Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Americans using rapid transit

Sorry to everyone about my long absence. Life caught up with me for a bit.


Americans drove less in July, used mass transit more, feds say

I love the idea of taking transit and going multi-modal. Here in the Rogue Valley, it would make it much easier to get from Medford to Ashland and parts in between. I actually feel so strongly about it that I started a discount RVTD bus pass program at work. Instead of $70 a month for a full-fare bus pass, it's $12.50 if you purchase it from HR.

There is a simple problem with the program. There is a distinct lack of service for the hours our company needs. Most nurses at the hospital work 7a-7:30p. I work 6a-6:30p. For me, the first bus gets me to work 5 minutes late, but at least I have a ride home. For the nurses, they can get to work on time, but there is no bus home. All the bus routes stop by 6:30p. My route is the latest, and the last bus leaves at 6:30p. That's the bus I can use to get home.

To top it off, most of the buses only have 2 slots on the bike racks on the front of the bus. When you get a large route like the one from the transit center to the VA, or the one to Ashland, those spots are like gold.

In short, I purchased a bus pass back in August and the first time I tried to use it, I couldn't because of lack of bike space, and I couldn't use it to commute to work, because that particular bus always runs at least 5-10 minutes late and wouldn't get me there in time.

RVTD, unfortunately, is stuck in a sort of catch-22. They can't increase times and routes without an increase in ridership, but an increase in ridership won't happen until they increast times and routes.

I'm planning on heading to a few RVTD board meetings to have my say about it, and hopefully RVTD will listen. If you've wanted better bus service for the Rogue Valley, take the initiative and get to a couple of their board meetings. Let your voice be heard, and if enough of us really want it, we can get better bus service.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Gas hits $4 a gallon in Medford / Ashland

The time has finally come, according to a news story by the Medford Mail Tribune.

How high does gas have to go before people start doing the responsible thing and start to bike? I hope gas climbs to $10 a gallon by next year. I'd love to see just as many bikes on the road as cars!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

New record for gasoline

Gas hit another record high today. It looks like this is going to continue along until it no longer makes headlines.

Still not up to where it should be, though. Still, I'm seeing a lot of SUV's, RV's, and other gasoline-dependent toys up for sale around here, and they've been that way for weeks. I don't think the folks who are selling them are going to get what they hoped for...

Portland man arrested for causing rollover

Everyone is so fond of pointing out every single mistake made by bicyclists when we ride on the roads. I just ran across this article over at, and it sort of stuck out at me, so I figured, I'd point out a few motor vehicle mistakes.

At about 11:19 a.m., a 1997 Toyota 4Runner driven by a Salem woman was struck from behind by Standley's 1994 Acura Integra, which went off the freeway's right shoulder, crashed through hedges and stopped near Boones Ferry Road.

The Toyota 4Runner rolled over several times before coming to rest on its side near the cable barrier.


Witnesses, according to police, reported seeing the Integra driving south at a high rate of speed and following other vehicles too closely. Standley reportedly lost control of the vehicle just before colliding with the rear end of the 4Runner.

The driver was 23 years old, and he was charged with a number of things, including assault, which I think was the frustrated police officer trying to find things to charge him on. I say throw the book at him, followed by that little metal clipboard all the officers keep their ticket books in.

I always find it funny when drivers all comment on bicycling stories telling us to "police our own." Let me just put this out here: When I see drivers starting to pull each other over and "police their own," I'll start doing it with bicycles.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

BPAC Monthly Update, May 2008

This month was pretty much dominated by two topics: Bicycle and pedestrian enforcement, and the Oregon BPAC grant.

First up this month was a discussion with the Medford Police Department about enforcement of the laws pertaining to bicycles and pedestrians. The most notable discussions were about parking in the bike lanes.

The day of the meeting, I went out to Hedrick middle school and took some pictures of the problem. I spoke to the principal and many different staff members, all of whom are very concerned about the lack of safety on Jackson Street as it passes the school. The bike lanes out in front of the school were choked with oversize vehicles - minivans and SUV's - bumper to bumper, blocking not only the bike lane, but also half the car lane. Some were even there so long that there was no one in the car.

MPD told us that they were aware the situation was bad, but they were unaware that it was that bad, and that someone in traffic enforcement would take a look at the problem and see if there is anything that can be done. The officer also said that there is a problem in Bear Creek Park, as well, with cars parking in the bike lanes on Siskiyou.

The other item up for discussion this month was the state of Oregon's BPAC grant. This is $5 million that's up for grabs for projects involving bicycles and pedestrians. That grant has to be divided up among many different cities and counties, so the actual grant money we'd get for a project is probably in the neighborhood of $250,000. We're all thinking of projects that the money could be used for, and will bring our ideas to the table in June. If anyone in Medford has any ideas on how this money could be used to benefit our bicycle culture, please let me know.

Between those two issues, we ran very short on time, so we adjourned. Upcoming next month will be some discussion with RVTD about bicycle safety PSA's. We're going to be doing at least one focused on drivers. I'm not sure if we're going to do one focused on cyclists or not. I'd definitely like to see one, but we'll see what happens.

