and not a single soul escape

UPDATED below

Friends, this is too important to merely tweet. I was walking in downtown Providence (or downcity, or… whatevs), when I came upon this scene:

The mainstream media may be afraid to report this, but it’s obvious, the nudist rollerblader rapture has begun.

May god have mercy on our souls.

In other news, I wore out the front rim on my 6-year-old commuter bike. The brakes were feeling a little funny and then….

BLAM!!! My rim exploded. I was quite surprised. And now I know what it feels like when a rim is about to go.

——

UPDATE !

I should explain what it feels like when a rim is about to blow: The rim begins to warp and I could feel it in the brakes – they sort of “pulsed” as I slowed down. As it got worse, the brake lever would actually move as the brake calipers went over the more warped sections of the rim. Since the rim material is so thin, there isn’t enough of it to hold the shape of the rim so it also starts getting far out of true. I could see my wheel start to wobble a little and I thought “I guess I need to bring it into the shop soon and get this wheel trued.” The brakes were pulsing a little bit, then they started pulsing more and more.. and then BLAM! I was on Commonwealth Ave in Boston at the time which can be a very busy street. Fortunately, I was in a bike lane, going about 10 MPH and there wasn’t much traffic. I was able to slow down using just my rear brake and pull over to check out the damage. There were some surprised pedestrians on the sidewalk who asked, “Did you just get hit?” “No,” I replied, “I just blew out my rim!”

you were lucky

Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting Vinalhaven, Maine, a small island in Penobscot Bay. You have to take a ferry to get there. We had dense fog for the entire ferry trip, but it just made Vinalhaven seem like a magical land, hidden in the mists.

Round trip fare for a car or pick-up truck: $49.50. Round trip for a person: $17.50. Round trip for a bicycle: $16.50. Hmm, that doesn’t really seem fair, does it? My bike weighs about 1 percent the weight of a car… Oh well, it’s a beautiful island and it was definitely worth it to bring a bike. I mean, check this out:

What’s that in the distance, you ask? Oh, it’s just three electricity-generating windmills.

I’m sure there was some controversy before they were put up, people complaining about “ruining the view” and whatnot, but I’d say they improve the view – they are a sign of progress and a hope for a future full of renewable energy. Of course, back in the day, people probably thought that smokestacks were a sign of progress, modernization, and industrial strength.

One sign of progress completely absent from Vinalhaven: cell phone towers. I didn’t mind so much, it was nice to be completely off the grid for a few days. It was nice to ride around the island, stopping here and there. I probably didn’t even need to lock my bike (but I did, since I’m a city slicker).

I had a great, relaxing visit to the island, only slightly tarnished by the following interaction with the ferry worker who took my ticket: I was waiting to board the ferry to leave the island, chatting with my friends who were staying for a couple more days.

Ferry Worker: Do you have your tickets ready?

Me: [thinking she was asking for the tickets for me and my friends] Oh, it’s just me going… Oh, you mean the ticket for my bike. I forgot that I bought a ticket for it too.

FW: Some people think we should encourage people to bring bikes to the island, but really it’s the opposite, we should discourage them.

Me: Why’s that?

FW: The roads are too narrow here, it’s dangerous.

Me: [trying to remain upbeat] Oh, I found that everyone who passed me gave me plenty of room, I really didn’t have any problems at all.

FW: Well sometimes, a car can be coming around a curve and you can’t see them.

Me: Well, it’s so nice and quiet on the island, I could hear the cars coming from quite a ways away, so if someone was about to overtake me and I could tell that it wasn’t safe, I just stuck out my left hand and the car behind me would wait a couple seconds until it was safe to pass. I found that everyone was pretty patient and they only had to wait a couple of seconds.

FW: Oh no, these fishermen around here are some of the least patient people you’ll ever meet.

Me: Well, I’ve biked many different places and I found everyone here to be very polite.

FW: I’ve talked to bikers from all over and they say that Maine drivers are the worst.

Me: [needing to board the ferry by this time] Well, that hasn’t been my experience.

FW: People can get killed on these roads, you were lucky.

—–

I was walking away by the time she said this. Of course, once I was in the middle of the bay, I thought of how I should have responded:

Me: Yeah I guess was lucky. Everyone I met on Vinalhaven was very polite, that is, everyone I met until just before I left.

——-

So, thanks Vinalhaven Maine Ferry Service, part of the Maine Department of Transportation. Thank you for the great send-off.

SIDEWALK!

Some might say that this blog is only updated sporadically. Others might think that I’ve run out of things to say. I prefer to think of this blog as a “limited release” or “carefully curated.” No matter, dear reader(s) we have a good topic in front of us today.

