Friday, July 29, 2005

Middle Ground

There have been a couple of columnists in the Pioneer-Press, Saint Paul's newspaper, ripping cyclists for one thing or another. The guys who wrote these are just columnists so their pieces are long on blustery opinion and short on objective facts of the type an actual reporter might get together. However, they did get me to thinking.

A common thread in both was cyclist's failure to stop at Stop signs. Now, leaving aside for the moment the point that most motorists don't stop at Stop signs either, I was looking around on the web to see what information there was about bicycles and Stop signs. Interestingly, a physics professor at Berkeley has done some work on Physics and Bicycles and points out that there is a good reason cyclists don't like to stop; conservation of energy. (you can read the version for civilians and columnists here and see all the math here). The main point of this is that 1) it takes much less energy to keep a bicycle (or car, for that matter) moving than it does to get it moving in the first place and 2) in a roadway with a Stop sign every hundred meters or so, bringing a bike to a full stop and then restarting it means that a cyclist has to expend roughly 500W (Watts) of power to maintain a 12.5 mph pace versus roughly 100W to maintain a 12.5 mph pace without stopping at all. What makes this interesting is that 100-150W is within the sustainable power range of most people whereas 500W is highly-conditioned bike-racer type output. No wonder we don't like to stop.

If you are like me, or like the majority of automobiles, you neither come to a full, complete stop at each stop sign nor do you breeze blithely on through with insouciant unconcern. Instead, you slow down, look both ways, and, if it's clear, carry on. What may be maddening to motorists is that bikes don't slow down as much as cars. I think this is because cyclists generally have much better situational awareness on a bike than motorists do in a car (I speak as someone who both rides and drives). My Atlantis is unusually tall, but even on my Marin my eye level is slightly higher than that of a driver of a Suburban or Ford F-150 and way above that of drivers of minivans or sedans. I like this visibility, and it is one reason I'd be terrified of a recumbent in the city--you couldn't see anything and nobody could see you.

In addition to the better visibility, cyclists can hear better on bikes than can people in enclosed cars with engine noise, fans, the radio, etc. As a result, I’m speculating that the speed to which bikes slow down before proceeding at stop signs is faster than the speed to which cars slow down. The result is annoyance, the same annoyance I've felt when driving 72 in a 55-mph zone and someone overtakes me doing 76; "Hey! That's unsafe, you scofflaw bastard!", ignoring my own transgression. Rather than seethe privately about it, the Pioneer-Press columnists wrote about it in their paper.

So, motorists get annoyed at cyclists for slowing down to only 8 mph at Stop signs when they, responsible law-abiding citizens that they are, slow all the way down to 3 mph. Well, guess what, neither one is a full stop, both are breaking the law, so I could do with a little less righteous indignation from the motorist crowd on this point. As for those cyclists who do go sailing blithely on through Stop signs and red lights, they’ll soon be thinned from the herd and I will feel the same lack of sympathy for them that I do when adult snowmobilers fall through the ice on lakes and die. Stupidity has a way of catching up with people.

While I was looking up this stuff I thought also about the columnist comments about how bikes are hogging the roads. I looked out at our parking lot at work, the east side of which is currently being resurfaced. We must have ten acres of parking. The parking footprint is way bigger than the building footprint. In fact, as I look around, the company maintains a bigger space for my car than it does for me. Hey! There is a bike rack on one side on one of the little decorative gravel islands, then this enormous semi-circle with parking for hundreds of cars being maintained at great cost. I wondered, how much room does a car take up in the road compared to a bike? The Pioneer-Press columns were certainly fact-free zones and no help. Let’s look up some numbers.

Well, my Atlantis, from the front of the front tire to the back of the rear fender, is 72 inches long. The handlebar, with my hands on the brake levers, is about 22 inches wide. Thus, a rectangle to contain the bike would have to be 1,584 square inches, or 11 square feet. Remember, this is a long-wheelbase touring frame in the biggest size available (68cm) and unusually wide handlebars (48cm). Our main car, a 2004 Toyota Avalon, is 191.9 inches long and 71.7 inches wide, requiring an area of 95.6 square feet. (These auto figures, by the way, all come from the Automobile Invoice Service New Car Cost Guide, which is the sort of thing we have lying around at work). Move up to a Chevrolet Suburban, at 219.3 inches long and 78.9 inches wide, and you're looking at 120.2 square feet. But the Avalon will carry five people and the Suburban seven, you say. Sure they will, but most of them don't most of the time. In my daily commute to work, nearly all the vehicles I see are driver-only, as I am when I drive.

Given this, it can be a bit grating when someone driving a vehicle with a 95-square-foot footprint is complaining about someone riding a vehicle with a 11-square-foot footprint "hogging the road". (I used Visio to do a precise diagram of three vehicles' Comparative Footprints so you can decide for yourself who hogs the road.)

The power output was interesting as well. The study I cited says that regular non-athletic cyclists (like me) should be able to maintain 100 watts of output without undue effort. I don't know what my maximum output would be, but I'm going to say maybe 200 watts. How much power does a car use to move? Well, the Avalon has a 210-hp engine (the new 2005s are 280), which is 156,660 watts of power; the Suburban has a 295-hp engine, or 220,000 watts of power. They need all that power to move all that weight, 3,400 lbs curb weight for the Avalon and 5,470 for the Suburban versus 30 pounds for my Atlantis. Think about that next time you see someone stop in the fire lane at Blockbuster in their 3,000-6,000-lb, 100,000-235,000 watt vehicle to drop off a 4-ounce DVD. That's when riding a 30-lb machine at a decent cruising speed (12.5 mph) over short to intermediate distances with typical small payloads occupying less road and parking space, all for less power output than just the headlights on a car, makes sense.

As an aside, a vehicle that is often savaged for its excesses is the Hummer H2. This is a vehicle favored by military wannabes although of course it's just a boxy body, one reminiscent of the actual military Humvee (or Honda Element, for that matter), on a Chevy Tahoe frame. One of these days I am going to dress nicely and drive the Avalon to the local Cadillac/Hummer dealership and test drive one of these puppies. In the meantime, it's interesting to note that the H2 is actually 2 inches shorter (in length, not height) than our Avalon, although it is nearly 10 inches wider without the mirrors. In overall footprint, the H2 is actually a hair smaller than the popular Honda Odyssey minivan. The weird thing is the weight; the Odyssey comes in at 4,500 pounds, the H2 at 6,400 pounds empty. Jesus, what’s this thing made of, spent uranium? No wonder it needs 316 horsepower (236,000 watts) to get moving.

Anyway, I found it interesting to look up some actual facts regarding autos and bikes. Too much of the discussion, whether in these Pioneer-Press opinion columns or on many bike blogs, is pointless name-calling, people yelling past each other with hardly any exchange of actual data. Various parties may enjoy dismissing motorists as clueless criminal foul-smelling oil sluts and cyclists as Spandex-clad scofflaw Lance wannabe bike faggots, but I ride and I drive, I don't think I'm clueless, I'm neither a Lance nor a military wannabe and I think there is some middle ground in the transportation mix that makes more sense than where we are now, that costs less, uses less energy, pollutes less yet meets our transportation needs. I'm working to find that middle ground for myself. I'd encourage you to do the same.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Matt Writes An E Mail

Our company got a new regional Vice President last week, a guy who has worked here locally for many years and is really good. Today we had an all-employee meeting where he spoke, we reviewed the results through June and talked about upcoming plans for various things. One quick presentation was on the building, which is currently getting new foundation waterproofing and will soon have the east parking lot resurfaced. Further down the list was planning bathroom renovations.

Time for Matt to toss in his two cents worth. I wrote to the HR Manager and Facilities guy.

Hi guys

I have a suggestion to consider when doing the bathroom renovations.

I have been riding my bike to work some days (not today, as I have golf tonight, but many other non-Thursdays). In the humid weather, I take a shower in the first floor Men's room shower and change into work clothes from my biking clothes. This bathroom gets really really steamy because there is no exhaust vent. While this works well to let my wool slacks' wrinkles hang out, it would be much nicer if there was a ventilation system that would draw out the moisture and vent it elsewhere as there is in nearly all home bathrooms.

The shower otherwise works very nicely in part because barely anyone uses it as far as I can tell. If higher gas prices arrive, more people might consider cycling in and need the showers. Also, my hair care and makeup needs are extremely minimal, but more attractive and fashionable people might want a place to plug in a blow dryer and apply various colored-pastes to their faces.

Anyway, I'd appreciate it if you'd give this some consideration when looking at the renovations. There are many benefits to cycling in (good exercise, lower oil consumption, less pollution, less traffic congestion, etc) and a better shower facility might tip some more people into trying it.



