Friday, April 18, 2014

Share the Road License Plates!

Too bad I just got my new car registered otherwise this would be living on my Subaru.  Great job getting this approved for the state of Nevada!


4/16 - 5:30pm - AACT Students Bring Home International Honors

4/16 - 5:30pm - AACT Students Bring Home International Honors



There's been a lot of great coverage of the celebration assembly at my school (the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology) for the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge win by our team.  The best spot was probably this one by the local CBS affiliate, KTVN.  Basically a three minute commercial for the awesomeness going on inside, and outside, of our school.

KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -





Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pope Francis Endorses Biking


I'm not particularly religious at all but I can't help but be thrilled with some of the statements coming from Pope Francis over the last few months.  None more personal than this speech where he touted bicycling.  I appreciate his emphasis on living a more simple life and bicycling being a part of that equation.

Excerpt:

Some of the greatest dangers standing in the way of a happy religious life are materialism and a culture that believes nothing is forever, he said. The Pontiff went on to say that religious men and women have to avoid the temptation of thinking “the latest smartphone, the fastest moped and a car that turns heads” will make them happy.

Pope Francis revealed that it pains him when he sees a nun or priest driving an expensive car, and he praised the beauty of the bicycle, noting his 54-year-old personal secretary, Msgr Alfred Xuereb, gets around on a bike.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Headline (almost) Says it All



Kudos to the Sparks Tribune for this article, Sharing means safety for drivers, cyclists.  The headline does underscore the advantage of building infrastructure that helps all users of the urban space stay safe.  If only we could get that small group of angry motorists to understand that "complete streets" really are safer and better for everybody's safety and quality of life.

More here:

The Nevada Highway Patrol saw more than 200 violations regarding motorists and bicycles on the roadways during a recent enforcement initiative, which has prompted an awareness effort to help both sides understand the responsibilities and laws.

Safety officials and bicycle advocates said Friday that motorists and bicyclists must work together to remain safe on local roadways, not only by knowing the laws when it comes to sharing the road but also by accepting one another as a viable option for transportation. Julie Hunter, chairperson of the Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance (TMBA), said the key to safer roads for both parties means getting more bikes on the roads rather than restricting them.

"The more people we have riding bikes on the road, the more people will be aware of their presence and become comfortable driving around them," Hunter said. "Some bicyclists are afraid to ride on the road because they don't want to get hit, and some drivers are afraid to drive next to riders because they are afraid they won't obey the traffic laws. We need to help reduce those feelings and the only way to do it is by educating the biking community and motorists on their responsibilities."

Read more: Sparks Tribune - Sharing means safety for drivers cyclists 


Back in the Saddle Again



Five days off the bike because of the NASA Rover trip to Alabama was a long time.  So good to spin again!  Now I'm in the homestretch of my commute challenge.  Looks like I'm heading for around 1900 commute miles this academic year.  That's a lot of consistent exercise.  Too bad I don't do a better job of tallying my weekend recreational rides but maybe that's a good thing.

Self portrait




Monday, April 14, 2014

Dispatch From NASA - The Human Exploration Rover Challenge - Recap


I've been so busy getting home and preparing for the celebration of our results at the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge that I haven't had a moment to post or truly reflect on what this team accomplished this year and over the course of its four years building a hands on learning project that inspires students and teachers to do great things.  Let me get to the point:

The 2014 team took first place in Huntsville, Alabama, in the high school category and beat all of the college and international teams as well.  In addition, we won the Neil Armstrong Best Design Award for the second year in a row.  This success was built in so many ways, from the students, the faculty advisors, to the support from various community partners and sponsors.  I'm looking forward to the school event planned for Wednesday that will highlight some of the extraordinary achievements of the school.

As a teacher I have always found my work extraordinarily rewarding.  But, the last two years working at the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology has underscored all the things that public education CAN do given the right mix of passion from the teachers, students motivated by their desire to learn, problem solve, and collaborate, and the support of administrators who support and trust the professionalism of the faculty.

Probably my favorite photo of the event...such joy!  And before the first race was run.


Below is a slew of images and photos celebrating some great kids and a great project that makes me proud to call myself an educator.

