Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 in retrospect...

Wow... Long time, no blog!

Things got more than a little busy back in the summer, and I was definitely doing a lot more riding than writing about it at the time. Maybe not a bad thing, but I'll make a resolution to keep things here a little better updated in the coming year, provided connectivity permits. Sometimes I'm grateful that they even ran electricity lines out here to Scott, much less any kind of internet service.

Last year's resolutions, by the way, went pretty well. I set around four goals, and actually met most all of them:

1. Mileage: This resolution for 2008 was two-fold - to ride at least 4,000 miles, and to have zero weeks duirng the year where I didn't log a bike ride. As of last night, I had a hair over 6,600 miles logged on, and there are zero weeks in 2008 where I didn't ride. There was that one week back in Frozen February this year where I got in "only" 40 miles, but that was the low point. Just before gas prices shot out of sight last spring, I started bike commuting regularly to work, so it wasn't that much of an adjustment when $4 gas came. Now that the stuff is back down to $1.34, prices not seen in more than 8 years, I still prefer biking to riding around in the old red pickup.

2. Group rides: I did the Hotter 'n Hell 100 again this year, and came in less than 6 hours (5:52). Tour de Rock ran for 66 miles earlier in the summer, and I had the form to pull hard most of the way around, and completed that one with a 17+ mph average. And in one of the wilder one-day adventures so far this year, I did the whole Big Dam Bridge 100 course back in September. All in all I rode 4 organized century rides, but missed most of the Arky 100 (I worked one of the rest stops instead of riding), and a dose of stomach flu on Halloween kept me out of the Tour da Delta. One major deal was the "Hot Hundred" and "Hot Wheels" rides leading up to the Big Dam Bridge ride, which was a lot of fun. I'll do that again this coming summer, but will probably start a lot earlier, focused on the earlier centuries like Tour de Rock (supposed to go for a century in '09) and my perennial favorite, the Hotter 'n Hell.

3. Turning in my annual activity report to the League a couple of years ago, I did a bunch of classes and reached a bunch of folks... enough to earn one of the 102 free copies of the new "Traffic Skills 101" course books the League sent out just before Thanksgiving. And where we had a total of 5 LCIs in the state at this time last year, we now have 17! I even got to sit in on and help out a little at the first LCI training seminar held here in Arkansas back the first of December, and learned just about as much as the new folks did there.

4. The one goal I missed was the one to "ride a race somewhere." About the closest I got to this was riding the course for the CARVE Crosswind Classic back in March, but I was a spectator rather than a participant. I did eventually sign up with US Cycling for a Cat. 5 racing license, but never toed the start line with a number pinned to my butt... at least not at a race. I did some alleycat runs and am getting a little better at sprinting and breaking out the hurt stick from time to time, but riding a race is still on the "to do" list for 09.

For next year (2009), I'm making pretty much the same goals:

1. To ride like a flahute through the winter months and onward, with no weeks in 2009 where I don't ride... at least a little bit. Keep up the commuting, enjoy and enhance the mileage, my real life permitting. I resolve to ride my mountain bike more... and to bring that joy to more young folks. And to enjoy riding for the simple pleasures of riding.

2. The group ride schedule is much the same: I plan to do the HHH again in '09 and try to match my time for '09. The hundred mile course for the TdR sounds like a good goal, and that will be my early summer aimpoint, with a warm-up (at least) down at the Tour de Hoot in McGehee. At McGehee I at least intend to make it as far as the Arkansas City stop, with the old courthouse and the oatmeal cookies. I'll leave my options open for the BDB ride... I'll ride it this coming year, but plans are to forego a lot of the volunteer work I put into that this past year and take some time to enjoy the ride more. And not to have flats.

3. 2009 is a big year for the bike education programs, I'm planning on a big push in North Little Rock to not only benefit the local riders, but also push the city farther along toward Bike-Friendly Community status. With a new crop of eager young(er) LCIs in town, I will likely work more on advocacy issues, and some of the more esoteric courses.

4. I still need to ride that race... If I can hang on to Resolution #1 above, I'll challenge myself to pin on a number and ride the Crosswind Classic, provided they do that one again in March...

So, there we go... more resolutions... now the art of the deal is to stick to them.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Lesson, and a Purple Thumb

So, the big green mountain bike has been leaning in the corner, reproaching me every time I go in to pick up the commuter bike to go to work, or the Orbea to go off for training or group ride. Wednesday, I was having a little trouble getting the commuter to shift down into the granny gear -- an issue, since I made a couple of trips over the Big Dam Bridge, and the wind was blowing like there was nothing between here and Canada... So I load up the Fisher and my messenger bag to put a little change into the day's rides.

First of all, was a quick reminder of the nice thing about cargo racks... it makes a difference when you put the load on the bike instead of your Back. Somewhere I knew that already, but it was a good reminder that It Do Make a Difference. I had a change of clothes, plus I just threw in my handlebar bag and my U-Lock... and after a couple of miles I pulled over to put the handlebar bag where it belonged and shift the lock into the bottom of the bag for a little better balance. That helped, and I tooled on the last couple miles into work. On the way home, I packed all the week's clothing to take home and wash, and left the U-lock on the bike rack as compensation. (Note: a Kryptonite 3000 New York U-Lock weighs about 4 1/2 pounds all by its lonesome. But it's still half the weight of that derned New York Chain I got last winter to ensure that the new MTB stays put.)

So, down between the Big Dam Bridge and the low water ridge, I run a sharp thorn through the front tire for a sudden flat, and take a short spill as the fast-deflating tire rolls off the edge of the path. Jams my left thumb pretty good, but not other significant hurts. Makes it a real pain (no pun needed) to change the flat... just as I remember that my frame pump is still sitting attached to my rack trunk in the truck back in the commuter lot 6 miles away. I do, however, have my nifty little micro-inflater, and two (2) 16-gram CO2 cartridges. I've always noted and repeated the popular wisdom that a 16-gram cyclinder won't work on a Mountain bike tire, especially one of those big whompin' 29er tires. Well, if we don't want to take a long hike in the heat, now's the time to test that hypothesis.

I slipp the tire off and extract the punctured tube, eventually finding the little hole and a sharp thingy sticking nearby. I take particular care to put in my spare tube and reseat the tire -- then carefully give 'er one of the CO2 cartridges. It inflates, and it's pressurized enough to roll, so I put the tools away and off we go...

For the record, if you've got a flat MTB tube but only one of the 16 gram cartridges, it will put 20 pounds of pressure into a 29er knobby tire. Not all that stiff, but it will get you home.

I still need to add a can or two of Big Air to the shopping list this weekend, along with a fresh 29er tube... and the left thumb this morning is feeling a whole lot better, but it's an amazing shade of purple from bruising.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Long time, no blog...

Wow... it's July already, and the middle of it no less... Long time, no blog.

I've been doing a whole lot more riding than writing this summer. Looking back here, I was still nursing a sore attitude from getting lost out the Wine Tour ride. Since then, there's been the annual May "Bike to Work" campaign, with a couple of commuting workshops over at Chainwheel, as well as BACA's annual "Bike to Work Day" event. For me, the BTW Day has always been a little odd, since I always wind up taking annual leave to go ride it, and the ride route runs exactly opposite to the way I go when I do bike to work. I do it anyway, because it's a fun (and important) event to the local cycling community.

Another thing that happened in May was the sudden surge in motor fuel prices that sent regular gas to $4.00 per gallon, and diesel fuel to just a little less than $5 a gallon. Locally, it seemed that $3.65 for gas was the tripping point where people started to drastically change their driving habits. One of those folks was me.

I had started biking in to work a lot more often around Earth Day, when the river flooding subsided for the most part, and especially when our neighbors over at the Arkansas Surgical Hospital finally opened their cafeteria, the "River Trail Grill," for business the third week in May. Up until that point, if I biked in to work, that usually meant I didn't eat lunch that day, since there's no real choices within a couple of miles from here. After the first couple of days' shakedown, the quality and service over there has been consistently high, and it's actually one of the better deals as far as food choice and quality on this side of town.

So, I broke out the 29er mountain bike and started riding in regularly from a commuter lot in downtown NLR. The problem with a full-suspension mountain bike is that since it's primarily a cross-country race bike, there's no real provision to carry stuff back and forth to work with you like you often need to do. I had gotten a green backpack from Bike Nashbar that I used over the winter, and that served to carry a change of clothes, my notebook, and other small stuff, and this worked well.

The last week of May I plunked down the plastic for a regular commuting bike… A Specialized Globe “City 7” commuter or city bike, that came with a rear rack and hub generator-powered lights. A visit to the Community Bicyclist added a rack trunk and handlebar bag to the collection, and we were ready to go….


Here she is, fitted out with a set of Jandd panniers, and a backup set of battery-powered running lights, since my shakedown rides thru Riverfest quickly showed me that when you stop at a traffic light or stop sign and the wheels stop rolling, the lights go out…

So, this has been the backup bike for the past couple of months, and I’ve had a great deal of fun with it. I set the fit up like my 29er, and the Globe’s 700C wheels and wide tires give me as good a ride on that nasty stretch of gravel that connects the River Trail to the Industrial park. It’s geared well, too, so I can roll along considerably faster than I did on the knobby tires.

Results? Over the past two months, commuting from 2 to 4 times a week by bike, I’ve saved about 2/3rds of the gas that I was burning on the usual route, mostly since the bike route keeps me off the freeways and out of most congestion. And it’s a fun way to start the day, pedaling west along the river, and I’ve started to note quite a few regulars who’ve taken the same plunge.

This week, I’m at an environmental engineering conference out and San Francisco, CA, and aside from the initial shock of a 50 degree drop in temperatures between here and Little Rock, it’s wonderful to se how the city here is accommodating both cyclists and pedestrians. There are bike racks on almost every corner, with most of them occupied… SF has 43 hills though, so most folks are running mountain bikes or hybrids, with flat handlebars, derailleurs, and slick tires.

