Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Yep, another trip around the sun has passed the start/finish line. Off we go to 2015. I posted the Youtube link to that Bruce Cockburn song in a sombre moment last night, as one sometimes feels a little strange realizing that far more laps are behind one than in front of one as one reflects on life, as Bruce does in his lyrics.

Today I did some non-sombre things, i.e., walking the hounds in the bright sunlight and taking a drive to Pajarito Mountain to enjoy what the snow we just were blessed with did to the X-C ski trails. Skiiing was excellent, although the base is not deep enough to protect one completely from rocks and other land mines.  Proceeding through the sharp downhill hairpin directly south of marker H, the one marked with the yellow "caution" triangle sign, I was in what was otherwise looking like a good setup as I dove into the tight radius descent. Then I snagged one ski on an intact aspen shoot that was slightly buried and got spun around and dumped on my hind end. When pushing the Envelope of Life, I suppose one has to watch for buried aspen shoots. My apologies to others for the sitz mark! 

Dinner included a traditional Japanese New Year's Day soba based soup (delivered with an "akemashite omedetou gozaimasu" card) brought over by our neighbor, who is of Japanese-Italian descent, in honor of my three weeks of bachelorhood.

It was truly a glorious New Year's Day.

NW End of Canada Bonita, looking west towards Redondo Peak, 
the resurgent dome in the middle of the Valles Caldera

Same location as above, looking back southwest towards the meadow

Burn scar area of ski trails in low lying cloud cover 
(well, where low lying clouds are at 9,000 feet!)

Extolling fossil fuels. Really?

 I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul"

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

In an editorial printed in the 30 December Santa Fe New Mexican, Alex Epstein, President of the Center for Industrial Progress, extolls the virtues of fossil fuels, saying, quite correctly, that cheap and abundant fossil energy sources have powered human development during the Industrial Revolution and improved our lives. If you Google Alex Epstein, you will find a wealth of connections to pro-coal and pro-fossil energy essays. In the New Mexican, under a title "There's a moral case for fossil fuels" (original long version here), he says "...Fossil fuels have a profound moral importance. They allow us to improve human well being and make the world a better place..."

I can't help but wonder how Epstein is able to be such a Pollyanna in the 21st Century. It is absolutely true that cheap and abundant energy (traditionally including hydropower, coal, oil, natural gas) has and continues to drive human progress and has improved the human condition for those who have partaken of its benefits. Having said that, one has to look at the totality of the human endeavor and how it changes through time. A human infant is dependent on abundant and easily available mother's milk to grow and prosper. A mature adult consumes an entirely different mix to prosper.

At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, there were about a billion humans on the planet. Industrialization directly impacted only a few, first in England and later in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. There are now over seven billion of us; the rest of the world is rapidly cashing in on industrialization to obtain the goods and services we in the U.S. take for granted. If seven billion of us use fossil fuels, the impacts will be far greater than they were a century or two ago. Thus, one has to look at the complete, forward projected cost-benefit analysis of fossil fuel use rather than just the price at the pump or meter, in order to see what in the long term is a good idea.

We may not remember the bad air present in many American cities a half century ago (or, conversely, our booming industrial economy of a half century ago), but one only has to look at pictures of the air in urban China to see how bad it can get; one is not supposed to be able to see air. The immediate down side of fossil fuel use, especially coal, includes pollution in mining and pollution in combustion, the latter having both health and environmental impacts. Coal burning, for example, releases radionuclides, mercury, and a variety of toxic and acidic combustion gases and aerosols, the last, unless trapped technologically, being responsible for cardiovascular disease and for fresh water acidification such as we have seen in the Eastern U.S. An October, 2014 Consumer Reports article notes a dramatic rise in mercury concentration in long lived, top of the food chain fish in the North Pacific (I blogged on that here). This change in downwind ocean mercury chemistry is directly attributable to the rapid industrialization of the Far East and its reliance on primitive coal plants. We should note that the dirty side of coal burning is convincing the Chinese to invest in cleaner power sources such as nuclear.

In the long term, the reliance on fossil fuels by the world economy promises at least a couple things. One, that the world will constantly be struggling with the Hubbert Curves of supply and demand as we exploit each resource in boom and bust cycles, as we are currently doing with hydraulic fracturing. Secondly, the release of combustion products will have both short and long term impact. Mercury in fish is an immediate concern. Climate change is a long range problem.

CO2 is a "greenhouse" or Tyndell gas (acknowledgements to Dr. Michael Johnson in the New Mexican) and, along with water vapor and other "greenhouse" gases, contributes to making the earth quite inhabitable; without "greenhouse gases" the average temperature on the earth would be far colder, in this link about 32 deg C colder. The carbon-oxygen bonds in CO2 (and chemical bonds in water and other gases) absorb infrared energy that would otherwise escape back to space and re-radiate it within the atmosphere, an effect studied since the early eighteen hundreds by scientists including Joseph Fourier, Svante Arrhenius, and John Tyndall. Adding more CO2 to the atmosphere from sources long sequestered in the earth (stored as coal, oil, natural gas) makes humans agents of climate change by changing the atmosphere's effectiveness in absorbing energy that would otherwise be lost to space. CO2 is good and perhaps we could actually calculate optimal levels and keep them there. Like anything that is good, a lot more of it added without due prudence is not necessarily better. Think of what you would look like if you ate a half gallon of ice cream every night.

