Thursday, February 25, 2010

Spring in New England

How can you tell that it's spring in New England?
Instead of snow, you get 33 degree rain.....

I was having reverse altitude sickness on Tuesday (couldn't catch my breath) and didn't want to ride home for fear it would make it worse, and it's been raining ever since,  so poor Robert is sitting in the corner of my office, feeling homesick. I'm not big on riding in cold, wet and dark all at once.

The good news is that I can see all the bulbs I planted in the fall peeking their little green shoots up! Spring may be cold and rainy, but it's on its way!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A real find

A very enjoyable part of my trip west was getting to visit my brother, sister-in-law and my cute as a button nephew.
Just before I visited, my brother's next door neighbor threw out two bikes that the previous owner of the house had abandoned, and he scooped them up from the alley.
One frame just needed new tires and cables and he fixed it up for his wife as a cruiser around town.  It has a really cool bell.

The other he wasn't sure what to do with.  He already has a mountain bike, a road bike and a round town fixie that he commutes on (I guess bike geekiness runs in families)  and he doesn't really need a 40 pound no- name 1970's Japanese touring bike.

As soon as I saw the rack with its two light fixture "eyes"  I began to salivate, then to beg.  He was generous enough to let me have them.

I didn't get great pictures, but the rack has chromed rings which support a bakelite "eggcup" with contacts in it for a bulb.  One of the lenses and the cool threaded aluminum retention ring is missing, so I'll have to do some searching for  something that I can use as a replacement.  
They were powered by a bottle generator.  So I could try to find replacement bulbs that will work, or retrofit something (LED?) into the existing cups.

The fork had threaded rack specific eyelets (separate from the fender eyelets),  and the rotational stability was provided with an anchor through the front fender.  It will take some fabrication to get it to work on my bike, but I can't wait to see it in place.

Monday, February 22, 2010

powder hound

Sighted on the posh streets of Vail:
A cruiser becomes sexy when it's stripped down and customized  with giant balloon tires for riding in snow:

It's the mountain cousin of a slick city fixie
And I love the red rubber tires

And the woodie fender

Ski Bike

I'm back and have lots of stuff to share-
For now something quick-

Ski delivery in Vail Village by specially modified trailer!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Random Notes

So much for the snowpocolypse-  My favorite name so far for the Winter Storm that wasn't is "NO'easter"
It was downright balmy on my ride in- I went in just a down vest and long sleeve Tshirt (and skirt, tights and boots) and it was 39 at lunch when I ran errands.

Riding home tonight the candy factory on Main street was making butterscotch candies.  I love living near a candy factory- it makes me feel like an extra in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Kudos to the Management and Valet parking service at Cragie on Main.  When they first opened there were a lot of problems with cars being left in the bike lane.  I went in and complained to the hostess, and wrote an email, and not only did I get a nice email from the owner back, but I've never seen a car valet parked in the bike lane since.

So I'm off for a week of trying not to break anything as I slide down snowy slopes with a pair of boards strapped to my feet.
I'm suspecting that there won't be either many bikes, or lots of access to a computer for posting, but I'll post if I see anything interesting (I have a lead on a vintage rack that I may post about).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pumping Iron

I stopped on the way home tonight to buy these:

I've decided I want to get an upper body workout (other than lugging my 45 pound bike around).
When you strap two 8lb dumbells on said 45 pound bike, it has surprisingly little effect on how hard it is to move around the city- because it's a small fraction of the overall weight.
However, they were attached to my rack with elastic straps, and the period of their vibration was significantly out of phase with the rest of the stuff that's attached to the bike.  Most stuff that I strap back there either has less mass, or it's spread out over a larger volume,  so it's not as noticeable.
But every time I went over a bump, there was a distinctive clunk a half a second after everything else had finished oscillating.  Kind of disconcerting, although not really that big a deal.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


A couple of images from the bike lane at Main and Broadway

I reported the debris to the DPW Friday, and they sent me an email yesterday saying that they'd have someone take care of it.  Hopefully they'll sweep up some of the gravel while they're at it.
They fixed some potholes along here in the car lanes, and the gravel from the patches is really bad in the bike lane.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bikes in the Wedding Industrial Complex