This Saturday is the Bike Commuting Workshop at the Community Bicyclist, sort of a shakedown and rehearsal for a BACA campaign to better promote bike commuting, and using bikes for short trips around the community. It promises to be a lot of hands-on work, as well as a short night ride to familiarize folks with the fun of biking in the dark… Hope to see ya there…

Monday, May 5, 2008

Altus Wine Tour - The Sign That Wasn't There

There were no takers for this past weekend's offering of the Road I class, so I tool a bet mid-week and signed up for the Altus Wine Tour ride on Saturday. I'd heard good reports about last year's ride, and the event t-shirt (the fluorescently-colored logo on a black tee) looked really cool. While I'm getting better, I'm still pretty much a weenie on hills -- especially the kind like they have up there in the Ozarks -- and the 17-mile "fun ride" promised a champagne brunch and winery tour at the end. All event amenities shut off at 2:00 p.m., so that meant there wouldn't be much of anything for the century riders, and even those doing the metric (62-mile) loop would have to hustle to get back in time for any goodies. So, with a bunch of miles on the meter this week already, I signed up for the 17-miler, anticipating a leisurely cruise with a bunch of leisurely cyclists.


ABC contingent at Altus… Brad Joseph, Jim Britt, Tom E., Janice Peters, Jenny Rainwater at the Post Familie winery

Most of the ABC contingent headed out Friday afternoon for a stay in the local hostels. Me, I rolled out at 4:15, showered, put my team gear on, fed and walked Sam, then was on the road at a quarter of 5, and on I-40 in cruise control by the 5 o'clock morning news. Dawn crept up just a hair past Russellville, when I noticed the pine trees and bushes by the roadside bowed over by a wicked west wind. Temperatures were dropping, too.. what was a balmy 65 when I left the Toltec rural limits was now around 50 or so; reminding me that I had left my thermal tights back in the dresser drawer at home. Got to Clarksville about good daylight, and stopped at a truck stop for a bottle of citrus Gatorade and a couple of Little Debbie oatmeal sandwich cookies to fuel the ride, having ignored not only Biker Rule # 1 ("Be prepared...") but Biker Rule # 2 ("Eat before you're hungry..." in the hasty early dawn departure. Altus proved to be a little bitty town about 15 miles up the local highway from Clarksville, and at this early hour (a little before 7:00) the ride volunteers were just showing up and setting up. I was about the 4th person to check in (though the line quickly lengthened. Check-in was simple, as they crossed my name off the pre-registration list, handed me a t-shirt (this year's was gray), offered me a banana, and reminded me of the start time at 8:00 sharp. It was derned cold, down to 48 degrees, still with the brutal wind. I had my commuter jacket under the back seat, so I bundled up in that, ran through the ABC-quick-check on the Onix, wiped her down with a damp cloth to get off the road dust, and put a light coat of Rock & Roll on the chain.

The rest of ABC's folks started showing up about this time, Janice Peters, Mike Heck, Sandy Grayson, Holly Hope, John Linck, Betty Danielson, Jenny & Bill Rainwater, Jim Britt and Brad Joseph. Turns out that everyone except Bill and I had signed up for the 60-miler, and the routes split off in different directions at the beginning: century riders and the 17-milers would head west to Ozark before taking to the hills, the metric riders headed east back to Clarksville and on down to Dardanelle before looping back through Paris and Ozark and taking on the last set of big hills.

The event leader gave a long lecture about the course direction signs, (more later), and the need to follow them, and warned that there was "a little construction" out on the course route. Then we were off at a minute or two past 8 a.m.

All together it looked like there were a little more than a hundred riders, with a little more than a dozen or so doing the hundred, most going for 60, and about two dozen or more of us 17-mile weenies. The start was staged about two minutes apart, but still by the time we pulled onto the road and headed west, the century riders were disappearing over the horizon, not to be seen again. I was up toward the front of the pack, found a nice shoulder, hunkered into the wind, and started to spin and warm up. One girl in a lavender jersey boomed past me and disappeared over the next hill, and it looked like the pack was just a little ways behind. I settled into cruise control at about 16, and motored on up the road. Checking back, Bill was just a little way behind me, but I motored on into Ozark alone, with just a glimpse of the purple jersey lady as she made the right turn in the center of town at the first turn sign. Bill was way behind me, so I eased up a bit, made the right turns onto Philpot Road, and started the leg back south. This was rolling hills, so there was a lot of up and down, and I lost sight of all the other riders... just way out there in the wind by myself. Not having seen any signs in a while, or any other riders or signs of life, I stopped at the top of one of the taller hills to look back and see if anyone was behind me... maybe I had missed a sign somewhere. In a couple of minutes, Bill rounded a corner and came into sight, so I pushed off again and kept going. After a few miles, I came to a T intersection where there was a paved road (Highway 186) to the right, and the road ahead turned sharply uphill, and to gravel. Around this point I was reminding myself of having violated Biker Rule # 3 by leaving the route map I had printed off the internet the night before in my briefcase back in the truck.

Searching around, there was no sign of a route marker, so I dropped a couple of gears into the small chain ring, and started up. About halfway, the road was rough enough and the gravel loose enough it was hard to keep traction, so I stopped, shouldered the bike, and hiked up to the top. Way behind I could still see Bill as he topped the next hill back. Saying a few things about the ride organizers, I remembered his warning of "a little construction" on this route, and wondered a little profanely about just what he might consider minor repairs. This hill proved to be a false summit, as there was another climb just behind it, and as I pedaled up there, it dropped off to a long graveled descent. As I gingerly picked a line to dodge most of the rocks, thinking of the Gavia hill climb in the Giro d'Italia, I wondered a little more about this being one of the few times I was tempted to hike-a-bike down a hill. After about two miles, I picked up a stretch of pavement again, and was so overjoyed that I dropped my chain shifting back into the big ring. Another mile or so, and we had another one of those same sorts of intersections, this time with the pavement veering left, and the other roads fading into cattle paths. And another one off down the next mile.

By now, I was pretty sure I was off course. I pulled out the little card with the emergency and information numbers they had handed out on the start line, only to see a flickering "No Service" indicator on the cell phone. So I decided to ride back at least until I ran into another rider, or found whatever sign it was that I had missed. Two-thirds of the way back up that long gravel hill I met the spitting image of that Rottweiler dog from the Over The Hedge movie, and he was in a mood to play. He hesitantly obeyed a warned growl, Bad Dog! Go Home!, but I still went back up the rest of that hill a whole lot faster than I had come down it.

Arriving back at the fateful Highway 186 intersection, I laid down the bike and searched the fence corners for any sort or trace of a sign, when a young boy in a blue shirt popped up, and said "Those other riders, they went that-a-way."

"Thanks, partner..." I replied; unspoken was "where were you when I came through?"

At least it was pavement again, though within the next mile I started grinding up the big monster hill of the whole ride, complete with another false summit. I had passed a hobo walking on the other side of the road as I started the climb, but about three-quarters of the way up when I was reaching for the bottom of the gears and cramping, he caught up with me. I went back to the hike-a-bike mode at least up to the first summit, then pushed off again. Up on top, it was pretty pleasant. The wind was now at least a quartering tail wind, and the chipseal road wound through grape fields and pasture land. I spun past the Aux Arc and Wiederkehr wineries, and caught up with this fellow on a recumbent, which was comforting since it was the first fellow cyclist I had really seen since leaving the start line. We rode in together down this long winding switchback with a pickup truck just off our rear blinkie lights, and pulled in at the Post Familie winery at the foot of the hill and the edge of Altus. Checking the computer readout, my 17 mile tour wound up just a hair short of 27 miles.

Leaning the bike against a picnic table and stripping off my sweaty commuter jacket, I clip-clopped into the winery, where I found Bill celebrating his survival, and a glass of Brut champagne and a fruit cup to wash the taste of the Gavia hill climb out of my tonsils...


A little utility cycling, trucking the spoils of the winery tour back to the wagons…

For a long while out there, I wasn’t a happy rider. This was apparently the 6th iteration of the Tour, according to the printing on my T-shirt, and folks setting off on the Tour need to be prepared to put in some notable hills, as well as be prepared to spend some time alone out there on the road. Rest stops are few and far between; for example, there were no stops or other amenities on the 17-mile course until the final stop back in Altus. Over on the 60-miler, the stops ranged from 16 to 20 miles apart, and were pretty sparse as to what they had on hand. Course marking was sporadic, and apparently I wasn’t the only one to miss a sign that wasn’t there, and go off exploring on his/her own. The ABC group missed the signs coming back thru Ozark, and headed off into the hills several miles before figuring they too were off-course, and retracing their way back into town and navigating by the street signs. And they’re serious about the 2 p.m. cut-off time for amenities and anything else, though the Post folks were very welcoming to late-arriving riders showing up at the winery stop. The Post facility is the main thing that makes this ride an attraction, and is even worth the shorter ride to spend a little time there.

I won’t say anything about the post-ride meal at Kelt’s, on the Altus town square. We’ve seen bad service at a number of places, but that one really set a record. Nice d├ęcor, though.

We’ll have to think about this one before riding it again. But Altus is a pretty little touristy town, and as I said, the wine part of the Tour is hard to beat. It's not everywhere where you can go pedaling around with a couple bottles of red wine tucked in your jersey pockets, and you can fit another one in the down tube bottle cage. Bill and I recommended the Ives Noir...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Arkansas Earth Day - BACA Bike Rodeo

BACA and the Arkansas Sustainability Network's ReCycles Bike Co-op teamed up to present a cycling information booth and a mini-bicycle rodeo for kids at the Arkansas Earth Day festival at the Clinton Presidential Library center on April 26th. ReCycles provided a set of eight refurbished kids' bikes for use by kids who dropped by the BACA display as well as a couple of wrenches (e.g., bike mechanics) to help tune and make any necessary repairs to bikes which the kids may have brought themselves. Fellow LCI Willa Williams and I along with Danielle de Prieux of ReCycles served as the "cowboys" for the rodeo, presenting simple riding and traffic safety instruction to the kids who took part. Willa also brought a truckload of bike helmets for the youngsters, and gave a substantial part of them away during the day.


