Monday, December 26, 2011

The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance

I received an awesome present from my roommate this year. She bought me The Lost Cyclist by David Herlihy, and even had it signed by the author. I know, I'm so special.

Anyway, this book offers and interesting perspective on the bicycle in the years before the mass production of automobiles. Bicycles filled that spot, for a time, in the American psyche that calls for adventure and the thrill of the open road. They also provided a relatively cheap transportation option to the working class, as well as gave a push for women's liberation. Herlihy spends considerably less time on these consequences, but it is understandable given his subject.

Frank Lenz wanted to travel the world to make a name for himself and thereby leave his dull bookkeeping job. He planned a route through China up through Turkey to Europe, needless to say very dangerous. The newly perfected safety bicycle provided the best means, it would be a feat of strength and daring, as well as demonstrate the usefulness of this new product. Other men had traveled long distances on the ordinary, those ones that have a large front wheel, now mostly seen as a decorative motif at Hobby Lobby.

Lenz left at the beginning of the cycling craze in America, and it is amazing to read about his journey through the U.S. Cycling clubs all across the country extended him great hospitality and it is evident Lenz was at least a minor celebrity, if not more.The club membership Herlihy describes reinforces the early characterization of cycling as a middle class white man's sport. But Herlihy gives small examples that over time women, the working class, and minorities also took to it, especially when the safety bicycle made its debut, much to the dismay of the early adopters.

He is eventually lost somewhere in modern day Turkey. A man named Schatlebehn is sent after him some months later, but is mired down with delays and lies by the corrupt Ottoman Empire. Schatlebehn deduces some Kurds killed Lenz for his valuables. So he never accomplishes his task, and his legacy is one of foolishness and regret among his old friends. Eventually, the bicycle craze ends, and his name is lost to history, giving Herlihy's title a double meaning.

This book demonstrates several different things.

1. Bicycles were wildly popular at one point in American history

People tend to characterize the bicycle as never being a popular choice for the American people. It is treated as the red headed step child in U.S. transportation. This gives ammunition for people now who pooh-pooh efforts to popularize the bicycle. It was popular, and for the same reasons people now like to ride. (Convenience, cheapness, exercise...)

2. The rift between cycle for transportation and cycle for sport was evident even back then.

Many of the early adopters abandoned it when ladies and the working class turned the bicycle into a tool rather than a sport. Some even held out in favor of the ordinary because of the danger and athleticism it took to ride. This divide is clear to anyone who lives in a city with a vibrant cycle culture in the U.S. Whole blog articles have been devoted to why everyone should wear lycra while riding.

3. People loved to Photobomb, even back then.

Herlihy dropped in an interesting tidbit. While Lehy was trying to take a picture somewhere in Georgia, some "colored youths" kept getting in his frame and messing up the picture. Annoyed Lehy had to scare them off. I found this hilarious. Things change immensely while some things don't change at all.

I'll probably add to this as I go back and reread it. But go read for yourself!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wal-Mart Bicycles

A fleet of commuter style cruisers at my local Wal-Mart. Seems like the big box giant is catching on to the fact that mountain bikes aren't the only kind of bicycles out there. Now, a lot of people will recommend not buying these bikes because they are cheap and poorly made. I tend  to agree, unless you are a super casual rider. These particular ones are beach cruisers and so aren't well suited to Austin's hilly terrain, although I have seen a couple of them out on the street. It is encouraging though to see different styles of bikes available now, especially in a city that likes its skin tight Lycra. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rainy Day

Taken from the dryness of my car, but this guy was out and about in rainy weather. Can't quit your day over a little water!


This lovely bicycle showed up at my house the other day. My friend's company is working on a different kind of doodad that allows you to smoothly shift your bike's gears. So for example instead of shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear, you would adjust it only as much as you needed. This design makes for a smoother riding experience, and I think it is a cool idea. Apparently is much appreciated among triathletes.


Spotted Around Town

I admit I have not been around much since I started another job, but I have managed to gather some pictures on my way about Austin. 

This one I took from my car and unfortunately I beheaded this guy. But you get it. Panniers. Next to those cow statues that popped up for a reason I can't remember.

Down on Lamar and Barton Springs area. She's riding against traffic which can be very dangerous, so be careful to watch out for cars turning left into your path.

Who says bikers aren't manly men? This guy has his Spider-man backpack ready to go! Perhaps his kid walked off with his briefcase accidently.  Oh who am I kidding this guy hasn't gotten laid.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bikes and Guys

After a brief hiatus, I've gotten back into the dating world, and dipping my toe back into OKC. Of course I put on there that my bike is one of the things I couldn't do without, and that is a nice conversation opener. I find you can tell a lot from a person by how he uses his bike. Is it for transportation or exercise? Does he know what a chain guard is? Is there going to be a helmet debate on the first date? Does he tool around on the East side of Austin, and if so, should grow my own ironic mustache for the first date? Any guy that puts his bike as one of his favorite things is instantly good in my book, and at least worth a careful reading of his profile.

If I find a guy owns a bike, but doesn't really use it, I see a potential convert :) If he thinks riding a bike is dumb, well then obviously we are not a match. I remember over on Streetsblog on one of their Why I Ride pieces, they interviewed a woman who said she probably wouldn't date a guy who didn't bike. She was put down in the comments, but I kind of agree. It's nicer when you have a partner, so why not choose someone who like biking too? Biking is a tailor made as a social activity.

Related to that, I think everyone has a random list of things that turn them off about people. I for instance, won't date anyone who owns a yellow car. I don't like them. What are you gonna do?

