the motorist's fate would likely be sealed in the Big House for quite a few years. So if you find yourself losing your own temper, think about that truck driver's unfortunate predicament. But for the grace of God, there go I?

Share the Road. Share the Love
May the Bird of the Peloton never grace your handlebars.  I don't know if the "One Fingered Victory Salute" was displayed during this incident, but it has become the universal symbol of displeasure in response to those who have committed a real or imagined offense in this age of careless driving, inconsiderate cycling, and rampant jaywalking. Yep. Used it more than once myself . It has become as natural in our society as the sunrise. Unfortunately, the lack of civility has also become as natural as the sunrise. The problem is that whether you are driving, walking, or riding, "flipping the bird" is a sure guarantee to raise the ante as well as the blood pressure with That Other Guy. Plus, that other guy may honestly have no idea that he just buzzed you or nearly took off your new Giro helmet with the extended mirror on his SuperDuty.  Or he may simply not know that you were well within the law doing whatever it was you were doing when he beeped at you. Or perhaps, you were doing something quite culpable; we never saw a bicyclist riding stupid, did we? But regardless of how it started, now that you flipped the bird, he's as mad as a stick-prodded hornet and you have a bigger problem.  Its usually better to get someone's attention in a more neutral way and tell them your story. Don't ask me how I learned that lesson.

My favorite (positive) story here is about the guy who made a U-turn and pulled me over while yelling and giving me several Italian symbols of good health after he was nearly run off the road by a car that passed me over the centerline. After a short and calming discussion (and if I can have a calm discussion, anyone can...), he realized that the real SOB was the impatient motorist who played chicken with him. We left as friends and shaking hands. Whew....

Of course, if someone is actually threatening you or driving recklessly, dispense with the Italian Hand Language and call 911 and get the police where you need them. One can't always assume that the Chief of Police will be driving by as you are dodging the brown stuff.

Enjoy the ride, be safe, cooperate with each other, give the other guy a break, and share the road.

With acknowledgments to Patrick O'Grady for the illustrations and to former President George W. Bush for the "one fingered victory salute" demonstration.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Visioning a new Trinity Drive

 The Transportation Board recommended to Council that the county conduct further study of the A1 and A2 choices to rebuild Trinity Drive. These would include roundabouts or roundabouts and signalized intersections, single lane in each direction, and bike lanes.  Council is supposed to take this issue up in January.

Start visioning Trinity Drive, or attempts to improve will go down in flames and it will look the same. This is one place where we really could model a rebuild on a "Complete Street".

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jim Borgman on the high cost of gasoline

Thanks and a tip of the helmet to Steve Magas for posting this cartoon on his law site.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cerrillos and St. Francis Bike Trap

I had posted this comment on my other site as it doesn't have to do with Los Alamos and further, I wanted some offline (of this list) comments back. But here it is--my response to the NM DoT signage warning cyclists that they can cross the St. Francis-Cerrillos intersection at their own peril. Like NM DoT's lip paving of shoulders, this intersection isn't exactly considerate of cyclists or for that matter, anyone on two wheels. If this was an out of the way crossing, it might be excusable. For the main intersection in the State Capitol, it seems to me this treatment sends a message.

Feel free to comment. I have comment moderation set up on that site as most of the posts are my typical, Left of Karl Marx stuff, and I want to keep it civilized over there.

See full post over at the North Mesa Mutts site.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

County Streets Standards Resolution passes Council

Last night, the "Resolution on the Policy for the Design of Public Streets and Rights-of-Way in Los Alamos County", Resolution 10-32, passed Council on a vote of 6-1. Thank you to all who worked on this, especially to T-Board member Janie O'Rourke and Community Development Director Rick Bohn, and to Council for its patience and constructive criticism as we muddled through in order to get this ready for Prime Time.

This document will be of considerable help as we look forward to considerable change in the downtown area and in the NM-502 Corridor, just as the 2005 "Los Alamos bike plan" (not the official name) gave us the neccesary guidance for rebuilding Diamond Drive. This stuff matters.

Khal Spencer, Transportation Board Chair

Text is here, at least for now. I'm including the "Whereas" jazz below.