Here’s the mini-rodeo setup, where the kids would ride a straight line, dodge a small obstacle in the road (represented by a pink tennis ball half), then stop at a traffic signal, look both ways to clear traffic, turn left, and then negotiate a chicane back to the finish line.

The BACA tent is set up in the background.


The rodeo in action… Danielle mans the start line, while Willa straightens up the tennis balls


Gordon Fisher and Ron Rizzardi greet visitors to the BACA booth, and pass out information on BACA and ABC activities, commuting and utility cycling tips, and BikeEd class brochures. Having our own tent this year made it a lot more comfortable for the booth volunteers, as well as greatly increasing our visibility at the festival.


A young rider negotiates the Rock Dodge part of the bike rodeo.


Another view of the BACA booth and display.

All in all, it went pretty well. I lost count of the number of kids who stopped by to try out the bike course, and at least four or five tried to spend a good part of the day with us. There were a few traffic problems in that our location in the corner of the parking lot tempted many spectators to walk through the area, to include the bike course while the kids were trying to ride it. A note to myself, next time bring some engineering tape to block off the course to these interlopers. On the good side, it added a bit of randomness to the bike course as the kids actually had to deal with randomly wandering pedestrians at unexpected times. One little fellow did a flawless Quick Turn when a lady chatting on her cell phone walked directly into his path.

Lots of bicycles, and bicyclists were seen wandering around the festival, which is always a Good Thing…

Sunday, April 27, 2008

May '08 Critical Manners Ride

The date for the May Critical Manners ride (first Wednesday of the month) falls on May 7, which is also the same date and time for the Livestrong Ride in support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and cancer research. Talking this over with our co-host Willa Wiliams, what we are planning to do is forego the May CM ride, and support and participate in the Livestrong event.

So, no Critical Manners ride in May... but we'll be taking the streets again on June 4th for fun, food, and courteous vehicular cycling, sort of in that order.

The Livestrong folks, supported by the Team Rubicon pro cycling team, will be "on the wheels" at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 7, from the Burns Park soccer fields and departing for a tour of the local paved trails before returning to the start point for more fun and festivities. We hope to see y'all there too... and back at Critical Manners with us on June 4. (5:30 p.m., in the parking lot of the Arkansas Arts Center at 10th Street & Commerce in Little Rock)


And in news from other fronts, Reima Dagasan, the founder of Critical Manners in San Francisco, CA, has taken a new job and moved home to Oregon, and so won't be involved in the original CM movement much any more.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

April update

Looking back, it's been awhile since I updated the blog. It's not for a lack of rants or comments -- I seem to be full of those lately, but time to commit them to type has been a little scarce.

The training schedule is about where I want it to be... a little over a month out in front of the first scheduled century down at the Tour de Hoot in McGehee, I've got just a hair short of 1700 road miles on the meter, and the weekly long ride is up to 60 miles and still feeling strong. I'm way up there on the ABC stat list on, but the touring season is starting for the more serious riders, and it probably won't be all that long before they catch me and put me back in my place.

Another Good Lid Done Gone...

I "retired" my favorite bike helmet yesterday afternoon (Tuesday, and Earth Day) while riding home from work. My commute route, through an area of Burns Park that had been flooded for a couple of weeks due to high river levels, was A-okay going in to work, but a sharp little afternoon thundershower got all the deposited silt stirred up again. The main lesson I learned is that you shouldn't try to bunny-hop a blown-down limb when there's about an inch of slick goopy mud on the trail, even if you're riding your otherwise magical green 29er. I tucked and rolled, but still FELT that smack on the left side of my head. Fortunately my helmet -- a nearly three-year old Giro Atmos -- took the lickin', and I kept on tickin'... at least after getting up and taking inventory to be sure all the parts were still working. I was a muddy mess, and the left elbow was a little gimpy for the next 24 hours, but that helmet did its job honorably.

That makes at least three helmets that I’ve gone through in a little more than 6 years since I got back into cycling (and concurrently, started wearing a bike helmet). One ended its career when I was still learning some my limits and took a corner a little too fast in wet road conditions, and went down on the pavement. Another was retired late last summer when I got squeezed out of the lane by a speeding UPS truck. In each case, it was one of those situations where you see yourself as “just riding along” when suddenly circumstances get a little bit out of control.

Arkansas is one of the 31 states that doesn't have any sort of law requiring bike helmets for riders of any age, and none of our cities has a helmet ordinance, either. (We do require motorcycle helmets for riders younger than 18 years.) Jim Lendall, a former state representative and registered nurse, tried mightily each legislative session to get some sort of law in place, but was voted down each time.

I read a lot of accident reports and news stories involving cycling crashes (see and one of the things that reporters and cops always jump on is whether or not the cyclist involved was wearing a bike helmet. Doesn’t matter whether the cyclist in question was struck down and run over by a loaded dump truck blowing thru the school zone at ~50 mph (yes, it happened the week before last), he should have been wearing a helmet.

Gentle friends, a bike helmet isn’t going to help much in case you get hit by a dump truck, or another motor vehicle for that matter. The helmets are only designed to help protect your noggin in a simple fall… for what it’s worth, the CPSC tests these helmets in impacts up to 14 mph. Car-bike collisions are for the most part beyond the simple capacity of a helmet, but even in these cases, every little bit of protection helps.

In a previous life, I was an artillery forward observer serving an armor (tank) battalion at Fort Polk, LA. Having first worked with an infantry battalion, I was impressed with the massive amount of armor plate and firepower the tankers brought to the game… much different than our steel pot helmets and BDU shirts. I soon learned though, that all that armor attracts attention, and nearly everyone on the battlefield is hankering to take a shot at a tank. The wise tanker uses the earth as his real armor, seeking to keep the bulk of his fighting machine protected behind small crests and fold in the earth, and the anti-tank round has to go thru a lot of dirt before it really challenges your armor.

Your bike helmet, along with your glasses and gloves, are your last line of protection for when the situation slips beyond your control. A cyclist’s real armor is his wits – using your smarts and situational awareness to keep himself (or herself) out of troublesome spots in the first place. One of the slides I use in the Road I course discusses these “Layers of Safety” like this:

1. Control Your Bike: Don’t fall or collide with others.
2. Follow the Rules: Don’t cause traffic crashes.
3. Lane Positioning: Discourage the mistakes of others.
4. Avoidance: Avoid the mistakes of others.
5. Passive Safety: Wear a helmet and gloves to help you survive a crash.

I see lots of folks out on the local streets and trails who don’t wear bike helmets. I even see some of the local CARVE guys (our most prominent local racing team) out noodling around on the trail in full kit, sans helmet, trying to look “cool” like the pros, I guess.

For what it’s worth, the pro riders now have to wear their helmets from start to finish during a race, to include the final climbs in the mountain stages. It’s not only for their safety, but to set an example for other cyclists who see them playing in the top levels of our sport. Likewise, younger, newer riders look to us old guys for an example, and kids – the real future of our sport – look to us in the same manner.

Your brain can’t heal itself when it gets hurt. The damage from a concussion is cumulative, and affects you the rest of your life. Your helmet may not wholly protect you in a catastrophic crash with a dump truck or UPS van, but it can come through to save who you are in the smaller, routine thumps and bumps we’re most likely to encounter out on the roads and trails. I like y’all just the way you are – don’t let a traumatic brain injury rob you of your life, or the personality that makes you the unique creature that’s really you.

Me, with my usual luck and a number of crashed helmets, I’m a believer. Helmets really do save lives… yours and the life quality of those who love you.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Group Riding classes

By the way, in addition to the monthly Road I/Smart Cycling class on April 11-12, we’ll be offering the League of American Bicyclists’ Group Riding class on Saturday afternoon, April 12, 2008 at River Trail Rentals in North Little Rock’s Riverfront Park.

Group Riding focuses on the technical and bike handling skills needed to ride safely and securely in close proximity to other riders, from small groups to mass-start ride events like the Big Dam Bridge 100. It’s is not so much about teaching you to ride long distances, but rather to teach the key skills for riding in a pack of cyclists or other mass event. In addition to basic ride etiquette and safety, participants will learn how to feel safe when there are riders all around them, because they can become confident they know how to react and protect their bikes from making contact when someone gets too close; to dodge obstacles with a minimum of side-to-side movement while at the same time protecting their bikes from contacting riders who are too close for comfort, hazard avoidance maneuvers to avoid being caught up in a crash, and key skills such as drafting and riding in and using a paceline.

The Group Riding seminar will consist of approximately an hour to an hour and a half in class, and about two hours on the bike, putting the theory into practice. We’ll spend some time in a parking lot learning the art of riding in a pack and avoiding hazards, then will have a short, fairly easy road ride to put what we’ve learned to use on the road. You don’t have to have completed the Road I class in order to attend or benefit from the Group Riding seminar, but Group Riding will make a lot more sense and you’ll get more out of it if you have Road I behind you.

Approximately 2/3rds of the course will be taught “on the bike,” in the parking lot and on low-traffic streets and the River Trail. You will need to bring a bicycle in good working order, a CPSC-approved bicycle helmet, and we recommend bringing a full water bottle. Don’t have a bike yet? No problem. Our host, River Trail Rentals, can provide a bike and helmet at for a nominal fee for you to practice with.

