Thursday, July 22, 2010

open source transportation

Very few people could build a car themselves out of parts they salvaged, found, or otherwise obtained for free.

Most people, though, could do so with a bike.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tour de B-Cycle

The Tour de B-Cycle is a an on-going challenge by Denver Bike Sharing (tw/fb) to visit each b-cycle station in one business day.

The goal is to check one bike into and out of each station, keeping the travel time between stations under 30 minutes so that each ride is free. Returning to and checking in at the station where you initially checked out your first b-cycle concludes the tour.

On Friday, June 25, I did it.

In 100 degree heat. Yow.

But, verily, it was fun of win.

Above is a slightly shopped picture of the Tour website, getting your name on which is one of the prizes for finishing. Other prizes include-

  1. Braggin' rights

  2. Rad t-shirt (1)

  3. Cool b-cycle poster (1)

  4. Sore glutes and legs (2 each) 'cause those bikes all weigh a bah-zillion pounds.

I spent a lot of time planning my route on mapmyride before realizing that you have to pay to print your route, which I consider to be poppycock.

Fortunately, investing that mental energy beforehand made it such that I was then able to proceed with confidence armed with nothing but the basic map of locations from

The exact route I took, unfortunately, can no longer be taken. When I completed the tour, there were only 42 stations. A 43rd station has since opened at 7th & Grant.

And one thing I learned quickly is that the touch screens aren't like normal touch screens. It's like the screen covers actual buttons, and you have to manipulate the screen in such a way that actual buttons are pressed.

For example, sometimes there are three buttons in a row, and if you press the left hand button you get the menu from the middle button. So you back up and press the far left bit of the screen, not necessarily on the button itself, and get the left button menu.

It's a little eccentric.

Below is a reckoning of all 42 stations.

I started my day at about 6:30 AM by purchasing a $5 day membership at Park & Tremont (1) since it's the station closest to my house. I then jumped up to Five Points (2) and over to 28th & Larimer (3) area. (The 28th & Larmier station is right outside the B-cycle main offices.) The 25th & Larimer station (4) kiosk wasn't working, so after I checked my bike in, I called b-cycle and left a message to that effect, and walked back to 28th & Larimer to check out another bike and continue from there. (Sadly, this was the first of several instances of having to walk to another station from one that wasn't working.)

Car scrap art @ 24th & Larimer

Several stops passed with little incident: Broadway & Walnut (5), 22nd & Market (6), Coors Field (7), 19th & Market (8), 17th & Larimer (9), Market St Station (10) and Union Station (11), where I found a b-cycle membership card atop one of the bike stalls! (I would later return this card to the b-cycle offices.)

The board game benches at Market St Station

15th & Delangy (12) was a nice stop. I liked the view of the big stabby heart thing outside the art museum.

Some truck driver paused in his truck-drivin' to ask me about b-cycles. Seriously, about 1.5 points into a 3 point turn, he stopped and started gabbing at me through his truck-drivin' window.

The Little Raven station (13) is where I ran into my first little bit of trouble.

I returned my bike and when I tried to check out another, the station gave me a green light and a Go Ahead. It said it released a bike, but then it didn't. The dock clicked as though it had unlocked, but the bike remained locked steadfast.

So suddenly we had an annoying little discrepancy between life as it is actually lived, and life as it is represented in computers. I called b-cycle for help but they wouldn't open for another hour, so I got somebody from a call center, who encouraged me to buy another membership by swiping a second credit card, with the expectation of having one $5 membership refunded at some point. Fortunately, I had a second credit card with me, so that's what I did.

On past the National Velvet station (14) by Salvagetti, and the only station in the Highlands by Little Man Ice Cream station (15), and back to REI (16).

By that time, it was approaching 9:00 AM, which is when I had scheduled a doctor's appointment, so I rode from REI back to Park & Tremont, where I parked my b-cycle and picked up my own bike, which I had locked there, and went to the doctor.

Turns out I have pretty good cholesterol!

After that, I checked out another bike at Park & Tremont and rode to the Pepsi Center (17) where I checked in but was unable to check out because the screen was frozen, or locked, or broken. It was unable to advance past the initial welcome screen. But it did not say "Welcome" or anything. It merely displayed two rather fuzzy, somewhat pixelated boxes: one for English and the other for Spanish.

Unable to do anything else there, I called b-cycle to report the problem, and then walked to 14th & Larimer (18), from where I was able to zip along through 17th & Curtis (19), the US Bank building (20), the Convention Center (21, and 14th & Welton (22).

A fantastically detailed knitted u-lock "locked" to the station at the Convention Center

I didn't see the station at Denver Pavilions the first two times I rode past it because, I guess, it was under that land bridge and in the shade. After I finally checked my bike in there (23), I was unable to check another one out. (Got a "Sorry the system is down" type message.) So I hot-footed it on over to 15th & Tremont (24) which was also down.

I walked further on to the Webb Building (25) which was also down. (Three in a row!) I tried to call b-cycle but the call didn't go through, so I thought the entire office had lost power, been struck by lightning, or been raptured up somehow.