PS This is the first office I've worked in with a shower available and I thank you for that--it would be impractical to ride in and dress nicely when it's really steamy out without it.

There. At least they know that somebody is using these things, that at a minimum they shouldn't eliminate the showers, and maybe they should enhance them. One has to work on all fronts and this won't affect anyone outside the building, but it's probably good to let the powers that be know what you're up to.

Now, if I could just figure out a graceful way to do indoor bike parking...

EPA Report on Auto Mileage

This is from this morning's New York Times. Where there are ellipsis (...) I've skipped bits.

E.P.A. Holds Back Report on Car Fuel Efficiency

DETROIT, July 27 - With Congress poised for a final vote on the energy bill, the Environmental Protection Agency made an 11th-hour decision Tuesday to delay the planned release of an annual report on fuel economy.

But a copy of the report, embargoed for publication Wednesday, was sent to The New York Times by a member of the E.P.A. communications staff just minutes before the decision was made to delay it until next week. The contents of the report show that loopholes in American fuel economy regulations have allowed automakers to produce cars and trucks that are significantly less fuel-efficient, on average, than they were in the late 1980's.

Releasing the report this week would have been inopportune for the Bush administration, its critics said, because it would have come on the eve of a final vote in Congress on energy legislation six years in the making. The bill, as it stands, largely ignores auto mileage regulations.

The executive summary of the copy of the report obtained by The Times acknowledges that "fuel economy is directly related to energy security," because consumer cars and trucks account for about 40 percent of the nation's oil consumption. But trends highlighted in the report show that carmakers are not making progress in improving fuel economy, and environmentalists say the energy bill will do little to prod them...

Eryn Witcher, a spokeswoman for the E.P.A., said the timing of the release of the report had nothing to do with the energy bill deliberations...

While the proposed bill, as it stands, does offer limited tax credits for hybrid electric cars and advanced diesels, environmental groups object to extending mileage credits for vehicles that can be filled up with an ethanol blend instead of gasoline; many consumers who purchase such vehicles are not even aware of the feature.

The E.P.A. report illustrates what has happened as the industry has poured resources into S.U.V.'s, minivans and family-oriented pickup trucks, vehicle types with less stringent fuel economy requirements than cars. The average new vehicle weight has risen to about 4,000 pounds today, from about 3,200 in the early 1980's. At the same time, the horsepower of an average engine has roughly doubled over two decades, trimming four seconds from the time it takes for the average vehicle to accelerate from zero to 60.

The full article can be read here but it requires registration, which is free.

I have the sense that we're fiddling while oil burns. Our response to our oil dependence on many unsavoury parts of the globe has been to cut taxes, encourage people to shop more and do nothing, absolutely nothing, about encouraging conservation of energy. It was photos of President Bush holding hands with and kissing the Saudi Crown Prince this past spring that finally revolted me enough to get back into commuting by bicycle more and substituting the bike for the car when practical. I was ashamed to see our President sucking up to those who hate us. Which country provided 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers? (hint: it wasn't Iraq) Who does he think funds the insurgents trying to kill our troops in Iraq? How does he think Al Qaeda gets its funding? Bake sales? And now, as this bloated, worthless piece of legislation is about to get voted on, the EPA stalls delivery of a report that might be mildly embarassing to the Administration and Congress. They should be embarassed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

We Put the Hell in Helicomatic

I got Henry a bike from The Spoken Wheel in Iowa Falls last April, a circa-1984 Trek 620 touring bike (you can read the sales brochure here). It's generally very nice and I'm hoping that the long wheelbase, lovely double-butted and lugged Reynolds 531 touring frame will prove as comfortable and satisfying to Henry as my Atlantis is to me. However, the bike comes with a Maillard Helicomatic rear hub which has the reputation of being troublesome. It's living up to its reputation.

Henry rode up to the Library yesterday. When it came time to ride home, the freewheel on the Helicomatic, an early form of cassette hub, stopped working. Or maybe it worked too well; it freewheeled in both directions! Kind of the opposite of a fixie! Poor Henry couldn't apply any power and, as I had ridden to work on my bike and Karla was off at a music seminar, he had to walk the bike home, coasting down any hills or slopes. He'd get on to ride and it would catch for a half-turn, then disengage and he would spin the crank and the freewheel would just go around. He found this annoying.

I think this may have happened a couple of times on the way to Baker Park earlier in the month, he'd complain about his gearing acting funny then of course it wouldn't happen again while I watched. What he had then described as the pedals skipping I had assumed was the rear derailleur shifting so I tightened the tension on the bar-end shifter, thinking maybe it was too loose and allowing the spring tension on the derailleur to move and shift down a cog. I think my interpretation of his complaint was incorrect and the tension on that shifter hadn't felt particularly loose.

I got home and hung the bike up in the garage from the ceiling ropes I use for working on bikes, and of course, under no load, the hub/cluster worked perfectly. We took it down and Henry rode it around the driveway and there it goes, the cogs spinning uselessly around when he pedalled, not engaging or applying any power, then catching for a second, then spinning uselessly again.

He's getting a wheel upgrade in August as it is, all-new 700Cs on an eight-speed Shimano Deore LX cassette hub, left over from my Marin's orignal back wheel and its corroded nipples, all I need is for this to work for about three weeks. I looked at the Helicomatic but it needs a special tool to disassemble. How much effort do I want to put into this wheel when even Francophile Sheldon Brown doesn't like them? But wait! I have that Schwinn World Sport in the 68cm size I bought for $125 last month and it has 27" wheels, like this Trek. I pulled the back wheel off the Schwinn and slapped it on the Trek and it worked perfectly! It even has a six-speed freewheel.

The tube valve stem on this wheel was at a severe angle so I thought I'd move the tube around and straighten it out. The last thing Henry needs to endure is a stupid flat on the way home, he'll think this bike is cursed. I got the tire off the rim and saw that the tube around the stem was layered in like a set of intestines around the valve. It was too big. Sheesh. We rode over to The Bicycle Chain to get a new tube of the correct size, a $4 item that cost me about $95 when I also bought a book and a new Bell Metro helmet for Henry, then came back, installed the tube, inflated the tire and reinstalled the wheel. A couple of minor adjustments to the derailleur stops and he was all set. That ought to hold him until mid-August.

Meanwhile, I have a Helicomatic wheel sitting around. The guy over at The Bicycle Chain said he had a tool to get it apart, maybe I'll go over and pop the cluster off just to see what this thing looks like inside.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Matt Writes a Letter

In today's Saint Paul Pioneer-Press, Bob Sansevere, one of the sports columnists, makes the following observations about cyclists under the headline "Lance wannabes hog roads".

A few things: It is exciting that Lance Armstrong won his seventh straight Tour de France. It's especially exciting that he's retiring from cycling. Now maybe there will be fewer bicyclists crowding our streets and ignoring the rules of the road.

While it is massively impressive that Armstrong overcame cancer to win a record number of Tour de France titles, I hold him directly responsible for the surge in scofflaw bicyclists.

All those Tour de France victories ramped up interest in cycling, and I'm hoping now that he's retiring a lot of the law-breaking Lance wannabes will put their bikes up for sale on eBay.

There are plenty of law-abiding bicycle riders out there, and I have no gripe with them when they stop at stop signs and don't go pedaling through red lights.

The problem is, there are far too many SOBs (Spandex-Obsessed Bicyclists) who think they own whatever road they're on.

And it's not usually someone riding a Schwinn or Huffy. It's often the SOBs on their sleek Armstrongesque racing bikes.

Truthfully, I find it annoying when cyclists (and drivers) flaunt traffic laws as well, and am personally fairly scrupulous about riding in a law-abiding fashion. Even so, I wrote a letter to the editor. This will not get published as it runs 286 words and the limit is 200, but I figured I'd run it here for all six of my readers (Hi Liz!).

It was with considerable amusement that I read Bob Sansevere's comments on scofflaw bicyclists hogging the roads. I hadn't previously realized that our traffic congestion was caused by Lance Armstrong wannabes. And scofflaws, my goodness, how can we innocent motorists in our 3,000-lb. vehicles possibly deal with those outlaws on their 30-lb. bikes?


Running stop signs? Have you ever watched cars at stop signs? If there's no opposing traffic, cars hardly ever stop. Just watch the wheels, see if they stop turning.

Running red lights? Not like those innocent lambs in automobiles, 4,400 of whom were caught running red lights in just 30 days and 12 intersections in Minneapolis's test of the Stop On Red traffic camera system in June. It's reassuring to know that fourteen police cars, an animal control vehicle and a fire department SUV were among the harvest.

Law-Abiding Motorists? Just for a day, just once, try driving the posted speed limit on all the roads you drive all day long. I predict that many people will enthusiastically communicate with you!