How to Understand Club Cyclists


Noting that some of my fellow local bike bloggers have posted trying to explain the particular vocabulary of cycling, I thought it might be useful to put a few of these words together and try to provide some insight into what your fellow riders really mean in those casual converstions…

One of the first things we’ll look at is how cyclists communicate with each other when they get together with other cyclists at group rides, or casual gatherings somewhere along a stretch of road or singletrack. If you’re new to the tribe, there are subtle underscores to seems otherwise to be an idle conversation. Let’s listen in, and insert the appropriate subtitles

“Been riding much?”
(How fit are you? )

“Not much. You?”
(My anaerobic threshold is 250 and my resting pulse is 14)

“Nah, I've been really busy.”
(My body fat is 2%)

“Well, let's take it easy today.”
(Ready, set, go! )

“This is a no-drop ride.”
(I'll need an article of your clothing for the search-and-rescue dogs. )

“It's not that far.”
(Yes, it is. Bring your passport. )

“This trail is a blast.”
(I hope you have good medical insurance)

“I think I might have a flat tire.”
(Slow down, will ya?)

“I definitely have a flat tire.”
(Help me change it)

“I don't have a low enough gear.”
(I've gained 5 pounds)

“I've decided to buy a lighter bike.”
(I've gained 10 pounds)

“I'm carbo loading.”
(Pass the ice cream)

“I'm tapering.”
(I haven't ridden in 2 months)

“I'm not into competition. I'm just riding to stay in shape.”
(I will attack until you collapse in the gutter, babbling and whimpering. I will win the line sprint if I have to force you into oncoming traffic. I will crest this hill first if I have to grab your seat post, and spray Gatorade in your eyes. )

“He's such a wheelsucker.”
(I can't drop him)

“She's always half-wheeling me.”
(I can't keep up with her)

“She's a hammer.”
(She's faster than me)

“He's a geek.”
(I'm faster than him)

“The town-line sprint is 100 yards beyond the next bend.”
(The town-line sprint is 200 yards beyond the next bend)

”If you're a good bike handler, you don't need to wear a helmet.”
(I'm so stupid a brain injury wouldn't affect me)

“Nobody needs a dual-suspension mountain bike.”
(I can't afford a dual-suspension mountain bike)

“Dual suspension is the only way to go.”
(I just dropped 3 months' salary on a dual-suspension mountain bike)

“I bonked.”
(All I took along for a 4-hour ride was a half-empty bottle of month-old Gatorade and a moldy Clif Bar)

“If you don't crash, you're not going fast enough, dude!”
(I crash a lot)

“I don't own a car.”
(I'm a better person than you)

“Why doesn't somebody do something about all these potholes?”
(Why doesn't somebody else do something about all these potholes? )

“I do all my own bike maintenance”
(The wheels still roll, and when I squeeze the front brake lever, the bike shifts gears)

“Thanks for waiting.”
(Wipe that smug grin off your ugly face)

“Hey, did you guys hear about those new 1.8 gram carbon-fiber quick-release skewers with titanium springs?”
(I am a very lonely person)

“This section of trail looks doable.”
(You first, sucker! )

“I want to ride my bike to work, but...”
(I don't want to ride my bike to work)

“Hold on, there's something wrong with my bike….”
(Let's stop so I can rest)

“My tires suck!”
(This climb is killing me! )

“Can you clear that drop-off?”
(I can, but I bet you can't)

“It's getting dark.”
(I wanna go home)

“This bike is a piece of sh_t!”
(I can't ride worth sh_t)

“I think I broke my arm.”
(There's a little bruise on my arm and I don't want to ride anymore)

“I'd jump that but I don't want to tweak my new rims.”
(I'm too chicken to try)

“This hill is easy.”
(This hill’s pretty tough but I'm gonna try and lose you on it)

“That trail is boring.”
(I know I can't make it)

“Last one down is buying.”
(I'll make you feel like a loser and get a free beer too! )

“My bike was acting funny.”
(Otherwise I would have whooped your butt! )

“He's pretty good.”
(I know I'm better than him)

“He sucks!”
(He's better than me)

“That thing's a piece of sh_t.”
(I wish I had one... )

“I'm on my beater bike.”
( I had this baby custom-made in Tuscany using titanium blessed by the Pope. I took it to a wind tunnel and it disappeared. It weighs less than a fart and costs more than a divorce. )

“It's not that hilly.”
(This climb lasts longer than a presidential campaign. Be careful on the steep sections or you'll fall over -- backward. You have a 39x23 low gear? Here's the name of my knee surgeon. )

"You're doing great, honey"
(Yo, lard butt, I'd like to get home before midnight. This is what you get for spending the winter decorating and eating chocolate. )

Cyclists are not really sandbaggers when it comes to an opportunity to grind someone else’s ego under their tires, but we certainly can be masters of understatement.

Now you know how to break the code…

Friday, March 14, 2008

Commuting -- Impacts on air quality and your wallet

EPA lowered the air quality standard for ozone by 10 points, from an 8-hour rolling average of 85 parts per billion (ppb) to 75 ppb this week.

As part of ADEQ's ongoing internal environmental management system, we evaluate the agency's potential impact/footprint on the local environment. After some 30 years at our old location near Geyer Springs Road in SW Little Rock, we moved in August 2007 to our new campus in North Little Rock's Northshore industrial park, near the Maumelle exit on I-430. In doing so, we consolidated the staff from six different locations to a single campus. As many employees had settled in communities convenient to the old work site, commute distances changed for many... either longer or shorter. To evaluate the potential impact of this, a table was made showing the address, city, and ZIP code for each current employee, each address was plotted using Google Maps, and the distance of the optimum route from that location to 5301 Northshore Drive, NLR, (as calculated by Google Maps) was calculated and recorded. Subtracting out duplicate addresses, the remainder was summed to determine a total, one-way commute distance.

As of the time of the study (February, 2008) there are 304 employees at the North Little Rock campus. Assuming that employees who share the same address travel together (12 cases), the one-way daily commuting mileage for ADEQ employees is 5,280 miles one way, for a total of 10,560 miles commuted per business day. In rough figures, it's 17.4 miles per employee per day (using the arithmetic mean, (e.g. dividing 10,560 by the number of drivers). The median is 16 miles; the mode is 9 miles.

Assuming an average efficiency of 18 miles per gallon of gas (we have lots of pickup trucks out in the parking lot, including mine), this is roughly equates to the consumption of 587 gallons of gas per day, or $1,853 at the price down at the corner gas station on Maumelle Boulevard ($3.159 as of 7:10 a.m this morning).

In terms of air emissions, this fuel consumption equates to, on a per day basis:
• 11,740 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2)/greenhouse gases emitted; plus
• 347 pounds of carbon monoxide (CO)
• 46.1 pounds of nitrogen oxides (NOX)
• 41.7 pounds of stray, incompletely combusted hydrocarbons.

ADEQ employees live in 38 different communities as shown below:


In addition to these, at least one employee lives in the communities of Alexander, Bee Branch, Bigelow, Cammack Village, Carlisle, Carthage, Center Ridge, Dardanelle, Edgemont, El Dorado, Hot Springs Village, Jacksonville, Morrilton, Roland, Shannon Hills, Tucker, and Vilonia.

Excel's histogram function was used to group commuters by distance traveled (also one-way):


At a quick glance, the shortest commute is 1.7 miles (one way) by someone who lives just off Crystal Hill Road; the longest commute (not counting our stray guy from El Dorado (127 miles each way)) is 72.7 miles from just north of Greer's Ferry Lake (also one-way). Distances were estimated using the route option on Google Maps; for the dozen or so sites that wouldn't plot, I used the average distance for others in that area.

This just relates to getting to and from work... it doesn't count the impact of those who leave the campus for the noon meal, and does not take into account any intermediate stops along the way, e.g. for shopping or whatever purpose.

(Emissions were calculated using factors from the Colorado PH&E Department (e.g., one gallon of gasoline burned emits 20.35 pounds of CO2; per-mile vehicle emissions are 14.9 grams/mile for CO, 1.98 g/mi for NOx, and 1.79 g/mi for hydrocarbons. Grams were then converted to pounds for the more familiar unit of measure.)

ADEQ's business operations, especially the vehicle fleet, have been tracked over the past three years as one of our environmental indicators. Historically, the performance measures have been 1) amount of gasoline consumed; and 2) transitioning to a more fuel-efficient fleet.

Currently ADEQ has 118 motor vehicles (and 3 bass boats, used for water sample collection and similar needs), 31 of which are based at the NLR offices. Fuel usage is trending down slightly (from 78,182 gallons in 2005 to 75,175 in 2007) and the mileage efficiency has remained about the same... an average of 18.9 in 2005 to the current value, 19.3 mpg. Mileage has not been tracked as an indicator, but dividing 75K gallons by 19.3 mpg for 2007, we roughly got 4,051 miles on the fleet vehicles during the year... less than a single day's commuting impact.

For the record, here’s a figure from the Sept.-Oct. 2007 issue of the League’s magazine, American Bicyclist, that shows how Americans get to work, at least as they claimed in the census survey in March 2000.


Arkansas’s figures are a good bit higher – in the Little Rock metro area, more than 81% drive alone, and less than 1% (well. 0.9%) take public transportation. Housing is pretty plentiful and cheap here. The long running, 50+ year old controversy in the school system has taken its toll as well, as many move to the outlying areas simply to keep their children out of the Little Rock school system.

There’s no quick and easy solution at this point. Naturally, I would suggest cycling to work as a way to help out. My daily commute to the office is 24.7 miles, one way, up a bit from the 21 miles I did to the old office site off Geyer Springs. The distance by bicycle, using the River Trail system, is 23.4 miles, driveway to driveway, but passes through a long stretch of Highway 165 between I-440 and Rose City that is one of the least bike-friendly routes around. Narrow or no shoulders, definitely no bike accommodations, and populated with a host of aggressive drivers who don’t look out much for each other, much less cyclists.

Our public transportation system isn’t much help, either. CATA has made great progress in the past year in the core area of the city, adding bike racks to all the buses. And to their credit, nearly every bus I’ve seen go by in the past couple of months has a bike in the rack. But CAT only has 58 buses in their fleet, and they’re saturated running the routes they currently offer. They run the “Maumelle Express” twice in the morning and three times during the afternoon rush hours.

