Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Scottsdale Trolley Semi-Follow-Up

A trolley, pedestrian, and bicycles-only bridge

Way back in some colden days I wrote a quick post about the ease and economics (free!) of buzzing around Scottsdale on the free trolley. Steve asked me if bikes were welcome, and I learned since then that they are--there's a rack on the front like many of the Metro buses have. This is only a semi-follow-up since I haven't tried out the rack myself yet: being the impatient sort, if I had my bike, I would probably just ride it. But one type of situation could arise is that you need to return after the trolleys stop running, which seems to be a somewhat variable yet early time, and so you could take the bike along and use it to return. 

I do ride it sometimes, more as an unplanned convenience--oh hey there's a trolley let's jump on. But I love to walk, I really do, but don't that much any more since I ride my bike every chance I get instead of walking or driving or sitting around eating tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole with hot sauce dripped on. I did walk across Scottsdale on a rainy night a couple months ago because it was rainy and I wanted to walk, even though I had my bike, which I just left behind and walked back to later. Which sounds daft, but I think it helps to illustrate my commitment to walking even if I don't actually walk several miles a day like I used to before cycling pedaled to the fore. 

The walking love comes from a deep-seated and unshakable attachment to the great British walkers in history, the poets, the writers, the scholars, who would set off at a brisk pace clutching their Ordnance Survey maps, and cover twenty miles on foot easy. Then have tea and walk twenty miles more to get to the pub. Or else wander around London, which I've enjoyed doing a few times and will again. I like the sound my feet make on nighttime cobblestones, on gravel paths and on moonlit pine needles. It is still in the plans to walk to work a few days once the weather cools a bit. It's going to take 90 minutes or more each way, which sounds like a long time, but if the weather cooperates it will beat the heck out of driving 90 minutes each way, which a few people I know do, and walking is about 17 times more relaxing than driving. Heck, I'll go 20x on that one. And it appears that you can connect from the free Scottsdale to the free Tempe Orbit Earth circulator to get down to Tempe and probably connect with the Light Rail. I mention that only because it seems like a unique and creative way to get around, convenient and did I mention free to ride? Don't know if it accepts bikes though so that may be a follow-up-follow-up to check into.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Creativity Makes People Squirm

A study at the University of Pennsylvania finds that people are biased against creative ideas. [] To quote directly from the article, the study's findings include

  • Creative ideas are by definition novel, and novelty can trigger feelings of uncertainty that make most people uncomfortable.
  • People dismiss creative ideas in favor of ideas that are purely practical -- tried and true.
  • Objective evidence shoring up the validity of a creative proposal does not motivate people to accept it.
  • Anti-creativity bias is so subtle that people are unaware of it, which can interfere with their ability to recognize a creative idea.

While people explicitly claimed to want creative ideas, the study showed they actually had a bias against them. For example, a business person who says things like "we really need to think outside the box here, people, we need to move the needle with something brilliant and visionary," while that same person recoils from Freeway Pots, fails to grasp the beauty of a freeway Christmas tree decorated year after year, and couldn't begin to understand why someone would ride a bike to work when they could drive a car instead. Yes, that's correct, I'm claiming that commuting by bicycle is a creative and novel act of the imagination. Not only that, but it also fuels the imagination, making you even more creative.

This study reminded me of a few things that will come in handy: just because an idea makes me uncomfortable, that doesn't make it incorrect, the tried and true is not necessarily the best idea, supporting data sometimes needs a BANG UP presentation to get the point across, and people usually have no idea whatsoever why they really don't like an idea, they just know that they don't, and make up rationalizations to protect their initial reaction. On the other hand: if you tell them your idea, if you show them your art, and you see them squirm, well you might just be on the right path no matter what the reaction. Stick with it, and see if you can't unmask their bias. Because really, what's more fun than that?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Phoenix Central Station Bicycle Lockers

Phoenix Bike Lockers with Her Secret is Patience

Trying out my first bicycle locker: spacious, room for two!

I counted 20 between this group and the group across the street

Very reasonable rules, although I'm not sure about the 10pm part, that's pretty early

Trying out my lock, I probably want a beefier one, something like...

