Thursday, April 29, 2010

This is a website and petition to ask Obama to support solar power on the White House. A solar company, Sungevity has actually offered an almost 18kw system for the White House, free of charge!

This is a win win for sure.
Only this time, make sure to weld them on so a future president cant take them off as easily...

Head on over to the site and sign the petition!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Streetfilms | Tom Vanderbilt Talks “Traffic”

Streetfilms | Tom Vanderbilt Talks “Traffic”

I am currently reading "Traffic" and enjoying it quite a bit, although unfortunately I seem to have left it about a month ago on a 7hr Greyhound bus ride from NYC after visiting my wonderful girlfriend in Spain.. BAH!! I need to buy another copy when at home I guess :P siiighhh

It is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it to anybody even remotely interested in traffic or human societies. Just head on down to your local book store and ask if they can get "Traffic", I bet you they might even have it in stock, its been very popular.

enjoy the film!!

Snow... seriously???

Right, the pictures are yesterday morning before riding in and then last evening when I got home.

It snowed all day, about half an inch on the grass. Yes it is April, I had to check to make sure...

As the temperature was around 40 it was very very wet snow, which meant that unlike the typical dry snow we get, I was soaked by the time I got in this morning, and really soaked coming home.

Did I mention the wind was from the North West at a sustained ~10 mph? Oh and also that it was gusting to near 20mph? yeaahhh good times. Hence why I was royally soaked coming home.

I am ready for spring, Plattsburgh. Annyyyy time now...

should be 75 by the weekend...


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hey you, get off of that sidewalk!

Image thanks to OberWiki, from Oberlin, Ohio.

I was riding home yesterday, after about 40 minutes of excellent conversation with a cyclist member of the board of my local Co-Op. I was showing him my new bike and the features and we were discussing riding habits, how and where a lane could and should be taken, safety and so forth. We parted ways and as it was dusk, I had my full complement of lights flashing away, making me quite similar to a bloody Christmas tree!

I round the corner by the new bike shop and what is technically State Route 9. There is a man, maybe later 20's, I don't think a college student, and anyway he is riding along quite quickly on the sidewalk. Now I hate sidewalk riders and I do try to comment every time I come across one, if it’s logical for me to do so. He also had no lights...

I said, Dude, you shouldn't ride on the sidewalk. Simple too the point, however I could have said something like, dude its safer for you to ride in the road. I thought about this later due to the response.

Oh yeah he was wearing headphones, but heard me...

"Shut the fu*k up, as*hole"
I of course was in no mood to explain the subtleties of subjective vs. actual safety of riding on a sidewalk as opposed to the road. Especially in the situation where he had no lights or other reflective equipment, was wearing dark clothing after sunset, was clearly in a foul mood, and seemingly not interested in talking points.

I kept riding along, thinking that most likely this guy was the type to own a large truck and would normally be passing me within inches going 40 and screaming to get the fu*k off the road. I bet he got a DWI in that truck of his....

Nonetheless, I am out on the 4 laned 35mph (ha, more like 45) section of 9 past the Georgia Pacific plant heading toward Cumberland Head, when I see two more cyclists on the sidewalk.

(note I estimate 1/2 to 2/3rds of cyclists in Plattsburgh are on the sidewalk, for a majority of their ride)

I decided a slightly different tact was needed in this case, they were two young women, maybe freshman in college age or seniors in high school. What made them stand out was the one at the back had a freaking bright light (I saw later that the one in the front had a very strong headlight... I hope they planed that...)

My comment was, "thanks for having nice lights!" and gave a thumbs up :)

My response was, "hey thanks man, sure" with a smile.

I continued on, smiling :)

Now I understand subtleties, and do use them, but is it this simple?
I know in many cases using encouragement or complements can get you further than criticism, but I actually do best with criticism, knowing what I am doing right is great, but knowing what I am doing wrong is so much better, and much more useful to me. Was it the age and social difference between the high school girls, and a late 20's man, that caused the responses? Or was it my tone of voice and positive vs. critical reinforcement...

I have a feeling if I said "dude its safer in the road with me" to the guy I still would have been sworn at, he was not a happy cyclist, hence my thinking he got a DWI and license suspension.

