Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bike to Work Day in Pawtucket

First some great news. Yes, yes, I’m updating the blog again, sure that’s great news, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about this:

THE EAST BAY BIKE PATH IS NOW OPEN!

Yep, fantastic. A 2.5 mile section of the path had been closed since early November, effectively cutting off Bristol from Providence. Even worse than closing almost 1/4 of the path, East Providence refused to provide a detour for cyclists. They could have sectioned off part of Veterans Memorial Parkway, or at least put up signs, maybe some sharrows or something, but nope, they just closed it down. After all, the path is only used for recreation, right? Who would need to actually use if for commuting? (Aside from many people who live in the East Bay and work in Providence). Personally, the construction on the path kept me away from one of my favorite restaurants in Bristol.

Anyhow, it’s open now, so time to head down to the Beehive Cafe.

And it’s open just in time for or “bike month” or  “bike to work week” or “bike to work day” (depending on how concentrated you want your once-a-year bike celebration to be) Different cities celebrate Bike To Work Day on different days, so a clever cyclist can hit a few of them if so desired. This morning, I headed out to Pawtucket’s BTWD festivities. I left a little late because there was a thunderstorm. I don’t mind riding in the rain, but I’ll avoid a horrible downpour if there’s no reason to ride in it. And riding 4 miles in a downpour to watch a mayor wearing sweatpants and a helmet in an attempt to look “green” just seems a little silly to me. So I’ll admit that I arrived 20 minutes after the announced time. I figured they too would have delayed things for the rain. This is what I found when I arrived in Pawtucket:

The Bucket

Good Times.

While we’re on the topic of Pawtucket and bike path closures, the on-street portion of the Blackstone Valley Bike Path has been detoured for months now as crews work to replace the I-95 bridge. Thankfully, we actually have signs for this detour. Like this one:

Nope, not those big orange “detour” signs, I’m talking about that little tiny brown sign up by the street lamp. Maybe if I pull up closer I can see it.

In case you can’t make that out, it says “Walk bikes on wooden walkway.” The sign is helpfully placed right at a point where one would have to heave one’s bike over a jersey barrier in order to comply with the sign. Or if your eyesight is particularly good, you may have seen the sign a few yards earlier. In that case, there’s no curb cut for you, so you can’t just roll up onto the sidewalk. Instead you have to stop and lift your bike onto the sidewalk. Not too bad unless there’s traffic behind you, but who’s complaining? (oh yeah, it’s me, that’s who’s complaining, that’s pretty much the point of this blog right?)

Enough of the complaining, I want to tell you about something that’s awesome. We had some heavy rain today, but I was able to keep my feet dry while riding thanks to my new full-coverage fenders. Check the rear one:

Pretty sweet, right? I’ve been thinking: this fender gives me a potential canvas for self-expression. Motorists get to have all sorts of bumperstickers, maybe I should get some letters to stick on my fender. But what message do I want to convey to the world? The obvious choice would be:

Or I could pay homage to one of my favorite bike blogs and confuse everyone at the same time:

It must be a pretty small percentage of people who know what “AYHSMB” stands for.

It seems like most people know what this symbol means:

In practice, it seems to mean “I can park wherever the hell I please.” Of course, I can already park (almost) wherever I want to (despite my constant grumbling about the indignity of it) so that might help. Do you think it could keep the buses from passing me too closely?

Perhaps I could send a pre-emptive message to any motorist fuming behind me because he is unable to get to the next red light quickly enough:

Yeah, that might be the best bet.

S#!7 Motorists say to cyclists

Yeah, yeah, that meme is so last month. Still, there seems to be a theme in the things that motorists say to me when I’m on my bike.

The most common thing that motorists say to me is

HONK!!!

I’ve mostly reached a state of zen on getting honked at. I (mostly) don’t care and just let it slide off me. Sometimes though, if the honk is delivered for a longer period of time, or the motorist is particularly close – it just throws me into a blind rage. I was honked at last night, a few blocks from my home. Instead of making the turn onto my block, I put the pedal(s) down and followed the car. I could have caught up to them, but they ran several stop signs (Richard at Cyclelicio.us has an interesting post on “scofflaw” motorists). What would I have done if I caught up with the driver? I dunno… doesn’t seem like it would be a teachable moment. But I was in a blind rage, so I sprinted. Eventually, my lack of cardiovascular fitness caught up with me. I was a little worn out from the sprint, but hey, no more blind rage!

