Thursday, December 31, 2009

Winter Weather

Image thanks to David Hembrow.

With another storm soon upon us here in New England I wanted to point you over to David Hembrow who has been doing a very nice roundup on winter cycling as the Netherlands has been hit with a good deal of snow of late. He has a couple posts up about his commute in and some of a nice city center rush hour traffic. I find it very interesting how they deal with snow and bikes and how Plattsburgh, or Dover deals with it. In Plattsburgh its up to the residents to shovel their sidewalks, and well if nobody lives along a stretch (I show a picture of it in This post) of sidewalk or bike path, its not going to get cleared. This path I am talking about in particular is in a lower income area and its use is mainly folks who are walking into town or biking into town because they cant afford a car and don’t want to wait for the infrequent bus. I went by 4 days after our major storm, roads were perfectly clear but none of the paths were even clear, just the small spots where people had walked. It’s a sad state I feel if we can’t even expect towns and cities to clear public walks for pedestrians. Certainly if they cant do that, do you think they would plow a bike path? You have got to be kidding me.
At least in Dover we have sidewalk plows that come by even in the middle of a storm and plow in our driveway! :P It does at least a good job of clearing the walks, even if the shoulders of the road are not cleared so great, at least pedestrians are pretty well served. I like to think these little machines could be employed to clear separated bike paths if a city already had them, and since they are built for sidewalks I imagine that they are not a one off hand built thing either. Its doable, cities just need to care enough, or have enough cyclists that would be pissed off if inconvenienced more then they already are.

Anyway head over to A View from the Cycle Path and take a look at it done right, and take some comfort maybe that at least one country gets it. In the meantime ride safe and ride often, a little snow never hurt anybody ;)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

a little end of year roundup

Well for sure it’s been an interesting year for me, and well obviously for the first 6 months of this little ol blog. I first actually became interested in cycling and transportation and planning and all that this spring in the UK, I was in a ENV planning program before but was focusing a bit more on policy then planning. That has certainly changed and with it the sites I read and where I go on the interwebz. I think commuting this semester by bike has certainly been really useful; I spent money on some upgrades for the bike, some nice accessories that needed to be done. However, I truly need a different frame and a different bike if I hope to keep this commute up for sure. I am looking at the Breezer UpTown 8 and now I need to find a local dealer that has one so I can test ride it, which is turning out to be more of a problem then I originally anticipated.

I did some rough math for the semester, and it seems I did between 900 and 1050 miles for the semester, I tend to lean a bit more toward the higher number but I think I was just under 1000 miles for the semester. That’s about 500 hours in the saddle, and it’s been good. It’s been exciting, depressing, painful, joyous, and peaceful. I missed 2 days due to snow and excessive baggage needing to be transported (more then my bike can carry safely at the moment) and well I don’t feel safe biking on a rural highway with snowplows going by me at 50. I have been yelled at, honked at, almost run over, whistled at, complemented, had pictures taken of and been attacked by lots of rain and head winds. It’s been an interesting semester. I look forward to the next, hopefully on a new bike that will be better for me and better for my riding conditions. I look forward to this New Year with excitement for sure.
I wish you a happy New Year and keep looking for posts into the New Year; I got a couple coming up soon (read when I get to write them) and back to some infrastructure Friday posts for sure!
Be well

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

some thoughts and a project

So one of the disadvantages about being home is that yes I have more free time, but I also have dialup internet, which means I don’t get to keep up to date on topics nor have an easy time working with pictures, video or other things for the blog. That is changing soon as my family moves into the 21st century with a DSL connection that should be up and running in about a week. I wanted to mention one of the projects I am currently working on though in this brief post.

Jessica, who I mentioned 2 posts earlier, contacted the group about a innovative car-share scheme she is working on in Brattleboro, and I offered to look at some GIS data and provide information on density and income levels and age groups in the area around Brattleboro city center. The Vermont GIS database is a bit trickier to work with then the NY database, but I found the data ok. The main problem I am running into though is in the information table (like an excel sheet) attached to each file there is a whole lot of data, but the acronyms are near impossible to figure out. Its very frustrating and I have hit a brick wall due to that, I need to contact somebody in the Vermont GIS office to see if they can help a bit.

I was musing about a light rail commuter line connecting some of the local towns to the major employers in the region yesterday, I might put together a little post on the thought in a day or so. There is lots of promise here for sure, but its never going to happen until people are forced to

In the meantime I wish you and yours a happy holiday, Merry Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, festivus, whatever you celebrate.

Be well, be safe, and best wishes
John

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Attention Attention, read all about it news at 11!!!

right for most of us this is not news, however we now have a new validated study to give to the people that blame cyclists for all sorts of things

New UK government study on cycling, via The Guardian.


this is huge! Sustrans just reported on this via their Facebook feed and a full report should be coming out and available to the general public shortly.

in short in the vast majority of accidents where police were present the cyclist's lack of stopping at red lights, or dark clothing, or lack of lights only contributed to 2% of cases each for a grand total of ~8% of overall accidents involving cars

yep its those damn no helmet dark cyclists running red lights are are ruining our cities ;)

"MIT team peddles more power per pedal"



Found this over at Boston.com thanks to Jessica Tanner over at Vermont Livable Streets, which is part of the Streets Community at livablestreets.com. Anyway wanted to pass this on for a couple reasons.

One it’s really cool! As an owner of an e-bike retrofit, I know that they are useful and helpful especially for people with long commutes or may not be in the best physical shape yet(which I was not at the time I got it). The price on this prototype is also very good and affordable.

Second though this did not seem the focus, this is designed for European countries that already have ~30% bike trip share and are looking for more. For many reasons older people have given up on the bike and are now in a car, usually distance to travel is a major reason and well they are old, and while going up a hill as a 20 something youngin may be easy, for an older person this can prove impossible. So this is something designed to get fringes on board the bike. People with longer commutes, people who may be frailer or who are not as strong as they use to be, or for people that live in hilly districts and find it hard or annoying to be peddling up and down hills all day.

This is not for most Americans, or more importantly, cities should not be spending money on getting e-bikes for the cities, or even bike share schemes, unless that city is San Francisco ;) we have not even got the kids and the 20 something’s all on board, let alone women at all. That is only done through improvements in safety both subjective and actual; it is done through ease of the journey from origin to destination through mapping, through timed lights, through bike parking, and through path surface and geographic location. The quality of the paths are also important, not just where they go but how they go, completely segregated networks are ideal for getting the most amount of people on a bike, especially women. These are of course not cheap and not easy, its easy to strip a line next to the car doors and call it good, its much harder to redesign an existing area to allow separation of cyclists from other forms of traffic. To be fair most of our planners grew up in a country where places like MIT only taught about road planning and highway planning and maybe some rail, they didn’t do complete streets planning, or bike planning or true pedestrian planning (a sidewalk does not cut it) However until that is done, and either they are replaced or relearn, we will never see the rates that most of Europe has, at least not without banning cars in cites and towns all together(hmm another good idea?). Once we have done that (if we have done that) then the push should be for e-bikes and more options for mobility impaired people.

I sometimes fear the allure of oooo shiny new tech tends to go to politicians (and consumers) minds and the forget that its the non pretty, non shiny things, like the planning of a separated bike path through a park, that actually get large numbers of people on their bikes, not how pretty the toy may be (although fashion can get a certain % on a bike, see fixies.)

So overall very promising for sure and will be needed as we must move further from burning of fossil fuels for transportation. E-bikes of all sorts have a future but there are some things we need to do first before we push for them here in the US. Europe eat your heart out ;)


Boston.com article link

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cooking, it's a Zen Thing

There are a couple of questions that get asked regularly that I don't care for. One is "what are you reading?". Now I don't dislike the question per say, but folk invariably ask it while I am reading, which means I have to stop reading and talk to them. If I wanted to talk I wouldn't be hiding behind my book, duh.

