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Apr 13

Coming soon to a state park near you!

Posted on Sunday, April 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

Our mascot is You. You are ready to get started!

Our mascot is You. You are ready to get started!

Five years ago, I biked from Columbia, MO to Omaha, NE and back. I camped in state parks and city campgrounds. I carried everything on my bike. It took 11 days and I rode 744 miles. When I got home, I decided that I would bike to the 40 Missouri State Parks that have campgrounds in 2014. My dad looked at my mom, who had worried about me biking by myself and camping by myself, and bought a bike so he could go with me. I had gotten lonely a lot on my first trip, so I was very happy that I would have company.

It’s 2014 now and our trip starts in less than a month. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost here. All winter, Dad and I have had weekly Google hangouts to plan our trip. We’ve been going to our gyms and, when the weather was not too bad, riding our bikes. We’ve collected tents, sleeping bags, a pocket fisherman, a tiny inflatable raft, a cookstove, smart phones, black box cameras, spare parts, and other equipment. We’ve researched state parks, highways, obscure facts about obscure towns, newspapers, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), apps, and more. We reached out to friends, bicycle clubs, bike shops, newspapers, the DNR, Missouri State Parks, the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation, and many others. We have a blog, a mascot, and trail names (Shere Khan and Balloo).

Missouri has a hiker-biker policy, so we won’t be turned away even when the campground is full. The DNR is sponsoring our trip, so we won’t pay campground fees. They are writing an article about us and the publicist is meeting us soon for photos.

I will never feel that I have trained enough or prepared enough. But I can’t wait to start! Ready or not, I’d leave tomorrow if I could.

We want you to join us. You can bike with us for a few miles when we pass through your town. If you’re more adventurous, you might join us for a few days. If you don’t have a bike, we’d love to see you at a state park or anywhere on our journey. We could use some help along the way: a ride to the grocery store, a few extra bananas and boiled eggs, or route advice.

If you can’t join us or meet us, please follow our journey online and leave words of encouragement on our blog. ‘Like’ our Facebook page, 40 Missouri State Parks to get updates and announcements, and visit the 40 Missouri State Parks www.crazyguyonabike.com journal.

 

Apr 11

Capitol Day: Beyond the legislation

Posted on Friday, April 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

I kept my napkin from the Governor's Mansion.

I kept my napkin from the Governor’s Mansion.

Capitol Day for the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation is one of my favorite events. Each year, we meet bicyclists from around the state and visit with legislators, staff, and officials. This year was particularly exciting with the sneak attack on bicycles in the transportation bill.

I coordinated the volunteers this year for the first time. A nasty spring bug took out a couple of my volunteers, including one of the most experienced ones I was counting on. The sneak attack meant hurried, last-minute, extensive changes. So in addition to being the most exciting Capitol Day ever, it was the most rushed ever!

Ordinarily we have an extensive awards ceremony to recognize Missourians who have contributed to bicycling & walking around the state. Due to limited resources this year, we limited our ceremony to a few key state-wide efforts. Bill Bryan, director of the Department of Natural Resources, personally accepted a Friend of Missouri Bicycle and Walking Award for Missouri’s achievement of Best Trails State by American Trails.

We always invite any legislators present to say a few words, and politicians never pass up that opportunity. Only the quick reactions of Rep. Chris Kelly and Rep. Jeremy Lafaver had given us the chance to drum up opposition to the attack on bicycles in the transportation bill, and we were happy to hear from them. Rep. Lafaver had quite the story to tell with his bicycle on the stage just behind him.

Eight years ago, his father, an avid cyclist in D.C., was diagnosed with cancer. Rep. Lafaver took a couple months off to visit, but between chemotherapy and bicycling, his father was too tired to chat. If he wanted to see his dad, he was going to have to ride a bike. His dad was delighted at and immediately bought him a bike. “It’s much too nice of a bike for someone who looks like this,” Rep. Lafaver said, joking about his non-athletic physique. I didn’t think he looked too out of shape to have a nice bike. I thought he looked too young to have lost his dad.

That is why bicycling is important to Rep. Lafaver. He hasn’t ridden the bike much since his father passed away, but he rode with us that day.

The forecast predicted rain during the Legislators’ Bike Ride. But the sun shone, the wind was calm, and the temperature was perfect. I pulled on bike shorts, hiked up my business skirt, and swapped my high heels for sandals for the bike ride. My bike helmet even matched my suit. Every time we cross the Missouri River on the bike/ped bridge, we remember the days when we had to drive over the river to reach the Katy Trail.

At the Governor’s Mansion we met with the new director of Health & Senior Services, Gail Vasterling. Traditionally, transportation and public health have been separate sectors, but more and more we recognize the link between the two. It was a useful meeting as we identified several places we can help each other.

We had some indication that Governor Nixon would make an appearance when we met with his office. Not surprisingly, something came up and he was unable to see us. We were not to be denied our photo op, and we now have a hundred professional photographs of a bemused aide surrounded by a pack of grinning bicycle advocates.

Those of us still there at the end of the day headed off for a long-awaited meal and fellowship. I won’t say that was the highlight of the day, but the pizza was delicious and the meal was a lot of fun.

 

Apr 9

WIN

Posted on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

Rep. Kelly gave us Respect the Bicycle Peeps stickers that he had printed up!

Rep. Kelly gave us Respect the Bicycle Peeps stickers that he had printed up!

This year was the most exciting Capitol Day ever for the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation.

Missouri transportation faces a funding crisis due to the declining power of the fuel tax and ever more efficient vehicles. When the fuel tax was adopted in 1923, it was designated for roads and bridges. State funds cannot be used for nonmotorized transportation, such as sidewalks and bike lanes.

So the funding crisis is an opportunity for bicycling and walking.

Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs coalition proposes a 1% sales tax to go to voters in November. Last year, the bill passed both the House and Senate but fell to a Senate filibuster during reconciliation of the two versions. We are trying again this year. If it passes, voters will decide in November if it will become law.

As a member of this coalition, the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation wants to ensure that transportation funding includes bicycling and walking. Even though bicycling and walking are included in this bill, at any moment anything can change. That is what happened on Thursday. Rep. Curtman introduced an amendment that would remove the word ‘bicycle’ from the definition of transportation. This was a routine amendment that could easily slip through. But Rep. Kelly and Rep. Lafaver noticed and objected and the amendment was postponed.

In just 4 days, we issued an advocacy alert and launched a social media campaign.

Coincidentally, our Capitol Day was Monday. We re-wrote our prepared material and printed it at the last minute. We quickly educated Capitol Day participants about the amendment and sent them off to their representatives. We asked bicyclists throughout the state to call and email their representatives.

We had support from Democrats and from Republicans– including Kirksville’s Rep. Nate Walker. We had support from the coalition and from MoDOT. Our lobbyist helped us strategize. Monday’s legislative session began in the evening, so we stayed late in order to talk to the legislators who didn’t come in until shortly before session.

I had the opportunity to return to Jefferson City Tuesday morning to witness the final maneuvers. We had succeeded so well in whipping up opposition to the amendment that there was one last argument about whether the defeat would be by a roll call vote or a voice vote! With a roll call vote, the individual votes are on record, and some representatives will vote for or against something only if their individual vote will not be on record or off record. It’s a matter of who gets credit or blame, and people who are up for reelection care deeply about that. We only cared about defeating the amendment, which was most likely with a voice vote.

We sat next to MoDOT director Dave Nichols in the House gallery to hear the debate and then the vote on the amendment that would remove the word ‘bicycle’ from the definition of transportation. A few meager “Ayes!” sounded and then the House chamber echoed with resounding “NAYS!” We had defeated the attack on bicycles.

Making sure folks get do get credit, despite the anonymous voice vote, is important, so please thank your representative for his or her support.

 

Apr 3

Morals, ethics, cheating, and me

Posted on Thursday, April 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

I just listened to a coursera lecture about research that sheds light onto why and how we cheat or don’t cheat. From an evolutionary point of view, cheating is an arbitrary distinction that is only possible in a social definition. If our social training indoctrinates us that it’s the responsibility of the smartest person to come up with the answers and everyone else should try to get the answers from that one, then it isn’t cheating to copy off of someone’s test, it’s our duty to copy.