I don't condone blasting through red lights and stop signs on a bike or in a car, but hoping that all those road-hogging scofflaw cyclists will now go away so that traffic can once again run free as nature intended is just silly. You should worry more about those scofflaw motorists. Every year we kill more than 42,000 people in auto accidents in this country, 567 last year just in Minnesota. Do you hold NASCAR directly responsible for this? Or is that just the regrettable but necessary cost of convenient transportation? Sharing the road with a smattering of bicycles should be the least of your worries.

It is funny that he uses the word scofflaw when I'd just used it to describe myself and my investigation of the Intercampus Transitway and then the pedestrian side of the Washington Street bridge. I don't expect this letter to get published due to its excessive length, so figured I'd run it here.

Funnily enough, in terms of speeding, I got the weekly New York Times "Drive Times" email, all cars, and there's an article there by Joe Queenan titled "Honk if you Hate Me" in which he relates driving just the speed limit for many months and the abuse, scorn and hatred that engendered. You can read the article here but you may have to register (it's free).

That's what bothers me, I guess, this double-standard, that cyclists by God have to stop at every damn stop sign and let's see that foot go down mister and never ever ever run a red light while cars blithely sail through stop signs all the time, speed constantly, run red lights literally by the thousands and kill, on average, 116 people a day. Lance wannabes in spandex aren't the problem here.

Time for me to ride home. I think I get a tailwind tonight oh boy.

Monday, July 25, 2005

I'm Going to Get So Wet

At 3:57PM, at work, I wrote:

I am going to get so wet riding home! Take a look at the Minneapolis radar as of 4:00PM. We're more or less at MSP. (as always, you can see a bigger version by clicking on the image).
Minneapolis Radar July 25th


I wasn't worried. I had my Carradice rain poncho and the rain cover for my Bell Metro helmet. By 5:40, when it came time for me to go, it was raining hard but there was lightning locally. I stalled for about 10 minutes and then decided to go anyway. I put the raincover over my pannier, put on the poncho and helmet, and waded out into the parking lot.

It was raining like a bastard. I put my luggage on the Marin, took the plastic Target bag off my Brooks seat, saddled up, and rode off.

Geez, was it raining! It turns out we set a new record for rainfall for this date, and the worst of it, more than an inch, fell between 6:00PM and 7:00PM, right when I was riding. It was discouragingly dark out and I had only my red blinky light on back. I rode down Lexington and my glasses were quickly fogged over and spattered with rain. I coasted a bit, and discovered that the rushing water along the curb was deep enough that it would splash my foot on the bottom pedal.

I rode up towards County Cycles. The water was coming down the street so hard that a car's floormat went floating downhill on the stream. It's hard to describe how hard this rain was coming down; it's as hard as I've ever seen, a tropical downpour, and certainly as hard as I've ever ridden in. The water was pouring down the street and my front tire was kicking up big splashes which inundated each foot in turn as the crank went around.

Down towards County C I rode the brakes to clear the rims in case I needed to stop. I splashed my way across the intersection as the light went yellow, probably providing a startling and hilarious tableau to the awaiting motorists as I cruised through with my poncho, splashing up water like I was a motorboat, a view they could probably barely see through the belting rain and swishing windshield wipers.

It's hard to say if it rained harder as I went south, but the water was halfway across the lanes so passing cars splashed me. I could feel the resistance of 2-3 inches of water as I rode through it. By the Roseville High School the wind was suddenly cool and the fog on my glasses cleared, though I couldn't see very well because the helmet rain cover and poncho hood conspired to pour a constant stream of water into my left eye. I waddled over to the left turn lane at Larpenteur and headed east and home, my lame attempt at signalling hindered by my thumb being hooked into my rain poncho. I rode home and parked behind the house and sloshed in, leaving puddles all over the back porch, entryway and kitchen so that Geneva came out with paper towels and mopped up, complaining, though the floor's cleaner now.

How did the gear perform? The poncho soaked through, the Jandd front bag collected half a cup of water and got its contents wet, and the helmet rain cover worked great (and made a funny noise in the heaviest rain, so that I thought maybe there was hail). The helmet, as is true with most helmets, could use a longer visor. My rear pannier, with a rain cover, kept all its contents dry. One day I will write about this pannier although all it will do is annoy you because it's a great unit but isn't made any longer.

The poncho might work better in the yellow plastic version. I bought the waxed cotton version out of misplaced nostalgia, having bought some waxed cotton rain pants in the UK for a wet motorcycling trip twenty years ago, which worked great and which I still use for occasional bouts of downhill skiing, but plain old yellow plastic wouldn't soak through like this cotton did.

I need to get another Ortlieb bag mount so I can use the Ortlieb handlebar bag on the Marin. I think it would have been more waterproof on this day.

You know the funny thing about this? It was kind of fun. I was just laughing at some parts as I rode along, at the absurdity of it, of being unabashedly out in the rain when people in cars were running through the parking lots getting soaked to cower in their cars, at my sopping shoes, my silly poncho, at the weird joy of just getting wet and enjoying it. I've done it before, camping, where once it rained so hard that the label washed off my bottle of Wild Turkey so it looked, with its corked top, like a bottle of moonshine. It's been years, though, and there was a real lighthearted joy to the ride.

As I update this, at 11:15PM, it's gorgeous out, cool, with dropping dewpoints, gentle breezes and our windows open. Tomorrow sounds like it will be spectacular. I might even ride the Atlantis to work.


I didn't ride to church Sunday due to some confusion over coffee hour (like, I forgot to remind the people I'd assigned and wasn't sure they'd do it) and wanting to get back by 1:00 for sure to see CBS's excellent weekly Tour de France show. After the sweltering stick-your-shirt-to-your-back heat of the church (especially for me, since I was up in the mostly disused balcony to take some photos on my Mamiya 6), we lay in the air-conditioned comfort of our bedroom and watched Lance's seventh win. He is an animal. CBS does a good job with this show, done in conjunction with Outdoor Life Network, and the Trek commercials with Phil Liggett and Bob Roll are weirdly cheesy, as bad as locally-produced late-night used car dealer ads.

Once that was over, I fell asleep while some golf broadcast from Milwaukee droned on. I woke up eventually, I made afternoon tea, and after that decided to go for a ride. It was cloudy to the west and the radar looked like it might portend rain, but I figured, hey, the Atlantis has fenders and some raingear, I'll just do a short ride.

I headed off down Como past the State Fair Grounds with no real goal in mind, figuring it would start to rain and I'd go home. I was riding down Como when I came to the north end of the Intercampus Transitway. I'd noticed this on the excellent Twin Cities Bike Map and thought how exceedingly useful it looked, too bad it was for buses only. Still, how many buses could there be at 6:30 on a summer Sunday evening? Disregarding the Authorized Vehicles Only signs, and with a furtive look around, I headed off up the Transitway.

This is the Google map satellite view of the State Fairgrounds end of the Transitway. It is the bridge that curves over the railroad tracks: Google Map View of Transitway.

I'm smitten! What a great route! It goes up over this bridge, along some rail lines, then over Raymond and on under Highway 280. Not only that, a couple of other cyclists went by the other way looking not at all guilty. When I got to Energy Park Drive, I found out why; it's marked as a Bike Route with a University of Minnesota sign. South of Energy Park, there's a separate bike path.
Transitway southbound at Energy Park

It's along here you go under Highway 280. At Westgate the path switches sides of the road.
Transitway bike path switches sides

After a rash of truck/bus accidents in the mid-1990s, special signs were put in for the intersecting roads. These detect oncoming buses and bikes and light up to warn crossing drivers.
Automated sign on Transitway

It's a pretty industrial part of town. There wasn't much traffic, but it was the evening of a sweaty night with the sky threatening rain.
Scenery at west end of Transitway

At the west end, it parallels University Avenue and you could get off on any number of side streets. I rode down to the Williams and Mariucci Arena end and turned left. A couple of blocks down I turned onto Washington, which has a bridge across the river. Washington's pretty busy and it's Orientation time now so there are lots of confused buffalo wandering around turning right out of the left turn lanes, looking for landmarks, saying to the kids "Boy this sure has changed since I was here when I met your Mom at that kegger" while the cool 18-year-olds roll their eyes and turn up their iPods, etc.