The other is "can you write down the recipe for that?" The answer is usually "no because I don't use recipes." This comment is usually meet with a look of confusion, which is understandable, most people have their grandmothers recipe for something or another and they will follow it to the letter with no deviation every single time. If they have a recipe they got from the web or a magazine and if it says "use ONLY JoBobs real ketchup" well they will run out for a bottle of JoBob's. People are afraid to take a chance, and in doing so they miss out on opportunity.

Part of the problem is that people have a skewed view of what cooking is, cooking is not just the assembling of specific ingredients, in a specific order, at a specific temperature. Cooking should be about the food, not the words. Now I do use recipes, as a guideline to new ideas. Say I want to make pasta carbonara, something I have never made. I just looked up several recipes for that dish. Some had bacon, some had ham, one had pepperoni (sounded yucky) one had a combination of Italian sausage and prosciutto. Most all had 1/2 a pound of meat and 4 eggs. The amount of spices, Parmesan cheese and other ingredients varied. Directions were all similar.

If I were to make this dish I would go off those porportions and just cook it based on that, along with my personal preferences and what the dish tasted like as it progressed. That last step is the important one that many people fail to use. If I were to cook it, it would go something like this:

Start pasta cooking
Brown some bacon or prosciutto in a pan, about 3-4 slices ( I always use less bacon than something calls for)
Remove bacon drain pan of excess fat
saute some onion
beat together eggs and whole milk or 1/2 and 1/2
add minced garlic
add eggs and milk mixture, season with salt and pepper (easy on the salt since we are adding Parmesan cheese.)
add some fresh or frozen peas, heat until peas are bright green and warm through
Drain and add pasta and mix to coat noodles, add some Parmesan at this time.
add some fresh parsley
Plate, garnish with more Parm and Parsley.

You notice I didn't add amounts, go by taste and texture, most recipes called for cream which I hardly ever use. So I would use less of the milk or half and half since it is a bit thinner and just watch the consistency adding more as needed. I also added the cheese later than the most recipes call for it. This is based on my personal experiences adding cheeses to sauces and what I like to do. I would also taste it as I went along, seasoning in layers, in other words the onion would get a bit of salt and pepper, so would the eggs and milk as I added them. Tasting each to get it right.

I can't emphasize that one enough TASTE AS YOU GO. Recipe calls for 1/4 cup chopped onion? what if the onions are watery tasting, really pungent and strong? 1 tbl chili powder? what if it is old?, fresh?, an odd brand?, you like stuff really hot?, really mild? You won't know if you don't taste, waiting until the dish is done won't work. How many times have you or someone you knew said "next time I make this I will xxxxx"? If you taste as you go along you don't have to wait until next time, you can fix it this time and perhaps prevent a meal from being tossed out and the pizza place called up to bat.

The recent Thanksgiving holiday is a perfect example, I wasn't cooking this year. My sister had volunteered, I went over a bit early to give her a hand as needed. She is a decent cook and isn't afraid to try new things, her cranberry recipe, much like my own, has evolved over the years. She had nuts in it this year and it was fine. However when we sat down to eat, that was the first time she had tasted it, if something had been wrong she would not have known until her guests had already been served. By comparison, when we made the gravy, I tasted it and was of the opinion the salt was fine but it could use some pepper, she tasted it and agreed but if I had not done it first she would not have bothered. Would the gravy have been bad? No, but it would not have been as good as it was, solely because we tasted it and adjusted the seasonings.

I think most folk have lost the soul of cooking, in this age of prepackaged, instant, onepot in a box things that the marketing folk call food, we have lost sight of what food is, and how it should be treated. Smell your produce, taste food as you prepare it, if you think something would taste good in a recipe add it. Don't be afraid to try new things, more importantly cook new things.

Learn to be one with your food, taste, smell, touch as you cook. Learn substitutions for odd items. Lemongrass is a favorite ingredient of mine, very hard to get in my area and when I do it is usually past it's prime. Does that mean I can't make my favorite Thai Curry recipe? Naw, I use lemon zest instead, not quite the same but it works. Think outside the box (and don't buy the box). Pineapple upside down cake but pineapple is out of season? Try cranberries, blue berries or plums instead. Wander around the produce department and look for odd things. Buy them, then go and look up something to cook with them. If you do it in the opposite order you'll probably never buy the item, if you buy it first you will use it for something.

So don't throw your cook books out, but move them out of the kitchen. Use them as a reference, then get in there and cook. Paying attention to your food and listening to it will teach you more about cooking than all the books in the world.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Senior Project on Bike Commuting

from the good folks over at TheWashCycle. (this is yet another excuse to not do my history paper which is due at the time this will actually be posted :P)

Pedal Power Final Cut from Mike Kurec on Vimeo.



This wonderful little film has generated a nice bit of discussion on the original post over at WashCyle I weighed in of course and you can read my responses over there about safety and the focus on risk in this video. I felt that it is a good video that shows a lot of the thoughts that go into people starting to commute and what they are looking for. Yes it has lots of doom and gloom facts, but it has positive people talking about how great cycling is, it has people on separated paths enjoying their ride and I think this is much more powerful then any risk facts could be. Yes commuting by bike in most of America is dangerous; there is a whole lot of risk. However, think about the last time you were in a car, think about the potential accidents, the risks that you saw over that trip, how many times did you or somebody you saw come close to an accident or participated in dangerous behavior. Cycling is dangerous, but its all relative, for the schools that banned cycling and walking to the school building based on safety and risk, did they truly look at the statistics? Yes it is dangerous there is risk, but driving Johnny to school in your 3t SUV has more risk attached to it then many people want to admit.

Great job to Mike on this video, I enjoyed it. You can comment here or head over to TheWashCycle and join in on the discussion with your thoughts!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

a sad day :(

I lost one of my little buddies sometimes yesterday in the snow...


A 7led planet bike Blinky rear light :( I had it for around 4 years, and it bounced out of my back along with its rechargeable batteries (with plenty of life left, although not new) as I was biking through the snow around campus yesterday. It was my trusty light, had traveled through 4 states and 3 countries, I loved that little light, it was more then just a means to be seen, I felt attached, I loved it as it was my first even bike light, almost like loosing a friend.

its a day of mourning :(



in other news I found one on ebay for 10$ won the bid and its being shipped to my house back home :P not the same but still an effective companion to my new 1/2watt rear Blinky.

rest in peace Blinky, hopefully somebody finds it after the thaw and brings it a second life

Studded Bike Tires, First Impressions

Well I survived writing a novel in thirty days, now I need to get back to writing for our readers. Doing the novel project really changed some of my perceptions on writing and overall was a good experience.

Just about the time I was finishing up that project the weather reports started to promise that snow and ice were coming. Earlier this year my LBS (local bike shop) had offered me a fantastic deal on some Nokian studded bike tires. I had lusted after these for years but cost, about $60 a tire, had kept them off my bike. Given a good deal I grabbed them and figured now was the time to install them.

No problems with installation, just like changing a tire. Studs are carbide and are supposed to wear well. I got the Nokian Mount and Ground 160's. 160 studs per tire and the studs are mounted to the outside to prevent you from slipping on icy ruts. This is not a tire designed for aggressive off roading. Instead this is a tire designed for riding in less than ideal conditions, like snow covered plowed roads and patches of ice. As far as I can see their major advantage is not forwards traction, any decent tire with a deeper tread can supply that. The big advantage is keeping the tire from slipping to the SIDE and the bike from sliding out from under you.