That's it from this month's BPAC. Remember - ride safe, ride sane, and share the road.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Gas Tax

The news agencies have been going nuts this year with all the different gimmicks that the politicians have been promising us. From President Bush's economic stimulus checks to the latest from the candidates, a gas tax holiday.

Sen. Obama, D-Ill., is running advertisements in both states that slam Clinton's proposal to suspend the 18.4-cent-a-gallon tax, calling it a gimmick and promoting his own energy plan and a proposal for a $1,000 middle-class tax cut.

"This gas tax, which was first proposed by John McCain and then quickly adopted by Sen. Clinton, is a classic Washington gimmick," Obama said in an interview on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

Many economists have thrown cold water on the idea to suspend the gasoline tax, saying it won't do much to help drivers. Clinton, however, has defended the idea and continues to call for a gasoline tax holiday.
Now, look carefully at the above. The gas tax that Clinton and McCain are trying to give us a holiday from is 18.4 cents per gallon. How much will that actually save you in a fill-up, hmm? Let's do some math.

I just filled up my car (yes, I still drive, I'm car-lite. I drive once a week) on Friday. Gas was $3.659 per gallon. I filled up with $20, which, with my Safeway good shopper discount, got me about 5 1/2 gallons. Here's the math. 5.5 gallons of gas times 18.4 cents per gallon is (drum roll, please!) $1.012. I'd have enough for a Coke at the vending machines at the hospital, where it's still $1 for a bottle! Yippee!

Now, what about those folks with the big f'ing Hummers? Well now... your typical H2 has a 32 gallon gas tank. Let's say you have to fill up the entire tank. 32 gallons times 18.4 cents per gallon is...$5.888. Now that's some savings, ladies and gentlemen! Let's see how much it actually cost, shall we? 32 times $3.475 (3.659 minus 0.184) gets us to... $111.20. Compare that to $117.08, and you'll see just how much you're going to save with this new plan.

Now lets take a look at what the Federal gas tax funds.

Gas taxes are strictly dedicated to the Federal Highway Trust Fund, created by the Highway Revenue Act of 1956 (Pub. L. 84-267). Basically, it funds our highways and interstates. It helps with the maintenance, and also with development of new inter-modal transportation systems.

So, we're going to save Mr. H2 his $5 while we're going to let all the infrastructure of our highway system fall to crap. And I'd like to know which politician has the balls to tell the American people at the end of the summer that the holiday is over, and it's time to come back to reality. People have a habit of getting used to things like this.

Taking this holiday will end up being more expensive than we think, and no one wants the bill from that little line of credit at the end of the summer.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


There comes a point in every vehicle's life when something is off. Something need adjusting or tweaking, or repair. Now, in a car I'd hear a noise and probably ignore it, or try to blame it on the car in front of me, or see if it went away after I'd stopped the car for a while. Finally, when it started getting worse or impaired my driving in some way, I'd take it to my mechanic. He'd poke at doohickies, prod widgets, twist sprockets and then look up and tell me that it's going to cost me $600 to fix, and I wouldn't have a lot to say about it, since I know nothing about cars.

Now, on a bike, I hear a noise and I can do something about it. On my ride home last night, I noticed that my front wheel was making an odd clicking noise about every revolution. So, I got home and turned the bike over and spun the wheel. It was a little out of true, but nothing too bad. I stopped the wheel and looked very carefully over it, and finally noticed that a spoke wasn't quite as straight as the others. That's odd, I thought.

So I grabbed my trusty spoke wrench and took a look at it. The thing was so loose that it was about to fall out of the rim. A couple of adjustments, and it was good as new...unfortunately, now the rim was out of true worse than it was. So, I went back to work with my trusty spoke wrench and voila, true as a Marine. Total repair time - 10 minutes. Total cost - less than $.01, since the spoke wrench cost about $5 and I've used it enough that it's down to around $.01 per use.

It just gives me a warm fuzzy to be able to maintain my own vehicle without having to rely on anyone else. The only thing I can't fix on my bicycle is the frame. If that goes, I'm going to have to pony up about $400 for a new bike.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

An Inconvenient News Event

The kids from "An Inconvenient Ride" came through Medford on April 19th. What a dynamic and fun group of kids. They're just so into what they're doing, and they really believe in their message.

Speaking with all of them was a bunch of fun. It's really great to see kids taking an interest in something outside their school world, and it's even better to see them taking action. These kids planned, published, and performed this ride. It's a whole lot more than most young folks can say they've done. Way to go!

Unfortunately, even though we sent press releases to KTVL, KDRV, KOBI, the Mail Tribune, and the Daily Tidings, and invitations to Siskiyou Velo, the county commissioners, Jackson County Bicycle Committee, the Mayor and the City Council, only Siskiyou Velo, and KTVL showed up. We did have three members of the Medford Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee there, but you can tell just what this city and county really thinks about the threat of global warming, and bicycling in general, just by their lack of support for such a wonderful event.

