Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Report: December 12-18

Trips -
MinusCar: 9
Multi-occupant Auto: 7
Single occupant Auto: 7

I had a very nice MinusCar day on the 14th. First off in the morning I attended a board meeting for the local bike club. After that I walked to attend a pre-school Christmas program that included The Boy 3. That walk retraced the route I always took to elementary school, including going by the house I spent 10 years growing up in. From there I rode to work with a coworker who had his own the boy in the program.

My Car Miles: 63
My Bike Miles/Hours: 31/3

As the bike miles decrease and the car miles increase I’m become increasingly concerned with whether The MinusCar Project is accomplishing anything. Here are some key numbers and dates. You can decide.

225 car miles per week prior to the project.

November 28 – the blizzard that closed my shorter way to work and the onset of frigid temperatures.

November 13 – the onset of actual winter temperatures.

Average weekly Car/Bike Miles:
November 28-December 18 - 54/19
November 7-27 – 38/67
October 17-November 6 – 22/89

Morning Temperature Lowlights
12/17 – 9 degrees, wind W 12, windchill -7

A Story and a Ride

Yesterday I parked and bussed. I didn’t do the usual park/bus because I was going to be out past the closing time of the park/bus parking lot. I have an alternate spot for days like these.

It was nice to see Eggs-n-bacon on his way for coffee as I was waiting for the bus. I met Daisy the dog and I think he subtly checked my interest in racing La Ruta De Los Conquistadores in Costa Rica; maybe in a different lifetime buddy.

There was another person waiting for the bus with me. He had a bike with him. I had a bike with me. I marveled at how unlikely it was that there’d be two bikes on a bus on a day with 0-degree temperatures. As it turned out he didn’t know he could bring his bike on the bus. I filled him in on the necessary hoops to jump through to get permission. He seemed pleased. He left his bike leaning against the bus stop bench. Unlocked. He thinks it’s so cold out that nobody will take it. I’ll pass on that idea, and I promise I won’t be the one taking your Wal-Mart-Mongoose.

After work I hooked up with a small group to ride and view some Christmas lights. We rode through two lit parks, one neighborhood with three organized displays, the fed mill that wouldn't lie down, and downtown. During the 90 minute ride the temp went from high teens to single digits. There was very little wind which turns a cold ride into a beautiful ride. We took a break in a public building to either warm up, or to make the rest of the ride really cold. I wasn’t sure which. A gear related discussion occurred where it was revealed that one of us had powered gloves and socks. That is tempting to me. The Owner’s bike was equipped with battery powered Christmas lights. I have GOT to get me some of that. The ride ended at The LBS for some hot chocolate and stories of stupid things we've done on bicycles. Some of the riders included 63-year-old riding phenom Larry, 24 Hours of Afton teammate The Tolly-lama, and a coworker that I've never previously enjoyed a ride with. Perfection.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Reverse Chronological Quick Hits w/ Consumption Sprinkles

A MinusCar reader sent me this link to Saturday’s Star Tribune containing an article about winter biking in the Twin Cities. The reporter decided to give winter bicycle commuting a try. A couple of the cyclists he consulted with for the article are names I recognize from reading Minneapolis bike blogs. Cool!

(12/19 - Update: Sunday my local daily ran this article. Way to go guys, your 15 minutes has been extended to maybe 20.)

I spent a bunch of time with The Owner this afternoon pre-riding and configuring a route for an upcoming ride. It was cold but, it's was VERY nice to ride recreationally and with a riding buddy for a change.

He and I have been discussing a photo that he says appeared in Popular Science Magazine. The photo and accompanying article suggested that Americans threw away 130,000,000 cell phones last year. Is this number even possible? Regardless, this has led to some interesting discussions and thinking about consumption.

