Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Back on the horse

I start to realize what a big part of my life biking is after I'm forced to take a break from it for some reason. I had a grin on my face and a "WHEEEEEEE!" on my lips that whole ride.

Unfortunately, my return ride coincided with Denver's first big snow of the season. Snowed for over 48 hours. During that time, I continued to commute and managed to fall only once.

It wasn't a hum-dinger of a fall by any means. I was going really slow on a side street. Just hit a hidden ice patch and fell on my left side, pushing my bike out from under me towards the curb. I was back on my feet, collecting my bike, and scooting onto the sidewalk within 3-5 seconds.

My left thigh has been sore since then. No bruising or anything. Nothing that's going to keep me off the road.

Glad to be back on the bike! Even when I fall off of it!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Google Trike

This morning, the google maps team invited us in this blog post to begin nominating off-street locations to be mapped out by the google trike.

You have till October 28th to submit a location at

My first submission was not bicycle or Colorado related. I nominated the Ocean Beach Pier, up and down which I used to walk almost every day when I lived in San Diego.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Route profile: 16th Street/Avenue

16th Street Mall and 16th Avenue are collectively known as the Teenybopper Mallrat Route.

One of Denver's stranger bike routes, notable for running along the spine of the city, but at the same time not really taking you anywhere.

Access to the mall is limited to one day out of the week; and 16th Avenue has a bike lane but is not part of the Grid, and eventually comes to an abrupt stop after a couple blocks.

The route starts at one end of the city at the northwest end of the 16th Street Mall, either at Union Station or at National Velvet.

Now, unless it's Sunday, you cannot ride on the 16th Street Mall. This is one of's Big Four rules, right up there with No Riding On The Sidewalk. Bike here 85.7% of the time, and you'll get a ticket.

On Sunday though, you can cruise right down the middle of the road. It's an interesting 1.5 mile ride that's not without its own unique joys and frustrations.

At the southeast end of the mall, your route crosses Broadway and becomes E 16th Avenue.

16th Avenue is not listed on the City of Denver bike map as a "grid" route, or even as a local bike route, but simply as a "road with a bike lane."

So even the city recognizes that it's kind of special.

Personally, I have a tendency to forget about 16th Ave until I cross it coming from the north or the south, and I see a bike lane, and I think to myself, "Oh! An E/W bike lane! I need to go east … might as well use this convenient bit of infrastructure!"

So I turn onto 16th and cruise along, slowly progressing through the the stop signs that litter the route, until suddenly it dead ends at East High School.

Near the school, there is suddenly eleven or eight fleets worth of cars parked on the street, and there are always—regardless of the time day, morning or afternoon—handfuls of kids milling about outside.

Enough to make you want to point out to them that there's no such thing as education by proxy. Being at the school doesn't count. You gotta, you know, go inside and learn stuff.

Anyway, so suddenly you dead-end at the high school. You options for continuing are, to the south, Colfax Ave; and to the north, 17th Ave.

Neither of these streets are safe to bike on.

That leaves you the option of, to the north, continuing past 17th into and through City Park or, to the south, riding on the sidewalk on Colfax for one block before cutting back up to a safe side street.

Of these options, one is illegal (sidewalk-ridin') and one is inconvenient (the winding route through City Park takes you out of your way.)

So this route is interesting. It takes you from East High School to the far end of 16th Street Mall, and not really anywhere else.

But in doing so, you get really close to the real heart of the city.

Just off this route is City Park, Civic Center Park, the Central Library. Cheeseman Park is a short ride to the south. It runs parallel to all the wondrous crap on Colfax and it runs right through all the wondrous crap on the 16th Street Mall, including Skyline park. At the northwest end, you can get on the S. Platte River trail just north of the confluence with the Cherry Creek trail.

So from a wider perspective, I suppose it's quite a well connected hub.

But since all it literally does is connect a high school to a strip mall, I shall henceforth call this the Teenybopper Mallrat Route.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kids in Crosswalks

October 7th was the ninth annual International Walk To School Day. Highly celebrated here in Denver. There are cute little "Kids in crosswalks!" signs posted around the neighborhood that are apparently going to be up for the duration of the month.

Walk To School Day is a concept that I find strange for some reason I can't quite put my finger on.

Rick Smith touched on the subject in the following Yehuda Moon.

And I guess he addresses what I find odd about making a big to-do about walking to school.