Climate, as any earth scientist will tell you, is a fickle beast and it changes with or without our help due to natural processes such as variations in solar output, wobbles in the Earth's orbit (Milankovich cycles), the eruption of supervolcanoes that release climate-impacting aerosols and gases, and variations in geophysical processes such as ocean currents and their relation to the positions of the continents. These changes, both slowly evolving and sometimes rapid and dramatic (i.e., the Little Ice Age) are not without consequence and can sometimes have catastrophic human impact, as the Anasazi in the Southwest and the Vikings in Greenland discovered (and discussed in Jared Diamond's book Collapse).  For example, adding heat to the earth by significantly increasing atmospheric CO2 above pre industrial levels can melt continental glaciers and raise sea level, acidify the oceans, speed up the water cycle and move climate belts. All of these impact human activities built on the implicit assumption, at least in the short term, of relative climate stasis. One can go up and down the coastlines of different nations and see perched shorelines, some of them due to previous high stands of the sea during periods between ice ages. One can study the migration of humans to North America when the Pleistocene glaciation created a land bridge between North America and Asia. Future humans may have to grapple with how to move whole cities and farm belts, irrespective of national boundaries.

So while cheap and abundant energy has very positive impacts on human activities (think of your life without food refrigeration), it is not without both positive and negative consequence. The real cost vs. benefits of the energy we use today is measured not just in the meter reading, but in how we will manage the present and future environmental as well as economic impacts our choices impose on us and the planet. Should we include in the cost of fossil fuel what is needed to manage climate change through geo-engineering or carbon sequestration? Should fossil energy be taxed to pay for the costs of cardiovascular disease directly linked to pollution?  How do we measure and calculate the cost benefit ratio of all of the "externalities" of fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy consumption? We must quantify these effects if we want to know how cheap, or conversely, how expensive, our energy sources really are, and how they compare to their alternatives.

A 600 word version of this has been submitted to the New Mexican as a "My View" contribution. Here 'tis...

Thursday, December 25, 2014

County Council Approves Alignment to Continue Canyon Rim Trail to Smith's Marketplace

As covered in the Daily Post, Council approved Option 3 to continue the Canyon Rim Trail west of its current terminus by the fire station. When complete, it will extend from its eastern terminus at the Airport Basin (across from the Los Alamos Co-Op) to a western terminus at the Smith's Marketplace parking lot. This will provide a badly needed and quite attractive off road option for those who want to hike or bike to the Airport Basin rather than use NM502, which has serious choke points where the shoulder peters out just as one is entering stretches of road with center medians, i.e. squished into motor vehicle traffic in that same interval where the speed limit changes from 50 mph to 35 mph. Its especially annoying on the westbound, uphill return trip from the Basin area.

Kudos to Council for acting on the need to provide good transportation alternatives. With improvements to NM502 to make it more amenable to biking far over the horizon, Council did what we should have done, i.e., do something ourselves. A nice marked crossing on 502 would help.

Of course, one will have to respect the trail for its limits as well as enjoy its beauty. I've discussed that before. 

As far as Smith's Marketplace, I'd like to see a little more dedicated bike parking, but when I ride there, I just lock my bike up to that really fine looking fence to the south of the Starbucks. As far as I can tell, that fence is actually a really fine bike rack.

Figure from county, via the Daily Post

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice and Last Day of Zappadan

One of my favorite end points--the East end of Kwage Mesa 
overlooking the Rio Grande Rift. Seems me or the
Blackberry camera are having a bad day.
 It was a lovely, if short day today, the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. With a high around 38 deg F, I took the mountainbike out for a short scoot and otherwise piddled 'round the house, cleaning, vacuuming, doing laundry, and rearranging the mess in the garage.Strangely but predictably, another loop around the sun has gone by while I was doing something else, leaving me wondering where 2014 went, and hoping for a few more laps before I'm chased down by that inevitable closer of breakaways, the Grim Reaper.

The North Mesa trails are more interesting this year, given Open Space specialist Craig Martin's great work in creating more trails/singletrack headed east from the horse stables. One can now do a great loop of North/Kwage Mesa without setting tire on the main jeep road except for a couple of crossing points. Its beautiful back there. A tip of the hat to Craig and his volunteer corps who made that possible. I think it was the Boy Scouts?

It was also the last day of Zappadan, that period celebrated by Frank Zappa aficianadoes, especially my pen pal and newly minted New Mexico resident Patrick O'Grady. Zappadan starts on the anniversary of Zappa's death (4 Dec, 1993) and ends on the day of his birth (21 Dec. 1940, coinciding with the Winter Solstice). So here is a tip of the brain bucket and guitar to anyone reading this.
Just enough snow to make curves interesting. 
I was practicing my drifting technique, 
almost getting it sideways on one occasion.

