Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's cold!!

So I was riding home on Friday, I had a water bottle (re-purposed glass bottle)with a small bit of water in it, as well as a Ginger Brew from Maine Root in the backpack. Now its been really cold, wind chill into the negative teens Fahrenheit and it was very cold Thursday and Friday, its better today and should be this week. Anyway I was coming home, double layers of gloves, 5 top layers, long socks, balaclava+wind/rain breaker hood for my head. I was pretty warm except for my upper thighs, but anyway I get home and get inside and take the water and Ginger out of my backpack, to find the water is frozen solid, and the Ginger is a slush!! This was after a 25 minute ride.

man that's some cooling there, times like this I do envy the folks in their steel cages with heaters, thankfully it usually does not stay cold that long.

onto another week

Pedestrians on the campus

Image is not mine, thanks interwebz

Among other things I do, not focused specifically on cycling is thinking about pedestrian issues and safety, as well as accessibility. I have started a project to get a Campus Police officer at an intersection that is not the main cross point for students getting to class. This crossing is very dangerous with 4 directions of cars as well as turning cars, in addition to students crossing all 4 streets trying to get to class. The following is my proposition spelled out and I have submitted it to some of my friends for comments, and now I shall post it here.

"I want to bring up a problem and my proposed solution and then have your comments on that solution, or the problem.

The problem is the pedestrian crossing of Broad Street at Beekman Street right next to Kehoe. For many of you this is the crossing you must take getting from the south end of campus (residence halls, ACC, library etc.) to the north end of campus (Hudson, Hawkins etc.) and both pedestrians, cyclists, and car drivers have many problems crossing at this intersection at many times of the day but especially during class crossover time. In the past, the pedestrian bridge has carried the large majority of foot traffic across Broad Street, the Master Plan consultant group in their pedestrian route studies has verified this as well. This bridge will be out of commission through the fall and may be up and running by spring of 2011 due to Hudson work, but until then we have two semesters at least of a major risk in safety for all users passing through that intersection. You only have to be there at cross over time to understand the issues of cars turning with the light, cars stuck in the intersection, students late for class, students on phones, or ipods of otherwise distracted, drivers on phones or otherwise distracted, drivers trying to get to the mall area, and also to class, cyclists trying to navigate from either the sidewalk or the roadway, I think in anybody’s mind it is a bloody mess at cross over time, at least anybody who has actually watched this intersection during cross over times, let alone tried to cross.

My solution to this problem, until the bridge is open, and maybe after, is something that I have talked about and studied at a couple other campuses, including my home campus of the University of New Hampshire. That is to use Campus Police as traffic controllers at this intersection during key cross over times. Our campus Police are trained as full Police officers (not rent-a-cops) and as such have training in traffic control, and would be qualified to fill this duty. This idea was suggested to me by the campus planner at UNH as it was the solution to their similar problem, this was and has been a huge success on their campus, but unlike us, they have many more crossings as their campus is spread out, so its actually more of a challenge for them then it would be for us. They have however, had great success encouraging students to use the guarded crossings when moving across this road and have reduced many issues that arise in an environment with multiple types of road users. This is a proven solution to the problem we have with this intersection. Traffic signals and cross signals can only be successful in simple intersections, with simple problems. Human traffic controllers are by far the best way to control traffic across the board, and especially in complicated intersections.

So I talked with Keith Tait, who is the head of Environmental Health and Safety on our campus, and a good friend. He had a talk with the chief of the campus police in good faith, suggesting my idea as this intersection has been on his radar for a long time and his department has been working to try and find a solution that would minimize risk to all users. He was basically told that they would not do this, due to cost, due to pedestrians not paying attention, and due to potential liability. My response to Keith when I heard this was, what happens when a student is truck and killed and their parents sue the school for millions because the risk was known and had not been taken care of?(he agreed with me that we need to push this) This response is typical of a department that does not really care about the university students and their safety. I pay for their salaries, we all do, and when a safety issue comes up that can be solved by campus police I expect that to happen (with some work to iron out problems, such as cost, obviously) I do not expect the first response to be that, nope sorry we cant do that, not when it is their job to keep us safe. Their job is not to make excuses, their job is to serve us and keep us safe, and if their first response to a solution is no? Are they really serving us?

Sorry this is long, I don’t due quick points, there is too much of a back-story to make this quick and simple.