...the lock on the left

Bicycle lockers are a new thing for me. I've read about them, seen them online, certainly, but never put a bike into one and locked it up. Saturday changed all that. When I saw on PHXBIKE that these had been installed at Phoenix Central Station downtown, I knew I had to ride down there to have a look. Local transit related sites mention that the park-n-rides also have bike lockers, although the one at 38th and Washington doesn't seem to yet. Lockers open more possibilities for commuters: park-n-ride (your bike), ride a nicer bike because you can worry less about it being stolen, vandalized, or disassembled at an exposed rack, much simpler lock-up equipment and procedure since only a single secure padlock is needed, and also users of fancy British leather seats need not worry about weather, thieves, or vandals.

Bike lockers: one way for a city, or an employer for that matter, to demonstrate that they are serious about encouraging cyclists. Or for businesses to attract cyclist customers, although I don't know of any that have installed them for that reason.

Next question: can I get one for home? And another for my office?

Downtown Phoenix on Saturday morning is a ghost town. Ball park ahead on the right.

I always feel like taking the exit.

I attempted to do this ride by leaving at what was for me an early hour on Saturday morning in order to lower some of the effects of this current record-breaking heat wave, but was only semi-successful in this respect. It was 105F at 10am, and the humidity was higher than normal, with the result that I was feeling below optimal. After about 20 miles of hot pavement, I stopped beneath a shady tree to guzzle some water and gather my wits. Working in my favor was that Phoenix downtown streets are deserted on a Saturday morning, providing an extremely congenial environment for urban cycling. When I walked in the door at home, my wife handed me a tall cold fruit smoothy made with bananas and berries, which took the edge right off this hot summer morning ride.

Hmmm, perhaps the bike lockers could also dispense fruit smoothies.

On a related but slightly side note, I've seen some offhand comments about bike lockers being security risks, usually including the modifier "since 911". I suppose they could be in some settings, but these are right next to a street, which means anything you might hide in a bike locker for nefarious purposes could be exceeded many times over by what you can hide and transport in a vehicle. It's not that they present zero risk, but nothing does: think of all the things you can do with a park bench! Plus these would make good zombie defense pods once you figured out how to open and close them from the inside.

These are great, thanks Phoenix! Makes me want to ride out to the park-n-rides to see what those look like.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Cyclist Commuter Unhidden

Unhidden under this sky at this light

Conditions were clear, if hazy, hot, with confused winds switching directions, first in my face, then from behind, then headwind again on the Friday evening commute. This light at this intersection that I sometimes cross straight through from a side street across the 5+1 lanes of 44th Street in Phoenix takes a while to change, and when it does, it seems to only flicker to green and then back to red for a long wait again, so you want to get across in one. Heading in this direction it's a single lane each way, while across the way, headed toward me in this shot, the street widens, with bike lanes, two-way traffic, and relevant to this post, a left turn lane, a route I take sometimes. On Friday evening, just as I took this picture, which I had plenty of time to do, since I actually took five or six variations at a leisurely pace, I was second in line waiting for the light, behind a pickup. While taking the photos, I noticed the cars lining up waiting for the light on the other side, and I thought, hmmm, this is one of those situations where this truck in the number one position is going to cruise through his left turn, while I want to go straight, and I wonder if the cars turning left will see me. I felt hidden.

I played out the brain film of the light turning green, me riding into the intersection behind the truck, and the Rushy von Rushersons hitting the gas to get through the quick green arrow not seeing me, swerve, quick turn, avoidance maneuver, back around to wait for another light. No thanks. I could have just sat at the stop line after he turned, not ventured into the intersection at all, just waited to see what the left turners would do, and I have taken that approach. It's fine, although sometimes will result in waiting for another green. This time, I thought, UNHIDE YOURSELF JRA. BE SEEN. So, still sitting at the red waiting for the green (told you this was a long light), after putting my camera away, I leeeeeeaaannnneeed out to the left, out past the driver's side of the pickup, and tried to make eye contact with the drivers across the way waiting to turn left. I admit, I did it in an exaggerated, possibly humorous manner, figuring the more obvious, the better. 