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!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lafayette and Boulder

Lookout Road, looking West towards the Front Range
Also, this road passes through a large prairie dog colony

Today found me in Lafayette, slightly east of Boulder, the cycling mecca of Colorado (or at least one of them).  The main roads up this way are a bit nerve wracking, but there are some nice side roads that get off the beaten path. Arapahoe Road is one of the main E-W routes between Lafayette and Boulder. 50 mph with, when you are lucky, about 18 inches of shoulder and one narrow lane in each direction. But no one buzzed me and all was well.I've experimented with embedding a Google Map of Arapahoe below. If I lived here, I'd either find a better route or talk to the DOT about putting decent shoulders on that road. Sheesh. Given the rampant development in this area, the road really needs improvement for both motorists and cyclists. Note added later. My new friends Joe and Dale showed me around while flogging my sorry ass from Lafayette to Eldorado Springs and back yesterday. S. Baseline Road is a much better route, but due to rapid infill by arterial and cul-de-sac development due to the economic boom up here, all the E-W roads are a bit, shall we say, busy. But thank you, Joe and Dale, for reminding me of what a bike ride really should feel like!

Allez, rented from University Bikes, sitting postride
in front of our friend's house in Lafayette
Nice Allez, pictured here, courtesy of the rentals at University Bicycles in Boulder. Somewhat silly of me, but I never put a race bike on the roof rack of my wife's car. The rack fits my long wheelbase commuter bikes fine, but the rear wheel was sitting on the clamp instead of in the gutter pan where it should. Not a good idea for a 400 mile, high speed road trip. In order to get the short wheelbase Cannondales on it, I would have to move the Subaru crossbars and reattach everything. With the roof box already loaded and the dogs in the car, that was not gonna happen, so the seat cluster and pedals got tossed in the car and I grumpily looked for a rental. The Allez was University's less expensive road bike rental, but it rode just fine and I actually found myself very happy with the frame geometry. The folks at the shop were nice, too. So now I can say I rode in Boulder County.Thanks and a tip of the brain bucket to Joe, Dale, and University Bicycles!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Who Is An Invisible Bicyclist?

"For the hard-pedaling day laborers of Los Angeles, bicycling isn't exercise, a hobby, or a statement. It's a way to get to work-if there's work to be found" --Dan Koeppel, Invisible Riders

"...One guy's significant other was riding side-saddle on the top tube, in a hotel maid's uniform, while he pedaled along Paradise, a cigarette drooping from his lips. You won't see them in a Trek ad anytime soon, but they probably spend more time on two wheels than most of Bicycling's readers..." --Patrick O'Grady, "Stuff You Wouldn't Ride: An Interbiker Among the Outerbikers

Is anyone in Albuquerque or Santa Fe (or any of our other cities or places in the middle of nowhere) looking at this idea of analyzing the concept of the invisible cyclist (a term coined by Dan Koeppel in a 2006 Bicycling article) and developing ideas for those people who use bicycles but are not in the traditional camp of "bicyclists" (I think Jennifer Buntz and the Duke City Wheelmen do some)?  I found the LAB webinar on the topic a little too diffuse to concentrate on (or maybe it seemed scattered because I was multitasking while listening to it).

It is not clear to me whether, by self identifying as a bicyclist, one is therefore part of the problem rather than part of the solution because in the eyes of some of the thinkers, self identifying as a bicyclist borders on elitism (dare I say narcissism?) rather than inclusiveness. Indeed, the more traditional LAB member probably does somewhat relish iconoclasm and elitism rather than political inclusiveness, at least when it comes to bicycling. Some on the LAB panel objected to the term invisible bicyclist as demeaning and politically incorrect. Well, when Dan Koeppel and Patrick O'Grady delve into it, it has a human face, something occasionally lacking when a human topic falls into the realm of policy wonks (and I fall into that wonk pit at times). Then again, are all bicyclists invisible because motorists, politicians, and some DOTs don't see us? Can one be well off and be invisible? Does advocacy confer visibility?  Can one wear loud lycra and be invisible?

Interesting ideas on Zavestoski's Invisiblecyclist site. By concentrating on infrastructure, one falls into the power trap, i.e., money follows power and that means it follows the already empowered. Note the fight between hipsters and Hasidic Jews in NYC regarding cycletracks. Are there nice green cycletracks going up in Skid Row? Then again, where does one begin? Social outreach is one option, it would seem. Or as someone in the LAB webinar mentioned, if you need to, bring an interpreter. As Dan Koeppel found out, you may be a little uncomfortable on that 5k titanium steed.

Seems to me the problem is not that the cyclist is invisible, but that the rest of society has its eyes and mind closed as long as the invisible cyclists hunker down in the shadows. We only notice them when they get mowed down, i.e.,  Neil Smith, or when they don't give up their seat on that great transportation bus to a motorist, i.e., Cherokee Schill.

As a card-carrying MAMIL, or maybe now an out of the closet S-O-B in the making (Santa Fe Seniors on Bikes) I've not paid much attention to this movement, but its an important thing to think about in many parts-as both Dan and Patrick make clear. Lost Almost probably not a leader among them, but one can be invisible in LA. Ask the cyclist, a colleague of mine, who was right hooked and seriously injured by an oblivious motorist in front of Metzger's gas station while riding in the bike lane. He was then ticketed for jaywalking by an investigating officer oblivious to bike law! My colleague only became visible when he put up a fight in court. And he prevailed.

But this is a poor, backward state, and I've seen some pretty lonely looking people riding beater bikes up that hellish thing called Cerrillos Road. Does anyone speak for them? I'm sure there is plenty of invisibility in New Mexico, once you open your eyes to it.