The second most common thing that people say to me is

“Great day for a bike ride, huh?”

The first time this happened to me, I wasn’t sure what to do so I think I said “Uh, yeah, I guess it is.” Motorists can’t stop themselves from saying this, so I’ve come up with a few responses, only a few of which I’ve tried.

“Then what are you doing in a car?”

“Bike ride? I wish I had time for a bike ride, I’ve got to get to work!”

“It’s always a great day for a bike ride!”

“Hey Lance, get out of the way!”

Evidently, this happens pretty often to people, but it’s only happened to me once. I was too far away before I realized what they’d said. But since then, I’m ready for the next time I hear it:

“Lance rides a Trek, can’t you see this is a Cannondale?” [or Jamis, or Raleigh, depending on the situation]

“Hey Dale Earnhardt, go drive in circles somewhere!”

What sort of S#!7 do motorists say to you? Got any snappy comebacks?

Two bike parking lots

In January, I was back in my home town of Overland Park, KS. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to ride a bike like I had on a previous occasion. However, I was able to drive by my old elementary school – which appears to have the same bike racks that it had in the early 80’s.

That’s a pretty extensive bike parking facility. I don’t think it was completely full when I was young, but there were certainly dozens of bikes there. I frequently rode my bike to school, back in the day. I guess you could say it was my first bike commute – about 3/4 of a mile. Not bad since there was a period of time as and adult when I drove a car for a commute with the same distance. The picture above was taken on a Sunday – so unfortunately, I have no idea how many kids are riding to this particular elementary school these days. I couldn’t tell you the years in which I biked vs. the years in which I walked to school. My guess is that I didn’t start biking until I got my Schwinn Thrasher BMX bike – I believe that was 3rd grade. Why do kids bike to school? It’s a little bit faster than walking, it’s better than the bus because you are completely independent (and it’s better than riding with parents for the same reason), and it’s fun to ride your bike! Why do adults bike to work? Pretty much the same reasons – although sometimes we like to wrap it up in a little bit of economics or environmentalism.

Here’s another bike rack:

(I let Spouse have the only decent spot)

That’s taken a few days after the one (1!) real snow fall we had this winter. The local grocery store took all the snow off of their parking lot and dumped it on the bike rack. If I was a better blogger, I would have written about this when I was feeling more righteous anger. But if I was a better blogger, I’d also have a snappy ending for this post!

Bay Area grab-bag pt. 2

Some more pictures from my trip to SF (way back in January, what can I say, I’m a bad blogger).

I can make all the jokes we want about the smug liberalism of the Bay Area, it’s still California, and the excesses of car culture are on full display.

That white SUV is a Mercedes Benz G class, with an after-market conversion for a convertible top. That is, it’s an expensive, ugly SUV, modified to make it even more expensive, less practical, and less safe. I can think of 4 cars I’d rather have that total up to the price of one these. (or about…. I dunno, 20 bikes?) I’ll admit that the sharrows on the street in front of this house help mitigate the ostentatious display of wealth in that driveway.

I took a ride around SF one day and happened upon this scene outside of a private elementary school:

That’s a few dozen cars double parked (with idling engines) waiting to drive the kids home from school. I think it was Gary Kavanaugh (aka @GaryRidesBikes) who first said something like: you know gas is not too expensive when you see people sitting in their cars with the engines idling for 15 minutes. Good thing I was on bike so I could just filter through the cars!

On to more positive things. I attended something called the East Bay Bike Party!

It takes place at night, so it’s difficult to take a picture, but there are well over a hundred cyclists there. They gather at one park, ride through the streets (safely, and largely obeying traffic laws), stop at a second park, have a little party at that park, ride through the streets to a third park, party some more. Many of the cyclists have trailers with sound systems, and there was even one that had a giant suspended disco ball.