We just got our first real snow and ice and I have two days on them so far. They perform well provided you ride sensibly. It is possible to get them to slip by cornering too hard or riding aggressively, but for a commuter trying to get from point A to point B they perform admirably so far. I will report further on them as I gain more experience with them. I will also try and get some pictures of them mounted posted.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A wee bit of Snow

Well not to bad for the first real storm of the season. Woke up this morning expecting it, but I also had an 8am ecology exam! well one look at a snowplow going down the road at about 45 meant biking in was not going to happen even if it was doable, I dont trust the cars, and I dont trust the 10ton snowplows with a wave of snow out in front. Hitched a ride in with a housemate and loaded the bike onboard, going to get a ride home and lock the bike in the theatre shop until tomorrow afternoon when it should be mostly cleared.

so I am thinking over winter break, putting together some kind of snow ski contraption thing for riding on roads when they are not plowed, or minimally plowed. I am thinking wooden/composite snow ski's that would attach to the rear frame and/or the front fork. put a mountain bike tire on deflated a bit and go at it, with stability of 4 legs with a wide spread and power from a thick rear wheel I think it has promise. However depth of snow will be important, some type of spring system or adjustment might be needed so wheel can get traction while ski's can ride on top...

or maybe I could get a car :P but thats not nearly as fun ;)

I will throw some pictures up later :)

anybody else crazy enough to ride in a snowstorm on unplowed roads/sidewalks? do you attach a shovel to the front and clear your own path? (also a thought)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

à Montréal

Bonjour from that funny little country to the North!

I am in Montreal for a day and a half, they finally let me out of the university and work, although I still have too much to do for next monday which wont get done... anyway

Gonna be using a Bixi! tomorrow hopefully and it will be exciting :) I will take pictures of course (and not delete them) I also want to document some of the bicycle boulevards that cross the city. Wonderful thing, there is a station right outside the hotel! and with a 5$ 24/hr pass first 30 min on each trip is free its such a great deal!

of other note, there is a brand spanking new bus station under construction. its very pretty

I am going to have to come over to Michigan and give Jim a smack, see he is writing a novel for the 30 day novel thing he posted about earlier, so deeming that more important he left me to keep up with things just as my life got crazy

thanks for nothin Jim! :P

have a happy virus infected blankets for Indians turkey day ;)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

No I am was not run over by a car

Not that getting run over by a car is a funny thing... its not. Too many cyclists die each year and the killers behind their vehicle are not charged with anything, it’s like getting away with a gun crime with the famous excuse that guns kill people, not people kill people. It’s the tool! It made me do it!

Sigh

I am insanely busy as things start to wind down. I have to submit soon my proposal for new bike rack infrastructure on campus, so I am contacting suppliers and getting prices and trying to figure out where the most need is both inside and outside and its a mess trying to do that and do classes because I don’t have a chunk of time to dedicate to it. So there is that, as well as my plans for a bike share program, which I hope to launch in the spring, obviously better U-lock compliant racks need to come first. I am also working on a safe routes to school plan for the entire Plattsburgh school district as a senior project in GIS. Thankfully that is not going full tilt yet but its still stressful knowing what I have to do and knowing I have no time to do it.

Jim will have some posts up soon, and I will try to get stuff up when I can but who knows. So please make sure to check back tomorrow for Jims post and often as we both work on this

Thanks for reading :)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Friday Feature (on Sunday!),social justice in infrastructure?

This Infrastructure post not on Friday, I seriously should just make it whenever the freak I get to it post, will be a little different.

I am not going to showcase any cool trams or bike paths or parks anything. Today I want to focus on a topic that was brought up from Bikeportland.org and then again in the book I am reading for Native American History.

The book is called “Native Seattle: Histories From the Crossing Over Place.” And it’s by Coll Thrush(link is for Amazon, but support your local bookseller first, they should be able to get it in). Now I understand that from the first impression it does not seem that this has anything to do with transportation but in fact it has a huge part to do with it.

First let me talk about the bikeportland piece. It was called “is out bike scene too white” and talked a little bit about why Portland may have an easier ability to create alternative transportation on a large scale. This is also similar to Davis, California in the sense that it is overwhelming white. My history teacher lived just outside Davis, and while there are a good number of Hispanic communities now around the town, this didn’t use to be the case. I wonder if the bicycle mode share in Davis went down because of specific polices, or lack thereof, of the city, or it went down because minorities moved into the area and for some reason they don’t tend to bike in as large a percentage as whites.

Now I am not being racist here at all, I don’t think we should “cleanse” the cities and make them 100% white so we can get bicycle infrastructure in place. What I want to know is why this is? Anybody can go into a bike shop and get a bike right? (Well not exactly) However anybody can use the facilities that are specifically for bicyclists, or can they? So why is it that we don’t see more African Americans, or Hispanics, or native peoples on a bike? I don’t have an answer today especially since I live in 98% white New Hampshire and 90%+ white upstate New York, but this is a major problem as we move forward with non-automotive transportation.

This topic would make a very good thesis piece and I would love to do research on this and put something together, but truth is I have so little time as it is that I cant do this proper research justice, however I am going to keep thinking on this as I move into the field and maybe the opportunity will arise that will give me the opportunity to do this properly. From here is sheer observational data and making connections with a number of articles I have read over the last year, it is in no way heavily researched and quite possibly is very biased, please do not take this as fact, just something to think on and question in your own community.

For starters this is being looked at, at least in Portland, by the Community Cycling Center, they were the initial inspiration for the article. You can read the article for yourself but basically they were looking at the area they served and then who was actually riding and it was just white middle class citizens on two wheels. They saw a problem, and started asking questions. Now with some grant money focusing around social justice, they are undertaking work in this area. They discovered some issues regarding actually knowledge of what to do both on the road and what to look for in a bike, as well as some fear of police retribution. There is also cost, both perceived and actual. You can read more here.

I want to go further and actual look at some of the comments that this article generated. First what about cost? If you get a 2k used junker and drive it into the ground and then do that again in a couple years you see that cost at the time but typically the long term costs of that care are not taken into thought. This is not a minority issue; this is a human issue in putting less emphasis on long-term costs and more on short-term expenses. If you are new to cycling and outfitting a bike for cycling it will cost you 2k+ easy, depending on what you are looking for. A person looking at doing this will see, ok some fun maybe, maybe some environmental benefit (most likely not) maybe health benefit. However, they will see that they are paying the same price for something that takes double the triple the time to get somewhere, that you get really hot or really cold on, that riding means you are poor, that you will get run off the road by people in cars, and that you cant carry your family. With that in mind why would a lower class family (of any ethnicity) really want to ride a bike for transportation?

It is true that taking all the actual heath and environmental benefits into the equation, as well as the joy aspect and the actual cost of the automobile, that the bike wins hands down. These are long term costs however, many people don’t attribute that hospital visit to the non active lifestyle that they live, they don’t attribute the heart attack to the years of driving the 10 miles to work or the 2 miles to the store when they need milk.

A lower class citizen will most likely be working multiple service jobs (if they are lucky) and it’s not just them, it’s their partner and their children when they turn 16. When you work 16+ hours a day in multiple jobs across the city there is no way a bike would enable you to get to both jobs and work both jobs. The time and energy required is not there, at the end of the day you are dead tired, and the next day it’s the same thing. I did this for 6 months; I worked two jobs and took a chemistry class during my one semester break from college. I needed to be at work at 6am for store opening (I was maintenance) I got done at noon and then went home for lunch and then class at 1. Class got done at 2 and then I went to my second job, which started at, 3 or so. I was driving ~50 miles a day when I was working both jobs. While my first job and class were ~5 miles apart which is perfectly bikable every day (my current commute is 5.2miles daily) that means it would take me 30-45 minutes to my first job and then home, and then 35 minutes to class and another 40 (its uphill coming back) back home. Its then 15 miles to my second job. If I biked the easy bit that’s ~2 extra hours, plus a workout. It means biking in the very early morning and then afternoon; I always got home around 9-10 at night. There was simply no extra time to bike to these places, and not only that, there was no extra energy to do such, if it was a desk job, maybe, but I was set building and being a janitor.

