Wednesday, February 29, 2012

33 and Raining

So far the snow has mostly held off, but we're getting a fairly ferocious winter storm today/tomorrow.  It's mostly been my least favorite New England weather- 33 F and raining- blech!

I was all ready to give myself an out.  I was either going to walk to the T, or ride to the T and take my bike on the T home.  But once I got out, it didn't seem so bad after all- just spitting, not really raining hard.
So next thing I knew I was halfway home.

I just wanted to report that this weather is where my new trench coat excels.   It was the perfect warmth,  was absolutely waterproof,  and covered me to the tops of my kneecaps.  The bottom 1/2" of my skirt got damp (although not soaked), and my tights were wet on the tops of my knees, but the rest of me was just fine.
The brim of the Yakkay worked well to keep stuff out of my face as well.
We need a local distributor of Yakkay, because I've had tons of interest in them from people I've met, not just at bike events, but randomly on the street.

Boston Bikes 2011 Update

I arrived a tiny bit late for the Boston Bikes 2011 Update, given by Nicole Freeman, the Boston Bike Czar, and sponsored by Livable Streets.  To get to the BPL from the financial district, you either have to go through chinatown on some gnarly streets, or have to deal with the  Boston Common/ Public Gardens  which are ringed by 3 and 4 lane roads which are under capacity, and thus fast moving.  They also have funky one-way issues.  I normally avoid Beacon Hill (because of the hill- I dislike climbing with traffic behind me which can't pass safely) and do a reverse S,  following Tremont to Boyleston, then turning right on Charles, then left on Beacon, then left again at Arlington, thence to Comm ave and the bike lane.   This is pretty icky in a couple of spots, merging with fast moving traffic.  Charles st between the park and the common is just begging for a parking protected two way bike lane, and seems to have lots of space for it.
I hear rumors of it continuing down Charles to MGH, which would be awesome.

Today though I took the "easy" way, by getting off my bike in order to make a "left" turn" at Charles, cutting across this plaza to Park Plaza St. I saw 2 other bikers doing the same thing (they just rode on the sidewalk) so it seems to be a fairly well known cut-through, and one that I think the city should consider formalizing. I was kind of counting on Mass Bike providing a bike valet, so I was in trouble when I realized that they weren't this year, and that every available post in a 2 block area was taken. I followed the lead of some other guys and pushed some planters away from a post to get within locking distance
I put them back when I left :)
I also "had" to double back to check out a nice looking vintage DL1 parked in the packed bike rack.
I've only seen one other ladies' one (Velouria's) out and about.  This one looks like it's in really great shape.

Typography makes it look like a contemporary of Minerva (early 70's)
This is how Gilbert's vintage Steco rack was supposed to attach- to the seat stays.  Note rear mounted generator, which I suspect is non-functional because of the battery lights front and back
They need Koolstop pads!  And I wonder how the hung basket works with the rods
Turns out I hadn't really missed anything, because the Mayor couldn't make it, and his deputy spoke instead. I won't recap the whole thing, except to note a couple of points.

1) The place was packed-probably 500 people? Standing room only at the back and nary an empty seat. People were jazzed,with standing ovations for a couple of things (Mass Ave bike lanes and the Lifetime achievement award for Jessica (formerly Doug) Mink.)  Jessica made a nice speech about how every 5 years she goes on a bike ride that's her age in miles, and that the difference has been dramatic lately.)

2) I found it awesome that if you looked at the crowd sitting in the auditorium you would not have known it was a "bike" crowd. It could have been an author reading or a history lecture. People were there in normal clothes, and it was a pretty diverse group in terms of age and gender. It changed a bit when people left and donned helmets and yellow jackets, but still.

3) I think that Boston Bikes has done an amazing job of outreach to inner city communities in building bike ridership. Dramatically subsidized Hubway memberships, hands-on programs in schools, the "roll it forward" program to fix and donate bikes, and the farmer's market clinics developed with Boston Cyclist's Union.  I know that DC and Portland have had issues with bicycle infrastructure being equated with gentrification, but it makes a lot of sense for dense, low income and transit underserved neighborhoods to have lively bike cultures, and I think that these projects, combined with improvements in infrastructure could help make that happen.

4) Steve Miller of LSA made a great point, that to be a truly great bike city, the city will need not just to accommodate bikes, but to prioritize them.