The Washington bridge is great. It has the road below and a path for pedestrians and bikes up above.
Washington Bridge East Bank

The bike lanes are clearly marked.
Washington Bridge bike lanes

By the Weismann museum on the east bank there is bike parking and something I hadn't seen before.
Bike racks by Weisman

A free air pump for bicycles! Pity the fool who has Presta valves, though.
Air pump at Weisman

I rode onto the bridge, once again Thumbing My Nose At The Man by riding on the walking side so I could see the downstream view. I didn't seem to inconvenience the single pedestrian I met, a young lady blathering away on her cellphone. You can see the Weisman, covered in tinfoil or something.
Weisman Art Museum

There seems to be some sentiment against the war in Iraq. Once, in Des Moines, back in the Viet Nam war, some protesters fertilized a Peace sign into a public lawn, at the Art Center, I think. That was clever as it persists for a looong time! Kind of like the war in Iraq.
US out of Iraq

It was quiet this Sunday evening, but there are clear cycling pathways laid out when you arrive at the West Bank. I'll bet this place is hopping on, say, a Tuesday morning in September, once everyone's back, class is in session, and people have their routes figured out.
Washington Bridge bike lanes East Bank

I rode over to the Riverside LRT station, then up the path to downtown. The apartments right here are heavily North African. There's a tennis court hard by the Interstate and bike trail, but it's disused, lots of weeds and no net. I wonder if Somalis and Ethiopians don't play tennis. Mixed doubles might be hard with those burkhas. Riding by the Metrodome there was some outdoor concert going on. The band seemed to subscribe to the "If you have no talent, buy bigger amps" theory of performance.

I took a photo of the path along by the Mill City Museum. It's part of Minneapolis's Grand Round Tour.
Mill City Museum bike path

There's lots of old ruins here.
Ruins by the Mill City Museum

Out on the Stone Arch Bridge you get a good view of the Museum.
Mill City Museum  July 24

And of the Guthrie Theatre, currently under construction.
The New Guthrie comes along

The edge of the clouds passed overhead and the sun came out. I took a picture downriver. That's the lower Saint Anthony lock and dam down there along with the Interstate 35W bridge and some other structures.
Mississippi River from Stone Arch Bridge

I rode up the bike path and up the spiral ramp onto the Hennepin Bridge. With the sun out and some trace of rain, a faint rainbow had come out. Here is it over Our Lady of Lourdes church.
Our Lady of Lourdes

Right by the church, you could see it by the steeple.
Our Lady of Lourdes Steeple

I rode back across the bridge, and took a couple of photos of the big Grain Belt sign on Nicollet Island. Oddly enough, this is right by De La Salle, a Catholic high school.
Grain Belt Sign and Reflection

Grain Belt Sign

I rode back down through Old Saint Anthony. You can get to Nicollet Island a couple of ways, including this bridge.
Nicollet Island Bridge II

It remains as a monument to the great Andrew Rinker, whose name shall go down in History!
Nicollet Island Bridge

I clattered on down the cobblestones past the Pillsbury A Mill, soon to be condos. There is a funny mix of fashionable riverside residential living and actual productive industry down here. In this photo you have Metalmatic, a factory, on the left, and the Stone Arch condos on the right, with a rail spur in between. My guess is that the condos on this side are cheaper than the ones overlooking the river!
Metalmatic and some condos

I rode up through Dinkytown and back out to the acres of parking lots around the beginning of the bike path. There are a number of old but still-active grain elevators out here. Here is some of the machinery in the late evening light.
Grain Elevator along Transitway

I got back on the Transitway bike path and rode towards home. Again, it was pretty quiet, I met only a single cyclist and a single runner with a dog. At Energy Park an emergency vehicle was coming the other way on the Transitway, but there were no sirens or lights, they may have just been going to dinner. I was happy to see the Bike Path sign north from Energy Park Drive. Maybe I wasn't such a scofflaw after all.
Intercampus Transitway bike sign

This is the view at the top of the bridge when it arcs north. The State Fairgrounds are in the distance.
Intercampus Transitway Bridge

Looking more due east, you see the light poles of Midway Stadium, home of the Saint Paul Saints, as well as some of the railways this transitway deals so elegantly with.
Midway Stadium from Transitway

Back at the north end, at Como, I turned for home. Another cyclist was just heading up the Transitway. Maybe this thing is common knowledge to others, but to me it was a revelation. It's not marked as a bike route on the Twin Cities Bike Map so it hadn't occurred to me to try it; I'm not so much a scofflaw that I'd ever tried it in a car, not that there's lots of cops out staking out the Transitway for unauthorized vehicles. At the moment, with Como Avenue severely torn up over by Manning's this makes a great alternative for riding to Minneapolis or the University.

And I rode on home, my blinky light flashing away on my seatpost. I hate to mention this, but it seems to me that the days are getting shorter, that my evening rambles are starting to hint at an overlap with light levels where it seems prudent to turn on a taillight.

In the end, I rode about 22 miles at roughly 11 miles per hour, which seems to be my average whenever I do bicycle-based photography. With the exception of a few widely-scattered raindrops as the sun came out, it never really did rain and I hauled around my poncho and helmet cover for no reason.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Uncomfortable Reminders

I started off in college as a Journalism major. I switched after a couple of years but retain some residual interest in journalism and subscribe to a Poynter Institute Morning Meeting email. This has story ideas for journalists. Cleaning up emails, I read this one about roadside memorials.

A battle is emerging over roadside memorials that are springing up everywhere. Sometimes the memorials themselves create traffic hazards. Memorials are becoming so commonplace that this website documents thousands of such memorials from sea to sea. I have touched on this topic a couple of times in the past, once in August 2003 and again in June 2003.

There are questions about whether overly religious markers should be allowed on government property. Some states, like Wisconsin, decided to allow memorials to remain in some places for up a year. Alaska places the limit at two years.

USA Today reported that Roadside memorials were once most common in the Southwest , where they evolved from centuries-old Catholic traditions in Spain and Mexico. Now, they're everywhere -- from rural Wyoming, where school kids designed the state's official memorial sign, to New York City, where artists install white "ghost bikes" at the site of deadly bicycle crashes.

There's no national law on roadside memorials. States and municipalities apply a hodge-podge of policies. The issue is often emotional: Arguments about traffic hazards and right-of-way aren't welcome by families in mourning.

Some states, like North Carolina and Oregon, prohibit the shrines. Others, like Florida and Washington, allow only state-sanctioned markers. Only Alaska and West Virginia have statutes that encourage memorials. (In fact, West Virginia asks that those who place the memorials put some contact information on the memorials in case highway workers have to disturb the markers.)

Utah will ban memorials later this year and instead offer to plant wildflowers or erect a state-approved sign. Delaware began engraving bricks this year for a state-maintained memorial garden. And in May, Norton, Mass., imposed a 30-day limit on roadside shrines.

As the number and scope of the memorials grow, battles have become more common: A year after a series of heated public hearings in 2004, Nevada has yet to decide how to regulate roadside memorials. The issue came to a head after state highway officials, threatened with a lawsuit, removed an 8-foot, steel cross from U.S. Highway 50 near Carson City. "It became a huge emotional issue. And here we are, the big bad government, in between," says Scott Magruder, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Transportation. ...

Minnesota cracked down last summer by clearing interstates and freeways of personal memorials. The action came after the fatal car crash of hockey great Herb Brooks, who coached the U.S. Olympics team in 1980 to victory over the Soviet Union.

Hundreds of mourners left flowers, balloons, hockey paraphernalia, even a huge plywood "M" for the University of Minnesota at the site of Brooks' 2003 accident on Interstate 35. "The bottom line is safety," says Kevin Gutkneckt, a spokesman for Minnesota's transportation department. "We don't want things built on the roadsides that could cause a crash." [Read Minnesota's official policy by clicking here.] also has a thoughtful piece from a few years ago that is worth a look. did a big story about the conflicts emerging over roadside memorials in 2003. Be sure to check and see if specific state laws have changed since then.

A sociology professor from Virginia Tech, Clifton Bryant, says these roadside memorials can be important:
Roadside memorials also may be an attempt by the survivors to warn others of an unsafe stretch of road, Bryant suggests.

But, more importantly, roadside or other impromptu memorials mark the untimeliness of the deaths. When people are sick and hospitalized and their deaths are expected, there is no similar need to mark the spot of where they died. But when death is unexpected, it disturbs people's sense of time, of specificity. "There's something mystical, if not magic, about the site of the death," Bryant says. "There's a symbolic significance of the exact spot where they died. Instant monuments provide some symbolic stability, a lighthouse to the place people can go to pay homage."

This is interesting as the debate is couched in terms of religious observance on public land, safety risk, etc. I wonder how much of it is squeamishness about the ubiquity of these sudden, untimely deaths. Minnesota is mentioned in there with the context of the death of Herb Brooks, the coach of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Miracle on Ice hockey team. He fell asleep at the wheel, ran off Interstate 35 and was thrown from his minivan. He wasn't wearing a seatbelt. There is now a statue of him in downtown St. Paul holding his arms up. It's supposed to signify the victory over the Russians leading towards the gold medal game (against the Swedes, though people forget that) but I think of it as the pose he must have had as he went through the windshield in part because of his free choice not to wear a seatbelt. Fame is no protector of the foolish, as Princess Diana also found out.