Using my experience I look at people who work hard to provide for their families and realize, they simply do not have the time or energy to live without a car. If there were good quality bus service that is doable and you will find that many workers will take the bus because a year pass is usually quite cheap.

So maybe economic and social class is more important then ethnicity? (A higher percentage of Blacks, Hispanics and minorities tend to poorer)

Next lets look at language. If your first language is Spanish or Chinese (obviously skipping Black Americans since majority have English as their first language) and the only information on cycling in your city is in English you may be less likely to understand than if it were in English. People do not typically explore where they live too much, they have a rout to work, a rout to the store, and a route to school. There may be a separated bike lane one block away but many Americans would not know it unless it were signed and publicized. Now imagine you are Hispanic, would you know about that rout? Would you understand everything on the sign or the map? I would not imagine most immigrants have money and time for lengthy English classes every day, looking at my 6 months, I don’t know what would have happened if I were trying to learn English too. So not knowing about routs may play a part in this.

How about rules of the road? Yes, yes I know many cyclists don’t follow rules involving stopping and signaling (neither do cars) but some do and it is important. If you were an immigrant who may be targeted by the police anyway, would you want to be on a bike riding on the road scared that the police will ticket you because you didn’t follow some law? How would you know the laws if they were not explained to you in your language? Many of us take for granted that laws are for the most part obvious (red means stop) but how many of us knew that from our parents or from drivers ed. If you were first generation and wanted to bike somewhere would you know the laws requiring lights at night or certain other things (like you must use a bike lane if there is one)? I don’t think you would and that’s not your fault.

Maybe you want a bike, you go to the bike shop and are met by wonderful people who know bikes but maybe don’t know Chinese or Korean or Somali. Bike shops can be scary places I think if you don’t know what’s going on, dark, cramped, people asking questions etc. There has been some issues with women in bike shops and intimidation and I can understand this as well, since a lot are men owned and don’t have women present. It may seem petty or insignificant but it’s very important. A minority is going to have a worse time, and make that minority a woman and you have created an impossible situation.

It seems language may play a huge part here, both in finding safe cycling routes (if they exist) and in knowing the laws. Bike shop access also is important in terms of the language barrier; you may not know frame type in your own language let alone English.

Maybe you can see why this would make a great thesis piece. I only looked at a couple things here and they clearly both have impacts on cycling. I wish I had more time now to look at transportation planning and where bike racks and bike boulevards are placed and the social justice issues that come up with that but I don’t. And even what I have looked at here may be debatable depending on where you are. Should we go for the low hanging fruit and try to focus on getting the whites on their bike and leave the minorities for later when we have 30% mode share for whites? That’s not fair but what are the options? I think the first step in any of this is what the CCC is doing, reaching out and talking to community leaders. It’s the first step and until we do that everything I have talked about and more is pure speculation. I hope I have made sense here and if something is not clear please let me know, this is the first bit in a number of long posts on thoughts as I go forward. I don’t have answers I wish I did, but all I can do is bring up the issue and start the conversation. I wanted to specifically talk about infrastructure but that will have to wait for another post, I will bring up the book when I talk about that, as this post has actually made my tired :P

Thanks for reading
For further information please see the following links

BikePortland.org piece

Streetsblog, "mobility as a basic human right"
New Geography post

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Putney General Store


click through for an article from preservationnation.org back in december 08. This is the store as it looked after the first fire.


As I mentioned here a couple times since July in my first post, I worked in Putney Vermont for the summer teaching photography at a progressive school, called The Putney School. Needless to say I have always loved Vermont, my family has a number of good friends in the state and I have just always loved their policies and who they are as a people. So it was so wonderful to work in Putney, which is a very small town on the New Hampshire border, near Brattleboro in the south. It was a dream come true.

That’s why I want to bring your attention to this little bit that happened on the first of November.

Background first, Putney has had a general store in the same spot for over 200 years and it was the oldest continually operating store in the entire state. The 3rd floor of the historic building in downtown Putney burned back in May of 2008 due to an electrical short. The Putney historical society bought the property and secured state and federal grants for the huge rebuilding of this historical landmark. This past Sunday, another fire broke out, this one has been deemed arson unfortunately. The society had almost completed all fund-raising and they were preparing to open in the spring of 2010 with new local owners.

That dream is no more. The store burned to the ground completely, the historic building was lost as were a good chunk of grant money already invested. The historical society is cautious but wants a new plan and wants to rebuild, believing Putney needs its general store. I am not going to force anybody(like I could on a blog :P), but I feel their plight is worthy and any help you can give would be so very much appreciated by everybody involved. The people that live in Vermont are so very wonderful and caring, the people of Putney especially so. They do not deserve this disaster and I have chipped in with a membership to help. If you are interested in helping please see the following message from the President of the association. Membership, donations, or if you are on Facebook, joining the group, are very much appreciated. If you are unable to do any of the above that’s fine, tell a friend, tell family. Vermont is a community that many in America wish they had, I know I do. Lets join with the folks in Putney and help them move forward!

Thanks, I appreciate it.

We voted as a board today to cautiously pursue the feasibility of rebuilding the store. We very much want to do this! Please consider joining our organization.

$15 gives you membership through 2010. Send a check to: Treasurer, Putney Historical Society Town Hall, Box 233 Putney, VT 05346

If you would like to include an additional, tax-deductible donation for the store, great! You can also make online donations at putneygeneralstore.org
Thank you.
Stuart Strothman
President
Putney Historical Society


Facebook Group
AP news article on the fire
Keene Sentinel story

(disclaimer: I in no way speak officially for this organisation, I am not even a member yet, although that is in progress, I just truly care about this town and its people.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

An Endless Summer



For those who pay attention (I think its just Jim left now really :P ) I do cover photography work, both mine and others, here. Its been awhile since I have done something in-depth but since loosing all my work from Washington DC I have been in a bit of a slump, not to mention midterms just passed and I am headed toward the end of the term faster than a zoobomber!

However I want to point interested parties over to the wonderful folks at EcoVelo. Now as a photographer, I envy Alen, who is the main contributor to the blog, man does he take some good shots! He has beautiful situations, with excellent colors and boosted contrasts; I know he does work in Photoshop to give his images that extra boost but none the less wow!

This time though, he has opened up the Endless Summer Contest to any member of the general public anywhere in the world to submit their best photos of an endless summer. I wish I had some for him really, but alas I don't think I do, anyway that does not prevent you from heading over and submitting something! I will make a note here once the contest ends and the voting rounds begin, and voting is very much worthy of your time.

He posts 4-5 entrants a day and will post ever-single entrant he gets, there is a 5-day backlog at the moment but nonetheless. There are also tons of cool prizes from lots of well-known companies!

Please take the time and navigate over there and enjoy the beauty that is EcoVelo and enjoy these summer photographs as that cold north wind starts to blow.

I have 3 food reviews in the pipeline and will be going up in the next 2 or so days, I also will do a bit on the DC bike sharing initiative, there will be pictures, just not mine unfortunately :(

So I figured I better have a decent excuse for not posting much. Lots of folk say they are going to write a novel "some day". Well November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. I meant to enter last year and didn't, this year I am in and after day one I have 3509 words written.

What is NaNoWriMo? It's an international writing challenge, you have the 30 days of November to write 50,000 words in the form of a novelette. The point is to get the words on the page, editing, spelling and such go out the window. Just write! I am a compulsive editor, this is hard for me. But I see the point, if I had spent the time I usually do going back and editing what I wrote, doing the research to fix a couple of things I know are wrong, I would have not gotten half the content on the screen that I did. The challenge is about stepping back from all of that and not writing the perfect novel, but writing a novel period. Many entries from this have gone on to be published, including Sarah Gruen, whose New York Times #1 Best Seller, Water for Elephants began as a NaNoWriMo novel.