At this point, it was blazing hot and, facing the prospect of all the stations being down and b-cycle being unreachable for help, I almost called it quits and caught a bus home.

Starting to walk home/towards a bus stop, I saw the station at the news building (26), and I thought I'd try it for the hell of it. And lo and behold, I got a bike! I rode to 16th & 16th (27) and to the library (28) without incident.

"Lao Tzu" outside the library

Confidence restored, I rode to 11th & Broadway (29), which is an oddly placed station in the parking lot of an Arby's. A reeling, shirtless dude approached me as I was swapping bikes and offered to do 25 push-ups for me in exchange for 25 cents. I apologized for not having any change on me, and hurried along.

Past the Sunken Gardens, I traded bikes at Denver Health (30). A doctor paused in his doctorin' to ask me about b-cycles.

After that was one of the Long Rides of the day, during which I came close to approaching the 30 minute time limit. But at the end of it, I found myself at the Pearl & Louisiana light rail station (31), where I stopped for lunch, and to get out of the heat, and to rehydrate.

Entrance to the underground Light Rail station at Pearl & Louisiana

Then down to Pearl & Florida (31), and Buchtel and High (32, where somebody apparently flipped out and hulksmashed the kiosk in the face, shattering the screen and rendering it rather embarrassed. Couldn't check out there, so walked onto campus--calling b-cycle along the way to report the broken kiosk--to Nagel Hall (33) and rode from there to the Driscoll Center (34).

Those two DU stations were Denver's first.

It was about this time that I discovered the weird little thing on the handlebars by your left thumb is a bike bell! So I tootled around campus after that dinging and smiling at everybody.

Smashed screen

After a second Long Ride, during which I saw a group of b-cyclers among which might have been some of the six others to complete the tour that day, I arrived at the Cherry Creek mall (35), and hit the stops there (36, 37, 38) and stopped again to cool off for a spell at the Ross-Cherry Creek library.

There was a girl at the hot dog cart across the street who took off her shoes and waded into a fountain to cool off. It was hot, yall.

From there, to the Botanic Gardens (39) and 9th & Downing (40), 13th & Pearl (41), and finally to the last station at 19th & Pearl (42)!

Returning to Park and Tremont (1) completed the loop at about 3:30 PM. That's about nine hours altogether, including several long stops.

I then tried to check out another bike so I could ride to B-cycle HQ to turn in my found b-card, say hi to the crew, and fill up my water bottle. But instead I got another false check-out. Having run out of credit cards with which to buy memberships, I just grabbed my own bicycle and rode on over.

And that's pretty much all there is to say on the matter.

That was Friday, and my shwag was available after the weekend.

The ride was obviously not without its challenges, and the b-cycle system as a whole is obviously not without its own problems, but it's new. And it was a fun ride, and it's an awesome service to the city and people.

I'm happy to have it.

Ride on.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

double heckle

I've been heckled twice in the past two days. Disconcerting!

The first heckle was as articulate as the second one was incomprehensible, but both were uncalled for.

Heckle 1

The first happened in an intersection at 13th & Franklin, north of Cheesman Park.

What you can see in the photograph below is me, northbound, and a silver car, southbound, sitting at the traffic light like the good law-abiding vehicular citizens that we are. This photo also captures another cyclist blowing through the red light and looking quite tickled about it.

The cyclist may or may not have been naked.

I observed the cyclist go by, and continued waiting for the light to change. When I noticed the opposing light begin to change, as shown below, and after noting the lack of cross traffic, I started getting into my saddle and started inching forward. (I had forgotten to downshift approaching the stop, you see, and I knew it would take me a minute to get rolling.)

By the time I had entered the intersection, my light had turned fully green, and as the driver of the silver car also entered the intersection himself, he called out his window to me--both of us, mind you, in the intersection--"You actually let him influence you. That's sad!"

Referring, I believe, to the naked and grinning cyclist who ran the red light, and thereby, I believe, implying that I was submitting to some kind of peer pressure and running a red light.

Were this his assertion, then by his logic, his dumb ass was also running the red light. But the light was green, and-- gah!

It was a statement at such odds with reality that I couldn't even open my mouth to say anything until the car and I were practically a full block away from each other.

I continued to ponder it the whole way home, wondering what I would have said to him had I been given an opportunity to respond.

Heckle 2

This one happened at MLK and Franklin. (What's up with Franklin, right?) I was using the aforementioned MLK bike route to get home after work and was on the part of the route where the bike lanes gave way to some sharrows.

This is a two-lane one-way street. I was riding on the sharrows, and as I approached Franklin I looked behind me to check the traffic, because I was planning to change lanes and turn left onto Franklin to continue my ride home.

Behind me in my lane was one car, and in the passing lane next to our left were two cars. I realized I'd probably have to take the next left instead due to having to wait for at least those two cars to pass, and possibly the one behind me.

You know, elementary traffic maneuvering stuff.

The two cars to in the passing lane passed, and then the one behind me laid on the horn, kind of straddled to the two traffic lanes, and started to pass me.

I started to shake me head at the driver, hoping to convey the fact that he was in error, that I was doing nothing wrong, that I was disappointed in and a little embarrassed of his behavior.