My solution to this is to start a petition to get campus police at the mentioned crossing during the primary cross over times, 8am to 4pm for example for 15 minutes, 10 minutes before the hour and 5 minutes after. To keep them there through the opening of the pedestrian bridge, or until it seems many of the issues at this intersection have been solved in terms of safety.

So thoughts? First off I hope to get a meeting with the chief and talk to him directly about this, sometimes I can be very persuasive and can succeed where others might fail. However I expect to hear the same answer. At that point I will then pursue a meeting with the president and SA, depending on how that goes I hope to start a campus wide petition process for students, faculty, and staff to get a guard at this specific crossing. I will need support on this and I will need you and your friends to really make this happen, but that’s some time in the future

So thoughts on the problem?
Thoughts on the responses by CP?
Thoughts on my solution?
Thoughts on a petition?
Should I go to the president instead? Should I go to the Student Association? Maybe do all of the above?

I can go on and on about the lack of pedestrian(cyclist) safety on the campus, believe me I could go for hours, I can also give solutions that will work and keep people safe, but as with anything they cost money due to physical changes in the road, however this is a problem that can be made better with a simple human, and i believe is worth fighting for."

When looking at other campuses I see the same problems, time and time again, either because of campus-town issues or lack of understanding on campus, or just pure ignorance to down right hatred. I don't think there is a solution, but we need to be doing something on each and every campus to facilitate pedestrian safety, and we have not done enough.

Friday, January 15, 2010

How to Transport a bike

Thanks to for the picture

So lets say you found your wonderful new bike, you love it, it does what you want and you need to get it home. Now say you don't own a bike rack or even a car, because well the bike is your transportation. There are a couple ways you could go with this, if the shop is local, use your old bike to pull it home, because well why would you want to get rid of your old bike. The formula is N+1 not N-1+1, where N is the number of bikes you have currently, there is no room for this getting rid of bikes silliness. There are racks that allow for a tire to be placed and locked down, and Xtracycle system will allow this (see Here, Here, and a longer story on Xtracycle type cargo bikes Here) there are also do-it-yourself rigs online for this, but only works if your old bike is a cargo or transport or has a rack system. Walking is an option if it’s not too far away. However for the most part you would be going via public transport or a friend. I won’t deal with the friend thing here, but I want to talk about the public transportation option.

For inner-city travel, there is the bus. Most of these do not allow bikes (except foldies) on board due to the space required, sometimes they might if there is plenty of room and the driver is feeling nice. In some areas there are racks on the front of the buses for 2-3 bikes, these buses are typically in smaller communities or college areas, and are actually really good for providing mobility and creating mode share possibilities, however this is unlikely in dense urban routes as the time required is quite a bit to load on, and there is likely to be too many bikes for the limited space, and well, its urban, riding the bike is easier as things are closer together.

Also for inner-city travel is the subway, light rail, or tram/trolley. The restrictions vary with each agency/city and sometimes within the network. Example; trams do not allow bikes, but the subway does. Usually the policy is clear and typically full sized bikes are not allowed during rush hour time due to the space required.

For commuter travel or regional transport, there is light or heavy rail. For light commuter rail, most I believe allow bikes on board, usually you have a limited area to place them, usually its just around where you board or exit the train, sometimes there are seats that fold up or sometimes even a compartment (like many UK trains I rode). Ideally an entire car would be used for proper storage of bikes, but that is very unlikely to happen anytime soon.

If you want to go city-to-city then your options are very limited.
Flying is possible, but the fees are insane and from what I have heard, quite a hassle, although if you take it apart and remove some elements you can ship it by plane and call it art in progress or something, with maybe better treatment, but you are riding your bike normally, unless you are moving to another part of the country, I am not sure why you would fly with your bike anyway.

Amtrak allows bikes on some routes and some stations due to the nature of how they typically carry bikes. My Downeaster service allows bikes at three stations due to the platform length and the "dummy" engine on one end that holds larger storage items, needing to be accessible to the loading platform. I could have a bike on the train from North Station in Boston, but I could only unload it at Portland, ME or one other Maine town, for all intensive purposes, useless, especially for commuters from New Hampshire (which is a majority).

Greyhound or other bus services seem like the best bet, short of actually shipping through UPS or other company for a huge cost. Greyhound allows bikes with the following statement:
Packaging only exceptions to the following items: bicycles, skis and ski poles must be packed in wood, canvas or other substantial container, and securely fastened.
It is considered checked baggage and subject to fee for an extra bag if you already have one with clothes in it, the fee is 10$. Some companies like Boltbus and other providers will carry bikes free of extra charge and free of excessive packaging requirements or oversize limits, as long as its within the one baggage limit for under the bus. I have read that people have the best success with this, and you may find another company that has specific space for bikes, but I don't know.

