Archive for the ‘Commuting/Utility’ Category

Guest Post: Her First Bicycle Ride to Work

August 6, 2013

We can thank my good friend from San Francisco, Gracious, for making the tone of this blog much more pleasant. She continues to succeed. Here’s her first ride to work:

“I managed to ride most of the mild hills home from fishermans wharf Sunday. My turns are a bit jerky … I’m still trying to ease my grip but it was a great feeling considering a month ago I wiped out at the first climb. Over time my nervousness and slow starts will get better but it’s a great feeling coming to work riding my bike. I’m proud I didn’t have to put gas in the car or give my money to a company unnecessarily!

My next goal is to deliver the second bike my coworker gave me to my mom Friday after work. She lives in the burbs but I saw a man riding a similar path we drove to her home. She’s been wanting to ride but didn’t want to buy one. I’m really excited because the main rode to her house has a bike lane!! We may take the bikes to angel island this weekend or rent bikes there.

Yep feel free to share. I feel like an empowered citizen!”

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Guest Post On CitiBike NYC By Francisco de Orellana

August 2, 2013

Finally had a chance to try out Citibike last weekend. At first, I was weary of trying it since I didn’t want to be one of the few on one of those tell-tale blue bicycles. I heard that some biking aficionados looks down on people on Citibikes because it is assumed that they aren’t seasoned bikers. Therefore, I took a look down the bike path that runs by my building to see if there were anyone on Citibikes. As it turned out, there were tons of people on citibikes. Assured that I would be just one in the crowd, I went to the nearby Citibike station. Actually, I waited until 3PM since the cheapest pass I could get was the 24 hour one and by waiting until mid-afternoon, I could use it over both days of the weekend.

As luck would have it, when I got to the stand, there was a couple in front of me who just struggled with the machine. It seemed self-explanatory to me but they were having a hard time of it. They didn’t know which buttons to push, etc. When they finally figured it out and moved on, it was my turn. I got my code with no problem. Next came figuring out how to input the code on the bike stand to get my bike which wasn’t as self-explanatory. Luckily, a British tourist couple that was behind me who apparently had done it before showed me how to do it.

Off I went. At first I was hesitant to get on the Hudson River bikeway since that is so packed with bikes that it is like getting on a high speed LA freeway. However, after I got on, I was passing bikes right and left. There were tons of others on citibikes and it was apparent that the citibike people were definitely the slower ones. Some also weren’t too use to bike lane demeanor as there were families where each member was riding side by side.

I managed to make it all the way up to 59th street before my half hour was up. With citibikes, if you have a 24 hour pass, you must dock the bike every 30 minutes. In reality, all it is is finding an open dock, docking the bike and then getting a new code and undocking again and going on your way. However, it can be easier said than done (more on this later). After docking at 59th, I undocked again and took a ride up to 100th Street through Riverside Park and back. Since Citibikes are only installed from 59th Street on south so far, there was some illicit pleasure in taking the bike “out of its zone”. However, I noticed a few also had the same idea. I rode up to 100th and then turned around and went back to redock at 59th before my 30 minutes were up. Then – not wanting to ride on the streets – I walked to Central Park to try to get a bike there and ride it around the park. When I got there, there was a HUGE line at the dock. I finally got to the front of the line, got my code, and inputted the code. However, as I was undocking the bike, my hand slipped and the bike redocked!!! That meant I had to get another code. Rather than wait at the line, I walked a few blocks over to another stand and got a bike there. I rode it around the park but, when it came time to redock, I couldn’t find an open dock at the station right by Central Park. I went to the next one over – again no luck. One of the Citibikes employees told me that there was another one a block over. Oddly enough, that one was completely empty and I docked there. Then, after a break, I took a bike out again for another spin. This time I took a longer loop around Central Park but it turned out to be too ambitious. Not wanting to be late for my 30 minute appointment with the dock, I turned around and headed back the wrong way on the bike path (bad, I know, but it was already dark by that time and there were few bikers) to get back to the dock in time. I got there but then had a hard time docking the bike. There is a certain art to it. You need the right amount of angle and force. It usually works best by riding the bike right into the dock but this can be dangerous. After struggling and finally docking, I noticed that I was late by just 1 minute but I was already charged $4 for an extra half hour. Wish I had known that before I docked!

After that, I walked back down to the Hudson bike path and took another bike home, docking once along the way. I noticed that the dock closest to me, however, had only a few docks open. One thing I have to keep in mind for next time in case I wind up going home and finding no dock and having to use precious extra time finding the next station.