It was a loaded head shake.

As he pulled up along side me, I made eye contact with him, hoping to really drive home the full effect of my poignant head shake, at which point he leaned in and kind of shook his fist a little and yelled, "Mufuckin shit ass, here!"

In answer to which I scolded him lamely, "No! That's wrong!"

I was referring not to his grammar and diction, but to his overall response to the situation.

He sped on and turned right at the next block, eager--I assume--to get out from under my scornful gaze and sad head shake.

And so that was the trifecta of Angry Motorist responses. I got a honk, a low grade buzz (he was half in my lane), and a cussin. The only thing missing was having something thrown at me, which thankfully I have never experienced.

Still, I was about as mad as I've even been after a traffic encounter, and I commented to myself that if I didn't flip him the bird for this--and I did consider it--then I'm just not a traffic birder. I am a head-shake-of-disapproval-er, which is far more lame, but which is probably safer in its lameness in that it will probably always fail to incite further action from an angry motorist.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


So some new bike lanes went up on MLK Blvd a while ago. When they first went in, I was critical of them. "MLK is so busy, and cars just fly down it." Also, 29th Ave is bike route D6, a nice wide enjoyable route. (MLK is effectively 32nd Ave, only three blocks north of 29th.)

I hadn't ridden these bike lanes, and no plans to before hearing about the "Bike Lane Unveiling" that was planned one Friday morning. (Bikedenver's announcement here.) It sounded like it would be a hoot, so I turned out in Stapleton the morning of the event.

The Denver Bikerati were out in scores. Attendees and special guests included the Bike Depot's Chris Dunn (whose infant son wore the tiniest helmet and sunglasses, and had a kick-ass handlebar seat behind a large protective windshield), councilpersons Carla Madsen and Michael Hancock (both of whom rode b-cycles during the ride), bikedenver's Piep van Heuven (who is always awesome and fun to chat with), Senior City Planner Emily Kreisa, and others.

Clif Bar and Starbucks were both there handing out their wares. Some Stapleton neighborhood group was giving out bananas.

There was a lady there promoting a local car share program. She had a large beautiful dog next to the car, and I have to admit I felt as though I had been mislead when she admitted to me that the shared cars don't all come with large beautiful dogs. DANG!

There was also somebody there leading the crowd, which initially consisted of but one person, in pre-ride yoga exercises.

Councilperson M. Hancock on the left. Co-worker o' Mine D. W. on the right.

Incidentally, there was a five year old in the yoga crowd who could yoga the hell out of some yoga. All the adults were embarrassed of their own yoga when they saw this five year old busting out his own kick-ass yoga. He was like the Michael Jordan of basketball yoga, and everybody else was the Michael Jordan of minor league baseball yoga.

Some speakers did some speakin', during which it was spelled out to me what was significant and special about about the MLK bike lanes: they create the only continuous, newbie-friendly route between downtown Denver and Park Hill/Stapleton.

Once it was explained to me that way, I immediately ceased being critical of the MLK bike lanes. Suddenly, I was appreciative of them, and I admired them, and I valued them. They suddenly became awesome.

Some red string--perhaps it was a ribbon--was strung across the front of the podium where all the speakin' occured. Eleven or eight Important People were given tiny scissors, and together they cut the "ribbon" and the bike lanes were "opened."

The lanes had been painted and dry at least a week prior, and the cutting occurred several blocks from the beginning of the lanes. But nobody thought it appropriate to mention such things, and we all clapped and cheered instead. Hooray!

Then, soon, it was time to mount up (it means "get on your horses") and ride from Stapleton, down MLK and eventually along Champa, where we would end at Curtis Park. (Event map.)

It was a ride largely parallel to my daily commute, so it was familiar. But it was in orders of magnitude faster than usual. The reason being that we had a three car police escort through town, stopping cross traffic and ushering us through intersections. I guess that's the kind of service you get when city councilpersons are leading your bike ride.

Immediately I became accustomed to the VIP treatment, and every ride I have taken since then has been comparatively inferior and decidedly spoiled by the lack of fanfare and flashing lights.

The ride down MLK was fine. Somewhere between Steele (halfway through the phantom projection of City Park, blocks to the south) and York (exiting the phantom park) the bike lane ends and is replaced by a couple of sharrows. Which is fine for any experienced rider. But assuming these bike lanes exist for the novice Stapleton commuter, it might be somewhat unnerving to suddenly be thrust into traffic that heretofore had been driving mindlessly along without having to think of or otherwise consider the bikes that had been sectioned off and segregated in their own special private little bike lanes.

I don't recall seeing any "Bike Lane Ends" kind of sign. I think drivers and cyclists alike could benefit from one at that point.

When we arrived at Curtis Park, bikedenver had a booth set up with freebies and good will for all. There was also a cupcake truck! (I had the chocolate one because omg chocolate.)

Bikedenver unveiled (as far as this blogger is concerned) their new logo and branding. I told Piep it looked awesome, and she responded thankful that a macho dude such as I didn't find the cool blues too feminine.

So there ya go. A clear shot from downtown to Stapleton now exists.

The next question I have now is when will Stapleton get its first b-cycle station?