A couple of suggestions I would (and did) make.
The city is moving towards centralized pay station parking, which I think is great as it allows them to adjust rates to suit demand. However the bike parking problem at the library is partly because all the meters were removed. I hope that the city will put in a standing program to convert a certain number of meter posts per block to bike parking, either by adding rings, or removing the cores and leaving the heads. We've been lucky with snow this year (might change tonight) but I wish the city would develop a list of "priority" bike lanes in parallel with the "snow emergency" routes.  This metric would be useful to organize maintenance, snow clearing, enforcement of parking violations etc, and I think would be helpful in making the DPW think of bikes as transportation, not just recreation.

After the talk, livable streets invited people to gather at a bar across the way. This was a lot of fun, because I got to hang out with Bikeyface, Megan (from Boston 3 speed club/ Boston Retro Wheelemen) and Josh from Boston Bikesafe.  We did some planning and scheming, and I'm hoping we'll have some progress to report soon on a new bike social event...

And although it seems mundane in a week where I'm going to two of them, I guess I'll call this Utilitaire 12.8 (community meeting) and yet another of the ones completed after dark.  Riding after dark being a fact of life this time of year.

I love the rainbow basket under the light wrapped tree- every stationary object in the area had a bike locked to it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wardrobe Malfunction

I wore a new dress to work the other day,  and as I was rushing out the door, I realized that there was a lot of open space below the last button on a not terribly long skirt.   I looked in vain for a safety pin, and then headed out the door.   It's a good thing that the zipper on my Nau trench goes all the way to the bottom of the coat, because when I unzipped when I was almost at work, I realized that the skirt had ridden so high that I could see the nose of the saddle.  Not a good look, even with opaque tights.

So I pulled over and zipped back up enough for my coat to cover my legs.  Better to be warm than a flasher!

I felt a bit like Angelina Jolie, showing too much leg- my leg being a bit less shapely than hers :) And black tights being more modest!  Speaking of which,  the funniest of the "Angie's right leg" meme's I've seen:

Think I'm going to sew a couple of quick stitches at the bottom of the hem and make it a more closed hem before I ride the bike in it :)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Getting Back into the Groove

After coming back from a week away,  I was greeted with an empty fridge and a smelly compost bin (yuck).  And being away from the bike for a week meant I was getting behind on my Utilitaires.  Fortunately for purposes of the game, Sunday is part of the week before,  so I still had a chance to pull a double and get both 12.6 and 12.7 as I ran my normal errands, even if they weren't terribly exciting categories.

two bags of bags (stretch plastic that can't go in the blue bins) and one of stinky compost

First I went to the grocery store(s).  I take my compost to Whole Foods since they make their bins available to the public.

Pretty full, but I've seen worse
  I try not to do it on the weekends, because they get packed and sometimes really grody,  but I didn't want to wait any longer than necessary, and fortunately they weren't overflowing.

One cool Whole Foods thing that I keep meaning to blog about is that they have dedicated employee bike parking (visible in the background).   I guess anyone could use it, but I suspect that because it's behind the dumpsters, most customers don't seek it out.  While I was there, I stopped in and bought ground beef for a giant pot of spaghetti, and a batch of enchiladas.
Bumper sticker in the WF parking lot

Next I went to the "regular" grocery store, for sodas and less "whole" foods. I ended up with just a bit more than would fit in my panniers,  so I did the same trick I did two weeks ago with "outriggers" to my panniers.

It was fairly windy, and there's one stretch of Green Street (right outside the Green street Grille)  which is this crazy wind tunnel- I notice it often, and this day, it was so bad I had to stand up and pedal to keep moving forward in my lowest gear!
Despite the wind, it's getting warmer, and there are signs of spring in the yard!
The Haul
When I got home,  I turned some of those groceries into pannini sandwiches for the Scientist who was working on a  grant.   I also started a huge batch of spaghetti sauce with home canned tomatoes.   One of the advantages of canning my own tomatoes, dried beans and chicken broth is avoiding BPA can linings.   Unfortunately the inner surface of metal canning lids is lined with BPA.   Since the food is only in contact with the lids when it's boiling during canning,  I think it's probably safer than regular cans,   but I'm doing some research on reusable BPA free canning lids, and think I'll probably order a bunch of them for use on pantry staples.