Rather than remove these memorials after a year or two, they ought to be permanent. Wouldn't fields of little white crosses with names and dates be a sobering reminder of the price we pay for our mobility? I've been driving for thirty years; during that time, something like 1,400,000 people have been killed on the nation's roadways with millions more injured. Maybe if we planted little crosses every time someone was killed and we left them in place and maintained them, their ubiquity and frequency would make people think a little harder about how they drive.

Of course, we'd have to hang up our cellphones long enough to notice.

Be careful out there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Get Me a Red Spotted Jersey!

I had big plans to ride to church to help in painting the entryway tonight, but it got called off onaccounta the heat. Our church isn't air conditioned so we get a preview of Hades on these sweltery Sundays. Anyway, I had read some other blogs talking about riding up the Saint Paul High Bridge, Ohio Street and Ramsey Hill and decided to go out for a ride. I've ridden (and walked!) up Ramsey Hill before, but never the High Bridge and I've only gone down Ohio Street. It may be too hot to paint but it's not too hot to climb some hills!

I headed off down my usual Chatsworth route a little before 7PM. There were no trains in evidence and I went across the informal crossing.
Informal crossing at Chatsworth

Chatsworth ends at Saint Clair. This is handy as the approach to the High Bridge is down St. Clair. This goes down a nice long hill into the river valley where you can build up a good head of steam. You can see the bridge in the distance from the top of the hill.
High Bridge in Distance

There are some nice views in the last few hundred yards to the bottom of the bridge. This is the big power plant right on the river.
Power Plant on Mississippi

I got to the bottom (the north end) of the High Bridge and rode on up. It's a long, gentle slope with a pretty generous bike lane. I had no trouble with it but did stop halfway to take some photos. There was traffic in the river.
River Traffic on Mississippi

There's a good view of the bike trail right along the north bank of the Mississippi (the river runs east and west here for a few miles before turning back south).
Bike Trail along Mississippi

While I was taking pictures, four women came riding up past me.
Women riding up High Bridge

After I got to the top, I took a left and then rode down Ohio Street, a steep hill with lots of S-curves. I was roaring down like I was the Tour de France (actually, I never exceeded 31 mph) as what appeared to be a whole bike club labored up the hill. I felt sort of guilty. Going down is easy. I should ride up the hill too.

But first, let's look around!

There's a floating restaurant moored on the Mississippi again! Yay! We used to be quite fond of the No Wake Cafe but it's closed. We'll have to come down and try the River Grill. Maybe I can get Karla to ride here.
The River Grill, Saint Paul

I rode under the Wabasha Street Bridge. Here's what it looks like.
Underside of Wabasha Street Bridge

Having stalled long enough, I rode over to the base of Ohio Street and headed up. I used my small chainring and ground my way up. I've never been fond of hill climbing. It's kind of a demoralizing hill in that all those curves mean you can't see the top and even when you get to the top of the main hill there's a couple of blocks of upslope to Smith, the High Street road.

Having made my way up, I stopped at the observation area at the south end of the High Bridge. There's a nice view of downtown Saint Paul a little to the east.
Downtown Saint Paul from High Bridge
A mother and little girl arrived about the same time, from the other side (not having ridden up Ohio Street!) and I overheard Mom make a comment that she didn't know they had telescopes there, next time she'd bring a quarter. I rummaged around in my front bag and found a quarter and gave it to her, and the little girl, Nora, had a good look at downtown Saint Paul.
Nora looks through telescope
Here's a view of the bridge from the observation area.
High Bridge from South

I rode down across the bridge. There's a surprising amount of broken glass in the downhill bike lane. Maybe the sun angle was picking it up. At the bottom, feeling manly, having ridden the High Bridge and Ohio Street, I rode the Ramsey Hill up to Summit, and made it! No old ladies on trikes with cats in their front baskets rode by me saying "on your left!" Last time I tackled the hill was right after working all day at the Great River Energy Bike Festival Time Trials and I'd just had a half-pound bison burger and two major beers and ended up walking the Marin up. This time, I rode! I'll have to get myself a red spotted jersey!

At Summit and Victoria, the light was red, so I took a right and headed up Victoria to try something different. It parallels Chatsworth a few blocks east and gets across I-94 on its own bridge and crosses University on a traffic light. The neighborhoods are kind of transitional, some gentrification, some immigrants, some African-Americans. There are snippets of Old Minnesota, like Billy's Victorian Bar.
Billys Victorian Bar
It's hard to imagine a less Victorian-looking bar, but it is on Victoria in Saint Paul. It looks pretty Old Minnesota because of the Grain Belt Premium and Old Style signs out. Also, it has a sign for a Booya which I think of as a Minnesota thing. This one either happened three months ago or is coming up in nine months. I'll have to stop in here sometime for a beer.

And I went home to delicious leftover tuna and spicy noodles and a couple of glasses of wine. I then felt ambitious enough to catch up on the blogging, hence all of tonight's entries.

I have to say, this Atlantis is really fun. It makes cycling much more fun than my Marin, which means I want to ride around more, which means I get stronger, which makes it more fun, etc. It's a virtuous cycle. My mileage (17.5 miles tonight) and pace (11.5 mph average, largely due to farting around taking pictures etc) are pathetic compared to serious cyclists', but I'm having a great time. It's hard to tell how others experience their bikes, what combination of joy and discomfort they get, but I wish more people could have the fun I'm having now on this bike. We'd all be out there.

ID on a Bike

This story ran locally in the Star Tribune:

Police were asking for help Monday identifying a bicyclist who apparently crashed and was found lying unconscious in a ditch along a road in Savage.
The woman carried no identification, and authorities said they haven't received a missing persons report to help them identify her.
The woman, who was riding a black and yellow Mongoose bicycle, was found shortly after 8:30 a.m. Monday in the 8900 block of W. 154th Street.
She is about 30 years old, 5 foot 5 with reddish blonde hair. She has a wedding ring and a pierced navel.
She was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center for emergency surgery and remains on life support, according to Savage police.
The cause of her crash hasn't been determined, but investigators do not believe a car was involved.
Anyone who thinks they might know the woman should call the Savage Police Department at 952-882-2600

I've thought about this. I typically have my wallet with me but that could get stolen or I might forget it. I nearly always wear a helmet, a Bell Metro, and to make identification easier, used a Brother labeller (which we use in our periodic futile attempts to become more organized) to make labels with my name and phone number which I affixed to the inside facets of one of the ventilation slots on the helmet. If my crumpled body is one day discovered somewhere, I figure the name and phone number will quickly be seen and my wife called.

The cyclist has been identified.

Police in Savage said this morning that they have the name of the bicyclist who was found injured and unconscious in a ditch Monday morning.
Now, they're asking for information about how she was injured.
Pamela Doerr, 41, was found about 8:30 a.m. by a passerby in a ditch in the 8900 block of W. 154th Street. She was not carrying identification, and police asked for help identifying her.
Doerr's husband made the identification after returning home from work about 7:30 p.m. and finding his wife missing. They live near the scene of the crash.
Pamela Doerr, a teacher at Prior Lake Junior High School, is in serious condition at the Hennepin County Medical Center. Police reported that she had a head injury.
The cause of her crash hasn't been determined, but investigators said Monday they do not believe a car was involved.

I hope she recovers. It sounds pretty serious. Another story says she's on life support. My thoughts and prayers are with her and her husband.

Riding to the Farmers Market

It was darn hot this past weekend, Sunday was the 9th day in a row in the 90s, the longest streak since 1988 which is long before we moved here. Saturday I decided to ride down to the Saint Paul Farmers Market to see what looked good. I took the Atlantis.

One of the common problems with Farmers Marketing is buying too much and ending up with locally-grown organic healthy produce rotting away in the veggie bin in the refrigerator. On a bike, this is much less a problem.

The Saint Paul Farmers Market is downtown on Saturday mornings.

Saint Paul Farmers Market

Parking's no problem on a bike! While the cars queued up and lumbered around the block looking for somewhere to nest, I rode up to a handy parking meter and locked up the bike.

Atlantis at Farmers Market

There's lots of Hmong vendors here. These folks are from the mountains of Laos and made the mistake of supporting the United States during the Vietnam War. Something like 10% of them were killed as a result and many thousands endured time in resettlement camps before getting moved to this country. For some reason, Saint Paul has become a big Hmong center. Our winters must be vastly different than those in the Laotian highlands, and I wouldn't say everybody's assimilated yet, but plenty of Hmong now own produce farms and sell at the local markets.

Vegetables at Farmers Market

There's flowers, too.

