Archive for ‘Ponderings & Miscellany’

May 13, 2012

The Ultimate Bikespedition: Support the US Bicycle Route System

May is National Bicycle Month and it’s also the third annual Build It. Bike It. Be a Part of It. fundraising campaign for the U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS). The campaign kicked off May 1, 2012 and runs through May 31. What better way to celebrate Bike Month than by supporting the creation of a national system of cycling routes?

Last year, this effort raised more than $32,000 for the project—the goal this year is $50,000.

Here are the details:

The U.S. Bicycle Route System is a visionary project similar to the national and international cycling systems blossoming across the globe. Adventure Cycling is working with dozens of state agencies, national organizations, nonprofits, volunteers, and the US Congress to realize this vision.

 Can you give $10 to help build the largest bike route network in the world, encompassing more than 50,000 miles?

You can already see the effects of last year’s USBRS campaign:

  • 6 new routes approved by AASHTO — the first new U.S. Bicycle Routes approved in over 30 years!
  • 11 new states coming on to develop routes. 41 states are now actively working to implement US Bike Routes. In my state of Washington the Bicycle Alliance of Washington is coordinating with Washington State Department of Transportation so you can join “Team Washington” with your donation.
  • The re-release of a Technical Advisory from the Federal Highway Association that advises DOTs on how to implement rumble strips without putting cyclists at risk.
  • 5,000 new fans of the USBRS on Facebook since last year’s campaign, now at more than 19,000 supporters.
  • Adventure Cycling now has a closer relationship with the National Park Service, aimed at improving bike travel and tourism in national parks as well as facilitating designation of US Bike Routes through parks as appropriate.

I have yet to go on any long bike travel but the lure of the open road does beckon. I’d sure love to take that ride on a route that’s signed, supported, and serviced to make it a better experience!

And imagine the benefits for small towns that will get stops from bike visitors who wouldn’t bother with those towns if they were burning carbon instead of calories zipping past on the interstate.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Have you done any touring around the United States?
  • What route(s) did you use?
  • Where would you like to see a bike route for travel?
  • Have you had a small-town experience as a bike tourist you’d like to share?
May 8, 2012

Fat Girl on a Bike

First post by new occasional guest blogger and generally awesome woman Andrea Parrish–Spokane-based co-owner of Savor Sweets and Hydra Creations, photographer, and all-around netgeek.

Bikers

What I generally think when I hear the phrase “bike commuter.” Photo taken in Portland by me.

The image of a bike commuter, especially one with true bike style, is often one of a lithe woman wearing incredibly cute clothes, pedaling easily with cute Po Campo panniers. When I say I am a bike commuter, this is the image I like to think people have. The reality for me, however, is very different, but it is one that I do my best to accept with open arms. I am a fat girl on a bike.

Let me be clear. I don’t consider the term “fat” to be a derogatory term in this context; it is descriptive. I am 6’4″ tall, wear a dress size 28, and at last weigh-in I was at 375 pounds (down 25 pounds from the heaviest I’ve ever been). And I commute by bike.

Biking at this size comes with a variety of interesting challenges, admittedly. I had to send my bike in to the company to be repaired because the metal that holds the seat post ripped in half a few years ago. I’ve had to get my back tire rim replaced, because I kept popping spokes on the pothole-filled streets of Spokane. The internal hub that holds my breaks needs to be re-packed at least once a season. Clothes that easily go pedal-to-office are, at best, difficult to find.

Even with all of that, though, I absolutely adore biking. The feeling of freedom, the sense of accomplishment, and even the stares I get as I pedal by. I am a fat girl on a bike, and I love it. Biking allows me the chance to get in a workout in the time I would normally spend driving. Biking gives me the impetus to pay closer attention to my health. Biking is the one thing that is easy to fit into my (sometimes far too busy) schedule.

Biking Shadows

What I see when I am bike commuting. A bit of a difference.

There are a few things I have learned that make biking easier, no matter how large or small you may be. First of all, leggings, tights and a cotton camisole will become your best friends. Skirts are amazing to bike in, but only with leggings to provide some coverage and comfort. A good camisole can also serve as your base layer. If you are like me and have to switch shirts when you get to work, because biking more than a mile or two means you will sweat, no matter how hard you try not to. A good cotton camisole means you can change shirts easily, no cramped bathroom or private office required.