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Now, I haven't been riding my bike as much since I now commute by car to work every day. However, today I decided to do my errands on my bike, and much to my dismay, I found I had lost a little bit of my stamina.

On the way back, I had to hop off and push my bike over a little hill. I was out of breath when I got home, when before I would be a little sweaty, but definitely not feeling a little lightheaded.

So, I guess that is what happens when your off of your bike for a little bit. I would love to blame it on my bike and am going to give it a good tune up when I get the chance. (I can't get it to go into first gear, so something needs to be done. Google here I come!)

Funny story. My roommate asked to borrow my bike because she wanted to see if she could bike to her work up near UT. I said sure, thinking to myself that was going to be quite a bike ride. I asked her afterwards how it had gone, and she said she stopped midway and turned around, making a nine mile trip overall.

Moral of the story: Baby steps!

Saturday, October 15, 2011


So I came across this article on TheStir....kind of a meeting place for women with families. One post was about a kid who survived having his head run over because he wore a helmet

I had a hard time believing this was a true story. The physics just didn't add up to me. Even a Fiat I think would squish your head.

The situation is a toddler in the front seat put the car in neutral, thereby having the car roll slowly back over this kids head. The website says it is "believed" the car ran over his head, so to me that says no one knows what really happened.

So does this change my feeling on helmets? For those who are die hard proponents of the things, it may seem a silly question. But I think people should be especially cautious about using freak accidents like these as proof for their side. One, the witnesses aren't even sure what really happened. Second, the details of the case are scant. What kind of car? How fast?

To me, having good traffic skills and knowledge of the most likely ways to get into accidents with cars is a better defense than plastic.  Better infrastructure and a culture where drivers are treated harshly for hurting fellow human beings is needed.

Thankfully, I did see one poster point out the real utility of helmets, and many others pointing out that a toddler unattended in a vehicle shouldn't even happen. A little hope for me.

Friday, September 30, 2011

High Heeled Clipless Shoes

I'm torn about the clips on these shoes. On the one hand, I love anything DIY. On the other hand, I'm trying to fathom why someone would need these in the first place. I mean, I get he thought the woman "the connection was awkward between the pedals and the shoes". However, is this a big enough problem to warrant busting up your shoes? It took him 18 months to do this supposedly. You train yourself to ride on the balls of your feet, which is really where its most natural to be anyway. Ok yeah I'm going to file this under "making a problem where there is none" and "Cool but ultimately unpractical projects".

The original post is on Instructables

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Beer Festival

Unfortunately my camera wasn't working so I couldn't pictures of the bazillion bikes at the beer festival, but they were lined up all along the fence at Festival Beach. Totally worth the $$ to get in, as you could try 6 beers throughout the day and listen to music.

Really, any event like that it is better to take your bike. Parking around any part of downtown is difficult, although thankfully we didn't have that much trouble since we got there early.

I really want to move back up closer to that area of town. My friend and I really couldn't ride together because we were so far away. Anyway, I promise to be back with some more pictures of ATX cyclers (its a word now dammit) soon.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friends and Bikes

I'm not an evangelist. Ok, I'm a very passive one. I put up this blog. I hope to show that getting around on a bike can be fun, enjoyable, and not a fight for your life. You won't see me handing out pamphlets in the street anytime soon.

I guess just going about my daily life has rubbed off on some people. My friend recently bought a bike, and is ready to go on rides once its cooler. (My SO and I agree she should go riding with me the first couple of times. Tales of falling off her mother's road bike have me convinced.) I want to show her how to get around safely, and have pointed her to several websites to help. In discussing her new purchase, she really wants it to ride around on for fun. It reminds her of riding around the neighborhood as a kid.

My other friend, the recipient of the Shiner Bock bike, has started getting into the bike thing. I won't take too much credit here. Her SO didn't own  a car and his bike was his primary mode of transportation. He more than anything got her into it. Discussing her new bike she said, "I rode to work the other day and it was so much fun. I'm obsessed." (This a drunken recollection, so, I'm pretty sure that's what she said.)

Getting a new bike is fun, just like getting a new car. Except when your car gets its first boo-boo, you cry. For a bike, you WANT it to look a little beat up. The wind in your hair (or the breeze around the edge of your helmet) is a great feeling. The feeling of pride you get when you ride further and further.....Ok, evangelizing over.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dog and Duck Parking

Dedicated to all those who swear no one rides their bike in the summer. Spotted in front of the Dog and Duck  Pub in the UT area of Austin.

Seen in the Lakeline Area of All Places

My dream bike. The light blue color, the basket....everything I could ever want. Now, I saw this parked in front on the Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline. Here's what I like about it.

1. If you've been out there to that area, you know it is a nightmare to get around. Person has cajones.

2. Looks like it doesn't have gears. Not a South Austin bike fo sho....

3. It has a basket!

Here is a picture of the bike lock. I have never seen anything like it, pretty nifty. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

KVET Rant About Cyclists

I usually don't like for my blood to boil before I've even had my morning coffee. The other day though while listening to my favorite country station, KVET, my blood pressure rose.

Austin is supposedly bike friendly, but those of us who actually ride on the streets know better. Nothing exemplifies this more than the complete ease with which Bob (or Bender, I don't keep up with radio personalities, its the 2000s) spout off completely simplistic and inflammatory rhetoric on cyclists in ATX.