The next day, I decided to take the bike up the East River path. I went back to the station near home. Again, I was blocked by a couple that just couldn’t figure things out. It became apparent that the machine wasn’t accepting their card but, instead of just giving up, they kept on trying and trying even as a huge line built up. Finally, they gave up but then the lady in front of me also had trouble. She fortunately gave up after a short while. Luckily, all I needed to get was my code so I was in and out of there. It was a little annoying threading the bike through the all the tourists at Battery Park going to the Statue of Liberty. Kids kept on running onto the bike path and tourists kept on walking on the path thinking that it was a walkway. When i finally got past them and onto the East River bikeway, it was a smooth ride. At one point, however, a car mysteriously got onto the bike path and was driving down it. The car had Florida plates and an elderly driver and passengers so I assume they were tourists who got really lost. At one point, the path makes a sharp turn to get around a pier for a bridge and one side is a concrete barrier and the other is a fence. The car tried to negotiate it and ended up getting wedged in between. I was right behind it. After backing up and going forward several times, it finally got out but at the cost of major damage to its sides. The driver was too embarrassed to get out. unfortunately for him, he was forced to keep going down the bike path until he finally found a way out. I managed to bike up to 34th Street before needing to dock. Docking was again kind of a struggle but I finally got the bike in and went to a nearby hot dog stand to get a drink. Embarrassingly, the proprietor asked me whether I was able to get the bike docked. After undocking, I rode the bike back to a farmers market I saw along the way. However, my app showed that there was a nearby dock but I couldn’t find it. After giving up (it turned out to be on a pier in the river), I went to the next one and again docked 1 minute late. Again I was charged $4! Oh well. Anyway, by that time, my 24 hours were up.

Overall, it was a great experience and I’d do it again. I just wish there was more of a grace period and that the machines were easier for people to use so that there wouldn’t be such huge lines (though I found them easy enough). Annual members get to skip the machines though since they have their own keys. Anyway, having done a ride on a bikeshare now, i feel more confident in taking advantage of it when I’m over in Europe where many cities have them.

Why Does Cycling Suck In the US? Part I

December 26, 2012

Those of you who are coming for some comedy or meditation, this is not for you. I’m going to continue to examine the government’s total lack of concern for their nation’s health, national security, safety, sanity, and comfort due to their incredibly inept and inefficient policy on infrastructure.

I’m starting to feel like the Andy Rooney of cycling. I always am whining. Well, it takes a big enough baby to admit when things are messed up and for that I’ll be your baby.

Here I’ll talk about two documents. First of all: Toward Zero Deaths [www.google.com/url?q=http://www.atssa.com/galleries/default-file/Toward%2520Zero%2520Deaths%2520FINAL.pdf&sa=U&ei=HOrHUM2FBOae2gXz6oGYAw&ved=0CBQQFjAA&usg=AFQjCNHAjdo4hoojAeXnYOoozUpNZOpsnw]

Secondly,

Safer Infrastructure: [http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=web6%20safer%20infrastructure%20paper&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&ved=0CDIQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fsafety.transportation.org%2Fdoc%2Fweb6%2520Safer%2520Infrastructure%2520White%2520Paper.pdf&ei=LuvHUM7ZDcT42QWwg4D4Bw&usg=AFQjCNG9PaGucGU6JRcIMvOyQW0ahKcQFA&bvm=bv.1354675689,d.b2U]

So why does cycling suck?

One reason, I might speculate, is because we speak English. I know that this sounds silly, but name a single English colonial country which has decent cycling? In Canada, the ex-mayor tore up bike lanes. London, cycling totally sucks and they don’t care at all. In NZ and AU, they did us the favor of making plastic hats mandatory thus proving once and for all that they were totally useless for accidents other than those which are not likely to hurt or kill the cyclist anyway.

In other wealthy, Western, countries, there is no notion of the disease known as vehicular cycling. They have a far, far higher mode share and they are gaining all the economic, happiness (Denmark is #1 in world happiness), and physical fitness benefits while we are spending our way to a “fiscal cliff” while we are totally befuddled why most of children are fatasses who are destined towards a life of diabetes, heart disease, and other preventable ailments. Not only does the motoring industry kill more people than child abusers, they ruin more future adult lives.

Thus, my initial hypothesis is that this is because of English language or culture. However, I’ll look deeper into the causes and conditions of our unique (among non-English speaking, wealthy, Western nations) that I dub cycle-phobia.

Freaky Bike Blindness

December 24, 2012

I’m starting to see a huge pattern here in our rush to “fix” the current transportation mess: bicycle blindness (BB).