Second, a good local bike shop is absolutely invaluable. I ride a Kona AfricaBike, which is a three-speed cruiser bike with a basket, a step-through frame, and a covered chain. Over the years, I have ended up replacing the rim, adding a back rack, adding panniers, and switching out the bike seat. Two local bike shops have helped me get the bike adjusted, sized, and repaired time and time again. They never flinch when I bring in my bike with the latest weird problem, they just do their best to fix it. I’ve never once had a local bike shop make me feel “fat.”

Bike Style has no size. Being a fat girl and a bike commuter at the same time means that I face some interesting challenges, but those challenges are worth solving.

April 11, 2012

30 Days of Biking: Hills and Miles and Darkness, Oh My!

Today’s easy-squeezy 8.4 miles, broken up into nice manageable chunks of 10 minutes or less, nonetheless provided plenty of reminders of yesterday’s butt-burner: over 27 miles total, with a huge chunk of that spent slogging slowly up a hill climb that I thought would never end.

But it was fun, honest!

The set-up: I did my usual quick little ride to work, sprinting because I was going to be late to a meeting and beating my “race time” by at least 30 seconds.

After work I dressed in one of my cute little Nuu-Muus, a pair of actual (gasp!) bike shorts (couldn’t find the adorable lace-trimmed Sheila Moon lingerie knickers, alas, and decided I’d ride with more padding than Pedal Panties provide), and a white Sheila Moon bolero, along with (another gasp, please) bike shoes that let me clip in.

Just the thing for a nice long ride out to Spokane County Raceway Park, where Sweet Hubs and his compatriots were pitted against each other in the first of the season’s Twilight Series Road Race put on by his club, Baddlands.

Google Maps results list for routes from Riverpoint Campus to Spokane County Raceway ParkRoute selection required some comparisons of Google Maps choices. They offered three, with the kind suggestion, “Or take Public Transit” linked below, in case the idea of a ride of 9-10 miles with hill climbs (no matter what) didn’t appeal.

Their first proposed bike route, West Trails road accessed through the West Central neighborhood and Riverside State Park, involved dropping clear down to the Spokane River Gorge and climbing back up out of it. Beautiful, sure, but can’t we stay on top of the grade?

Route 1: West Trails via West Central neighborhood and a lot of extra climbing.

Route 2, while a mile shorter, carries with it a more hostile traffic setting, taking Sunset Boulevard (not bad) to US-2 (not good, although I’ve ridden it before—the highway is the main route to a correctional facility, a casino, and Fairchild Air Force Base, making it busy and full of people who may or may not want to be making that particular trip). The one thing this route does get almost right is the section from downtown west to the decision point where you have to head toward West Trails or stay on Sunset Boulevard.

Route 3, Government Way and West Trails, again has part of it right. But someone needs to ask Google Maps programmers, “Pretty please could you take terrain into account, by which we mean grade?” This route, too, drops you down into the river gorge, this time via Peaceful Valley, then brings you back up out.

Getting closer, but still some unnecessary concessions to gravity.

The key to my route selection, since I’m not training for the Tour de France, sounds a lot like advice in drawing up battle lines: Hold the high ground for as long as possible.

As soon as you start enjoying one of those exhilarating “Wheeee!” moments down a long hill the back of your brain should remind you that riding a bike is like riding a roller coaster: A down is generally followed by an up that will be a lot slower and not nearly as fun.

So the route I chose is the Barb route, based on feeling comfortable enough to skip the Centennial Trail and stick to streets that are straighter, knowing neighborhoods to cut through to skip some of the streets with more traffic, and eliminating as much climbing as possible for as long as possible.

  • Spokane Falls Boulevard around to where it connects to the short stretch of bike lane on Riverside Avenue, then into Browne’s Addition onto Pacific.
  • Through the roundabout at Cannon by The Elk (a bike-friendly restaurant!) and down to Sunset Boulevard.
  • To Government Way and out past the turn to Spokane Falls Community College. Not long after that stoplight, Government Way becomes West Trails and you start to cliiiiiiiiiiimb.
  • West Trails becomes Hayford Road, you take a quick right on Sprague, and you’re practically there. Or if you’re me, you go past “there” and end up visiting the vicinity of the correctional facility before backtracking and wending in through the construction to the raceway exactly an hour after I set off.

Where—ta-da!—I arrived in time to give Sweet Hubs a good-luck kiss before sending him off with the rest of the B-pack for their criterium (several fast laps around a relatively short, flat track). He won with a nice sprint at the end, which is a great payoff for all those winter nights he spent on the trainer in front of a movie.