Just now, while performing yet another failed search for that photo I came across what apparently is the cover story from the August issue: “How Earth-Scale Engineering Can Save the Planet.” With a sub-heading of “Maybe we can have our fossil fuels and burn ’em too,” this article doesn’t fit well within my paradigm for a life sustaining planet but nevertheless it shows a new, interesting and encouraging perspective.

Speaking of consumption, this morning I went with The Wife to the newly opened The Secret Kitchen. We spent two hours preparing a months worth of recipes to bring home to our freezer. In September we did something similar at Let’s Dish in Maple Grove, MN. The MinusCar Project likes doing this for two reasons: one, many of the family auto trips occur for the express purpose of fetching an evening meal, and B, it seems likely to me that the use of places like this cuts down significantly on garbage leaving the household. Bulk foods probably mean bulk packaging which probably means less consumption.

Friday I cashed in some bus driver goodwill chips. At the end of the day, as I finished up conversating with a workmate, I realized I had likely missed my prime bus ride home. I thought through the consequences of the miss and decided to at least attempt a catch. I quickly gathered my belongings and headed for the door. I took about 10 steps up the street and saw the bus was just approaching my stop…almost a block away. Rats. No. Wait. It’s stopping. Someone is getting off. So I’m running for it, the driver sees me, recognizes me as a regular, and waits for me. I owe him. If the passenger hadn’t gotten off there, the bus would not have stopped and I would have missed it. Coincidentally, I had my first trip with the driver who got written up for skipping me a few months ago. I don’t expect I have any goodwill points with him.

This summer, when I became interested in the North American Solar Challenge (the solar car race that passed by my employers front door) I set up a Google News Alert for those words. Now, after seeing the continued results I get from that news search, I consider the race as somewhat providential. Here’s an informative review of a new book by Shepherd Bliss, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, about peak oil. I guess he’s somewhat of a global warming expert too. The most interesting thing to me in the review was his feeling that peak oil would lead the US to burn more coal. In my mind peak oil leads us to switch to renewable energy. Sigh. I won’t read the book, I believe that would be an unhealthy thing for me to do – “after his first 200 somewhat gloomy pages, Leggett turns to 50 more positive pages.”

Finally, I rode to and from work on Tuesday this week. I had re-configured my ride home based on a very poor experience the week before, in the dark, with snow narrowed streets, and heavy quickly moving traffic. This time, everything was perfection. The new roads I used were great. It helped too that it was 30 degrees warmer than last time I rode. The ride still takes too long to do every day but I think it’s now possible two maybe three times a week.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Passenger Data: December 7 – December 16

12/16 - 5p - Work/SWC – 6 aboard, 1 pickup, 4 drops
12/16 - 2p - Zkota/Work – 8 aboard
12/16 - 12p - Work/SnS – 11 aboard, 1 drop
12/16 - 8a - SWC/Kaladis – 1 aboard, 1 pickup
12/15 - 5p - Work/SWC – 5 aboard, 3 pickups, 4 drops
12/15 - 8a - SWC/Work – 1 aboard
12/14 - 5p - Work/SWC – 13 aboard, 1 pickup, 5 drops
12/14 - 8a - SWC/BagBoy – 3 aboard, 1 pickup, 2 drops
12/13 - 1p - SnS/JJ – 10 aboard, 1 pickup, 1 drop
12/13 - 1p - Work/SnS – 8 aboard, 1 drop
12/12 - 5p - Work/SWC – 6 aboard, 2 pickups, 2 drops
12/12 - 8a - SWC/Work – 2 aboard, 1 pickup, 2 drops
12/9 - 5p - Work/Downtown – 8 aboard, 2 drops
12/9 - 8a - SWC/Work – 1 aboard, 3 pickups
12/7 - 2p - Work/Dentist – 8 aboard, 1 drop
12/7 - 8a - SWC/Work – 1 aboard, 1 drop

Report: December 5-December 11

Trips -
MinusCar: 6
Multi-occupant Auto: 5
Single occupant Auto: 6

My Car Miles: 47
My Bike Miles/Hours: 19/1.9

Morning Temperature Lowlights
12/8 – 2 degrees, CALM

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Katrina, Levees, and City Bicycle Plans

This week I received my invitation to the annual meeting to discuss the city’s Bicycle Plan. It’s in January. If you live locally and want details leave me a comment. I can pass that information along to you. It includes free pizza.