But it is possible to study the phenomenon nonetheless because every culture does have some form of cheating, some rules that can be broken to some degree for the individual’s gain.

The results were in one sense promising: very few people are outright crooks. (About 12.) In another sense demoralizing: many people are a little bit crooked. (18,000.) (I don’t recall how many are purely honest, or if he said.) People are more inclined to cheat when their peers cheat. They are less inclined to cheat when reminded of honesty and values.

That fits me really, really well. I’m all about my worldview and how my actions fit my self image. I firmly believe that I’m, if not a good person, I’m not a bad person. If I have done things that are wrong, it’s the definition of wrong actions that is mistaken, not my definition of myself. That’s the compelling reason I learned a lot about neurochemicals and behavior, and how little control we really have over our own behavior. That allowed me to create a worldview where my actions which appeared to be wrong were a result of biology and evolution, not a symptom of the badness within me.

Philosophically, I am a moral relativist and I don’t believe (much) in free will. My husband is the complete opposite and it disturbs him to even contemplate the alternative.

According to this research, the decision to cheat or not is NOT based on a calculated cost-benefit analysis. At least, not one that is purely monetary. It has a lot to do with how we think of ourselves. Reminding people of things like honest and values inspires them to be better behaved: almost no one cheats after that reminder.

I have three stories which will reveal my propensity to cheating.

As a young soldier in the National Guard, I went to a 2-week training to get my sergeant stripes. Among the several requirements to pass the course was Land Navigation. The instructors expressed their frustration with the inadequate resources they had to train us: an out of date contour map that we had to draw the updates onto. Terrain that was challenging for experts to maintain a consistent stride length and impossible for beginners. Only one in-the-field opportunity to practice before we took the test, and only one chance to re-take the test.

Word quickly got around that after the practice test, we would share the coordinates that we found. With that list, we could cheat on the test.

I contributed to the list and I accepted the list, but I wasn’t going to use it unless I had to. I was going to try to pass it on my own merits first.

I had to find 3 of the 4 coordinates I’d been given. I found 2. Time was running out. Regretfully, I got the list out and wrote down the answer for the 3rd. I didn’t look to see if the 4th was on the list– there was no advantage in staining my soul a bit more for the 4th, when I only needed the 3rd to pass the test.

Another soldier refused to contribute to the list and did not accept a copy. She failed the test. She angrily accepted a copy for her re-take, and passed. (I forget whether she passed the re-take on her own or if she did have to consult the cheat sheet.)

There’s all sorts of justifications and rationales in there, discussions of what was right or wrong, but the incident made a strong impression on me.

A second instance is speeding tickets. At that same age, I drove faster than was good for me on the long drive to and from college and home or college and guard drill. It was a long, boring drive and I had homework and a billion other things to do. I received a handful of speeding tickets and I lowered my speed because those tickets are expensive. I persisted in following the custom of driving 5 mph over the posted speed limit, no matter what the conditions.

After I started bicycling, my driving behavior changed. I don’t notice the posted speed limits because they seem ridiculously high to me. I’m glad now that I got those speeding tickets in my youth which were expensive enough to cause me to slow down and I wish more people got more expensive speeding tickets. It would save lives.

No one feels any moral compunction over speeding. When I was a young driver, I certainly didn’t feel like speeding was immoral.

Now that I’m a bicyclist, stop signs are my equivalent of speeding tickets. I can track stand pretty well, but even so carrying a heavy load and approaching a stop sign, no one in sight in any direction, I don’t want to give up my momentum and use up my brake pads on an unnecessary stop. I feel guilty when I do this because I preach that bicyclists should always stop at stop signs. I do it rarely and carefully– but it makes me uncomfortable.

It makes me uncomfortable because it makes me a hypocrite, not because I think that running stop signs is inherently immoral.

Those are the 3 stories that reveal that I am no better than human.

I have one more story though.

I wanted something a great deal. The person who had the power to give that to me chose not to (for good reasons– and weighing the interests of everyone affected, it was the correct choice). I have respected that choice. Is it because I know that there is nothing I can do to change the decision? That any effort on my part will probably back fire and the decision will become even more firm? Or is it because I took the high road, and while I could possibly change the decision, I chose not to? Frankly it’s probably the former, but I like to believe it’s the latter. I like to believe that I am morally superior in this one instance if not in the rest of my life.

At any rate, if I’m not morally superior, at least I can go down with dignity. Kicking & screaming won’t change the decision, and it makes me look bad besides.

Apr 3

A Perfect Day

Posted on Thursday, April 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

A statue of Sergeant James Miller guards our bikes while we stop for bathrooms.

A statue of Sergeant James Miller guards our bikes while we stop for bathrooms.

This is the last of 8 posts about my trip to the National Bike Summit. Read about my experiences biking in D.C. (Capital BikeShare, Bicycling in D.C., When In Rome), attending the National Bike Summit (National Bike Summit, Perceptions vs. Reality, Lobby Day), and sight seeing (Transportation in D.C. Museums).

Once in a while, a perfect day just happens. It can’t be planned.

I went to the east coast a couple days before the National Bike Summit so that I could visit friends I’ve known for a few years on Facebook. This was our first chance to meet in real life.

Putting tires on a bike wheel might not sound like a fun activity to most people, but I jumped at the chance to do just that before breakfast. Ken has a fancy carbon bike and recently got fancy new wheels and fancy slick tires for it. I put the slick tires on his new wheels while he made omelets.

Laura met us early so we could get our bike ride done before the predicted snow storm, while it was still “warm” (barely above freezing). We spent at least a half hour on our ride thoroughly discussing bicycle saddles (brooks or terry? B.67 or B.17?), then moved on to Walking School Bus, Girl Scouts on Wheels, and bike/ped advocacy. I pushed to keep up with the faster riders so despite the cold, I heated up and peeled off layer after layer. When we stopped for a snack, I drank a smoothie– and cooled off too rapidly. I put all the layers back on plus my companion’s jacket and still shivered. When we got moving I warmed up and shed all the layers again.

It was a good smoothie. Chocolate raspberry.

After the ride, Ken and I walked to the bike shop to pick up a couple tools. We browsed the bikes, admiring the internal hubs and disc brakes. I like orange bikes.

Cathy was home by then and we headed to the gym to spin. We had gotten a good bike ride in, but spinning for 30 minutes was our excuse for a long soak in the hot tub.

The rest of the day we worked on the fancy wheels. We moved the cassette (that’s the cogs on the rear wheel) from the old wheel to the new wheel. That required the chainwhip tool and lockring remover he had picked up from the bike shop, and 2 bicycle mechanic books. We practiced it first on another wheel. We cleaned the cassette before we put it on the shiny new wheel. Once we got it all assembled, the freewheel locked up, so we loosened the lockring and tried again. That time it worked! I was startled at how late it was. The hours had flown by.

Bike ride, bike shop, spinning, and bike mechanics. What really made the day was talking about bicycling all day long. Eyes glaze over when I talk too much about bicycling. It was a real treat to talk about my favorite topic to my heart’s content.

 

Apr 1

Transportation in the D.C. museums

Posted on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

The American History Museum had very few bicycles in the transportation exhibit.

The American History Museum had very few bicycles in the transportation exhibit.

While I was in Washington, D.C. for the National Bike Summit, I had a free afternoon for sightseeing and I visited a few museums. The National Building Museum had an exhibit “Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940-1990″. Los Angeles is the classic car culture city– part of the exhibit was titled “Car Culture”– and I was interested in the transportation aspect of this exhibit. The title of the exhibit, “Overdrive”, reflects the integral role of cars on the evolution of L.A.

The painting of concrete lines and shadows of an underpass tunnel and the photograph of blankets of smog smothering the city captured the central theme of cars.

Automobiles were welcomed into L.A. with fanfare but are now reviled as monsters of congestion and pollution. Curator Christopher Alexander says, “Architects and planners are still attempting to repair this damage to the urban fabric. There’s no question the car will continue to reign supreme in L.A. for quite some time, but it’s fascinating to see how new mass transit projects, including light rail and subway systems, rapid bus lines, and hundreds of miles of bike lanes, are changing the way in which residents and visitors traverse this metropolis.”