And do you know what happened? Pickup man cruised through his left, and the people across the way waiting to turn left very obviously knew I was there and waited for me to go straight across. Which is also nice because there's a right turn lane coming in from the right at the same time, and very often drivers approaching the red believe that a right turn lane means that the red light doesn't apply to them*, so it pays to keep an eye that direction while crossing this intersection, too. I'm not saying the left turners crept out slowly and barely allowed me to cross the busy intersection, I'm saying they recognized that a cyclist was behind the pickup in front of them, and they barely moved forward until they saw that I cleared the intersection, and then they turned left very smoothly behind me. Once the light changed this all happened very rapidly, in just a few seconds, almost at the speed of a practiced, choreographed dance step, you know what I mean? Too fast for all of us to carefully plan it out, just a natural flow where everyone knew what to do to keep things moving smoothly, yet safely.  

I'm suggesting that if you're a cyclist in a situation where you might be hidden from a motorist, unhide yourself. Pop up. Jump up and down a little bit. Leeeeaaaannnn out to the left (all of these provided it is safe to do so of course) and let them know you're there. This does not guarantee success or easy passage, of course not. But it does give drivers more of a chance to be civil about it, which they very often do. And in the off chance, and for me it really is the off chance, a rare occurrence, that they appear to allow their civility to be overrun by the Rushy von Rusherson tendency, then I throw one of my Sad Monkey awards in their general direction, and ride on. I got happy places to be. And happy bikes to get to them on.

*I admit that a certain cyclist commuter blogger sometimes also likes to whip through this particular right hand turn straight into the bike lane in as sharp and fast and lean-rific a turn as possible somewhat regardless of the color the light happens to be at that moment, provided no traffic and no pedestrians are present, probably not any more in full compliance with the right turn on red statute than motorists who do the same. Caveat viator.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Ding Ding It's Friday

My Crane Ding Ding Bell

This bell is loud and has an excellent tone and lasting post-ding resonant reverberations. It's bold and brassy and sounds like Friday. It was 113F in Phoenix on Thursday setting another new record high for the date during this heatwave, and still 100F at 10pm. But no earthquakes to report, no hurricanes here either, although we did have another big dust storm in the middle of the night giving uber-PM10 pollution levels throughout the day advisories of all sorts flying hither and yon, excessive heat, unsafe particulate levels, ozone bonus days. I don't know that it's a long-term good idea to be out riding around on an PM-10 + ozone warning day, I think they are telling me to stay inside and watch television else surf the closeout sites and buy junk I didn't know I needed instead of riding outside. At one time I tried riding while wearing an N99 mask but that just wasn't something I could get used to.

Lot's of people here saying they don't like the heat, saying they're tired of it, saying they wish it was fall here already, saying I'm crazy for riding my bike to work every day, but I love summer's last blasts. Thrive on it. Bring it. Cycling in this heat is sweet as my brass Crane bell. DING DING it's Friday. This yellow bike got to ride ride this weekend get us some more heat. Less web, more riding. That's the plan.

ftc words

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Unless Your Bike Has An Exploding Dye Pack


First I was considering some sort of pin-stabilized frame security, where you park the bike, remove a pin or similar key piece from the frame, perhaps leaving a key structural member joined only by duct tape or some other temporary and frangible material, such that a thief who hops on and rides away would find the bike disintegrating beneath him once he got up to speed.

Then I thought, no, in the first place probably too expensive based on what frame couplers cost to add to a frame, and I thought instead, how about an exploding dye pack like they use in banks! I picture the thief riding off on someone's work transport, and three minutes later, PAFF!!! a giant, and I mean GIANT, cloud of indelible bright pink dye engulfs thief and bicycle in the middle of the street. Mounted on or near the stem, said exploding dye pack would give bike thieves a bright pink surprise.

Conceptual view of exploding dye pack bicycle security feature

But, lacking such a dye pack, you don't want to lock up your bike as in the first photo, unless you want to come back and find that a thief took advantage of that quick-release to quick-release your bike and leave only the wheel locked up. See what I mean? 