If you want to see an Invisible Cyclist, here was one: the late Neil Allen Smith. Longtime readers of this blog may remember this picture. Full story here.

Have at it:

Original Dan Koeppel article "Invisible Riders" and Patrick O'Grady's "Outerbikers at Interbike"

Monday, November 3, 2014

So Long, Tom....

Tom Magliozzi (here on the right) of Car Talk fame, gone at 77. Story here at

2014 League of American Bicyclists Board Meeting, Albuquerque, NM. 14-16 Nov.

The 2014 League of American Bicyclists National Board Meeting is scheduled to take place November 14-16, 2014 in Albuquerque, NM. Approximately 15 Board and 6 Staff members from LAB will be in attendance. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they will have time to explore much of the Land of Entrapping, Partially Paved Shoulders.

I plan on trying to get down there to hobnob with the Board at Diane Albert's reception and make a general nuisance of myself. If you have any ideas you want me to pack in the motorcycle saddlebag (assuming its not snowing), leave a comment here.

BCNM should have a press release out. When it surfaces, I'll send it to the LAC Council.

BCNM Board Member

p.s. Don't forget to vote for the scoundrels of your choice tomorrow.  Mid term elections have consequences. And, keep throwing away all that toxic junk mail we have been getting about Geoff Rogers and Stephanie Garcia-Richards. Two good people, neither deserves the crap we have been tossing in the recycling bin.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Why Are The Major Players Spun Up Over the Governor's Report?

From the People for Bikes Blog. Hence the promotion 
of Safety in Numbers
A similar trend can be seen for auto fatals on the IIHS page
People for Bikes, LAB, Bob Mionske, and others are all railing against a recently released Governor's Highway Safety Association report that in a shrill manner, showed a 16% uptick in the number of bicycle fatals from 2010-2012. One of the best discussions demolishing that report is by Michael Andersen over at Bike Portland. The GHSA study is admittedly short on details and poor on interpretation, so I'm not about to trade my Salsa LaCruz for a Hummer for my daily commute. More alarming perhaps is that report is the superficial stuff that politicians and their advisors will be reading.

Bicycling is and always was pretty safe. From the chart, one could calculate that at two bike trips per day, one would have to live practically seven thousand years to die in a bike trip. Heck, even Moses didn't live that long. Also note that this trend has been on a downward trajectory long before the current bike boom or cycletracks. Safety in numbers? Perhaps. Maybe safety as cycling becomes acculturated and our roads improved. Certainly, the French and German troops at Verdun or Ypres didn't feel like there was safety in numbers, i.e., there has to be a reason or two while safety in numbers works.

Some of the findings are not surprising. Used to be that kids were the biggest class of fatals. But with the rise in bicycle use by adults, especially, as city transportation, it could be that that adult fatals now dominate for several reasons. One, simple exposure hours. Two, more complicated infrastructure to negotiate and this done during peak commute hours. Three, inexperienced riders taking up cycling, something some have not done since they got their first car.

From PfB, Michael Andersen's post. 
Short term bumps, 
pretty flat long term trajectory
I wonder if some of the heated rejection of this report, which sadly, tells us to stay sober and wear a helmet as two of its most prominent findings, is that the last few years also happens to be the time when the bike biz and its lobbyists are promoting newfangled city infrastructure and designs (i.e., NACTO, etc) that are supposed to make us safer. But we see that damned uptick. The Gov's study is too shallow to draw any relationship between deaths and anything else, nor does it claim a statistical relevance above random variation, nor are those three years of data even normalized to bike trips, exposure hours, or rainfall in Arizona per year, but there is that glaring, if meaningless correlation. Hmm. Could this be a case of shooting the messenger?

A more useful report would look at those crashes and determine if the kinds of crashes were changing, even if the crashes/trip or crashs/exposure hour are continuing to decline. For example, the Forbes report that Bob Mionske and Rick Bernardi reference says that while nationally, bike commuting rose by 40% between 2000 and 2010, it rose by 77% in some cities. That's almost 8% per year or 23% in three years in high growth cities and 4% per year, 12% in three years overall. Does a fatality rise of 16% in 3 years (5.3%/yr), slightly higher than the overall commute growth rate, mean anything statistically significant?  Perhaps the fatality rate of commuters is higher than for the general cycling population? Perhaps more people are texting while driving?
Stolen from Darren Flusche's post at the LAB

The lesson to me is to look not just at statistics, but at some of the old common sense safety stuff that folks like John Forester have told us and update it to the modern bicycling era. We know new riders and children crash more due to inexperience.  One can usually survive that "I should have been hit" situation with skill sets that include situational awareness and bike handling (famous last words, of course). So rather than just putting new riders on cycletracks, the bike biz needs to do what the motorcycle biz did long ago--actively promote and underwrite adult and childhood cycling education before pushing all those folks onto its vaunted protected facilities. I wish PfB, which is funded by the bike biz, would see the logic in that. That doesn't mean we have to choose between infrastructure and good training. We need both, because even in a city with good infrastructure, life on two wheels gets complicated.In a city with flawed infrastructure, good training is even more important.

But really. Cycling is not dangerous, and as individuals, we are not passive statistics. We can ride better and "beat the reaper". Hell, even after a year of taunting fate in the lane of a high speed highway, Cherokee Schill could only be forced off the road by virtue of being tossed in the hoosgow. Go figure.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"...The League is working towards a world where it doesn’t take courage to ride your bike..."