The American History Museum has an exhibit “America on the Move”. The first thing I noticed was the sponsors: AAA and General Motors were prominent. I wondered if the sponsorship might affect the content, and I was not wrong. The exhibit extolled the benefits of the private automobile over every other form of transportation and glossed over the negative effects on congestion, pollution, and culture.

One display in particular shocked me. According to it, the auto industry bought interests in streetcars and encouraged it to develop in another direction. That is a blatant misinterpretation of the actual events. The auto industry, particularly General Motors, conspired to buy up shares in streetcars in order to destroy public transportation during the 1940′s so that everyone would have to buy a car.

The exhibit showed a couple bicycles early in the history of U.S. transportation and mentioned the role of bicyclists in lobbying for paved roads. After that, only one other bicycle appeared, a little girl riding her bike behind a car. It looked as if the car was about to back over her!

While I didn’t learn anything new about the history of transportation from the museums, it was interesting to see how the museums are presenting– or misrepresenting– the history.

 

Mar 30

A Lovely Weekend

Posted on Sunday, March 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

I had one of the loveliest weekends ever.

It seems that most people struggle to get along with their families. My family gets along great. Well, the cats don’t like the dog. Or each other. Or anyone else. But except for the cats, we all get along really well. My parents, my big sister and her partner, my little brother and his wife, me and my husband and daughter.

Mom wanted all the kids home for their 45th wedding anniversary. We arrived Friday evening. Before and after supper at a Mexican place that was close enough to walk to (although everyone else drove), Dad and I took apart an old mountain bike and packed it in his new bike box, just for practice. He’s planning to bike to Atlanta, GA next summer and will need to ship his bike home when he arrives, so he got the bike box.

It was fun taking that bike apart, but he’ll need more practice before Atlanta.

Saturday morning, he and I biked to the bike shop to get our bikes compared and find out what spare parts we can bring in common between the 2 bikes and which ones are specific. We’ll need 5 different sizes of spokes and 2 different spare links, but our cables and brake pads are the same and we can bring just 1 spare tire. (The fiber fix spokes will do in a pinch but if we do have a broken spoke, we’ll need to replace it with a real spoke as soon as we can.) Some of the spare parts will go with us and some will go in The Box. The Box will contain our spare parts and extra supplies, and we’ll restock from it as needed when we get a chance. The Box will live in the car which will come visit us on the weekends or as Iain has time.

Dad sent me upstairs at the bike shop to look at the freeze dried meals. They don’t seem to have many calories. I chatted about them with an employee, Andy, who was interested in our trip because he used to work at Bothwell State Park– not one of the parks we’ll be visiting but it is a Missouri State Park. (Bothwell doesn’t have a campground.) Andy said the single track trail connecting Johnson’s Shut-Ins to Taum Sauk IS open, contrary to what the website says! Furthermore there’s a shuttle company that will take our bikes & things to the other end, if we want to hike 13 miles that day instead of biking 30 miles. I am really excited about the prospect of visiting one park with alternative transportation. Now if we could just find a way to canoe to one of the parks…

We left the bike shop and headed out on our bike ride. We biked to Baldwin and back. In Baldwin we stopped at a gas station. I sat on the sidewalk waiting for Dad and when he came out he said he wanted to eat his peanut butter sandwich. “Let’s go somewhere prettier,” I suggested. The concrete and chrome wasn’t a pleasant atmosphere. When we’d passed the house he grew up in, we’d noticed a For Sale (House Only) sign that he wanted to take a picture of. So we went back to the old house and he ate his sandwich.

I spent a lot of Christmases, Thanksgivings, 4th of Julys, Labor Days, and other festive occasions with family at this house growing up. The school had long ago bought the property with the agreement that Grandpa would live there as long as he could. The house had gone to the school when Grandpa moved into a nursing home, and he passed away last summer. It appears that the school is now selling the house but not for someone to live there. Whoever buys the house will have to move it off the property. Grandpa and my grandmother built that house in the 1950′s.

We picked a sunny spot between the garage and the house. I noticed what looked like the remains of a structure and asked Dad what had been there. What had been there is what was there– it was intended to be a compost bin but Grandpa had not used it as such. It mostly was a junk pile. The concrete had been poured when the house was built. Some of the junk had been cleared out. One item had not been moved. It was part of the lawn tractor Grandpa had used to mow the vast property. It couldn’t be moved because a tree had grown up around it.

I took a few pictures but there were so many things I couldn’t capture. The cool air and the warm sun. The sharp smell of the onions growing wild next to the garage. (Dad ate one. It was strong.) The unpleasant itch on the roof of my mouth from the junipers that are taking over the yard. (I’m allergic.) The chirping of the spring frogs each time we passed a creek. The bird songs I tried to mimic. (I can’t whistle very well but I try.)

I had brought a banana and Nuun tablets. Shortly before we left I ate 2 eggs for breakfast. (Normally I eat 3 eggs but I was still full from the Mexican food the night before.) I thought that should be plenty for a 36 mile ride.

I was wrong. On the way back I suddenly felt very weak. We pulled over, I drank more Nuun-enriched water, and I ate Dad’s last energy bar. I felt much better after that and I made it home with no problem. I ate as soon as we got home.

Working on a bike, visiting a bike shop, and going for a bike ride: these are components that contributed to a rare but beautiful Perfect Day not long ago. Clearly I should do as much of those activities as I possibly can.

I had a little time to shower and rest before my sister and brother and their SO’s arrived for the 45th Anniversary Concert and Dinner. I played Beethoven (Sonata Pathetique). Moonlight Sonata would have been more appropriate, but this is my current favorite and I’d been more interested in practicing it. Moonlight Sonata is the one that my grandmother played which won Grandpa’s heart. It’s a favorite of Iain’s from when were young and in love. So it would have been appropriate for an anniversary concert. But I played the Pathetique. Sarah and Jon picked up kazoos and hummed along. That was weird. I managed to keep playing despite laughing at the kazoos.

Nell played Peppermint Patty and Sarah played something by Scarlatti that was awesome. I kazoo’d a little to Scarlatti. Jon wanted us to kazoo to ‘It Had to Be You’ but we didn’t know the tune. So he played it on his phone and we kazoo/ karioke’d it. Mom & Dad performed a couple pieces the’d been working on, one as a karioke and the other Dad both played piano and sang, and it was a song he had composed. Then we all kazoo’d “I Wish I Were An Oscar Meyer Wiener” because that was one we all knew!

The finale was a Rock Song, inspired by SO Percussion and an impromptu Rock Concert that Mom & Dad & Sarah & Chris had done with rocks near a lake when Mom & Dad had visited. We all found percussive instruments and started playing. We did a couple solos and then broke into We Will Rock You.

That concert was the highlight of the weekend.

Nell and I made dinner after that. We’d picked the same thing that she & her boyfriend had made for their 1 year anniversary dinner in February: breaded parmesan pollock, fried zucchini, and garlic pasta.

We drove home that night because I had a 7:30 am bike ride. And a friend called to see if I wanted to go for another ride in the afternoon. The morning ride was a training ride for some people I met at the gym who are doing the TriZou triathlon. The course was 17 miles and I rode a few miles to get there and back. Most of them were beginners and I enjoyed advising them on how to use their gears. I feel like I made a real difference in how much they’ll enjoy bicycling. One of them in particular was saying she hated it, and she felt completely differently after she figured out her gears.

A couple hours later Carol called and I headed to her house. We left at noon for the airport. We headed into a strong south wind. I realized I would have 70 miles for the day by the time I got home! We went past the airport for a few extra miles and turned around, and happened upon Danny, who has loaned me a bunch of fantastic equipment for the trip and has yet another sleeping bag he wants me to try out. He was about 2/3 of the way through his ride and he was going about twice our distance.

I didn’t want to say anything but I was flagging. At the airport I refilled my water and added a Nuun tablet. I remembered being in the kitchen before I’d left, intending to get peanuts & raisins, but I must have gotten distracted because I had not ever packed those. I had nothing to eat and I’d forgotten my wallet besides. Luckily, Carol had an energy bar she always brought in case of emergency. It was an emergency so I ate that and rested a few minutes. I started to get cold, and I felt much better. I had drained the water bottle and I filled it again and added another Nuun tablet, and we headed back.