In their defense, the weather was unseasonable crappy, with snow flurries and 25-30 mph winds, but none could even find the time to brave a little weather and come out to show their support. Even if you don't believe in global warming, even if you're the biggest H2 driver in the county, you have to admit that high school and elementary school students riding across the country from Washington DC is inspiring in its own right, and it deserves some recognition.

KTVL was there and interviewed Ally Stariha, but unfortunately, she got bumped for the weather. What a shame that even the news stations think a group of singing veterans and a couple of snow flurries rate higher on the interest meter than this incredible group of kids.

At least now we know where the issues stand for Mayor Wheeler and the City Council.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BPAC April Recap

It is my intention - since the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee's website here in Medford is so darn hard to find and not really updated all that often - to post the monthly recap here on the blog, so folks who are interested in what we're doing in Medford to improve or at least defend cycling and walking can check in and see what's up.

First up this month, we had a recap of our ongoing issues. There's a couple of pet projects involved here, so this frequently takes a bit of time. The first it sidewalks, bike facilities and lighting in the area of Washington Elementary School on Dakota and Peach. Apparently it's a rather dark neighborhood and it could do very well with some lighting.

One of the other issues down that way is that Washington Elementary is just kitty-cornered from Union Park, which residents of Medford will probably remember is the site of the "Take Back the Park" movement. Gang activity in that area is quite heavy, and it seems to congregate in those couple blocks, especially in the parks and playgrounds around there. I whole-heartedly agree that the lighting needs of that neighborhood need to be addressed.

Another ongoing issue is one of my pet projects - people parking in the bike lanes on Jackson Street in front of Hendrick Middle school. Mothers drive up in their Suburban Assault Vehicles and pull up to the curb, throw it in park, and idle. Alternatively, they shut off the engine. Now, Medford code permits parking in a bike lane "momentarily," but apparently the city attorney doesn't want to get into what "momentarily" actually means. At this point, they're "momentarily" parking in the bike lane for up to 20 minutes. On top of that, they're doing it on the other side of the road, too, which narrows traffic to a single lane. Basically, you have to drive over the center line to get past all the giant SAV's. As a cyclist, that also means your chances of being hit head on by Ms. Soccer Mom's giant Excursion or Escolade increases by a factor of 10, especially since you're coming out into the middle of the lane from the bike lane who's view is obscured by another Escolade. It makes riding predictably very, very tricky.

Add to that the fact that there are all these giant 7-10' tall vehicles parked on both sides of the road, meaning some of the middle schoolers WILL have to cross the street to get to mom's SUV of Death. Last time I checked, middle schoolers are about 4-5' tall. It creates this great big nasty hazard. We've been informed that it's a "perceived" hazard as opposed to an actual hazard. The crosswalks in Ashland were a perceived hazard until just recently when a student was struck and killed in one. The difference between a perceived hazard and an actual hazard is apparently that one has a body count while one doesn't. So, it's not an actual hazard until little Johnny gets flattened by Mrs. Smith in her jacked-up V10 H2, because she's doing her makeup and talking with little Sally in the back seat instead of paying attention to where she's going.

Next up was a review of a new development planned at the intersection of Harbrooke and Stanford, just south of the Masons Lodge and the Fire Station off Barnett and North Phoenix. I'm actually impressed with this development going in. It has a definite community feel that is missing in most towns nowadays. The only part I'm unhappy about is that you have to cross a whole lot of busy streets to get anywhere of import down there. I'd really like someone to put together a development that more seamlessly meshes commercial and residential with good transit options, thereby creating a definitely livable place.

Past that, we reviewed "An Inconvenient Ride" which will be coming through on Saturday. We're inviting the county commissioners and the Siskiyou Velo, and Alex from Rogue Cycle Sport will be providing bikes for everyone to use.

I also took the lead in starting to develop motorist-bicycle cooperation Public Service Announcements. We'll see how that pans out in future months.

If you have any questions about the committee and what we've got going on, feel free to attend a meeting. All meetings are at 5:15 at the Laussman Annex just past City Hall on Holly St. Or check out the website here.

Remember, ride predictably, and ride assertively.

Of Foul Weather and Foul Language

Monday was the BPAC's monthly meeting, and I plan to post more on that later. I woke up a little late, being on the night shift, and was sorely tempted to take the car down, but common sense prevailed, and I managed to push the bike out of the garage and take it instead. I'm really glad I did. I do love riding, even on the streets here in Medford.

It was a gorgeous ride down, with a nice cool breeze and some tolerant drivers. When I got out of the meeting, however, it had started raining. No problem! I just unpacked my rain gear and got into it before leaving the building, and since I'd taken my bicycle in with me, I didn't have to contend with a soaking wet seat.

Thus attired, I started on my merry way. About 1/3 of the way home, the rain started really stinging as it hit my chin (that being the only thing uncovered enough to hit), and I started thinking "Man, these are really big drops of rain." Then I saw them start to bounce off my hat and my body. It had started hailing. So all in all, I had a rather soggy and novel ride home. Every driver who saw me on the road had this look of pity or horror on their face. It was quite amusing.