Every year at this meeting for the past 3? 5? 7? more? they tell us that the Army Corps of Engineers is going to raise the river levees to accommodate 100 year flood models.

Every year they promise that this levee raising will require tearing up substantial portions of the local bike path, rendering them useless.

Every year they use this levee raising project as a reason for not completing pavement on effected portions of the local bike path.

One of these sections of incomplete trail includes a portion of my preferred (safest) route to work.

Because this section of trail is unpaved they don’t perform winter maintenance on it.

Because they don’t perform winter maintenance on it I get to settle for a choice of four out-of-the-way, snow and ice affected 20,000 to 40,000 cars-per-day roads to cross the river on.

I think I’ll ask them this year if the city or the Army has learned anything about prioritizing levee reinforcement projects in a post-Katrina world.

Final Thoughts on 12/8 or Why My LBS Loves Me

Last Thursday I completed the round trip bicycle ride to and from work. At the end of the day I had found a handful of even better excuses to add to my reasons for why a week had passed since I had ridden to work.

The good: the CatEye Triple Shot battery/light holds up nicely at zero degrees.

The bad: the NiteRider nickel-metal-hydride battery does not. Neither does the spare.

The ugly: while fumbling with the spare battery for the helmet mounted lighting I embraced my helmet in such a way that plastic/frozen/brittle Giro RocLoc snapped.

Why my LBS loves me: I’ll take a CatEye Double Shot, a new helmet…and a jelly doughnut. To go.

Two hours a day at zero degress, every day is too much. Sure, it shows hardcore cyclist tendencies…but it fails to hold up in the hardcore dad category.

Between this ride and last ride I took the single speed to the LBS so they could shift it. There was substantial gnashing of teeth regarding what gear to shift it to. We chose well. Thanks for the help guys!

On the way home, in the dark, without a working helmet mounted light, I found the siren song of sidewalk safety irresistible. I was not happy with that. Every block, in the middle of preparing for the block-ending wheelie over the mound of snow plow droppings I’m also checking over the shoulder for right turning cars. This is not a winning combination. I think more research could reveal a more comfortable route home...but that means. more. research. Where's my drawing board?


Does sponsorship work? - I've been passed probably a dozen times in my life by Jeff Kerkove at the 24 Hours of Afton. Because of this I read Jeff Kerkove's blog. Jeff Kerkove was sponsored by CatEye last year. I was looking to upgrade my lighting systems last year. I was fearful of switching to LED technology. CatEye LED technology was good enough for him, that was good enough for me. Thanks Jeff.

In the News: Climate Change

OIFS identified this CNN article highlighting the closing of a two-week UN Climate Change conference which featured a surprise speech from former President Clinton. The purpose of the conference was to work out details of the Kyoto Protocol beyond its current scope for the year 2012.

From there you can visit CNN's Changing Earth Special Report.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Syriana starring George C. Looney

All I know about the movie Syriana I learned today from these two articles.

James Lileks says this:
Entertainment Weekly, incidentally, has this synop of 'Syriana.' 'A dense, proudly complicated drama of geopolitical intrigue that has a lot of big, important things to say about big, important things [oil, the CIA, the media, everything] and doesn’t care whether audiences understand what’s being said. B-.
Translation: a didactic, incomprehensible mess based on the 437th post in a Democratic Underground post about Cheney, but it sticks it to the Man, so we can’t give it a C+.)
Here is a CNN article with some themes that James Lileks might think are incomprehensible and messy:

Writer/Director Stephen Gaghan:
I have a '66 GTO convertible with a 6.5-liter engine. The switch for me to…Priuses does not come terribly easy.
And the second hour, it's all thematics, about shared humanity, about the things buried in us in which we give ourselves a little moral out, little moral asterisks.
Oilmen who have seen the movie have been ‘weirdly positive’ – ‘nobody's against trying to improve ethical conduct’
Actor Jeffrey Wright:
[We have a system] that requires us to suck up the resources of the world to support our lifestyle. It's an indictment of all of us.
By the way the “437th post in a Democratic Underground post about Cheney” is actually a book, “See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism” by Robert Baer.

