Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Giant Bicycles to GM: Who needs a car?

Giant's riposte to GM.
Scrounged from the League of American Bicyclists web site
It didn't take long for one of the major bike companies to take my advice and turn the tables on General Motors and its anti-bike advertisement. While Giant went so far as to point out the burden of costs and traffic congestion that a collegiate car or light truck purchaser would be saddled with (see above, courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists, they left out the obvious sexual innuendo from the original ad.

Now even though my new Surly Long Haul Trucker Project is probably cheaper than two car payments, doesn't use gas, or need insurance, we can't leave out the sex, can we? For gosh sakes, these ARE college students being targeted, and they have their priorities. So to finish the story Giant should have told, I offer my own addenum to the Giant advertisement: Get the bike, get the girl. A still or two from Breaking Away, featuring Robyn Douglass as Katherine, the gorgeous co-ed, and Dennis Christopher as the local guy Dave, obsessed with Italian bike racing.And, of course, with Katherine....

"I'd much rather date you than that wheezing frat guy with the pickup truck.
Aside from his bad health, he is so far behind in his GM car payments that the only place he ever takes me to is the Golden Arches"

And later that night.....
"Its so much fun to date a guy with such endurance! 
Can you teach me to ride, too?"
Nuff said?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What bike lane???

Cars were parked everywhere during yesterday's athletic event at the golf course

From my morning LA Monitor tickler.
Young girl hit by vehicle near golf course Friday

An SUV struck a girl in a crosswalk on Diamond Drive near the Los Alamos Golf Course Friday afternoon.

Assistant Fire Chief/Fire Marshal Brian Nickerson said the accident occurred about 4:10 p.m. and the girl, reported to be a young adolescent, was taken to Los Alamos Medical Center with what appeared to be moderate injuries.

"It was a fairly serious accident," Nickerson said.

Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy said his officers are investigating the cause of the accident.
Read the story on our website!

I was wondering what all the commotion was about. By the time I rode by, there was no one down in the street. Also wondering why the bike lane suddenly became an optional and chaotic parking lot. But when everybody in the county decides to drive their private vehicle to the golf course to cheer on the team, its not surprising you would have chaotic parking and the occasional crash or two. Rush hour vs ped crossing on Trinity can't be much better.

I don't object to occasionally giving over the bike lane to parked cars, county law as told to me by Kyle notwithstanding, but worry about cyclists getting doored or hitting a pedestrian. Support for the local athletics must be balanced by good planning. Lesson learned, I guess.

Next time we have a big athletic event at the golf course that results in heavy parking impeding the bike lanes, heavy ped traffic along the bike lanes, and heavy traffic, I wonder if we need to have better traffic controls in place in advance, such as signage WARNING, ATHLETIC EVENT AHEAD, and WARNING, BIKES IN THE ROAD.

or how about:

Might have to get an MUTCD waiver for that one.

Infrastructure can't do it all by itself. We have to help.

Hope the girl is OK. Helluva way to start the weekend out, i.e., in a hospital bed.

Friday, October 21, 2011

roadside memorials, more

Unlike Bob Fuller's Roadside Memorials, this one is pretty poignant. In honor of all those people whom can't speak for themselves any more (because they are dead), and with a tip of the tinfoil beanie to Traffic Safety Month at the Laboratory, and finally, wishing more people would make the connection between these memorials and their driving behavior, here goes...

The memorial below has special significance for me. About five or six years ago, Meena and I were returning from shopping in Santa Fe on a Saturday. We followed NM 502 where it splits from NM4 and headed up towards the hairpin turn below the airport. I saw a car that seemed to be getting bigger really fast. Realized it was headed right towards me going the wrong way. I flashed my lights and laid on the horn to no avail, so I bailed out onto the shoulder and braked to a stop. A very old lady was behind the wheel of the wrong way car. She was now trapped on a divided, high speed highway.

I called 911 to report a wrong way driver and then ominously, told the 911 operator "you better get some gear down hear real fast. I don't see any more traffic coming up behind me and there should be a lot of it". I then put the car in reverse and hauled ass in reverse about a quarter mile around the sweeping curve below the Y. There I found the wrong way car, crushed into a Harley. Two riders were bleeding out on the road. A following motorist, who saw it all, said it was horrific, with boots and helmets literally ripped off the riders by the impact. A woman who identified herself as a nurse said they were gone.

