Saturday, December 31, 2011

Have a safe and happy New Year!

If  you are out in about in any form of transportation, foot, car, bike, bus etc this evening. watch where you are going and be aware.  Lots of celebrations going on and some folks might not be as aware as they are suppose to be.  Ride safe, ride happy!

Have a safe and sustainable transportation friendly new year :)

Happy New Year in Dutch

MIT Helmet Vending Machines has an article today on a class project designing a helmet rental system for use with the Hubway or other bikeshare system.  Now I think it is a good idea to have helmets available to folks who will not ride their bike without one, and they certainly should be available for cities that have mandatory helmet laws and bikeshare (all in Australia at the moment).  However, lets look at the information: 30% of Hubway users are using helmets (72% in the city of Boston as a whole, I think its less in Cambridge).  I would actually tend to say that is high. By my observations,  I may have seen one or two users wearing a helmet of the many users I saw over the past view months.  There have been zero crashes or accidents in the 140,000+ trips taken in the four months it was open this year. (Hubway data article)

That is the point, zero problems despite a low helmet usage statistic.  It is believed that typical users are folks that are likely to take less risks, and certainly they are traveling at a much slower speed (these are big and heavy 3 speeds, you cant get going to terribly fast on them).  On the flip side they may be less use to the traffic laws especially if they use to walk and now use the bikes, and they may be from other countries where the laws for bicycle are significantly different.

Lets get back to the article, a good idea for sure, but so far it would not matter if more folks were wearing helmets, there were no problems.  Now from Montreal where the system is much more robust and they have better infrastructure, there have occasionally been issues and there are a couple reports of doctors stating the need for the city to fund some type of vending machine (such as this) or partner with shops for discounted helmets (what Hubway does currently). However, they have provided little information other than they see more cyclists in the emergency room for injuries.  When pressed there seems to be little evidence of injuries that could have been prevented with use of a helmet.  This article (in french) talks about a crash that while serious, would not have been less serious for the bixi user if she were wearing a helmet.  Most injuries were in her legs in this case, and it was the fault of a motorist running a red light that was the problem, not the bixi user.  It ends with a call for more and safer infrastructure, which is the appropriate response. (another blog entry in English with a couple different articles linked)

However the one thing we do know is that more bikes on the road means; a lower injury rate, the more people biking the safer everybody is.  We also know the health benefits of cycling (even if they breath in more pollution than other users) are a net benefit.  These two elements have been studied quite a bit and the data is there proving that both benefits are true.  Helmet usage is really a bit of a mixed bag, especially since they are only good in certain crashes and in very specific types they can potentially cause more injuries (rotational specifically).

In conclusion, good invention that will be beneficial in areas with mandatory helmet laws (which btw have a huge negative impact on bike share, a new study for Sydney, AU notes that 22% of folks surveyed would ride  or ride more often without the mandatory helmet law, and bikeshare has struggled to get off the ground with successes everywhere else) and could be beneficial to folks that do not feel safe using a bike without a helmet.  If it gets somebody on a bike good.
However, we need to stop this fascination with the use and promotion of helmets, car drivers don't have to wear them despite data that head injuries among car operators is a significant risk (and the fact that helmets were created for auto users in Australia in the 80's) , folks walking don't have to wear them, despite risks of slip, trip, and fall injuries etc. I could go on.

I do not use a helmet when I am using bikeshare, they simply do not go together at all.  In Montreal or in Boston (the two systems I have used). I do wear one while on my personal European style city bike (Breezer uptown 8), but mainly that is out of professionalism since I work for the City of Cambridge in the Environment and Transportation division, and I could see the news now...  I also tend to travel a bit faster on my personal bike.

Bikeshare and helmets do not go together and while they should be available, the top cycling countries and cities never have mandatory laws nor do they have high helmet usage.  Despite what it may seem, people in those countries are not dying in droves or have massive head injuries because of the lack of helmets (although there is a small percentage of older Dutch that have issues with head injuries due to a variety of reasons).  It is safe to bicycle in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Japan because of the built infrastructure.

Something a little more like this.
The system needs to be designed so that people feel they do not need to use a helmet.  The infrastructure can make it safe and that is where we need to invest our money, not in helmet vending machines, at least not in Boston.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Banana CousCous, An Unlikely Combination

This recipe was a bit of a combination of online resources. It started out with the idea to use up some ripening bananas, I originally thought of some main dish similar to cooked plantains but ended up going with the whole wheat couscous and a sweeter dish instead.