NASA photo







Friday, April 11, 2014

Dispatch From NASA - The Human Exploration Rover Challenge - Day 2



Human Powered vehicles rock! Right now the AACT rover team sits in first place after day one at the race. A high school team at the top of the leader board for all university, international, and high school teams!   Can I just underscore how amazing my school, and the students are!  Stay tuned for tomorrow's second where we try to hold our first place position. Below is a gallery of great shots. 



NASA engineers checking out our design!





Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dispatch From NASA - The Human Exploration Rover Challenge - Day 1

Day 1 and our human powered rover is ready for the competition here in Huntsville, Alabama.  The first race is tomorrow!   We surveyed the course and prepped the Rover....Check back for updates and results. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

What Happens in Vegas Shouldn't Stay in Vegas!



I had a quick trip to Las Vegas this past weekend to see a performance and managed to pack a lot into a 24 hour trip.  Between one of the best meals I've had at Andiamo's Steakhouse, a brilliant collaboration between Teller, Tom Waits, and Pilobolus, on Shakespeare's The Tempest, and wandering around "vintage Vegas" I got to see a side of the town I don't normally see.  That includes the embracing of green bike lanes down near and adjacent to the Fremont street corridor.  I don't mean to overstate the ridiculous northern Nevada vs. southern Nevada competitiveness but really...Vegas can figure out how cool green bike lanes are but Reno can't?  Talk about a promising visual indicator of bicycles belonging in our urban space.  The green "pops" in the sunlight and I want to see this throughout the Biggest Little City.

The thin green line...it even looks nice


Probably the only air quotes I've ever appreciated

At the Smith Center...totally worth a trip to Vegas for this!

Monday, April 07, 2014

UnCommute

Train tracks, Truckee River, Verdi
It's an odd thing having a two week spring break from teaching.  I'm so used to naturally having 50-60 minutes of exercise built into my day that when I don't have any structure I find my bicycle rides happening in fits and starts.  Not that I haven't been busy preparing for the last quarter of the school year, getting ready to visit NASA for the Rover competition, and other odds and ends.  We are creatures of habit after all and so it feels odd to have a day of "nothing" and then the next day a 40 mile ride.

So this ride out to Verdi with some reasonably serious hills thrown in has become my noncommute, commute over the past week.  I'm a bit bummed the weather is improving just in time for me to leave for Huntsville, Alabama, but complaining about the weather seems so pedestrian.

 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Resurrecting My Bridgestone MB-1 - Part 1


There's really nothing wrong with my MB-1.  It rides great even if it has been living as my snow bike of late with studded tires and fenders.  It's the perfect candidate for that.  But every once in awhile you need to change things up and I'm kind of intrigued by the idea that the 26 inch wheel is now considered obsolete in some quarters with the advent of the 29er (which does roll quite nicely) and the "new" 27.5 mountains bikes (that the Wall Street Journal calls "ultra-nimble").

Regardless, I'm intrigued by revamping the Bridgestone with some new paint, some new rubber, and taking it out on the trails to see how it feels now that it is (gasp) 23 years old.  How could anybody ride dirt unsuspended with 26 inch wheels...it's a mystery.  I'm going to keep updating this project as it comes together.

Hey (snow) Stud...and the Stable in the Background

Snow Pack

Bike Commute on the Truckee River Path

Sunday Morning Music - Tom Waits



One forgets just how much music is in Shakespeare's play, The Tempest.  But it's laden with songs so the fact that the new production being put on at the Smith Center in Vegas with Tom Waits doing the songs and Teller doing the magic should prove to be amazing.  In honor of heading down there to see the show I'm throwing out some Tom music...this is pretty much my starting point for knowing anything about his work.  It was only later that I went back and found his old "crooner" records.  Jockey Full of Bourbon still has one of the best guitar solos ever and Down By Law is still my favorite Jarmusch film.


Friday, April 04, 2014

Bike Commuting: It's Not As Big A Deal As You Think!


It's time to start thinking about the upcoming Bike to Work, School, and Fun, campaign that will happen next month.  Considering that I ride every day to work the whole campaign to get people to ride a couple of days during the week of May 10-16 might illicit a shrug.  But I know some people really struggle with the idea of getting on a bike and how to safely navigate to work.  The fact of the matter is that it is really not as tough as you think to get on a bike and get to work.  Especially with all of the tools available to map your ride before you actually get on a bike.  Trust me, you will have fun, feel better, and get to work with a smile on your face.  Just be sure to register for your bike commute so you are eligible for some prizes.  And make sure you stop off at your favorite coffee shop because most are offering free coffee on the Friday of Bike to Work Week.