You might be thinking, “sounds like critical mass, right?” Wrong! First, I am on the record as being against critical mass, and I stand by that statement. First, this started around 8PM, and the streets were largely empty. All of the rush-hour traffic was done. The cyclists obey the law (for the most part, there’s over a hundred people, and you can’t control everyone). The group splits into multiple groups, stopping at lights and allowing cars to pass and cross.  The group rides through neighborhoods and many people come out onto their porches to watch the cyclists go by (kids especially love it). It was great to see so many people on all sorts of bikes. Like I said, the streets were pretty much empty. For part of the ride, we were on some pretty wide, major streets. And they were empty, just a couple hours after “peak rush hour.” It made me think that we’ve overbuilt our infrastructure – at least our car infrastructure.

Luckily, there’s some good bike infrastructure around. The picture above is from the San Francisco Bay Trail: my friend and I enjoying an afternoon ride.

Bay Area grab-bag pt. 1

In previous posts, I described my latest fake commute, but now in looking through my photos, I find that there were some other interesting shots in there.

I saw this awesome smugness chariot at the Berkeley Bowl (a grocery store that makes Whole Foods look like a Piggly Wiggly). That’s an Xtracycle long-tail bike with a child seat and a set of “stoker” handlebars. That means you can take two kids with you, and with those giant panniers, bring home enough groceries for a week. That’s not just smug, that’s Berkeley smug.

Also at the Berkeley Bowl: this interesting Bianchi Pista

It that’s what you need to do to make your bike comfortable, you may want to consider a completely different setup. Then again, maybe the owner just likes to feel like his brake lever is giving people the finger all the time.

Speaking of cockpits, I spotted this gem, somewhere in the Bay Area:

I know what you’re thinking – “Is that a spoon duct-taped to the stem?” Why, yes it is. Your next question is probably, “What the hell is it doing there?” I don’t think we really want to know. The upturned bar ends are a nice touch.

This bike rack in the Mission District is what I call secured bike parking! (I probably should not have taken this picture).

I think the lock may have been bigger than the bike in this case, but even on 4th street in Berkeley, you can never be too careful.

weather is not climate

This is an off-topic post, only tangentially related to cycling.

Just a few random data points.

Last winter, I decided to count the number of days I was not able to ride my bike to work due to snow or ice. There were 6 days. There were also many days where I was riding on snow, just 6 days where I felt like the streets were too slick for me.

Since the temperature hit 80 degrees last week, I think we can say that winter is pretty much over. This winter, there were zero days when I did not ride my bike to work due to weather. Also, I’m not sure there were any days when I was riding my bike on snow. In fact, I think there was only one legitimate snow storm this winter.

I didn’t count the number of days, but I know that that last winter I often went to work dressed like this:

This year, I think I wore that full get-up maybe 3 times.

Last year, my posts were full of complaints about snow and ice on the bike paths, and the indignity of walking in a city where many people neglect to shovel their sidewalks:

I know that the guys over at Greater City Providence, love blogging about uncleared sidewalks as well, so they must really be bummed out about this winter.

I use my 1968 Raleigh as my “snow bike” and sometimes I just ride it for fun. For the winter of 2010-2011, I put about 130 miles on the Raleigh. For the winter of 2011-2012, I put 20 miles on the Raleigh.

The kids in my neighborhood got their sleds out once.

The city saved a ton of money on snow clearance this year – that should stave off civic bankruptcy a few more weeks.

So that’s just a few data points from my life. How about a broader picture?

A spring heat wave like no other in U.S. and Canadian history peaked in intensity yesterday [March 21, 2012], during its tenth day. Since record keeping began in the late 1800s, there have never been so many temperature records broken for spring warmth in a one-week period–and the margins by which some of the records were broken yesterday were truly astonishing. Wunderground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, commented to me yesterday, “it’s almost like science fiction at this point.” A few of the more remarkable records from yesterday:

Pellston, MI: record high broken by 32°F

Low temperatures beat the previous record high for the date at two stations

Canadian cities break all-time April record for warmth in March

- Jeff Masters, Co-Founder of Wunderground, blog post for March 22, 2012.