But I think that's only applicable when you're thinking about elementary and middle schools. This campaign could do some serious good work at high schools.

It'd be a challenge for sure, trying to convince a bunch of 16 year olds to leave their cars behind in favor of walking and bicycling. But I know I didn't consider biking to school a real or viable option when I was a kid, and it's less than 4.5 miles from my old house to my old high school.

That's nuthin.

I remember parking always being such an issue, too.

That's where this campaign should focus its attention. I used to walk and bike all the time when I was in elementary and middle school. After I got to high school though I didn't touch a bike for over five years.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Don't wanna share.

I was thinking about this "share the road" article as I was riding around town this afternoon. One premise of it is that "share the road" essentially evokes negative memories from Kindergarten of being forced to share your toys and your milk-n-cookies. Which is pleasant for no Kindergartner.

This time of year, bike lanes have a tendency to become useless and dangerous as they fill with leaves, ice and slush, and other road debris. Consequently, this is the time of year I tend to avoid roads with bike lanes. Instead, I find nice, wide roads. Multi-lane ones where I can take an entire lane without slowing traffic down.

I adhere as closely as I can to the principles of Vehicular Cycling.

In other words, I do a lot sharing the road with motorists.

And the problem with that is one of perception.

I may perceive myself as a vehicle with equal rights to the road, but that doesn't mean motorists don't perceive me as a slow moving object to avoid and to get around as soon as possible.

For example, this afternoon.

I was in the far right lane on a one-way, three-lane road. A white compact car was behind me; and next to it, one lane over, was a red sedan.

What happened next is when "share the road" means two different things to two different parties.

I have sometimes experienced that if I'm not assertive enough in my taking the lane—if I'm hanging out in the right-most third of the lane, or even smack dab in the middle of the lane instead of closer to the left-most third—then a motorist behind me might chose to interpret "share the road" as share the lane. And they'll drift over a little bit so that they're actually occupying two lanes as they attempt to pass me without getting all the way over.

There is some logic behind this tactic on a two lane road where changing lanes to pass me means driving fully on the wrong side of the road. Driving on the wrong side of the road is uncomfortable, even when conditions are clear.

But there is less logic—if in fact there is any—in sharing the lane on a wide, one-way, multi-lane road like we were on. There's no reason not to wait until it's clear, and then change lanes properly, like you would do to get around any slower moving car.

So instead of adhering to logic, the white compact attempts this share the lane tactic, accelerates and drifts towards the red sedan. Red sedan honks and the compact brakes and falls back in line.

One block down the road, I signal and leave the road, still next to the sedan, having obstructed traffic not one bit.

Being told to share the road may cause some people balk and insist that they keep all their cookies to themselves. But it is also problematic at times when those who would be willing to share don't know precisely what it means to, or how they ought to do it.

Share the road, folks. Not the lane.

Perhaps, as suggested in the article, we should abandon use of the slogan altogether and rely on simple "Watch for bicycles" signs.

Less connotation. Little more direct.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


A portmanteau is a blending of two different words and their meanings. The word itself, in this context, was apparently invented by Lewis Carrol.

So some portmanteaus grate on my nerves. Labradoodle, Brangelina, and other designer words are manufactured and created by marketing departments in order to sell something flashy and fab.

And some portmanteaus are so accepted that you—or I at least—rarely notice them as being a jumble of two different things. Like brunch. Or spork, blog, and wikipedia. These words seem more natural, at least.

So Grant Peterson, of Rivendell Bicycle Works, apparently coined the portmanteau beausage in an article he wrote for the Rivendell Reader, the bike shop's newsletter. Rick Smith used the word in the 10/11/2009 episode of Yehuda Moon.

I think it's a pretty great word, with great potential to be used "in the wild."

It's a blend of "beauty" and "usage," and is used to describe a beauty that comes from or through use. Like dings and nicks on a trusty bicycle. Or a leather bicycle saddle once it has been broken in and has adopted the shape of its rider's bottom. Certain sets of kitchen knives acquire beausage after many years. Or—and this might be the perfect example—musical instruments. Like Trigger, Willie's guitar.

Where pronunciation is concerned, I'm going to go ahead and say that the American pronunciation ("BYOO-sij") and the French pronunciation ("bo-SAHG") are equally acceptable.

I'm looking forward to noticing and appreciating examples of beausage in the future.

bike google

Bike Pittsburgh spots the google trike and comments on plans to start mapping bike trails.