So why did I bring this up, why the long lead-up. Well I found the bike I want, the Breezer Uptown 8 or see my other post on the bike. It does everything I need and want and with a quick fitting was wonderful to ride and gave me plenty of gears for what I was doing. However due to the sever lack of suppliers and carriers for Breezer, I will have to get the bike from Harris Cyclery, just outside of Boston (home of Sheldon Brown, may he rest in peace). Which is not a problem except that getting back to college in Plattsburgh, NY involves a Greyhound trip, and now you understand the logic behind this. A comment on a bike forum about using bike boxes that shops get their bikes in and taking the bike apart for shipping, got me thinking, and I think it will work. It will certainly be interesting getting the bike as I might see if Harris will pack the bike for me, with minimal deconstruction, and I take the bike home in the back of my dads wagon and not deal with the mess of 2 MBTA commuter trains and a subway with a new bike, and then a drive with the bike on the bike rack from the commuter rail station.

I will update further once I complete my trip, hopefully with a brand-new bike.
Until then, I hope this will work out; otherwise I am quite stuck...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Studded Bike Tires, Update.

Well we have definitely had some snow and ice lately. Temperatures have been cold and we received about eight inches total of snowfall over the last week or so. I've put a decent amount of miles on the studded tires and now have a firmer grip of what they are like.

I LOVE THEM. My goodness I should have tried these years ago. As I previously mentioned I purchased the Nokian mount and ground 160's. One hundred and sixty carbide studs arrayed towards the outside of the tire. When I first mounted them, I was unsure as to how well they would perform. Here is the most notable improvement I have had.

Those of you who ride in the winter know that sideways slip is what gets us in winter riding. When you apply power to the pedals you also apply some sideways force to the tires, since the pedals are mounted to either side of the center line of the bicycle, there is no way to avoid that. It's not an issue unless you are on a surface that would allow you to lose traction. Snow, ice or gravel will allow the tire to slip sideways. Most of the time this forces you to occasionally put a foot down to stop the bike from sliding out from under you.

An experienced rider can compensate for much of this, but occasionally you will still have that slip that goes too far and it is either foot down or all down and you fall as the bike slides out from under you. With the studded tire you still have that slip, but it is only a couple of inches, then the studs on the outer edges of the tires catch as they dig in.

A good example of how much this helps was my trip to the grocery store yesterday. The most direct and safest route for me for this is plowed sidewalk. The store is located on the busiest road in town with traffic speeds of 50+ mph. They plow the sidewalk which leaves about 3 inches of soft snow with a base of ice from previous snowfall. Soft snow over ice is just about the worst for slipping. Normally I would travel slow and be prepared to put a foot down on this trip. But I made the transition from the road to the sidewalk portion and just kept going, the rear end would slip as expected, for about 2-3 inches then the studs would catch and I would continue on. I never had to put a foot down the whole trip and my speed was almost double what I would normally have maintained on that route this time of year.

I did a maintenance inspection yesterday on the bike. I'm missing one stud, which I had noted when I installed the tires. So I have lost zero studs since I started using the tires, tread wear is not noticeable as of yet. I'm very happy with the tires and they are going to be my new winter tires from now on.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year or something like that

well its that time again, time to welcome a new year. Its looking to be a good year for sure I think at least for me, with a good term coming up, summer work hopefully in my field and graduation in December. However there is one thing I have been meaning to mention. I think I mentioned earlier that I am looking at the Breezer Uptown 8 as my nice pretty new commuter bike, its exactly what I want and reviews well (see here). One problem, the Breezer dealer network is bloody small and out of date! Of the 6 dealers I have looked at 3 of them have breezers or can get them in, one of those three seems to just want to be closed even if they say they are open, the other one would have to order it in (bloody useful for a test right that is) and the last one is thankfully reliable, and was the home of the one and only Sheldon Brown, Harris Cyclery. They have one in stock, its a slightly smaller frame then what I am looking for but might actually do, anyway will give me an idea of the ride for sure. So soon I will provide more info once I know whats going on. The idea is to have it before I leave for up north in 20 days and bring it along. In the meantime, stay tuned as Jim and I get to work and set off on a new year.