Thursday, December 27, 2007

Challenge Yourself

One way to motivate yourself to ride more is to pick a challenging goal and then track your progress towards it. Here are some examples:

1) Roadies in DC are challenging you to ride a Century per Month

2) Transport cyclists in DC are challenging you to use your bike to replace 30 car trips per month

3) Clif Bar is proposing the less intimidating "2 Mile Challenge," where you make a commitment to replace some of your short-distance car trips with bicycle trips

Please share your successes or failures with challenges to increase your riding!

Ride On.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Reflections on Three Years of Car-Free Commuting in Los Alamos, Part 1

On Sept 30, 2004, I decided that, starting the next day, I would not drive myself to work anymore. And since that day I have not. I have now had a little more than three years of car-free commuting, which I thought would be a good point for some reflection on the (ongoing) experience.

In those 3 years, I have commuted approximately 98% of the time by bicycle (yes, even during the winter), with a handful of times ride-sharing, walking, or taking public transit. For locals, I live near Mountain School and work at LANL TA-3. My cycling route is approximately 5.8 miles round-trip, and the walking route is about 4.5 miles round-trip (don't need to follow the roads when walking!)

I have been meaning to write down a list of observations and lessons learned during this experience, but of course I keep thinking of new ones so I will endeavor to provide a list of these observations over a series of blog posts:

Reflection #1) Moving around is energy-intensive; and I get about 720 MPG.

Commuting under your own power really gives you an appreciation for how much work it is to move yourself and all your stuff around. This apprecation makes you think practical thoughts like: Do I really need to make that trip to the store? Should I really buy this thing since I have to carry it home? Is there any way to combine the trip the bank, the trip to the bike shop, and the trip to Metzgers into my daily commute?

Traveling under your own power also gives you a new appreciation for the tremendous convenience and utility of fossil fuels. In the 25 minutes or so of my round-trip commute, I estimate that I burn about 250 Calories. A gallon of gasoline contains approximately 31,000 Calories. (For the technically attentive, I am using the shorthand Calorie here to mean 1 kilocalorie, as is common in food labeling.) Thus my 5.8-mile round-trip commute uses the energy equivalent of about 0.8% of 1 gallon of gasoline, for an equivalent of about 720 miles per gallon. That makes me an order of magnitude more efficient than a Prius. And that is during a commute with several stoplights and a couple of pretty generous hills. I estimate the efficiency is probably about 20-25% better when I am lucky enough to catch the green lights.

Being intensively aware of the amount of energy that it takes to move yourself from place to place can leads one's thoughts in new and interesting directions. Sometimes resulting in dangerously counter-cultural thoughts, such as: "What on earth am I thinking carrying 3000lbs of glass and steel around just to transport 185lbs of human over a distance of three miles in good weather, when I could do the same job in only a slightly longer period of time using only 25lbs of steel, aluminum, and rubber? Do I really need to use my car for this trip? Might I be better off leaving my car parked, or even getting rid of it?"

More reflections to come. Ride on.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Be careful when transporting fragile goods

I can't believe this even has to be said in the year 2007 (almost 2008!), but I've seen too many counterexamples in the last few months:

PLEASE, do yourself a favor and wear a helmet while cycling. The cost/benefit analysis for bicycle helmet usage is beyond a "no-brainer."

For visual impact I will include this photo from a German bicycle safety campaign with the slogan "Be careful when transporting fragile goods"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How Do You Respond to Motorists?

How do you respond when a motorist honks, yells or otherwise harasses you?

a) The good ol' one-finger salute
b) Smile and wave like the driver is a long-lost friend
c) Invite the motorist to pull over so that you can calmly explain the concept of "Same Roads, Same Rights, Same Rules"
d) Memorize license plate number and vehicle description and file police report
e) Tirade of profanity
f) Ignore them like Lance ignores the crowds shouting along the Alpe d'Huez

Let's hear about it!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Proper place to ride on the road: somewhere else!

Egads. Diamond Drive looked like a demo derby this morning, leaving hundreds of cars going nowhere the slow way. One bad crash just north of Conoco Hill left a green SUV and white sedan in crushed tatters with an ambulance onsite. Nothing moving an inch the other side of that crash, so I looped up around through the western areas and came back down via Urban. Meena told me there was a bus-car crash farther south on Diamond, leaving the road corked tighter than a champagne bottle.

Sometimes folks seem to forget that winter means slippery roads. Take it easy out there.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Proper riding position on a bicycle

The previous post regarding the lousy paving job along the gutter pan on Diamond near the high school re-ignites the old question of where a rider should be riding. In references such as Effective Cycling and Street Smarts cyclists are warned not to ride too close to the edge for a variety of reasons: broken pavement, lack of room to manuever, road debris, and the tendency of drivers to think they can pass you without changing lanes, possibly leading to being sideswiped.

Riders should be inboard of the gutter pan a couple feet. I think John Forester suggests riding approximately where traffic markings indicate the right hand tires of motor vehicles are located.

Here is a reference on roadway positioning from John Allen.


Dangerous drop offs from Resurfacing Roads

Copied from the btno.blogspot Bombtown news blog by Anonymous:

On a completely different note, what the heck did the county do to Diamond??!! Have you driven on the new overlay they just put down in front of the high school?Besides the obvious uneveness and lack of cohesiveness, us cyclists are once again going to be forced into traffic as the wrap ends about 12 inches from the curb--just so that bikers will either be forced to dangerously navigate into a gap between the asphalt and the curb, or push closer into the lane where the asphalt is.Was the county in a rush to spend some last calendar year dollars? Was there any engineering done to support that asphalt project? Big sigh.
Greg again:
I've notice this is a problem all over the place. Resurfacing jobs on many roads in our area (and beyond) are being done half-assed and leaving a dangerous drop off right where bikes would be riding. The companies getting these contracts are not resurfacing the bike lanes and thus saving tons of money on the job. An example is the resurfacing that occured on the truck route making it much more dangerous to ride down. I notice they did the same thing on the road out to Ojo Caliente Hot Spring recently and now are they doing it on diamond?

There should be a law that if a resurfacing job is done then they must do the entire road and not just the car lanes.