WHEREAS, the Los Alamos County Council has established six (6) main Strategic Goals, three (3) of which are “Enhance Environmental Quality and Sustainability”, “Improve Transportation and Mobility”, and “Diversify the Economy/Revitalize White Rock and Los Alamos Downtowns”; and

WHEREAS, the Council has established a series of Strategic Objectives to carry out these goals, including objectives to “Incorporate smart growth concepts”, “Pursue community-wide independence from hydrocarbon energy sources”, “Promote and expand regional transit organization”, “Develop a Transportation Master Plan”, and “Improve downtowns by attracting at least $30 million of private investment and making available $6 million of public funds”; and

WHEREAS, recent advances in the practice of traffic engineering and urban planning have developed new “best practices” for the design of streets that better accommodate the needs of private vehicles, transit riders, pedestrians, cyclists, and those with disabilities, while enhancing safety and convenience for all users; and

WHEREAS, a consistent policy on the development of streets and rights-of-way in the County that supports consideration of all modes of transportation during the design process will help to achieve Council’s three aforementioned Strategic Goals.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Incorporated County of Los Alamos that the “Policy for the Design of Streets and Rights-of-Way in Los Alamos County” (Attachment “A”) shall be adopted as the official policy of the County.

PASSED AND ADOPTED this 9th day of November, 2010.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why the Tea Party should support cycling as transportation

From NPR: Sharp Rise in Oil Prices Could Hinder Recovery

The pace of a national recovery will be challenged as a healthier economy needs to increase transport of goods and services (and people as they go back to work) but the cost of gas and diesel go up in a global oil market no longer dominated by the West and USA alone. As the NPR story says, the price of a barrel has nearly tripled since January, 2009. With other economies competing for that finite supply of barrels, supply vs. demand will have its way. According to a source in the NPR story, "a $10 increase in the price of oil is like a $200 million tax on the economy a day." or $73 billion per year, much of which goes overseas. With oil at $32/bbl in Jan '09 and closing in on $90/bbl today, that's a cool half trillion dollars.

That is one reason why replacing a car trip with a bike trip is a national energy strategy and national debt issue. Not to mention, that bike trip may keep you out of the doctor's office from sedentary-related diseases, making it a better health care solution than simply handing out medical care cards.The list goes on, but only if the bike is on the road instead of being an ornament on a car's roof rack.

Have a nice day, and remind your Congressman that conservation is more than "...a sign of personal virtue...". It may be a sign of a national will to survive and prosper in an increasingly challenging world.

(with acknowledgments to Andy Cline over at Carbon Trace for instigating this post)

Monday, November 8, 2010

In Vail, Colorado, the connection between money and justice couldn't be clearer

This one simply takes one's breath away. 

EAGLE, Colorado — A financial manager for wealthy clients will not face felony charges for a hit-and-run because it could jeopardize his job, prosecutors said Thursday.

 There is a petition drive started on the web, if that will make any difference in reversing this money-buys-justice travesty. Or as Keri Caffrey says, "What other craven felonies can a person commit and be let off easy because felony convictions have “serious job implications?”

Sunday, November 7, 2010

John Allen: A Review of Bicycling Designs in Davis, CA

John Allen has put up a page documenting an examination of the long history of bicycle facility R and D in Davis California. As John says, "...Davis has the longest experience with a bicycle program of any city in the USA, and a large population of cyclists thanks to its being the home of the University of California at Davis..." You may surf to his table of contents page for the Davis documents — but also, lest we make the same mistakes as well as enjoy the same successes elsewhere, please read the rest of his post. 

John has updated his blog with an additional Davis post. Davis Planners Opine on Sidepaths

Standard Time is back with us

...So please, PLEASE make sure your bike is actively lit up if you are commuting home after work. It should be pretty dark by shortly after five p.m. tomorrow. Be ready and be visible. Reflectors alone are not enough, says John Schubert. I can't say that emphatically enough and don't have to because John Allen says so too.

For lights, the sky is the limit as far as the market goes; dollars generally correlate with light output. But prices per lumen are definitely coming down. You can save some money buying a headlamp at a local hardware or home appliance store or an LED flashlight pair at Costco or Sam's and lash together a mount with a buck's worth of zipties. Or consider this. Some of the new high output tactical flashlights can pump out up to 900 lumens for a tenth the price of a comparable spec bike light (perhaps with a less optimal beam pattern) and with innovation, can be mounted in a trick fashion.
One way to kludge together a handlebar mount.