Did the League throw Cherokee Schill under the bus? Or Not?

Cherokee Schill has lost in her day in court. Now, whither to appeal and where to go? From the discussion on both the LAB site and in Keri Caffrey's long post, which I bookmarked a couple days ago, it seemed that even the prosecution's expert witnesses in Cherokee Schill's trial supported assertions on why she rides like she does on some pretty shitty Kentucky roads. LAB Bicycle Friendly Communities guy Steve Clark says it well here:

 "...Her route? Highway 27, a road with a 50 mile-per-hour speed limit, and a shoulder strewn with debris, gravel and rumble strips that make it very difficult, if not impossible, to ride on safely..."
Note to readers: Read Bikeolounger's comment on the state of this road, which is appended to this post.

Steve Clark asserts that the LAB education program tells cyclists to do what Schill has been ticketed, tried, and convicted of doing in practice. In his discussion, though, League President Andy Clarke says that the League, after discussions with its law team, has decided not to support Schill's appeal, which basically means she has been run off the road by some potentially spurious interpretations of law (see Keri's and Ken McLeod's posts). That said, the League will work to improve conditions for KY cyclists via legislative and regulatory means. That second part is good news. Not so sure about the first part.
I'm actually kinda sympathetic to Andy's position....its a bit like Cherokee's, politically speaking

I'd really like to have seen the members of the LAB legal team, including LAB and BCNM Board member Diane Albert, Esq, and Schill's defense attorney Steve Magas (who won the Selz vs. Trotwood appeal and discusses the Schill case here) publish individual opinions so that we could see the legal details for this decision laid out rather than Mr.Clarke's summary of the League's position. It seems that by publishing a summary, we see a shitstorm of protest in response to Andy's discussion. But without knowing the details as laid out by the legal panel, I'm not willing to opine on whether this was a good or bad move, although a decision by a panel of the League's lawyers should not be dismissed lightly, even for the skeptical.

"When people get into it and look at it a little closer, they realize it's a complicated case," 
"..."I ride on the shoulder in a case like that. ... I'm sympathetic to her as a person, but it's a messy case."

Read more here:
 --Cycling attorney Bob Mionske, as quoted in

Read more here:

Sometimes one doesn't take a case on appeal because one doesn't want to lose, and end up in a worse place than where one started--if the trial judge did not err, then the decision is reinforced at a higher level.  Indeed, states that the judge in this case only required Schill do ride on the shoulder when it was safe to do so. Interesting. But I wonder how a judge who doesn't ride a bike would know when it is safe to do so?  Sometimes one takes a case because it is the best way to force the issue in the direction we want, and that includes better laws. Sometimes one takes a case to refute a miscarriage of justice. On points 2 and 3, this seems to fit the bill. But Steve Magas, the defense lawyer in this case, has opined that even the landmark Selz vs Trotwood, OH case could have gone either way. Indeed, it was a split decision; had it gone the other way, Ohio cyclists would be worse for it.  But so too, as John Schubert, an expert witness at the Schill trial, asked, "...“She (Schill) is the bellwether for: ‘Do we have the right to use the road[way] or not?’ Not when it’s fashionable, not when it’s yuppies in Portland, but when it is a single mom who needs to get to her job."

I'm no fan of taking a lane on a 55 mph road if there is a decent shoulder, but often enough, there is not a rideable shoulder and you gotta do what is just and legal--use the travel lane.  For example, the heavily trafficked commuter section of NM 4 between White Rock and East Jemez Road is posted 50 mph, is nearly shoulderless, and is an unavoidable portion of road for anyone doing the Bandelier Loop or riding without a Dept. of Energy badge between Los Alamos and White Rock. Indeed, living in a place where my own state (New Mexico) has destroyed numerous roadway shoulders through inadequate maintenance paving in the name of financial expediency, I really do think we have to push back on cases like this, whether in court, the court of public opinion, or in the legislatures of the land. Whether KY or NM, the state must provide good roads and fair treatment.

With few exceptions, every road should be a bikeway. Cherokee Schill should be able to ride on the roads that KY provides without going to jail, without the League asserting that it takes "a special act of courage" to ride there and thus invoking that terribly patronizing idea of the "few and fearless" Type A rider, and without KY demanding the rider be as far right in the highway right of way as is practicable, i.e., off the traveled portion of the right of way. Also, if there is something in Andy's post that troubles me, it is the suggestion that this special act of courage " not normal..." and seems to put Ms. Schill outside the mainstream, and somehow easier to decide to not defend. Indeed, Cherokee doesn't ride on shit roads for the love of taunting fate or the state. She does it because there ain't a better option.

Bottom line is what Andy says, even if an appeal would be successful, this will still be a grim ride under present conditions. Plus, one cannot predict what the KY legislature might do. Bottom line is the facility sucks. If there is only one reasonably direct route between towns and it is a high speed, heavily used road, it should have good, paved, unobstructed shoulders or some other contextually-correct, thoughtfully built and efficient way to accommodate cyclists. There are data, FWIW, (e.g., the Solomon Curve) suggesting that very large speed mismatches on highways increase the chances of collisions, hence the problem here. Thus why we require slow moving vehicles to keep right and in some states, require slow moving vehicles to use flashers. It makes sense for cyclists to have a safe place to ride to the right of high speed traffic on busy highways, so why don't we provide such? Of course, that means careful treatment at intersections where turning and crossing countermeasures are needed, etc., etc. But until these roads are improved, we still should have the right to ride on them, warts, potholes, and all, without being relegated to a crap or nonexistent shoulder.
Solomon Curve

If there is good news, its that perhaps LAB and the cycling community can change the law, if not the road, in KY. Not to mention, most of us are fortunate that we don't ride our bikes under such lousy conditions.