We then rode home together through the gathering darkness, shivering a bit (wish I’d had those knickers to cover my knees!) until the ride warmed us.

The downhill “Wheee!” was incredibly fast considering how long it took me to climb going the other way. I couldn’t believe it when we’d already reached the traffic light by SFCC and I knew we had just a few more miles and a bit more climbing, thankfully separated by some straight stretches and downhill rests, and we’d be home.

We heard frogs singing their hearts out, felt the difference in temperature as we entered the urban core and felt the day’s warmth radiating out, and made it home safe and sound with 27-1/2 miles on my cyclometer and 1,392 calories burned according to my heart monitor dealio.

And today, I felt every single mile in my legs when I climbed, whether it was climbing a hill on my bike or a set of stairs at work to help rack up the mileage on my pedometer. It will be a couple of days before I try anything like that long a ride again, but it felt great to be able to do it.

I want to build back up to the mileage I used to accumulate that made it easy to plan a 30-40-mile ride with Sweet Hubs and I have to start somewhere.

Just, maybe . . . somewhere flatter?

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Climbed any really long hills/mountains? (Lately or ever?)
  • What’s the hardest part of it for you and how do you deal with that?
April 8, 2012

30 Days of Biking: Why Week 1 Doesn’t Have 7 Days of Riding in It, and why that’s OK

The ride reports for 30 Days of Biking hold me accountable, but they can’t change what life throws at you, so I’m not going to ride 30 days in April. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

When I set a goal—for the first time ever—of riding a certain number of miles and a certain number of days this year, probably the wisest reaction I got was from Kent Peterson, who writes Kent’s Bike Blog. After providing a link to a mileage tracker that gives you medals, he said, “…in the past few years I’ve gone the complete opposite in terms of mileage and instrumentation. I haven’t had a mileage computer on my bike for a couple of years. I often take pictures and write down stories, however.”

Yes he does, and I enjoy reading those stories. He has chosen mindfulness (one of my three watchwords for 2012 riding) over record-keeping.

I have reflected on that wisdom several times as I’ve had various reasons for not riding. Being really sick was an obvious one, and it took a while to come back from that. While I’m pretty hardcore as far as the weather I’m willing to ride in, preferring fresh air and people-powered movement over other options, the winter that waited until early spring to show up has presented a few days when riding really would have represented misery, not joy. That’s not why I ride.

And then there was this week. After getting off to a start with two very different days I had a “normal” day—riding to work and back.

That was followed by a trainer day on which I chose to throw my bike on the trainer in the evening and pedal far longer than I would have on the road. I’d had to drive to Pullman and back that day in pretty blizzardy conditions—a freakish snowstorm pounded the Palouse so I had three hours of nerve-straining car mileage. All I would have managed on the street would have been another token loop around the block. Since I do ride for health benefits as well as joy and transportation, I decided to burn more calories and work on building endurance for longer rides with Sweet Hubs.

Friday and Saturday I didn’t ride.

I didn’t ride because one of my favorite uncles passed away very unexpectedly and I went to the funeral.

For a brief moment I flirted with the idea of breaking my bike down and packing it into the back of my sister’s car so I could do token rides around the block in Lewiston, Idaho, where we were born and where the service was held.

Really? I really would have put keeping on track with a self-imposed series of checkmarks on a list over and ahead of these things?

  • paying attention to my family
  • celebrating my uncle’s incredible life
  • laughing at funny stories compiled by my aunt about his shenanigans–he was always one for a good laugh and a practical joke
  • mourning his passing, which came just six days after they discovered he had the same kind of silent, insidious cancer that killed Steve Jobs
  • sitting and talking with my siblings and drinking wine
  • catching up with my cousins, including my cousin who looks so much like his now-gone dad that I cried every time I hugged him
  • visiting my parents and holding my mother’s hand while she told me long stories full of gibberish because she has vascular dementia but at least she still laughs and smiles
  • staying up late into the night talking with my younger sister in our shared hotel room and sharing a piece of chocolate cream pie for breakfast (hey, we were hungry and it has dairy, right?)

In another post I mentioned getting a lift home in my husband’s truck and why I don’t think of that as something for which I need to apologize, which I imagine comes as a surprise to people who think I’m “too hardcore” for that.