Once the spaghetti was simmering away,  I headed out into that wicked headwind  to Target, (a store that is not a grocery store) to return a bunch of Jason Wu stuff that I had ordered online and then was too large to fit :(   I was riding on autopilot a bit, and ended up on the Home Depot side of the road without thinking about it.   Since I was there, I stopped in briefly to get some clips for wiremold.  Because you never know when you'll need them right?  I couldn't resist browsing the garden center, but honestly it's not THAT warm yet. Last frost here is supposedly 5/3,  and we're supposed to get snow later this week.

When I was coming into the parking lot, I passed a guy biking out with a trailer full of building supplies!  And here I thought I was (almost) the only one!  I rang my bell and waved,  but couldn't get the phone out fast enough to get a picture.

At Target I returned stuff,  and bought tax software and lip balm.  Somehow a bag of Easter candy managed to find its way into my bag too :)  and some long lasting lip color, which I'm surprisingly excited about- it's hard to find colors in target-style cosmetics, and I lucked out with this one.

I headed back "inland" through my old stomping grounds in east Watertown, and stopped again at the Star on the Cambridge line to grab a couple more red peppers for snacks at work this week.  I neglected to get any pictures, but unlike a month ago, it wasn't totally dark at 5pm!  Then home to make enchiladas, and stay up way too late watching the Oscars!   I'm going to see if there's anywhere that's still playing Hugo, since the only way to see the 3D is in a movie theater.

12.6 Trip to the grocery store approx 2.3 miles
12.7 Trip to store other than grocery store approx 6.2 miles. Wasn't really dark, but my dynamo lights are always on for extra visibility.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mark your Calendars

There are some important public meetings coming up this week for people interested in bicycle infrastructure in the Boston area.

Firstly on the 28th at the Boston Public Library,  Livable streets alliance will be hosting the fourth annual "State of the city"  bike report by Nicole Freedman, Boston's "Bike Czar".   Everyone who bikes in Boston has observed the huge uptick in new bike infrastructure.  Show up early at 5:45 for a "transportation community showcase"  or just be there by 6:15 for the opening remarks from Mayor Menino.  I find it significant that the mayor is showing up to this-he's really put a lot of emphasis on this in the last couple of years.  It will be interesting to hear what's planned for the next year/ years.

Secondly, Mass DOT is having a meeting to review the "selected" design that they've submitted to the Feds as part of the Environmental Assessment package.  The meeting will be at 7PM March 1st at the Transportation building, 10 Park Plaza  There was a committee of stakeholders who came up with a set of preferred alternatives,  which were commented on by the public a year ago.   Then the State was fairly secretive and very slow in selecting one of those for submittal to the federal government for review.  It was just released to the public two weeks ago, and, well, it has its ups and downs.
Some history here, and here

The great news is that Mass Dot's original plan was just to rebuild it exactly as it was, with no improvements for either bicyclists or pedestrians.   The current proposal makes significant improvements to the Cambridge bound side, with one car lane, a wide and buffered bike lane,  and a 13' sidewalk.  There are  improvements on the much more used Boston bound side, with a 2' wider sidewalk, and a 6" wider bike lane, but it's not everything that we hoped it would be. There is also a commitment to provide a better pedestrian bridge over Storrow, which will connect to the bridge in a more logical way, and a commitment to widen the bridge once it passes the historic part of the structure (the last 50' which is just a standard highway crash barrier.     There will definitely be some pushback on the part of advocates to try to get a wider sidewalk and a narrower roadway.  At the moment, Mass DOT seems to be rejecting a single car lane option,  and wanting to keep a wider overall pavement surface.