“Almost science fiction at this point.” That inspired me to write a scene for a science fiction movie:

Interior: auditorium. Presidential debate.

Moderator: In the last few years, we’ve seen record snowfalls, record destruction by tornadoes (including an outbreak of tornadoes in January), a spate of what used to be called “100 year” floods, and rising temperatures all over the globe. Most recently, New England saw weeks of temperatures above 50 degrees in January, and a heatwave that meteorologists are calling “Summer in March.” Insurance companies have begun to raise rates in anticipation that there will be more catastrophes caused by new weather patterns. In the face of the scientific consensus that human-caused climate change is happening right now, and the anecdotal evidence of extremely unusual weather patterns, what would your administration do to address climate change?
Republican Candidate: Let me get this straight – you’re complaining about 50 degree weather in January in New England?
Audience: [laughter and applause]
Republican Candidate: I don’t think we can 100 % for certain blame a weather event on so-called climate change and I’m not willing to sacrifice American jobs on the basis of flimsy evidence from self-serving elites. There are too many Americans out of work for us to put even more out of work with job-killing regulations. http://fadesascamerapullsback

Weather is not climate.

Still, there’s some freaky stuff going on.

Project Fake Commute: Bay Area Multi-Modal Mega Commute. (Part II)

In the previous post, I spent many words blabbing along before getting to the GREATEST INNOVATION IN CYCLING THAT I HAVE EVER COME UP WITH ON MY OWN! That is, the bicycle parking brake for use when taking one’s bicycle on public transportation:

bicycle parking brake on BART

Engage the brake, keep it tight, wrap a velcro strap around it. This is a very effective way to keep one’s bike from moving fore or aft on a train.  Side-to-side is another matter, but leaning it against a wall seems to work pretty well for that. A second velcro strap securing the front wheel and the downtube is helpful as well.

I’m certain that I’m not the only person who has come up with this idea, and I’ll admit that I may have seen it somewhere before. Nonetheless, I’m rather pleased with myself, and as you know, feeling smug is what this blog is all about.

Moving on.

I took BART all the way to Millbrae and I was ready to hit the mean streets of the Peninsular region of the SF Bay Area. Luckily, it was flat. And uneventful. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have something to complain about!

San Mateo bike lane

For example,  the bike “lanes.” I’m using the “scare quotes” because this is not a bike lane. This is one line of paint, with a RAISED bike symbol to the right of it. What does this mean? Is everything from the line to the right a bike lane? Then why are all of those cars parked in it? Why is the symbol raised? Is that just to put another obstruction in the cyclists way? And 80% of the area is in the door zone. These were some sucky bike lanes. They make the Providence Broadway lanes look great by comparison.

Oh sure, just park your boat on public property, no big deal. I saw this sort of thing a few times – once even in San Francisco. At least there’s no danger of getting doored when I pass a boat in the “bike lane.”

A little difficult to see with the glare, but the sign on the left says “not a thru street.” Right next to the “Bike Route” sign. Good thing I had a GPS/phone with me or I may never have completed my fake commute.

It was a flat and uneventful ride – but I was riding on a Saturday. It’s difficult to know what it would be like on a weekday. This is by far the longest fake commute trip I have made yet. It just makes me glad that my current commute is only 2.6 miles one-way.

One more cycling innovation I tried out during my SF trip. I failed to get a good picture of it on its own, so we’ll have to take this picture:

bicycle parking brake on BARTAnd ENHANCE!

tucking it in

Difficult to see here, but I’ve tucked the show laces bow under the cross-over section of my shoelaces. Pretty clever, eh? Unfortunately, I can’t claim credit for coming up with this one on my own, I think I saw it on a fixie video that BikeSnobNYC made fun of a couple years ago.

Project Fake Commute: Bay Area Multi-Modal Mega-Commute

Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, spending most of my time in the East Bay community of Emeryville. I always love visiting this part of the country, it’s just a beautiful city. Making my visit even better this time – I had a loaner bike!