But whether LAB should underwrite an appeal? I don't know. LAB needs to lead the way in doing something constructive. What that is? Stay tuned.

Bikeolounger comments here as another expert witness.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Daylight Savings Time Ends Sunday, November 2

Are your lights mounted and in working order?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Alleged Drunk Driver Finally Kills

From today's Albuquerque Journal.  Not sure anyone is re-introducing HB12/68/etc.....Just as Clarence finally got his wings, hopefully Gabriella will finally get her bars.

Dead motorcyclist ID’d; car driver had prior charges

Court records identify Steve Reider, 54, as the man killed early Saturday when a speeding car slammed into his motorcycle in a suspected drunken driving crash at Montgomery and Eubank NE.

Albuquerque police arrested Gabrielle Erin Moya, 20, on charges of vehicular homicide and aggravated driving while intoxicated in connection with the 2:50 a.m. accident. Moya remained in the Metropolitan Detention Center on Sunday in lieu of $200,000 cash or surety bond, according to jail records. 

Moya also faces charges from a drunken driving arrest last month.

Moya was arrested Sept. 20 on charges of aggravated DWI and failure to yield right of way, court records show. She was released on bond after an Oct. 8 hearing.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pass or Fail, Charter Amendment 2 is no guarantee against folly

Maybe we need to put these in mailboxes
Along with all the meaningless B.S. I've been getting in the mail from various special interest political groups, there is a constant influx of mostly thoughtful letters to Carol Clark's newsblog about the Charter Amendments, particularly Amendment 2, regarding the relationship between the Board of Public Utilities and County Council.

I've not got the strong feelings others have about it although on balance, I remain skeptical, especially in light of Council trying to run around and brand our backsides with e^x. But either way, good governance is not the sole purview of Councillors, Board members, county staff, or the public alone. Good governance only happens when we are all engaged.

A while back, we went through the Second Battle of the Roundabouts on Trinity Drive.  (The Diamond roundabouts being the First Battle of the Roundabouts). The county hired a consulting firm to redesign Trinity Drive and the design focused on roundabouts. Several astute citizens with science and engineering backgrounds (I'll call them the "citizen's committee" until I look up all of their names) were skeptical and started doing their own calculations, going so far as to buy their own copies of the roundabout modelling programs. When they, and finally the Transportation Board (yep, I'll take my lumps because I was chair) repeatedly pressed the county's consultants on details, the consultants were vague on their numbers and uncertainties. Finally, consumed by our own growing doubts and the continued work of the citizen's committee, the Transportation Board insisted on an independent review from one of the two best roundabout engineering firms in the country. The firm substantially agreed with the citizens committee on key shortcomings of the plan and the proposal was given an unceremonious funeral.

So I guess my bottom line is that regardless of the vote, we all need to be engaged and be checks and balances on folly. As far as public utilities, one of my own role models in this regard is former Councilor Robert Gibson, who was arguing for community broadband when the rest of county government was building lavish governmental and golf buildings and then saying we didn't have the funds for broadband. Sigh. As Mr. Gibson says, community broadband is a key 21st Century public utility, and is part of the underlying strength this community needs to build if we are to be a strong enough economic force to support the nice perks we have here, such as beautiful public parks, nice public buildings, and excellent roads and trails to ride on.

County Branding Party?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What Most People Don’t Understand About the Cherokee Schill Case

  The story of Cherokee Schill, posted by Keri Caffrey on I Am Traffic, is worth a careful read. Be sure to listen to the interview of John Schubert by the Outspoken Cyclist, which is embedded in Keri Caffrey's story. John was an expert witness at the trial and is a long time cycling advocate and accident reconstruction expert witness.

Cherokee lost her driver's license. So this single mom has been riding her bicycle on a state route in Kentucky, 18 miles one way, to her job as a fork lift operator. She lost 90 lbs in the process. She was arrested for careless driving for riding in the travel lane, and four expert witnesses, two for the prosecution, actually agreed this was the correct course of action as the shoulder was unsafe. The judge disagreed with all four experts and convicted her. I guess its gotten worse since then.

Schubert is right. Nothing is gained if the only cyclists who have a "right" to travel by bicycle are in places like Portlandia. None of us is free unless all of us are free. That's why the Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico took issue with new Santa Fe Police Chief Eric Garcia's past comments criticizing our right to travel on public roads.
“She is the bellwether for: ‘Do we have the right to use the road[way] or not?’ Not when it’s fashionable, not when it’s yuppies in Portland, but when it is a single mom who needs to get to her job.” — John Schubert, expert witness.

Go read the story, and don't get mad, get active.