Flowers at Farmers Market

Pannier with Purchases

There, not too full! This are two little cartons of tomatoes, some jerky from the Jerky Lady, a pint of raspberries, a big thing of varied lettuce and some potatoes. I wanted some of the excellent Costa's Hot Picante Sauce but didn't see them there this morning. Having the one grocery pannier, which I uncharacteristically carried with me using the shoulder strap, kept me from getting too ambitious in my purchases. I saddled up and rode home.

I've just started riding my first SPD pedals. These have taken almost no getting used to. The main impediment was finding shoes big enough. I finally got a pair of Adidas El Moro IIIs in American size 14/European 49 1/3. I hadn't realized going in just how scarce these would be and went to store after store for a couple weeks seeking them out, finally getting them last week at The Bicycle Chain just around the corner from us. During my quest I met Jim of Oil is For Sissies over at Freewheel. They had previously had some Shimano shoe in stock in sizes 49 and 50(!) but they were gone the day I stopped in. Jim said some Sasquatch must have stopped in and bought them. Hey! These Adidas aren't necessarily the color I'd have gotten, but they do fit nicely and are decent to walk around in. Here they are in action:

Adidas El Moro IIIs

I was surprised how sensitive my knees are to tiny changes in the cleat angle. I rode the Marin to work last Friday with these shoes and my knees were bothered, so have been riding around with an allen wrench handy so I can adjust them. The Ritchey SPD-compatible pedals on the Atlantis have proved very simple to use and I have found myself clipping into the right pedal once I've got going with little problem. I rode my Marin, on which I have a pair of Nashbar dual-sided pedals, one side SPD, one side platform, to the grocery store Sunday evening and nearly fell over at the top of the driveway. The release tension is a lot higher on those than on the Atlantis's Ritcheys and I almost didn't get my foot out! That would have been embarassing! I noticed it again riding home from work yesterday; I'm going to have to loosen the tension on this a bit.

I'm ready to declare the Atlantis fully operational. I'm sure the world receives this news with joy and relief. I've changed stems, wrapped the bars, got the SPD pedals on and shoes bought, got a front bag arranged and ridden about 250 miles on it. I still have plans to do a different front wheel for it using my circa-1977 Phil Wood front hub, but that won't substantively change the bike, it'll just be good karma. I am delighted to say that I really like this bike a lot. There's always the nagging fear that you're going to drop a bunch of money on a bike you've been dazzled with and then you're going to discover it's nothing special or that you actively dislike it. That has not been the case. It feels great for size, really the first bike I've ever owned that's big enough for me, and lively in response. The Marin feels pretty tugboat-like all of a sudden, some combination of beefy frame, less optimal riding position and big tires, perhaps. A lot of Atlantis frames seem to get built out with big tires on them and the option to do that is one of the attractive things about so adaptable a bike, but I have on the Rivendell Rolly-Poly 700C X 28s so they look like comparatively fast road wheels compared to the 700 X 37s so many people put on.

Friday, July 15, 2005

More on the Behaviour of Buffalo

So it's late Friday and I'm catching up on my backlog of trade rags. In the July 2005 Best's Review, a major insurance industry publication, is an article about a study done by GMAC Insurance about driver behaviour in which 5,000 licensed drivers were surveyed. Here are some high points:

  • One in ten drivers in the U.S. would fail a driver's test if tested today. The most likely to fail were in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states where one in five were unable to pass a driver's test. The most knowledgeable were in the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes states, with failure rates of 1-3%.

  • One in five drivers does not know that a pedestrian has the right of way at a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

  • One in three drivers claims to speed up when they see a yellow light even when pedestrians are in the crosswalk.

  • 60% of all drivers say they change lanes on the highway without using a signal.

  • One in 10 drivers regulary drives more than 11 miles per hour over the speed limit even though 58% of all drivers feel that driving 10 miles per hour over the limit on an interstate is dangerous. I suppose these are mutually exclusive groups of people?

  • 29% of drivers who drink admitted they would knowingly drive while over the legal limit "if they felt ok". It is notable that since 1997, about a third of drivers killed in passenger vehicles have had a blood alcohol concentration above 0.08% which is now illegal in every state.

There you go folks, we're sharing the road with 'em! They're drunk, fast, ignorant, don't use their signals and will probably honk at pedestrians to get out of the way as they run the yellow light! It's about time to change into my riding clothes and head on home through this steamy afternoon and treat with wary respect the creatures I share the roads with.

Be careful out there.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Where the Buffalo Roam

There is an editorial in today's Star-Tribune in which a guy from Duluth complains about how bicyclists ride and how we need to relearn the rules of the road. Among the list of things we need to learn is to obey the speed limit. They must have damn fast cyclists up there; I would be so flattered to get a speeding ticket on my bike! We also don't signal or stop at red lights. I'm guessing he doesn't apply the same critique to motorists, who almost universally don't stop at stop signs if there's nobody coming, and thousands of whom have been caught running red lights in Minneapolis's first few weeks of trying out red light cameras.

Perhaps more cogent is an article from the New York Times a couple of days ago. This relates to cell phone usage in cars. A study from Australia shows that using hands-free cell phones while driving is no safer than using regular cell phones. Here are a couple of excerpts:

A study of Australian drivers found that those using cellphones were four times as likely to be involved in a serious crash regardless of whether they used hands-free devices like earpieces or speaker phones that have been perceived as making talking while driving safer.

The study, which is to appear in The British Medical Journal today, is the first of its kind to use actual crash data and cellphone records to show a link between talking on the phone and being seriously injured in an accident.

It is also the first to conclude definitively outside of a laboratory setting that holding a phone to the ear or talking through a hands-free device pose the same risks...

The new study examined the cellphone records of 744 drivers who had accidents in Perth, Australia, where drivers are required to use hands-free devices. Researchers estimated the time of the crash and looked at whether the driver used a cellphone in the minutes leading up to the accident. They then examined similar time intervals in the days before the crash to calculate the increased risk of using the cellphone.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit research group in Virginia, sent researchers to three hospitals in Perth during a two-year period from 2002 to 2004 to interview crash victims. The researchers asked several questions, including whether the driver had a hands-free device in the car and how often the device was used. To avoid having drivers incriminate themselves, the researchers did not ask if a hands-free apparatus was in use at the time of the crash. Rather, they asked drivers how often they used such a device and factored that into determining the devices' effectiveness.

"There is no safety advantage associated with switching to the types of hands-free devices that are commonly in use," the study concludes...

"There just doesn't seem to be any safety benefit by restricting drivers to hands-free phones," said Rae Tyson, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "It's the cognitive overload that sometimes occurs when you're engaging in a conversation that is the source of the distraction more so than the manipulation of the device."...

The Australian study notes not only that cellphone laws are hard to enforce but that more restrictive measures there appear unlikely. "While a possible solution in the future is to change mobile phones so they cannot be used when vehicles are in motion," the Australian study said, "the likelihood the industry would embrace such a change seems remote."

Paul A. Green, a scientist at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, said studies like this could exert influence on lawmakers. "They're most convinced by the tombstone count," he said.

So, in summary, using a cell phone makes you four times as likely to be involved in a serious crash than when you are not using a cell phone. A hands-free model has no safety advantage over a regular cell phone.

The common cell phone use among drivers does worry me. As a cyclist, I regard cars as buffalo, big and stupid and oblivious and dangerous and occasionally hostile, plus there's tons of them around. When you're in their habitat, you have to be wary of them because they can hurt you very easily without meaning to. When people are on their cell phones and driving, these buffalo get even more dangerous because they become even more oblivious than usual. Thankfully, they mostly crash into each other, but a few moments' inattention can quickly hurt or kill a cyclist or pedestrian and it will be written off as a tragic and regrettable accident, not a criminally negligent act. I really wish folks wouldn't use their cell phones while driving; I dont' want to get killed because of some inane conversation when you should be paying attention to driving.

On some other bike blogs the writers are rightly disturbed by the level of traffic fatalities each year, in the 42,000 - 43,000 range in recent years. It is striking how different the response was to the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 where about 3,000 people were killed in 3 states in 3 hours to the annual killing of more than 42,000 people on our streets and highways. 9/11 has us at war, running massive deficits, surrendering civil liberties, jailing reporters. Spread the same number of random and innocent dead out across 50 states and 3 weeks and it goes unremarked. The New York Times did a long series after the attacks in which they ran photos of the 9/11 dead with short bios; it was a touching cross-section of society, highly-paid financial titans down to low-paid dishwashers, men and women, heroes and scoundrels. An intriguing series would be to run photos of everyone killed in auto accidents in the country for a month or a year; it would be a similarly eye-opening cross-section of society. I just hope that my photo wouldn't have to appear, or my family's, or yours. In the four years since the 9/11 attacks, we would have had to run about 170,000 photos.