And then there’s this challenge described by Gaghan:
I've been party to so many conversations in New York and L.A. where people explain that the middle of the country won't do this, the middle of the country won't do that, the flyover won't get this, the flyover won't get that," he says, his voice rising. "I am the flyover. I'm from Kentucky. ... I am the red state flyover you are talking about, and you -- are -- selling -- me -- short.
I can’t wait to go and see if I’m as dumb as I’m supposed to be.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ride This Way

I finally did it. After a week off, I rode today.

On-bike temperature showed there was one degree out there. I'm happy to report I found it. I was near the park. It proved hard to hold on to because a short while later on-bike temperature showed zero. Then I started giving some back as on bike temperature dipped to MinusOne.

Full Face Helmet Guy rode today. There wasn't much track evidence that he'd been riding this whole time, but it seems unlikely to me we’d both choose today to start riding again.

On the big climb of the ride I recognized a co-worker as he drove by. When I got to work I told him it was awesome how he pressed down just a little bit on the Yukon accelerator and climbed the hill without a noticeable heart rate increase.

I saw The Owner too.

It’s been so long since I’d ridden I left the bike lock at home. I snuck the bike in the back door, found the sump pit, and parked the bike over it. Inside parking. Necessity is inventions mother!

Walk This Way

Today began with the all too common and familiar poor weather park/ride bus option. Over the past 7 days, when I haven’t been poor weather park/riding I’ve been just plain driving to work.

As the days go by I’ve been increasingly frustrated with myself for my lack of riding. I’ve got a handful of excuses for not riding. As good as some of them are none of them add up to even a second on a bicycle. The blogger support system I have in place is showing some wear, but it’s been great reading about all the other cold weather riders who actually are still riding. There’s always tomorrow, eh?

As I read The Local Daily on the bus I was pleasantly surprised to find it picked up an AP article about cycling and the new transportation bill. Here’s a link to the article as it appears in the Oregon Corvallis Gazette-Times. The big highlight:
"(Columbia, MO mayor) Hindman, who has worked on cycling issues for many of his 11 years as mayor, now has an embarrassment of riches — helping to figure out how to spend $25 million in federal money over the next five years to improve bicycling and walking routes in his community."
Speaking of improving walking routes:

I cut out of work early in the afternoon and hopped the bus to the dentist (yet again). The people there remember well a few weeks ago when I appeared for an appointment in full cold weather bike regalia. Of course they asked today if I biked, but they never followed through enough to find out how I actually had gotten there, or how I was leaving.

As I stepped out of the dentist office into the 9-degree 0-wind day of winter perfection a few ideas converged in my head. I have the next two hours to myself. It’s reasonable walking distance to the record store, from there it’s a reasonable walking distance to where my wife is working, and from there it’s a reasonable distance to my park/ride car. And finally, repeat after me, walking sure beats waiting for buses.

I dialed up my weekly podcast listening and started walking. I nearly crossed paths with the only cyclist I saw but had to wait at a crosswalk. I nearly crossed paths with the only pedestrians I saw, but they diverted to a nearby restaurant restroom. In the record store parking lot I nearly observed a parking lot fender bender, but only looked up at the sound of cracking plastic. Ah, what could have been.

I emerged from the record store $12 lighter, the new Korn CD heavier, and a little warmer than I had been going in. The bumper car guys were still getting to know each other. “Dude, my dad is so gonna kill me.” I continued my walk.