I've been reading a lot of blogs and news articles about bicycling lately, and I've noticed a trend in comments when it comes to bicycle articles, especially in newspapers. You get this great story about how folks are taking up bicycle commuting, and that it'll be safer now that the government is passing such-and-such a bill, and oh-isn't-this-great? Directly after the story, you usually will find one of two people: 1) idiot cyclist who's really in support of the bill and thinks that motorists are all murdering ruffians out to kill every cyclist they meet, or 2) idiot driver who thinks the roads were made just for his H2, and everyone else, including Honda Accords, Cyclists, Motorcycles and Pedestrians should get the heck off.

A few posts down, you'll see another poster - Driver who wants to remind us all that cyclists are hoodlums just waiting to throw themselves in front of our cars at stop lights and stop signs, and that all cyclists just have a death wish, since they all ride on the wrong side of the road.

Directly following, you will have - Cyclist who points out that far more drivers than cyclists break the law, and cyclists only break the law to get away from murderous, foul tempered drivers who, by the way, are trying to kill all the cyclists, children and little fluffy bunnies they can get their wheels on top of.

I'll admit that in the past, I've participated in some of these discussions, much to my chagrin. Most of the comments I post are in response to horribly over-dramatized stories, such as the cyclist=terrorist article a while back, and the "Let's Behead Those Horrible Stuck-Up Cyclists" article by Parris.

I'd like to put the record straight, at least for me. It is my opinion that for every stupid cyclist, there is a stupid driver, and a stupid pedestrian. Every single person in this country has a tendency to make bad choices, act before thinking, be in a bad mood, or whatever at some point in their lives. We all hope that when this moment comes for us, it won't be a fatal mistake, either for us or for anyone else involved.

I fully admit that I've made bad choices and I've lost my temper and I've done things that aren't so smart. Fortunately, none of those mistakes have led to any serious injury.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that we all can be stupid, and we all can be smart. It's really counter-productive to just sit and point out everyone else's mistakes to the world while failing to acknowledge that we have made our own share of them. I spent my ride to work this morning waving and smiling at cars that gave me plenty of room when they passed. I waved to children in the back seats, smiled at pedestrians as I cruised by on the street, chatted with folks waiting to cross at the lights, and I also spent my ride being perfectly predictable, and as perfectly legal as I could. I get a lot less lip from drivers when I ride than I've seen folks who ride on the sidewalk or through stop signs get.

I hate to put it this way, but "Can't we all just get along?" It's really not all that hard. Cyclists - realize that not all drivers are horrible (except in Colorado - Just kidding!), and watch for them to be stupid and plan accordingly. Listen to your gut. If it tells you that the lady talking on her cell phone while putting on makeup in her Ford Excursion behind you is going to do something stupid, get out of the way, or be prepared to take evasive action. I always ride so I have lots of room to get the heck out of the way when someone does something stupid, and I've never been hurt. Don't play chicken with cars, don't ride unpredictably, don't force the car to take evasive action. They're bigger than you.

Drivers - realize that not all cyclists are horrible (except in San Fran - again, Just Kidding!), and watch for them to be stupid and plan accordingly. Listen to your gut. If it tells you that the 300 pound guy in head-to-toe spandex on the italian racing bike in front of you is going to do something stupid, give them a little more room to make their mistake. Remember - bike v bumper - the bumper always wins, and the bike pretty much always gets hurt. You don't want a human life on your conscience, do you? All it takes is to give 'em some space, and pass carefully. Don't speed right up on their backsides and blare your horn. That just guarantees they'll do something stupid, if not right away, perhaps at the next stop sign. You don't think rationally when you're pissed off, either, do you? And here in Oregon, with Shall-Issue Concealed Handgun Licenses, you never know just how pissed off the cyclist is going to be.

We're all trying to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible, so be good neighbors and give each other some slack.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bicycling and the Law.

My intention with this blog is to explore all the aspects of bicycle commuting in Medford, and sometimes elsewhere, when things come up that deserve a note. My plans include speaking with bicycle store owners and staff, cyclists here in Medford (especially commuters), and other folks who have things to share with the community.

Here's an interesting video, pointed out by Ed at CycleDog. The debate rages on about what a cyclist can legally do when he or she is riding, alone or in groups. I plan to put up an interview with someone in the Medford Police Department about this subject, so folks can get it straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

My view on this video is that the cyclists look to be going for fitness and race prep more than just out for a sunny day ride. I don't think that gives them any special privileges, but it does explain why they aren't stopping and pulling over for the long line of cars they have behind them.

I look at the whole issue this way. If I were driving, would I do (insert action here) in my car? For instance, if I was driving, would I drive on the shoulder of the road at a stop light to get in front of all the other cars waiting at the light if I know I'm just going to have to move back over when the light turns green? No, I wouldn't. I'd wait my turn at the light just like everyone else. This option goes out the window when you have a dedicated bike lane THAT CONTINUES THROUGH THE LIGHT TO THE OTHER SIDE. Not like the one on Crater Lake Avenue and McAndrews Road, more like the one at Highway 62 and Cardinal.