I don’t mean the fact that it’s extremely difficult to see a cyclist in front of you while going tens of miles per hour faster despite the canary colors and flashing lights. That’s something that can only be fixed by physical separation of the humans from the heavy machinery work area.

What I mean by bicycle blindness is where the bicycle is our fix to our problems and yet it is totally ignored while we chase after a much less tested, more expensive non-solution that perpetuates 99% of the original problems that it’s trying to fix.

In this case, Freakonomics gets it badly, but predictably, wrong. (We should call them Trollonomics from their posts which are only slightly less histrionic than yours truly). 🙂


If you do peruse it, you’ll see I ended with the hope that technology will bail us out of our transportation problems just like it bailed us out of those caused by the horse. At that time, a deus ex machina descended from the heavens to improbably solve the insoluble. The savior was known as the automobile, and as it went from obscurity to ubiquity in a few decades it banished the working horse—a primary mode of transportation for thousands of years—to oblivion.

There was only one problem with my call for a miraculous technological fix: I did not have the slightest idea what that technology would be.”

The bicycle! This was around at the same time that we were “saved” by the auto, yes?

Wrong!

“There is little doubt it will be the biggest innovation in transportation since internal combustion itself. It is cars that drive themselves.”

Yes, let’s replace something that’s dangerous, which makes a huge impact on our environment both natural and human perception, and which takes up too much space with something that’s perhaps safer, but has all the rest of the same problems. Great idea.

Plus, let’s make it really, really complicated.

Overall, I’d prefer to have well programmed cars in the future than the poorly driven ones in the past.

However, each time we get a solution like this we are seduced away from simpler solutions. Each one, for me, creates a grim, and ugly alternate universe.

Other possible alternate universes of doom include e-bikes, mopeds, and the Zero Death project which aims to make motoring 100% safe, but make cycling and walking to be that much more deadly so we can, by the force of violence, coerce everyone to live the way that we’d like.

Great job, Freakonomics.

Idiots! 🙂

Military Preparedness Cycling

December 17, 2012

Washington Post, like most publications, totally misses the boat on cycling.

From the article:

“Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said he was floored by what he found in 2009 when he was assigned to overhaul the Army’s training system. Seventy-five percent of civilians who wanted to join the force were ineligible, he said. Obesity was the leading cause.”

And yet, as you continue to read the article, they do not talk aobut how the changing transportation system has created a nation of over weight people.

The last few months, I have met no less than half a dozen people who either lost massive amounts of weight or got in great shape from cycling.

That we could get home and work out at the same time should be a super-no brainer.

Instead, you get those who are supposed to “educate” us making us fat!

About 60 students, about one-third of the senior class, took part in the bike ride on Tuesday. They had organized a police escort beforehand, and the city’s mayor, Rob VerHeulen, traveled in the procession in a police car and even handed out doughnuts.

A good time was had by all, except for school Principal Katharine Pennington. Apparently dismayed at not having been informed about the event, Pennington suspended the participants for the day, forbade them from participating in today’s senior walk — an annual tradition — and said they could potentially not walk during their graduation next week, Rachel Nicks, the mother of one of the participating students, told ABC News.”

Where are the right wingers pointing out that this is a grave national security concern?

I am kidding here, but I wanted to say this for a while. If they ban cycling to school then heart disease wins! 🙂

Cycle Fop

October 25, 2012

The cycling world is full of controversies for some reason. It seems that even the simplest ideas get tons of opinions and debate.

One of them is the notion of clothing.

I love this debate because when you search and replace the arguments with “car” hilarity ensues:

“What clothing should I buy for driving my car?”

“If I wear a suit in my car then other people are going to think that since they don’t look nice in a suit then they are going to be stuck taking the bus.”

Yes, these are the things we love to argue about. And since I love gossip and argument, I am in my element. 🙂

I first got involved in cycling foppery in the late nineties when I was obsessed with the writings of William Burroughs.

He always looked stylish in a suit, and thus, I tried to emulate this look, but in a lesser manner by wearing a pressed white shirt and dress slacks everywhere. I thought nothing of wearing this while I rode my bicycle.

Little did I know that a few years later there would be a whole movement known as Cycle Chic.

Nor did I realize that on the other end of the spectrum there would be those who thought that you had to wear lycra racing gear with sponsor logos all over it even if those companies weren’t even sponsoring you.

But while I did touring, I did wear some excellent bicycle pants which were relatively warm, but still comfortable on warmer days and best of all, super fast drying.

For a full year after I moved to San Diego, I wore the same pants nearly every day.