Be careful out there.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Baker Park Camping Trip

Henry and I went Bike Camping. I haven't Toured since 1980, when I was right out of college, so this has been a while in coming. The back story is that our church has an annual campout at Baker Park in western Hennepin County, near Delano. I had signed up for this, though I'd forgotten about it. Last Tuesday I got my confirmation in the mail. Hmmm, I owe $41.50. I suppose we're going camping. Karla doesn't like camping plus she has to work Sunday (Music Director, you know) and Geneva had a birthday party to go to plus a friend staying for a week. If Henry and I went, we'd only need a two-man tent and I could scratch up enough bike gear to bike out there and camp. I pored over the Twin Cities Bike Map, decided this was doable, took Friday afternoon off, and we did it.

Note: If you are wildly interested in the photos, these pictures are all hyperlinked to larger versions. That's true for nearly all photos on my blog and website.

Matt and Henry shortly before departure
Here are Henry and I about to depart Friday afternoon at about 2:45. I'm on my Atlantis and have my circa-1980 Cannondale panniers on the bike. These had been lying around the basement for years and Henry washed them out for me. I have a Thermarest sleeping pad, tent and down sleeping bag bungeed transversely across the rack and panniers. There's the new Ortlieb front bag I bought last week on front, two water bottles and a fuel bottle for the stove in the third cage, under the down-tube.

Henry is on the Trek 620 I bought for $100 in Iowa Falls in April. We had changed around the gearing on this from the Half Step Plus Granny it came with but is otherwise unmodified at the moment, though updates are coming. Henry has a Breezer Grocery Bag pannier on one side, with his sleeping bag and Thermarest in it, an Overland Designs pannier on the other side which is a small but exceptionally-useful unit I use around town, and a small cooler strapped on top of the rack. He has a Jandd front bag mounted; the bulky mounting wouldn't work on my Atlantis's short stem, hence my hurried acquisition of the Ortlieb last week. Henry has two water bottles. Oddly, for a bike designed for touring to the extent of having front rack mounting holes in the front fork and a chain hanger on the right rear seatstay, it only has one water bottle cage mounting spot inside the main triangle. The second one goes under the downtube, so he carried water in both these spots. Henry doesn't have fenders yet since the bike has oversized 27" wheels rather than the 700Cs it's designed for, something we'll rectify later.

The value of the Local Bike Store was shown Thursday evening. I have a Jandd handlebar bag which has a pretty clever mounting bracket. I'll be damned if I could find mine. Henry and I stopped by The Bicycle Chain at Lexington and Larpenteur in Roseville to buy another mount. They didn't have any, but they did have the Jandd bags. I was mulling how badly I wanted to buy another whole bag just for this mounting bracket when the salesguy said, here, I'll just sell you the bracket and order a new one in. So he did. This store is pretty good; the carry some nice bikes there and this is where I got my Marin lo these many years ago. Needless to say, Friday afternoon shortly before we left I found my missing bracket in a box labelled "Bike Stuff". Who'd have ever thought to look in there?

We set off. We went down Roselawn to the west, dropped down to Larpenteur to cross Highway 280 and get to Industrial Boulevard, a wretched couple of hundred yards of road with potholes, semi traffic and a big exhaust pipe lying in our way, then north up Industrial Boulevard to where it turns into Saint Anthony Parkway. We followed this, including one very steep downhill where we rode the brakes all the way down. I had Henry feel the rims at the bottom of the hill--they were very warm to the touch.

You go through some of the less-attractive bits of Minneapolis along this route.
Trainyards in northeast Minneapolis

Glamorous downtown Minneapolis was visible through the humid haze to the south.
Minneapolis skyline through the haze

We rode down to the Mississippi to cross on the bridge which becomes 42nd Avenue North. This sign was discouraging.
Henry by bridge over Mississippi

Looking at the sidewalk, I'm guessing they want us to walk because the sidewalk is narrow and the road-side guardrail is low, so that if we hit it we'd probably flip over into the road. I waited until a rollerblader coming across went past us, then we mounted up to ride over. Henry is deeply conservative in these matters; "Dad, if we get caught, you're in trouble." We lumbered a mile or so over to a Dairy Queen and had medium pineapple sundaes and a water bottle refill.
Henry at Dairy Queen

We worked our way west, crossing Highway 100 at 39th Avenue North. On maps, this doesn't look like it's quite continuous (see this Google Map), but if you switch the view to satellite, you can see that there's a pedestrian bridge to get us across. How did I ever get around before online maps? We worked our way through neighborhoods down to Medicine Lake Road, which we used to cross Highway 169, and rode down to Medicine Lake. Here we stopped to fiddle with Henry's bike. It was spontaneously shifting over bumps and also wouldn't shift onto the smallest chainring. A few minutes fiddling with these adjustments seemed to solve these problems. We also ate a Clif bar each. The high clouds had scattered and the sun had come out and I took some bike snaps. Here's my bike, all loaded.
Atlantis at Medicine Lake

The Atlantis as Tanker

The lower part of the triangle is busy. The white water bottle is one of the thermal Polar Bottles, the stainless steel one is one of the legendary Jongwon JSB-500s (read all about them on the Bicycle Coffee Systems website) which have astounding thermal performance. I loaded it with ice, then filled it with water, and it was still icy late that evening. If you like ice water on long hot rides, these work great. Too bad you can't find them any longer! The fuel bottle under the downtube is a Sigg aluminum bottle with Coleman fuel for our Peak One stove. This probably wasn't absolutely necessary but as we are "touring" I thought it set the right tone. I'll be getting a frame pump for the Atlantis but in the meantime have a Blackburn Mammoth pump under a water bottle cage.

Atlantis Cockpit

About a month ago I got what little hair I have left cut and the barbershop had some Bicycling magazines lying around. There were a bunch of bike reviews in this one issue. I was amused to see how these would describe the "cockpit" of the bike, like it was some complex arrangement of controls. Well, here's the cockpit of the Atlantis. I'd just wrapped the bars the night before; the brass bell is on the stem, keeping the handlebars clear, and I got a Sigma computer because it will mount on the stem as well, also keeping my bars clear. The Ortlieb bag is there with the excellent Twin Cities Bike Map showing.

Henry's Trek 620
Here's Henry's bike. He seems to like it quite a lot and is excited about the planned upgrades (new wheels, wider handlebars than the cramped 35cm ones on there, re-doing the cabling with somewhat less-extravagant curves, etc.). It's probably a comfortable bike, set up for touring and all lugged Reynolds 531. I'm guessing it's not unlike the Atlantis.

It was hot at the lake. The earlier clouds had cleared off. Here were some kids swimming at the beach we stopped by.

Kids swimming at Medicine Lake

We caught the Luce Line bike trail west from the south end of Medicine Lake. This was paved for a long time. It got us gracefully over or under many busy roads. Here is the tunnel under Interstate 494 from the inside.
Luce Line tunnel under I-494

And from the west side.
Luce Line tunnel under I-494, west side

At one road crossing the trail goes from asphalt to crushed limestone.
Luce Line turns to gravel

I was worried about this being some mushy thick layer of rock, a nightmare to ride on, but in fact it was basically hard dirt with tiny crushed rocks. We moved along pretty fast on this though it was noisy and kicked a lot of dust up. Along this trail you get to see how the other 0.5% live, at one point going through a country club with beautifully manicured fairways and flower beds.

We got off the Luce Line at Hennepin County 19 and rode north to the town of Maple Plain. We bought a couple of Gatorades, some milk, root beer and Doritoes here as well. No point in hauling all that stuff all this way! We rode on up to the Baker Park campground, arriving at about 7:20. We were 4 hours and 40 minutes out of home and had ridden 36.6 miles. Up went the tent, out came the stove, we made spaghetti with tomato basil sauce and some cheese in little paper packets from the Pizza Hut at Target, mooched some wine and beer (for me) from one of the other church folks and settled in for dinner.

Here's Henry having some root beer. He's a happy boy.
Henry at Dinner

Saturday was a static day. We cooked up pancakes (Krusteaz, only add water) with bacon (center-cut, it's smaller and fits in the frying pan better) and real maple syrup for breakfast. I rode into town, down to the beach and around some pathways, but nothing ambitious. I fiddled with the bikes; my crank had come a bit loose and needed tightenting and my handlebars weren't tight enough and had rotated down a bit. Tightening the handlebars in the stem required removing the Ortlieb front bag mount. I was nervous about this as it had been such a pain to put on, but it went well and I got it back on with no problem. Henry's front brake lever would pull all the way to the handlebar under heavy braking, so I adjusted that for him so it would hit the rim a lot quicker. Henry mostly swam and played with the other kids. We also engaged in our Camping Kabuki, camping rituals honed over many years. We've been mostly car campers in recent years but maintain the fiction that we're lightweight by using our old backpacking/canoeing/motorcyling/bike touring gear. Here are some of our trademark items.