"It isn't the ones who train, its the ones who ride for transportation. They think of themselves as holier-than-thou, I'm saving the environment." This is paraphrased from my recollection of the show, and was in response to a cyclist who called in to complain. Now, I would have chosen a different knight in shining armor, because all this guy did was make apologies and did not call them out on their ignorance. He tried to characterize himself as "one of the good ones", while implying that many cyclists in Austin were bad seeds.

First of all, it is laughable that Bob or Bender has actually asked cyclists why they ride. Ask 10 cyclists, you'll get 10 different answers. My reasons for riding center on the enjoyability of the activity plus the cost benefits. The environment has little to do with it. Ask someone else, that could very well be their reason. That isn't to say though that they are holier than thou. That says more about Bob or Bender than it does about the person they are criticizing.

The attempt by the cyclist who called in to differentiate between "cyclists who train" and "cyclists who ride" is laughable. Mostly because it doesn't matter. If on that particular day you piss some guy off in your training gear, they are going to hate on that. You're wearing regular clothes, they are going to hate on that. All cyclists are in this together, and trying to paint yourself as a "good cyclist" does nothing for the community at large and actually makes arguments against bike infrastructure that much stronger. Why build if most of the people using it are ingrates? Why build bike lanes if they desirable ones don't use them?

Not only that, but most people are not going to get into cycling because of the Tour de France. The silly look of Lycra is just too much for many people, and then you add in the cost people pay to look that silly, and you have one niche activity. That kind of lifestyle is out of reach for most people, and it's where the uncomfortable issues of class and race come into play. Bob and Bender see mostly 2 kinds of cyclists I bet. The flashy Lycra, and the hipster. They don't see the Hispanic immigrants who ride because they have to, or the student trying to cut costs. Of course, I guess you can't expect a serious discussion from a guy called Bender. 

Downtown bike adventure

This is all the crap my SO took with him on our trip around downtown. I took my purse. 

We went to Whole Foods because I am obsessed with their bakery. He was a little paranoid because bikes are stolen from there often, even though it is a well trafficked spot. Of course, you'll find some of the most expensive-looking bikes in Austin on those racks. (I will not pretend I am up to date on the going rate for nice bikes) I believe he triple locked his bike. I had my trusty Kryptonite and mace.

It was funny seeing someone who rides only for training purposes ride for pure pleasure. He wanted only bike lanes and chided me for acting too much like a car. (But I had plenty of time to make that left turn! I really did) Obviously, I have some work to do on the baggage part, although the next time we went out he did go sans helmet.

Perhaps the Most Awesome Bike Ever Constructed

Now, from a practical point of view, there may be nothing special about this bike. However, it is a Shiner Bock bike, a Texas favorite and a personal one too. The bike was bought for my roommate by her very thoughtful friend. She is a transplant from New York, but loves Texas stuff more than a native.


I have taken a small break from posting on here, mostly because I simply haven't been on my bike. I took a new job up in North Austin, requiring me to turn into that most pitiable creature known as a commuter. However, I am excited about my new job, half because I like it, and half because I am no longer making poverty wages, and will get something known as health insurance.

But back to bikes. I miss it. A lot. I still kept one of my jobs to work on the weekend, and decided I should ride to work. Part of my justification for this job is that it will pay the gas to get to my other one, at least until I get my first paycheck. I arrived in such a good mood. It was hot outside, but previous experience told me that if I brought along an extra shirt, I would have no problem with looking sweaty.

I arrived in such a good mood. I honestly think it was the reason I made four sales in a row. The ride to work was pleasant, and even though Texas is caught in a heatwave right now, the wind made it bearable.

Luckily, my new place of work has a bike lane RIGHT IN FRONT OF IT. So, first chance I get, I'm going to move closer to work. This driving a car nonsense, I am not cut out for.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Riding to Work....

I have made an effort this week to cycle to both of my jobs. The one in Sunset Valley is a longer than the one to Southpark, but I've found the longer ride is more fun because of the different scenery. The first time I cycled to Sunset Valley, I arrived early so I could cool off. I don't think my t-shirt dried until a couple of hours later. So, from now one I'll probably just pack my T-shirt in my purse. The other ride isn't long enough to warrant that, and I usually go straight to the freezer to work anyway.

Again, riding in the heat is more pleasant than I thought. Depending on the day, there might be a cool breeze going, or my speed is enough to where I can just relax and let the wind cool me down.

Either way, I've noticed more people out on their bikes right now, either riding or waiting for a bus. I've said it once and I'll say it again, biking doesn't stop just because its above 90 degrees.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Useless Bike Lane?

I haven't had much of a chance to ride around my neighborhood, but today I finally had a chance to meander through suburbia, and much to my surprise I found a bike lane on Dittmar Rd. I was excited because I thought it would a less traveled way to get to work, but found myself at 1st street with absolutely no safe way to ride either way. No bike lane, not even a sidewalk. Its the same situation on the other end as well when it crosses Manchaca Rd. Google Maps showed a supposedly shorter way to to my other job, but Ditmar becomes a curvy road with no shoulder. No way am I riding on that street.

It's frustrating because it seems the City of Austin just plunks down bike lanes wherever there is enough room, without considering that a bike lane through a suburban neighborhood that suddenly ends at two of the busiest streets in the area with no provision for cycling is pretty much useless. Manchaca isn't a hopeless case, the wide bus lane makes a provisional bike lane in a pinch, but on the other end its difficult to improvise. I was tired so I didn't go straight on to the South Congress intersection and see if it was better, but the road still looked pretty narrow.