Read more and maybe be inspired to get involved at the website NoNoWriMo.org

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Little Wet... no make that A Whole Freaking Lot Wet

Yep its that time again, seems us crazies on the bike have a whole lot of water to deal with (poor brits are getting drenched!) so I have a question for our two readers out there (hi mom! hi Jim!)

I don’t mind too much riding in the rain; it’s annoying but doable.

How the heck do you keep the water off your glasses at night, cause when its raining at night I literally cant see anything, even if its a light drizzle, water drops on the glasses magnify any light out there and my headlamp which works nicely, can not even be seen by me. I have a very rural stretch, about a mile, and I am scared I am going to hit something, either a living animal crossing the road, hearing no cars coming, or a dead one that missed the cars use road memo. It scares me to death. In the urban setting I am mostly ok and know the route enough to be fine, but I am biking on a 50mph rural highway! Lucky my double Planet Bike rear lights are bright enough to make sure I don’t get run over but none the less, how do you do it???

Second my franken-bike is a mountain with front shocks, which means I have no mounting ability for a front full fender. I have a mountain bike fender that prevents water going into my face, but it does not go low enough so my shoes, pants, socks, and lower legs are always soaked, and it’s not a fun feeling. Is my only option to replace that front fork with an unsuspended one and deal with the (loads) of potholes (they hurt as it is and I can feel the shocks working)

Thoughts on this?

Oh and while I am at it, in the winter I wear a full lycra mask to prevent my skin from freezing (no joke, it happens) its nice and dandy and all but unless I breath properly and even then sometimes the air travels up and fogs my glasses, which promptly freezes and then I cant see anything. I then have to take them off and everything becomes a big fuzzy blur, but it’s the only way I can get home when that happens, short of stopping ever minute to warm and melt my glasses.

Is somebody trying to tell me if I wear glasses I shouldn’t bike? Cause they are certainly causing problems...

The frames are metal, couldn’t I hook some type of heater to them and heat them up, maybe using a battery or my own body heat? Or white Vinegar to prevent fogging?
I am also thinking Rain-X (the car windshield stuff) for the glasses but idk how I feel about that stuff so close to my face all the time and having to reapply it every time I clean them...

Bah!!

So remember how I said I would have lots of stuff up from Washington DC from the trip? Yeah well being stupid I formatted the camera because I was asked to do some show pictures, I then filled it halfway again. I was(still am) so pissed. I will be running some image data recovery programs on it today in hopes to get something back, I will still cover some of the things I saw there but its easier for me if I have photo's as it helps me recall specifics and/or problems with what I saw.

Been a bit sick since Thursday, running nose yesterday and still a bit clogged today but going away. I finally officially joined the Livable(goggle dictionary wants to call this lovable, somehow that fits too...) Streets Initiative, you can find me as John_in_NH why that, since I am actually in NY, well idk but its what I used from my blogging days 5 years ago and it stuck and better then jjpell27 (my other most common username) :P

Sunday, October 18, 2009

So I Had a Craving

Do you ever get a craving for something? A taste, a flavor you haven't had in a while? When this happens to most people, they rush out to their favorite restaurant to get what ever it is that they crave.

Me I'm a little different, I rush to the computer, then the grocery store, then my kitchen. Don't get me wrong, I love eating out, but there is something satisfying about making something yourself, especially the adventure of making a particular dish for the first time. I had such a craving this weekend, the culprit? Gyros!

Before we dive into the recipe, lets have a few words on my process in doing things like this. I never look at just one recipe when I do things like this, in fact I rarely use one recipe. Instead I tend to look at several, take some notes, cut the recipe down (I'm usually cooking for one, average recipe feeds four)and come up with my interpretation of the recipe. If it is a really odd dish where I don't know the flavor profiles well, I will follow it step by step (first time I made Thai curry I did this, now I can whip one up from whatever is in the fridge). Another big tip, always, always read the comments from others, they have made this before, if everyone is saying increase the liquid by 1/2 a cup, well you should probably do that.

Now onto my craving for Gyros. Gyros, for those who have never had the pleasure, is a Greek originated sandwich. Wikipedia has a much better description than I do here. So I looked at about 7 recipes, most of which used a combination of pork and lamb. Some seemed overly complicated, some used spices that didn't make sense to me. I finally settled on one from Food Network star Alton Brown. His made sense, had some good tips for achieving the correct texture or "mouth feel", and I felt would scale down well. Alton's recipe can be found on the Food Network site.

My version was basically the same except I cut it in half and upped the spices a little bit, I tend to have a heavy hand with the spices. The Tzatziki sauce (a crucial component) I left as is. I baked it in a small loaf pan in the water bath as recommended. To prepare a water bath for baking, put your filled pan in a larger pan and add enough boiling-hot water to reach halfway up the side of the smaller pan. Don't worry about the meat sticking to the loaf pan, the lamb shrinks quite a bit and was easy to remove from the loaf pan. Below is my cut down version, you should easily get 8 gyros from this. I made one for breakfast the day after and grilled my slices of meat in a cast iron pan to warm them and I think this made the meat better. Next time I will do this even with the meat fresh from the oven. Make sure you follow all the steps including resting the meat with a weight on it. I used a large bowl with a couple cans in it as I had no bricks handy.

Gyro Meat with Tzatziki Sauce

Source Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2005

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium onion, rough chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 2-3 cloves finely minced garlic (garlic press would be perfect for this)
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried ground rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped tomato and onion for garnish
  • fresh pita bread
  • Tzatziki Sauce, recipe follows

Directions

Process the onion in a food processor for 10 to 15 seconds and turn out into the center of a tea towel. Gather up the ends of the towel and squeeze until almost all of the juice is removed. Discard juice.

Return the onion to the food processor and add the lamb, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt, and pepper and process until it is a fine paste, approximately 1 minute. Stop the processor as needed to scrape down sides of bowl. This can take much more than one minute depending on your processor, you want a fine sticky paste.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the mixture into a loaf pan, making sure to press into the sides of the pan. Place the loaf pan into a water bath and bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. Place the loaf pan on a cooling rack and place a brick wrapped in aluminum foil directly on the surface of the meat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees F. Slice, grill quickly in a hot skillet to crisp the meat up a bit and serve on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped onion, tomatoes.

Tzatziki Sauce:

6-8 ounces plain Greek yogurt

1/2 medium or one small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

Pinch kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

3 mint leaves, finely minced

Place the yogurt in a tea towel, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl, and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Place the chopped cucumber in a medium mixing bowl, combine with the drained yogurt, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

I followed the recipe fairly closely, next time I will be substituting 1/2 the lamb for ground chicken. I think chicken would be a good choice for this, the flavor should go well with the spices and will reduce the fat and calorie counts as well as making the meal a bit cheaper. I will also do my homemade pitas, I didn't bother this time as I wanted to focus on the new recipe. This is definitely a keeper and would do well for entertaining for a casual party. It could all be made up ahead and then the pitas heated and the meat grilled in a pan just before serving.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday Feature, The High Line

high line header

Its been a few weeks since my last Friday feature, annoyed at myself for that but that’s what I get trying to do too many things at once. However we are back and hopefully will be able to keep it up for a good long time. I will put up a generalized post about my goings-on in bike life from the past couple weeks maybe later today or tomorrow but for now I bring you back to mid august and to a Saturday of NYC Summer Streets (pictures from that will be coming too) and a visit to the High Line.

For those that have not followed the story of the High Line Park revitalization project, this is a former section of elevated freight track on the west side of Manhattan, it was constructed and opened to trains in 1934 and ran until 1980. It sat in derelict and threat of demolition until the Friends of the High Line group, was formed in 1999 for restoration as a public park and green space. The first section finally opened in June of this year, with the second section due to open next year. I have been following the project since the middle of last year and when I knew I was going to the city this August, I made it a priority to go and see it and document, at the time for personal reasons, but once this blog was launched as a way of showing the beauty that can come from reuse, and turning industrialized sites to public spaces. So without further ado, I present the High Line, elevated park in pictures.

high-line-map-2

The map from the website is very useful, I edited it down to show just the area that’s open and the subway stops nearby. Click the image for the full 2 page PDF map from the High Line website.