The idea that I support,  is to set the sidewalk as wide as possible, since the crash barrier is not moveable until the next time they rebuild the bridge in 75 years.  If 2 lanes for cars are currently necessary, then it would be possible to put cyclists on a cycletrack on the sidewalk,  and then someday (after peak oil?)  convert one lane of car traffic to bike traffic.   Currently the idea is to separate the cycletrack with flexible bollards every 20' or so from the pedestrian side.  The trick is at the pinch point at the last granite tower, where the shared space would be about 10'8"   That's wider than a lot of the Charles River paths,  so I don't think it's an untenable proposition,  but it will require bikes and peds to courteously share the space, which makes a lot of pedestrians and cyclists nervous.
Faster cyclists than me, would be welcome to take the lane (possibly with sharrows painted in it) if they want to go faster than conditions permit on the cycletrack.  At least in the mornings when I'm crossing that way, there is rarely more than 1 lane's worth of cars headed to Boston, so I don't think that taking the lane would be a ridiculous proposition, although I'm not personally comfortable doing it.   The problem is that at night there is often backup on the bridge going towards Boston.  There's a possibility that this might be improved by a better traffic flow at Charles Circle, but there may only be so much that can be done.   I think a more logical way to solve that problem is to create better ways for people to get onto Memorial drive and hence to 93, avoiding the Longfellow and Charles Circle altogether, but that's not really in the scope of this project :)

What do you think of the options?  Would you be willing to share a 14' sidewalk/ cycletrack,  or would you be more comfortable sharing the road with cars in a 5'6" unbuffered bike lane?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In his work clothes

Regular readers will know that I'm all about riding to work in your work clothes, and having a bike that allows you to do that.  For me, that means that I rely on lots of bright lights and the occasional reflective accessory instead of head to toe fluorescent/reflective stuff.

I've been away all week, testing to see how well my bike-conditioned legs deal with downhill skiing (the answer is quite well).  Driving down from the mountain into Denver yesterday, I spied this guy who was riding in HIS work clothes:
I'm pretty sure he's a construction flagger

What I couldn't get a picture of was that he had a bright orange "Stop" sign, with a 3' handle lashed to his top tube, parallel to the rear wheel.   He was riding home in his day-glo suit, still wearing his construction hard hat, cigarette in one hand.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Slightly Simulated-(Utilitaire 12.3)

Last week, like most weeks I went to the library.  Normally I go on the weekends, but last week I went on Wednesday night because a book that the Scientist had requested had come in.

I'm a library user from the cradle.  I swear that I had read every book in the Children's section that had a dog or a horse in it (helpfully noted at our library with a sticker of said animal on the spine)  before I graduated to "grown up" books.  There wasn't as much of what we call YA then.  Watership Down,  From the Mixed up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler,   A Swiftly Turning Planet,  The Dark is Rising series,  The Hero and the Crown.   No Harry Potter.  No Hunger Games.

The Scientist is more of a book buyer (which isn't bad either, especially for special Science books)  but I'm trying to introduce him to the joys of library patronage.  He was a little amazed that you could request a book owned by another town 20 miles away on Sunday, and by Wednesday, they send you an email and it's waiting at your home library.

I biked home, and took a detour on the way to the library to pick up his request.  While I was there, I hit the "speed read" section which is a great thing that more and more libraries are doing.  It's a couple of stacks of high demand books- books that either just came out, or are being featured on all the NPR programs, or are NY Times bestsellers.  You can't reserve those copies, you can only keep them for a week, and you can't renew them so that someone else can have a chance to read the latest and greatest next week.   I grabbed the latest John le Carre' novel "Our Kind of Traitor."  I was on a big le Carre' kick around the time that the movie of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy came out, but a combination of a busy week and a slow start meant I didn't finish it by the deadline, so it was time to take it back.  Coincidentally a book I had requested a while ago (REAMDE by Neal Stephenson)  had just come in, so I had an extra reason to go in.  I'm a big Stephenson fan,  the Baroque trilogy are among my very favorite books, and although I heard so- so reviews, I'm sure it will be entertaining at the worst, and thought provoking at the best.

This is where the simulated part of the Utilitaire comes in- Because of the way the controls work, I need an event from last week, but  since I can't go back in my time machine to take pictures of last week's trim, I'm photographing the book I brought home THIS week- , you'll just have to trust me that I went by bike last week too!

More new bike clothes, and Utilitaire 12.5!

Coincidently, I found out about the Utilitaire just two days after I made an appointment to get my haircut.  I don’t get my hair cut very often, every couple of months, so it’s just luck I happened to be able to complete this one.  (BTW,  I think that the Utilitaire rules are pretty flexible about substitutions,  so if you don’t need your hair cut, you could document going to the dentist, the doctor,  massage, pedicure, whatever).