The reality on the ground is so different than what is shown on maps, that I never ride anywhere I have to be without doing a test run first. There is just too much uncertainty with the infrastructure here, and many times have I ended up not being able to get somewhere that I wanted because a bike lane suddenly ended, or a sidewalk suddenly ended. Bike lanes need to go where people want to go, not where the city can plunk them down so they can get some glorified friendly bike city award. Everyone knows that is a joke. I want to get from A to B, and would like a bike network that reflects it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Exercise Routine Involves Stopping at Nordstrom Rack

So I haven't been on my bike in the past couple of days, hence the lack of anything new here. But today I finally had a day off and decided to hop on my bike and see if I could ride to work/slash get some exercise.

It wasn't too bad, it only took forty five minutes and so if I did ride I would have to leave about 20 minutes earlier than usual. I was huffing and puffing on my way back, so I don't know how feasible it would be to do when I've on my feet for hours, but my fatigue may have had more to do with the fact I was hungry and it was a 100 degrees outside.

Which brings me to the main point of this post. Riding in summery weather is quite pleasant. I left my house around ten, and there was a nice breeze going that made riding relatively cool. It had to have been 85 to 90 by then, but I didn't feel it, except when I had to stop at lights. I arrived at my destination somewhat fresh, at least enough to where the salesladies at the Rack didn't turn up their nose at me.

Again, a lot of people assume no one is going to ride a bike in typical Texas summer weather, but I think I've seen more bikes now than when it was cold. I guess because a lot of people are used to the heat, it doesn't bother them as much than when it is freezing. I remember during the winter there were definitely less bikes on the road. Plus, now that school is out I am seeing some kids riding their bikes around, its very nice.

The return journey was not as pleasant, mostly because I was hungry and forgot to bring along water. Thankfully, its a busy road so there were plenty of places to stop, but I kicked myself for that one. It isn't like I don't own three water bottles. Heatstroke in Texas is a big concern!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hot Weather What What??

It is regularly hitting 95 degrees here, so I think it is safe to say cold weather is out for a little while. One of the arguments against bicycles you hear a lot down here is that no one will ride them when its hot, implying that the majority of the year, bike lanes and other infrastructure will go unused, and therefore is a waste of money. This post is devoted to debunking that myth.

Anyone have any idea what he is riding? I saw them and they instantly reminded me of those exercise machines popular in the nineties.

I was pumping gas across the street so couldn't move, but you can still see the fearless cyclist in front of the liquor store.

From about two days ago. It was hoooootttttt.

Taking pictures without being a creeper it when their back is turned.

Two different embodiments of a cyclist. She was wearing the special gear, he...well the guy uniform of a polo and jeans. Boring clothing choices like that make me glad to be a girl. Moving on.

Taken from my car. Don't worry I was completely stopped. I don't like to count cyclists all kitted out, because I feel they would be out no matter what. However, it was close to downtown around five, so perhaps he rides home from work.

H-E-B parking lot over at Riverside. FULL.


Ironically, this is the only thing parked in our garage.

All of our cars are parked outside in the driveway.

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Place!

I recently moved into a different part of Austin. I am now off of Slaughter near Southpark Meadows. It's about as far south you can go, but were still pretty close to stuff, and near several bus stops. A big plus for my roommate who doesn't have a car. I like it because where I am Slaughter has bike lanes. I was pretty apprehensive about riding on them though because they aren't separated and the traffic moves pretty fast. I'm pretty satisfied with the location, Southpark has practically everything you could need for your daily life, with a bike lane all the way. Of course, the lanes aren't great and I've seen nobody use them. Most people ride on the sidewalk. I think though that if they are there, I should make an effort to use them unless they really are unsafe.

I rode west today on slaughter in an effort to get to the really nice H-E-B in the Circle C area. It proved too difficult though when I got to Mopac, as there is no provision for anything to get across other than a car, as you can see above. On my way there, the sidewalk suddenly ended. Thank god my bike is a hybrid.

As you can see, the sidewalk all of a sudden pops up again. That is why I laugh when people say you should ride on the sidewalk. In some places....there is none! Riding on the grass was not uncomfortable, but if I had a different bike it would've been. I could tell others had done some off-roading too, as the there was a slightly visible trail. I don't know why there is a driveway there, I guess someone backed out of building something.

The layout of Slaughter really baffles me. On one part you have some effort to accommodate cyclists, and then on the other end you make it as difficult as possible. Did it ever occur to them one might want to ride Slaughter from end to end? There are bike lanes in the Circle C neighborhood, I've seen them. The only thing I can think of is most of the cyclists there are of the lycra variety, and either stick to their own neighborhoods or strap their bike to their car and go somewhere else. 

Having been thwarted in going to the nice HEB, I went to the one right off of Manchaca. I managed to get into the left turn lane, but realized the sidewalk in front of the HEB was right there. So I did something slightly illegal and turned left in the crosswalk onto the sidewalk instead of turning onto Manchaca and trying to turn left again. I made sure no traffic was coming and I made it across in 3 seconds. Thoughts? I felt it was justified in that I was already in a vulnerable position and would be in another one when I need to turn left again into the HEB. There are those who say always follow the rules but sometimes I feel that isn't always the best choice in safety. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Drunk People Are the Best

Drunk people are like children in many ways. Their child like wonder makes them ask painfully obvious questions, or in the case of last night, awesomely stupid ones. I rode to 6th street to go out with some friends. Its a 30 minute or so from my apartment.  I wore a sparkly dress and heels, basically ready to kill. As I was texting my friends a drunk woman came by and asked "Why (How?) are you on a bike and looking so beautiful." Her friends, rightly embarrassed at her, shuffled her away. But I chuckled to myself. I don't know if she meant, "Why are you riding a bike when you're so hot you should be able to get someone to drive you." or if she was genuinely curious as to how I got from one place to the other without being a sweaty mess. It's not that hard. The weather was in the sixties, no humidity, and my hair was up, so no problems with it. I took my time and rested on the downhill parts when I could. Really, if you're willing to go into a bathroom in a bar on 6th,(scary, dirty places where grease and grime reside) being a little messy from a ride should be no problem.  should point out people don't usually just walk up to me and say I'm beautiful. Last night I must have just really brought it. A homeless lady complimented me too, so I gave her two dollars. I'm like alright, you said I was pretty you can eat tonight.