Only on special occasions did I wear nicer clothes for which I got tons of compliments. Most of all, I realized that it made my princess happy to be seen with a man who didn’t dress like a complete bum.

But what really made me change my mind was my mid-life crisis (mlc) and this conversation between Patrice O’ Neal and Gallager.

Note that I find everyone on the show to be offensive except for Patrice who is really awesome–the only comic I’d really like to hang out with if he hadn’t died.

So you don’t have to listen to all 14 parts of the interview, but just trust that Patrice inspired me when he started talking about how Gallager needed to raise his game and to dress better since he was older.

Since I am Patrice’s age, I realized that I, too, need to stop wearing goofy clothes, to stop dressing like a bum, and to start dressing like an adult.

Thus, I am in a clothing renaissance, but since Cycle Chic is all ready taken, I’m rollin with Cycle Fop.

Study: Impact of Infrastructure on Cycling

September 18, 2012

While my main motivation for my desire for infrastructure is SEC: safety, efficiency, and comfort for me, I do believe that we should, a least a little bit, show come concern for others:

In the following study, infrastructure is compared with many differing variables:

Here are some of the findings.

Despite the “poor” stereotype and the contradictory, but equally spouted, “elite” nonsense, there’s actually no statistically significant correlation between household income and bicycle riding to work.

A 10% greater supply of bike lanes is associated with a 3.1% greater number of cycling commuters. Similar, benefits, a 2.5% increase in commuters is associated with a similar increase in bicycle paths.

A 10% higher share of cyclist fatalities is associated with a 3.7% drop in commuters.

On the other hand, the weather is not strongly coorelated with cycling rates.

Overall, this was a fantastic paper that analyzed a great deal of data. I suggest reading the entire thing from cover to cover.

Yoga and Cycling: Two Great Tastes!

September 7, 2012

I have never taken a yoga class.

That didn’t stop HR, for a year after I was hired, from introducing me to each and every person as someone who does yoga.

This didn’t bother me because I’d much, much like being called the yoga guy rather than the bike guy. This is not unlike a dad who has his baseball mitt in his car and is called the “baseball guy” instead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. 🙂

Also, I do walk around with a pink yoga mat, but this is for meditation, and many people don’t know the difference.

LTRs know that I often meditate and bicycle.

Now, there’s a book and a blog on yoga!

I am so getting this book because finally, I’ll have a yoga routine that I have time for.

I originally, learned about yoga and cycling from a friend who taught me some basic stretches that allowed her to ride for miles without getting sore or tight. I do some of them all the time especially standing up, while going downhill, to stretch my hamstrings.

I have not read this book, yet, but I am so going to get a copy–I have not been this excited about a book for a long time.

Bikes: Left of the Dial

July 9, 2012

Am I the only person who is totally sick of the lack of mention of bicycles when talking about green transportation?

I’m so, so sick of it.

Here’s an example:

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/07/green-illusion/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wired%2Findex+%28Wired%3A+Index+3+%28Top+Stories+2%29%29

Why are we even wasting money on green vehicles when they still force someone to sit inside and become a fatass, they take up as much space as a car, and they do more to shift pollution rather than eliminate it?

I was so excited to read about the “Green Illusion” of electric cars, but then there’s nary a mention of bicycles as an alternative.

I know that many fear to combine cycling with environmentalism, but overall, everyone cares about the environment.

Sure there are idiots out there who have been programmed, like dogs, to salivate whenever they hear the phrase “global warming”, but overall, we all do not like to breathe smog nor eat poison otherwise, we’d be dead.

While I realize that the tea bagger movement is making political hay out of going against anything that’s even vaguely intelligent, the benefits of cycling, to me are so profound and obvious, that I can not understand how someone mentioning green travel will ignore them.

Give us a bone, at least a tiny sentence.

Lame.

Hide Your Bicycle!!

May 22, 2012

I hate to write posts like this (or maybe not, why am I writing it), but this is another of my series of Annoying Advice Posts.

You may skip it, if you don’t like annoying advice.

Basically, the premise of this advice is based on the fact that many people discriminate against cyclists.

My initial reaction to this is to hide your bicycle.

We’ll eventually change the prejudice’s of the world, but in the meantime, we don’t want to miss out on the good things in life.

Thus, if you get harassed by a driver, let them assume you are driving when you call the cops.

When you are assaulted while on your bike, let the police assume that the police did it with their hands. Don’t mention a bicycle.

And so on.

For a job interview.

HIDE YOUR BICYCLE.

Let them assume that you drive.