With the south wind we FLEW to the north. The sun was beating down and I believe it got to 74F. Incredibly warm after the winter! It was good to bike in just bike shorts & a short sleeved jersey. I felt a little worried that I might not make it back by 5 pm. Nell planned to leave at 5 pm so that she would get back to the dorm before dark. I wanted to be home in time to give her a hug and say goodbye! I was a little afraid to push hard, since I’d eaten the only emergency energy bar. The wind helped and as I got closer to home I pushed harder. I had plenty of time. I made it back by 4:30. I devoured a lot of food while she loaded her car, then gave her a long (and sweaty) hug and she left.

I don’t often get to ride with other people and lately I’ve been pushing to make that happen more often. This weekend I rode 3 times with other people! I will try to do better about having food with me.

Mar 30

Lobby Day

Posted on Sunday, March 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

The bicycle pins were a hot commodity on the Hill.

The bicycle pins were a hot commodity on the Hill.

 

The final day of the National Bike Summit was Lobby Day, where we  met with our senators and representatives. Most of the work was done ahead of time. The Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation scheduled the meetings for us. I was able to attend almost all of the meetings, but a few conflicted and we split up to make sure someone did get to all of them. I focused on representatives from the rural areas, because I could talk to them about Kirksville’s experience with biking and walking. Also, after living in Kirksville I’m passionate about the role of Complete Streets on the health, economy, and happiness of our rural communities.

After a storm that shut down the federal government on Monday, Wednesday was sunny and merely chilly. It got quite nice in the afternoon. We visited with Senator McCaskill’s and Senator Blunt’s staff in the morning. All of our visits were with staff, except for brief photo ops with the senators.

We asked the senators and representatives to co-sponsor 3 pieces of legislation this year. They were all bipartisan, cost-neutral, allowed states flexibility, and were amendments to MAP-21, the federal transportation bill which is up for renewal this year.

MAP-21 requires states to monitor fatalities and set goals to reduce fatalities. The Bike/Ped Safety Act simply asks states to count bike/ped fatalities separately and set goals to reduce these. In Missouri, 9.4% of traffic fatalities are bicyclists and pedestrians– yet 0% of our Highway Safety funding is spent on bike/ped!

The Safe Streets Act is simply Complete Streets with a more marketable name. Safe Streets requires that the needs of all users be considered when building or maintaining a road. For many rural roads, that simply means wide, paved shoulders. For small towns, that means sidewalks and bike lanes on the mile or two stretch of highway as it cuts through the town.

New Opportunities is a modification to a loan program contained within MAP-21 that allows municipalities to borrow money for big projects. The New Opportunities Act is for low-income areas to borrow money to build bicycle infrastructure. A rural community that can afford only a short stretch of bike path will find it difficult to justify more bike paths if no one is using the short stretch, but no one will use a short stretch that doesn’t go anywhere. This program makes it possible to build an entire network all at once.

I emphasized to the staff the importance of bicycling and walking in rural Missouri. I showed them data from Kirksville before and after the bike lanes on Jefferson St showing a 600% increase in biking and walking. We discussed the economic effect of bicycle tourism from the Katy Trail and the Adventure Cycling Centennial Trans-America Route that passes through southern Missouri. However, at this point none of the Missouri senators and representatives have shown any interest in co-sponsoring any of the 3 amendments. It was particularly disappointing that Senator McCaskill, who serves on the Science, Commerce, and Transportation Committee, is not interested.

It was fun to dress up in the very nice suit I bought at a second-hand store for $12. I looked good and my cute striped bike helmet matched my suit. The League had hired a pedicab service to help us get around downtown. As I expected, I wasn’t allowed to try my hand (or feet, rather) at pedaling, but I chatted with the driver. As D.C.’s economy has recovered and neighborhoods have improved, climbing housing costs have forced people like my pedicab driver to live further away from their jobs.

 

Mar 26

Perceptions vs. Reality

Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

The golden rule is "Yield to the most vulnerable on the road". (http://www.portlandtoportland.org/)

The golden rule is “Yield to the most vulnerable on the road”. (http://www.portlandtoportland.org/)

The National Bike Summit had several concurrent break-out sessions. It was tough to choose between “Overcoming the Scofflaw Perception” and “Rural State Success Stories”, but all the sessions I was able to attend were valuable. One thing that was really fun was following the tweets. That allowed me to get some of the highlights of the sessions I didn’t attend, but more importantly I was able to interact with other people who were in the same room (without disrupting the presentation).

“Overcoming the Scofflaw Perception”

A ticket diversion program in New York City allowed bicyclists to take a bike class instead of paying for a fine. Instructors of the bike class soon discovered that many bicyclists taking the class had been ticketed for a legal behavior, for not riding in the bike lane! Further outreach to NYPD and the Court reduced the number of “not riding in the bike lane” tickets. Mayor DiBlasio’s Vision Zero goal (zero traffic fatalities) is an opportunity to improve bicycling and walking in New York City. Several other cities have similar ticket diversion programs bicyclists.

“Moving Beyond the Bikelash”

When communities implement bicycling facilities like bike lanes, bike racks, and bike paths, the response is largely supportive– except for a vocal minority opposition. The lesson from these experiences is that it is easy to rally support for bike lanes that is louder than the anti-bike lane voices. Often the opposition is rooted in losing a few curbside parking spaces to bike lanes. Opponents often claim to be bicyclists themselves– an argument I encountered when I was denied service in the bank drive-through lane! In one ridiculous example, a FOX reporter wondered what would happen if a terrorist rode a bicycle in the new bike lanes near the Israeli embassy (as if terrorists would never ride bicycles without a bike lane, or drive a car on the same street!)

The biggest generator of ‘bikelash’ is not the typically weak opponents, but the media. Too often, reporters flock to the silliest arguments and stir them up into a frenzy. However, professional behavior, including actively seeking public input, throughout the planning, design, and implementation of bike lanes will outlast the ruckus. Social media quickly reveals the popularity of bike lanes.

“The Role of Enforcement in a Vision Zero Strategy”

This 3-part workshop covered changing not only the law but the culture, what advocates should and shouldn’t do after a fatality, and training police officers about bicycles.

Bicyclists often feel that the law is not on our side. Police don’t ticket motorists who hit bicycles, fail to investigate bicycle crashes, and wrongly ticket bicyclists for ‘obstructing traffic’ or for not using the bike lane. Judges and juries presume motorists to be innocent victims. In other countries, drivers are responsible for damage caused by their vehicle.

Advocates typically react to a fatality by showing up at the police station with (metaphorical) torches and pitchforks, accusations of cover-ups and demanding justice. This is the wrong way to react. The right way to react to a tragedy that involves a bicyclist is to foster relationships with the police chief, district attorney, and prosecutors before the fatality, to call on these relationships for information, and to offer expertise and resources. Advocates should hire their own lawyer, in addition to the victim’s lawyer, who does have these relationships and can assure advocates that the case is being treated fairly– or find out why, if it isn’t. Expert forensics and engineers can change accident reports and therefore jury outcomes.

This was an intense presentation. The presenter, Peter Wilborn, was a lawyer who specialized in bicycle law after his brother was killed. A group of attendees from Athens, GA were reeling from the recent bicycle fatality of a young colleague.

The third presenter discussed his experiences teaching the bicycle class to police officers in Georgia. The first class he taught, he asked the officers, “Where should the bicyclist be on this road?” and pointed to a picture. He was speechless when he heard one officer say, “On my grill.” After that, he began each class with a picture of his little daughter on her bicycle, and told the officers he would not tolerate any jokes or comments that implied she should be dead. The vast majority of police officers are respectful and genuinely care about keeping people safe, including bicycles. Police academies don’t teach how to keep bicyclists safe, and this is a gap that needs to be filled.

 

Mar 24

National Bike Summit

Posted on Monday, March 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

I was excited to meet League president Andy Clarke.

I was excited to meet League president Andy Clarke.

I attended the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. the first week of March. The National Bike Summit consisted of a day of workshops and plenaries followed by our Lobby Day with visits to our senators and representatives.

