Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poor, Poor, Motorists...My Heart Bleeds For You!

I know it seems unfathomable to a vast group of motorists out there but the roads we all use are not there to cater to the needs of cars solely.  That's why I've been pleased by several articles that recently have been touting the shifting paradigm of what an urban environment should look like.  After decades of our infrastructure, indeed our entire society, seemingly being subservient to the automobile, it is nice to see shift (albeit a small one) in the mindset of some folks who are involved with urban planning realizing that a more pedestrian and bike friendly "complete streets" model is the way to go.

You can still love your car for its convenience, as an engineering marvel, and even for the style, but none of these things negates the fact that the automobile, and all the poorly conceived urban planning that goes with it, has created an incredibly entitled mindset in car drivers and an environmental impact on the planet that is nearly inconceivable:

One disgruntled driver:
“There are all these zones where you can only drive 20 or 30 kilometers per hour [about 12 to 18 miles an hour], which is rather stressful,” Thomas Rickli, a consultant, said as he parked his Jaguar in a lot at the edge of town. “It’s useless.”
More from, Across Europe, Irking Drivers is Urban Policy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Liam Finn

The new Liam Finn album, FOMO, came out last week and I've been giving it a lot of attention because his previous record, I'll Be Lightening, was such a pop pleasure.  The new record is a bit more polished as far as production values which is not a bad thing but I do miss a bit of the rawness that came through on the last record.  Some great tracks on FOMO include this one in a pared down version:

Russian Olives!

The last week or so I have been enjoying some nice riding days, particularly in the mornings before the heat picks up.  The pleasures of living in the high desert!  One of my favorite things about riding right now has been the russian olive blooms and their amazing fragrance.  It seems the the weird weather has kicked the blooming cycle back about a month because I distinctly remember when I worked at UNR smelling them in late May.  I know they can be hard on people with allergies but I'm lucky enough not to have an issue with them.   Enjoy them while you can!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bike Sharing...Could it Work in Reno?

Here is a nice piece on the newly revamped BikeShare program in Washington.  Of course, plenty of these programs are springing up around the country with good and mixed results.   Reno seems primed to create a bikeshare program for the Truckee Meadows.  If you think about it, the heart of our city is imminently rideable with this type of program and our weather is generally pretty favorable for at least three quarters of the year, particularly when you are talking about urban rides that are generally less than 5 miles.  

My favorite part of this story is Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood talking about quality of life and that this springs forth from having multiple viable options for transportation including bicycling and walking.   Another good point made is that a bikeshare program works because cities that create them have worked to create an infrastructure that supports urban riding.  Considering that Reno has added over 50 miles of bicycle lanes in the last 2-3 years it seems we are well on our way to becoming a "Bicycle Friendly City."  Indeed, as we speak the application for bicycle friendly status is being prepared.   What are the other things that make the Truckee Meadows a great bicycling community?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Morning Music - Tristen

Wasn't expecting this nice little treat from NPR with a set of live material from Tristen.   The live version of Baby Drugs is particularly worth catching.  Still, after listening to Charlatans at the Garden Gate for months, the song I always go back to is the opening, haunting track, Eager For Your Love.  Here's is a new live version that is quite stellar.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Unexpected Surprise!

I'd heard of the Stone Foxes before I got an email talking about them playing the Blues Festival this weekend in Reno but hadn't heard they were going to be here.  A shame because they somehow got tucked into a lineup that includes Rubber Biscuit (an homage to Blues Brothers) and Greg Kihn of all people.  The Foxes up the cool factor for the festival.  They're playing downtown today at 1:30!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bike of the Day - John Deere

I'm not sure when John Deere started making bikes or if this is one of those Sears bikes repainted with the Deere name.   Clearly it needs more accessories.  Like a plow, backhoe, etc.  Although to be very useful on a farm it would probably need bigger tires.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Morning Music - XTC

Dear God!  This story came to my attention a couple of days ago about a teacher using this XTC song in the classroom.  I'm not sure what teacher would think this is a good assignment for sixth graders.  The flip side of course is that if your faith can be shaken by a three-minute pop song, you have more issues with your faith than you realize.  All that being said, it's still a killer song.

I was recently reading this series on Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives and thought this was one of the cleverest summations of XTC's place in rock history:
They were an almost-huge, globally recognised band that could never quite get out of their Swindon roots, like George Bailey and his unsuccessful attempts to leave Bedford Falls in the film It’s a Wonderful Life. 
I've always lamented that they weren't a household name since they have one of the best bodies of work of any rock band ever.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Wheels!