The best thing is that I literally parked right next to the bar my friends were at. No circling for a spot. No ten dollar charge to park in a garage. My feet were killing me at the end of the night but my bike was right there. On my way home, I passed maybe 4 cars. Going home at that time of night, drunk drivers are unfortunately a concern. Thankfully, the alleyways and bikeways I use are pretty secluded too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


To me there are very few absolutes in cycling. You should have lights. Agreed. A good lock. Agreed. An understanding of the rules of the road. Agreed. Everything else....up for debate. Wanna buy fancy panniers? Go right ahead, but don't say anything when all my crap is in two reusable HEB bags. Want a pantsclip? Fine, but my bike has fenders and a chainguard. Think I'm crazy for wearing high heels? Fine, but I'm too busy going about my daily life to give a shit.

Same goes for a helmet. I got chided today by some guy on my way to Target. "Where's your helmet?", he said. "Up your ass", I thought. I said simply, "I don't own one". The truth. I don't. Haven't felt the need to get one after reading about their utility. Not only that, but I don't ride the way many people do here in Austin. I have an upright bike. I can easily look back and my center of gravity is not much different than if I was walking. For reference, when I'm riding, I am higher up than a Mini Cooper. I ride slowly and deliberately. I don't do fancy tricks. All in all, I think I have less of a chance in getting into the kind of accidents helmets are designed to protect. I don't think I've ever fallen off a bike, even when I was little. Ok maybe once. I'll be upfront and say I don't have hard evidence. But then again, I'm right on par with those that advocate helmets to protect against car/bicycle collisions.

Don't act like a know it all if you've just popped out from behind a bush and think its OK because you have a fucking helmet on your head. I don't care if you want to wear a helmet. If it makes you feel safer or you're doing a sport go right ahead. I DON'T CARE. I'm tired of the helmet debate and I have better things to do than listen to your bullshit on the road.

Rant over. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I haven't been posting lately since I am trying desperately to finish my thesis and get the hell out of grad school. So first, it was in the fifties today, I really wanted to go on my bike, buuut I had homework. I'm also moving, so we'll see how that affects my biking, I'm really in a cyclist paradise at my current apartment.

Almost. A young man was killed on S. Lamar a couple of days ago. Riding at night, he was struck my a black SUV. They person then sped off, leaving his companion to call for help.

Its really tragic. I can't imagine having to witness a friend die. It makes me so mad there are people out there though, who will look at him and blame him because he had the misfortune to be cycling on the same street as someone with no conscience. There are plenty of people out there who say he was crazy for cycling at night in the first place, crazy for riding on the road, ignoring the fact that the person who struck him failed in their first duty on the road-not to kill.

Cycling on S. Lamar is not easy, I certainly wouldn't recommend for someone who is just beginning, mostly due to the fact you have to get used to hearing cars come close to you. Once you get passed that jumpiness, its like riding on any other street. It has bike lanes and I've seen plenty of people safely make the journey. I've done it myself several times. Where he was, if I'm remembering correctly, S. Lamar widens to accommodate its eventual merge with Hwy 360. Plenty of room. I have no evidence, but I wouldn't be surprised if the driver was drunk.

I disagree Lamar isn't wide enough to accommodate both cars and bikes, its a major north-south road with bike lines on long stretches. I also disagree riding on the sidewalk is the solution; that's what gets me the most on discussion on things like this. Sanctimonious cyclists say, "Oh well I always ride on the sidewalk, anyone who doesn't is just being reckless!" Thankfully, word is getting out that riding on the sidewalk is more dangerous, especially on roads like Lamar with a ton of intersections. It puts the blame on the cyclist if they get hit, and ignores the reality that you can get hit on the sidewalk too.

What will make us safe? I'm not totally sure, but I feel a change in the mindset of many people will be needed. A change I'm afraid, I won't see anytime soon.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bad News

I figured out a way to get to DSW, my favorite shoe store, on my bike. That is bad news for my pocketbook. It's out in Sunset Valley in a huge shopping development, so I didn't hold high hopes for being able to get there that easily. Surprisingly, there is a bike trail that goes through the middle of the shopping center. It unfortunately ends at the access road of 290 suddenly, and going back towards the center it passes it and weaves through the edge of a neighborhood. Frustratingly, it shares the characteristic of many other bike lanes in Austin in that it ends suddenly, leaving you to try and merge on the actual road.

Anyway, I managed to get there with a minimum of sweat. The next day, I rode to Target and got there without the sweat stains on my back, or the stains on my butt. I hate those. All I did was concentrate on not putting out too much effort. I had a hard time believing all those people on the internets who said slowing down is all it takes, but I was proven wrong. Now, in 105 degree heat, there may be nothing you can do....

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring Is Here!

Is it definitely taking a turn for the hotter here in Central Texas. It is 80 degrees (27C) today.Yesterday the weatherman said he would tell us when some cooler weather would be coming and I thought, "October?".