This will work for for a breakfast porridge type or closer to a rice pudding for desert and is an adaptation from among others. The key here is that this does not use a microwave.

Cooking a meal fresh in the microwave is, well, idk but it's not good!

As always the following is just approximate and is an adaptation itself, please experiment and adapt where appropriate. Substituting your favorite soy/nut/coconut milk instead of whole is one such yummy adaptation.

2 1/4 cup whole milk (I like MOO milk especially but Organic Valley is also a great choice)
1 cup whole wheat couscous (buy in bulk if possible, but packaged should work ok)
~8 cardamon pods (break open and grind the seeds, use 1-3 more if pods are older, dried can work too)
2 pinches of cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt (use coarse crystals and grind with cardamon for best result)
1/2 cup brown sugar (use less if you do not have a strong sweet tooth, white sugar will work too, just use less)
2 ripe bananas, sliced
Orange rind (scrape as much or little as you like but not more than 2 teaspoons)
1tsp vanilla/banana extract
Fresh fruit for topping
Ground chocolate for topping (Taza Chocolate works great if you can get it)

Combine milk and sugar and heat on medium-high in a wide saucepan, stirring frequently until just boiling.  Turn down heat, adding salt, spices, orange rind, and couscous stir and simmer for 30 seconds or so.  Remove from heat and let sit until thick.  Add extra milk as needed and fluff with sliced bananas.  Add fruit or chocolate and serve hot or chilled.

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Commuting with an Umbrella

It was raining today, quite heavily in fact. In an urban environment that provides very little consideration for folks using bicycles it is not a pleasant experience, especially if it is anything more than a light spring rain.
Mostly this is due to the road curving to the edges, where the bicycle lanes are. This is to help drain water off during especially heavy storms to make it safer for drivers. That is the key, drivers, for cyclists traveling along the curb water collects, pools and covers up the potholes that were already there. Combine this with poor roads that are barely ride-able when it is dry, cars speeding past and hopefully not splashing you, low visibility in general, and loss of braking/maneuverability, you have a very unpleasant environment.

What does riding with an umbrella have to do with it? Citizen cyclists (I believe Copenhagenize has popularized the term) should be able to ride safely while carrying an umbrella if they choose to do so.
This gets to the problem with most of the built infrastructure for bicycling in the USA. It is not designed so that it is if not pleasant, at least tolerable, to ride in the rain or any other weather condition, or any time when it is not 75 degrees in the middle of the day with little traffic and a bit of sun in May.

I might argue that even with the typical built infrastructure today, it is mainly presumed that folks using it will do something else when it rains, or are really out to enjoy the ride and not actually get anywhere safely and comfortably, or are too die-hard for rain and puddles to stop them.

All of that being said, with a little coordination and picking the right streets one can ride with an umbrella even in the crazy road environment of Cambridge/Allston. My route earlier today is below, with the parts I used my umbrella in blue and the rest in light red.

click through for the full map

As you can see of my approximately 3.5 mile urban route I can use an umbrella safely about 60% of the time (around 2.2 miles) However that is just me, I am pretty comfortable and secure with my bicycle, I have good breaks and good control. For somebody who does not use a bike often, if they tried to bike with an umbrella there is only one section where they could. A .6mi section from Western Ave to the overpass of the highway. This is so little that it is not even worth it, unless you lived along here and were going to the bank or a friends house nearby.

The reason that would even be possible is that this is a traffic calmed road designed to be so narrow two cars can not pass each other but two bikes and a single car driving carefully can.

View Larger Map
Yes this is actually two way! This design means very limited auto traffic and what traffic there is is usually driving very carefully and slowly and typically won't even pass a bike going in the same direction, although there is room to do so safely.

In general these issues are why we need to really look at how we are designing bicycle infrastructure. No we can't design around the best rain protection possible (covered elevated paths etc.) but we should start looking at how we build roads and side-paths that can allow folks on bikes, or wheelchairs, or on foot to better enjoy getting to where they need to go even when it is raining out, or snowing, or hot or cold.

More thoughts on weather cycling and what other countries are doing (notably not the US) some point soon.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Ride in Boston

So brought my bike down on the Downeaster from Dover today, yes you can do that with a full bike, but not technically ;) It helps to be a monthly pass holder and know the conductors.

Anyway got off at north station, answered a woman's question about bikes on commuter rail, informed her I used Amtrak but that reverse commutes during rush hour allowed bikes, and it is just a short period in the morning and evening that don't and that weekends are good.