I try to be a showcase for proper cyclist behavior, for motorists, and cyclists alike, but I do understand riding with cars going 45+ past you is not comfortable for many. Nor is taking the lane on this stretch to increase safety on a personal level, comfortable either.

In a way, it does feel safer on the sidewalk. There is the tendency to think of yourself as a pedestrian with wheels, after all that is how we are taught to think at an early age. The true risks of this behavior are not apparent to many motorists or cyclists. I understand why they are riding on the sidewalk, I do, but I also know that they are not dealing with complete information and I feel a duty almost to give them a different way of doing things, and better information.

The ~50% of the population that would ride if they felt safer needs separated infrastructure. 10% will feel safer with bike lanes and 1% like me will ride no matter what is provided. (Data from Albany bike master plan (yep its a pdf), mentioned in previous post)

I know I can’t stop cyclists from riding on the sidewalk through the city and out in the rural routs, but perhaps if I focus on positive reinforcement of proper actions. "Dude its safer in the road with me" "hey, I almost didn't see you because I think you have a light out" I will be able to make some small change in the perception of cycling...

Making fully separated infrastructure, using bike sharrows, blocking off streets for motorists and making counter flow bike lanes is what will really bring cyclists to the roads though, only by doing that will you start to get the cyclists off the sidewalks of America.

Thanks to Olivia for mentioning the sidewalk riding in her comment from a couple posts back. I will talk about the theft rates that she seems to be seeing in a city with lots of bicycles, later too

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Capital Coexist

Thanks to for the image

I came across this from a map link on People For Bikes, and initiative from Bikes Belong advocacy group. As a side note, please sign the petition on their website, if you believe, as I do, that bikes belong here in the US and deserve to be treated with respect in all decisions.

This new advocacy group went live on April 1st and is based in the Albany-Schenectady capital district of New York State, it is called Capital Coexist. It has developed out of the Albany bike master plan (caution large pdf!) and is designed to be a resource for best practices, education of cyclists and motorists, safety, advocacy, events coordination, and project links and connections across the state.

I did a brief read through of some of their safety bits, and I have to say, I am impressed. There is only one mention of helmets, and it is the NHTSA fitting guidelines. There is nothing about you must wear a helmet or anything, and its quite refreshing. For reference I always wear a helmet on roadways and when going at speeds of 13mph+. For off road paths I do not wear a helmet and feel no need to as I am perfectly safe, I do always wear riding gloves though, on or off road, I am more likely to break a fall with my hands if I have them on and know my hands will not get all bloody.

Let me quote some of the specifics on safety that the website advocates, both for motorists and cyclists:

For motorists,
  • Always expect to encounter bicyclists on the road, on all types of roads and in all types of weather.
  • Expect bicyclists to be riding out in the travel lane for their own safety due to narrow roads, obstacles or broken pavement.
  • When passing, allow 3 feet of clearance between your car and the bicyclist.
  • Look for cyclists when changing lanes, turning, opening car doors, and pulling out of parking spaces.
For cyclists,
  • Ride predictably, without weaving
  • Avoid provoking motorists regardless of who is at fault; antagonizing motorists can result in dangerous and aggressive driving.
  • Give adequate distance between you and parked cars to avoid doors that may open unexpectedly.
  • When the road is too narrow for a car to pass safely in your lane, take the lane to avoid being hit by a motorist.

While it is not perfect in some of what it says, its not the fault of this group, its the fault of the laws, preventing riding in more than single file, better turning options etc, treating cyclists as vehicles, instead of their own form of transportation (which should include roller-blades, skateboards, etc.)

I was just surprised and very impressed with what they did talk about on here so far. The website is still being designed and is not complete yet, but this should prove to be a valuable resource for many communities across NYS as well as the country.

check it out at

Saturday, April 24, 2010

75 miles, end of the week

Well I logged 75 miles this week, which, for me, is not all that unusual really. Counting the days I missed for weather, my miles this semester are about 940, with 3 weeks to go yet! Five weeks or about 400 of those miles have been on the new bike, and the remainder of the semester will have miles put on the Breezer as well.