A theme of my trip was meeting internet strangers. I went a couple days early to meet friends I’ve known only on Facebook for a couple years. In D.C., I stayed with Jenny who I met on an internet forum. Jenny is president of the Association of Pedestrian & Bicycle Professionals and has hosted Bike Summit attendees in the past. (I also visited my cousin who lives in D.C., but I did not meet my cousin online.) I met several other bicycle advocates at the Summit whom I’d only talked to online. Meeting internet strangers is fun and not nearly as dangerous as it sounds. It’s just a new way of communication and getting to know people.

Other highlights were meeting minor celebrities, the influential people I’ve known and talked about, such as Anthony Foxx, Phillip Darnton, Earl Blumenauer, and Andy Clarke.

Anthony Foxx, the US Secretary of Transportation (and successor to Ray LaHood), showed us a photo of himself on a bike. He pointed to his work as mayor of Charlotte, NC and the reduction in bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and injuries. He mentioned that next to housing, the single greatest investment most families make is transportation. “Tell Congress,” he said. “Make it personal and make it local.”

Another exciting moment was listening to the president of Great Britain’s version of the League, Phillip Darnton, who described himself not as a cyclist but as a “wibbly wobbly person who goes about on a bicycle”. Darnton remarked, “Those who thought there was no time for exercise now have a lot of time for illness.”

Oregon’s representative Earl Blumenauer is a staunch bicycle advocate. I shook Rep. Blumenauer’s hand and said, “I’m a fan.”

I chatted with League president Andy Clarke for a few minutes at the closing reception. “I’ve wanted to come to the Bike Summit for the past 6 years,” I told him, “and I finally got to this year. This was a dream come true.”
“What was stopping you before?” he asked.
“Money and time,” I answered. “The experience is all the more meaningful because I had to wait for it.”

I got to know the Missouri delegation better and I made many new friends whom I’ll get to know better on the internet. I met minor celebrities, I met old friends, and I met new friends. It was all I had hoped it would be and it was worth waiting 6 years for.

 

Mar 23

Sapp Hill

Posted on Sunday, March 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

100_6955 100_6962 100_6959 100_6958 100_6956Before we moved from Columbia to Kirksville in 2010, I really wanted to do Sapp Hill one last time. But I never found the time to do it. Now that we are back in Columbia, 6 months later, I finally had a chance to do Sapp Hill.

The Sapp Hill Loop is ~40 miles, depending on where in town you are, that goes past the airport, over to Ashland where there’s a McDonald’s ready to serve you bad french fries that never tasted so good, toward the river where it gets hilly and of course, the jewel of the ride is Sapp Hill. After Sapp Hill it’s not far back into town.

The first time I rode this I didn’t have my extra small granny gear. It was hot and I could barely turn the pedals to get up the hill. One companion was easily chatting and spinning next to me, going up and back down and up again. The other was in tears.

I don’t remember how many times we did Sapp Hill, a few times. Then one winter I got my smaller granny gear and I headed out to do it again on my own. I was awed and amazed at how much stronger I was. Sapp Hill, while not easy, was so much easier than I remembered! It was a couple days later that I realized that was the first time I’d done the ride with my smaller granny gear. That’s why it was easier– not because I was so much stronger! I had a good laugh at myself.

When was the last time I rode Sapp Hill? Turns out I’m not so fond of riding alone and it’s hard to convince others, especially women, to do a tough route like that. I did not make it out to do Sapp Hill one last time in 2010, so the last time I did Sapp Hill was before that. Probably one of my training rides early in 2009.

I convinced the Tall Skinny Guy to go on the Sapp Hill Loop with me last weekend. Five hours should be enough time, I thought, for a 40 mile ride. Generally I allow an hour for every 10 miles and keep the breaks short and that’s a pretty good estimate. Often I estimate completely wrong. I studied the map before we left. I had no smart phone and a printer that only sometimes cooperates, but I’ve done the loop enough times I thought I could remember.

Except I turned off of M onto DD and I shouldn’t have done that. “End of pavement” the sign read. “Uh oh,” I said. The sun was setting and so we turned back and took the highway home, missing Sapp Hill entirely.

This weekend we tried again. I studied the map more carefully, saw where I’d gone wrong, and furthermore sent the map to Tall Skinny Guy. He printed it out (or tried to– his printer also did not cooperate, but he was able to get something on paper). Yet if left to me, I still would have messed up– when I looked at the map, I had missed that we did need to turn off M onto MM.

I’d had an M&M McFlurry for lunch when we stopped at McDonald’s in Ashland. All these Ms. Mmmm.

When we came upon MM, we stopped and consulted his map and confirmed that we did need to turn off of M onto MM. Sapp Rd was not far and I knew Sapp Hill was close by.

I had talked up Sapp Hill so much that I was nervous. “I hope it’s everything I remembered,” I said. “I hope I haven’t misrepresented it.”

What I remember about Sapp Hill is the gorgeous view right at the steepest part. It’s a little hard to see because the view is off to the left and it’s hard to look that way and stay on the road when you are mashing away in your granny gear. It’s best when the grass is green and the sun is shining. At least the sun was shining, and it was beautiful even with yellow and brown grass and naked trees. I was able to operate my camera even while mashing away in my granny gear to get some photos of it.

It was a great hill, but it wasn’t as hard as I remembered. “I thought it would be longer,” Tall Skinny Guy said, “the way you talked it up.”

There were still a few good hills to climb before we got home. We passed Devil’s Icebox and came up that hill. We considered several options to get through town and settled on Reactor Hill. Coming into my neighborhood there were a few more hills that required my granny gear. But none of them were very long.

When I first started bicycling, I remember someone complaining that there aren’t any really long climbs around here, not like he was used to in the mountains. I thought he was crazy because there are those rollers everywhere, just one hill after another in never ending succession. Sapp Hill was plenty long enough, I thought. But now I kind of understand, even though I haven’t lived in the mountains and experienced the kind of climbs he wanted. I can see the appeal of a Sapp Hill that goes on and on and on for miles.

Mar 21

When in Rome

Posted on Friday, March 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

Looking for a BikeShare station

Looking for a BikeShare station

During my week in Washington, D.C. at the National Bike Summit, I was excited to try out Capital BikeShare. Because I don’t currently have a smart phone, I faced some challenges. Capital BikeShare has an app so you can find the stations and know whether any bikes are available or if any docks are open.

Without a smart phone, I had some routing difficulties. Even if I’d had a smart phone, Google maps did not give the best advice on which roads to use. I wasn’t familiar with the roads and I found myself on an uncomfortably busy street with no bike lanes and no clear idea of how to get to a better street.

Fortunately, drivers in D.C. are much kinder to bicyclists than drivers in Columbia, MO, so the experience was not as terrifying as it might have been. During rush hour, I approached a long line of cars waiting at a stop light. I quickly assessed my options: wait in line through possibly 2 or 3 cycles of the stop light, or jump over to the sidewalk.

I never ride on the sidewalk. But I was cold and hungry and tired. Without hesitation, I jumped over to the sidewalk.

Another thing I never do is squeeze between a row of parked cars and a row of cars waiting at a stop light. It’s a good way to get doored or right-hooked. But I was cold and hungry and tired and with a twinge of guilt I followed another cyclist through that narrow space.

I followed the lead of local cyclists, and treated some red lights and stop signs as yield signs. I only did that on the quieter streets. On Pennsylvania Ave, for example, I hung back while other bicyclists ran red lights.

With better routing and a more complete network of bike lanes, I would not engage in those practices even in D.C. where other cyclists routinely did that.

 

Mar 18

Bicycling in D.C.

Posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

100_6895

Bicycles get their own traffic light in D.C.

Biking in Kirksville is a different experience from biking in Columbia. There aren’t a lot of bike lanes in Kirksville, but there aren’t a lot of cars either. Everything is so close together in Kirksville that it’s easy to bike to a destination. Columbia has extensive bike lanes and bike paths, but there is a lot more traffic and destinations are further away.

Washington, D.C. is yet another experience. Within the last few years, bike lanes have sprung up all over the streets of D.C. Capital BikeShare has been enormously successful. One of my goals during my trip to D.C. for the National Bike Summit was to use Capital BikeShare. I experienced D.C. mainly as a pedestrian and a bicyclist.