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This is southern end main entrance to the Park, the line further south was demolished many years ago. It was quite crowded and the area is certainly experiencing a revitalization that is quite apparent with many new restaurants and shops. If you wish to see it as it was when the google street car last came through, the link is Here

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I wanted to point a really cool feature out on this last image. If you look in the upper left corner you see separated wooden lawn chairs, well these can roll together on train trucks as the rails are restored, so you can combine two or three together and make a huge one or move away from the woman talking on her cell phone, very nifty. A closer image can be found Here

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This stained glass piece is one of a number that hang on a wall inside one of the buildings the high line runs through. The artist took 700 pictures of the Hudson then digitalized them and added color depending on the water, he then created this piece by putting together the 700 pieces by hand. It’s quite beautiful. For more information on the Artist, who’s name is Spencer Finch, you can visit his website for the project Here. (there are arrows in the upper right, click them and you can see the progression of the installation). For information on the current exhibitions and upcoming works visit the High Line Public Art page Here

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It was a warm day when I visited, and there were a good number of people enjoying the park, it was great to see people from all walks of life and all age groups enjoying this space. I would imagine, once its novelty wears down a bit and the full length is open, it would be an amazing space to do art or read or just sit and enjoy life.

Thanks for visiting the High Line with me
For more information please see their website or their blog. There are lots of ways you can get involved if you live in the city, as well as more resources, pictures, and video of the project and its completion.

For more of my pictures from my High Line visit please see my Flickr album.

Be sure to check out Jim’s post below as well!
-John

Too Much Stuff!


So we all seem to have too much stuff. I've spent the last couple weeks helping my mother to clean out her garage, attic and storage shed. We went through box after box of baby clothes, old dishes, books, children's clothes and miscellaneous kitchen gadgets etc. Every box we opened evoked memories and/or horror that she had actually saved this or that. Her goal was that we, her children shouldn't have to go through her stuff when she is no longer with us. She did that when her parents died and more recently when my father passed away. Well we got it cleaned out and sent to resale shops or donated to those in need. Sad to say a small amount of stuff did go to the landfill. But since we endeavored to try and have things resused it was undoubtably a much smaller amount than most folk would have sent to the dump.

Now this post isn't specifically about my mother's stuff. We all have too much stuff, so lets take a look at why. Stuff doesn't just magically appear. We are responsible for our stuff, George Carlin had a few words to say on the topic that points out just how ridiculous our addiction to STUFF is. So I'll let him start this conversation.


I liked his analogy that houses are just a place to keep our stuff. The average size of the american home has grown tremedously in the last 40 years. The average American home swelled from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,349 square feet in 2004, a 140% increase in size.

Well you know what we did with all that extra room? We filled it with stuff. Carlin jokes about the storage industry, but the abundance of stuff is more the fault of another industry. Advertising and Marketing companies do their very best to convince us we need more stuff. They sell us paper plates, disposable cutting boards and other items meant to be used once and then sent to the landfill. We buy disposable plastic items to keep food in, never giving a thought to what might be coming out of that plastic and getting into our food.

I've tried over the last year to rid myself of some of the stuff I have accumulated over the last 40+ years. It seemed to be a monumental task, opening my spare bedroom which I am using for storage I would be over whelmed with sight of all the boxes I set in there 4 years ago when I moved last and never opened again. I don't need that stuff, I haven't needed it for 4 years and I am unlikely to need it in the next 4. However I was unable to just pick up a box and remove it, after all there might be stuff in there I wanted. Instead I would just look at the pile, say to myself "not today, maybe tomorrow" and shut the door.

Then I hit upon a way to rid myself of stuff and not make it a huge task. Everyday I try to get rid of at least one item. To remove that item from my life, downsize and simplify. Doesn't sound like you are doing much, just one thing a day gone. But when you consider there are 365 days in a year and you are getting rid of one OR MORE things every day. It quickly adds up. You eventually find yourself having to look for stuff you don't need. My residence is cleaner, less cluttered and guess what? I don't miss any of that stuff.

Jim you should take a look at this movie, The Story of Stuff, very good film and has been used in a number of places across the country in classrooms and has pissed a whole bunch of people off for sure! Its a simple little film but it sends the message. You can watch it or download it for free from their website! -John

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Google Bike There

To get back on track a little, its been really busy of late with midterms and then vacation in DC and Jim has had work out of town so has been very busy, but I now have a backlog of stuff to post on on will be getting with the program soon. This post though is one that we first heard a rumour on a good while back when the google street view trike first appeared. the idea of a google bike there function.

The best part about this new dataset is that we've been able to add a lot of new, detailed information to Google Maps - information that helps people better explore and get around the real world. For example, college students will be pleased to see maps of many campuses; and cyclists will now find many more trails and paths to explore. Soon we even plan on providing you with biking directions to take advantage of this new data. Of course, in the true Google spirit of "launch and iterate," we plan to work with more data sources to add new features in the map.


Well that’s the quote from the Google Latlong blog about their latest update to the system and base map interface adding a lot more data. So for now I will leave it at that and you can hop over to their blog to find out more of exactly what type of changes they have made. Look for a usual Friday infrastructure post tomorrow and setting up for a slew of posts from this weekend. Thanks to Infrastructurist for the heads up, and the googlemapsbikethere.org website.
Thanks for reading and check back soon!
-John

Saturday, October 10, 2009

To DC I go

Jim and I have both had a very busy two weeks, my midterms came up and well Jim is just slacking he is so busy :P I am sitting in NYC Penn station waiting for my 5:45 Amtrak train to Washington DC for vacation. I will be showcasing the Solar Decathlon currently going on as well as cycling in DC including the just opened DC bike storage outside Union Station. I will also have pictures of the DC bike share scheme and the DC metro, which I feel is second best on the east coast, only to Montreal. So for now stay tuned for more updates and have a safe and happy Columbus day weekend.

-John

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cycle Path left turns

this is a nice quick little video picked up from the wonderful blog "A View from the Cycle Path" authored by David Hembrow. He is a British ex-pat living in the netherlands and does many wonderful posts about both countries and the differences in thought and infrastructure. This video involves the "old" planning and "new" planning differences when dealing with a left turn. Hell I would take either one over praying the 2 ton SUV's let me move into the left turn lane when I am on my bike. The author is Mark Wagenbuur and his you-tube page has a plethora of wonderful content. enjoy!




To Bake a Bread


So its no lie that I have been very busy, I asked Jim to do a bit more work and he has a bunch of stuff coming up, I will be back for a feature Friday tomorrow hopefully and be back on track sooner rather then later. I find that I have a lot of things to post on but they are all long and wordy, as is par for the course for me, so its a matter of getting the time and sitting down and putting them together. Maybe multiple posts in parts would be a good idea....

Today I am trying something new, we will see if this works the way it's suppose to in terms of post time. I wrote this yesterday and am advancing the post time to see if it will actually do it right... idk though.

I recently started baking bread, this has been a very long time coming and about time as my um habit was getting expensive. Let me say I like my bread!

I used this simple recipe and went from there. I have found that they use way too much salt, 1/4 tablespoon or one teaspoon is just dandy. I also added a bit more honey then they called for and a little bit more flour is a good idea, but the flour depends on what type you are using. I used 7-grain whole grain locally milled Adirondack flour that bakes a wonderful brown bread. You can use any flour of course but this recipe I think lends itself to a nice whole grain, or multi-grain flour.