If you want more evidence of how good biking to work will be for you and your community, look no further than this article from Momentum Magazine.  It accurately lays out some of the benefits, both health related and economic, for hopping on your bike for some of those errands or getting to work.  Some of the benefits and stats presented are pretty solid.  It's just too bad that more cities aren't taking advantage of some of the money out there to make their communities embrace "complete streets."

Excerpts:

Recent studies continue to shed light on how everyday cycling is not only good for our cardiovascular health but also a way to save billions in health care costs. While everyday cycling is starting to be recognized as a low-impact form of exercise there remains resistance to accepting riding a bike as a form of preventive health care across North America...

Clearly, biking is advantageous for one’s physical health. It’s widely known that cycling is a low-impact form of exercise that’s good for the cardiovascular system, a way to control weight gain, and benefits our immune system. In addition, daily bicycling can have positive effects on our mental well-being.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified the positive impact of making cities more bike-friendly: “integrating health-enhancing choices into transportation policy has the potential to save lives by preventing chronic diseases, reducing and preventing motor-vehicle-related injury and deaths, improving environmental health, while stimulating economic development, and ensuring access for all people.” The CDC also recognized that a lack of efficient transportation alternatives to driving and a fear of biking in heavy traffic only encouraged people to continue to drive all or most of the time.

In light of these findings, there remains resistance, mostly political, in accepting the benefits of daily bicycling as preventive health care. The Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act has set aside money for improving bicycling conditions through the Prevention and Public Health Fund. However, according toThe Wall Street Journal, none of the 85 cities in the US that are actively installing better bicycle infrastructure (including protected bike lanes, trails, and bike share systems) have accessed these funds. Connecting bicycling to preventive health care in the US has yet to gain public acceptance and would draw resistance to these projects.

The silver lining is: there is growing acceptance of the Complete Streets movement. Complete Streets – or roadways that enable safe transportation for all road users – provide opportunities for increased, safe physical activity. Also, it’s been found that these streets are the most effective solution for encouraging daily physical activity. With 488 Complete Streets policies adopted in the US, the connection between health care and active transportation is gaining ground.

Providing bike riders with a safe and convenient way to commute every day should be seen as a form of preventive health care. With a safe network of bike routes, more North Americans can be encouraged to take to their bikes instead of their cars, which could very likely result in billions of health care dollars saved.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Sometimes You Really Do Have To Reinvent The Wheel


Over the last couple of years I've been involved with my school's NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge (formerly known as the "moon buggy").  Essentially it is a two person human powered vehicle that is designed to be raced over a simulated lunar landscape at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.  The project is both an Engineering and Racing Challenge.  Particularly so this year when the new criteria included the elimination of pneumatic tires from the Rovers.

Now on the one hand the elimination of pneumatic tires seems like a no brainer.  No air on the moon so pneumatic tires shouldn't be allowed, right?  But, what we on the team quickly realized is how much of an extra challenge this would be in large part because pneumatic tires are one of the most amazing inventions ever and in many ways taken for granted.  Doubly so for our Rover design which in previous years relied on the pneumatic tires to provide suspension.  There were a few other teams in the competition who built suspension into their frames but our design went for light and quick (and one the "Featherweight" award one year) which meant those tubes filled with air really were meant to absorb the many bumps and obstacles along the course.

 

A whole host of options were discussed including using Britek (which in the end didn't look like it would survive the rigors of the course) and various other interesting ideas.  What exactly do you put in a tire when you can't use air?  We shall see if the solution we came up with proves successful in about a week.  In our favor, the new criteria allowed for a switch from 26 inch wheels to 29ers.  That could prove decisive as our high school team goes up against around 90 international college and high school teams.

The old design with 26 inch wheels


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

All Dressed Up and Ready To Go



I decided to put some new red rubber on the Gunnar Crosshairs and lo and behold the subtle red undertone which is barely perceptible pops out.  I can't remember what exactly Richard Schwinn told me this color was called when I ordered it.  Something with black and red all over it or red with black all over it...or maybe I'm just remembering an old joke about newspapers.  Regardless, I think I need to get this bike muddy tomorrow.