I wore my favorite score from the Jason Wu for Target collection: a red and navy cotton dress with a lovely full skirt.   It’s even got pockets hidden in the pleats.  I put a long sleeved shirt under it, as it’s not really sleeveless dress weather yet, but it looks a bit schoolgirlish.  It had a tendency to ride up against my tights, but hopefully that will be less of a problem in the summer without tights.

I’ve also been meaning to report on my new long coat, but haven’t gotten around to getting photos of it.  It’s from Nau,  and it really fills a niche that I think is underserved- normal clothing with technical features.  I think that’s Nau’s thing in general- to have normal, or perhaps even a bit fashion forward styling, but true waterproof-ness,  with sealed seams and zippers.   Although it’s interesting- chatter about Nau on the internet  seems to be equally divided between bicyclists and hard core fashionistas.

that's a lot of hair
I ordered the “Shroud of Purrin Trench” in “Hellebore”,  which is a purplish grey that is a lovely color although a tad hard to match with my wardrobe that leans to reds and greens.  The fabric is something "waterproof-breathable" with a laminated barrier,  but unlike most shells, has a lovely wale,  not quite corduroy, maybe more like heavy twill?  You would never know it was a "technical" fabric if you didn't read the specs.

 I ordered the Hellebore because it seemed the lightest (compared to dark brown or black)  but it's fairly dark in person.  I’m scheming about how I could possibly add a tiny bit of  reflectivity.  The best thing would be a tiny bit of piping down the back seam,  but I don’t want to open up the seam, since it's specially sealed for water resistance.   I really like the length, which hits just above my knee when I’m on the bike, which keeps me noticeably warmer (or dryer).    The zipper can be raised from below if you want more air. The hem is asymmetric, with a longer tail than front, which I think is a nice line when you’re off the bike.

 Also asymmetric, the zipper comes into the side of your chin instead of the front. The collar has a buttonhole and button to allow you to fasten the collar up to warm your neck.  I didn’t think I’d use that feature, but it has come in handy a couple of times when I didn’t have a scarf for those first chilly minutes before I warm up.

The trench is very waterproof- I rode home one night in a pretty hard rain, and was completely dry- just shook it off and went to dinner on foot.   The only reservation I have is that it’s a bit too warm.  Although it doesn’t have much of an insulation layer beyond a light fuzzy liner, I find it keeps me much warmer than the weight would indicate.  Part of that may just be the windproof-ness, part of it might be the waterproofing.   If the temperature is higher than the low 30’s I’ve found I end up unzipping completely or  even having to remove the jacket.

 YMMV, as I may have a tendency to run a bit warm.    If we had a winter like last year with lots of cold and icky days, it would probably be perfect.
Later that night, post-chop
Back to the Utilitaire:  I rode home the 6 blocks from the salon without my helmet, although it probably wouldn't have made much of a difference to the "'do", but I hated to spoil a professional blow dry.   Minerva's lighting system has already been described, although I will add that I looked up the specs on the rear generator light- it's a Busch&Muller Topline Plus,  which I've been very impressed with.  I think it's much brighter than the fender mounted 4D fender mounted light I have on Gilbert. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Utilitaire 12.4

Thanks to John Romeo Alpha at One speed Go,  I heard about Utilitaire,  which is like the LGRAB summer games, but with a more utilitarian bent.  The brainchild of Chasing Mailboxes blog, Utilitaire 12 asks you to do a number of utilitarian tasks in a time period, with a set of criteria. Complete rules can be found here.  Like a brevet, you need to check off events on a control card, and accumulate a certain number of events during the 7 weeks of the challenge.

I think this sounds like just the kind of fun that one needs this time of year- a beacon of hope in the long slog towards spring!  I only found out about this today, and it's been going on for a couple of weeks, so I'm behind,  but I'm going to retroactively count a couple of things from the last weeks to be posted later :).  A lot of the "categories" are things I do so often that I don't bother documenting them anymore,  but, in the spirit of the event, I'll play along.

Today I completed one category,  the "community meeting".  I left work early to volunteer for Livable Streets, buttonholing people on a street corner to tell them about the dire state of MBTA funding, and what they could do about it.

 There was a meeting at the Boston Public library, with a kind of rowdy rally before the meeting. LSA was giving out information and encouraging people to go to the meeting, or otherwise get involved.  I got into a good rhythm,  and was having a good rate of success with getting signatures.  I had a funny moment though, when I accosted the next guy standing on the streetcorner, only to find that I was talking to the MA Secretary of Transportation :)

Me " do you ride the T"
Richard Davey  "yes, every day"
me  "are you aware of the T's funding crisis"
Richard Davey (deadpan) "Intimately."