Coleman Peak One stove generating at full throttle
The Peak One stove is a useful unit. The sounds of summer wouldn't be complete without a Peak One generating away on full throttle, as it is here with some of the flame deflectors glowing red. I even packed the stove in the old Sigg Tourist kit this trip; that's the Sigg windscreen on the stove. My stove, which dates from about 1983, is relatively new. When I camp with my buddy Paul, he uses an even older 1979 one on which most of the instructions and the plastic on the knobs has been melted off in a fueling mishap.

Morning Brew-up of Camp Tea
You can use the Coleman to make Camp Tea. We use only the best British teabags for this. One has to maintain standards, you know. These are British Tetley's and not the grass clippings Tetleys sells in the U.S. The water here was pretty good; usually at remote campgrounds the Camp Tea features scum floating in the tea.

Water Bag on Tree
We carry water in this water bag. It folds down very small yet holds about 2 gallons. I got this in 1979. I lent it to one of my sisters once and she melted a small hole in the nylon bag part. The Doritoes are lashed up out of the way of raccoons. I know, raccoons can climb trees, but they didn't. Maybe these are too Nacho Cheesier.

Candle Lantern in Daylight
I loathe Coleman lanterns. Instead, candle lanterns work great, make no noise and cast an astonishing amount of light. This one has lit up the whole campground! (Actually, I took the photo in the morning). A candle lasts something like eight hours and only once in my experience has it rained so hard that they wouldn't stay lit.

Sunday we had a big communal breakfast. Karla, who'd come out for dinner with Geneva and Sydney, had brought our eggs and OJ contribution. Henry and I ate scads of food, packed everything up and we rolled out at about 10:45 heading home.

Going home the same way would be boring. We rode down through Maple Plain, took the Luce Line a couple of miles back east to Stubbs Bay, then got off and rode south. We crossed the west end of Lake Minnetonka and saw how the other 0.02% live. High up on a bike seat, seeing over the fences and slogging along into a south wind, you can see a lot. Sprawling mansions, tennis courts, swimming pools, horse paddocks. Very nice cars drove by. Big-ass boats in the lake. I think they even have nice bikes; on Saturday in Dairy Queen in Maple Plain I was idly reading the Police Reports in the local free paper and someone's garage got broken into and a mountain bike worth $4,500 stolen. I may have an impressive fleet of bikes at the moment, but collectively they aren't worth that much!

We stopped at a SuperValue in Navarre for a lemonade and Clif bar and talked to a guy named Glen who was riding around. He was very familiar with the trails we were planning to take and we talked for a bit. Henry and I rode off, down through Excelsior and along the lake on the LRT trail.

We stopped at one point to admire the view. Here's Henry with the bikes.
Henry at Lake Minnetonka overlook

A tour boat cruised by. Lake Minnetonka is pretty big and very textured so that there are lots of islands and penninsulas in view.
Tour Boat on Lake Minnetonka

This lady was there. She offered to take our picture. I couldn't help but notice her back end, a Nexus 7-speed internally-geared unit.
Bike with Nexus Hub

We rode on down the trail, stopping at a Dairy Queen for medium pineapple sundaes in the blazing heat. It got to 93F today and hardly a cloud in the sky for much of the afternoon, so it felt pretty relentless. We cowered on the east side of the building in a small bit of shade and watched some people bring an assortment of musical instruments including guitars and a string bass out of the Dunn Brothers coffee place next door. There must have been some sort of concert in there.

The trail soon cut south towards Hopkins. It crossed a bunch of streets and goes diagonally through people's yards like only railroads do. As we rode by the north end of Hopkins I could see a street blocked off. We abandoned the trail and rode down the street to the firemen sitting at the intersection. Sure enough, a bike race was about to start. It's part of the Hopkins Raspberry Festival.

We were there about 2 minutes and the race started.
Start of 2005 Raspberry Festival Category 1-2-3 Criterium

It was the Category 1, 2 and 3 men's Criterium race, the featured event of the day. There had been youth, seniors and womens races earlier. We watched them go by a couple of laps. I asked the firemen if there was someplace nearby we could get Gatorades. You're in luck, they said, and opened a cooler full of iced-down Gatorade and gave us a couple. Henry and I thanked them and moved across the street to watch the race a while. It was to go 1 hour 20 minutes, so we figured we wouldn't stick out the whole thing.

We sat in the shade. Here's Henry enjoying his second Clif bar of the day and his free Gatorade.
Henry at Hopkins bike race

We had a decent view:
Our view of the race coming around the first corner

Then they'd zoom away:
The peloton southbound

Not everyone was racing. This guy's shirt matched his bike nicely:
Guy on Bianchi watching race

Before long a group of eight cyclists broke away from the main peloton. They began to build a lead and were soon 30 seconds ahead in a race where lap times were in the 1 minute 10 second region. We moved down the course a bit. The group of eight kept creeping ahead. After a while, they got the main peloton back in sight. Here you can see the whole peloton about to enter a corner while in the background come the eight breakaway riders. They should be playing the theme from Jaws.
Peloton pursued by eight breakaways

Are they getting closer? If this was Jaws, these two guys would soon be flailing in the water amidst fake blood while their girlfriends screamed and Roy Sheider looked concerned.
The Eight close in

We parked the bikes and talked to a corner marshall. He is a racer whose wife had their first child this year and so his training has fallen by the wayside. He said he's been running. Boy, he said, I just don't like running. Me either.

As a recently-active racer, he knew what was going on. I was asking who kept track of the number of laps as it seemed likely these eight were going to lap the peloton and get re-integrated into the larger group. He said that race officials track that stuff. We talked about how aware the racers were of what was going on, what the eight would do when they caught up (which they did while we were talking) and stuff like that. It was pretty interesting.

Still, we had to move on, so we rode over to 5th street and down to the LRT and Kenilworth trail to catch that eastbound. This was smooth asphalt and we had something of a tailwind and suddenly we were cooking along (well, 16-17mph) and it was quiet. That limestone stuff is noisy.

This trail comes in around the north side of Lake Calhoun. I'd meant to follow the Kenilworth trail around the north side of downtown but Henry was ahead of me and carried on, so we kept on to where the trail meets up with the Midtown Greenway, which I only rode for the first time last week. This is like a bike Superhighway. Here's a shot down the Greenway. You can see one of the "exit ramps" off to the left.
View down Midtown Greenway

The Midtown Greenway is along a disused railway right-of-way and is sunk down in the ground. It runs by the back of lots of old factories and has what must be dozens of streets crossing it on bridges. It must have been pretty useful rail access back when we actually made stuff here.

The steep banks are overgrown. We rode along and saw a couple of people picking berries. I finally stopped and asked a young lady if there were many berries up there (in the overgrown banks of the path) and she said yeah, come on up and get some. Henry and I lay the bikes down, took off the cooler and spent a happy 45 minutes or so chatting with Angela and picking blackberries. This is a painful affair as these are prickly bushes on a tricky slope. It's also messy if you squish the berries and Angela's hands looked like she was an ax-murderer, all red and dripping. She works with a group who provide shelter for homeless and unwanted teens. I think she was happy to see a father and son out doing stuff like this together.

Henry and I rode on down the Greenway to where it crosses Hiawatha, then went north alongside the light rail tracks. This goes by some biker bar where a band who was not very good but at least was world-class loud was doing a pretty awful rendition of Eleanor Rigby. Henry, who likes the Beatles a lot, was pretty indignant. We got off in Riverside, rode past the Hub Bike Coop and across the river on the 10th Avenue bridge. We were both kind of fading at this point, having lived on Clif Bars and pineapple sundaes all day. Down Como Avenue we stopped at Joe's Market for an ice-cream bar and Powerade, then headed on home. Como's under construction and we had to work our way past this. I took a picture of Henry along here but something didn't work; still, it looks kind of Impressionist. Didn't Monet just have bad eyesight?
Impressionist Henry

We rode up Como, past the park and then home. My overly-precise German cycle computer said 42.97 miles. I said to Henry, you know, if we ride to the end of the driveway and back, it'll be 43 miles, so we did. We went in all happy and proud, sunburned and sweaty and with somewhat purple hands from the berries. Forty three miles, even loaded with panniers and camping gear, isn't going to impress any serious cyclists, but it's farther than I've ridden in years and a real achievement when you're thirteen years old on a twenty-year old bike. We soon took showers to wash all the salty sweat off, I had a couple of gin and tonics and Karla provided a lovely Salad Nicoise followed by ice cream and our hand-picked blackberries. It was a delicious end to a terrific three days.