I went in today to the Co-Op for a cookie, tea, poetry, musing time and it was nice! I got the mirror for the bike as well. It finally came into the new bike shop in town, a bit pricier and a bit different that what I typically have, but its well built and not made in china (Taiwan) at least. It’s a narrow mirror, rather than the full round one I am use to, but I like it and I think it will work wonderfully for me!

Packing about 35$ worth of food into the bike and headed home. Decided to stop into Elfs Cider mill (makes wonderful apple cider in the fall), as he had just opened back up with gifts, jelly and his wines. The guys had just finished putting a permanent outside portion to the farmhouse, for tasting and eating. Using many reclaimed products from RE-Source, Burlington as well as from auctions in the Plattsburgh area. He is also putting in a poly high tunnel for early grapes as well as making a natural pond with eating area and gazebo, and planting fruit trees, peach and cherry, mainly. He is also interested in getting a northern variety of Goji berry, but maybe not for this season.

It is really good to see local farms reinvesting and trying new things, and it certainly makes the 3acre farm look a whole lot better!

Stay tuned for some pictures of Cranberry Double Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies; I feel the baking urge tonight!

Elf’s mill from the Google street view (yes the picture quality is poor, its like that all over the North Country, there was something wrong with the camera when they took the pictures...)

View Larger Map

The Sounds of Silence

No, this is not flashback time at the blog (at least not for me). However it is a bit of a departure from my usual topics...

I was talking with my tech boss earlier today, and he mentioned a show he heard on North Country Public Radio on Thursday that was about recording silence in the US. After a little searching and figuring out he heard it just before lunch, we would the show from WBUR's OnPoint.

Gordon Hempton was being featured, and his work with recording silence where he could find it across the US. He has a book as well, which documents his Washington-to-Washington trip, called "One Square Inch of Silence". Linked to, you can find both his book and CD's there, but please buy locally if you can.

He is what is know as an Audio Ecologist and specializes not in pure silence per say, but natural silence. Now there is no such thing as true natural silence, but in his definition, it means at least 15 minutes of time spent without hearing a human made sound. It is becoming harder and harder to find these places now, as we develop, and communicate, sound is everywhere, many of us can not experience what true quiet is any more.

I remember my time spent in Vermont last summer, we were out camping in the acres owned by the Putney School, 250+ of them. This is in southern Vermont, so it’s not like the great north woods or anything, but the nights were so wonderful. Especially as we were out camping in them for three nights. The peace that was there, even in this environment where if you tried hard, you could hear the highway, or the motorcycle, or dogs barking in response to the howling coyotes. It was relaxing and almost instantly calming for me. It is very similar to my ride home at night from school; the rural 2 miles of my ride are pretty quiet compared to when I am usually coming in, for my morning class. I maybe have 1 to 3 cars pass me in this time, and the only sounds are the peepers, a rustling of the deer about to bound across the road and the dull rumble of trucks on the Northway, which is less than a mile from my route home.

Silence creates a memory for me, just as sounds of certain things do. Hearing loons, I instantly return to my time at Methodist summer camp in northern NH, sitting on the lake at night, listening to the call, enjoying the peace. When I hear small planes flying overhead I think of home, and of summer, days spent picking blueberries in the backyard, or working the garden. When I hear peepers it brings back memories of springtime, when I hear birds calling at night, I remember my time in the UK and birds chirping away at four in the morning.

Sounds are like smells, and natural silence is that smell that makes you smile, sigh, laugh, and lifts your spirits.

We all need more silence in our lives, and if we are not careful, we will loose what little silence there is left in this country.

I do enjoy urban noises just as much sometimes though, what really makes me happy is cyclists riding along, talking, the ringing of bike bells, the squeak of breaks, the clack of chains on guards, the peace that many in Europe cycle with, yet I think take for granted.

Listen to the world around you that is my thought for earth week, stop, listen, enjoy, and protect.