Also, a good discussion, including numerous comments, on the LAB site. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Better Living, Exponentially

Since Council just approved a contract with Atlas Advertising, LLC to create a strapline "Living Exponentially", perhaps we should actually live by this slogan. I have two suggestions. These might address the flood of sarcastic letters headed to the Los Alamos Daily Post aimed at this $225,000 expenditure and also may remedy the recent upheaval directed at barking dogs.

Indeed, an exponent can be less than one, so living exponentially doesn't necessarily mean living extravagantly but can also mean living with less. Radioactive decay, for example, results in an exponential decrease in the remaining amount of a radionuclide in the future because the decay constant is less than one. The decay constant for Pu-239 for example, is ~0.0000287.

So lets solve two problems of excesses by living exponentially. Decrease the carbon emissions of Los Alamos County and decrease the number of barking dog complaints. Let's agree to set the half life of of the county wide CO2 emissions at 20 years and of county wide dog complaints at 10 years. That results in decay constants of 0.0347 and 0.0693, respectively. So looking 20 years out, this is what Living Exponentially can mean for carbon emissions and dog complaints.  Aren't we feeling better already?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Duke City Police Blame Cyclist for Crash That Cost Her a Leg

From KRQE 13. 

"KRQE News 13 tracked down the long-awaited police report from the Albuquerque Police Department investigators chalked up the June collision to inattentiveness and a failure to yield on the part of the bicyclist. The woman was on her way to work when the garbage truck driver made a right turn in front of her as she rode alongside the truck."

We don't get details from KRQE that would help a knowledgeable cyclist unravel this crash and decide who was overtaking whom. One has to see the full police report.

Two things. One, never ignore an overtaking motorist when approaching a potential right turn--the motorist WILL sometimes neglect to see you, properly judge your relative speed, or yield to you. Two, if you are riding into an intersection to the right of a vehicle and if right turns are allowed, be alert because that motorist could turn into you--if you can soft pedal and slow down and watch, or merge safely into traffic in advance of the intersection and out of the bike lane, i.e., move left to control the travel lane; those are two possibilities (also see Steve Avery's comment below). Remember the P in AFRAP means As Far Right As is  Practicable, not possible, regardless of what anyone else tells you. Also, practice your instant turns, which John Allen uses below to steer away from trouble.

That advice especially goes for potential conflicts with large trucks, which have "wide right turn" problems. Never, ever, EVER go into an intersection on the right of a large truck. If you cannot safely overtake it well in advance, fall in behind. During a right turn, the trailing wheels of a truck track to the right of the cab, and will override a cyclist riding alongside--cyclists riding to the right of trucks, or overtaking them, in bike lanes have died in resulting right hook crashes. Also, a truck driver will sometimes pull the cab to the left and then make a right turn so the trailer wheels don't hit the curb. Don't be fooled.

The station itself mistakenly refers to the cyclist as a pedestrian, which is neither legally or operationally true.

John Allen's video is worth a thousand more words, so I'll repost it here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Careless Drivers Who Kill: Carnage Without Consequence in New Mexico

With acknowledgements/apologies to
Patrick O'Grady/
Bicycle Coalition of NM Vice President Diane Albert was interviewed on Albuquerque's Channel 13 regarding our (BCNM's) distress at recent incidents of careless drivers who have killed and walked away with minimal penalties, thanks to New Mexico's weak careless driving laws and too-forgiving juries. The Albuquerque Journal's Joline Krueger also wrote a very good article on this topic over the weekend.

I'm not sure the usual suspects (New Mexico Motorcycle Rights Organization and Duke City Wheelmen) and reinvigorated allies (The Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico) will try to get an enhanced penalty bill aimed at careless drivers who kill (modelled on the old HB 12) reintroduced during the upcoming 2015 legislative session, given that we have gotten it to sail through the House each year since 2011 and each time, the Senate Judiciary Committee kills it for reasons unknown. We need to figure out a way to get this on the Governor's desk, once and for all. But as one fellow cycling advocate tells me, the Senate Majority Leader, an attorney, does not like the idea of this law, and it always seems to meet a dead end in the SJC.

Maybe now is a good time to push again, given the recent stories of carnage without consequences on our roads. I've appended jpegs of the 2012 bill below. Click to enlarge. Thank so much to Rick Miera for his dogged support, but Rick is retiring.

Note. Thanks to Jennifer Buntz, here is the 2013 bill.

Here are some previous posts on this blog regarding this issue.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Council (Finally) Notices that Trinity Drive Is A Problem

In the 10 September Los Alamos Monitor, we see Citizens' petition prompts action on 20th and Trinity.  

"...A citizen’s petition submitted by Doris Roberts, owner of All Individual First, has prompted action on getting either a signalized intersection or a HAWK (High Intensity Activated Crosswalk) signal at the corner of 20th Street and Trinity Drive...."

Actually it has long been obvious that the County has been enthusiastically developing destinations on the South side of Trinity (NM-502, owned by the State DoT). In the last decade, we have seen more housing developed, a Laboratory technical area, a satellite of St. Christus Hospital, small businesses, and Smith's Marketplace all added to what was already there. Indeed, the county and LA schools have been eager to cash in on the newly liberated turf that was previously tied down with dilapidated school buildings, thus increasing local public revenues (i.e., cutting down on financial leakage off The Hill) and making BombTown a more balanced place to live. Once TA-21 is cleaned up, we can expect yet more development--hopefully well thought through.

