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...