Cars in D.C. had a disconcerting habit of yielding to bicycles and pedestrians even when they were disobeying traffic rules, like pedestrians crossing on a DON’T WALK light or crossing midblock or bicyclists running lights and stop signs. I seemed to confuse drivers when I stopped at red lights and stop signs, but after a hesitation they’d take it in stride and proceed through the intersection.

A feature of D.C.’s new bike lanes is that they come and go, sometimes without much space to merge into traffic. All the cars gave me room to merge. They hung back behind me until it was safe for them to pass. I’m not accustomed to this courtesy.

Strangest of all was when cars pulled ahead of me, signaled a right turn, and waited for me to pass in the bike lane on their right before completing the right turn. I always slow down when this happens because in Columbia because that’s a good way to get right-hooked, but D.C. drivers waited for me, not moving until I passed.

I saw an SUV race through a light just as it turned red and honk angrily at a pedestrian in the crosswalk. Other pedestrians witnessing the event were affronted. I was amazed, because that was the only altercation or remotely close call I saw all week and because the other pedestrians were (justifiably) indignant.

The famous Pennsylvania Ave has bike lanes in the CENTER of the road all the way to the Capitol. It’s really strange to ride to the left of cars! But it worked well. There was no danger of a right-hook, and the green light for motorists turning left across the bike lanes was separate from the green light for bicyclists proceeding through the intersection.

I saw a few bikes locked up but missing a wheel. Someone mentioned that when bike messengers get a flat tire, they steal a wheel.

D.C. has a few bugs to work out with their new bike lanes. Many of the bike lanes go through the door zone. To someone unfamiliar with the city, it’s not always obvious which streets to use, and I found myself accidentally on uncomfortably busy roads.

Traffic is much heavier in DC, but drivers watch for bicyclists and pedestrians.

 

Mar 17

Invincible vulnerability

Posted on Monday, March 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’m going to be brave and overshare a bit in a public setting. In my experience, owning my vulnerability makes me stronger, and I could use some strength right now.

Someone said this to me recently: “Life is incredibly gorgeous. A boring wait of 10 minutes can also be a transcendent experience. We are deaf and blind. The goal isn’t to have a Perfect Day every day; it is to see the perfection in every day.”

I took it and ran with it.

I waited in line at the Holocaust Museum. In 2009, a security guard was killed by a white supremacist and now all visitors have to pass through a metal detector. So there is a little wait when there are a lot of people, in this case a group of field hockey players. I remembered those words and paid attention, looking for the perfection. I listened to the girls’ chatter, noticed a train in the distance that was so long that it didn’t finish passing before I reached the front of the queue, and saw that the girls around me were all tall and strong field hockey players. A few girls were sharing an iced coffee and one took the last drink and walked away to throw it away. “You didn’t have to do that,” another objected, “I should have,” and they argued a little about whose duty it was to throw the coffee cup away, the person who finished it or the person who had bought it.

I don’t have a very good memory and I forget things. Just noticing a moment and remembering it makes it a moment of perfection. That moment in line at the Holocaust Museum is a vivid memory.

I was biking past a cafe and heard two fiddlers outside. I stopped to listen and I saw a yellow box, a red box, and a blue box in front of the cafe, the kind that hold newspapers and ad sheets. The sun was shining and it wasn’t cold, after so much cold weather.

The yellow and red and blue is a vivid memory and a moment of perfection.

I was biking into the wind and snow for the second time one day to retrieve my favorite water bottle that I’d left behind the first time. It was gloomy and cold and I was in my lowest gear. I finished my errands and went to the gym, to spin for 30 minutes and swim for 30 minutes. I was feeling sad and lonely. I wanted to stop swimming. There were a lot of people there and I was crowded in my side of the lane. Then my lane partner left and I made myself keep swimming so I could experience the freedom of an entire lane to myself. I increased my effort and focus and the endorphins kicked in and I stopped thinking, stopped hurting, and felt happy. That was a moment of perfection.

On a 55 mile bike ride, a wrong turn forced us to take the highway back to town. With a tailwind, smooth shoulders, and a descent, we easily kept a 20+ mph pace for quite a while with 70+ mph traffic just to our left. It was the end of the ride and I was getting a hit of both endorphins and adrenaline. We entered a valley and a rush of cold air hit my skin. It felt so good. (I was the only one who felt that way. What’s fun for me is terrifying for most others.) That was a moment of perfection.

A lot of my moments of perfection are on my bike.

In a fortnight, I’ve had 3 rejections: from a past friendship that ended years ago and will not be revived, a present friendship that is no more, and a future friendship that never will be. (The details are irrelevant, but you can be sure that I invited or demanded at least some of the rejections and that they are all for the best in this best of all possible worlds.) The present friendship is the one I grieve and I’m looking hard for the perfection in the hurt.

The 20-yr-old cat was demanding attention and my husband said to her, “We haven’t been paying enough attention to you lately.” I was in the room and to his astonishment, I burst into tears. I had heard, “Rachel doesn’t take care of you,” in his words, which was not at all what he meant. Yet where the hurt of the lost friendship just ached relentlessly, the cat is what brought on the tears. Of course he comforted me.

The old cat, the tears, the hug: that was the perfection in the hurt.

I have learned that I have a novelty-seeking, risk-taking personality. I describe this aspect of myself as either broken or invincible, depending on the moment. It is not, to my chagrin, something that can be changed. According to Helen Fisher’s fascinating research, everyone else should avoid novelty seekers, and novelty seekers must just accept that our relationships will mostly be volatile and short. The dopamine highs of my personality type are out of this world (and brief) but the inevitable heartbreak when it is over is unbearable (and prolonged). During the dopamine high I say it is worth the future suffering. “No regrets, Coyote.” During the withdrawal I do NOT think, “It hurts now, but it was worth it.” I wish I could hate the past self that selfishly chose the dopamine high knowing the pain she was inflicting on present-me. But I can’t hate her, because I know if I had a chance at another dopamine high RIGHT NOW– despite the suffering I’d be saddling my future self with– I would not hesitate. I would dive in head first.

I guess it doesn’t matter if it is worth it. I’m not entirely sure I even have the power of choice.

Moments of perfection are in the biting snow as much as in the sunshine. There is perfection in a longing, a desire, a craving. There is perfection in sadness, in loneliness.

And when dopamine is gone, there’s always endorphins.

“Believing that God’s greatest gifts come through pain as well as pleasure,
I do not wish you joy without a sorrow
Nor endless day without the healing dark
Nor brilliant sun without the restful shadow
Nor tides that never turn against your bark.
I wish you love,
and strength,
and faith,
and wisdom,
good,
gold enough to help some needy one.
I wish you songs, but also blessed silence.
And God’s sweet peace when every day is done.”

Mar 15

Capital BikeShare

Posted on Saturday, March 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

Capital BikeShare

 

BikeShare is a bike rental program sweeping across our major cities. I eagerly anticipated trying out Capital BikeShare when I was in Washington, D.C. for the National Bike Summit. BikeShare stations are scattered across the city. You simply swipe your credit card at one station and get a code which you use to unlock a bike. You bike to another station near your destination and dock the bike.

Smart phones are really helpful for using BikeShare. You can find easily find the nearest station and find out if there are bicycles or open docks available at that station. I used to have a smart phone, but it was a low-end smart phone and neither the phone nor I were smart enough for each other.

Without a smart phone, finding a BikeShare station was challenging, so I headed out one morning intending to take the Metro. But I stumbled across a BikeShare station before I reached the Metro station. I’d left my helmet in my cousin’s apartment, so I threw caution to the wind and jumped helmetless on a bike and headed, I hoped, in the general direction of the Capitol. I found myself following another cyclist, and we chatted a bit at the stop lights. “There’s a National Bike Summit? That is so cool! And you should get a helmet.” I explained my lack of helmet, and added, “More than a helmet, I wish I had gloves.” (I found my gloves later in the bag where I’d put them so I wouldn’t lose them.)

Finding a BikeShare station near the Capitol was also a challenge. I circled the Senate buildings once and ended up parking it at the station at the bottom of the hill that I had just climbed. (A couple days later I realized that the hill I had climbed is The Hill. You know, Capitol Hill.)