I’m not. And being with my family and realizing all over again how fragile and short life is, how important it is to make every moment count, for me reflects the reason I ride my bike—the reason I pay attention—at a far deeper level than a calendar ever could.

March 14, 2012

Why a Cyclist Needs a Pedometer

StepUp Spokane pedometer

Not nearly enough steps showing on this baby! Take the stairs, take the stairs, take the stairs....

I’m going to blow my cover here. What with being a poster girl for riding a bike in all kinds of clothes and all kinds of weather, I have people reasonably convinced that I’m “active.”

They say that very thing: “Oh, you’re so active!” Like yeast, or yogurt cultures.

The truth is that I bike because I’m lazy. A pedometer proves that in no uncertain terms, which is why I need to wear one.

I like keeping track of my healthy activities in a log—seeing all those days when I do something gives me a sense of accomplishment and makes me want to keep the string going. When I started adding steps to the bike mileage, that gave me a reality check on just how little I do some days!

Here’s why: My ride to work is a hair under 2.5 miles, which takes me around 9 minutes of pedaling (under 9 if I “race”). If I don’t run any errands or go to meetings and ride home at the end of the day, I’ve done under 5 miles—around 23 minutes total riding time or thereabouts (hey, it’s uphill on the way home—takes longer).

I don’t ride fast because I don’t particularly want to sweat, so this isn’t vigorous training time.

When I get to work I may think, “I rode my bike to work, didn’t I?” and take the elevator to my fifth-floor office.

If I plug that bit of bike time into a standard activity calculator like the StepUp Spokane one that translates time into steps, it’s around 4,600 steps—less than half of the healthy target of 10,000 steps per day.

If I have a day that doesn’t involve meetings outside the office, it’s probably also a day plugged into my two-monitor set-up so tightly I may as well be physically jacked into the system. I sit-sit-sit, staring at the screen, leaning forward a little in my chair until the backs of my legs go dead.

What I do not do is get up and walk around.

But if I’m wearing the pedometer, that moment of arrival at the building represents a chance to rack up steps climbing the stairs to my office. I get up and walk down the hall to talk to a colleague instead of shooting her an email (crazy, I know!). I may take a stretch break and walk down a couple of flights and back up. I walk down the stairs at the end of the day.

Wearing the pedometer is the first step (walking pun!). But it’s the power of writing it down and looking at patterns that really makes this work. If I wore a pedometer but didn’t log the data I wouldn’t have any sense of how one day compares to another. I wouldn’t be able to recognize that riding my bike gives me the illusion of more activity than is actually occurring.

And I wouldn’t have the sense of satisfaction I get on a “high mileage” day: one that includes lots of walking in addition to biking.

This post originally appeared on StepUp Spokane.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Are you a recordkeeper when it comes to your health and fitness?
  • How does that make a difference in your behavior and choices?
February 28, 2012

The Soundtrack in my Head

Let's Blog Off badge from letsblogoff.com

This post is inspired by #letsblogoff, a blog-writing challenge I stumbled across a while back thanks to Twitter. Every two weeks they throw out a theme and bloggers riff on it, taking it in all kinds of directions. We all link to each other’s posts but I am currently having trouble getting the Javascript to run that would pull the table, so for now go look at this post on Let’s Blog Off.

The current theme is “that song stuck in your head.” Now, earworms are a common malady at our house. Even though you’ll never walk in and find us actually playing a CD, we seem to have plenty of music floating around somehow.

For one thing, I live with a daughter who performs in musical theater, so we often find ourselves humming a snatch of some show tune. I’m currently really stuck on some of the numbers from “Legally Blonde, The Musical”–she played Elle Woods in a production last December and was fantastic.

Sweet Hubs likes to plug in his MP3 player and rock out while he’s working on projects in the garage, which will sometimes entail him coming back and forth into the house to grab a coffee refill or something. When I find myself singing a number from The Police or Queen later on, it’s probably because he sang a bit in the kitchen.

Or we’ll be talking about some story from high school or college years, think of a song it reminds us of, say, “Who was that singer again?”, and go find a clip on YouTube.

These and other sources contribute the soundtrack that sometimes plays in my head as I ride my bike to work, or to errands and meetings during the day.