Monday, March 31, 2014

3 Foot Law Gets Some Teeth

Motorists often forget the additional hazards cyclists must navigate on roads
At last week's Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee we learned that the oft rumored law enforcement sting operation regarding the 2011 law requiring 3 fat when passing a cyclist was going to go into effect.  Apart from the crazies commenting on the KOLOTV story that ran on the sting operation, most people seem to "get it."  It is really common sense don't you think?  Give users of the road a wide, yet reasonable amount of space when passing them.  It's safer for them and you.  It's worth noting that at the BPAC meeting the two NHP officers there were committed to doing more to protect cyclist out there on the roads.  One of the key "E" for Enforcement elements that is so important to making a community bicycle friendly.



Yes, yes, some cyclists break laws...or so the cranky curmudgeons shout when they perceive cyclists being overly protected.  They always seem to conveniently forget that motorists are not supposed to roll through a stop sign either.  One of these days I'm going to video the intersection outside my house with a stop sign and see how many motorists roll through.  An informal count while writing this blog post tells me that less than 10 percent of motorists actually come to a full stop and that was only because a car was crossing in from of them.

Below is the full text from KOLO but you can read the full thing here with the comments.


RENO, NV - In Nevada, 3 cyclists have died in the last 6 months after being hit by cars. The Nevada Highway Patrol is now making a concerted effort to enforce road-sharing laws between cars and bikes that have been on the books for 3 years, but are not well known or understood by drivers.

You've heard the expression "crawling with cops?"

That was the scene Friday on Old 395 in Pleasant Valley

More than 200 cars and trucks were pulled over by NHP troopers in a matter of five hours--most given just warnings about sharing the road with Trooper Doug Hildebrand.

“Sometimes some of the people are getting a little close to my bike when I'm riding down there. A dump truck came real close to me. The bigger the vehicle the closer it seems get,” says Trooper Hildebrand.

With his radio strapped to his chest, the trooper calls in the cars and trucks that don't move over.

That transmission goes to troopers in cars and on motorcycles parked on side streets.

Once that description is called in, his fellow troopers track down the car or truck and explain why they are being stopped.

“There is a bicycle on a road which has two or more lanes in a single direction; you've got to take the lane left of the bicycle,” explains Lieutenant Andy McAffee to one driver.

“In this case we have 2 lanes in each lane. If you are overtaking a bicycle, even if it is on the shoulder, you've got to take your vehicle to the lane to the left of where the bike is, if it is practical to do so,” says Lieutenant McAffee.

The law has been in effect since 2011.

As Trooper Hildebrand moves north and south on the roadway, his radio is never silent.

“Blue van, Nevada plates did not pull over. Red Ford did not pull over,” radios Hildebrand.

Just warnings are given out for now.

In the future the fines can run about $200.

But with so many stops, it's clear drivers are unknowingly breaking the law and need to become more familiar with sharing the road with more than just Trooper Hildebrand.

In order to be fair, the NHP won't just be cracking down on drivers.

In the months to come, you can expect troopers to conduct similar exercises targeting cyclists, to make sure they are also obeying the law.


Bicycle Obsessives of the World, Unite!




I keep getting traffic from my posting of the video, Bicycle - A Celebration of the Invention, and the odd comment on this old, but amazing video.  It's a documentary well worth watching.  At the same time, I happened upon this shorter video that is more up to date and captures that obsessive quality of the process of building up the perfect bike built specifically for you.  I've had several bikes built with custom measurements for me and they have invariably been the most comfortable and nicest riding bikes I've owned.  Of course, the fact that the bikes were built by auspicious bicycle icons such as Roland Della Santa or under the direction of people like Richard Schwinn and Grant Petersen tells you that these were very nice bikes built by people that know what makes a bike ride well.

Robert Penn is the host of this documentary and it is basically a visual retelling of his book, It's All About the Bike.  The book chronicles his journey building the perfect bike for him...the so-called, bike that he will ride "into the sunset."


At the same time that I love the above video, there is still something quite amazing about this two hour documentary that captures the history, "free spirits," industry, racing, and early mountain biking scene, of the bicycle.  Don't be put off by the two hours...worth it!