Something of a summer present to myself.  I used to have a set of American Classic wheels a few years back when I did the Death Ride.  They eventually went "soft" from the mileage.  I was kind of missing the zippy lightness they gave to my bike so I saved for the newest version.  Still light, zippy, and fun to ride.  Looking forward to putting a lot of miles on these.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The First Bicycle Lanes

I'm always fascinated by old photos of bicycling in this country.  Particularly the urban cyclists that dominated our early roadways before we sold our collective souls to the automobile without apparently giving much thought to what our urban environment might lose in the process.  This little article on the history of cycling in Vancouver caught my eye and this passage in particular given the increasing number of bicycle lanes we are seeing around Reno:
The “machines” were so numerous that the City Council ordered special bicycle paths constructed on those streets which were most frequently used. These paths were invariably cinder surfaced, and rolled flat, and ran along the edge of the street between the gutter and wooden sidewalk. They were about six feet wide, and constantly kept in order, level and smooth, by city workmen.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bicycle Lanes, Bicycle Responsibility, Bicycle Rights!

A couple of interesting bicycle videos dealing with bicycles in traffic, bike lanes, and all of our rights and responsibilities to the road,  landed in my inbox in the last day or two.  In light of the accident (see previous post) I thought them worth sharing.  They are by turns, horrifying, and funny.

This one shows the rather inelegant ballet that goes on in large cities when it comes to bicycle, pedestrian, and car traffic.  It seems everyone is breaking laws right and left here.  Frankly, it reminds me more of driving in Colombo, Sri Lanka, than any sort of urban driving I've experienced in the U.S.

3-Way Street from ronconcocacola on Vimeo.

On the more humorous side, this documented encounter of being ticketed by a NYC cop for not riding in the bike lane is both sad and funny.  Sad, because the cop should have known that cyclists are not required to ride in the bike lane, and funny because, well, I can't help but wish the filmmaker had a stunt double.  Ouch!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Death of a Cyclist

I feel a bit remiss about not commenting on the death on Tuesday of a bicyclist using a bike lane near Mill and Kietzke.  It is so tragic that I feel pretty numb about it.  And frankly, what haven't I already said on this blog about such incidents?  In fact, a week or so ago I posted this video (see Ride Like You're Invisible) that included good information about the key things that cyclists need to be wary of when riding including the dreaded "right hook" which appears to be what happened to her, made even more grisly by the fact that it was a garbage truck.  I appreciate that it is a tragic accident for all involved.  

I'm a bit tired of the apologists who claim that it is so tragic for the driver as well that we should chalk it up as a sad, sad, incident and move on.  If the driver of the truck had made a right hook across another lane of traffic and run over a small car killing the driver would that be ok as well?  This really isn't any different.  The cyclist appears to have been using her marked traffic (bike) lane in a totally legal fashion as a vehicle with the rights afforded to her on the road.  The driver made a right turn across another lane with a vehicle in it.  Yes, he claimed she was in her blind spot but that doesn't seem a fair defense.  As one commenter said, "What else is he going to say?  I saw her and ran over her anyway."  That's how it appears anyway.  Did the driver of the truck get cited?   Checking blind spots is one of the first things you are taught when you take driver's education.  Certainly it was one of the first things I remember learning from my dad when I was getting lessons.

I really resent the "might makes right" attitude of some of the commenters on the Reno Gazette Journal.  Most respondents have been quite measured to the tragedy.  However, there is some level in which a cyclist has to take life protecting responsibility for the way they ride even if they have the legal right of way.  And the ethical right of way for that matter.  Shouldn't we all be extra careful of all of the users of our infrastructure?  There is a reason the newer "road diets" in town are called a part of the "complete streets" program.  All users are being urged to slow down and be wary of other users.  It is everyone's responsibility.

I'm reprinting the following column from a few years ago about my own position on the fault of cyclists using the roads.  My opinion still stands and I feel like it is a good review for me and other cyclists out there legally using the streets as vehicles:

When are Cyclists at Fault for car/bike collisions? Almost always.

On my way home from work on Saturday I had one of the closest calls on my bike that I’ve ever had with a car. Or more accurately, a mini-van. It’s one of those common scenarios for a bicyclist, traveling in a right hand lane and an auto approaches the road from the right on a side street looking to make a left hand turn across my lane. Without pausing to thoroughly check both ways they pull out and hit the cyclist who clearly has the right of way. In my case the minivan driver started out across the lane just as I went by and came within inches of clipping the right back end of my bike. It was only after I turned around to yell and get a good look that I saw that he was on his cell phone and almost completely oblivious to my presence. 

After calming down and the adrenaline subsided a bit I couldn’t help but remember that I was about a quarter of a mile away from the ghost bike memorial for David Pumphrey I took part in the ghost ride in his honor along with dozens of other cyclists.

