Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Thinking Exponentially About That Strapline Concept

Council has finally killed the "Live Exponentially" strapline. From what I have heard and read, at least one councilor and a former councilor are a bit exasperated with the public response to the Live Exponentially strapline. In one case a former councilor asks why Council should "appease" the public. In another interesting comment, Councillor David Izraelevitz  said (to slightly paraphrase) that just as you wouldn't ask the employees of Coca Cola to come up with a branding  for Coca Cola, you wouldn't ask the citizens of Los Alamos County to come up with a brand for Los Alamos County.  (Coca-Cola comes up at 2:34 into the Council video). Such thinking is a big mistake in Bombtown. I've never seen a public so willing to pick up the torches and pitchforks over any sort of real or imagined infraction by Government. This one might not be a roundabout, but to some, just as visceral.

While it is a really good idea to design a catch phrase that will bring more outside folks into our shops, hotels, and restaurants, and it is a good idea to get professional help from marketing experts, whatever branding strapline gets adopted reflects on this community, is somewhat to strongly personal, and thus we inhabitants have a right to weigh in on how we and our community are portrayed to outsiders. Indeed, we are not "employees" of Los Alamos County, but the residents, owners, and therefore rightful players in deciding  how our community is portrayed to the world. It is a bit surprising that Council, its hired consultants (and selected business leaders and LANL) would not realize that the public would want a strong say in how we are "advertised" to others. Especially given the close knit nature of this community, its common sense of purpose, and its well known ability to pugilistically analyze anything and everything brought before it. I appreciate Staff and Council's work, and agree we probably need to have someone with some intellectual distance work on this, but the final call should be the public's. Whatever is decided, we get to wear the t-shirt.

Note. Council video here. The debate on this starts at about the one hour mark and is quite illuminating.

So my advice to Council as it plots a path forward? Bring the public into the process. Now, not after the next debacle. Its our town. We have a right to some input on how this community is presented to others.

My personal choice of strapline, for what its worth, would be "Discover Our Secrets". Indeed, unless one lives or spends some time here, one probably does not have a full grasp of the majestic vistas across the Rio Grande Rift one can see from the back of the singletrack/horse trails on Kwage Mesa, the many cavates besides the ones at Bandelier, great skiing, and the glorious canyons. Or as my wife and I found out many years ago when LANL was recruiting me, the wonderful drive along the High Road to Taos that we took after a night sitting alongside Ashley Pond and pondering our impending decision during a gentle snowfall. This place has so much to offer. Plus, the double entendre is amusing to me, given my line of work.

A second issue is to ask what exactly it is that we are trying to accomplish. While bringing more out of town folks into our shops, hotels, and restaurants is a good idea that will benefit both shop owners and locals, such assets are not central players to the economy as we know it. Tourism does not bring in the high paying technical jobs we are used to and that are required to live and work on The Hill. Tourism, hopefully, will always be ancillary to the high value jobs we take for granted (and which we should NOT take for granted). Plus, this community, from my perspective, has to actually get off its hind end if it wants to attract visitors. When we run the Tour de Los Alamos, the business community is not, from what I observe, rushing to provide goods and services to racers. When I ride the Red River Century, the entire town rolls out the red carpet. When the International Mountain BikeAssociation wanted to make this a centerpiece of mountainbike riding comparable to places like Moab, the response was less than enthusiastic, to be polite. Likewise there seems to be a collective snooze when the suggestion of a local charity ride has been made, even to the Lodger's Tax folks, even tracing out a potential route. So one needs more than a catchy slogan. One has to put one's back muscles where one's slogan is.

We need a real discussion here. With public involvement. People take BombTown seriously, so that slogan, whether in a Chicago airport or the side of a DPW vehicle, has to resonate with residents.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bicycle Exponentially?

You can even get the t-shirt
Yours, for only a quarter million dollars!
Dear Council

I'm sure you have read enough letters and emails complaining about the "Living Exponentially" strapline. Well, here is yet another. I've yet to read a good reason to use such a bizzare and vague slogan when we have at least one really good one on the entrance of town: "Where Discoveries Are Made". Plenty of other good ones have been offered that are better than "Living Exponentially". We certainly are a city different, but unfortunately, that one is taken.

Los Alamos is only here as a community larger than it was in 1942 because the Federal Government brought together a collection of scientists and engineers to solve a difficult problem that would help to win a brutal and deadly war. We continue to exist as a community not due to some vague notion of living exponentially, but because we continue to serve the public with science dedicated to national security. Like most defense related science, ours also has made peaceful discoveries. Let's continue to proclaim our strengths rather than evade them. Let's also stop throwing good money after bad.

Khal Spencer

In other news, it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. Frank Zappa wrote this in 1965. Happy 5th Day of Zappadan.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sunday, December 7th....

It occurred to me as I got up to make coffee this morning that this year as in 1941, December 7th fell on a Sunday. A few moments of silence are in order.

:Photo from
Attack timetable here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Eh, brah, got bike?

BFC Fall2014 HonoluluandCounty  1  
Congrats to Honolulu. These things take time and long term dedication.