If I were in a car, would I run a stop sign? This one is a little harder, because in a car, you don't have to pedal up to speed after you stop. I will admit to running a stop sign on my bicycle. It's always the same stop sign, and it's always at the same time of day. It's the stop sign on Crater Lake Avenue and Coker Butte. It's always around 3:00 am, and I've always checked to make sure there is no one around. If any of those variables are off, I don't run the sign. The reason I run that sign is because I've just pedaled my 250 lb butt up the hill just south of Coker Butte, and my legs are still working off the lactic acid. When I stop at that sign, I lose a lot of momentum and it's really, really hard to get it back. I am also fully prepared to take the consequences if I do that and a cop happens to see and pull me over. It's my choice and my consequence.

If I were in a car, would I ride against the curb? Of course not! When I ride, I ride in the right third of the lane. It makes me visible, it gives me escape room, and it shows drivers that I'm another vehicle, just like them. If I were in a car, would I continue driving 20 mph in a 45 mph or 55 mph zone without letting folks past? Heck No! I grew up in Colorado driving narrow mountain roads. If you're being slow, and you have folks piling up behind you, you take the first turnout you can get and let folks go by. It's just plain courtesy.

Finally, if I were in a car, would I swear and make all sorts of rude hand gestures at other drivers? No! I drive politely, I ride politely, and I treat every user of the road with the respect I would want shown to me. The idiots who honk and scream as they go by get a friendly wave or a peace sign, and a great big smile.

I'm of the opinion that bicyclists should be treated as any other vehicle operator. If you break the law and get caught, you should face the penalty. If you're riding up the wrong side of the road, you should get a ticket. Running stop signs - ticket. Running stop lights - Ticket. Weaving erratically all over the roadway - yep, ticket! By treating drivers and cyclists equally, you show both sides that neither is above the law, neither is better than the other, and both have equal right to the road.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

On Fitness and Projects

I figured I'd put up a few things that I've learned over the past few days.

First, seat adjustment makes a huge difference in your ride. I never used to think about how my seat was adjusted other than height. I bought my Cannondale Adventure 400, and swapped out the springy seat with a narrow seat that I was used to riding on with my older commuter. This season, I started having a lot of trouble with leg fatigue, so I broke down and switched back to the springy seat and did some adjustments, like moving it forward a little and adjusting the tilt a little. What a difference it made! I increased my average speed by almost 3 mph just by doing that.

Next, I learned that riding assertively in this town is guaranteed to do two, it will pretty much ensure that folks see you. There's a lot of debate about where to ride in the lane, and I'm one of those who will ride in the bike lane if there is one, but if there isn't one, I will take about a 3rd of the lane. I generally tend to ride in the right wheel rut. It gives me enough room to dodge out of the way of the idiots that try to cram an Excursion up my backside, and it puts me out enough that the same Excursion driver doesn't think there's enough room to squeeze past. Two, it WILL piss off someone. Guaranteed. I have yet to make it to work without at least one horn. Usually, they will speed right up till they're about a foot off my back tire and lay it on. This is where I like to piss them off even more. I wave and smile, maybe give them a peace sign, then laugh as they get flustered, move over a lane and speed on by just in time to have to stop at the upcoming red light.

As far as projects, I've got two going right now. The trailer, and cleaning my garage. I'll post some pics of the garage later, so you can see exactly why. The trailer is in version 3.1 now. I put the sides on, and, except for the decorations, I'm pretty much done. Everything is working, and I can pull it pretty well. I'm going to have to work on the endurance a little to make it all the way down to Winco and back. For those outside of Medford, I'm on the extreme north edge of the town, and Winco is at the southern edge.

In other news, An Inconvenient Ride has reached Tuscaloosa, AL. The site has photos and other media up. It looks like they're doing well. I'm proud of them.

Keep checking back for updates on them as well as Medford bicycling information.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Inconvenient Ride Update

"An Inconvenient Ride," a cross-country bicycle ride by 6 high school students from Seattle, WA to raise awareness about global warming, will be coming through the Rogue Valley on April 19th!

They'll be coming up from Arcada, CA and into Ashland around 12:00p, where they'll be participating in some of the activities at the environmental fair in Ashland that day. From there, they'll be coming up Hwy 99 through Talent and Phoenix to Medford. They'll be coming up Riverside to Main St. and will be meeting up with Gary Wheeler and some members of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee in front of City Hall before continuing on to Jacksonville.

They should be arriving at about 2:00p, and leaving around 3:00p, after some photographs and such.

So come out and show your support, give them a hand, and some encouragement!

Capitalism gone bad

Now don't let the title fool you. I'm as free-market as the next guy. I believe whole-heartedly in the power of supply and demand on company destinies. The problem is when the entirety of the nation caters to one industry to a point that makes us unable to live without it. That's not free-market. That's a trust.