When I'm planning out a ride, I usually compare "Avoid Highways" driving directions to walking directions, and then overlay trailsdenver's trails map and my routes map.

Two suggested routes through two different maps, and then I'm able to plan out a third route through the city's bike infrastructure.

Sometimes, it is time consuming. Other times I throw caution to the wind and set out knowing only that I need to go generally southeast.

But I gotta admit, one-click bike routing will be handy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

City bike auction

I'm not going to be able to go to the city bike auction next week because I ... have a thing.

But they just posted the auction catalog, and man! There are like a hundred bikes they're auctioning off!

Pedicab vs. Taxicab

Video streaming from a NYC Fox News site, and found on LJ Bikepirates.

Which one of these seems like a disproportionate response to you? Throwing a cup of coffee at somebody's car? Or hitting somebody with your car?

The biggest danger of engaging a motorist is that—
  1. motorists have precious few avenues of communication, and
  2. a motorist's car is such an extension of his body that it may feel like hitting you with the car is not that different from hitting you with his fist.

In Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic, he says that there are several thing about driving itself that predisposes drivers to frustration and anger, the biggest of them being that it severely limits our abilities to communicate.

Humans are incredibly communicative creatures who rely heavily on nonverbal signals like facial expressions, body posturing, tone of voice and volume of voice. In a car, you are deprived of all of that. Instead, you are expected to use a car horn (often used too frequently) and a turn signal (often not used enough) to express yourself and convey depth and meaning.

Which is ridiculous when you think about it.

So this taxi driver obviously felt he could not adequately express his anger through any combination of sounding car horn and blinking turn signal. It's the torture of an artist, really. Having so much to share and not being able to articulate it satisfactorily.

But when an artist dramatically hurls a canvas painting across a room in frustration, people don't die like they do when a car hurls into people.

I myself had a "failure to communicate" moment the other day during my commute home.

A pickup truck and I were approaching a four-way stop from opposite directions. The truck didn't have its blinkers on, it was in the middle of the traffic lane, and its front tires were pointing straight ahead. So I logically assumed it was going straight.

Right up until it executed a right-hand turn directly across my path.

The truck had plenty of time to complete its turn. This wasn't any kind of a near miss, but I became frustrated at the lack of communication.

I raised my right hand in the air and starting doing that thing you do when you want to tell people to turn their lights on. Repeatedly closing my fist and then spreading my fingers wide. You know, that thing.

The truck then—in a surprise move—quickly pulled over to the side of the intersecting street and the driver hollered out his window, "What?"

Surprised to suddenly find myself in a conversation, I quickly blurted, "TURN SIGNAL!"

In answer to which he called back out, "Okay! Blobby flarggin blip bloop dada!"

Or something like that. I could only make out the "Okay!" before I was too far away to make out what he was saying.

He probably said something like, "Okay! And how about next you don't run the stop sign!"

Cause I did. I idahoed it.

Two sides to every story, right?

Like in the video above.

The pedicab driver ultimately chose to engage the taxicab by throwing his cup of coffee. And then he chose later to throw a friggin trash can at the driver.

I, on the other hand, did not pause or stop to throw anything at this pick-em-up truck. Because I knew I was a little bit wrong in this encounter, and that I would soundly lose an actual confrontation.

I, instead, was pedaling quickly away and discovering my "Donotgetintoafightwithatruck" mantra.

Point is folks, ultimately, go ahead and think twice before engaging the deaf, dumb, blind, raging bull-moose cars you share the road with everyday.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Winter cometh

35 degrees and raining.

I actually love this time of year and this kind of commute. Because of the thrill of persevering despite the elements, and because of the smugness that comes from being a member of the exclusive All-Weather Cyclists Club.

I love the Man vs. Nature element of it. I enjoy that I now have to start watching the weather ahead of time so I can plan for both my morning and my evening commute. That I need to at times be ready for varying amounts of rain and snow, which sometimes means having to stop mid-commute to remove or add layers.

Being ill prepared or under-dressed is less dangerous now that my commute is 10 miles round-trip than it was back when it was about 20 miles, but it can still suck plenty bad.

This is also the time of year when you see fewer cyclists on the road, and the ones you do see are in it for the long run, just like you are. This time of year, when it's freezing and raining, if you see another cyclist you nod or wave, and they smile back. The comradeship is near the surface and it's easy to spot a kindred, nutty soul.