PAF!! Man that would be satisfying, if just for a moment.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Evil Under the Sun

Je déteste trimbaler des paniers: found page from "Evil Under the Sun" (Meurtre au Soleil) by Agatha Christie

Sun Buddha at Bard Books

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Head in the Clouds, Wheels on the Ground

All these clouds

My head's in the clouds but my wheels are on the ground. I'm struck dumb lately, silent, by the silly ideas people offer seriously: that bike riding is hard, that a handful of miles is too far to move under your own power, that sweat is some kind of evil fluid which destroys all that it touches, that it is better to be cooped up inside an air conditioned car than out riding in the free air beneath all these clouds in the blazing August sun. 

This August sky is my favorite sky, this August heat is my favorite heat. The morning doesn't know what the night might bring. It's best to slow down a bit when it's this hot, and what's the hurry anyway? Where are you going? What's the rush? Do you know the count of the minutes? Are you able to predict with certainty what waits for you at the end of the ride? Not what you want, not what you hope, but what actually will be? No. The ride is the ride. Go with it.

What is important is often not what we think is important. What we look so hard to find is often right there in front of us. As I waited at the stoplight for the green arrow, I looked up into the sky and beheld the mosaic of clouds and light in the photo above. I tilted my head way back, and looked straight up at the pattern which was dappled all across the morning sky, as a car pulled into the lane next to me. I looked slowly down into the driver's window, and she was looking at me, smiling, and I thought, I hope she caught me being carried away staring at all these clouds while waiting at this light, the guy on the bicycle looking up and allowing himself to be swept away.

I hope she thought, I wonder what goes on inside his head, what's he looking at, what's he thinking, who is he, why is he sitting on his bike on a workday morning staring up at the sky? What does he see? If I could make one other person curious about the clouds, just one, just curious enough to look up for one moment, that would be enough for me. Did she look? I don't know, but she did smile, which is something in itself.

Be calm, adrenaline junky, rest easy, drama queen: we're going to just stare at the sky for a moment here and now.

I've found that quiet energizes me now far more than chaos. Calm gets me higher than crazy drama. I've tired of repetitious mini-dramas that play out like set pieces from old bad commercials that run on a worn tape loop over and over. Been there before. The sun-drenched cloud eel dragon attempting to consume the steel pillars above, swimming in sunlight blazing cloud fire, that grabs my undivided, single-tasking attention. My head's in the clouds, but my wheels are on the ground, I've lost track of time and I'm just going to ride around for a while. It's not like you can really keep track of time, anyway. You cannot. You cannot hold the count of the minutes in your hand. You can guess at them, you can wish for how many they might be, but they will never be enough anyway, you know it, and hoping otherwise seems like where we begin to go wrong.

One minute, five, I let the clouds grab my undivided single-tasking attention. The cloud eel dragon blazed fire into my wheels, and I rode like there was no tomorrow.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Independent Booksellers, Coffee Shops, a Biltmore Hotdog, and Awesome Phoenix Motorists

Fantastic bike ride fuel at Urban Beans in Phoenix. Good coffee requires no sweetener. Discuss.

Stand-in for hills on my ride thru Flatland. Rode right up and over the freeway, no problem for my fixed gearing.

FLC bike, added a Crane ting-ting bell to the stem, too. Man is it loud!

Bard Books, next door to Urban Beans. Opens at Noon on Sundays, so I'll visit on another day.

Nice shady bicycle parking between Urban Beans and Bard Books

The sign, it draws me in...

If I read this sign right, it is stating what I already know! I imagine paint is going to change this picture soon.

Since Bard Books was not open yet, I rode up to Bookmans. Grand Canal over to 15th Ave, straight up to Northern Ave.

It is indeed right and salutary that the first real cargo on the Flatland Commuter bike was books.

Bike fuel at the turn: Arizona Biltmore golf course hotdog and Coke: Oh My Cog this hit the spot.

Hotdogs provide vital electrolytes, Coke provides needed carbs,water, and a little caffeine. (I usually shun soda pop)

Since I wanted to stop by Urban Beans to try out its coffee, then ride up to Bookmans for some books, I knew I was going to have to ride some streets on the Flatland Commuter fixed gear longer tryout ride. Sunday morning traffic makes it very pleasant however. 7th Street, 32nd Street, 16th Street, Osborn Road, 19th Ave, these are all streets in Phoenix that you just have to position yourself in the middle of the narrow lane and make like good traffic. Let me state for the record: Phoenix motorists were AWESOME on my ride, every single one I encountered! Many of them made a point of passing me EXTRA far away because there was room for them to do so, no one honked, not one close pass, not one problem. Every stoplight where I rolled up and put my wheels on the loop triggered for me, and no motorists tried to scootch by or crowd me out. I signaled, they saw, I went, we all took turns, I don't know, maybe it was the Urban Beans espresso kicking my awareness up a notch, but there was some kind of good bicycle vibrations out on the streets on Sunday morning. Which helped, since the asphalt underneath sort of felt like it was trying to cook me.

