Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sometimes You Eat Asphalt...

...and sometimes the asphalt eats you.

I heard the kid down the street today yelling after The Boys that he already knows how to ride a bike without a helmet. He was wondering why The Boys hadn’t figured that out yet.

Today I went out for a little lunchtime jaunt. The menu selection was all the dirt between Yankton Trail and Tuthill Park plus the climb at Tuthill. The first time my front tire went flat I fixed it and contemplated turning back. It's risky to continue with a compromised front tube (rimstrip issue) and I've had a terrible time with flats this season.

I finished the out portion of the ride, made the turn at the top of the hill and completed the 40mph descent of the sliding hill.

On the way back when I leaned to turn I discovered that my front had gone flat again. That is to say, I leaned but instead of responding like a tire should, it folded over on itself, the bike jerked violently and deposited me on the ground. Throw in a lunch time audience on Cliff Ave for extra humiliation.

After my head bounced of the asphalt I remember thinking how glad I was to be wearing a helmet. In the time it took to come to a stop I realized I could push my helmet covered head into the ground to reduce the amount of skin that was being removed from my shoulder.

Helmets are handy, better get a new one. Oops, don’t have one for tomorrow - but I have something for the kid next time he comes over.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Places Worth Caring About

A couple days ago James Howard Kunstler overwhelmingly won my "What Should I Blog Next?" contest. Today begins a multi-part JHK post.

On July 17 I posted about participating in a citizen's committee related to transportation planning. cHiggins, who blogs at It's Just A Ride, pointed me to a Kunstler TED Talk. The MinusCar Project loves the TED Talks.

I don’t read much JHK because I find his stuff to be too dark to consume in large quantities. Paradoxically, what I have read I really like. His novel “World Made By Hand” sits on my nightstand. This TED Talk contains plenty of the curmudgeon I expect but he also makes me laugh way more than I expect too.

JHK is not without controversy or over exposure. Toward the end (6:00 to go) of the talk he says something like “Chris asked me not to go on very long about this…” He’s talking about the “end of the cheap oil era” – and I imagine he suffers from people thinking “we’ve heard this already, move along. Say something new.”

It’s 20 minutes long.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Downtown Sioux Falls Criterium

There is empirical evidence that the number of conversations a person engages in when shopping at a farmer’s market far exceeds the number that occurs at a grocery store. Saturday’s veggie run proved quite “fruitful “. I had a conversation with Lindsay. You may remember her from this MinusCar Essay. Better yet, there’s the time she passed me on the road during a sub-zero winter bicycle commute.

That’s her on the right begin crowned the third fastest woman criterium racer in this state.

She laid bare some fine racing tactics. Her field of six (I didn’t want to imply there are a lot of women criterium racers in the state) split into three and stayed that way until her group got lapped. When that happened Lindsay latched on to the lead group for long enough to blow apart her group of three and solidify her race finish position.

Enough about her, let’s talk about me for a minute…

During our conversation I admitted that I had briefly pictured myself racing Cat 5. She said I should. I said I’m supporting the event by volunteering all day. She said I should race. I said I shouldn’t.

I also asked her about what kid’s races are usually like at these events. The Boy 11 ended up participating in the kid’s race. I’m pretty sure some of the other boys had gears or something on their bikes. Apparently that’s legal.

The Boy 6 may have stowed away and enjoyed the Cat 4 race with The Owner from the front seat of the lead vehicle. I’m not sure. He was certainly gone for a long time.

Enough about them, let’s talk about me for a minute…

I got up bright and early (it was still dark), rode into downtown, stopped off at Starbucks, and joined SD_Pedalpower on his assigned task.

Together we taped off every driveway on the mile long course. By the time we finished the corner marshall volunteer meeting had long since finished and I was without assignment leaving me with little to do but ride the course pretending I was a racer.

I knew from the night before there were 14 registered to race Cat 5. After perusing the registered riders I knew I shouldn’t be racing. Half of them were from the hosting cycling team. Of the other half I only knew one – known as The Muscle - I knew I was out of my league.

I registered – figuring the 30 minute race would be like riding as fast as I could to work with 20 of my coworkers. My goal became to last as long as possible before getting dropped, then last as long as possible before being lapped. Official instructions - lapped riders exit the course with under three laps to go.

I hung with the big group for the first three laps. I even managed to pass a handful. Wow that was fun, perhaps life changing.

The next three laps I was on my own trying to remember if it was that windy earlier in the day.

For my final three laps two guys that I had previously passed rejoined me and we thankfully worked together until we got lapped right at the start/finish of the bell lap.

The kErnEl snapped a few sweet photos of me. Here I am with my two riding buddies at about 30mph.


I spent the morning riding downtown, going the wrong way on one-ways, ignoring traffic signals, and generally riding like there were no cars on the road. There were no cars on the road. Occasionally I had to focus to ignore traffic signals. There was one particular vehicle parked off the course - just about every lap when I was on my own I checked to see if it was safe to perform my left turn without yielding.