After the meetings with our senators’ and representatives’ staff were over, I searched for the BikeShare station that was supposed to be a Union Station, and should have been closest to the building our last meeting was in. I walked from one side of Union Station to the other side twice, and finally found the BikeShare station. I navigated unfamiliar streets in thick traffic, the gathering dusk, and slush.

During the week I used BikeShare several times. The bikes are sturdy, low maintenance bikes with internal hubs and disc brakes. The 3 gears were enough for the terrain. I could easily adjust the seat and secure my bag in the spacious front basket. The chain guard ensured that my slacks and shoelaces didn’t get caught in the chain. The rear wheel is half covered by a plastic fender that kept my suit clean in the slush & rain.

BikeShare was $15 for a 3-day membership. I could use it as many times as I wanted for up to 30 minutes each time. Sometimes it took me a little longer than 30 minutes to get to (or find) the next BikeShare station, so my total cost for the 3 days was $17. For the number of trips I made, that is considerably cheaper than a taxi and approximately the same cost as the Metro. But with BikeShare, I never had to wait on a train. The other advantage of BikeShare was that I did not have to worry about the bike being stolen. As soon as it was locked into the station, it was no longer my bike or my responsibility.

BikeShare was an easy way to get some bicycle time away from home and a convenient way to get around!

Mar 12

A step in the process

Posted on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

protected intersection

I watched a video showing how cycle tracks should be extended into intersections. It’s a clever design and I imagine it would be very popular with bicyclists. It would be less popular among motorists, but with shifting transportation priorities, that will be less and less of a factor.

The video starts off describing how inconceivable it is to bicycle with traffic. This is a contentious issue among some bicyclists. Having discovered how easy it is, with training, to bicycle safely with traffic, we think that education is the key. Realistically, educating all bicyclists– and all potential bicyclists– isn’t feasible.

To clarify, I’m passionate about bicycle education for both bicyclists and motorists. I believe that education can change individual lives. But changing our culture and changing health will take more than educating individuals.

The video moves on to bike lanes: a single stripe of paint helps, but it’s not enough. Many bicyclists are still not comfortable in a bike lane, and some bike lanes are not safe.

The cycle track, physically separated from the road like a sidewalk, is preferable, according to the video. But where cycle tracks mix with traffic at intersections is dangerous and uncomfortable, and the video shows a nice design that prioritizes bicycle travel through the intersection that is safe and comfortable.

I like cycle tracks and safe, comfortable designs. I also believe “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”. No rural town will admit to having the resources for expensive cycle tracks and fancy intersections. We do have the resources, but it’s hard to justify allocating resources to cycle tracks instead of roads when there aren’t many bicyclists. It’s a catch-22: we can’t spend money on bicyclists until there are some, but there won’t be many bicyclists until we spend money on them. “When asked, ‘are bike lanes warranted here’, remember it’s hard to justify a bridge by the number of people swimming across a river.” (Jacquelyn Gulati)

The bike lanes disparaged in the video are a necessary step in the progression to communities that are comfortable for bicyclists. Inexpensive bike lanes will attract more people to bicycling, although some people still won’t feel safe. Once there are more people bicycling, it is easier to justify building a cycle track and the fancy intersections that go with it.

Without building the bike lane first, the cycle track may never happen. But the bike lane isn’t the end. It is a step in the process.

Our auto-centric culture isn’t sustainable environmentally, economically, or medically. Changing it will take bike lanes, cycle tracks, education, and much more.

Mar 9

Spinning, mashing, and cadence

Posted on Sunday, March 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

100_6908

I’m a spinner. I like my pedals to spin fast and easily and I use low gears to achieve this. Lance Armstrong is a spinner too. (The similarities end there. He’s fast and I’m slow, among other things.) A spinner is someone whose cadence is between 75 and 95 pedal strokes per minute. An easy way to calculate your cadence is to count how many times your right leg goes down during one minute.

Most people mash, hammer, and grind the pedals, using the higher gears and standing in the pedals. A masher is someone whose cadence is less than 75 pedal strokes per minute.

You are probably a masher and I’m going to try to talk you into changing your ways. My dad was a masher. He thought it would be a point of pride when he could get up a certain hill without having to shift all the way down. To save his old and renovated knees, I convinced him otherwise.

First, an example.

I was biking with a friend who had just bought her bicycle. We got to a sort of steep hill. She was red and working as hard as she could to keep her bike moving. I pedaled fast and easily alongside, chattering away. She glared at me. “Why are you pedaling so fast?” she gasped.

“I’m in my lowest gear,” I explained. By spinning, I could travel as fast as she could travel by mashing. I didn’t hurt and I wasn’t out of breath. She was miserable and could barely speak.

When we talk about low and high gears, we really mean the gear ratio. Look at your bike (or the picture at the top of this article). There are two sets of cogs, one set where the pedals are and one set on the rear wheel. Each set has cogs of different sizes, big and small. By the pedals, the smallest cog is closest to the bike. On the rear wheel, the smallest cog is furthest away from the bike.

When your chain is on the cogs closest to your bike, it will be on the smallest cog by the pedals and on the largest cog on the rear wheel. Those two cogs are close to the same size. If they were the same size, the gear ratio would be 1:1. That’s the lowest gear ratio and that’s what you use for climbing a hill. Every time the pedal goes around once, the wheel goes around almost once.

When your chain is on the cogs furthest away from your bike, it is on the largest cog by the pedals and the smallest cog on the rear wheel. These two cogs are the most different in size of all possible combinations. Depending on the sizes, the gear ratio might be 1:4. That’s the highest gear ratio and you use it going downhill with a tailwind. Every time the pedal goes around once, the wheel goes around more than 4 times.

In the lowest gear, all the energy you put into pushing the pedals around once will move the bike almost 1 wheel circumference. In the highest gear, the energy you put into pushing the pedals moves the bike 4 times as far. That’s why it’s so much harder to pedal in the highest gear.

The more force you put into the pedals, the more pressure you put on all the moving parts, from your knees to your chain. Mashing in a gear that requires a lot of strength is hard on your joints and hard on your bike. It’s uncomfortable and it hurts as the lactic acid builds up.

Spinning in a lower gear doesn’t hurt. You can go just as fast spinning as you can mashing. Spinning is more efficient than mashing. You can keep up spinning for longer than you can mash. You will enjoy biking more if it doesn’t hurt.

So downshift and enjoy the ride.

Mar 6

Luggage

Posted on Thursday, March 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

I went to the Holocaust Museum today. The experience was powerful and for some time, words failed me. Finally I realized that there are words, but it can’t be summed up in a text or a Facebook post.

People do horrible things to other people. After a certain point, the scale becomes meaningless. The Holocaust was not the biggest atrocity that has ever occurred. I believe that Chairman Mao’s reign of terror holds that title. I once read about a tiny island (I forget the name, but it starts with an A maybe) with just a few hundred inhabitants. The island is sometimes called the Island of Love because everyone gets along so well. Everyone is descended from one of four brothers and brothers-in-law who slaughtered all other males on the island a few generations ago.

In the wrong circumstances, people do horrible things to other people.

The Nazis used the Hollerith machine– a forerunner to computers– for the census and they used the census data to track down all the German Jews. IBM manufactured the Hollerith machines.

Information technology was one of the things that made the Holocaust possible.

It was sobering, but I was ok until I saw a display of a pile of luggage.

The luggage was carried by Jews who thought they were going somewhere to work. That’s how the SS troops got them to voluntarily climb on board the trains. They carried luggage with them.

The display wasn’t just a recreation of that luggage. The display was the actual luggage carried by people. People who died shortly after the last time they touched that luggage.

For some reason, the luggage got to me. Stuff started leaking out of my face.

I believe that in the wrong circumstances, anyone can be a person doing horrible things to other people. I’d sure like to believe otherwise– I’d like to believe that I could never be such a person. I’d like to believe that I’d be the person risking my life to defy the pressures to do horrible things to other people, risking my life to help other people.

The people who are heroes for risking their lives to help Jews all said the same thing. “We aren’t heroes. We just did what had to be done.”