Sometimes the song is pretty obvious:

Sometimes it’s one that reflects my mood (watch for the bicycle at the very beginning of the video—I hadn’t realized it was there until I went to find this):

It may be something that makes me dance a little on my bike saddle, like this one (I defy you not to dance):

The Thursday Zumba class I go to at work contributed this one:

I rarely find myself in the car driving somewhere, but recently have had to do some Stage Mom duties to ferry Second Daughter home from rehearsals. If I’m not listening to NPR I find a station that plays music I listened to in high school and college, which can plant an earworm or two. I might end up with something like this:

or this:

or this, if I spot a kitty cat along the way:

And then there’s this one, which is now in my head because the Let’s Blog Off had the theme “If you could turn back time” on their list of past topics:

You’re welcome.

Related Reading

  • Sing It Loud, Sing It Proud: A Fourth of July post on Bike to Work Barb, my personal blog, about sings that for me relate to being an American–some great earworms on this list too

Your Turn

What’s on your mental turntable?

Tags: ,
February 23, 2012

They’re Coming Back! Spring and Health

Reasonably good indicators on both fronts: returning health, and returning spring. Biking keeps me attuned to both conditions–my physical well-being and the turning of the seasons–in ways that driving could never provide.

Health: My uphill ride home is a real indicator of whether I’ve shaken off whatever crud has attacked.

Not good: I sound like someone you’d want beginning nurses and doctors to listen to with a stethoscope for the definition of the word “rales” because I’m still crackling like a bowl of Rice Krispies.

Not good: Still a most unladylike amount of nasal fluids being produced.

Good: On the last couple of climbs toward home I’m no longer in first gear–I’m in third. Woohoo! These are hills that I usually do in the middle ring of my front derailleur, not the little ring, so I still have a way to go, but this is progress.

Spring: Like fall, it’s another shoulder season when I start playing “musical layers”–take off one, take off another one, decide I need that one for a few more days after all….

I also play musical gloves: lobster-claws in the morning, five-fingered in the afternoon because my hands would sweat in the lobsters.

Right now I need to be dressed more warmly for the ride to work because I create more speed and thus more windchill factor going downhill, it’s colder in the morning, and I don’t have the warmth of working to go uphill. In full summer it’s the same morning and afternoon.

Today’s outfit:

  • Black cotton/Lycra leggings
  • Lightweight Helle Hansen long johns–not the thick Hot Chilis I was wearing a few weeks ago
  • Wool socks
  • Tall gray boots (a souvenir of my trip to New York City with Second Daughter)
  • Camisole
  • Microweight cream-colored long-sleeved wool tee from Swrve
  • Gray cable-knit hoodie sweater from REI
  • Cute scarf
  • Morning: Windbreaker, lobster-claw gloves
  • Afternoon: Stopped halfway home to take off the windbreaker; five-finger gloves
  • Long gone: The face mask I was wearing to block windchill and warm my breath; a cap under the helmet; fleece neckwarmer; another layer of wool stockings under the long johns and leggings

Biggest indicators of all that we’re turning toward spring: blue skies, fat, puffy clouds instead of gray overcast dullness, birds chirping, and the sunlight on the road as I headed home around 3:30 (can’t quite hack a whole day yet).

I can’t wait for full spring and full health. Meanwhile, the bike helps me feel more optimistic about both coming back soon!

Ride Report

  • Days ridden: 27/54 (goal is 250 days this year–travel and illness are hurting my percentages right now but I’ll get back on track)
  • Miles: 203.5 (goal for 2012 is 1,200)

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Did you ride today?
February 20, 2012

A Weak Week–Coming Back from the Flu

I had been thinking recently about writing a post on how strong biking makes me feel. Instead, this week being on the bike will force me to acknowledge physical weakness. I got back on the bike this morning after being home on the sofa for a full week, sick with an upper-respiratory flu that I haven’t really shaken yet.

This has become a bit of an unwelcome spring ritual the last few years, this nasty bug. Whether or not I get a flu shot (and I usually do but missed it this year), I seem to come down with a crud that knocks me off my feet and onto the sofa, where I lie doing abs workouts in the form of gut-wrenching coughs and concerto-style nose-blowing. I drink lots of water and herbal tea and take a few symptom-relief meds and wait it out, the way my mother would have handled it.

Every year I go through the same thing coming back. The first day I think I can put in at least a partial day at the office, I go ahead and get on the bike to ride, because that’s my habit. Downhill to work isn’t so bad. My office mates may not have appreciated the “productive” coughs I served up all day (which make me feel so unproductive), but I survived.