I rode on the sidewalk for the longest distance I can remember since a child. I don't normally use the sidewalk, but when the alternative is to do battle with 5 lanes of traffic on what is effectively a high speed highway with traffic lights that connects North Station over into East Cambridge, I will choose the sidewalk every time even if there are sharrows on the road.

I was not the only one, although there were a number of brave soles on the road itself as well.

Ride to First and down the pre-painted bike lanes to Broadway and into the City Hall Annex of Cambridge (my current work)

Bike is living overnight in the bike room as I start my full move tomorrow.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Things seen tonight

Had a 8 mile round trip ride out to deliver 5 quarts of our Organic Blueberries to a life long customer tonight.

Noted the "kid bikeway" signs along Court and Back Rds which is really just a couple signs and no direction arrows or any pavement markings. Cost the city maybe 150$ for whatever signs, granted I think they were put in near 20 years ago... The shoulder is bairly standard width for a normal bike lane, let alone something like a "kid bikeway"...

One shooting star :)

Some fireworks, although not quite sure what said fireworks were for... but nice to see none the less :)

No animals seen...

Sunday, July 17, 2011


An odd thing occurred on my way home from church today, yes I bike to church and typically put on nicer clothes for it too, not today though, prime reason was to help pick the church garden, also temperature at 11am can be a bit much for pants and dress shirt...

Anyway as I was making the turn off Route 4 to Durham (The only marked and lane painted on road bike route in Dover) onto one of the local roads I take back home, another cyclist coming along 4 was right in the middle of the intersection as I was turning. I actually had to yield for another person on a bicycle! Of course a friendly hello was in order. It was not returned, he seemed to be concentrating too much... thats ok :)

I continued on my way and a gentleman in a convertible pulled up along side and mentioned that it is not often you see a bicycle giving way to another bicycle, I agreed and waved goodbye as he slowly accelerated away.

Rest of the ride was uneventful :) Other than the fact that the bike helmet did not touch my head at all, I had the ol trusty Tilley hat on which was almost too much considering the heat.

Every once in a bit I make the choice that the helmet does not need to be on, for either part or rarely all of the trip. The safety part of using it is debatable for an experienced cyclist with a bike that will not be falling apart any time soon, however the setting example and showing I am a good citizen part is important and that is the main reason why I wear it 90%+ of the time.

Have a happy rest of your Sunday

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Green Home Tourist

I got this link in my email last week. This is a nifty little resource for the folks in New England to find nearby homes or buildings that use various renewable technologies. This database is funded by RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative), which in another note is barely surviving here in NH thanks to those in power in both houses.

Check out the database Here

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Walkable Streets Economy Boosting Potential - This Big City

A good article from the UK on some recent research on how street improvements help increase home and property values along that same street. With research like this there might be an increased opportunity to develop other funding sources for Main Street revitalizations. Of course as goes good street improvements, goes the desirability to walk and the bicycle, which is key.
Take a read over at
Research study link, Here.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Some more Butter

In a continuation of my butter making endeavor; I took some images while making some this evening.

Enjoy :)
Brookford farm fresh raw cream*

Buttermilk is to the right, this batch was processed in a blender, and then hand mixed to butter with...

My trusty 1980's GE mixer made in the USA ($5 from the thrift store!). I really like this mixer, it is just strong enough that it mixes quickly, however it is also not too strong as to over mix the butter. With this mixer, it basically will stop mixing once the butter is formed; it is not quite strong enough to continue. There is a risk if the mixer is too strong, that the buttermilk can be mixed back in with the butter; which is not good.


This butter is ~2 cups and will be used for cookies tomorrow night :)

*A note on the cream, because I was leaving for Spain after I bought 2 pints, and knew they would not keep, I froze it. Now the big tricks to freezing cream, I used a metal cooking pot (I don't like plastic) it is also easier to clean and holds firm in the freezer. Also make sure to unthaw in the refrigerator, and do not rush it. Two Pints took about 2 days to unthaw, and then I let it sit on the counter for thirty minutes or so. It appears goopy and thick when you take it out of the container to mix it, do not worry the cream has separated a bit and will be fine as either butter or whip cream.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Livable Manchester (NH)

I came across this site from some connections with Commute Green NH (facebook link). It is called LibableMHT and focuses on some thoughts and lessons which could make Manchester, NH a better community for all. I have not had too much time to browse the posts in depth, but they do have a nice potential streetcar setup which looks really spiffy for sure.