With yet more cars alternately braking hard or whizzing by us on a high speed curve, about half a dozen of us formed an impromptu emergency traffic control team by stopping cars and telling them to stop upstream of the curve in an en echelon pattern with their flashers on. We then slowed all the high speed traffic coming around the curve and directed it into the one open lane, so no one else would plow into the mess. Eventually the EMTs and police got there. All they could do was cover the bodies. An EMT tried CPR on one motorcyclist, but all that happened was geysers of blood came out of the person's mouth and nose.

Crashes are not pretty and those memorials show the names of real people whose lives were abruptly snuffed out. Usually in a completely unnecessary manner. Be careful out there, and make sure anyone who you can influence thinks about that too.

NOTE ADDED SATURDAY. Looks like we almost got another memorial. Young girl hit in the golf course crossing yesterday afternoon. Don't we have enough descansos already?

I was present for this crash, driving onto the shoulder
 to avoid the wrong-way car that went on to hit the motorcycle head-on. 
This is on 502 just below the Y.
Double fatal, both on the motorcycle. 
Watching two people die is not fun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Diamond and Canyon, the Saga Continues

Wearing my bicyclist and LCI hats, I met with Ann Laurent (Asst. County Administrator) and Nancy Talley (County Traffic Manager) yesterday at Canyon and Diamond at 11:30 to bat around some ideas for a redesign of the bike lane/former right turn lane on northbound Diamond at Canyon.  County Staff have been looking at a couple of redesigns and I suggested one as well out of the National Association of City Transportation Officials guidebook, just released. The idea I suggested is of a combined shared right turn/bike lane, but with clear markings consistent with better roadway positioning. That specific design can be found here and I pasted a picture from the NACTO guide below.

Mind you, the NACTO is not the same as MUTCD, i.e., MUTCD is the engineer's bible and NACTO is not. We will have to find a MUTCD consistent solution, I suspect.

We saw at least three instances of two cars trying to turn right synchronously while we were standing there, i.e., one car using the bike lane and one car using the regular lane, and both trying to squeeze into Canyon headed east at the same time and having to jockey around each other. Crazy stuff. 

Example of a shared turn/bike lane, Eugene, OR
From the NACTO Guide
The wheels are turning on this and that's as far as I will go. Stay tuned, and meanwhile, "let's be careful out there". Regardless of the design, its your grey matter that keeps you safe, not the stripes on the roadway.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Is it a touring bike, a commuter, or a monstercross bike?

Its hard to believe that someone might actually post something here about simply building and riding a bike rather than ranting about the latest injustice to bicycling, but here goes. I finally decided to foray into a long considered project and build up a loaded touring bike. So when we finally took the old Trek T-200 tandem off the road (we have not used it since buying the Co-Motion Primera) I took it apart, saved all the parts and bought a Surly Long Haul Trucker loaded touring frameset from the nice folks at Mellow Velo down in Santa Fe. This would be the test frame to hang the parts onto. This has resulted in a touring geometry bike with 9 spd bar-ends,cyclecross drop bars, linear pull brakes, and a triple touring crankset in 46-36-26 configuration driving an 11-34 cogset with 26 inch wheels, the 26's being standard on Surly's smaller LHT frames.

Long Haul Trucker in original form, on a Camp May Road 
 fire road entrance, wearing  those Bontrager Jones fat tires.
Yep, those fatties really do fit fine

In its original form I threw a set of ancient 26 x 1.95 inch Bontrager Jones knobbies on it because that was all I had in the parts pile, leading my longtime pen pal Patrick O'Grady to call it a monstercross bike. Those tires, along with an ancient but still true Bontrager mountainbike wheelset, have been hanging in the garage since God was a child and finally had a home. In that form, and with a last minute panic purchase of some steerer tube spacers from Jim Rickman at Little Jimmy's Wheelhouse, right here in BombTown, I took it out on Sunday morning, climbed Camp May Road, and wandered between road and fire road indiscriminately.  The bike was actually happier clawing up steep rocky fire roads in the granny ring while it felt a little sluggish on pavement due to the full off road tires. So back to REI that afternoon for some road rubber.  Right now it is shod with 26 x 1.5 inch city tires and is a very efficient, fast and stable commuter. At some point, I need to put on my front Blackburn Low Riders and take it on a real bike tour.