Natural Silence - OnPoint
NPR Media Player: OnPoint 4/22/10 (caution, may open a new window, audio will start right away)

This is a Video of Mr. Hempton, is his natural environment, enjoy

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New bags (well new use for old bags)

Jim sent me some new bike bags the other day. Well new for me, very used for him. He got a new pair so had these sitting around. My Breezer does not have the Topeak track rack system so I was stuck with the improvised tied inner tubes holding the bag on. Now though I can put my backpack (and 15lb computer) in one side pouch, any books or stuff in the other and still have the ability to carry my Topeak bag on top locked in with 2 half's of a inner-tube. Its quite the setup for sure and makes me look like I am a long distance traveler I think, but none the less. It gets weight off my back, which makes things even nicer for the ride in and home. It allows my construction chic vest to be more visible at night and really anchors that rear wheel on the bike.

Overall, very much a win, and I get to reuse a product, and put it to good use.

There will be pictures of my new bike in the wild soon, and also with the current bag configuration.

Hit 31mph on a bit of downhill stretch with a nice tailwind coming in this morning.

I have about nine posts in draft mode that are waiting to be finished and posted. They will happen soon, but this week is a bit crazy, as it’s nearing the end of the term.

If you need a distraction, check out Ecovelo. He put up an article on crank lengths, which truth be told, I had not even thought about. Even provides a nifty little calculator to determine what your ideal crank length should be.

Denver also launched their bike share scheme thorough B-Cycle today, with 500 bikes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

An older video from CommuteOrlando.

This is from April of this year, and I marked it because it is something quite basic that I deal with every day in Plattsburgh, and in many communities it is the norm for many cyclists. Even in NYC it is a significant problem. Riding the wrong way down a two way street, and exiting from an intersection in a unpredictable way. What makes it worse is doing it at night with no lights or badly positioned reflectors...(which thankfully did not happen here)


We change it by giving cyclists a known environment, where they are safe by design. Yes it can be changed maybe with education, but many that do this type of riding are poorer and disfranchised, and much harder to reach with "classes" or education (short of ticketing the hell out of them). Will infrastructure solve it overnight, nope, but it will get more people on bikes, and thus the percent of cyclists that ride the wrong way, or erratically, will go down such that it is an oddity, and not the norm. Then when new and inexperienced people new to using a bicycle, start to use one, they can see where the majority ride, and follow that. We need longer term solutions to these problems, it won't be solved overnight, and sometimes it won't be solved at all.

Take a quick watch of the video on CommuteOrlando, Here

(disclaimer: normally I am not much of a fan of the solutions and ideas posted on this blog, I feel it focuses too much on vehicular cycling, and less on what is needed to bring more people onto a bicycle, however they do have some good posts and things to think on.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Change Your Life. Ride A Bike!: thursday thoughts: de colores...

Thanks to calitexican from Flickr for the image

Change Your Life. Ride A Bike!: thursday thoughts: de colores...

I came across this example of a U-lock cozie and though it so very wonderful. As I am still quite a novice at knitting and need my wonderful girlfriend to teach me something more advanced than knitting in a single line, I dont know if I can attempt this yet (I know I need new needles too).

That being said though, I really want to do this, and what would be more exciting would be to make some type of knit covering for other parts of the bike too, button or Velcro them on...

getting ahead of my self again though ;)

We ride our bikes. every. friggin. day. | 30 Days of Biking

We ride our bikes. every. friggin. day. | 30 Days of Biking

ok so while I am not into the twitter thing, I am sure there are some of you out there that are and even if you are not this is pretty cool. It's a goal of getting on a bike every single day of April in some form. it can be biking down your driveway to pick up the mail or biking to work, the idea is that you get on a bike once a day and stick with it.

It has a huge following and seems pretty cool to me. I bike pretty much every day, I miss days here and there due to not having to go anywhere on weekends and being I live 4 miles from civilization, I don't tend to want to spend 30 minutes going into town for something I can just do Monday when I have to go into class ;).

So take a peak, join in and tweet about it or something, idk how you kids do these things no days, in my day we didn't have this Twitter and Facebook and you got around using your own two feet, none of this fancy wheeled thing ;)

In the meantime, now that I know about it I will try to get on a bike every day for the rest of this month, even on weekends!

check out the site, its pretty nifty :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bike Parking, almost forgot!