It’s the uphill climb coming back that really tells me I’ve been sick. I can listen to the congestion in my chest rattling as I suck wind. I gear way, way down compared to what I’d usually be in to climb. I pedal more slowly. I really, really appreciate “missing” the stoplight because then I can stop and breathe.

And since it was chilly this morning I sure wished my lobster-claw gloves had a nose-wiping patch. My nose usually runs like a faucet anyway when I ride, but it’s more fire-hydrant level at this point. (What’s that? Too much information? Sorry about that. Forgot the “style” part of this blog for a minute there….)

So why do I do it? Why not just take the easy way out and pick up the car keys?

Well, apart from all the hassle that driving represents for me, I’d honestly rather be out in the fresh air, even feeling a bit shaky, then stuck inside the car. I feel as if I’m on the road to recovery if I follow my usual habits, rather than giving in. The ride uphill on the way home becomes a barometer for my real recovery. I may be up and walking around and able to go to work, but until I can pedal home breathing normally and not have to granny-gear the last couple of hills, I’m not really well.

I’d really rather ride, even sick, than not ride.

Your Turn

  • When you’re sick do you lay off the riding as part of your recovery?
  • How do you know when you’re ready to start riding again?
Tags: ,
February 13, 2012

Consider Adoption–of a Bike Lane, That Is

Now that our itty-bitty bit of snow has melted, the bike lanes are left with the detritus of road sand, leaf piles some of your neighbors pushed into the lane last fall, and all the rest of the things that accumulate over the winter.

On my way home I occasionally have to take the vehicle lane instead of the bike lane because of the amount of gunk piled up alongside the curb.

Herewith, an idea for something we could get rolling informally with the goal of a more formal program down the road (ha ha—transportation joke!): Adopt-a-Bike-Lane.

Back row: Casey Owens, Carolyn Cooke, Suzanne Richardson, Cory Bone, Linda Hartley, Margaret Mendoza, Lori Morrison, Merritt Riley and Bill Riley Front row: Althea Riley and Mike Bauer Bill Riley Communities Litter Crew has participated in the Adopt-a-Highway program since April 2005. The group adopted SR512 from Canyon Road to 94th Avenue. Mile Post 6 to 8.Many years ago I had a mile of highway adopted (in north Idaho on Hwy. 41). A few times a year I got out and picked up trash. It offered all the entertainment value of an Easter egg hunt except what you find is NOT chocolate and you DON’T want to put it in your mouth….

What I have in mind for bike lanes is kind of along those lines, but made a lot easier since the city already cleans streets every so often. (No one was off in the weeds alongside Hwy. 41 gathering empty generic vodka bottles and crumpled cigarette packs except me.)

What would be utterly fantastic as a starting point would be people adopting the stretch of bike lane (or designated bike route, or heck, even the two or three feet of a regular street closest to the curb) alongside our homes.

It’s essentially a small extension of yard work. When we go out to rake up pine needles or maple leaves in the fall, shovel snow in the winter, or clean off debris in the spring, we just extend our responsibility beyond the sidewalk (which is already our job, in case you didn’t know) and the bike lane. In cold conditions we make sure we’re not rinsing water into the lane where it will freeze and create a hazard. Then we take it a little further and pick up debris: broken glass, lug nuts, stray hubcaps, pieces of wire.

When it goes formal with signage, I can see local bike clubs, service clubs, organizations like the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and others adopting stretches that aren’t in residential areas.

Part of the inspiration for this is, admittedly, a not-very-good neighbor down the road from me on Southeast Boulevard around Fourteenth. I’ve told a few folks about the encounters I’ve had in front of the house owned by people I have not-so-affectionately nicknamed “The Blockers.”

It hasn’t been bad in recent months. Maybe they moved.

But in the past, in the bike lane there on various occasions I have encountered—I kid you not—a cardboard box full of potted plants, a table full of glassware, and a stove—an electric four-burner stove. Talk about needing to be mindful–I need to be on the lookout for major appliances!

They routinely set their garbage and green waste bins in the lane. They rake their leaves into the lane (which is a violation of city code, by the way). The next step would be to just start throwing things out of the house windows directly into the lane without bothering to containerize first.

They have a perfectly good driveway and lawn that they ignore in favor of the bike lane for all their disposal needs. Those of you who utilize the bike lane going north on Southeast Boulevard probably recognize this description.