I laughed this morning when I read the Nation Weather Service forecast:
Seems to me this is a better season than most to have single digit temperatures, but that’s just me. As I walked I marveled at my khakis ability to keep my legs warm and wondered if maybe I’m wearing too much on my legs when I ride. I stopped on the bridge over the river and noticed the flowing water was clear enough to see the bottom. I also notice the river was flowing. Guess I won't be riding there this weekend.

One hour and 2.5-ish miles later I had arrived at my car. From there I scouted a possible route to work for the morning. I stopped off at the ice cream shop to warm up with a nice bowl of chocolate peppermint swirly ice cream, and then picked up The Boys and went home.

That’s my story. I'd rather be riding. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Passenger Data: November 23 – December 6

12/6 – 5p – Work to Station – 7 aboard, 1 pickup, 1 drop
12/6 – 1p – Lunch to Work – 8 aboard, 3 pickup, 4 drop
12/6 – 12p – Work to Lunch – 7aboard
12/6 – 8a – Station to Work – 1 aboard
12/2 – 5p – Work to Station – 6 aboard
12/2 – 2p – Lunch to Work – 9 aboard, 1 pickup, 1 drop
12/2 – 12p – Work to Lunch – 8 aboard
12/2 – 8a – Station to Work – 2 pickups
11/29 – 5p – Work to Station – 1 pickup, 1 drop
11/29 – 8a – Station to Work – 2 pickups
11/28 – 5p – Work to Station – 3 aboard, 1 pickup, 2 drop
11/28 – 8a – Station to Work – 2 aboard, 1 pickup

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Beware the Penguin

Today I spent too much time playing this Shockwave game.

Report: November 28-December 4

Trips -
MinusCar: 7
Multi-occupant Auto: 8
Single occupant Auto: 6

Winter strikes. Monday blizzard, bus no bike. Tuesday, I drove almost as if The MinusCar Project didn’t exist. Wednesday biked to work, hitched a ride home with The Wife after 4 inches of daytime snow fell. Thursday/Friday, I did the poor weather bus option, half of the single occupant trips are these.

The hardest part of riding the bus got harder this week too. Now, standing on the street waiting for a bus is cold. Also, the benches have snow on them, when I sit I can at least pretend to be buried by a magazine. And then there’s the whole thing of standing on the street in falling snow with busses running late because of the weather.

Thankfully, from the beginning The MinusCar Project included the use of busses. If I hadn’t done that all this non-bike-riding would BE failure, as opposed to just FEELING like failure.

My Car Miles: 51
My Bike Miles/Hours: 8/0.9

Morning Temperature Lowlights
11/30 – 14 degrees, wind ESE 6, windchill 2

Sunday, December 04, 2005


On the horizon of this picture is the tallest building in the state. It's a 202 feet tall feed mill. Yesterday the community turned out to watch them blow it up. There were prime invitation only viewing opportunities. Raffle tickets were sold for the MS Society, the winner would be the one to press the button. The event has it's own website. The promotion of the event went on for weeks.

As you can see it didn't go very well. It's no longer the tallest building in the state, but it's not the shortest one yet, either.

There's a very good movie at the local daily of the failure.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Red Lights/Red Mist

There's plenty of discussion about cyclists riding through red lights. I don't know of any surveys of cyclist caused driver irritation, but I bet if there are any this is right close to the top.

I'd like to recognize red-light running as a vehicular problem, not specifically a cycling problem.

In this town there's an intersection monitored by infamous red-light cameras.

Through September of this year 4,571 citations have been issued at this intersection. In July alone (the high month) 33 citations a day were issued.

Red light running isn't just a cycling problem.

Coming soon: The MinusCar Project identifies which red lights he rides through, and further admits his secret desire to be cited for it.

(I'm lucky nobody reads this thing.)