Texas has some serious heat, but I remember biking in the summer before and not being the only nut. (That really was because I forced my then boyfriend to come with me.) Really, a snowcone tastes 3,000 times better when you've had to bike in the heat to get it. That first cold bite is the very definition of refreshing.

I really don't want to give up biking because of the heat; I enjoy it so much that the idea of having to get in my car is very unappealing. So, in my  trek today, I tried to think up some ways to stay cool on my bike. Plus, I noticed several problems.

First, 80 degrees is nowhere near as hot as it gets here. 105 is not unusual for several days in a row. Really, once I got on my bike and had the wind in my face it was quite pleasant. I figure my threshold for unbearable heat might be around 95 degrees.
I noticed I felt hotter when the sun was directly out and felt better when it was cloudy. Argument for a hat I think.

Secondly, I got gross sweat stains under my butt on my shorts. I really don't know what to do about that other than wear a dress and have that lovely stain on my underwear only. I really concentrated on not sweating, but by the time I was out for almost an hour I was feeling pretty wet. That brings me to my third point.

The seemingly shortest way may not the best choice. I was going to go through Riverside up Pleasant Valley, and it turned out it was not the most efficient way. Coming back, I went through the town lake trail and down First street that was not only faster, but allowed some much needed shade. I don't know why I thought it would be faster, Riverside is one of those streets where riding on the sidewalk isn't such a hassle, and I think riding on the sidewalk definitely slows you down.

So I was pretty sweat soaked when I got home. A quick rinse in the shower made everything ok, but I'm thinking next time I go out in the heat I'm going to bring a rag (handkerchief? That sounds much better) to wipe the sweat off. One thing about Texas is that it isn't just the heat, its the humidity. Because of it, your sweat doesn't evaporate, leaving you soaked. A rag would definitely be welcome on my back. I don't know why, but I sweat the most there.

I have dreams that I've mentioned before of putting a A/C unit on my handlebars, but unfortunately I have neither the technical skill or the training to go about building stuff like that. I saw that they do sell personal A/C/ units that run on water, but they are about forty bucks and I'm not ready to drop that kind of change on something like that.

Of course, it would be nice not to sweat at all, but its a fact of life here in Central Texas in the summer. Even if you drive, you will sweat on the way to your car and for the first few minutes while your A/C kicks in. I remember my Mom getting home everyday from her work in the office and she too had a slight smell from the heat. My Dad worked outside, and he just smelled to high heaven.

The heat is troubling, but not an insurmountable obstacle I hope. Really, everyone, no matter what their mode of transport is, tried not to go out in the afternoon when its hot outside. I really hope to continue riding in the summer months and will keep looking for tips to keep cool. I have surrendered to the fact that I will have to sweat.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Florida Trip

I traveled to Florida for Spring Break, and managed to capture some shots of bicycles while there. I didn't get half of the bicycles I spotted in Key West or Miami, but that is a good thing!

Beautiful bike. I loved the beach cruisers in Key West, so many pretty colors!

My bike. It was clunky and squeaked.

South Beach. In the parade known as Ocean Drive, a bicycle  is a welcome way to get around.

JAX Beach. Saw quite a few people getting around by bike.


I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people on bikes in Florida. Key West had a separated infrastructure that connected all the keys and would have made for a very pleasant ride. Key West itself is a small island, and so anything you need can't be that far away. Of course, it was still car clogged. When my friends and I were going to dinner, the hotel desk worker advised us to drive to the restaurant we wanted because it was too far to walk. It was a trek, but no more than a mile and a half and completely doable. Weird how the car skews our perception of distance.

The ride around the island was great, besides my squeaky bike. The honks from other road users was annoying, it was at a level I was definitely not used to and made an otherwise beautiful ride irritating.

Miami too had several bike lanes, and I saw quite a few people on bikes and people riding around. I wish I could have gotten a shot of two ladies on one bike, you never see that in the U.S. I was surprised at the number of bikes on the road, to me Miami is all excess and fast cars. Granted, its probably the same modal share as Austin, but the roads aren't completely devoted to cars like I imagined. Florida drivers are crazy, and not sure I'd want to live there, but if I did, I'd want a bike.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pi Fight! (typo intentional)

I took a friend of mine to East Austin today. A pie fight was in progress and so we caught the madness. I believe it was in honor of Pi Day, the day when nerds everywhere celebrate the mathematical wonder.

After the initial release of the pies, people didn't quite know what to do
Pie everywhere!
People were sponging off in their cars everywhere afterwards
This is supposed to be about cycling, and East Austin is perhaps the most heavily cycled  in ATX

A real man has a pink bike, and I probably should've fixed the pic...but hey I'm on break
Covered in pie

The Pinch at the Pump

Gas prices are up in the U.S., and people are complaining and already fearful of the summer, when prices traditionally go up anyway. I haven't been too worried about this, even though I have a twice weekly thirty mile commute, because I've been making more and more trips by bicycle.

So I've decided to calculate exactly how many miles I'm going on these trips to see roughly how much gas I'm saving. I've only included utility/meeting other people trips, I cycled a lot more this week on my quest for the mall and other cycle pleasure trips. I think I've remembered here goes.

Grocery store-2.4 miles
Guadalupe and 22nd-5.6
Zilker Park-2.8 (kite festival)
(you can sort of count on a homeless man hanging out near the bike racks, I like to think he's watching out)
Westgate Shopping Center- 1.9

I added them up and then times it by 2 to get a total of 32.6 miles cycled this week. So that is pretty much one one-way work commute for me. According to fuel, it takes 1.09 gallon of gas to drive 25 miles for my car. Average gas price right now is 3.29 in my south austin area right now.  So I saved close to four dollars or so.