In thinking about my close call, I had to admit that in reality, it was my fault that I almost got hit. I don’t mean in a legal sense. I most certainly had the law on my side (although the police typically do a bad job of enforcing the law when a cyclist is hit). And I don’t mean ethically. There is nothing ethical about running down a cyclist in a 2 ton piece of metal. But, as a cyclist I think that for the most part cyclists must be hyper aware of their surroundings and know how to make sure to be seen, double-check eye contact with drivers, use hand-signals, and simply make their presence known and recognize the potential for a bad situation before it happens. 

In this case, the mini-van had very tinted windows making eye-contact impossible to confirm, but I was riding wearing a multi-colored jersey on a bright orange bike on a bright mid-day ride, and I was only going about 16 mph. But in the end I shouldn’t have assumed (hoped) that the driver saw me. 

It seems to me about the only time we as cyclists have to just have some measure of faith that we are seen is when cars approach us from behind and we assert our place in the road while giving drivers the appropriate amount of space for the given lane width and driving conditions. 

Over the many years I have biked on city streets I have had very few (amazingly few, really) close calls. Knock on wood. This is certainly because of the hyper awareness I mentioned above. There are times that I have felt almost a sixth sense about what the cars around me doing so I know exactly the safest (and usually legal) place to be. 

In the end perhaps the most unnerving thing about my close call was that my instincts failed me and it was a good eye-opener for me as to the potential dangers all cyclists can face on the roads. Never be complacent, wear a helmet, and ride assertively but safely.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Norah Jones

Frankly, despite her having killer pipes, I've never been much interested in the music of Norah Jones.  But just when you think you can dismiss her she does something cool like this stellar cover of Wilco's sublime, Jesus, etc.

Monday, June 06, 2011

World Naked Bike Ride Day...

I'm not sure whether to be happy or sad that there is no local event for WNBR. Usually the people who are inclined to bare all are the last people you want to see bare all. Closest event is SF...unless someone local feels like starting something.

Warning:  There may be more here than you care to see:

Bicycle Design

Not sure exactly how this thing works as far as steering goes but it'd probably be fun to cruise around the neighborhood on.  Not much more than that but every bike has its niche.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

What's in a Name? Artisan Framebuilder Richard Sachs.

For years I know that Richard Sachs has produced some of the finest bicycles on the planet.  Certainly his stock has risen with ridiculous wait times and soaring prices.  It really is the perfect feedback loop in terms of the image and notoriety his frames have garnered.  But would I wait that long for one of his frames?  Not likely.  Still, it's nice to see this nice article touting the benefits of a steel lugged bicycle frame built by an artisan in his one man shop.  A good read whether you buy the hype or not.

It’s not a role Sachs ever imagined for himself. But with nearly 40 years of experience, 4,000 frames, and a well-established reputation as the Zen sage of frame building, the self-described recluse unexpectedly finds himself at the fore of the biggest hand-built bicycle boom in, well, ever.   More here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Bicycle Commute Pet Peeves

Besides the less than savorable weather of late here are a couple of pet peeves from my commute home.

1.  Parking in the bike lanes on California Avenue.  How hard is it to fit your car between the curb and the white line?  Especially when you drive a little Subaru?  Apparently pretty difficult.

2.  When is a Bicycle Boulevard not a Bicycle Boulevard?  When it's in Reno apparently.  I've whined about this before and even discussed this subject with city engineers and the Reno Police Department during the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee meetings.   At this point they might as well stop calling it a bicycle boulevard and take away the signage because it's no different than any other street.  But I'm too stubborn to actually suggest that so instead let me reiterate (again) that the speed limit needs to be reduced on this stretch of Riverside.  Enough is enough!  It would be pretty pathetic to lose our first bicycle boulevard because the city won't commit to doing what's right.

Wikipedia actually has a pretty solid definition of a bicycle boulevard:

bicycle boulevard is a low speed street which has been optimized for bicycle traffic. Bicycle boulevards discourage cut-through motor vehicle traffic, but typically allow local motor vehicle traffic. They are designed to give priority to cyclists as through-going traffic. They improve bicycle safety and circulation in various ways:[citation needed]
  • discouragement of non-local motor vehicle traffic;
  • low speed limits;
  • low motor vehicle traffic volumes;
  • free-flow travel for bikes by assigning the right-of-way to the bicycle boulevard at intersections wherever possible;
  • traffic control to help bicycles cross major arterial roads; and
  • a distinctive look and/or ambiance such that cyclists become aware of the existence of the bike boulevard and motorists are alerted that the street is a priority route for bicyclists.
These bikeway design elements are intended to appeal to casual, risk-averse, inexperienced and younger cyclists who would not otherwise be willing to cycle with motor vehicle traffic. Compared to a bike path or rail trail, a bicycle boulevard is also a relatively low cost approach to appealing to a broader cycling demographic.

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Wilco