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...