Since everyone has something to contribute to this world, I give them full credit for inspiring the adoption idea.

Cruising the Web I’ve found a few places with something called an Adopt-a-Bike-Lane program that’s really a problem reporting program: Bike/Walk Alliance for Missoula and Fort Collins, for example.

Since when did adopting something mean you only call others to deal with the problems instead of dealing with it yourself? Sure doesn’t mean that for kids or pets!

I’m looking for more hands-on solutions in which we don’t just complain about this–we do something about it–and am hoping to see links to examples of working civic or government programs posted in the comments.

So what do you think? Would you take this on right now without the fanfare and hoopla? Would you be more likely to do so if you got a nice sign with your individual or group name for acknowledgement of your effort and commitment?

Your Turn

  • What weirdness have you encountered in the bike lane?
February 11, 2012

Unmindful Biking by Yours Truly

At times I try to approach biking as a genuine mindfulness meditation. The immersion of self into the experience feels really wonderful when I get there.

At times, though, I’m immersed in something more like dumb-ass-ness. Herewith, three stories of times I was not 100% mindful on the bike (all of which took place some time ago and believe me, I learn from each one):

Dumb #1

I’m 3rd in line (taking the lane) behind a car and a pick-up truck at a red light (westbound on Spokane Falls at Bernard, for you Spokanites–in front of FedEx Kinko’s).

Light turns green. Car goes. Pick-up goes. I go.

I look down to check what gear I’m in or some such.

Car stops for unknown reason. Pick-up stops. I am looking down so….

I run into back of pick-up, fall over, and scrape myself up badly enough that I’m still bleeding when I arrive at the meeting I’m going to.

Good news: The driver stopped to ask if I was okay and if I needed any help.

Dumb #2 (although I give myself lots of latitude on this one because of the cause)

I’m turning left onto the Southeast Boulevard bike lane from our street. As is our ritual whenever one of us leaves and the other is still at home, Sweetest Husband is on the front porch waving to me.

I make sure it’s safe to make the left turn but…. in my love for my sweetheart and my desire to wave back, I manage to take the turn a little too wide, clip the curb, and fall over, scraping my knee. (There is a theme here.)

Good news: Sweet Hubs didn’t see my fall so he didn’t have to be all alarmed and rush to my rescue. However, I may hear about this now that it has been confessed to the Gods of Google.

Dumb #3 (could have been life-ending)

Sometimes–for some deeply masochistic reason–I ride at least part of the way up Stevens on the South Hill. It’s a heart attack hill with four lanes that split into two two-lane roads, one climbing farther up the hill as Bernard, one swinging left and dropping down to join Grand Boulevard.

As I go more and more slowly up the hill I eventually give up and move to the sidewalk to push my bike up. Someday I’ll climb the whole thing again–I used to ride up Bernard on a heavy old big-box special I called the Iron Maiden.

For the record it’s a 6.8 percent climb for this particular stretch, from Fourth Avenue up to Ninth. If you search for a Google Maps route on this stretch with the Bike option they don’t put you on Washington at all; they quite wisely send you up the much quieter side street Bernard, where your huffing and puffing aren’t slowing people on a four-lane arterial.

As the lefthand lanes swing left they also top out. This is a relatively blind corner for drivers who are accelerating up the hill on a major arterial.

Map of a portion of South Stevens Street, Spokane, WA

You don't want to climb this unless you're in training. Besides being steep, it carries a sometimes scary volume of traffic around blind corners and drivers don't expect cyclists here.

Like an idiot–and I have done this more than once and lived to tell the tale–instead of continuing to push my bike on the sidewalk at this point I get into the lane, clip in and start riding again.

I do always check to make sure no cars are coming. Since there’s a traffic light a couple of blocks down it’s relatively easy to recognize a burst of traffic and wait for it to pass so you’re in a clear zone. But that’s no guarantee, as traffic can come from side streets out of sight around the corner.

On one particular occasion–the last time I ever did this maneuver–I had trouble getting started pedaling after I’d clipped in and almost fell over before I could get my foot free to catch myself.

My pulse raced beyond anything I’ve achieved on a hill climb as I realized how easily I could have died if a driver had come whipping uphill around that blind corner just then.

Good news: I learned the lesson without paying the ultimate price. Never again.

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Your Turn

  • I’ve confessed some of my dumb-ass-ness. What near-miss did you have that shook you out of some of your less mindful or more careless/complacent biking habits?
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