That’s not a very good picture. How about this?

borrowed bicycle

Ahhh, yes. Giant trash sculpture in the background – that’s the Northern California vibe I was going for. This is a Guerciotti frame that had been completely stripped of its paint. You can see the frame here with its original paint job. The bike was loaned to me by a nice young man named Jonathan who lives near the friend I was staying with. Jonathan had a few parts laying around and put the bike together for me to enjoy during my visit. The bike was a little big for me, but it worked out just fine. It had a couple of features that I had not experienced before. First was a 1 X 8 drivetrain. That is, a single chainring on the crank, and an 8 speed cassette at the wheel. Aside from feeling like I needed a little more low range on the steepest hills, this drivetrain was just plenty for me. As you can see, the bike also had a front basket. I was out riding for most of every day, shedding layers as I went, so it was good to have some place to put everything. Having a front basket did affect the handling a little bit, but I don’t feel like it made the bike unsafe in any way. The hardest part was parking the bike and keeping the front wheel from flopping around all over the place.

Aside from visiting friends and enjoying the fresh California air, I was in the bay area in order to participate in the the All-California Sacred Harp Singing Convention. I won’t bore you with the details of what Sacred Harp Singing is all about. If you are interested to learn, let me direct you to this informative website. Let’s just say that it’s a musical activity I enjoy doing, and it gives me a good excuse to travel to different parts of the country. In this instance, the singing took place in San Carlos, but I was staying in Emeryville. To illustrate:

It’s about 35 miles as the car drives. I had originally planned to take BART into SF and then take CalTrain the rest of the way. Then I took a closer look at the map and noticed that the BART stop was only about 10 miles away from my destination in San Carlos. This seemed like a perfect opportunity for one of my favorite activities: pretending that I am a bike commuter in a different town from where I live. How exciting, right?!

I’ve run a Fake Commute like this a few times before, but in a formal way, only twice. About a year ago in Austin, TX and almost two years ago in my hometown of Overland Park, KS (and its neighbor, Olathe). A Fake Commute is an opportunity to get out of one’s daily life and imagine what one’s life would be like if one lived somewhere else. It’s a chance to indulge in a fantasy life for a day. For example: when I made the Olathe/Overland Park commute, I pretended that I lived in a sprawling Midwestern suburb and worked at the vast corporate headquarters of a telecommunications company. Exciting!

For this commute, I pretended that I worked in San Carlos, but I lived in Emeryville… and I don’t really have any better narrative than that. Maybe I’m a software engineer or something, who knows. I also pretended that I only worked on weekends because that’s when the singing was taking place.

It was about a 2 mile ride from my starting point to the MacArthur BART. Bay Area Rapid Transit only allows bikes on the trains during non-peak times, but fortunately, weekends are non-peak all day long. I parked my bike, and settled in for the 50 minute ride.

guerciotti on BART

Bikes are required to stay in one particular part of the train, where there is not quite enough room for a full-sized bike. No matter how you park it, one of your wheels will stick out in front of the door, or out into the aisle. There just seems to be no way around it. However, I had an aha moment while riding BART:

bicycle parking brake on BART

That’s one of the velcro straps that I usually wrap around my ankles in order to keep my pants from getting chain grease. Instead, I’ve used it to secure the brake lever, thus creating a sort of parking brake. THIS WAS EXTREMELY EFFECTIVE AND I CAN’T BELIEVE I’VE NEVER THOUGHT OF IT BEFORE! I often ride the MBTA commuter rail between Providence and Boston, but this thought never came to me. I used the other velcro strap to secure the wheel to the frame (you can see it in the first BART picture). This was also awesome, but not quite as much as my velcro parking brake.

Well, I think that’s enough revelations for one blog post, I’ll save the rest of my fake commute report for another post.

Protest – successful!

It’s been well over a month now since my last post to this blog, and I’m sure that my reader(s) have been eagerly waiting to see what I’ve been up to. Although it might seem like I’ve just been slacking, really I was involved in a month-long online protest against SOPA/PIPA. Sure, some websites went dark for just a day on January 18th, but I was ahead of the game. In order to protest these bills, I made sure that this website was dark from December 19th until the bills were defeated. Sure, they bills might have been defeated a couple weeks ago, but I stayed dark a little longer, just to make sure.