Of course, there is a lot more to fuel economy than pure distance between point A and B. I can't put a real fine point on it if you take into account idling at stoplights, being stuck in traffic, and my personal driving style. My real savings could be more. I don't think they could be less, I don't really drive in a such a way that sucks up gas. Other things, like the heavy traffic at the kite festival and the impossibility of finding parking at West Campus makes it likely I would use more gas than implied on a map. Math is not my thing so if I did something wrong in my calculations, by all means correct!

Put in those terms, my savings do appear small. Over a month, I could be looking at 20 dollars in my pocket. Put that over twelve months, that is $240. Okay, I like that number better. It's nice to know my bike could potentially pay for itself in a year. If gas goes up to five buck a gallon, maybe sooner.

Obviously, I don't have the schedule of a regular working stiff. That could change over the next couple of months after I graduate, but I think it goes to show that by doing non-work commute things on a bike, it has the potential to save you some serious coin over time. Ok, $240 is a lot of money to me, maybe not to others, it is a fourth of my monthly take home pay. I can understand why people focus on the work commute, it's often people's longest journey of the day, and if I had the fortitude to do that, I totally would! But by focusing on that, you ignore the ton of other places people go. I've said before, I think that is where people should start, using your bike for small errands and pleasure outings.

So here is to saving money, four dollars at a time.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Let's Go to the Mall! Todaaay

So far in my bike adventures, I've been able to get to the movies, downtown, west campus, the grocery store,   Target, basically everywhere I need to go about my daily business. The one place I have not been to is the mall. Today I decided to try and get to the mall with my bike, though I didn't hold high hopes that it would be easy. At the corner of two highways, the only way I could think of was a back way through a neighborhood.

I didn't make it. The picture below shows Mopac south. Obviously, I'm not the only one that feels the need to make their way along the grassy area, you can see the faint line in the grass. An intrepid soul on a bike several thousand dollars more than mine had just gone by, but I cannot go that fast yet. (I'm optimistic my abilities will vastly improve.) By that time I had spent at least an hour looking for the back way. I didn't Google Map it before because to me that is half the adventure, but I knew I didn't have the gas to make it to the mall. 

I guess I'll have to drive to the mall. Or (gasp) shop local.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Austin Kite Festival

It's that special time of year again when Austinite fly their kites and in some cases their crazy flags and go to Zilker park for an afternoon of fun. The kite festival has really grown, or maybe that first year I went it was just too cold for most, but in any case it was packed. The smart people took their bikes to the festivities, and I did not envy those in their cars. Traffic was backed up all the way to Lamar, and I'm sure it was just as bad on the other side of the park near Mopac.
The turnout was really stupendous, and even more so the number of bikes. Too bad this isn't the scene every weekend, but perhaps it will encourage people to bike places more often. In any case, it shows that Austinites are catching on to the whole, "Hey if I take my bike I won't have to wait in traffic!" 

There were lots of beautiful bikes there. I saw the prettiest yellow and cream cruiser that belonged to this lady, I was very jealous. I also saw an Electra Hawaiian style bikeseat that I might get once I get a real job. This first picture also makes me realize I need to make friends that also ride bikes. It can get lonely in the bike lane.

Two friends on their way to the action

3 kinds of cyclists- Cycle Mama, Road Racer, and oh I don't know...Joe Schmo?

I could not believe it. I had never seen so many bikes at once in Austin.

Recumbent Action.

Pale legs get some sun.

Dapper chap, he had on some trousers and a hat.

Again, something I had never seen in Austin. Where are all these people? They should bring these out more often.

This lady in white kind of walked into the shot, but you can still see the other's helmet and hi-viz vest. I'm sorry but not only was traffic cut off at that point, she's on grass. Let the hair flow free once in a while and take off the helmet. APD only closes down traffic to Zilker on special occasions, take advantage!

You can't really tell, but beyond that mass of people traffic was terrible. There is a bike lane on Barton Springs leading into the park, so bikes were the better option for time in this case. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bicycle Parking

I went coffee bar hopping today because I had a ton of papers to grade. Coffeeshops are nice to hang out in and motivate me to get work done because people are watching me. Can't slack off in public! I went to one place off of Mary street, then a short ride to Lamar to go to Starbucks.

I couldn't fit my bike in their fancy bike spots. It took me awhile just to figure out what to do in the first place. Thankfully there were other bikes there too so I could figure it out. You slide your bike in and the metal attachment hooks through the frame and then you slide your u lock into the slot.

My bike didn't fit. I'm thinking I have the SUV of bikes because this is not the first time this has happened to me. The nice Starbucks guy came out to help me, but even he couldn't get my bike to fit. Sadly, I had to leave their establishment for easier parking elsewhere. I mean, its not like S. Lamar doesn't have 5 coffee shops with a mile  radius. So I ended up at the Coffee Bean, which I usually avoid because of the California vibe. 

Moral of the story. Fancier bike parking is not always a good thing. They are a pain in my ass anyway, and I still haven't figured out the bike locks at Westgate cinemas. I'm only willing to look like an ass in public for so long, then I give up and go somewhere else.

This is the fancy parking my feeble mind couldn't figure out.