Light rail has been mentioned as a possible solution to parallel the pending upgrade of I-630. But any progress along those lines is likely years in the future.

And, to sweeten the deal, EPA announced yesterday that they will be lowering the ozone standards from the current level of 85 ppb to 75 ppb. This means that Pulaski County and the LR metro area will likely be declared to be in “non-attainment” in the very near future. Look for folks to be getting a lot more serious about Ozone Action Days this summer…

Friday, March 7, 2008

Cycling Goodies & Cookie lessons

One of the traditions in the Division over the past year has been an “employee appreciation” meeting, where the supervisors prepare and bring in some sort of treat for a Division-wide snack party. This tries to build on the old quarterly potlucks and especially the monthly get-togethers that we had in the old Inactive Sites Branch… It’s having mixed success, but it certainly has nothing to complain about on the quality of the various goodies brought to the conference table.

The last one was back around the first of September, when I was freshly back from the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred, and pretty fired up about cycling in general. Cyclists and bananas go well together, and the theme was “cheesecakes”… so I came up with a recipe for banana cheesecake, with a gingersnap crust, since I was too lazy to separate and split that many Oreo cookies for a chocolate crust… no matter how eager Sam was to help me lick the filling off the cookie pieces.

This quarter’s theme was “cookies.” I’m not a cookie person at all, but I do like oatmeal cookies, especially the chewy kind. And that being said, I'm not too bad in the kitchen (with the many years of bachelorhood, I haven't missed too many meals), but I'm not much on baking, or actually making cookies. But the quarterly Division snack parties are a throwdown between the Chief and us branch managers, so it was time to learn... With the help of our branch’s resident sous chef, I combined two or three different recipes to blend fruit (also good for cyclists) into an oatmeal cookie.

The results, all made from scratch, were pretty darned good. I have always claimed I don’t like cookies, but I really like these things. The result is very much like a Clif Bar, and a whole lot more tasty:

Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies


(wet) 1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

(dry) 4 cups quick-cook oatmeal
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

6 to 8 ripe bananas
1 bag chocolate chips (or chocolate chunks)

Melt the butter, and whisk in the sugar, honey, eggs, vanilla extract and water until you have a smooth, homogeneous syrup.

While the butter is melting, mash/puree the bananas.

Add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl, add the wet ingredients and stir until blended. Add the bananas and chocolate chips, and stir some more, until well blended.

Allow the batter to chill in the refrigerator for about an hour or so.

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.

Version 2 of the recipe (the banana oatmeal bars are all consumed save for three put away for tomorrow’s ride) is resting in the refrigerator to set and let the flavors soak in a bit… I substituted a bag of blackberries for the bananas (Kroger was out of raspberries, my initial idea & intent). Run thru a blender – since the pureed fruit helps out with putting some liquid in the batter, making it a soft, chewy cookie/bar -- the batter is nearly blood red and undoubtedly would be good for Christmas recipes, or maybe pairing with a blueberry batter for the patriotic summer holidays coming up…

The blackberry version is history, too... I like the banana ones a little better, but the blackberry ones got rave comments too. Think I'll watch the fruit section, and try a raspberry version next...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Critical Manners, BACA, and the National Bike Summit

Tonight marks the 5th Critical Manners ride in downtown Little Rock. Cold weather in January and February have kept the numbers down a bit, to the point where it's been mostly me and Willa out there aggravating the local motorists with our presence on the streets. Willa and a sizable portion of the BACA Board are in Washington, DC this week at the National Bike Summit, so it will probably be an even smaller crowd this evening as well, but we'll be out there at least making our presence known and getting motorists accustomed to seeing cyclists behaving nicely.

Jonathan Maus, the director of Bike Portland, is also attending the Summit and keeping us stay-at-homes updated via the group's web site. It's a good means to get the gist of what's going on up there, at least until the local folks come back to share their experience. The Bike Summit is being held at the Ronald Reagan buliding, which houses a number of the functional offices of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Note: EPA's administrative and media specific program staff groups are called "Offices..." not just the real estate where these folks work.)

I was particularly interested to see Maus' description and photograph's of EPA's bike storage area, since a significant number of the EPA staff are bike commuters.

ADEQ is EPA's local counterpart here in Arkansas, and recently won BACA's "Bike Friendly" award for January '08 for the fitness facilities and bike-friendly conveniences built into the agency's new headquarters building in North Little Rock's Northshore Industrial Park.

Our facilities aren't as large or as fancy as EPA's, but then the cycling culture and convenience in Little Rock/North Little Rock isn't as well ingrained as it is in DC yet. Here's part of our bike parking area as it appeared last fall:


... and a little closer look at one of the racks themselves:


Daylight Savings Time, and hopefully warmer weather should be around the corner, and with it strong encouragement to use our Bike-To-Work options more, not only to save gas money ($3.16 per gallon this morning at the two closest stations on Crystal Hill Road), but to reduce our significant footprint on central Arkansas's air quality as well.

Coming soon, an analysis of the impact of commuting by one state agency...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

March Road I "Street Cycling" Course

Location: River Trail Rentals, intersection of Riverfront Drive and Olive Street (one block south of Alltel Arena, just inside the flood wall), North Little Rock, AR 72116. Course fee: $50. (Scholarships can be available if money’s a problem… call the instructor.) Meet on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. Contact Tom at or by phone at (501) 912-1047 for a class schedule or for more information on the course. The course material and class outline is available at

“Road I” is the adult bicycling skills course offered by the League of American Bicyclists, and taught by League-certified cycling instructors. It covers basic bicycle selection and fitting, fixing flat tires, inspecting a bicycle for safety, understanding state and local traffic laws, communicating with motorists, riding safely through traffic on various types of streets and intersections, selecting gear for foul weather and night riding, and avoiding crashes using defensive riding and emergency maneuvers. Even experienced bicyclists will learn many useful skills from this course.

If you are new to bicycling, or would like to feel more safe and comfortable riding on the local streets and roads, you will find this course especially helpful. Road I is a 10-hour course divided into two sessions, a block of classroom instruction and discussion, and a block of practice and practical exercise on the bike. Most of the class is hands-on, including bicycling on an open parking lot and on neighborhood streets. Anyone who registers should plan to attend both sessions. Participation is by pre-registration only.

River Trails Rentals is our host for this class, which will not only be a great and convenient location, but also a good chance to show off their facilities and what they can do for the local cycling community.

Friday Night, March 7 -- Street Cycling Skills: About 4 hours in the classroom using discussion, demonstrations, computer presentations, and videos. Street Skills covers the basics for skilled and enjoyable cycling, including riding in the Little Rock metropolitan area, necessary equipment, hazard and crash avoidance, and your legal rights and responsibilities. A bicycle is not required for this part of the course, but you may want to bring your helmet, since we will be covering helmet fitting in this session.

Saturday Morning, March 8 -- Street Cycling Skills Practice: About 5 hours. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Part 1- Street Cycling Skills. Most of this class will be on the bike. Street Cycling Skills Practice provides an opportunity to apply what was learned in the Street Cycling Skills course. We will be learning and practicing emergency maneuvers in an open parking lot, and will ride in a variety of Little Rock traffic conditions to practice and demonstrate your knowledge and performance of vehicular cycling skills. Street Cycling Skills Practice includes a written multiple choice test and a riding skills evaluation on the streets of Little Rock. For this course, you will need to show up with a helmet that fits and a bike that fits and is in good working order.

A traditional road or mountain bike with multiple speeds is an ideal bike to use for this class. However, any type of bike is okay -- if you have to ride a recumbent for whatever reason, bring your recumbent. Some of the hazard avoidance drills that we will be doing are best learned on a traditional road or mountain bike with front and rear brakes. A freewheel bike is easier to learn on and is less likely to cause you to crash. And remember, this class will be focusing a lot on how not to crash, or how to get out of a crash situation – not to give you practical experience in crashing!

Don’t have a bike yet? No problem. Our host, River Trail Rentals, can provide a bike and helmet at for a nominal fee for you to practice with.

Road I is a course that you can complete equally as comfortably in your cycling team kit or your regular street clothes. Bike gloves and bike clothing might make you a little more comfortable on the bike, but are by no means required for the class. We aren't going to ride a long distance at a strenuous pace. We are just going to do some riding practice, in open parking lots and on residential and downtown streets at an easy pace. Anything you can ride in is fine.

If there is rain in the forecast, come prepared. Relax, it is just part of the ride. We’ll stop for lunch in the River Market area toward the end of Saturday’s ride, and then finish up with the evaluations (yes, you get to grade Tom, too!) and head back to the start point for graduation.

An Alley Cat dies in Chicago

This past Sunday’s ABC group ride was a lot of fun. I was running a little late to the start after a bit of delay in shift change for Dad Watch, and so as I rolled up to the I-430 trailhead, everybody else was starting to roll out. I spun around the circle and poured on a little bit of gas, and caught up to the bunch just before they crossed Jimerson Creek.

There was a bit of a breeze blowing down the river valley, and we were rolling happily along, merging onto Rebsamen Park Road and chatting briefly about BACA projects and volunteers for the upcoming Trails Symposium in November, when I heard a little bit of clatter to the rear, and the Fast Girls Slow Guys came blowing by in a fast double paceline. Roman yelled, “hey, Tom, let’s jump on – catch the draft!”

After a couple seconds thought, I stood on the pedals and accelerated up to catch the tail end of the line, with Roman on my wheel. Rolling along about 22-23 mph, I was pretty pleased how we could hang, without a whole lot of effort… and we’d just accept the tow up to the front group of ABC. We caught them just before the turn onto Riverfront Drive, and kept rolling. FGSG apparently had some new riders who were pushing hard to keep up with the pace, and were a little squirrelly, so I backed off from the wheel I was following to give some reaction space. A little ways down Riverfront, the pack raised the pace a little bit, and then spread all over the road… taking up not only the bike lane but both traffic lanes. Little Rock is the one city in Arkansas that has not only a mandatory bike lane (MBL) and as-far-right-as practical laws as well as an ordinance prescribing riding no more than two abreast. We were way beyond legal at that point, so I dropped off the back of the pack and sat up, waiting for the ABC group to catch up. But it was fun for awhile!