I averaged a little shy of 22mph for 26 minutes. My max speed was just under 30mph.

FAB is awesome. During my race every corner was staffed with a FAB volunteer. I never had to go far before encountering a friendly face.

Big thanks to Sam in The City Planning Office and Central Plains Cycling Director Dustin Baker for putting this event together.

Thanks also, Central Plains Cycling Team. It’s true, the Downtown Sioux Falls Criterium/South Dakota Criterium State Championship doesn’t happen if people don’t participate and cycling in South Dakota doesn’t happen if there aren’t people cycling in South Dakota.

I'm looking forward to "second annual."


Tomorrow: The votes have been counted. What James Howard Kunstler has to do with the Shape Sioux Falls Visual Listening Survey. Part 1.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Criterium...The Master Plan In Action

Who'd'a thunk it? A bicycle race. A closed downtown course. I bet this couldn't have happened without the help of The City.

Where does The City's involvement in the local bicycle community begin? Look no further than The City's press release headline: "Cycling Race Supports City Bicycling Plan"

Who helped write the Bicycle Plan? Some of them you know as Sioux Falls Biking Bloggers.

Community involvment works. More community involvement works more.


Help MinusCar blog, vote now for the next post:

1. Jimmy Carter says live free or drive.
2. The Boy 6 hits a milestone.
3. What is a CSA?
4. MinusCar says how to green the LifeLight Festival.
5. James Howard Kunstler and the Shape Sioux Falls Visual Survey.
6. Pedestrian study: Mall to Mall
7. Pedestrian study: The poor design of the building I work in.

(John Forester post - coming soon. Because you showed me yours.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Conversating w/ The Boy 10

It’s been awhile since I’ve visited my favorite Starbucks barista. Today’s latte came with stories of her new 80mpg scooter. She purchased it “offline” (on the internets), suffered through title acquisition, and finally is having a lot of fun riding it. I asked her how cold she’d ride – she said she wore her winter coat for this morning’s 60 degrees. I asked about a helmet, she modeled it – think Spaceballs, Dark Helmet.

Last Thursday as we enjoyed free jazz @ Fawick Park The Boy 10 asked about relative fuel consumption between cars and motorcycles. He then suggested farms should use two-stroke tractors to use less fuel. Then he recognized the concern that slow farming could cause food shortages. I agreed and suggested more people would have to farm.

This morning I realized I could take the conversation another step – so I did. Farming is more attractive if a living can be made doing it. At the beginning of the summer we purchased shares in a CSA so that we could pick up vegetables every Saturday from them at the Farmer’s Market. That family is living your suggested solution, son.

The next step for the non-vegetable eating The Boy 10 will be getting him to realize the relative fuel consumption (or even the health benefits) between McDonalds French fries and Farmer’s Market fried potatoes. Wouldn’t it be great! Maybe when he’s in his 30’s, that’s how long it took his dad.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

School's Open Drive Better

Anniversary #3 of The Beginning of The MinusCar Project is fast approaching. So much has changed even though so much is still the same.

I explained to The Dad that I get wrapped up in some big ideas and then have a tough time blogging. I'm going to try to stick to the small stuff to see if I can increase frequency.

How 'bout that John Forester article in the previous post? There were three negative comments. Forester does that to people. It's a lot easier to find fault that agreement. I've called people out on that before. Since it's my blog I'll do it again...but what do you LIKE about the article? You show me yours, I'll show you mine.

This morning my presence on the road seemed to cause a driver to forget about the school zone we were driving in. I slowed and stopped to let some kids cross the crosswalk (as any driver is legally required to do in any crosswalk for any pedestrian of any age, anywhere (but not for any bicycle being ridden in any crosswalk)). They began to accelerate to pass but soon enough they realized what was up. The next couple blocks were interesting as I led them through at the maximum school zone speed of 15mph. In the end, I felt a little pressure.

I found myself looking for the softest spot of a driver's side quarter panel on the way home yesterday. I managed to get just a little more from my brakes, and they saw me soon enough that disaster, had it occurred, would probably have been manageable. The driver gave me a big ol' smile.

Saturday I volunteered for the FAB Helmet Survey. I observed four bike trail riders on an unpopular stretch of the local bike trail at 7am. Two with helmets, two without. The survey Doctor and Sioux Falls' newest biking blogger gave his report here at his blog, The Chainring Chronicles.

Finally, The Family participated in the FAB Starlight Ride Friday night. A beautiful night for a ride it was the longest ride ever for The Wife who pulled The Boy 6 on his longest ride ever. I shared the tandem with The Boy 10 - a couple years ago he did 2 or 3 of these rides with me. The fact that they all went 20 miles greatly increases the possibility more MinusCar trips.