The industry I'm speaking of, is, of course, oil. We use oil for darn near everything in our lives today, and trying to get away from it is one of the most difficult things to do, ever.

The Associated Press had an article today about gas prices. Here's a little bit:

Don't blame us, oil industry chiefs told a skeptical Congress. Top executives of the country's five biggest oil companies said Tuesday they know record fuel prices are hurting people, but they argued it's not their fault and their huge profits are in line with other industries.

Appearing before a House committee, the executives were pressed to explain why they should continue to get billions of dollars in tax breaks when they made $123 billion last year and motorists are paying record gasoline prices at the pump.

"On April Fool's Day, the biggest joke of all is being played on American families by Big Oil," Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said, aiming his remarks at the five executives sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in a congressional hearing room.

The key words here are "record profits." I'm not against folks making profits, but when an entire country is dependent on your product, and the price of your materials goes up, it just seems wrong to raise the price of your product a disproportionate amount. If oil prices go up, gas prices should go up equivalently.

There is a simple solution to this, and it's perfectly free-market. I promised myself back when gas was $0.89 in my hometown of Denver, Colorado that if gas prices ever got over $3.00 a gallon, I'd park the car, and only use it for necessities. When Katrina hit, gas here in Oregon went over $3.00 a gallon, and I've never looked back. The car gets used once, maybe twice a week, only when my wife needs to go out, since she's got medical problems that prevent her from riding a bicycle currently. We're working on solving those, though, so eventually, the car will be used even less than it is.

The simple solution is that if you're tired of high gas prices and spending your whole paycheck to fill up your car...stop filling up! As long as people continue to show their willingness to fill up their Hummers and Excursions and F-550's at the pump, gas prices will continue to rise, and gas companies will continue to show record profits, and nothing congress can do will change that. Until we, as consumers, tell the companies that "we're mad as hell, and we're not gonna take it anymore," they'll continue to stick it right to you at the pump. Think about it the next time you fill up your car, be it a Prius or a Hummer. Just remember, the bicycle is one of the most, if not THE most, efficient engine man has ever invented. It's also the simple most effective thing you can do to save the planet, increase homeland security, deal with gridlock, clean up the air, decrease health care costs, and help a lot of folks who can't help themselves.

Just think about it...

Monday, March 24, 2008

The trailer is fully functional!

I've spent the last week working on the trailer and getting everything going as smoothly as possible. That included remaking the inner wheel plates this morning. Now, everything bolts on tightly and there's absolutely no wheel wobble.

Here's the finished trailer, unloaded and by itself. It really doesn't look like much. Basically, it's a frame made of EMT conduit, bent with a pipe bender. The bed is 3/4" plywood. The overall dimensions are about 57" x 20" of usable cargo space. The toolbox is bolted on, and it holds a bunch of bungee cords, some tarp tie-downs, some ratchet tie-downs, and a cable lock to lock the trailer to the bike.

Here's the hitch I used. Basically, it's a 4" x 4" electrical box cover folded in half, then bolted onto the left chainstay. It's got a screw eye in the lower part of it. The trailer side has a U-hitch with a screw-shut gate that goes through the screw eye. The backup is a bungee cord attached to the cargo rack.

This hitch setup works remarkably well. The only thing I'd add to this would be some electrical tape around the screw eye and the U-hitch to lessen the rattling sound, which isn't all that bad, anyway. The main problem that I have with this hitch is that it's a chore to disengage it after a ride, since the screw-shut gate tends to tighten down a little during the ride. It requires a wrench to open it. So, I added one to the toolbox on the trailer.

Here's everything attached, bike and trailer, but unloaded. The trailer is about as long as the bike, and it makes the footprint a little wider, which annoys a few drivers on Crater Lake Avenue, the main road up to my house (with no shoulders, no bike lanes and sidewalks on only 1 block, I might add). But I think it tends to get me seen a little better, too, since drivers aren't used to seeing a big darn trailer attached to a bicycle. That's always a plus in my book.

I put two lights on the back of the trailer, one on each side, so when I drive the thing at night, it gives drivers a good sense of how wide the thing is, so they don't think it's just two bicycles in a row and clip the edge of the trailer. That makes one light on each side that I'll leave solid, and one blinker on the back of the bike in the center, one handlebar mounted headlight, and one helmet-mounted light. I prefer the handlebar light most of the time because I ride mostly a straight line, and I don't like to blind folks with my headlamp.

Finally, here's the whole thing with my normal grocery setup. I've got two plastic bins for groceries, two rack-baskets for the side of the rack, and one cooler. I also have two cooler bags that I can use when I'm getting a lot of cold things that need to be home quick. I can do a whole week's worth of shopping at Safeway's, Melello's and anywhere else.

Funny part of this is when I ride with the trailer, I'm darn near as big as a car, at least I'm about as long as a compact car. I'm about as wide as half a compact car.