My changed recipe for 7 whole grain flour

Ingredients:
4 cups Whole Wheat Flour, preferably stone ground
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 (4 tsp) packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons molasses, honey or ribbon cane syrup
(Additional)
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried coconut (this was NOT enough for a flavour difference)

Again experiment with the flour you can use and the salt and honey can be factored to taste in progressive baking's. For my second baking I added cranberries and coconut. I would say 1 cup cranberries is good, or until it looks enough. I did not add enough coconut to make any flavour difference and I think I added 1/2 cup. I allowed my bread to sit and rise in the boiler room of the house; it provides a nice warm environment for the little yeast to be happy in. Baking time for my oven was good but temperature needed to be lowered a bit from 450F to ~425F.

This will yield, depending on the flour, a nice dark loaf with a very strong flavour. Very good for fall baking and great for soups! The shape is of little importance really, but I used cake pans for this loaf, and you can split it nicely between 2 round cake pans or it will work in one square pan as the ingredients are listed. Bread pans are much better for form and so forth but alas I do not have any at the moment, you could also go freeform on a cookie sheet if you wanted and see what happens, although it will need to be thick to do that.

Last note, make sure you oil (or butter) and flour the pans well! This likes to stick a whole lot!

Last note, experiment and have fun, this is great to do with the kids as its nice and simple and an easy mess to clean up ;) once you are comfortable, go crazy!

There will be more pictures and recipe variations as I experiment and garner success or failure.

(edited note) I think I got the hang of linking the images to the image main page on my flickr account where you click the image and can view it in a number of different sizes!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Getting it Right



Found this excellent documentary of a city that has got cycling right. Not just the infrastructure, but the attitude of the citizens and the acceptance of cycling. One thing to note of interest, look at the clothing of the cyclists, I didn't see a speck spandex anywhere. What I did see was suits and high heels, when was the last time you saw someone in heels riding to work?

There is a lack of helmets that may seem strange to Americans. I think our helmet culture came out of lack of acceptance of cyclists on the street. I have many friends on "the other side of the pond" and they don't see it as strange at all.

Enjoy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Green in a Small Package




Welcome to Traverse City Michigan. A small town located in the north west side of the lower peninsula of Michigan. With a population of about 14,000 you would think this would be the last places you would see green initiatives. However Traverse City has a population very interested in the outdoors and an economy dedicated to tourism, so they are very focused on this.

The above picture is of the Traverse City Light and Power company's wind turbine. Erected in 1996 it is one of the largest and oldest in Michigan. The Light & Power wind turbine is a Vestas model V-44, 600 kW generator built in Denmark. With a blade diameter of 144 feet on a 160-foot tower,and one of my favorite landmarks in this city. The turbine was erected with the help of a community supported initiative for a "green rate", a voluntary premium rate for residential and commercial customers willing to pay more for green energy.

I had not been back to the "Cherry Capital" in three years. Traverse City earned that nickname because of the major agricultural crop in the area, although I think grapes and wine production is catching up to the cherries. After my absence I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of bike infrastructure that had been added to the down town area in recent years. I also saw quite a change in the style of bikes around town, it used to be all mountain bikes ridden by grungy 20 somethings. Now you see folks of all ages riding bikes meant to be comfortable and designed to carry stuff, be it bagels from the one of the numerous coffee shops or a week of groceries.







Bike racks also abounded, something that had been completely absent just a couple years ago.





The city has had the lakefront path way for many years. They have now added bike lanes to the downtown area, unfortunately it doesn't appear a lot of thought went into laying them out safely.



Overall I give the city an "A" for effort, they at least are trying to make a positive change. If a city with a population of 14,000 in mid summer, (it drops a bit in the winter) can make these positive changes, why do larger cities struggle?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just Soap




Today is going to be a bit different. I don’t really like promoting one product or another or one company or another, if there is something I have used and I really liked for whatever reason then yep I will mention it, but no other reason then I found it good or cool. That is what today is about. I was down at the Brattleboro, VT food Co-Op amazing place, absolutely huge! If you get a chance and are in southern Vermont it is a must to stop in at. I needed some soap while I was there so was interested in what they had. I found this company, called “Just Soap” the pedal powered natural soap. I was like whoa! Pedal powered? Thankfully they had a nice little brochure there which talks about the process and how they do it and why and found out that its made in Ashfield, MA, basically right around the corner!

From their website
Here's how it works: The bicycle drives a belt that turns a blade in a large stainless steel vat, where we stir together the purest ingredients - saponified olive, coconut and palm oils, essential oils, and organic herbs and spices. Once the ingredients start to thicken, the magic of soap making has begun, and we pour the mixture into wooden frames to set. A few days later, we cut the bars with a wooden press, and cure them for over two months to ensure a long-lasting bar. Our unique bicycle blender allows us to make larger batches of handmade soap.


I have added this to a list of places to try and visit, and I just had to get some once I found out what it was. The soap was well, just soap! It worked very nicely and lasted for a little over a month of everyday use, for a really good price

It seems they don’t distribute out of New England, but maybe If you know your local soap maker, you could suggest this idea to them and give them this company’s contact, because this is pretty much the best idea for using a bike I have seen in a long time.

Google Maps

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Friday Infrastructure (on Sunday!!): The Tram Life


Larger size
First of all, I would like to apologize for not updating this for a week. This was a very busy and hectic week and Jim was going to post some food things up but unfortunately stuff came up for him as well and he was unable. None the less, I would like to rectify this situation and work harder to update with new and interesting things. If you have something you would like me to look at or think about please feel free to send me links to my email or post in any of the comments. I read a whole lot of things ever week but it takes a lot of time and as class work mounts, the time I can dedicate to keeping up with it, unfortunately is sacrificed. Without further ado, I present you the usual friday infrastructure post, but new and improved on a sunday (yeah it will happen again, but I will try to not let it)

Today we are across the channel and down the coast to Barcelona! Quite a wonderful city, very bikable with a nice bike share, but only for city residents last I checked. They also have a very nice metro/tram transport system that is laid out nicely and with easy to read signage. Of note, I do not read Spanish nor do I speak any of it, however I was able to find my way around quite nicely. That may have been due to the amazingly useful google maps and google street view but none the less. There was a great organic vegan restaurant hidden on a back street I found which was simply amazing, I will do a post on them later this week, once I find them again.

The tram lines in Barcelona are separate from the underground metro lines, they do however connect in and form a nicely integrated system. Tram lines can be found on the western edge of the city and these are lines T1, T2, and T3 (yes the “T” is for Tram) in the Eastern side the lines are T4, T5, T6. to get from either end of the lines, a subway must be taken and unfortunately 2 transfers must be made, but the system was not designed to work tram-tram it was designed to fit into the subway system and to integrate that system better into the urban environment.

The line that I followed and took pictures of is the T4 line which starts (or ends? or both!) at the Olympic Village near the waterfront. Pictured below is the google street view of this.

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Note it is a duel line system running both ways next to each other. The end is concrete, however it changes to grass fill very quickly as you move north along the edge of the “Parc de la Ciutadella” which houses a zoo, museums, a 1700’s citadel (for which the park is named), as well as water displays, walking and biking paths and planned gardens. Its very nice, lots of people were out the day I was there.
Although not in this picture...
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In this picture note the markings on the road showing the space the tram takes up when it is moving through the intersection. There is a great deal of space given to make sure that a car or lorrie is not ending up stuck on the rails.

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I would like to point out the bike share scheme in Barcelona, Bicing , the system is for residents only and consists of 3000 bicycles throughout the region. It has been in place for 3 years now and has been quite successful. Of note these are the same bikes (practically) that are used for the “SmartBike DC” bike share scheme.