Picked up some good books at the store, as well as some slightly different shade of yellow enamel paint at the hobby store next to Bookmans, to try again to touch up the FLC frame a little. The color rendering in that bottom photo is pretty accurate, and you can see the yellow has a little green tint to it, which I'm hoping matches close enough to the "zinc chromate" color.

That Biltmore dog is definitely one of my "hotdogs of the gods" category of ride snacks. Sure, the stand is on the Biltmore golf course so you are going to pay for it, but it's perfectly placed right off the canal for a quick snack and ice cold drink, so I'm willing to fork out. Plus it's a really good dog. Which, you know, supplies eletrolytes and stuff. And critical onion factors. As well as relish supplements. And most important of all: spicy brown mustard substrates. It's best not to ride on a hot day in Flatland without those.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I Voted in the Phoenix Mayoral Election by Bicycle

Semi-custom fabricated mail-in ballot carrier

Saturday and riding down to a mailbox felt like enough of a workout for me. The Flatland Commuter Project v.1.0 is complete, so a short trip just to make sure parts didn't instantly fall off was in order. Hey, let's vote in the city election! When I slid the mail-in ballot under the bungee net, the clips snugly grasped the edges of the envelope, which was a handy and unexpected bit of functionality.

Several candidates on the ballot with actual differences to base a decision on!

I watched most of the Town Hall that our local Channel 5 hosted with four of the candidates to hear their views on the various current issues. I had more or less already chosen based on who is most in line with my views on public transportation, funding for public art, bicycles, and the other issues, but I wanted to listen to what they had to say. I also read that only about 20% of registered voters actually cast a vote, typically, in the Phoenix City elections, so my wife and I both make sure to send in our ballots.

The Rebel Contender at the ballot box

No parts fell off the Flatland Commuter on the way to the mailbox or back. I know it's not an epic double-digit miles at dawn Saturday ride, but it was a local trip that many or most people in Phoenix would hop into the car to make on an August afternoon. So far, I'm lovin my lugged steel framed fixie. Haven't used it on a longer ride or a commute yet, since I've been experimenting with bolting on and unbolting off various items from the parts boxes and shelves to see what seems to work best on it. I will probably stick with this configuration for a while, although saddle, brake levers, seat post, handlebars, ting-ting bell, and pedals are all on the list for further analysis and experimentation. Now that everything seems pretty smooth and secure, a longer ride is definitely in order.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Bicycle Commute With Giant Wall of Dust

Rolling home on the commute, look up in the sky behind the Soleri Bridge...uh oh haboob on the way

About three minutes out, put on the goggles, cover nose and mouth with bandana, mount the steel camel...

Almost here, wind picking up, here comes the front of it...


The front about to roll in, looking down the canal

I don't know if they keep track of megatons of dust that falls on Phoenix during each monsoon season from these haboobs, but if they do, this season has to some kind of record. I don't recall another year in which so many large dust storms rolled over the whole valley like they have this summer. Fortunately the wind speeds in this one seemed somewhat more moderate, 30 to 40mph gusts according to the NWS, not the 70mph we had back in early July. But this one lasted for an hour or so, giving me a good opportunity to test my monsoon dust storm gear. The goggles were excellent at protecting my eyes, and my bandana did a good job of filtering most dust out of the air I was breathing. My helmet strap held the bottom of the bandana against my neck quite securely. With those on, the ride was really pretty comfortable. The front insta-cooled the air down from what had been a record high for the date of 112F.