Thanks to BikePGH for the photo of their valet parking

I am part of the local Earth Day planning committee for the community celebration; I act as the unofficial university link as well as the transportation go-to guy. I managed to put together a plan for a lot closure around the event pavilion downtown (see pdf link at the end for final design) , which was approved, although the best design was not chosen, mostly because I was not there to lobby for it and had the city public works/municipal people presenting the designs. Nonetheless, we managed to secure a little under half the lot to be car free for the event, which is better than last year when there was no lot closure! I also am finalizing plans to get Nova Bus (French Canadian company based just outside of Montreal, with a large production facility here in Plattsburgh. they are part of Volvo Bus worldwide) to bring a showcase bus to the event. They will be able to and present who they are, the types of buses made here in Plattsburgh, and how they are helping improve the environment with green manufacturing jobs. We are just now waiting on a PR person to be able to dedicate their time, after I had a very good conversation with one of their people last week.

So today, I was thinking, and it dawned on me. We have no provision for bike parking!!!! Now part of this is encouraging people to walk from their homes to the downtown area cleaning trash and littler along the way. However, many people live far from the downtown core for which cycling would be a much better and faster option! Me being one of course :P. The goal now is to have something similar to what Transportation Alternatives does in NYC with large events, VIP bike parking. Its something that is catching on in the more progressive cities in the Americas that have a growing bike culture. I am working with the new university bike group, Biketopia, with the hope that they will be able to help in terms of manning the parking area, but also being able to introduce who they are to the community and give out information. Providing a much needed university-community link, as well as a service to the community.

It says something that this was not even on my radar until today, but none the less its not a complicated setup and I thought of it soon enough that we should be able to get a good setup and provide the needed infrastructure for safe parking

Parking Closure PDF (its large, from my server)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Some Thoughts on Spring, Cyclists, and the Anti-Cyclist

A proper allocation of space from copenhagenize

Well at least in Plattsburgh, spring has sprung, with nice 70's and clear sky's, it will get back to 60's next week though, which is just fine by me.

What does that mean though? Yes it means planting time and all the birds are out and flowers are coming up and all those nice things. It is also a time where there are a whole heck of a lot of cyclists out and about. These people have been cooped up in their cars over winter, fearing the harshness of a North Country blizzard and freeze, I don’t fault them for that really, I am the crazy one seeing as I am out in pretty much every element with 5 layers on. I am glad they are on their bikes though, and the weather is perfect.

For those of you who do not live in bike friendly areas (e.g. most of the US, Canada, and Australia) this is a time for another type of person to come out of hibernation. Can you guess who it might be?
I will give you a second... and a quote from a blog I happened to stumble upon while trying to find a picture, it sickens me, (and fills me with anger, I took the quote and had to leave, I am still angry actually) and illustrates my point nicely, I will not link to the hate filled post, you can do a word search for it if you wish.
You know who these people are. The cyclists who decide they can ride their bike down the side of – even middle, if they’re that rare kind of asshole – of busy public streets, holding up traffic and inducing in drivers flights of both panic (“oh my god, if this guy falls I will run him over”) and rage (“I hope this motherfucker falls, because then I get to run him over”). I hate you people. I don’t care if there are rules stating you shouldn’t be riding on the sidewalks; that maybe the side of the road is your designated riding area. Get on the sidewalk anyway, you overly-fit pricks. You have no idea how much every non-cyclist hates you
Ok times up, its the "get the hell of my road you dirty cyclist" type of person. Although usually they are not that kind with their words.

This is something interesting I noticed, since I have been cycling long distance here starting in early September, I have maybe had 2 or 3 honkers, 1 yeller and 1-3 near side swipes total, basically until this week, especially during the winter months I maybe had 1 or 2 altercations total.

Today I had 1 honk and 1 near side swipe on the ride in, 1 honk and yell(A**hole, same person for both) while heading from campus to the co-op, at least 3 near side swipes heading home and another honk (multiple from the same person actually, quite aggressive). Just today, I have almost equaled the animosity shown to me since September.