The stories of people who defied the Nazis made more stuff leak out of my face. The story of rebellions, rebellions which resulted in defeats yet seriously inconvenienced the Nazis, made stuff leak out of my face.

My face was getting pretty leaky.

I left the museum and went to the cloakroom to retrieve my coat & my bag. As I picked up my bag– it looked like a bright version of the luggage in that display. Stuff kept leaking out of my face for quite a while.

Feb 25

Book Review: Urban Bikeway Design Guide

Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

Image by NACTO

Image by NACTO

 

It’s another book report! I just finished “Urban Bikeway Design Guide” from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).

This is not exactly a book I’d recommend reading just for fun, any more than you’d read the owner’s manual of your car for fun. It’s intended to be a resource for city planners. But a funny thing has happened in the world of transportation: bicyclists. Bicyclists don’t take “no” for an answer. If we’re told we can’t bike on this road or it’s impossible to put a bike lane on that road, we find out why. We study public policy and engineering manuals.

Therefore, the Urban Bikeway Design Guide, intended to help city planners as they build bicycling infrastructure, has been scrutinized by bicyclists, including me.

Faced with cities building unusable and unsafe bike lanes, bicyclists welcomed the Urban Bikeway Design Guide which helps cities build them right the first time. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen bike paths or bike lanes with serious flaws: the bike lane on Normal St. in Kirksville that used to go straight through the door zone (this was changed after I pointed it out). The signs on the old Wabash rail-trail that parallels Osteopathy St, which instruct bicyclists to stay to the right and pedestrians to the left– the opposite of the usual rule of traffic, in which slower traffic stays to the left and faster traffic to the right. A bike lane in Columbia which tapered to almost nothing (it was fixed after bicyclists complained).

The engineers and planners who design bicycle lanes aren’t always bicyclists. Until the Guide was published, there was little information to help them.

Advocates have noticed that a flaw in our transportation system is that we make our highly educated engineers do everything “by the book”, ignoring their own judgment. If there is something missing from the book, they can’t do it! Or if the book dictates it be done one way, they have to design it that way, even if it is not appropriate for the situation.

The Urban Bikeway Design Guide provides that book. But throughout the Guide, the phrase “use best engineering judgment” allows engineers to think for themselves and design bike/ped accommodations appropriate for the context.

Small cities will primarily focus on bike lanes, signing and marking, and if they are ambitious, perhaps a bicycle boulevard (a path or network where bicycle travel is prioritized above other motor vehicles). The Guide also contains information on fancier bicyclist accommodations, such as cycle tracks, bike boxes, and special traffic signals.

I found one small item to criticize. The Guide repeatedly recommends allowing 3 feet between the bike lane and parked cars so that bicyclists don’t get hit by an opening car door. The to-scale drawings show the open car door in this situation as extending slightly into the bike lane, and most car doors do open at least 3 feet or wider. I typically allow 5 or 6 feet when I pass a parked car. I think the Guide should recommend 4 or 5 feet.

However, that is a minor point, and the fact that the Guide recognizes the danger of the door zone, and therefore city planners will also, is a major step forward.

Thanks to Royce Kallerud for loaning me the Guide!

 

Feb 22

No penalties

Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

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“I could have hit him!” I hear from indignant drivers about bicyclists who have poor bicycling skills or make mistakes. “Maybe that bicyclist has a death wish, but I’d be liable,” they complain.

Well, you needn’t fear. Sadly, in this country, the bicyclist or pedestrian is assumed to be at fault. Even drivers with terrible records receive no penalties. Comments from the public on news stories about bike-car collisions typically include, “The bicyclist deserved to be hit.” “The bicyclist was asking for it.”

It’s not just the uneducated masses who believe that bicyclists are inherently at fault in any collision. Police rarely ticket a driver in a car-bike collision. They are more likely to ticket the cyclist. Judges and juries side with the driver. That’s because we are almost all drivers, but few of us are bicyclists. We more easily sympathize with the driver.

In many European countries, the opposite is true. The driver is assumed to be at fault and must prove that the bicyclist acted recklessly.

This makes sense to me, and not just because I’m a bicyclist. I’m a driver, too. I was in my car one day, turning right out of a parking lot onto a busy street, looking at the traffic to my left. I happened to glance back in front of me as I pulled forward–and slammed on my brakes, as a bicyclist was coming toward me on the sidewalk to my right. Many drivers would never have seen that bicyclist. I was furious. How ironic would it be if I, of all people, hit a bicyclist!

When I drive a car, I am essentially operating a 2-ton killing machine. I should be required to use the utmost care. Driving shouldn’t be a carefree, comfortable activity.

On the other hand, my bicycle has very little power to hurt anyone else. Try driving into a mailbox on your bicycle, then repeat the experiment with your car. Assess the damage to the mailbox after each wreck. It’s not impossible for a bicyclist to cause any damage, but it is less likely and any damage is typically minimal.

When I was a teenager, the brakes on my bike failed as I attempted a corner at the bottom of a steep hill. I hit a parked car belonging to a KU basketball player (a colleague of Danny Manning, remember him?). It was an expensive sports car, so the taillight cost $150 to replace. Bicyclists aren’t required to carry $100,000 insurance policies because it’s very hard for a bicyclist to cause $100,000 worth of damages.

In theory, our code of law states that motorists must use utmost caution. In reality, we don’t. Police officers don’t write tickets for failing to use utmost caution. Judges don’t issue sentences for failing to use utmost caution.

You should try not to hit bicyclists because you are a good person and that’s just mean. But don’t get mad at a bicyclist for putting you at risk. As described in a New York Times article, in this country there are no penalties for hitting a bicyclist, no matter how recklessly you were driving.

By the way, I’d like to change that.

Feb 20

Ride report: windy day

Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

I decided on my route before I knew the wind direction. It’s hard to feel disheartened by a tailwind, but I knew that tailwind was going to bite me in the– well, in the head, when I turned around!

The sun was shining, it was 70F, it was hard to believe how cold it was just a few days ago.

For the first time in my life, I exceeded a 30 mph speed limit, thanks to a steep descent and a stiff tailwind.

At the stop lights, I braced myself and my bike against the wind, and remembered a windy ride home a year ago, with an 80 mph wind blast, a funnel sighted a few blocks away, and trees all over the road. I felt a little nervous. But the sun was shining.

I found Hominy Trail and took pictures of the last remnants of snow. I was disappointed when my odometer read 5 miles at the end of Hominy. I had thought I would go no more than 10 miles out, which might take just 30 minutes with this tailwind, and then turn around and slog back for the next hour and a half. My total distance would be only 10 miles today. Still, 10 miles a day is better than 0 and if I only ride 10 miles a day from now until May 1, I will still be plenty prepared for our 40 Missouri State Parks trip.

I noticed my shadow was fuzzy on the edges, and I glanced up at the sun. Wispy clouds covered it.

I reached the end of Hominy Trail and turned around.

The wind hit me like a brick wall. I recently learned that wind resistance is a factor of wind speed and your speed. With a tailwind, it is (wind speed – your speed) ^2. With a headwind, it is (wind speed + your speed) ^2. So, a headwind offers far more resistance than a tailwind offers assistance. Furthermore, reducing your speed reduces the resistance of a headwind.

I shifted down, pedaled fast and light, and slowed down. My slowest options are 7 mph or 4 mph. It’s frustrating because sometimes I’d like to go 5 or 6 mph, but those aren’t options at an optimal cadence. It’s 7 or 4. (I’ve looked into different sets of chainrings and cassettes that would give me a better combination, but there’s always a gap. I could go a bit lower, or a bit higher, but it doesn’t matter, there’s still a gap between the lowest 2 speeds.)

The temperature dropped. And dropped. And dropped. When I saw a bank sign, it read 43F. I couldn’t believe it. In just minutes the temperature had dropped by nearly 30F. I was freezing. My fingers were freezing. I hated every stoplight passionately. I couldn’t wait to get moving again, pedaling at 4 mph.

At last I was home. I scurried into warm clothes and made a mug of cocoa.

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70F and that snow is melting like mad

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Chunks of ice in the creek

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Old graffiti was painted over with solid gray, to make way for the more attractive new graffiti I guess

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