So, I rode to the coffee shop to pick up our bi-weekly pound of coffee and realized that their bike rack is really badly positioned for a bike with a trailer. Either I'll block the entrance, or I'll have the butt of the trailer in the drive-thru. So, I decided if I'm as big as half a car, that should entitle me to at least one parking space, so I took one. Everyone thought it was rather amusing. Fortunately, Safeway's has better positioned bike racks. Lowe's, on the other hand, doesn't even have bike racks, so I lock the bike up to the lawnmowers.

Next up, I'm going to finish the box on the trailer, giving it 12" high sides and a tailgate. Something to put stickers on. Since it's plywood, I can plaster it with bumper stickers to my heart's content!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Of trailers and odd links

Today was the maiden voyage of Trailer, v 2.0. I was still having trouble with the wheels not aligning right, no matter how I adjusted them. So, I switched out the wheels for smaller ones with bolt-on axles rather than the quick release, since the QR just wasn't hanging on as much as I wanted.

Now it works great. I just need to remake the inner wheel plates to make the notches a little narrower so the bolt hangs on better. Riding with the thing is great. Once I get going, I hardly notice it's there. Even with 50 pounds of groceries and such on the back.

There's an interesting link that I ran across while surfing my blogroll today. Take a look and see if you pass the test.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An Inconvenient Ride

Project Earth Care, a program in the Seattle school district, is going to be staging a cross-country ride to raise awareness about global warming. The ride is sponsored by Mayor Greg Nickels, and the route has been mainly devised by him to hit cities that have signed on to his Climate Action Now Initiative.

The ride is being called "An Inconvenient Ride." It's starting in Washington DC on March 29th and traveling all the way back to Seattle to arrive there on April 22. Participants will include 4 student bike riders and 4-6 student producers / camera operators.

Now, what does this have to do with bicycle commuting in Medford, Oregon, you ask? The riders will be coming through the Rogue Valley on their way north from California. They will be leaving Scotia, CA on April 19, and heading through Arcata, CA to Ashland, OR. Once they reach Ashland, they'll be heading up Hwy 99 through Talent, Phoenix and Medford to Hwy 238. Then they'll head out to Jacksonville on 238 to Old Stage Road, which they'll take to Hwy 234 and link back up again with 99 to take them to the finish for that day in Grant's Pass.

The Siskiyou Velo club and the Medford Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee will be meeting them on their way through Medford, probably by City Hall.

I'll be posting more details as the days get closer, since I'm working on talking with the organizer to nail down a time. They're traveling 268 miles on the 19th, so we don't want to keep them that long.

Check back for times and locations as they become available.

**If the link for the ride doesn't work, I'm sorry, I've been having trouble with it, too, but I'm going to keep it up in the hopes that it will work again.**

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gas prices to hit record highs in Medford

It's finally happening!

Now, a long time ago, I made a resolution to myself that when gas hit $3.00 a gallon, I would start riding my bicycle as much as possible and park the car except when it was absolutely needed. When Katrina hit LA, that's when it pushed it over here in Medford. That's when I started seriously taking up bicycle commuting.

I've learned a lot in that time, and I've managed to put a lot of miles on both my old bike and my new bike. The one thing I couldn't get around was groceries. You can only carry so much on a bicycle with a rack and baskets. Granted, I can carry quite a bit, but just not quite enough to make a full trip to the store.

Solution - a trailer. The problem is that every trailer out there that comes even close to the cargo carrying capability that I want is well over $200, and for a CNA / EMT that's just way too much. So, I found directions for making my own trailer. I just completed the basics of it on Tuesday. It's basically a platform on wheels with screw-eye attachment points for bungee cords and tie-downs, but it's functional.

A couple pieces of advice if you're building this thing -

1) If you're using spare parts from other bicycles, like the wheels, measure the wheel dropouts on the bike before you cut out the metal plates. My first attempt I cut out 1/2" notches in the plates, and I had a horrible time getting the wheels to fit. The second time around, I measured the bike, and found that it only had 3/8" dropouts. Not a lot of difference, but it made a huge difference.

2) Remember that when you put the thing together, the plates on the outside will be about 3/4" higher than the plates on the inside. If the wheel slips up in the plates, it will cause the wheel to turn inward and rub against the frame, so make your notches about 3/4" shallower for the outside plates.

3) Use good old bolt axles, not quick release. The quick release are generally designed for bikes, which have dropouts about 3 times as thick as the plates you're using for the wheel wells. With bolt-on axles, you can tighten the bolt as tight as you need. You can also put a large washer on either side of the plate to help increase contact surface.

I haven't put the sides on yet, but when I do, they'll probably only be 4-6" high, just enough to keep things from sliding off the end when I bring something really long home, like more EMT conduit. I did bolt a cheap, lockable toolbox to the front to hold bungee cords, tie downs, a tarp and tarp clips, and a cable lock to lock it to the bike when I stop at the store.

So, get out there, get on your bikes, and start telling those who make the rules that there's a point where you won't be buying gas. There's always a solution to just about any problems you can come up with for bicycle commuting, you just have to be willing to look.