Also, I took a little vacation for part of the hiatus. This picture pretty much sums up how I spent my time:

espresso and oakland bikeways map

Drinking delicious coffee and enjoying the excellent cycling infrastructure of the SF Bay Area. What could be better?

borrowed bicycle

How about this sweet ride? I was visiting an old friend in the East Bay and his downstairs neighbor loaned me one of his bicycles. It was an old Italian lugged-steel road frame, built up with MTB handlebars and a 1 X 8 drivetrain. It was a couple sizes too big for me, but with a few adjustments, it was a perfect loaner bike.

I’ll have more on my trip later, but I’ll leave you with this sign from Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District:

valencia street green wave

There’s a 1.5 mile stretch of Valencia Street where the lights are timed such that a cyclist riding at a comfortable 13 MPH can get green lights the whole way. This was possibly the greatest feeling on Earth. The cyclists can just tool along, getting passed by motorists who then must stop at the lights. The cyclist approaches the light and it magically turns green. The motorist roars ahead for half a block, but then has to slow down again for a red light. The cyclist just continues to pedal at a comfortable pace. It was truly awesome.

Twitter on the blog post

Along with this highly-successful, well-read blog, I also have a twitter account called @carfreepvd. I realize that some of my readers may not use twitter, and some of my best photos recently were only posted there, so I’m taking some time to re-post them here, but with bonus longer-than-140-characters content.

Here’s one of my favorite photos I recently took and only posted to twitter:

(Oh yeah, I bought a bike trailer a few months ago. I’ll have to do a full review of it one of these days.) I picked up my Christmas tree with my bike. Luckily, the grocery store is only a few blocks away. In the short amount of time I was on the road, I had a few motorists and pedestrians give me some form of positive feedback. Although it could be a bit of a burden, maybe cyclists should all ride around town with trailers carrying Christmas trees all of time – it could be an effective strategy to reduce harassment by motorists (not unlike the “Mary Poppins” effect experienced by Velouria of Lovely Bicycle, or a similar effect experienced by me when I borrowed my friends’ kiddie bike trailer).

Spouse captured a better picture of me, pulling out of the parking lot.

photo credit: Spouse

I was feeling pretty good about this until just today when I saw this on Biking in Heels:

photo credit "cycler" from bikinginheels-cycler.blogspot.com

Dang! That’s some impressive p0rtage pr0n!

Oh well, my bird seemed to like my tree just fine:

photo credit: Spouse

Mattie-bird even matches the tree.

And here is my least favorite picture that I recently tweeted:

Although I use puncture-resistant tires (gatorskins, in my case), I don’t think that there’s much that could have stopped a giant construction staple from puncturing my tire. Hard to tell here, but there’s a full inch of staple embedded in the tire. Ever since my last pinch flat, I always carry a patch kit, tire levers and pump. I set up on the sidewalk and repaired my tire in a reasonable amount of time.

Although Spouse originally taught me how to patch a tube, I re-learned it at Recycle-A-Bike when I took the Wrenching Wednesday class about 2 years ago. Since that time, I’ve become more and more involved in Recycle-A-Bike and I’ve seen it grow tremendously.

Recycle A Bike mechanic, Nik teaching a bike maintenance class (photo credit: Recycle A Bike)

It’s a great organization helping to empower people by getting them on bikes and helping them to become more self-sufficient in using those bikes for transportation. Recyle-A-Bike moved to a permanent location this year and RAB is now a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit organization. In 2011, the first year of operation as an independent non-profit, RAB served over 600 people through bike maintenance and repair programs. We (I can say “we” because I’m on the board) are now having our first annual fundraising appeal. I know that some of my readers have already made a contribution – and I thank you very much for that. If you have not made a contribution, I’d encourage you to take a look at the Recycle A Bike website and consider making a gift.

If you live in a different city, chances are there’s a similar organization near you. I’d recommend that you check it out, get involved and volunteer.

And that’s about all of the earnestness this blog can take at this time. So I’ll wrap up this post by letting you know about a milestone my blog has now achieved:

My blog has finally been visited by a comment troll! I’m so proud.