December 27th, 2006 |
commuting, gear, general
Our German exchange student made an interesting observation early on in his stay, that most of the cars driven here have automatic transmission, and he wondered why. In Germany, it’s apparently only the old and infirm that need help shifting. In Germany, not many people cycle for transportation (unlike their Dutch neighbors to the north), but at least they shift.
Look at the trends in US car design over the last 20 years – virtually every car sold here now has automatic transmission, motorized windows, power everything. Most people just want to go places in total comfort, while engaging in the mechanics of getting there as little as possible. Watch how people will make multiple laps around a parking lot just to save themselves an extra 30 feet of walking… and that’s on a nice day.
Bicycle commuting flies in the face of what most Americans seem to want from their basic transportation. After all, cyclists are *gasp* outside, and they have to *yikes* pay attention to what they’re doing! It seems like it’ll take some serious carrots and sticks for the average American to embrace bicycling as transport (though we already know better, right?).
What got me thinking about this in a way was driving again last week while the streets were icy, thinking i need to get some studded tires, and hoping it would clear quickly so i could ride again. And it did, and i was out on Christmas eve doing a couple of errands by bike. This bike, in fact:
The Lotus winter bomber is done now. Actually, since this photo, i’ve added a rear rack and the panniers, but i haven’t taken a picture since then. It rides nice, i like the el cheapo 1.5 tires except they really really really really don’t want to seat in the bead on my rims. The rear still has a little dip, but i’m done fighting them for now. It’s a little under-geared at 39/17, but i think i can deal for a while. The position is good, and the handling is ok, though i’m still getting used to the prodigious the wheel flop in tight turns.
Today is a nice day too, but i took the Redwood out for one last ride of the year. It has fenders, but i don’t want it to get the salt bath – that’s what the Lotus is for.
December 22nd, 2006 |
I’ve been so busy at work this week, i didn’t even notice that i’d been tagged by KM. Thusly i offer 5 things you didn’t previously know about me (in no particular order).
- Police have pointed guns at me.
In college, i entered an ill-conceived and beer-fueled scheme to lift some lumber from a construction site to help a fellow idiot build a loft. The beat cop who saw us mistakenly called it in with the code for an armed robbery. Hilarity ensued, but no time in the clink.
- I have driven a bulldozer (unrelated to #1).
After college, one of the many interesting and low-paying jobs i had was helping a guy install drain tile in farm fields. We worked until Dec. 23 that year, luckily the ground was too frozen after Christmas to continue, because i was too poor to afford warm boots. He had lots of heavy equipment and one day, for an hour or so, i drove the bulldozer instead of the ‘72 Chevy pickup.
- I played a music gig wearing nothing but boxer shorts.
In the early ’90s, I played in several bands you’ve never heard of, mostly as a bass player. Once, during a hot summer show in the 7th Street Entry, i decided to drop my shorts and play in just the boxers. I don’t think anyone noticed or cared.
- Despite (or maybe because of) having a “computer job”, i would probably be just as happy living 100 years ago. I like to make my own soap, i own two manual typewriters and enjoy making things like furniture. If i could, i’d probably wander off to some remote piece of land near a railroad station and become a blacksmith.
- My earliest bike crash memory is from about 1974, when i was 6. I don’t know what bike it was, but it was whatever i had before the orange Schwinn Stingray. We were building a new house in some subdivision in southern Minnesota, and i veered off into the dirt ditch in front of the house, somehow crashing in such a way that the kickstand was jammed into my left thigh. The scar is still there, 32 years later.
There ya go. I’ll have to find someone to tag later, for now it’s time to head home. Happy holidays!
December 13th, 2006 |
On the ride home today, i’ll pass 2400 miles for the year. It’s most probably my highest mileage year ever, definitely the most miles since i’ve been keeping track. I’ve had a bike computer for many years now, but never used it beyond the current ride, and so never logged anything. Other years of exuberant and commitment-free youth may have racked up more miles, but this is the first time i can actually show it.