Be safe, be seen, be assertive!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Monthly BPAC update

The city of Medford Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting was this last Monday, and I'm going to try to make it a point to update everyone that reads this blog as to what's being discussed.

First up was the application for Lithia Motors' new Middleford commons structure and the plaza-like park out in front of it. Bartlett Street and an alley farther east will be widened slightly, and everything in between those two streets between 4th and 6th will be torn down to make this nice park. Officially, everything checks out, and I won't oppose it in committee because that's not my job to be political there.

Unofficially here in cyberspace and in my own opinion, it's just another example of how we're too car dependent. The streets will have parking on one side each, and it will just invite pedestrians to walk out in the middle of the block where the doors are, dash out between parked cars and get hit. I also think the park will be irresistible for transients.

Next up was the safe sidewalks to school program grant. The city is going to be constructing lots and lots of sidewalks, most of them will only be on one side of a given road, so kids can walk safer to school. I don't know, the feasibility of this program seems to be overrated. How many parents, after growing up with "Stranger Danger" and its ilk, are going to allow their children to walk to elementary school?

A last little bit for everyone who's interested, since it's a little difficult to find buried in the city's website - here's the link for the official bike lane map of Medford. I will warn, though, that the map is not all that accurate. There are some places marked on the map that don't actually have bicycle facilities, but some of it is accurate, and you can use it to plot some routes.

Remember, be safe, be seen, and be assertive.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Providence Medical Center via Crater Lake Ave.

This review is my daily commute. I start at Coker Butte and finish at Providence. CL Ave has some decent hills for the amateur commuter, especially just south of Hollyhock. Crater Lake Ave north of Delta Waters is one lane in either direction, and the speed limit is 45+. The hills serve to make it a little more dangerous, since at some points on the ride, some folks fly through in their SUV's at 55, and don't see a cyclist until they come over the hill. It makes a dangerous combination when they're not paying attention anyway.

I've been honked at and yelled at multiple times on this ride, since there is very little shoulder, and it's darn near impossible to move over far enough to share the lane.

I'm a very conscientious rider. If I wouldn't do it in a car, I won't do it on my bike. That includes rolling down the right side of the road at an intersection. The cars I pass have already passed me and it seems counterproductive to make them do it again, so I wait my turn at stop signs and signal lights. I think this helps mediate the negative attention I seem to get, mostly on the north end of the commute.

I come home at 0630, so traffic is light on the way home, and I don't seem to get much flack on that side. However, I ride to work at 1715, right at rush hour, so I can understand the frustration.

So, now that the review is done -

Total mileage (one way): 2.8 miles
Average speed: 14.7 mph
Time (one way): Average of 20-23 minutes
Route Safety: *
Route Efficiency: ***** (Straight shot)
Route Hill Grade: ** / ***. Hills are bad on the north side, but south isn't bad.
Mechanical Damage Potential: Moderate (Due to cars passing very very close on the north side of the commute)
Be careful on this commute, folks. It is one of the more dangerous in Medford.

Back up and running

I have no idea if anyone actually watches to see if this blog is active or not, but for anyone out there that does, sorry about the hiatus. I'm going to try to keep this up a little better this time around.

A lot has happened in the last year here in Medford. One thing is my appointment to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) here in the city. That should give me a good view on issues with bicycles and commuting here. Other things include the installation of bicycle lanes on Jackson and Hillcrest streets following the rebuild.

I use Jackson and Hillcrest, usually east of Springbrook to get from my place to my Mother-in-law's place, and I have to admit that having the bike lanes on that stretch of road is really nice. Now, the only time I have to ride without bike lanes, going that way, is on Crater Lake Ave. north of Delta Waters. I can use the bike lanes on Delta Waters east of CL Ave, and Springbrook has at least some bike lanes.

The area of CL Ave. north of Delta Waters still leaves much to be desired, but that's about to change. The BPAC just reviewed plans to fix CL Ave. between Owens and Coker Butte. The intersection at Webfoot will be going away, and they're going to be swinging CL Ave. east at both Owens and Coker Butte, moving the intersection away from CL Hwy. Also, they'll be signalizing intersections of Coker Butte and Owens Dr. with CL Hwy. The intersection of Cardinal with CL Hwy (by Costco), will turn into a right-in, right-out intersection with no light. 5' bike lanes are slated to be included in the redesign of CL Ave. and sidewalks will be put in on the east side of the street so as not to interfere with CL Hwy.

I'm stoked about this improvement, because it means I'll only have do deal with no bike lanes on the two-lane, high-speed CL Ave. north of Delta Waters for about a block. After that, CL Ave turns into two lanes each way, which means when I feel more threatened, I can just take the whole lane and people can pass in the left lane.

For anyone in Medford going my way (from CL Ave just south of Coker Butte to CL Ave and McAndrews), feel free to shoot me an e-mail. I'd love to ride with you.

Other updates: I'm going to keep an eye out for news regarding bicycling in Oregon, specifically commuting, and I'll keep an update here, so check back for those.