I saw pedestrians leaning into the wind, and drivers struggling to see. Except the few times that I got blown around on the road by the strongest gusts, a bicycle seemed like an excellent method for traveling in a haboob. A camel is probably best of all, but I didn't have access to one this afternoon, so I road my steel camel instead.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cycling Through This Xeriscaped Dreamland

Wild yard w/date palms (Spring mode)

110F today, yay August in Phoenix! We're looking at about one more month of 100s before we start to see the cooler air at the end of the tunnel. Blooming Rock had a great post recently about Phoenix and xeriscaping, which is dry landscaping in the desert mode, and I commented that I seek out xeriscaped yards and other landscapes on my bicycle explorations around this hot city I love. In fact if you ask me what I love about this city, I would say: some of the carefully thought out cactus landscapes, spanning the spectrum from wild exuberant exultations of desert greenery like the one above, to the more arranged, structured, yet utterly characteristic, landscapes of this odd place, one of the hottest and wettest deserts on the planet.

Desert love

Desert Descartes

Imagine if the whole city or great swaths of it continued to develop these different approaches, a water-saving and glorious expression of local character. I still squirt the barrel cactus with my water bottle when I pass. I feel that they need it more than I do.

There are, as the Blooming Rock post points out, many green yards here, too, and I have to admit that some of the carefully groomed grass lawns of Arcadia do appeal to my midwestern roots. I can't help that. But the more decades I live here, the more my inner soul becomes xeriscaped, I think, and I am drawn to the plants of the Sonoran desert. My own yard is semi-green, with trees and citrus watered with flood irrigation from the Salt River Project (SRP) canals. I know we live in a desert where water is scarce, but as a result of the SRP, I actually get the water itself for free, but do pay a small delivery fee. If my calculations are close, I receive up to about 440,000 gallons a year to water my yard for free, based on the allocation listed on that site I linked. 

Intellectually, I feel that I would be more in harmony with the desert I live in if I didn't take the water. But I think emotionally I feel like the barrel cactus with the bike rider who goes by once in a while and squirts me with his water bottle: I'll accept every drop I can get. That's something I just have to work out. If you happen to see a cyclist having a tête-à-tête with a barrel cactus on one of the warmish August 110F afternoons I'm lovin, it's probably me talking it over with an expert.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bicycle Commuting and the Door Zone of Denial

The bike lane seems wide until one pickup parks in it with an open door, illustrating the ZONE OF DENIAL

I didn't put this photo of the pickup in the bike lane up to complain about him specifically, but rather because he will help me to illustrate, in case someone is interested, why I rode past him out in the spot marked "Here" in the photo. 

When no cars are on it, this street plus bike lanes seem wide, but that perception alters significantly with traffic and a pickup parked, OK illegally, I'll say it, right in front of the NO PARKING sign, but there were dozens more vehicles doing the same right behind me so I can't single him out, and he was only stopping for a minute anyway. 

Prior to coming upon him, I was riding out in the 'Here' zone, around where Steve A calls "The Line of Sweetness", which is perhaps most precisely illustrated in this timeless graphic by Rantwick: The Line of Sweetness. I was avoiding at all costs the ZONE OF DENIAL which was full of parked cars, door zone risk and driver walk zone uncertainty, consciously choosing to ride in the position, and feeling like, "Man, I am way the heck out in the street, and I wonder what a driver coming up behind me would think about that," when I heard one driver come up behind me. No honking though, nor tailgating, so they seemed OK with it. "Hey," I can only dream they were reflecting in their air conditioned comfort, "With all those cars parked illegally in the bike lane, it's only fair for him to ride there, straight down The Line of Sweetness, and besides, where else is he going to ride?"

But I was also thinking, in the event a driver asked me why I was riding way the heck out there in the Line of Sweetness, outside of the ZONE OF DENIAL, how would I explain it, when Mr. Friendly Bike Lane Parking Pickup Drivin Man (Mr. FBLPPDM) showed up to illustrate the point!  Thanks, Mr. FBLPPDM! It's also interesting to me, looking at my illustration that this is a situation where it is SAFE for a cyclist to pass at this moment, and probably UNSAFE for another Pickup Drivin Man to try to squeeze by. Being in a big hurry, typically, he would probably try anyway, but I doubt his far-stickin-out side mirrors would clear both sides by three feet.