Winter here has been coming in on a weather rollercoaster. One week it’s deliriously warm, the next is bitter cold. The cycle has been getting steadily colder, but again this week, we’re back into the mid-40s, which seems odd for mid-December. A white christmas doesn’t seem that likely – the odds of getting out for a nice road ride seem better. Thanks(?) global warming!
December 8th, 2006 |
Seeing Kent’s story about a Sleeping Owl reminded me of a similar experience I had a couple of months back. I was riding a pedestrian overpass over highway 94 here, and the overpass bridge has a chainlink fence along the side and top. I was pulling my daughter on the trail-a-bike, and at the end of the bridge something caught my eye. I stopped and we looked back to see an juvenile bald eagle perched on the fence, less than a foot over where my head had just passed. This is over one of the busiest stretches of road in the Twin Cities. I’ve seen hawks gliding along the river bluffs and i know there are eagles around, but this is the closest i’ve ever been to one. The bird was completely nonplussed at our 2 minutes of quiet gawking, and was still there when we continued on our errand.
The attached photo is NOT the eagle from that story (no camera with me that day), but Fred, an eagle that hangs out near the fishing pier in Homer, Alaska. Photo taken June 2006.
December 4th, 2006 |
I’ve been drinking tea at work for a few weeks now, replacing the coffee i’d bring in with me every day as a substitute for the crap that sits in the glass pots all day at work. Last week i’d been through most of the tea in my work stash, and the Tea Source catalog happened to arrive in the mail (they’re local to us, a nice shop).
While browsing for a couple of teas to get, i got interested in one of their puerh teas, and as it happened, Autumn bought one for me while she was out this weekend even though i hadn’t mentioned it yet (great minds and all).
Well, i made a cup to try it out, and it’s pretty good. Dark but smooth, not bitter. Plenty of caffeine i think. Autumn tried a sip (she had a cup of green tea herself), and said, “hmm… tastes like elephant”.
Maybe Peurh is just one of those things like pine tar soap that women tend not to like? I had no idea that it was illegal to import it here until 1995.
December 4th, 2006 |
commuting, general, metal boxes
The News-Gazette.com: Woman is sentenced for bicyclist’s death
(via comments on OIFS)
Summary: a very sad story of a cyclist killed by a distracted teenage driver. The cyclist was on the edge of the road, yet was hit with the *driver’s* side of the car while the driver downloaded cell phone ringtones. This was the driver’s third offense for poor driving habits. Both the judge and victim’s family expressed regret that the law didn’t provide for more serious sentencing.
One idea posted in the subsequent comments suggested that the sentence include riding a bicycle for a period of time. While I strongly disagree with the idea that cycling should ever be made into a punishment, there is some serious merit with the idea of requiring an offender to cycle a mile in the victim’s shoes.
Cyclists are in a good position to get an objective view of the full range of driving habits, moreso than even pedestrians because cyclists are not just crossing traffic, they’re part of the main flow. It doesn’t take very many days of cycling in the city to start thinking that a great many of common poor driving habits would be eliminated if everyone would just spend a week cycling (or walking even) everywhere they needed to go. I’d even allow for bike/bus or bike/train usage, as long as the bike was the primary vehicle.
It’s not just the enhanced perspective, it’s the overall relaxation and slower life pace that would make this a valuable exercise. When people only drive a car, and do it every day, they get desensitized to their environment and their speed. With car windows up and stereo on there’s little input from their surroundings, so other cars and pedestrians become obstacles to the driver’s errands.
Since riding my bike the vast majority of my work and household commutes for the past 3 years, i’ve found that when I do drive around town i drive like the proverbial old man, and i’m glad for it. It’s not just getting older or having kids, i really think it’s that 1) i’m not as comfortable driving fast, and 2) i’m much more aware that i’m driving with a stream of people, not a stream of faceless cars.
I actually look at the people driving near me more now, especially at intersections. It’s interesting to see not just what people are doing in addition to driving, but to see their expressions, their mood. It also seems to freak a lot of people out, like i’m invading their home or something. People don’t like to think their in public when they’re driving their car, but here’s the thing: they are.