In the mid 1990's the Hawaii Bicycling League (HBL) revamped and revitalized its advocacy and government affairs capabilities. In the late '90's, the Bicycle Federation of America folks from Washington, DC, led by Bill Wilkinson,arrived to advise the increasingly pro-bike city government on how to develop a bike plan. HBL operatives almost literally kidnapped the Bike Fed folks the weekend they arrived, beating the city administrators to them, tossing them on borrowed bikes, and leading them on a tour through the major transportation routes through downtown Honolulu to give them the lay of the land from the viewpoint of the saddle. My good friend Tom Fee, then a partner (and now president of) the urban planning firm Helber, Hastert, and Fee, worked with Bike Fed, HBL, and the City (including Bicycle Coordinator Chris Sayers, who has to be one of the longest running bike coordinators on the planet) to research and write the first Honolulu Bike Plan, published in 1999. A second, drastically revised version, was recently completed. The new bike planning program integrates cycling with Honolulu's new train system and as Tom Fee just emailed me "puts a lot more on the books" as far as formalizing how cycling fits into the city's transportation infrastructure. This stuff takes time.
I moved here from Honolulu in 2001 as the first phase of all this was unfolding. My job was as president of the Hawaii Bicycling League, trying to keep all this stuff pointed in the right direction from the standpoint of advocacy. Far more competent folks filled my shoes working with Tom, the city, and others, and that bronze is a tribute to their efforts and persistence, to LAB for recognizing good work, and to the City and County for taking this dead seriously. A tip of my hat in particular goes to Chris Sayers, who has been the hard working point man as Honolulu's bike coordinator since my early years there, Chad Tanaguchi, who has led HBL, and Tom Fee, who has dogged this as a professional planner from the get go. I'm sure others need recognition as well. Chris, Chad, and Tom, the next beers are for you. A celestial thank you goes to the since departed Eve DeCoursey, the E.D. of HBL back when we were bootstrapping all this stuff on a wing and a prayer. Eve, take a look down here and smile. You deserve it.
The late Eve DeCoursey, former Hawaii state cycling champion (USCF), first exec director of HBL, and all around good person

A tip of the brain bucket and that shaka below is for all who made that happen, and what we can do when we put our minds and hearts to it. As some of you can imagine, I've not been this tickled since the Bills won the AFL championship in 1965. Woo-hoo.
From one hotspot volcano to another, cycling rules....

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Ice Season Again In the Bike Lanes (and road shoulders)

Photo of ice in Central Ave Bike lane
near the Catholic Church.  Photo taken 
a couple years ago during
a particularly wet winter.
While bicycling to work this morning, I needed to stop at the Post Office. Therefore, I made a left turn from Diamond onto Canyon. Riding up the hill towards Oppenheimer, I saw several large patches of ice in the bike lane where the lane is in shadow.

In addition to bike lanes and roadway shoulders that are on the south side of our roads being in shadow much of the time due to the low angle of the sun, its not surprising there will be water collecting and freezing in them due to the camber of the road draining water to the edges of the pavement.

So be prepared for ice spots on our roads now that we are seeing really cold weather. Some suggestions:

1. Look far enough out front of you to spot bad ice. If you need to, scan behind you for overtaking traffic, signal and merge left into the traffic lane when it is safe to do so. Remember: AFRAP means "as far right as is practical" and a cyclist is not obligated to use a bike lane if it is dangerous or impassible.

2. Avoiding ice and other roadway hazards is a good reason to have a powerful headlight. I won't suggest an absolute value of lumens or anything, but your light should illuminate the road far enough ahead of your bicycle so you can react to hazards. That amount of light depends on your typical bicycling speed and other conditions (i.e., fast downhill routes). You decide.

3. If you do a lot of winter cycling and its a wet year, strongly consider winter tires incorporating studs. They are available in a range of sizes in both 700c and 26" rim sizes. Peter White has a good discussion of these here. Sure, they are heavy, but it is winter and the distances are short enough.

4. If you merge left out of a bike lane, please be predictable and stick to a line until you are past the icy parts of the bike lane. Weaving in and out of closely spaced ice patches can be unpredictable and lead to a sideswipe crash or needless aggravation of overtaking motorists.

5. If you find yourself on ice and don't have studded tires, don't accelerate or brake or make sudden directional changes. Soft pedal or coast through the ice.

6. If you are a motorist, keep an eye on the condition of bike lanes and expect cyclists to be merging out of them when necessary.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Turkey Day Town Tour

Given the number of turkeys in this town, this should be well attended....

Jim Rickman has announced that he will do the 2nd Annual Turkey Day Town Tour on Thanksgiving day this year. Here is the info, courtesy of Little Jimmy's Wheelhouse, and I hope we can make this a great, annual event.

With acknowledgements to Sandra Boynton
The first Turkey Day Town Tour actually occurred in 2012 and it was highly successful. About 30 people went out and rode and every single person enjoyed a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream afterward, despite most saying at the beginning of the ride that they weren’t going to eat any. Turns out the ride was really fun and by the end, spirits and appetites were high! That was the point.

The weather was horrible in 2013, so the ride was canceled. We’re thinking the weather will hold this year and we’ll be able to do it again. See the image below for details on where and when to meet on Thursday, Nov. 27.

The holidays are a wonderful time. But they can be a stressful time, too. The Turkey Day Town Tour started as a way for my wife and I to get out of the house and ride our bikes instead of spending the day indoors worrying about whether the turkey would dry out in the oven. Over the years, we’ve learned that a hands-off approach and the proper cooking utensils yield a fine, juicy turkey. The bike ride allows us the opportunity to silently reflect on all the things for which we are thankful, and this year we have enough things to reflect on to cover a ride twice as long.

The inaugural Turkey Day Town Tour brought together a bunch of people who already knew each other and a bunch of people who didn’t. The sky was clear and bright and every twist and turn in the trail was greeted with a smile. We hope to have as much, if not more, fun this year, too.

We hope you’ll join us!