Good times.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Effective Cycling

The text below was posted to the Chainguard Yahoo! Group. It is from Bicycle Transportation Engineer John Forester who wrote the book on Effective Cycling. If you're local, trustworthy and interested I'll loan my 15 year old copy.

If you don't know Mr Forester read this and meet him. If you do know him and have stong feelings against what he advocates - there are better forums than here to argue his points.



- Inadvertent admission of cycling incompetence by John Forester -

In the Washington Post is a column discussing cyclocommuting in DC that was posted to two different transportation lists. The URL is just below this. I wrote a comment to both of those lists, and I send a copy to chainguard by this.

The column by Moira E. McLaughlin in the Washington Post, 29 July 2008, amply illustrates all the defects in American bicycle transportation and in American bicycle transportation policy and practice that I have been describing for decades.

Excessive solicitude for cyclists: "I wonder when his "Be careful getting to work this morning" will turn into "Think you should find another way to get to work this morning?" It should not be a matter of being careful to avoid some undescribed dangers. Would anyone caution an adult motorist to be "careful when driving to work this morning"? Not unless, I suppose, that motorist was operating under the handicap of one of those prescription drugs marked with cautions against operating machinery. It is expected that any adult motorist in the habit of driving to work knows what he ought to do and is careful to operate properly. It is the same with cycling. I am sure that Moira is careful, but, on the basis of what she writes, I think that she operates without the skill that would make care beneficial.

One piece of evidence for this is the following: "In light of the apparent increase in ridership and the recent fatal accident, I have been thinking more about safe bike riding. The scariest things about the death of Alice Swanson are that she was on a street that is generally full of traffic -- that is, a place with a predictable flow of slow-moving cars -- and that the street has a marked bike lane. R Street is not what I would have thought of as a high-risk area."

This is strong evidence of Moira's ignorance because Alice Swanson got herself killed by trying to overtake on the right-hand side of a vehicle that was turning right. Avoiding such right-turning vehicles is almost the most elementary piece of proper cyclist behavior there is. And Moira furthers the indictment by then implying that this should not have occurred because "the street has a marked bike lane," when that is one of the predisposing causes of this dangerous cyclist behavior. Despite which, bike lanes are touted as enormously important cyclist safety measures.

Here's a bit more evidence: "So how does a biker navigate a busy, multiple-lane avenue like Independence, Connecticut or Wisconsin?" The supplied answer is: "Bike shops offer classes about D.C. bike laws (bikers are supposed to abide by the same traffic laws that apply to drivers), safety (wearing a helmet) and rider-to-rider etiquette." I suggest that it is highly likely that Moira has a motor-vehicle driving license; most adult American cyclists do, the prime exceptions being those whose license has been revoked and unlawful immigrants. Her suggestion that knowledge of the laws has much to do with the skill of driving a vehicle is rather as if handing a copy of the Uniform Vehicle Code to, say, a never-has-driven citizen of Manhattan Island (there are some) qualifies that person to drive a motor vehicle.

Here's some more evidence: "I also admit to riding on the sidewalk, which is illegal in some parts of the city. But I do that out of necessity. Even on a street with a bike lane, plenty of cars pull to the side of the road. Buses are especially hazardous, though the bus drivers on 14th Street NW seem to be aware of the cyclists in the bike lane. My options when a car pulls into a bike lane are few. (Drivers in the District are permitted in restricted lanes if they are loading or unloading people or turning right.) I can stop and risk getting run over by a biker coming up behind me. (I have done this and angered my fellow bikers.) I can swerve into traffic to go around the car. Or, I can jump onto the sidewalk for a few seconds to avoid the street all together. To me, this last option is the best." Out of necessity, Moira chooses the very dangerous method of cycling on the sidewalk? It is much safer to go around and overtake on the left-hand side of vehicles in the normal way, a way that is directed by the traffic laws on which Moira has just relied. Angering other cyclists by stopping behind a vehicle stopped in front of you, or was it moving right and hadn't yet stopped? Are they angered because they would overtake on the right-hand-side of that vehicle? All that I can say is that I have never been the target of this particular kind of anger. Or, "swerve into traffic to go around the car." Well, of course, swerving into a new line of traffic is damnably dangerous, one of the other very elementary instructions in safe cycling. Just look behind and negotiate a lane change, and things work swimmingly.