Bottom line is you want to see and be seen. Being seen might be a lower standard. Seeing ahead requires that you analyze your route, your speed, and your willingness to risk hitting something. Pick a light that illuminates the road far enough ahead and well enough for you to avoid a hazard. Anyone wanting a quick discussion of that is welcome to contact me and we can arrange a little tutorial.

Ankle reflectors, some shown here, are good choices because they move and when illuminated, catch motorist attention. I put a pair on my wrists as well to use when signaling a turn.

For winter use, I have the Black Diamond Icon, available at REI, ziptied to my helmet. Works great; I can point it to where I want to see something (or at a side street with a motorist waiting at a stop sign). The main beam on the handlebar is a slightly dated but quite powerful (a claimed 675/550 lumen but the light pattern is iffy) Light and Motion Arc-HID headlamp.

And don't forget your back! Both John Allen and John Schubert discuss the limitations of rear reflectors, including that they may be dirty (hence fenders can keep them free of road grime) and only work well under optimal conditions of following traffic. On the bike right now is a five LED Cateye rear light (an older version of this). I augment that with a belt beacon. In addition, I have a 3" reflector from the local hardware store and a bunch of stick-on reflective dots.

Lights are so much better than in the old days. Enjoy the advantages of technology. If it seems I'm overdoing this, perhaps I am. But I've been commuting in the dark for 31 years. There is something to be said for taking safety into your own hands.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Morning in America?

"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right."
--H.L. Mencken

Acknowledgments to Steve A. for posting that quote on his DFW Point to Point site.

As Andy Clarke says on the BikeLeague blog, Jim Oberstar,chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and a longtime champion of a lot of Federal support for cycling programs, projects and infrastructure, was one of the casualties of the Tuesday Night Massacre, with the Dems playing the part of Gen. Custer's 7th Calvary and the Republicans and Tea Party folks playing the part of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho people.

For me, this morning was the political equivalent of a cheap-whiskey hangover. My sense is that the American people may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Be that as it may...

One can cut the size and scope of Government, but when translated into real world terms, you may find yourself doing without things you have quietly taken for granted. The problem is not just the size of government but the shrinking of our tax base with the sagging U.S. economy to the point where it can’t easily support things we are used to having. Like good roads, good schools, and medical care. Somehow we have to grow our economy and tax base back, pay our bills, end our wars, and start building and exporting things again. I'd like to hear someone from either party offer something constructive here.

Greed and mistrust are separate issues. Americans are being brainwashed by extremist politics, esp. outlets like FAUX News (and during the Bush administration, by MoveOn and its ilk), into not trusting their government as far as they can throw it. Not surprising we would not trust it with our tax dollars. As far as greed? Look no farther than resistance to marginal tax cut increases and compare our taxes to other nations. Greed and mistrust have to go, too.

As far as bicycling. Bicyclists who use their bikes as real-world transportation rather than cartop decorations already know something about being conservative. As I said yesterday on the League's blog, I think bicycling advocates are going to have to be ready with some compelling arguments on why using bicycling (and other alternatives to the car) are cost-effective in a new political era where the House (which originates Federal spending bills) looks at every Federal expenditure with a sharp knife. That is going to mean talking to a lot of new Republicans who have been elected on the promise of shrinking our government. They and their constituencies often look critically at transportation alternatives, see bicycling as quaint and irrelevant, have made some bike-specific projects the laughing stock of the TV networks, and were elected yesterday. They will have to be convinced that there is value in some of this stuff and cycling advocates will have to be a lot more selective in what they ask for.

Perhaps more cycling advocacy should be delegated to the state and local levels, since bicycling as transportation is local. The Bike League might want to concentrate on key projects that have the most bang for the buck, such as LCI network expansion and core missions of preserving our cycling rights in an uncertain era. Trained and confident cyclists can ride on most roads, set good examples to non-cyclists, and are not highly dependent on new bike-specific infrastructure that might or might not be funded by this new and conservative Congress.

As Andy said, one of our best friends in Congress is gone. Single point failures, as we say in my business, are not good. Cycling should not rise or fall on the fickleness of one election cycle or on the promise of continued Federal funding. Like our bicycles, we will have to be quick and manuverable. We need to learn from the past. Check out this link to the history of the Physical Fitness movement under President Eisenhower.