I will not give an inch, they can honk yell do whatever but I am going to ride where it is safe for me, and safe for them and that means taking a lane on a 4 lane 35mph road (btw nobody goes 35 its usually close to 50 on this stretch, nobody enforces, because nobody goes the speed limit). It means I will follow NY state law and ride as close to the shoulder as is safe, which actually means 3-4 feet out since the shoulder is a mess of rocks, glass, potholes, drains, and a 3 inch concrete curbing.

Do I get scared when these things happen, absolutely, my heart starts pumping, the fight or flight instinct kicks in, and the adrenalin starts to flow, for sure.

This is why cyclists here and in many bike-unfriendly communities, ride on the sidewalk.

While technically it is not safer to be on the sidewalk and in many cases its much more dangerous, one does not have to deal with almost being run over multiple times a day or getting swore at.

It’s almost enough to make me join them, almost. Except that I know that I will be giving in to the demands of the motorists; that they will have won. How sad is it that it has to be US vs THEM confrontation? As a budding transportation planner, I will have to plan for cars, even if my focus is cycling and walking, I understand this. Cars are not inherently evil; I welcome the electric car in many ways. (its usually the drivers actually)

This is one of the main reasons why I firmly believe that bike lanes and paint on the ground are not what will change culture in this country; there is no sharing the road with many motorists. Ironically, all but one incident happened on a dedicated shared and signed roadway that officially states to share the road with cyclists. Many motorists begrudgingly do share it with me, but the few who don't are in 4000lb steel cages which can quite easily kill me. That distinction is important. True the percent of drivers who threaten me is extremely low, however the few who do, can do me great harm.

In order to affect a culture shift we need to have fully separated infrastructure with bikes having priority at lights and intersections as well as on certain low mph streets and zones. We need to have what the Netherlands have, what Denmark has, what many other European countries have.

We need to separate the cyclist, from the pedestrian, from the car. Each is its own unique form of movement and each requires its own infrastructure. If we do not do that, then this country I fear is doomed to single digit cycling numbers for a very long time.

Nothing has made me surer of that than today.

I was talking with my girlfriend about my tiredness even after a mile on my rural rout; I could go 2.7+ miles in Leeds and be sweating, but not hurting. My diet is pretty much the same, but what I realized was in Leeds, on the route I took, I could move faster than the cars and buses, speeds were low (relative) and it was a very urban area. I also had panted lines all the way to the university, else 20mph residential zones. It was easier on my mind to bike in Leeds, I had less to worry about, yes I got yelled at once and had an egg thrown at me, but despite that, it was a much more pleasant trip. Despite the fact, it was hillier and had more traffic lights (although no stop signs, since there are very few in the UK).

My commute every day is on rural routs with cars and trucks going 50mph+ past me through a little over half my commute, in town I am pretty ok, I use residential side streets mostly and have little problem. That rural bit is taxing me quite a bit it seems, such that I may be feeling some physical pain from it.

Its just a theory but seems to make sense.

We need more cyclists who actually ride in the road, it would help a lot, but I fear that many would stop riding if they had to ride in the road, the police do no cite cyclists on the sidewalk because well they believe it to be safer (I think) despite it being against state law. If I was just getting on my bike here, hell yes the sidewalk is safer, we have one painted bike lane in town (yes one) and 2 longer distance multiuse paths that don’t connect to anything. That’s it.

I am mixed about advocating for following the law, when the law is not the safest option here, I want to do what safe and yes nationally I know the numbers, but it sure as hell does not feel safe when you bike on the roads in a lot of the town.

Educating cyclists on the danger of sidewalk riding is all I can do, I know I have inspired a number of people to get on a bike, ones who may not have done so before, that I call a success.

Educating drivers on why cyclists are where they are and the dangers that make them be where they are, is something I want to do as well. The above quote fits right into the education part of this.

Somehow I don't think education will make much difference...

For now I will ride like I have since September, maybe it’s the new bike they are honking at and they think it looks nice ;)

[update 4/4/10]
Urban Simplicity over in Buffalo NY also covered this topic briefly in a post yesterday, for more reading you can head over to that wonderful blog. Urban Simplicity