At this point I realized who I was talking to,  and got all flustered.   He was very nice, and thanked me for being an advocate for the T, and seeing my LSA sticker told me to say Hi, to J_  the director of LSA.

Minerva locked up next to the gracious and charming McKim Mead and White wing of the BPL
The meeting looked like it was going to be standing room only,  and as I've already submitted written comments, I decided not to stand in line for the meeting itself,  heading off to release the hound.
People queueing to get into the meeting, in the less charming  totalitarian vastness of the Phillip Johnson wing of the BPL.  The whole wing smells like cigarette smoke.  Gah!
I rode Minerva again today,  and she's just lovely.   I haven't ridden her to work since the first of the year, and I'd forgotten how effortless and wonderful the DL-1's ride is.  It makes me wonder if I should invest effort into making her a truly bombproof commuter along this lines of this fabulous commuter.
The Scientist is going to Europe a couple of times this summer to give talks, I wonder how he would feel about tracking down aluminum westwood rims :)

The route home from the Library took me along Comm ave, which is really lovely this time of year, with the alee' of trees all wrapped in white lights.
Every time I'm about to remove Minerva's lights, I get a random compliment on them, so I keep them a bit longer

I also got to enjoy the Mass Ave bike lanes, which are a delight.   The Mass Ave bridge lanes seem meagre in comparison especially where they crap out on the Cambridge side.    Rode home with stops at both Trader Joe's and Whole foods to get some treats for a midweek Valentine's dinner.  Grocery shopping is another one of the controls, for the Utilitaire, but I do that so often, that it's hardly blog worthy, unless I bring home a record amount of stuff..

Edited- I forgot I'm supposed to report milage, which is a bit approximate, because I' doing it via google map. This ride 4.2 formwork to meeting, to home
Since the second half of the ride was after dark, I should mention that Minerva has a generator hub and an IQcyco headlight and B&M rack mounted tail light

Sunday, February 12, 2012

New bike clothes

It's always fun to have a new outfit for biking in!

I'm not enough of a follower of fashion to be interested in most of the "High-Low" collaborations that are all the rage-certainly not enough to get up early and deal with hysterical crowds.  I shop for clothes based more on what works for me than on a label or what is "in."   But when I saw the proposed Jason Wu for Target designs, I loved the narrow waists and flared skirts, and that's how I found myself at the Watertown Mall on Superbowl Sunday at 7AM.  I was third in line when the doors opened, and managed to get all of the things I was really interested in.  Unfortunately we've had a bout of seasonal (AKA cold) weather, which makes it hard to wear spring dresses,but with a pair of opaque tights and a cardigan, I think I can make this work.
It has a print of small spoked wheels-  they're not exactly bike wheels, but they're close enough:

I've also been wearing my first pair of B.Ella Woolisimo tights, that I ordered from Sock Dreams.  Like the Smartwool tights from last year, they're pretty sweater-like and not super dressy, but they're warm, not itchy and so far seem durable- I've only worn them a couple of times and washed them once.   Unlike the Smartwool tights they don't have a "shaped foot."  I might add a little red embroidery to mark the sole so that they're a bit easier to put on without getting twisted all around.    But so far so good, and I may order a pair in brown as well.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Spare Tire

Sorry for the radio silence- have been busting my butt at work, trying to get a framing package out the door before I leave on vacation next week.

Chafed of Chafe City,  recently posted something I thought was interesting. About the same time I was struggling with getting Gilbert's new tires on his rims, she was raging at how insanely hard it can be to change a stupid bike tire.   She mentioned that it's easy enough for cars to carry a whole extra wheel with tire already mounted on it around with them at all times, so they never think about it.  The mass and awkwardness of carrying a spare on a bike is obviously prohibitive.

If a bike carried around a spare wheel, it would be about as inconvenient as this car I saw this morning carrying an XXL tire around:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The chip in my brain tells me to ride

Saw this article in the NY Times with the headline "Activists fight green projects, seeing UN plot"

Evidently some members of the far right loony wing of the Tea Party have decided that bike lanes are a UN plot to overthrow the US government and  ultimately  "TAAAKE AWAAYYY OUR CAAAAAARS!