Long Haul Trucker in commuter trim.
The 26-1.5 Serfas Drifters are a tad heavy, but look pretty bombproof 
Next time I'll get some faster, more supple tires
11-4-11 addenum. I did get around to trimming the steerer tube. Gotta replace that ancient bar tape, too. The big improvement was swapping out a 110 mm bottom bracket for a 115. Now I don't have the front derailleur, which had the low limit screw all the way in as far as it could go, rubbing the chain in the 26-34 and 26-30 combinations Chain line is still OK, but I have to take it out now and ride it to see how the Q factor feels. If the pedals are too far apart, I'll have to find a front derailleur that can move closer to the centerline of the bike.

All in all, its been a lot of fun. Heck of a lot cheaper and far healthier than some hobbies, too!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bob Fuller's Roadside Memorials

With all the talk over how to redesign Trinity to be bike-ped safe and with this being our largest employer's "traffic safety month", I still think I need to remind us that the biggest issue we face is not specific designs but lagging human behavior. Hence this video, which is guaranteed to offend everybody. Its been around the block for a few years but I had not thought of it until I emptied out an old computer case and found, much to my surprise, the Bob Fuller Roadside Memorial business cards.

Yep, I have the business cards too if you wish. Given to me by Randy Neufeld back when he headed up Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, back when we both were attending the 2006 Pro-Bike/Pro-Walk conference in Madison, WI. Enjoy, and while watching out for those distracted drivers and oblivious joggers, remember that this is actually deadly serious business. I'll find the collection of descansos pictures I took a few years back and post them later.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

GM to Students: Get Hooked Early. Young Lady to Bicyclist: Go Ride That Bike

From the look on that woman's face, he's got nice quads...
Or something. 
Kudos to BikePortland and the LAB for running this up the flagpole

Having been in the loop with a couple of campus facility managers and even a University Vice Chancellor for Operations during my time, I bet they are less than pleased with that advertisement, unless GM is paying for the next parking structure, road project, and traffic management study. Especially for urban campuses such as the U of Hawaii.  Just what they need—more cars.  My understanding is UH is vying for Bicycle-Friendly Campus status, having just made honorable mention. Congrats to Kathy Cutshaw, the UH Vice Chancellor for Administration, Finance, and Operations, and her remarkable team. Back when I was on the SOEST faculty at UH, Kathy, as chief administrative officer of the School Of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology (SOEST), was working to make SOEST a bicycle-friendly university unit.

Not to mention, I knew too many students back at the UH who were hopelessly in debt and had to work part time jobs to cover the bills spent on shit I never dreamed of owning in college, rather than using their time to study. It’s tragic. One has the rest of one’s life to buy toys. Presuming, of course, you leave college with that sheepskin rather than broken and burdened with a mountain of senseless debt.

On the other hand, that pretty girl in the car is giving that guy on the bike a pretty serious looking over. Sigh…for a twentysomething guy, that’s actually a pretty good advertisement for riding a bike on campus and saving the money spent on a large, gas guzzling liability instead for a date. If I were the local bike shop, I'd have that ad on my door pronto.

Speaking of, I once gained a lady friend on campus back in grad school at Stony Brook University when I rode my old Motobecane Mirage to the Stony Brook natural food store to grab some groceries for a pot luck. She was a friend of the friend of mine throwing the pot luck. When I said I was there to  “score some veggies for the potluck” while loading them into my pannier, I immediately had a new friend. One has to have priorities.

Looks to me like GM pulled the ad, by the way. I suspect they saw all those young men fantasizing about that dark haired young girl and then stampeding to their Local Bike Shop.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Maybe we need some "Truck Ed" around here too?

Sheesh. Two tractor trailers have lost it and crashed in two days on one of our most popular bike rides, New Mexico Rt. 4, just above Back Gate. From those pictures in the LA Monitor, it sure is lucky no one on a bike or motor vehicle was in the way. Its also good to know how to descend that road really fast, I guess. Faster than an outa control eighteen wheeler, that is. I better stop trying to lose weight. One's survival might hinge on bike handling skills in the face of up to 80,000 pounds on eighteen wheels.

Is it my imagination, or have there not always been a few big rigs driving that route? Is it more than coincidence that both trucks were from the same company (according to the Monitor, it is BB Transport of Colorado) and both loaded with crushed cars?  Did anyone at that company train its drivers to handle our twisty switchback mountain roads? Colorado's got mountains, right? Did they check the maps? Drive the course? Check if the fully loaded eighteen wheeler could even make those awful turns?

We are lucky no one, including those drivers, was hurt or killed. I think the NMDOT better look at this before we are not so lucky.

Let's be careful out there. Lotta diesel still in the pavement after the cleanup. Watch those corners.