I put the bike in the big ring and kept it there all through the ride, and then went back and did another loop for a total of a little more than 55 miles for the day at a little over 15 mph average, and still felt good at the end of the ride. Heading home to feed the dog, log the ride on, and rest up a bit, the BikeJournal news forum reported that a cyclist had been struck and killed in Chicago that very morning.

Apparently, this rider was part of a pack of 40+ riders taking part in a stage of the “Tour da Chicago,” an “alleycat” (e.g., illegal and unsanctioned) road race through the city streets of downtown Chicago. The pack was scorching down Lincoln Avenue, blowing every stop sign and traffic sign on the route, and then at a three-street, six-way intersection they blew another red light as an SUV entered the intersection on the green light. The driver managed to miss the first four riders in the pack, but struck the 5th guy squarely. He died there – painfully – and with lots of witnesses, in the middle of that intersection

The Chicago Sun Times and the Tribune covered the story on Monday morning.

More details were available on a Chicago club bulletin board, as well as the Bicycling Magazine web forums.

More background on the fellow who was killed:

And And as folks are noticing, the Tour da Chicago has a long legacy of lawless racing.

FGSG has tamed down a lot from their early days of racing on the River Trail, but still have a strong reputation of recklessness. I remember being run off the trail and into the bushes a time or three back in those days, and finally learned to avoid the area on their ride days, or simply time my departure for after they had already gone up the road. I felt a very little guilty for hopping onto the train for awhile Sunday, and then sobered up a bit with the Chicago news.

Fast riding is fun, and bike racing has got to be one of the biggest thrills you can have on two wheels. But this should be saved for the open rural roads, and for events where controls have been set up to minimize the risks. Bikes are covered under the same laws that prohibit racing on the highways. Not the least, these big packs of cyclists, recklessly spread across the entire traffic lane, hugging or crossing the center line to ride against oncoming traffic, and generally disregarding traffic laws are the worst example that we can show to other lawful or mostly lawful road users. That’s what gets tempers inflamed, road rage ignited, and anti-cyclist letters written to newspaper editors and public officials.

Traffic laws apply to you as a cyclist just like they do when you’re driving a car. As the Principle says, “cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.”

And if you make a habit of running stop signs and red lights, you are eventually going to get hit. Might be today, maybe not… maybe next week… how lucky do you feel today?

Matt Manger-Lynch’s luck ran out at approximately 10:15 Sunday morning. A chef and caterer by trade, he leaves behind a wife, two young children, and a promising business.

Ya’ll do be careful out there…

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Bicycle Thief

The Bike Ed lesson at last week’s BACA meeting got pre-empted when things ran overtime, so here’s the lecture notes, less the PowerPoint glitz and glamour…

One of the great classic foreign films concerns a poor Italian worker and his family in post WW2 Rome, whose bicycle – which he depends upon to get back and forth to work – is stolen by a gang of thieves. It’s a wonderful little character study.

And yes, fellow Pscyclists, there are bears and bike thieves right here in River City.

(This illustration also serves to demonstrate one of the reasons the League Bike Ed curriculum insists you do the ABC Quick-Check each and every time you get on your bike. You never know who may have been messing with it.)

It only takes a moment's inattention or carelessness for your beloved ride to disappear. And it can be a long walk home.First, get a good locking system. U-Locks are best, cable locks are okay, provided that the cable is armored, and at least 3/8" (10 mm) in diameter. Also an excellent choice is what they call the "New York chain." Best of all is to use a U-lock in combination with a chain or cable lock. "Cross-locking" like this requires that the thief use at least two different kinds of tools to get past your security and spend a lot more time doing it. If the thief sees your bike is cross-locked, hopefully he'll move on in search of easier pickings.

Many lock manufacturers offer a guarantee where they'll pay back at least part of the value of the bike if you did use (and register) their product, and can show that the thief was able to break thru it. The better the lock, the better the guarantee.

Do NOT fool around with the little bitty cables or plastic-covered chains you see fot $5 or $6 at Wal-Mart or the big box stores unless you bought your bike there, too. These won't stand up for a second to a thief with a "master key" (read: a big-arsed pair of bolt cutters).

Now, realize that no lock is foolproof. Given time, a dedicated thief can get through. Cycling Plus magazine ran tests against a series of bike locks a couple of years ago. Even the most reliable, the Kryptonite “Fahgeddaboudit” New York U-lock and chain showed that the U-Lock held up 10 minutes against a powered grinder/cutter, the New York Chain held out for 8 minutes before they were able to cut through it. And absent the use of power tools, attempts to pry the even the cheap U-locks open usually ruined or bent the bike’s frame before the lock gave way.

Your first choice should be a quality U-Lock. As I mentioned, the Kryptonite “Fahgeddaboudit” and the New York 3000 are about the top of the line as far as resistance, even to power tools. These run somewhere between $60 to $80 apiece. If you don’t live in New York, or on the ghetto side of town, a really good deal is the OnGuard “Bulldog” U-Lock. This lock stands up to the Kryptonite NYC 3000 in every respect except resistance to power tools. The one I have cost $29 at Arkansas Cycling & Fitness (Chainwheel has them too), and came in a package deal with a 3-foot armored cable so that you can cross-lock your bike.

If the Kryptonite lock is a little too rich, even the inexpensive U-locks (Wal-Mart sells them for $9.45) are still really good locks. And even a cheap lock is far, far better than No lock at all.

The limit to U-locks, though, is that you’re limited in what you can actually lock up to – a parking meter, a steel railing or fence post, etc. If you’re needing to anchor to a light pole or telephone pole, you’ll need something longer, like a chain or cable, to wrap around the key parts of your bike, plus the pole.

Probably the best deal is Kryptonite’s “New York Chain;” bike messengers and other cyclists in high-crime areas swear by it. It's heavy like any other three foot chain, but the square link design (quad chain) makes it harder for bolt cutters to get a good angle on the chain. Just like a krypto chain is essential for an NYC messenger so are bolt cutters to an NYC thief. Quad chains force a bolt cutter's blade to put pressure down on at least one corner of a chain link, so that a thief risks denting the blade of his cutters by trying to clip a quad chain. Another advantage of the chain is that you can lock up to more than just a thin pole. You can also lock up multiple bikes and even use the chain for other uses.

With protection comes a penalty – weight. The Kryptonite and OnGuard U-locks above weigh a little more than 4 pounds apiece; and the Kryptonite NY Chain came in at a whomping 9 pounds. The OnGuard lock I looped thru the cable and wore it slung across my shoulder, the NY Chain may work the same for skinny folks, for a Clydesdale like me, it might wrap around the waist, or it can go in a bike trunk. I tried it in a handlebar bag on an urban test ride, and the weight of the chain dragged the bag down to the point it started rubbing the front tire..

While I'm fond of my New York Chain, the derned thing weights as much as my road bike does, so it does little for being a weight weinie... Makes a good set of brass knuckles too, if you should be accosted by some of the local hoodlums and bridge trolls that sometimes frequent lonely and not-so-lonely spots along the River Trail.

If you can't stay within arm's reach of your bike, then you need to lock it up. Where you choose to lock up can make a big difference in your chances of getting ripped off. Park away from other bikes, but out in the open where people (and hopefully, you) can see or watch the bike, and people pass very close to it. Parking in an isolated corner, or in a host of other bikes at the rack gives the thief cover -- either time to work at breaking your lock, or letting him look like just another cyclist getting "his" bike.

Lock up to something fixed, solid, and immovable... Some cities and businesses provide thick metal racks embedded into or bolted to the sidewalk. These are generally safe to use, making sure that you check that no one's been fiddling with the bolts that hold the rack down. Don't lock up to something that's easy to pick up and move, like simply chaining two bikes together, a door handle, wooden fence post, or a small tree.

Chaining or cabling up to a parking meter or sign post can be chancy -- a thief can remove the sign and slide your bike & lock over the top... or they can even pull up the pole and slide it out... no matter how you have it locked. If you're going to take this option, poles with several signs on them are a better choice, or pick something like a light pole or telephone pole.

For the same reason, lock to parking meters only if you're using a U-Lock; never with a chain or cable, since the thief need only slide your bike over the top.If you do lock up with a chain or cable, don't make it easy -- wrap the cable as tightly as possible.

Lock up the whole bike -- your U-lock or cable should go not only around the pole or bike rack, but also through your bike frame and both wheels if possible. Never lock thru just the wheel without going thru the frame, too -- or vice versa. If you have quick-release wheels, thief can undo them and make off with your frame, or on the other hand, with your wheels, in less than a heartbeat. If cross-locking, put one lock thru your frame and rear wheel, then run the cable up thru the frame and front wheel.

If you're using a U-lock, you want to fill the lock with as much as possible so the thief doesn't have any room or leverage in there for a pry bar, which is what they'll often try to use to pop the lock. This is also the same principle you follow when you wrap your chain or cable tightly. Position the lock itself where a thief can't place it up against a hard surface and try to bust it by smacking it with a hammer.

Looking thru the local message forums reporting stolen bikes, a large majority of the mountain bikes here are stolen from garages and carports. Nationally, more than 20% of bike thefts happen from places of residence. If you keep your bike in your garage, in the basement, on the porch, or just out in the yard somewheres, LOCK IT UP!

Okay... all this is bitter advice, and after investing in one of those super-secure OnGuard Bulldog locks with the half-inch armored cable tossed into the deal, I got in a hurry and neglected to put the lock on one evening a couple of months ago when I was running late for a meeting . Popping back out of the restaurant, the bike ain't there no more.