Yeah,  I don't know about you, but how often have you received communications from the UN saying that we should advocate for better and safer bikes lanes so that the UN can take over the world?  Personally I  think the UN can barely run a peacekeeping mission successfuly, let alone the world.

I do understand that since the 50's when public space was chopped up and handed to drivers on a plate they've gotten accustomed to have the run of the place, and that they see any minor inconvenience (like slowing down and waiting to pass)  as a violation of their "rights"  But I have a right to safe operation on the roads too, and I don't get that from the UN,  I get it from US law.    

I have to wonder if the recent bike-punitive transportation bill from the House springs from this far right meme that green initiatives or progressive transportation measures are signs of the "socialist apocalypse"
If so, I think that a bunch of legislators need to adjust their tinfoil beanies.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Double Double-Wide

I interrupted Minerva's "winter vacation" Saturday afternoon to do a grocery run.  I knew that with both Superbowl snacks and the rest of the week's groceries, I was going to have an extra large load, and I wanted to use the voluminous Fast Rider panniers that only fit on her longer chainstays.

It was a pleasure to ride her- it's amazing to me how two upright step through city bikes can be so dramatically different.  Although I guess it shouldn't because the geometry is completely different -riding minerva is like sitting in a chair- it's so incredibly upright,  and I've missed it. 

In any case I ended up with an enormous load- surpassing even the capacity of the big panniers.  So I devised a reusable bag version of "Velouria's panniers"  and by my third stop, had a load 4 grocery bags wide!   Too wide to get through the 3' gate.

I looped the handles of the bags through the lock and locked it closed, et voila!

Time to watch the game (and commercials) - Go Pats!

Edited- I'm counting this retroactively as Utilitaire 12.1-  My first entry in the Utilitaire challenge- more details here:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An armature for healthy choices

Edited for my typo-  "Oppose" the bill,  support the Petri amendment which would restore TE and SRS Thanks OKB for proofreading.  

I don't dwell on the health benefits of biking much,  partly because they're subtle in my case ( I don't have any fun story about how I dropped 50 lbs, alas) ,  but more importantly, I feel mostly that the other pleasures of biking are their own reward.

There was an article in the NY Times though that I found interesting, although perhaps obvious to even the casual observer of urban spaces.  It posits that the move to the "luxury" of the suburbs has fueled the obesity crisis because the design of the suburbs does not facilitate active transportation- the kind of activity we get as we live our everyday lives.  Well....... duh!  Yes, it seems obvious, but there were lots of studies and data to back up what seems like a simple conclusion.

This was striking because after months of inertia, the Transportation bill has lurched into life, being used as a political football by politicians who think that more highways= more jobs.   And while there's a certain truth to that,  and in general I support spending on infrastructure to help create jobs in this economy,  for some reason the people controlling the bill feel that even the 1.6% of the federal transportation budget that active transportation receives is WAAAY too much.

The current bill would cut out Transportation Enhancements,  which is a flawed system, but it's one of the few funding mechanisms for paths,  rail trails and sidewalk improvements.   It also cuts Safe Routes to schools, which has been a very successful program in encouraging kids to walk and bike to school.

If you live in MA, you have a unique opportunity to support  oppose this bill,  because Representative Capuano is a member of the Transpo committee.  Even if you aren't in MA,  sending an email takes little time, and I'll add my voice to the chorus of advocacy organizations that are urging you to weigh in with your legislator about the importance of preserving even this tiny amount of funding.  There are lots of good templates and talking points here, and Here.  There's an amendment called the Petrie Amendment which would restore  TE and SRS,  which is a good thing to support, as obviously some kind of bill is likely to pass.

Bike and walking facilities cost much less to install and maintain than roads,  and if well designed, they provide a network of infrastructure, on which people can incorporate active transport into their daily lives.  And cutting them isn't a significant enough amount of money to make a difference in the larger budget.  So why cut them unless you think of bikes and walking as recreation and a sideshow?  I know that a lot of people feel activism fatigue,  but in this tough budget times, it's going to be a constant fight to keep people who don't understand how bikes allow freedom for kids, and healthy lives for grown ups, reminded that there are people who do,  and who vote, and who want their interests represented just as well as the big road contractors do.