And here's some more evidence of unutterable incompetence: "I sometimes think that etiquette for urban bikers needs more emphasis. I am always surprised when another cyclist passes me without saying, "On your left." With parked cars on my right and traffic on my left, those three words can be crucial; I wouldn't want to swerve left to avoid a pothole, only to collide with a passing biker." Swerving to avoid a pothole? You deserve, as quite a few exasperated people frequently comment about such matters, you deserve to be smashed flat as a tribute to Darwin for improving the gene pool by eliminating the incompetent. Never swerve, unless it is to avoid an imminent great danger produced by someone else, in which case swerving may well be the lesser danger. An instance, when a motorist approaching a stop sign from your right continues into the intersection without yielding to you, you then make an immediate swerve to your left, because it is unlikely that there is a motor vehicle beside you, and running the risk that there is is better than running the certainty of the other collision. Always look ahead for such things as potholes, and if they are large enough to be avoided, then look behind and negotiate a lane change to avoid it. If you can't manage that, then do your best to reduce the impact with the far edge of the pothole (which is the part that damages you).

In short, the whole article is clear evidence of what is wrong with American bicycle transportation, and with the governmental policies that encourage incompetent cycling, and with the anti-motoring activists who praise and advocate it.

John Forester, MS, PE
Bicycle Transportation Engineer

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Tagged, I'm It

If you could have any one — and only one — bike in the world, what would it be?

The one I’m on, duh.

Do you already have that coveted dream bike? If so, is it everything you hoped it would be? If not, are you working toward getting it? If you’re not working toward getting it, why not?

The one that other guy is on, duh.

I thought I had it when I acquired the IF, but the other day I spent the afternoon dreaming about the $35 blue Penn Cycle’s Trek 10 speed at the rummage sale 5 doors down. I spent most of the weekend chasing a very attractive orange IF. Then there's that big dummy I keep seeing around town - I wonder what his bike is called.

If you had to choose one — and only one — bike route to do every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?

A 7 to 10 mile section of the Centennial Trail in the Black Hills, preferably with Aspen trees. From my home to work.

Do you ride both road and mountain bikes? If both, which do you prefer and why? If only one or the other, why are you so narrow-minded?

I ride both. I prefer the one that’s right for the job at hand. My favorite jobs are city and singletrack so I lean mountain but my favorite bike to ride is a single speed road bike – when the tires aren’t flat.

Have you ever ridden a recumbent? If so, why? If not, describe the circumstances under which you would ride a recumbent.

When I'm 50 I'll ride recumbent.

Have you ever raced a triathlon?

Why would I want to suck at three sports?

Suppose you were forced to either give up ice cream or bicycles for the rest of your life. Which would you give up, and why?

Ice cream. Easy.

What is a question you think this questionnaire should have asked, but has not? Also, answer it.

What two sports should replace running and swimming in triathlons? Disc golf and ping pong.

Who started this tagging thing?

As far as I can tell CycleSD started it this time.

What is my favorite thing about cycling?

The cycling.

Now, tag three biking bloggers. List them below.

Three. One's enough. Sioux Falls' newest biking blogger, introducing - South Dakota Cycle-Ogy

Monday, August 04, 2008

Monkey Butt

It's been a while since I've participated in any sort of lengthy bike riding. I'm more into the 15/20 miles every day sort of riding. Last weekend was different. I signed myself up for my fourth MS Bike Ride. This year the ride was an 80 mile Saturday from home to Vermillion then 80 mile Sunday from Vermillion to home.

"I didn't know you even owned a road bike."

If I include Sunday evening's unusual appearance at a 4H event I enjoyed 8 pork sandwiches over the course of the weekend. 6 of the loin and 2 of the pulled variety. The Minnehaha County Pork Producers at the 4H event edged out the Texas Roadhouse Finish Line Pulled for blue ribbon. Rounding out the meals were a couple very good pasta selections Saturday night and Not Pancakes Sunday morning. In fact there was no maple syrup in sight Sunday.

The low point of the weekend was day one right before mile 30. Apparently I was making poor food choices and we turned into the wind. I began to wonder if I hadn't made a terrible mistake riding at all. At the 30 mile rest stop I switched to a fistful of apples and The Owner and I made group with Bald/Surly, Irish and President Dirk.

That is when the ride turned into an event. My riding buddies went from 1 to 4. I've never ridden with so much red hair and so many freckles. The banter and the tattoo quickly pulled me from the gloom.

Sunday morning after the start The Owner pulled Irish from the seat of a car and put him on his bike. Off we went pretending to try to catch some of the same faces from the day before. Or maybe we just wanted to ride fast in the breeze known as yesterday's headwind.

Around mile 15 Irish was betrayed by a phone call from his wife. "It hurts" he said. The Owner and I promptly attacked and dropped him on the I-29 overpass. Maybe.

At lunch we found pork sandwiches and the faces we'd been seeking. We left Beresford 8 strong. Accidentally City Billy jersey's on the right, Harlan's B&T's on the left. It seemed like the 10 miles between each rest stop took 10 minutes. Within the hour we'd incorporated Tammy and Cathy and we stayed like that until the gravity of the finish line introduced a bit of disorganization.

It was a beautiful weekend. Thanks everyone especially Mandy & Janey, the rest of the MS Society and volunteers. See you all next year.