This is when cycling becomes an indoor sport for the fair-weather (possibly smarter) cyclists out there.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Biking the 16th Street Mall: access to usually restricted areas

Today is Sunday.

In many ways, Sunday is kind of a tough day. Certain shops are closed, like Chick-Fil-A and 20th Street Cafe. Also, I live next to a huge Baptist church, and so there's no parking available next to my house on Sundays.

In fact on Sunday, you're kind of restricted in terms of stuff you can do. Wherein lies the appeal of doing something that can only be done on Sundays.

Such as taking advantage of "Big Four" Rule #4.

Six times out of seven, if you ride your bike on the 16th Street Mall, you'll get a citation. But on Sundays, it's fair game.

And that's really the only appeal: getting to do something you don't usually get to do.

Because it's not a terribly pleasant ride. Almost every intersection is a traffic light, and during my ride this afternoon—during which I rode from one end to the other and back again—I got stopped at nearly every light.

And it sucks to get stuck behind one of the buses.

And you must contend with the mental kung-fu that makes it such a great pedestrian mall: there's so much continuity between the sidewalk, the road, and the crosswalks, that it's possible to almost sail straight through an intersection without realizing it!

Other than that, though, it's neat scenery that you otherwise don't get to enjoy from atop a bicycle. Lots of public artwork to enjoy, people playing chess at the games tables in the median, shops that I always forget about between trips to the mall. You can detour down Skyline Park in the middle, or through Commons Park at the north end. On the other side of the north end is swanky Lower Highlands, where you can make a hard to beat one-two stop at Salvagetti and My Brothers Bar.

So I guess upon reflection that it's not that unpleasant a ride, as long as you know what you're getting into.


16th Street Mall, I'll be seeing you again next Sunday!

Hazards of the separated lane: bikes go in the street!

Today's ride left me feeling like I should from time to time carry a broom and a dustpan with me on my commute.

There was so much broken glass at so many points along the way.

On roads where there were bike lanes, it was in the bike lane. On roads where there was no bake lane, it was in the furthermost third of the road where bikes tend to ride.

It was like there was a bottle smashing party last night!

It made me think about the approaching winter, and how when after it snows around here, the plows shove all the ice and snow and slush directly into the bike lane, rendering it useless in its inaccessibility.

Which is I guess what must happen to some extent now, with broken glass being the snow and regular traffic being the plows.

The regular flow of traffic probably contributes to all that crap being deposited in the way of bike traffic.

Which leads me to the ultimate conclusion that bike lanes just aren't the best thing for cyclists or for motorists.

Cyclists get a false sense of security from a piece of infrastructure that tends to act as a gutter on the side of the road, and motorists get the false—and dangerous—assumption that cyclists go on a special little section of the road, not on the "real" road, and so they don't have to watch out for them as much. And that they're not any more a part of traffic than rollerbladers or joggers.

I don't agree with John Forester about everything, but I do agree that bikes belong on the road, proper. And not on special bike lanes.

Incidentally, one of the guys at Salvagetti said that when he realizes he just rolled over some glass, he swings his foot out and lets his shoe rub on the tire for a few revolutions because "it's not the initial contact with the glass, it's the grinding it in that happens next."

I'm dubious of the actual effectiveness of this, but I keep doing it. Mostly because it gives you something to do. Otherwise, if you don't immediately dismount and check your tires for punctures, you just groan and swear and keep riding.

I'll tell you what, it's a feat of contortion to do that with fenders!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gandhi's birthday

Sometimes, like some of you I'm sure, I am alerted to certain observances, celebrations, and holidays by the Google homepage.

For example, today is Gandhi's birthday.

Happy birthday, Gandhi!

You'd be 140 years old!

Here's a short excerpt from Jeff Mapes's Pedaling Revolution, in which the author is quoting one John Dowlin.
"I really felt the bicycle could be for the world's cities what the spinning wheel was for Gandhi," he said as we sat inside and warmed ourselves with coffee. Just as Gandhi saw India producing its own cloth as a way to free itself from British domination, the bicycle could free urban centers from an over-reliance on cars.

It's a cute analogy.

It's not too far off base to describe car culture in terms an oppressive, imperialist force.

And rebelling against British authority is kind of hard wired into our cultural identity, isn't it?

Thursday, October 1, 2009