Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bike Lanes

I made a mistake today. I read the newspaper opinion section which included a letter about bicycling. Then I compounded that mistake by going online and reading the comments.

Every time there is a plea in the paper for bicyclist safety you see the same arguments in the comments. From cycling opponents you see:
  • Cyclists don't pay for the roads. (False, cyclists actually subsidize auto traffic)
  • Cyclists should get out of the way, not impede traffic, or get on the sidewalk. (False, we are traffic, not impeding traffic; riding on the sidewalk is significantly more dangerous than riding on the road.)
  • Cyclists are scofflaws who run every light. (I am sure no motorist treats Stop's as Yields, nor do they speed, make turns without checking blind spots...)
  • Etc.
Each of those is a post or more. But one thing that frustrates me is when the cycling advocates plead for more bike lanes.

There are drawbacks to bike lanes The most dangerous place for cycling accidents are intersections. Bike lanes frequently complicate intersections and increase the conflicts between motorists and cyclists. A prime example is a bike lane that is a thru-lane, where there is a car turning right. The complications are even worse when a multi-use path crosses a road. Another drawback is that when a lane exists motorists sometimes believe that the cyclist must remain in that lane, so they don't allow or accept it if a cyclist has a legitimate reason to move to the left.

Don't get me wrong. I love some bike lanes. One of my commutes travels about 5 miles on a Class 2 (the kind that are striped like an additional traffic lane) bike lane. Bike lanes can be nice because they do separate traffic moving at different speeds, they may increase the passing distance when a car overtakes a bicycle, and I think they make novice "vehicular cyclists" feel safer.

At the same time, I am not sure people are really aware of what they are asking. I want to use my bike to ride to the library, Burger King, Subway, the grocery store, work. In short, I want to be able to ride everywhere I would normally drive. I recognize that I am not allowed on the major highways, but what these 'advocates' are really asking for is a bike lane on every road.

Clearly, that is not a realistic solution.

There are better alternatives. One is to advocate for and take advantage of vehicular cycling training. In Utah the Salt Lake Bicycle Collective teaches free courses that focus on riding in (becoming part of) traffic. You can visit the League of American Bicyclists education page to find similar programs or instructors in your area.

The other alternative is to advocate for Complete Streets. Complete Streets are designed and built with multiple user groups in mind; not just fast moving automobile traffic. From a cyclists point of view a complete street is a street with wider lanes and shoulders, rather than a marked bike lane, and includes traffic calming like median strip planters.

The movement for Complete Streets integrates well with the Safe Routes to School program. It also complements advocacy programs that highlight sustainable development and walkable communities.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Harmon's Best Dam MS-150 Report Continued

Saturday Night
After the first day of ridding there is a big dinner at the fairgrounds, entertainment, and a raffle. They announced that it looked like the ride would net over 1.7 million this year. While everyone was sitting around talking the couple sitting across from me had to leave. Standing up, they asked the woman sitting next to me if she wanted their raffle tickets. Wouldn't you know it, the grand prize ticket was in that set of tickets; she won a Specialized Epic Marathon worth over $4,000. I couldn't believe it.

Brennan didn't get enough to eat, so we went to an A&W for burgers and treats. Brennan slept in the spare bed in Ken's room at the college. I spent a second night in my tent at the fairgounds, and actually slept much better that night.

Worshiping at the alter of Eddy Merckx
Usually Brennan and I don't ride on Sunday, but we make an exception for this ride. The Sunday 75 mile route is beautiful, traveling up Blacksmiths Fork Canyon for 17 miles to Hardware Ranch Recreation area.

Ken was able to ride with us, but was pretty tired from running around as a volunteer the day before. Brennan and I felt better that I thought we would, but neither of us wanted to do the whole 75 route. The 40 mile route skips the canyon. In the end we decided to ride the canyon and back down, and then just ride the few miles back to the fairgrounds. It was a fantastic decision.

We really enjoyed riding together. Ken is a mountain biker who is just getting into road biking as he prepares for a sprint triathlon coming in a month or so. Brennan and I introduced him to the concept of a 'town line sprint' as our custom route went through three or four little towns on the way back into Logan.

Ride Stats
The following links will take you to my MotionBased account ride stats. I had my Garmin Edge 305 with me, but I forgot my HR strap, so heart rate is missing.

Saturday's Ride
Sunday's Ride

Thanks again to all who donated. Hopefully you believe that this is a worthwhile cause, and an activity you can support in the future.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Harmon's Best Dam MS-150 Report

First, that's not a typo - the Utah MS-150 ride took its name from the 3 or 4 dams that the ride passed when it was originally held in Park City. Even though it is held in Logan / Cache Valley now, it still passes a couple of dams and reservoirs.

The Fund Raising
I didn't make my goal but did raise a substantial amount. Brennan and I raised over $800 this year. We rode for the Harmon's team which looks to raise over $100,000 and the entire ride will probably raise over $1.7 million this year.

Thanks to everyone who donated to Brennan and I this year. There were a number of people who dug deep into their wallets and made donations in the last week, including a few that I know donated money that was budgeted for other expenses. I appreciate every penny.

The Trip
The drive up was great Ken from work rode up with Brennan and I. We left work early and made it on the rode by 1:00. Ken had to be at the Logan Fairgrounds around 4:00, so we had plenty of time. He volunteered (and worked very hard) on Friday and Saturday and rode with us on Sunday, which worked out perfectly. He also had a room at USU, so we had a place to shower even though I was camped at the fairgrounds.

We got to the fairgrounds early enough that I got a great camping space. Friday night was Team Dinner Night, and the Harmon's chefs put together a fantastic buffet of salmon, chicken, pasta salad and fruit. For a while I was sitting across from Dean, who I found out was the president of Harmons. Turns out that years ago he started as a stocker and worked is way up to the top. Inspiring.

Saturday's Ride
Brennan and I set out on Saturday not really knowing which of the three options (40,75 or 100 miles) we were going to ride. We really did very little training for the ride this year. We met Ryan and Natalie (friends from out neighborhood) at and early rest stop, but they were planning on riding the 40 route and we were feeling pretty good.

We then hooked up with Carmen from my spinning class. She was riding with Sophia who owns the salon where my wife and kids get their hair done. They had trained quite a bit more than we had and were planning on doing the 75. We rode with them to lunch and beyond, hoping to finish strong and together.

The Phone Call
Right before leaving on the ride I debated whether to bring my cell phone. I'm glad I did, even though it led to an interrupted ride. Neither Carmen nor Sophia had much experience riding in a pace line, so I was explaining to Sophia how to follow someones wheel safely when my phone rang.

Right before we left for Logan I had pushed some changes to one of my projects into production. On the phone was my boss, letting me know that the changes had a serious bug. It took about 45 minutes to walk him through the final stages of troubleshooting, backing out the bad code and publishing a clean application. Overall that went pretty well.

After 45 minutes of 'rest' hiding behind a tree so that every group that went by wouldn't ask me if I was okay, I felt pretty good. I cruised through the last rest stop in into the finish feeling pretty strong.

(To be continued...)