“SIDEWALK!”

If you ride a bike for any length of time with any proximity to motor vehicles in any sort of climate where the drivers of said motor vehicles may have their windows down, you have no doubt been subjected to someone yelling this at you. If this type of motorist was capable of putting together a sentence, they would say, “You should be riding that bicycle on the sidewalk.” The subtext of this is, “I’m driving a car in the street, therefore I am more important than you who ride what is equivalent to a child’s toy and should therefore be riding it on the sidewalk. Get out of MY way.”

Spouse received the “SIDEWALK” yell from someone recently. Here’s how she relayed it in a tweet:

Me (on bike): Were you just honking at me? He: Yeah. Me: Any special reason? He: Sidewalk! [i.e. I should be on it] Me: Check the law [WTF]

I agree with Spouse’s sentiment, so I retweeted to my many followers, one of whom replied to Spouse with this gem:

talked about this w/bikers & drivers alike; they all agree the root of hostility is mostly when bikers DON’T obey traffic laws

Well that’s one way to respond, I guess. A law-abiding cyclist is verbally harassed by a motorist, and this particular tweeter’s response is to say that the source of such hostility is when cyclists break the law.

I disagree.

The source of the hostility is this motorist’s sense of privilege. He’s driving a vehicle that he paid a lot of money for. He has encountered a cyclist in “his” way. Because of this cyclist, he is going to have to 1) pay more attention to piloting his 3,000 pound vehicle. 2) Endure a slight delay in his travel on a 25 mph city street (I’d say as much as 15 seconds).  3) Turn his wheel slightly to the left in order to pass the cyclist. 4) Turn it back to the right to return to his lane. 5) Get really annoyed when he sees the cyclist in his rear view mirror because she caught up to him at the next light.

I know, I know. It’s a tough life driving a car with all of these cyclists around. But maybe this motorist is right, maybe we should be riding our bikes on the sidewalk. I certainly see lots of people doing it, what could be so bad about it? Maybe I’ve just been reading too much propaganda (and state laws) that say that cyclists are entitled to the rights and responsibilities of using the roads of our great little state (and every other state). Maybe I should give up on the streets and take to the sidewalks like so many motorists love to suggest.

So I did just that.

For my commute home last Monday, I resolved to ride only on sidewalks. I started out from Kennedy Plaza, riding on the sidewalk along the south side of Burnside park. It was a lovely day, so there were many people walking along, not really paying much attention. I had to keep it pretty slow. I made my way over to what I call the “RISD Riviera” – that part of the campus that is right next to the Providence River.  I made my way down to Water Street and crossed over to the wide walkway between the street and the water. Some maps designate this as a bike path, but I never ride on it – too many desultory pedestrians. On this afternoon, there was this:

This required me to slow down to about 3 MPH and weave between the barriers and the parking meter where there was just enough room for my shoulders. I headed up to Wickenden, passing many people out on the sidewalks who were just trying to get to a shop or restaurant. I turned up Brook St., a normal part of my commute (aka, the Providence Wiggle, aka the Pwiggle), but I had to make a detour. I just couldn’t allow myself to ride on the sidewalk as I passed my local bike shop – the shame! Instead, I encountered obstacles like these:

Recycling bins, and pedestrians! (I ducked into the street for a second to pass the pedestrians).

I’ll stop boring you with a turn-by-turn account of my commute, let’s just say that it sucked, it was slow, and it was more dangerous than if I had ridden on the street like I always do. How did it suck? While I hate the pothole-encrusted streets of Providence, the sidewalks make for a much rougher riding experience. Expansion joints out of whack, bumps, uneven pavement, and the lack of curb cuts made for a bumpy ride. Why was it slow? I couldn’t get much over 10 MPH with the rough pavement and pedestrians in my way. In fact, I was usually riding about 8 MPH.  How was it less safe? I was constantly crossing driveways where a car could pull into the sidewalk, and I was crossing streets at a place where drivers do not expect to see a cyclist. And oh yeah, it wasn’t particularly safe for the people who were using the  sidewalk to, you know, walk. In fact, I passed 40 pedestrians in my 2.6 mile commute home that day – all of whom I inconvenienced in some way or another.  5 of the pedestrians were children aged 6 or younger. A block away from my home, I saw a mother with two small children walking towards me on the sidewalk. I pulled into a driveway to let them pass and the mother apologized to me as she passed. There was no need for her to apologize – I was the one doing it wrong!