You know those security personnel patrolling the drop-off zones at the airport, making sure that drivers obey the rules and move along smartly? I anticipate that very soon those zones will be patrolled by angry-sounding, authoritative-looking robots that zip back and forth making nasty barking, buzzing, and beeping sounds at violators, ultimately clamping on wheel clamps for egregious violations. Once they have all the bugs worked out, I for one will welcome the CLAMPBOTS to patrol the bike lanes of our cities, too, enforcing the traffic laws and clamping down on violators. Not just for us bicycle commuters, but to keep Mr. FBLPPDM and his pickup drivin cohort safe out there, too.

Until that glorious day, however, I say, hello sweetness. Ride sweet.

On an unrelated side note, I would like to wish a happy birthday to Pierre de Fermat, born August 17, 1601, and send this song out to his wandering, marvelous soul.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Yields at Traffic Circles Work Great for Bicycle Commuters

Right about here, a glance back over the left shoulder, then aim for between triangles 3 and 4

This traffic circle with a yield sign on a not-very-busy street always seems to work for me on my bicycle. I typically hit it about the same time as 1 to 3 cars, and we just flow through it. Except for the rare super-polite person who waves me through, an invitation that I am hesitant to accept, this just works.

30mph zone

When no cars are here, or bikes, I fly through. Or go slow through when I am riding slow. Zoom.

Good visibility

I like the good visibility here, too. Everyone seems to see everyone else. I'm still convinced in the power of the over-the-shoulder glance in this situation, by the way. If I hear a car coming with insufficient engine slowing, I give them the Glance, and they always slow down. I've also tried variations on the slow down/stopping arm signal, either the hand facing backwards pushing you signal, or the hand pointing down at the spot I am merge-stopping to. Those both seem to work pretty well, too. Although, honestly, it's most fun to just ride right through the circle when no one else is around.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Up Ting Creak

Initially, I thought this sound was due to the bottom bracket on the flatland commuter project bike. I guess it still could be, but with no load just spinning in the stand, now after servicing and adjusting the BB, it is dead quiet and very smooth. It could also be the chain line, which is off a few mm, which I planned to remedy with a new bottom bracket. Said bottom bracket arrived, and uncovered what is probably the true cause of me being up ting creak: loose crank arms. The old arms were clearly loose on the new spindle. I can't really explain why the crank arms on the old spindle+bearings+cup spindle seem tighter than on the new BB spindle except that maybe 40 years ago the spindles were a little more tolerant of crank arm hole wear or something like that. Dunno. I went back to the old BB, at least the cranks seemed to be tighter on that spindle. All the stuff is made in Japan and should be JIS.

I've greased and torqued (in the video the pedal nuts are torqued to >300 in-lbs) and tried other things, but it still makes the creaky ting sound when I apply pedal power. I took apart the new Eggbeater 3 pedals and greased them up just to be safe. (however trying to find the service instructions for the EB-3s on the CB site = exercise in futility currently). Any way you look at it, whether it's chain line, bottom bracket, or worn out crank arm holes, I'm looking for a replacement crank set. Which is sort of a bummer, because other than being up ting creak without a pedal, I like the old one. I might try one or two more things to stick with this one, and I'm open to suggestions.

SOLUTION!! limom, our Hawaiian correspondent, suggested that it could be the seatpost-saddle, eh voila! I put the old seatpost-saddle back in after cleaning and greasing, and that strange ping-ting-creak-ting-ping sound is gone. I went that way after reading his comment because I took it for a spin and compared sitting down with standing up. Sitting down: well, just like in the video. Standing up? SILENCE. Tip of the ten gallon cowboy bicycling hat to limom!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

7th Ave Tunnel and the Mysterious Monolithic Concrete

Rising like a monolith

I've been keeping an eye on the progress on the MUP tunnel under 7th Ave along the ACDC. It's coming along, but this part of the project has me stumped--I can't figure out what they're building! This cement thing is just standing there next to the water with nothing around it--art? Abutment? Giant immovable post-apocalypse time capsule? The world's sturdiest bike rack? Temporary work location for tunnel wall-piece? If so where are the rest though and would they do that one at a time? Odds favor some mundane yet obscure aspect of MUP tunnel construction, I'm certain. Yet, I keep hope alive for a new piece of art. Something like the following, which is in an existing nearby MUP tunnel, yet much larger, perhaps brightly colored, with shade and water!