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Bicing website, in spainish


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There are 4 elements I would like to mention regarding this image. One, note the bike lane on the right hand side in the sidewalk. The lane is stripped and is “one way” in the direction of car travel. While this is not ideal, the sidewalk space is large enough to accommodate this lane and mixing does not seem to be too much of a problem. Two, note there is no car parking along this boulevard, but there are trees and it is common to see mopeds and bicycles chained up to these as impromptu parking. It would have been simple to put in staple racks between them, like Vienna did, however it works, I guess… Three, note the ground painting on the lower left, the arrow points in the direction to look first for oncoming trams, very useful especially as it is in the opposite direction of the cars. Four, note the space between the road and the rails. This is good to have for people who cross the road and have to wait for the tram. I am unsure if the road and tram walking lights are timed and triggered together, it would be smart if they were but I have no idea. This space also provides access to the tram stations in the center of the road, these are on slightly raised platforms as the trams are the traditional modern European low floor design, and as such the debarking height is not much more then the normal sidewalk. It would be nice to se a bollard of some kind on the corner of the cross walk next to the tram tracks for a bit of protection from automobiles , but it is not really critical.

To get back to the main image, it is taken at the Olympic park stop end, I can tell this due to its timestamp when I took it, however I have no idea where exactly or where I am looking to see solar panels on the roof, as can be seen in the upper center. I really enjoyed Barcelona and wished I had spent more time there and not gone on, I only spent one full day, and it was certainly not enough.
Google Maps
Transports metropolitans de Barcelona network map (in pdf)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday Infrastructure: A jaunt to York


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Yep late again, fell asleep last night and meant to write this then, whoops!

Today we are showcasing something a little bit different. As you might have figured out I really like focusing on cycling and walking and using them as a viable means of transportation. However, these 2 cannot solve all our problems, in fact for many places a car is still needed in some form and distribution is needed to be done by trucks in some cases as well. That is where electric drive comes in, however for long distances there is another piece to this puzzle, which are the Railroads.

I am a huge train nut, not an avid train spotter, but I would be if I had the time. So one of the wonderful things about the city of York, UK is, yes it’s a cycling “capital” (I use that term loosely because really its still not really great for infrastructure, just better then non existent.) It is also the home of the largest train museum in the world and a vital link between London and Edinburgh being ~2 hours and 200 miles from each.

The picture for today is indeed a picture of York rail station, built in 1877 it is quite distinct and holding up well, but could use a bit of updating. They do have some bike storage and it was full when I saw it, but its very small and nothing to shake a stick at.

One might notice the sign hanging in the picture, it notes over 60 trains a day to London from this station and going online to the East Coast line website the time for some of these trains varies from just under 2 hours to about 2 hours and 10. It is ~190 miles from York station to London Kings Cross station.

For reference the distance is about the same from Boston South station to NYC grand central. There are 10 trains a day here with the regional taking 4 and a half hours and the Acela taking 3 and a half. Which is quite sad if you think about it, the Acela has a higher top speed than any of the British trains but the rails here are so bad and there are too many stops along the way that it never reaches any good speed, not the mention they had to skimp on the breaks to save money so it can’t even go its top designed speed.

It is hard to give fair information because in the uk prices are hugely dependent on how far ahead you can book. For my time in the uk I was able to book about a month+ in advance and were getting £15 fares for a whole lot of travels, I also had a 30% off discount card. The trip to London from York can cost anywhere from £11(17$) to £96(153$) with the lower fares on odd hour trains. To compare the Acela will cost lowest 93$(£58) to 124$(£83) one way and business class only. There is seriously something wrong here….

If they were truly serious about the Acela then 1 maybe 2 stops, in the uk there are 4 stops on most trains between London and York, if you needed more you take a slower regional which makes sense. There are currently 6 stops between Boston and New York for the Acela.

There is not much I can say about the station, it does its job and its great to be able to take the rails pretty much anywhere anytime in the UK. I wish I had that option here. There will be more later on how the UK system works and what I don't like about it and how it is currently run.

Google Maps
Sustrans map

Amtrak
National Express East Coast
York Station
City of York

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bikes Belong

In Chicago at least. This is a video produced by the Chicago Police department with help from lots of people on education for motorists, cyclists, and police officers. I have to say it’s the best video I have seen on the rules of the road and proper procedures from a North American agency of any kind. It is really good and all police departments need to see this and remember it is their JOB to look out for EVER road user, not just the cars. Thanks to streetsblog NY for the video. And while these regulations don’t apply in every state or city they are mostly common sense, get educated before you get on the road, you could save a life. Enjoy

Traffic Enforcement for Bicyclist Safety from Chicago Bicycle Program on Vimeo.



of further note I will work on finding information for New York and anything for my current town, Plattsburgh(doubt they have anything actually) and make a post on it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Saga of the Flats

Ok so as I mentioned the other day, had an issue with a flat. Thankfully not while I was riding, so I will recount the story as there is more to it.

Friday morning, nothing-special nice cool temps for the morning ride for my 9am class. After class bike across campus for my 10am class, day is nice and sunny around 70F (about 21-22C) park in the bike rack in front of the building, its a bit crowded as the university if sorely lacking in bike parking, about half the trees around any given building have bikes locked to them... Anyway get out from my 10am class and look at that, flat tire in the back, like completely airless. Of course I don’t know how it happened at the time, it does not look like somebody cut the tire, figured the heat might have finally blown it but the front was fine so was not sure.

Thankfully I have access to the theatre scene shop, which has all wonders of nice tools and air hookups, as well as water and buckets to find leaks. I didn’t have class until 1 so plenty of time. Take apart the bike, get the inner tube out, and inspect the tread, no visible damage; water test time! For those that don’t know, if you can't find a leak in a tire tube, car or bike, the time honored test is to fill it a bit with air and stick it in a bucket of water and look for the bubbles, its easy, its simple, its fast and it always works. I found the hole, right on the seam, as this tube was original to the bike (I believe) it did not surprise me, the bike is ~4 years old and now I am using it every day for long distance its getting a lot more wear; so understandable. I did check the tread just in case there was something, didn’t find anything. Trip down to the bike shop to get a new tube, saw a friend and got a ride back to campus. Install the new tube, tread back on, pump it up and good to go.

The next morning, I have a noon work call so am prepping the bike, check tires for air, new tube is holding nicely at 60psi, front is great at a little less then that. Wonderful bike ride in, saw 8 cyclists out including a couple kids and an older gentleman on a beautiful black single speed cruiser, seen him a lot actually. Get done with work, grab some food, do some things in the library and get out around 5:45 to go to my second work call at 6. Boom flat tire! And it’s the rear again! Bah! It was just freaking sitting there! Its too late to get to the bike shops, they are closed, I have work in 15, so walk it over to the show I am working, not a happy camper, lock it in the theatre and catch a ride home as there is no point trying to work on it when I can’t really do anything.

Sunday comes around, work call at 1 (yes I work on Sunday sometimes, it was a matinee of the performance) call my friend and he picks me up for 12 and I walk about a mile and a half to strip mall central to the only bike shop open on Sunday. There will be more on this part of Plattsburgh later; needless to say it’s a mess for anything, and downright depressing when you are walking. Talk with the guys, good guys actually, pick up 2 new tubes and a patch kit (which I needed anyway) and I am off. Show went longer then expected due to a light board power failure, and strike took until ~8. Scene shop to the rescue again. Wheel is off and tube out, I found the hole that is on a divet in the tube that matches up with the holes in the wheel frame where the spokes attach. Since the holes are sharp and if the tube is not seated right they can put a hole in the tube, which it looks like is what happened, I understood how it happened. To solve this I put down a line of electrical tape, which fits nicely in the groove on the wheel and then put everything back together, being careful on installation of the tube.

So far today everything is working nicely, checked tire pressure this morning, class and back around 11 miles total today so hopefully that does it.

I certainly learned a lesson in this and I am glad I had the experience; I also got 2 bungee ties out of it as well!! (yay reused tubes!)

Anybody else have freaky tire failure? Either on the road or sitting parked? What do you carry for patching if you cycle a lot? CO2 or hand pump? New tube? Patch kit?