“Well sure,” you may be saying to yourself, “you inconvenienced a few pedestrians, but how many motorists do you slow down when you insist on riding in the street?” I’m glad you asked. I had never really counted before, so the next day, on my way home, I counted the number of cars who passed me. There were 17. However, 5 of them passed me on Waterman Ave where there are two lanes headed in the same direction – the drivers merely had to change lanes in order to pass me. Another 10 passed me on Water Street – also two lanes wide. Of those 10 that passed me on Water Street, 6 of them passed me while I was riding about 23-26 MPH in a 25 MPH zone. That is, they were exceeding the speed limit when they passed me. I caught up to 5 of those cars at the next light. That leaves 2 motorists who passed me on two way streets where there was only one lane in each direction. I delayed each driver by about 5 seconds.

There are some rare occasions where I might consider riding on the sidewalk. In fact, I used to do it on a regular basis (for a very short distance). There are some more suburban areas of the country where it might be occasionally appropriate to ride on the sidewalk. And I can understand how a timid cyclist may feel safer on the sidewalk – but most of the time, you are going to be safer in the street.

So, the next time a motorist tells you to get on the sidewalk, tell them to go drive on the interstate. Or just wave and smile – that might be more productive.

Bike To Fun Day!

Sure, everybody in bike blog land is going on & on about Bike To Work Day. There are basically three ways that a dedicated bike blogger can treat Bike To Work Day.

1. Complain about in the most smug manner possible because “for me, every day is Bike To Work Day.”

2. Jump in with both feet and embrace all of the people who use BTWD as an opportunity to try it out.

3. Scarf some free food and call it a day.

I opt for a fourth option, which is to cover it in a half-vast way. Here are my 3 pics from the BTWD celebration in Providence.

There were vendors with stuff for people to try out:

There was an adorable toddler riding stoker on a Surly Big Dummy while his dad talked with a lady who designs rain capes for cyclists.

And there was a guy who clearly believed in the power of “wake & bake” wandering around the WW I memorial saying “Tupac is comin’ back! Get ready for the return of Mackavelli!”

2pac 2work day

But enough of this talk of biking to work and generally using the bicycle as a practical method of transportation for commuting and all of life’s short journey needs. I feel like transportation cycling is emphasized too much in this country. What about the poor sport cyclist who just wants to ride his roadbike in a big circle for several hours while wearing a skin-tight shirt, very special shoes that can not be used for walking, and padded shorts that make him feel like he’s wearing a diaper? What about that guy, huh? Everybody just makes fun of him, calling him a Lycra-wearing weight weenie, or a MAMIL (Middle-Aged Man In Lycra). Even NPR used Bike To Work Day to talk to the foremost anti-MAMIL activist in the cycling world, Grant Petersen.

“[the bicycle] is not a workout tool. It should be a pickup truck on two wheels.”

Such anti-MAMIL bigotry, it is truly astonishing. We need some sort of Bike to Fun Day to help counter balance all of this Bike to Work Day, practical transportation cycling that seems to be so big now.

To help in the effort, I went on a ride with the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen on Sunday. I wore my bike clothing, and I went on my road bike.

This was only my second ride with the Wheelmen – it seems like most of their rides start a little too far away for me, or I seem to be doing something on the Sunday when there is a nearby ride. This last Sunday’s ride was just right: the start was about 3 miles from my house, and the ride started at 8AM, as opposed to their usual 10AM. I woke up early, pumped up my tires, and headed out. Here’s the start: evidently, everyone drives their car to the start of the bike ride. Well, almost everyone, I did happen to pass a dentist on his Serotta on my way to the ride.

Officially, this was the “Plymouth Century” Ride, but as with all NBW rides, there are multiple ride lengths to choose from. Along with the full 100 miles (to Plymouth, MA and back), one could choose 21 miles or 54 miles. I have not yet done a century, and I didn’t really have the time for it, and I was afraid I might run out of steam somewhere along the way, so I opted for the 54 mile route. I won’t bore you with all of the details. It was a flat route with no significant hills, through pleasant southeastern Massachusetts countryside. I largely rode at the back of whatever pack I happened to be in at the time. I was amazed when I ended the ride and looked at my cyclometer to find I had been riding at an average of over 17 MPH. I think when I did 50 miles by myself, my average was more like 13 MPH (there were more hills). It certainly helps to draft behind other cyclists. Anyhow, it was fun, and I hope to go on another ride soon. Here’s the map:

It was a fun, Lycra filled day. Just to bring myself back to Earth, I did a little bit of transportation cycling later that day and picked up a few things with my commuter bike:

I think my average for this ride was about 8 MPH over 5 miles.

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!