But as anyone who followed the ongoing Trinity Corridor discussion knows, Trinity Drive continues to be a somewhat schizophrenic road. It is both a wide, fast highway carrying commuters and residents on and off the hill and is increasingly a main street in a business district. There are inadequate pedestrian amenities along much of the road, with most of what do exist concentrated on the segment between Smiths Marketplace and 20th Street. Today, I clocked 0.7 miles between the last traffic light at Oppenheimer and the Trinity/Diamond intersection. People wanting to cross at Ashley Pond do so at their own risk. Likewise, there are other long gaps between areas where one can safely cross the street with any street controls. So more examples like the Hawk system are definitely needed, as Trinity Drive has many of the attributes of pedestrian-unfriendly suburban development.

Several years ago when I was Chair of the Transportation Board, I made sure we put into the T Board work plan that the T Board should be working with Planning and Zoning and other agencies to ensure that our road designs are examined to ensure they go hand in hand with surrounding development. Indeed, the whole point of the Designs for Streets and Rights of Way (itself a very contentious product that saw its original drafting committee disbanded before the T Board finally produced product that Council adopted) was to ensure we got the roads to safely support the kinds of activity that surrounding development would create. Sadly, the latest version of the Work Plan had a lot of this language deleted by the Council subcommittee that examines work plans. But on second thought, I shouldn't despair, since even better than language in a work plan is language we have in county government, to wit, from the Designs for Streets and Rights of Way! Here, from the Resolution as passed by Council:

1.1 Street and right of way design and land use decisions shall be mutually reinforcing, to create effective synergy between streets and rights-of-way and land use decisions.

So while I am happy to see Council being prompted to action, as in 7-0 advising Staff to work with the DOT, did we really need a petition to Council to do what our own policy already states in plain language? Did Council want political affirmation from the public? Heck, all one has to do is look at the damn street and the problem is obvious. Pardon my frustration, but we shouldn't still be dicking around with this issue. The last thing we need is to let a Cerrillos Road creep into our midst because we don't put planning ahead of execution.

I'm not all that grumpy at Council, actually, because this has long been a topic of a political nature, as the "Downtown Streets Committee" discovered. More important than the local context, historically, is that the deck has long been stacked against pedestrian needs, especially when a highway enters a town. Ped amenities are often treated as impeding the movement of traffic and "warrants" must be met to impede the Holy Motorist. Until the public changes its attitudes and forces these engineering writs to recognize that when a highway enters a town, peds don't impede traffic but are an equally important part of traffic, these issues will remain gnarly. NMDOT must be one of the agencies that changes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Adapting SAE reflectors and other stuff

Steve over at DFW Point to Point posted a discussion of using SAE reflectors rather than the stuff available at your local bike shop. I adapted an LED rear light and a 3 inch diameter SAE reflector to a commercial rack using hardware available at the locall Metzger's hardware store. I am sure other creations can be engineered as well.

I use a reflector with a small hole in the middle meant for nailing or screwing to a post. I put a small bolt through the hole and attach the reflector to a right angle bracket that I bolt to a rear rack. In some cases, I drilled a small hole in the rack and used that to screw on the angle bracket. The rear strobe was similarly adapted using a stainless strap on an existing rack. Parts here.

Bottom line is the more ingenious you are the more ways you can put really effective lighting and reflecting on a bicycle. Neale Pickett showed me a very inexpensive and very powerful Cree LED headlight he got online for a fraction of the cost of a genuine bike shop light. Not sure what it was, but it looked a lot like this. There is no good reason to be the Invisible Bicyclist as winter and short days approach.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

When Not To Time Trial.....

I sent this to a couple of the local bike lists.

Yesterday I was riding the moto to work (red BMW with full faring) and passed a cyclist in full kit and backpack riding south on Diamond. He was between Orange/Sandia and Central (where he turned left) in the bike lane. The guy was on his TT bars when I saw him, with elbows on the elbow pads and arms on the clipon aero extensions.

Being in such a position in heavy traffic and where there are numerous side streets and parking lot entrances makes you extremely vulnerable to being hit by a car turning across the bike lane from oncoming or parallel traffic (left cross or right hook crash).  It is far more difficult to immediately brake or or make a quick turn when on clip-ons than when on the drops or brake hoods. Try it. I’ve seen several people clobbered in that location by clueless motorists and have dodged a couple bullets myself using instant turns.

For complicated urban traffic, I suggest riding on the brake hoods (where you are more upright and can see down the road a lot better) or drops, but not on the tops and definitely not on the TT bars. Save the TT bars for the open road.  That is the beauty of clip ons--they don't take the place of regular drop bars, but add the aero position option to the existing choices. 

There are times when the bicycle is definitely not a piece of sports equipment, and this is one of them. Avoid being cut off at intersections and curbcuts by being situationally aware, in a good position to respond with bike handling, and trained to handle your bicycle.  

Good video on preventing right hooks is here thanks to Keri Caffrey.

Khal Spencer

Who, believe it or not, used to race.
League Cycling Instructor

In this video, the cyclist, who initially is tucked down in an aero position and moving fast, finally gets onto the tops when he realizes he is going to be cut off, but is not able to avoid the classic right hook. Remember, in the urban environment, your first priority has to be situational awareness and an expectation that other people will screw up.