First of all, call the cops in the community where your bike was stolen, and report the theft. Get a police report number, since you'll need this later for dealing with the insurance agents, and in the odd case that your bike is recovered, to help show that the found bike is 1) yours and 2) hot property. Include a description of your bike and the bike's serial number in this report. If you don't know your bike's serial number, you can probably get that from the LBS where you bought the bike. Me, being a numbers freak, I keep a registry of my bike serial numbers in my training logs, and as a backup, keep a photo of each bike and the serial number in my profile on

Look around on the ground to see if there's anything left of your bike lock, and keep these parts. You'll need 'em to show the police, your friendly insurance adjuster, and the lock manufacturer, provided there's a guarantee on your lock.

Here in mostly-urban, highly-minority Pulaski County, stolen bikes are not a real big priority with the local cops. They don't even process the reports for 3-5 days after it's filed. Feel lucky if you get a call back from the detectives; feel like you hit the lottery -- bigtime -- if they actually come up with your bike. (For the record, it was 5 weeks before the LRPD called to verify the bike’s serial number and to enter it into the database.) Report the theft to your insurance company, and to your lock manufacturer, if these are options.

Somebody asked about insurance... first of all, realize that insurance companies exist for the main purpose of collecting as many policy premiums possible while at the same time, paying as few claims as possible. If you have homeowner's or renter's insurance, ask your agent how to insure your bikes and make sure they're covered. Some insurers insure personal property (which includes bikes) independently of renter's or homeowner's policies. In any case, if you go for one of these, make sure that the policy provides coverage whether the bike is stolen inside or outside your home.

Ready for another surprise? Insurance policies typically pay for the current market (read, “used”) value of your bike – not the full replacement price. And remember, there’s usually a deductible which has to be factored in.

Absent insurance, it's mostly up to you to recover or replace your bike. Keep an eye out at flea markets, junk shops, pawn shops, "for sale" ads in the newspapers for a month or so after the theft, as well as police auctions of recovered property. Make up flyers with a picture of your bike, offering a reward for its return, and slap them on all the lamp posts, sign posts, and bulletin boards in the area.If you do find your bike, lock it where it's at with your own lock. This way, it won't go anywhere until you can resolve things with the current possessor.

Finding the bike usually means zip unless you can prove that it's yours, either by the serial number (which the thief may have filed or ground off) or some other method. Tell the possessor that the bike belongs to you, that it's stolen, and show them your serial number or other identification, matching it to the bike. If the possessor or seller refuses to give you the bike back, then leave -- and return with the police.Getting your bike back this way gets into a lot of legal issues, so if you get to this point, I'll refer you to Bob Mionske's book, Bicycling and the Law, which has excellent coverage of the lost/stolen bike issue.

Good luck, get a good lock, and be fanatical about using it...

A new reason to ride...

I've always been a fan of Fred Matheny's and Ed Pavelka's newsletter, as well as the cycling resources on their web site itself. Getting the newsletter is always a bit of a treat every Thursday morning.

This morning's edition brought some welcomed advice... unlike the more frequent advice of pedaling intervals until your eyeballs bleed:

"Maybe Bikes & Booze Do Mix

If you enjoy a post-ride beer you may be increasing the heart-healthy benefits of cycling.

A study in Denmark has found that drinking alcohol in moderation seems to have benefits similar to exercise. This research, reported in Time's Feb. 4 issue, is significant in that it was conducted on 12,000 people over a 20-year period.It was found that exercise and drinking alcohol each had an independent beneficial effect on the heart. Mainly, an increase in good cholesterol (HDL) and the removal of fatty deposits created by bad cholesterol (LDL) in blood vessel walls.The study also determined that drinking and exercise combine to have a greater health benefit than either alone.

The Danish researchers defined four categories and found that ...
-- people who never drink and don't exercise had the highest risk of heart
-- people who never drink but do exercise had a 30% lower risk.
-- people who drink moderately but never exercise had a 30% lower risk.
-- people who drink moderately and exercise had a 50% lower risk.

Now, before you swap your Endurox for a 6-pack of Pabst, here are the caveats:

A research team spokesman, Dr. Morten Gronbaek of Denmark's National Institute of Public Health, says the benefits of alcohol don't kick in until you're at the age -- 45 to 50 -- where heart disease becomes an appreciable risk. "There's absolutely no proof of a preventative and protective effect before age 45," Gronbaek told Time. Further, alcohol consumption is related to an increase in breast cancer among women, and anyone who has a family history of alcoholism should steer clear no matter what their age.

The study imposed a limit of one drink a day for women and two for men. It did not distinguish among beer, wine and liquor. It calls for common sense in determining a "moderate" amount: a 12-oz. beer and a double martini are far different even though they fit in the same size glass.

I'm right in the middle of the right category... age 51, pedaling whenever possible, though I'm not real fast at it, and enjoy the occasional micro-brewed beer. Now, the task is to get the Sunday afternoon group ride to take a break at Vino's instead of Community Bakery... The veggie pizza has gotta be better for me than the pastry, anyway.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Making the Lane

O.U.R.S. in action, from from the Toronto Star

It wasn't long ago that the "Other Urban Repair Squad," a band of enterprising Canadians, went into business painting their own bike lanes in Toronto (See ; and more at ...

Now a Hoosier of the same stripe (pun intended) is taking up the same tactics for his fellow pedestrians. Read it here:

And with typical situations in the average city like this , it's no small wonder that people become frustrated and start blazing their own trails...
We've been thinking about adding some fog lines to the edge of the NLR side of the River Trail in a few needy places. Hmmmm...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Zen and the Craft of Bike Ed

Nope, this wasn't quite the way they taught it at the LCI seminar, but I likes the style:

"A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monastery and had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, "Why are you riding your bicycles?"

The first student replied, "The bicycle is carrying the sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!"

The teacher praised the first student, "You are a smart boy! When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over like I do."

The second student replied, "I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path!"

The teacher commended the second student, "Your eyes are open, and you see the world."

The third student replied, "When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant nam myoho renge kyo."

The teacher gave praise to the third student, "Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel."

The fourth student replied, "Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all sentient beings."

The teacher was pleased, and said to the fourth student, "You are riding on the golden path of non-harming."

The fifth student replied, "I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle."

The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said, "I am your student!" "

Road I Courses -- First Quarter 2008

Well, I finally put a Road I class on the calendar (March 7-8, 2008), and we’ll see how demand goes. After the initial surge last September, Willa reports that attendance has been steady, but small. Maybe it’s the cold weather… and with the spring riding season coming up, it’s good way to get pumped up.

River Trails Rentals is our host for this class, which will not only be a great and convenient location, but also a good chance to show off their facilities and what they can do for the local cycling community.

Road I (I labeled it as “Smart Cycling,” which is probably a little more descriptive of what the class is about) is the League of American Bicyclists’ primary course in traffic and bicycle safety. What we try to do is cram several years’ worth of riding experience into some nine hours of theory and practice, and make you a much more aware and safe rider.

We’re in a culture of instant gratification, and there has been a good bit of interest in doing the classroom portion on-line, and then simply showing up for the road ride and test. Willa is steadily working on getting this set up. I’m a little more old-school, I guess, but what I’ve found to be the most beneficial parts of the Bike Ed classes that I’ve attended was the seminar-style, group discussion and participation where everyone seemed to feed off of and become enthused by the contributions of all the group members. Anyway, that’s the sort of class structure I’ve tried to set up. Friday night looks like one of those “death-by-PowerPoint” ordeals, but hopefully it’s set up to keep attention, participation, and enthusiasm high. And you’ll get a set of the slides to take home and jog your memory after the class is long over.

As for on-line access, I’ve loaded most of the class material and the outline to the web site here (see the Class Resources box to the right of this frame), so you can read ahead, and see if this sort of thing is for you or not.

Friday Night, March 7 -- Street Cycling Skills: About 4 hours in the classroom using discussion, demonstrations, computer presentations, and videos. Street Skills covers the basics for skilled and enjoyable cycling, including riding in the Little Rock metropolitan area, necessary equipment, hazard and crash avoidance, and your legal rights and responsibilities. A bicycle is not required for this part of the course, but you may want to bring your helmet, since we will be covering helmet fitting in this session.

Saturday Morning, March 8 -- Street Cycling Skills Practice: About 5 hours. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Part 1- Street Cycling Skills. Most of this class will be on the bike. Street Cycling Skills Practice provides an opportunity to apply what was learned in the Street Cycling Skills course. We will be learning and practicing emergency maneuvers. We will ride in a variety of Little Rock traffic conditions to practice and demonstrate your knowledge and performance of vehicular cycling skills. Street Cycling Skills Practice includes a written multiple choice test and a riding skills evaluation on the streets of Little Rock. For this course, you will need to show up with a helmet that fits and a bike that fits and is in good working order.

A traditional road or mountain bike with multiple speeds is an ideal bike to use for this class. However, any type of bike is okay -- if you have to ride a recumbent for whatever reason, bring your recumbent. Some of the hazard avoidance drills that we will be doing are best learned on a traditional road or mountain bike with front and rear brakes. Fixed gear bikes are okay, if that is your only bike, but it needs to have a mechanical brake – not just trying to stop the pedals or drag your feet on the pavement – a freewheel bike is easier to learn on and is less likely to cause you to crash. And remember, this class will be focusing a lot on how not to crash, or how to get out of a crash situation – not to give you practical experience in crashing!

Don’t have a bike yet? Our host, River Trail Rentals, can provide a bike and helmet at for a nominal fee.

Road I is a course that you complete equally as comfortably in your cycling team kit or your regular street clothes. Bike gloves and bike clothing might make you a little more comfortable on the bike, but are by no means required for the class. We aren't going to ride a long distance at a strenuous pace. We are just going to do some riding practice, in open parking lots and on residential and downtown streets at an easy pace. Anything you can ride in is fine. Be aware that the road test will happen even in light rain. If there is rain in the forecast, come prepared. Relax, it is just part of the ride. We’ll stop for lunch in the River Market area toward the end of Saturday’s ride, and then finish up with the evaluations (yes, you get to grade me, too!) and head back to the start point for graduation.