I encourage you to check them out, it is really nice to see something like this develop in good ol NH.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Still Moving Forward

Yes I am still here, yes I am still working. I graduated in January and am now part time employed with the City of Cambridge, MA as an outreach coordinator for a transportation mode shift encouragement program.

I still have a bunch of stuff going on, the least of which is enjoying 3 hours of train time a day :) as I commute into Boston.

I am also in the planning stages for Commute Green NH (which is part of the work done by Path NH in a month or so. We will be having a commuter/user breakfast at the Dover Rail terminal on May 20th.

I am also involved in the basic planning stages to set up a Bicycle and Pedestrian committee for the city of Dover (which is the fastest growing in the state and just reached 30,000 last census).

I continue to take infrastructure pictures, and muse on topics, I work on the computer a whole lot for my job so I do try to limit it when I am at home, but I will make every attempt to at least get something going once a week and then build from there.

For now I leave you with a wonderful video from David and Mark over at A View From The Cycle Path on how the dutch would update the NACTO bicycle guidelines.

Blog post link Here

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An old, new Breezer

(click for larger image)

From Plattsburgh late February 2010. A Breezer in a box!

Bought from the great guys at Harris Cyclery in January of last year.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Dover, NH Parking Meter Map

This is another one of my fun Google map projects.
I came across the new map of parking meters (or Kiosks really) from the parking bureau website. This is the map that they give to the public for folks to find the parking meters.(caution pdf)

First off, the city website is a mess, but that is beside the point, at least the information is there. (unlike the city of Plattsburgh site...).

Second, the map is actually oriented North (amazing right!) which is good, but there is no legend included that would tell a viewer the difference between black and red markers. (Actually it turns out the red markers are the recently launched, Jan 18th, and the black were ones already operating during the fall, I decided not to differentiate between them, once I know more of the planned expansion locations I will add them differently. Of course you had to click on the faq to find that, and see the original map with legend(pg2), which had a Western orientation...)

Thirdly, there is very little information on the businesses or other orientating information, other than road names, you are unable to move around and get your bearing if you are not a resident, and that is really the key point.

Now these are actually relatively minor issues compared to some maps I have seen (the ward map, a complete mess until you zoom way in; my version of it can be found Here); the kiosks are close enough together and visible enough that finding one on the ground should not pose a problem though.
The point of the matter is though, that I created the above map using Google (Google Earth, and then uploaded to maps), it took about an hour to do it, including creating the custom marker icon, and now we have a map that is interactive, somebody can search for businesses, or figure out where they are, they can go into streetview and see what the area looks like (meters won't show up though, too recent) they can create trips and better plan for a visit to the city.

The map as the city created it is designed for residents (and even then it may be confusing). That is not a bad thing, but it could have easily been designed for anybody.

The city really needs to get its act in gear and start making use of Google maps and the huge potential that is being missed. The planning department uses Google maps to create maps of locations on their agenda for the next meeting, a very good and useful idea!
I think the city as a whole though can, and must do better!

Communities need to stop thinking like it's 1980, data is all stand-alone, and if somebody wants something they will call or go down to city hall to get it. There are so many more opportunities for the city to really sell its presence and what’s happening; online. These are fairly simple to implement and would go a long way toward providing accessibility to city resources and services.

Simply providing city resource maps through Google would be an enormous step.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bicycle training, how the Dutch do it: Video from Mark Wagenbuur

Some winter Dutch Envy for you, an older Video from Mark Wagenbuur over in the Netherlands on bicycle training for school children. He has a great deal of wonderful videos on his profile, I highly recommend you check out more from him. David Hembrow also posts latest videos and commentary on topics using the video's at his blog as well (which is where I got this).

David's write up on it is much better, and I highly recommend you take a read of his post before or after watching it.

This is how the Dutch do training for cyclists, focusing on the test before the start of high school or equivalent. Its pretty amazing to see how they do it, and what is required of the students taking the test.

When our driving tests are to "go out around the block and park" and you get your license, I am not sure we could actually ever do anything as rigorous as this anytime soon. I think we need to get our driving tests down to something a bit more challenging before we ever embark on something like this, however integrating traffic into the curriculum from an early age is certainly a very good idea

enjoy! (OMG where are the helmets, they could die, or fall over, or hurt themselves!!! ok I am done now ;) )