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 BikeJournal.com, 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 BikeJournal.com 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.