Willa will be teaching Road I as well on February 8-9, if you don’t want to wait until March…

Either is a good deal, and I hope you’ll look at cycling in a whole new light once you’ve finished…

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Welcome New LCIs!!

I was rooting thru the Bike Ed database over at the League website last night working on getting a March Road I course put together, when I noticed that our own Jennifer Shaw of Maumelle has gotten her LCI certification at one of the seminars held last month in Houston. Also certified is Mitchell Durham of Greenwood. That gives Arkansas a total of 7 LCIs ( up from 2 at this time last year), with 5 of them here in the Little Rock metropolitan area. That sort of stuff is important when a community is looking at applying for the League's "Bike Friendly Community" classification.

Anyway, a hearty congratulations to Jenn and Mitch... having just gone thru that wringer, I know how hard it is to get that little certificate. It takes about 6 to 7 weeks after the seminar for the League to process the paperwork and issue you a certification number and certificate, but your LCI status is effective from the time you pass the seminar.

Willa will be offering the Road I Course again next month, on February 7 & 8, at the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service headquarters on University Avenue (between UALR and Catfish City). The classroom phase is Friday evening from 5:30 p.m. to about 9:30 p.m., and they'll reconvene Saturday morning for the on-road phase at 8:00 a.m.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Thinking Outside the Boxes

There’s been a fair bit of discussion on the ABC forums and several of the other bike message boards about the initiative in Portland, OR to establish “bike boxes” at a number of intersections where cyclists have been killed, injured, or made to soil their chamois by motorists who fail to yield the right-of-way as prescribed by existing traffic law. One of the other ABC members brought the issue up on the club forum, where I responded by mentioning that the issue was also being discussed on the LCI list server, where the opinions weren’t favorable, since these things encourage several unsafe practices by cyclists who would use them. After some remonstration by an ABC board member, I deleted my post and took a resolution to stay off the forums for awhile. However, most of the gist of my response, plus a few extra opinions, are still here.

Here’s the original article (1/4/2008) in the daily Oregonian:
And the New York Times coverage:

John Allen (LCI #77 and the author of Bicycling Street Smarts and a host of state bike manuals based on that pamphlet) expresses his thoughts on the bike boxes at .

And another view on the boxes here, with some interesting (and sometimes valid) comments:

This last one notes that bike boxes area direct transplant from European traffic design... because they work over there, they ought to work over here, too.

I drove and cycled over in Germany for a little more than six years in a previous life, and the "it ought to work here" concept ignores a major difference -- traffic principles, especially the concept of "right-of-way," are drastically different between Europe and North America. Here, the principle of right-of-way is based on "first come, first served;" absent a yield or stop sign, if you're the first person to the intersection, then you have the right-of-way. The European traffic rules are different, and the absolute principle there is that the vehicle farthest to the right has right-of-way, and with multiple vehicles at an intersection, right-of-way proceeds left-wise from there as the next rightmost vehicle take their turn. Also in Europe, it's drilled into all drivers' minds that all vehicles are equal on the roadways, whether they be a truck, a BMW 750i, a bicycle, or a farm tractor. Little kids over there learn traffic rules from kindergarten all the way up. If there's a kid on a tricycle waiting on your right, then he/she has right-of-way and there ain't no quibbling about it.

Likewise, most European communities don't have a right-on-red rule, which is universally taken for granted here in the States.

Placing the bike boxes where they are in North American traffic sends two messages that actually decrease cyclist safety rather than enhance it. First of all, it invites cyclists to "filter" forward past stopped traffic in order to get in line ahead of the cars. Probably the most important piece of advice in avoiding getting "right-hooked" is don't pass on the right. Cars already in the right-hand lane simply aren't expecting anybody to pass them on the right, and keep a notoriously poor lookout in that direction. (See Collision Type #3 (The Red Light of Death) and Type #5 (The Right Hook, Part 2) for a fuller discussion at

Filtering forward like this is also poor manners, since the motorists waiting at the light may have had to strive most impatiently to pass you way back down the road, and now they have to do that all over again, boosting their level of road rage against those "lawless cyclists." The right (and safe) thing to do is to take your place behind the cars, and wait your proper turn ("first come, first served").

And since a slower cyclist can be just arriving at the bike box when the light turns green, he/she can still be right-hooked by a right-turning motorist who was waiting at the light.

As described in the Times article, Oregon law already requires motorists to yield to bicyclists in the bike lane. But the ability to look in two directions at once can't be legislated. Many motor vehicles (especially high-cab trucks) have blind areas at the right side and front so that the motorist might only see a bicyclist overtaking on the right by keeping attention on the right-side rear view mirror. That diverts his attention from the intersection ahead. The motorist is given a much more difficult task, and the bicyclist is given a false sense of security. There's a sizable "No Zone" around big trucks and buses where both cyclists and pedestrians need to stay out of unless they have a death wish. This includes pulling up even with them on their right side, where they really can't see you and usually aren't looking for you. (Ronnie Clark was killed in exactly this manner up in Fayetteville last July when a tractor-trailer turning right-on-red ran over him in the crosswalk.)

What I've learned, both on the road and in the League courses, is to wait behind the vehicle in front of you at a stop light or stop sign, and then take your proper turn going thru the intersection, and this is what we teach in Road I and the other Bike Ed courses. And as noted above, passing stopped or slower moving vehicles on the right is a symptom of a latent death wish.

Bike lanes create about as many problems as they attempt to solve, especially at intersections, where motorists turn across them, and again, they encourage the cyclists to slip up on the right hand side where motorists usually aren't looking. In most cases, dedicated bike lanes will terminate some distance away from major intersections, like the ones on Rebsamen in LR, and on North Hills Blvd in NLR. This is a different approach to the bike box solution, where cyclists are expected to merge into the traffic lane and behave, well, like vehicles.

One of the surprises to many fellow bike advocates is the negative opinion of the boxes shared by many of the League instructors. How can we be so strongly against something that’s obviously so good for emphasizing the rights of cyclists on the road?

As Ed Wagner notes at CycleDog, in a large sense, we are not purely bicycle advocates. That’s mainly for manufacturers and businesses that exist to sell bicycles. LCIs are bicycling advocates engaged in an effort to educate cyclists, motorists, law enforcement, and public officials regarding the best practices that make cycling enjoyable and safe. This demands an approach that reviews what's effective. And, by and large, bike lanes have not been effective at providing real safety since the crash rates are essentially the same whether a bike lane is present or not.
Bike lanes have an undoubted psychological effect, because people believe they're safer.

However, the statistics don’t support this belief. Bike lanes make intersections more complicated. People fear being hit from behind, the one type of crash that bike lanes are supposed to prevent. Yet hit-from-behind crashes make up only about 10% of all bicycle/motor vehicle accidents, with 6% attributed to cyclists “swerving” in front of cars. Of the remaining 4%, about half result from a motorist not seeing a cyclist. These crashes are nearly always at night and involve a cyclist without reflectors or lights. The majority of bicycle/motor vehicle crashes, 85%, involve turning or crossing movements. Typically, that means intersections. In fact, the accident rate where bike lanes exist is 2.3 times greater than where there are no lanes at all. (Source - Effective Cycling by John Forester, and The Art of Urban Cycling by Robert Hurst), by the way, has a passionate thread going on concerning the effctiveness of separate bike lanes:{36EA5C91-D12A-425E-9769-04EAB123AD84}&numPost=all

Both cyclists and motorists regard the solid white line delineating a bike lane as a wall between their traffic lanes. Cyclists think that motorists will never cross it to the right, and motorists think cyclists will never cross it to the left. In reality, the painted stripe merely provides the illusion of safety. People will cross that line when necessary, and the danger is that the unprepared motorist or cyclist can be caught unaware.

The division between facilities advocates (bike lane supporters) and vehicular cyclists (who believe cyclists should act and be treated as merely another vehicle on the road) is a fundamental disagreement about human nature. In very broad strokes, on one hand you have one group that tries to influence behavior through engineering, paint, and concrete. The interstate highway system is an excellent example of this approach. On the other hand, you have a separate, sometimes overlapping group that tries to change behavior through education and training. Driver's Ed and the League's Bike Ed are examples of this approach. The first group strongly advocates the painting and establishment of bike lanes wherever there’s room; the others acknowledge that under the law, every lane is a bike lane, and that we should teach motorists and cyclists alike to share the available facilities.

Both BACA and the League play both sides of this fence, by advocating for bike paths wherever possible for those riders who simply will not venture out into the streets, and by providing educational courses, classes, and outreach for those who pursue the vehicular cycling principle and lobbying/litigating against those who would restrict cyclists’ rights and access to the public roads. It’s not being two-faced… It’s a simple realization that as cyclists we have the best of both worlds.

Cyclists are unique, because we are the only highway users that have a choice. We can follow drivers’ rules on the roadway, or step to the side of the curve and off the bike, and become pedestrians. And after a situation clears, we can check for a safe space in the traffic flow, hop back aboard, and pedal off again.

Yes, you and I fare better in traffic when treated as any other road user (for the most part), but the laws cannot assume that all riders are perfect cyclists. They have to take into account that there are just ordinary people who jump on a neighbor's bike from time to time. Furthermore, most people believe that since they learned to ride a bicycle in the fourth grade, they don't need bicycling education. That their knowledge hasn't progressed much since then just doesn't occur to them. Surprisingly, the most resistant group is composed of experienced cyclists.

Recent tragedies in Boise, Portland and Seattle, where cyclists were killed in the bike lanes, highlight the perfect storm of bad law, bad design, and bad choices on the part of both drivers and cyclists. It's truly sad that it takes some deaths to make cyclists, motorists, public officials, and law enforcement re-think the issues regarding bicycle lanes and question the initial assumptions that lead to their implementation.