Saw these two images that are being used in advertising campaigns for registry services:
I'm a little skeptical of the messengers, but I like that they're using in both cases the image of a bride and groom actually on bicycles in full regalia:
Sorry for the heavy dose of advertising- don't worry FCC, I wasn't compensated for passing them along.
I'm just happy when bikes are used in a positive way in the media.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bike Pods

I've seen these futuristic pods a couple of times as I ride by, and have never bothered to stop and get a picture.  They're covered bike parking outside the offices of Livable Streets Alliance.
I had actually forgotten about the Livable Streets talk, but saw a crowd of people, and someone trying the pod, so I decided to stop, and blew off my grocery run to go and hear the lecture about Human Centered design.
The pod in use-  I tried lifting it up and it's lightweight, and I think it has some kind of counterweight system that makes it easy to lift with one hand, while you move your bike into position.

Some of the cool bikes in a packed bike rack (we had filled up all the racks and all the nearby meters and street signs).

I didn't realize until I posted the picture that the Batavus had an olive frame and maroon fenders. Pretty slick

The talk was not bicycle specific, but was full of interesting pictures of people moving on all kinds of wheels through all kinds of urban spaces.  She had a lot of photos of South American public spaces, which is something that doesn't get seen a lot in planning and design magazines- there's much more focus on American and European public spaces.  The talk was thought provoking,  despite, or perhaps because she didn't have a real agenda or point to make- it was more about presenting data on all kinds of different ways for urban interaction to take place.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Practical Pedal

I'm as guilty as the next cycle blogger of slobbering over an every detail considered, aesthetically beautiful bicycle.
But sometimes pretty is as pretty does, and there's something compelling about a completely utilitarian functional machine:

Like this load carrying machine I spotted outside the Market Basket earlier this week.
It's ready to carry a kid, a load of groceries, and a laptop home without any fuss or muss.

It's got an odd stump of a saddle, that doesn't look comfortable to me, but looks like the product of a lot of trial and error and thousands of miles of perfecting the right thing for this specific person.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


A note about the bridge meeting, before our regularly scheduled post:
When I arrived (after biking over the Western Ave Bridge, which required aggressively taking the lane)
I was a little disappointed that there were only 8 or 10 bikes outside,  but the hall was full, and there were lots of people who spoke in favor of bicycle access improvements.  I think that they will take that seriously as design begins, but I think the the cycling community needs to stay involved to make sure bicycles are taken into consideration not only over the bridge, but at the nasty intersections on both ends.

I was leaving for work the other day, when I ran into an acquaintance of mine on the sidewalk.  During our conversation, she mentioned that her husband had started to walk to work- a trip of about 35 minutes each way.  That's considered a long way to walk, but it's about the same amount of time as my bike to work.

Tom Vanderbilt, in his book Traffic   made an interesting point, that human settlements have historically been limited to the radius of 30 minutes trip by whatever transportation method was available at the time.  For example, Medieval hill towns tend to have a radius of about 1  1/2 miles,  making a trip from the center to a field on the edge took about 30 minutes to walk.  Somehow that 30 minutes seems to be a convenient time for humans to travel-  long enough to get into the rhythm or mindset of the travel,  short enough not to get bored.

For me, the combination of physical exercise with that 30 minute transition is one of my favorite things about bike commuting.   It's a chance to wake up in the morning.  It's a way to decompress and put the cares of the day behind me on the way home.  I find that I can't concentrate too hard on anything when I'm exercising- partly because I'm having to stay alert in traffic, but even when I run,  I just can't focus on specifics.  It's  sort of a zen thing for me- I can think about things in a kind of foggy big picture way,  and my mind can work on a problem without getting too bogged down in the details-  it's actually a pretty good way to process things.  Even though the ride itself can be stressful in an immediate fight or flight sort of way when someone passes too close,  I find I react differently to those traffic interactions than I would conflict off the bike.