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Can't Get No Shimisfaction

I tried

And I tried.
And I tried: I can't get me no, shimisfaction!
OK, finally I did, as the photo above shows, but it took me a long time!
I should have known from the lock instructions, they were trying to warn me: "Mounting a lock bracket on a bike is not an easy task. Think about it: you have to position a heavy object (the lock) in a functionally safe and secure fashion onto a moving object (the bike) using a bracket that is not permanently affixed to the bike." (Onguard U-lock Bracket User's Guide, p.1) Why even try when they tell you that?

I've been carrying the U-lock in just about every other way imaginable besides the bracket supplied with it, as the wear/tear on the lock itself shows. I passed on the bracket since it seemed like a flimsy affair when I tried it out the first time. Yet, I had this suspicion that it wasn't actually the bracket itself, but rather the shim that came along with it. It seemed to not do its job, allowing too much wiggle and wobble when the heavy lock was clicked into place. So I decided to try other shims of my own devising. I tried. And I tried. But I couldn't get me no. No shimisfaction!

First I tried some used handlebar tape. This might actually work if you only needed a millimeter or two, but I ended up needing a big old blob of it that had more wobble that the original shim. So I took it back off. I can't get me no! No shimisfaction!

Then I spied some torn Oury grips, and decided they might work. Cut a section out of them, including one of the nice end ridges. No again, too much wiggle. Still no shimisfaction!

Finally, thinking it through, I drove to the home store and bought a flexible 1 1/2" rubber coupler from the plumbing section. It seemed like just the right sort of hard rubber. Took it home, cut it to size, BAM! EXACTAMUNDO! I can get me some shimisfaction! That bracket ain't goin' nowhere. OK, it's going somewhere, wherever I pedal and park, but it doesn't seem like it's going to wiggle or wobble or fail due to "bracket that is not permanently affixed to the bike." Take that, bracket skeptics!

Sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need! In the plumbing supply aisle!

This weekend while riding, please keep in mind the Plumber's Three Essential Rules:

1) Crap flows downhill
2) Trap and vent all fixtures
3) Don't bite your nails

1 1/2" coupler: (black and nasty) cut it up for your bracket-mounting shimisfaction (and save those clamps!)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Useless Cable Locks Considered Harmful to Cyclists and Society

This is an avoidable crime. This one looks sturdy, but is actually crap security, like all cables.

This is part of a continuing series on the uselessness of cable locks for bicycle security that I wish was unnecessary. After input from several thoughtful blog visitors, my view of cables is that they are semi-adequate for "just-a-minute" stops where you can keep your eye on the bicycle the whole time. Possibly they also deter easy theft of cheap wheels, thus avoiding inconvenience, when used together with a decent U-lock that is locked through the frame to some fixed structure, including the Sheldon "hook the rear wheel inside the rear triangle and lock it to something" method and its variants. But I'm telling you, and this photo is part of a sad, continuing series supporting the point: cable locks have no place as the primary method of securing a bicycle to rack for an extended and unattended period of time in a city. Period. The packages they come in ought to have warning labels stating that clearly and unequivocally so that people who do not know are not misled.

Today's example represents the theft of someone's daily transportation, the method that they used to get to and from work to earn a living. People who work to earn a living pay taxes, and spend their income on goods and services to keep the juices of our market economy flowing. This was someone who commuted on their bicycle to work in Phoenix in the summertime. So not only is it disappointing and saddening to me as a fellow cyclist, but also I feel that crimes which hamper someone's efforts to earn a living are a concern for all citizens. 

I think I'll go U-lock shopping soon, and hang around the bike rack after work to see who wants one, and who wants to learn how to use it properly--there's one U-lock user I see regularly who locks his nutted front wheel to the rack. I would much rather start a collection of uncut cable locks that I traded to people for decent U-locks while showing them how to use them properly. I'm keeping my eyes open for U-lock sales. And going to the office supply store this weekend to look for printing supplies. I'm not sure that I'll find card stock in yellow, but I will be searching.

Possibly the most effective use of cable locks for bicyclists: basket weights