How long is your commute?   Does it calm you,  or stress you out?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Be heard about the bridges

Just a reminder- meeting tonight with Mass DOT at the Allston Library at 300 North Harvard street- 6pm to 8pm to advocated for bicycle lanes on the River Street and Western Ave Bridges.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Car Free in Texas

"I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults"  - the late, great Molly Ivins

I've been thinking about Texas a lot lately.  Partly because the Scientist went to give a talk in Houston, and that got me thinking about the places I used to hang out and just the feeling of the town.
We've also been re-watching season 3 of Friday Night Lights,  which is, in my opinion the finest show on television. Different part of Texas, somehow just the same.

The main reason I've been thinking about Texas though,  is what's been going on in Ennis Tx,  where I've been following the story of blogger Chipseal who is car free in a town about 40 miles south of Dallas.

He's a pretty hardcore vehicular cyclist, informed about the minutia of all facets of bicycle law, and unfortunately having way too much experience with having to defend his right to bicycle in the lane.
It's an interesting story, and if you go to his blog, I recommend looking at posts from last year and beyond as the recent ones are a bit confusing if you don't have the background.

Basically, to get where he wants to go, he often has no choice but to ride on rural highways- signed with 55 or 65 MPH limits.  Given a choice between riding on a debris strewn and disastrously paved shoulder, and riding in the lane,  he's ballsy enough to take the lane (as in the left tire track of the right lane).  People in cars are freaked out by this,  although they seem to go around him just as well as they go around a tractor, a slow moving truck, or anything else they have to go around.  He's had numerous run-ins with the county and city law enforcement, and even spent a night in jail.  Interestingly his interactions with the police have mostly been polite and respectful, and he talks about having had a real dialog with several of them.  He writes about it with disarming humor and modesty combined with a talmudic understanding of the minutia of the Texas Vehicular code..

Texas is a funny place.  People are passionate about the things they do, and can be determined (bullheaded) beyond belief.  If someone in Texas is convinced they are right about something, they're going to defend to the death their right to do it.  Tenacity and self righteousness can get whipped into a fury when directed at something foreign that you don't understand.  If you doubt me, check out the Ellis County Reporter and the people freaking out because someone wants to build a Halal slaugherhouse there and it will attract Muslims. Muslims grocery shopping.  How terrifying.  Actually- don't check out the Ellis county Reporter- it will probably just depress you.

On the other hand Texans tend to be polite, friendly and compassionate people.  It sounds to me that  people, including cops, are worried about Chipseal as much as they're mad that they're having to pass him.   He's had a lot of conversations with people who are willing to listen, even if they don't understand vehicular cycling's benefits.  I'm not completely sure,  but I bet Chipseal would be happy to ride on smaller rural roads than highways,  but the problem is that in many parts of the country, you can't get there from here on those roads.  And until drivers either cycle themselves,  or speak to an individual who can explain it to them, they're never going to understand why he rides there.

Anyway, I admire the guy's guts, while being glad that I'm not in his shoes.  I can't really articulate why I think this is such a uniquely Texas story,  but I wish him luck, and hope that he can convince win people over- one Texan at a time.

Advocacy Alert

Anyone riding in the Boston area is familiar with how lousy bike access across the river is.  Since the bridges are choke points, there's a lot of traffic (auto, pedestrian, bicycle) trying to get across them all.
In the past, the auto was the only vantage point really considered, which has resulted in a couple of bridges (Western Ave,  River Street,  BU, JFK)  which range from intimidating and unpleasant to dangerous for those crossing by bike.

Mass DOT is in the  planning stages of rehabilitating the Western Ave and River Street bridges and now is the time for bikers to make their voices heard.
The meeting Wednesday 2/03/2010 is at the Honan-Allston library at 300 North Harvard street from 6pm to 8pm.   More information and talking points here, courtesy of livable streets

Getting across both these bridges is awful for bikes-  please try to make it to establish support for bike accommodations here! And just in case you feel like our voices won't be heard- I was at a meeting considering the bridge rennovation at the Museum of Science,  and the large number of bikers and their moving statements made an impact on the somewhat hostile planning staff of DCR, and I've been told that they plan on incorporating a bicycle lane in a project that previously forced bikes onto the heavily trafficked sidewalk there.