Friday, February 25, 2011


So I had to go home for a few days. Remember when I said small towns would be an ideal place for bicycle riding as well? Well I saw a few people out on bikes when I went home, going about their business in regular clothes.
I also went out today to do some grading. (It's beautiful, who can stay inside?) and saw at least 8 people cycle by. On one of the comments in the statesman forum, one person questioned how many cars would be taken off the road with new bike infrastructure. Well, all you have to do is look. They are there, perhaps not nearly as many as cars, but its certainly growing. I never bothered to look in my hometown, and when I did I was surprised.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bicycle Boulevard

Once again, Austin is attempting to make the streets a little more bicycle friendly. It appears cyclists in this town didn't get exactly what they wanted due to boneheaded business people, but nonetheless its a step in the right direction.

The city is planning on implementing several new traffic calming features on Rio Grande, a main artery in downtown.  Roundabouts, speed bumps, and "bulb-outs" are supposed to make the street more friendly to bike traffic and make it a "bicycle boulevard". Originally, the street chosen was Nueces, because it is flatter, but businesses along that street protested because they thought it would hurt business. Now, Nueces will have bike lanes.

I'm not sure exactly how Ben Wear, the columnist who reports on transportation issues for the Statesman, feels about bicycle infrastructure. I get the feeling from his title, "Stay Calm: Bicycle Boulevard on its Way" may be a jab at the bike lobby being so insistent, but it might just be a play on words since the whole point of these features on Rio Grande is to calm traffic. Some commenters seemed to think he had a bias, but I'm not so sure.

The comments of course are hilarious and fall in the same vein of every other article on bicycle infrastructure. I couldn't resist of course putting in my two cents. Internet forums like this are paid attention to, as CapMetro added midday service to its commuter rail in response to calls for it on the statesman forum.

So, slowly but surely, it will become better.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

East Austin Bike Ride

I've had a pretty awful weekend, and so I definitely needed a bike ride to clear my head. Sometimes, you don't need to be going anywhere in particular.

I headed up to UT and then over 35 to the east side of austin. I must say I wasn't brave enough to ride with traffic across the bridge on MLK, but I saw other do it so maybe I'll try in the future. There is a sign that says to share the road, probably because a lot of UT students use that road to get to school.

Anyway, I loved the ride in east austin. Same vibe as my neighborhood, lots of cute houses, and of course, condos and modern looking homes. I finally saw one of the commuter rail stations, eerily empty. The bike lanes were great on that part of town, and I felt safer riding around there. Cars were more than happy to move over on two lane roads to pass me instead of squeezing past. Perhaps because more people ride in that part of town, I don't know. I think out of all the sections of Austin, east Austin is the most bike friendly. I would say even more than the UT area, because you don't get a laidback vibe there. I've ridden there too, and its more of a rush to get around and there is just more traffic to deal with.

I must say, it was about seventy degrees outside and my back was soaked when I got home. Course, I was riding for almost three hours, so I guess its expected. I'm telling you, if I juse figured out what to do with my back I wouldn't have a sweat problem.

I keep forgetting my camera. That makes me sad because I definitely want to post more pictures on here of the nice people getting around on their bike. So, I'll have to paint a picture with words. I wished I had my camera for:

1. The guy in front of my apartment who was wearing a Santa hat. I don't know why, it was after Christmas.

2. The posh looking lady on Lamar. She was wearing a grey peacoat and jeans with black boots. Looked so stylish. Upright bicycle too.

3. One of the old men who like to bike around in nothing but a banana hammock in July. I will get one, eventually. It just has to be seen to believe. Keeping Austin Weird and wishing for blindness.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spring Is Here!

It has consistently been in the seventies and eighties here in the ATX, and I could not be happier. Seriously, I love cold weather, but spring was being a tease last week.

So the hotter temperatures have definitely brought out more people on bike, which is always nice. It also makes my sweat glands work a little harder.

Since the hot weather is something that people cite as a reason not to bike, I'm thinking some ways to alleviate the sweaty feelings are in order. Here's what I have so far.

I started showering in the morning. Sweat itself doesn't smell, its the interaction with bacteria that causes that funky smell. I've found this to work. I may be a little sweaty, but I don't smell.

Sunglasses and perhaps a hat. Today it was pretty cloudy, so the ride was pleasant. However, when the sun came out I felt like I was sweating more, even if the temperature didn't really change. I bought a floppy hat, I haven't used it yet but hopefully it'll keep me cool.

Backless tank tops. Sorry guys this one is for the girls. I find I sweat the most on my upper back. One way to make it a non issue is to wear a tank top with skinny straps. Your skin is exposed to the air making you cooler.

Not sitting on your bike seat all the time. I've found the sweaty feeling in the crotch area is very unpleasant. I rode from UT last night and I found a faint sweat stain on the back of my dress. Ew. Remember your privates like a little breeze too.

Ride at night. This might seem like a no brainer, but in discussions of making biking more popular I feel we tend to focus on commuting to work. That is fine and all but people do go to other places. In fact, I would say we should start people on riding to the grocery store, mall, movies. Their livelihood isn't on the line (don't want to get to work late!) and they ride at times when traffic is less congested. Back to the sweat discussion. Sun isn't out, its a little cooler, for the most part. Yesterday when I was out at night, it was in the sixties and windy. Very nice temps.

I've resigned myself to the fact that at 3 in the afternoon in 100 degree weather everyone is going to sweat. I don't really know what to do about that, other than someone, somewhere, needs to figure out how to make an A/C unit that attaches to your handlebars. Perhaps a solar powered, detachable air conditioner is what's needed to make Americans get out on their bikes. I would buy one.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rural Biking

Most bicycle promotion is geared towards people living in a dense urban environment. The pressures on urban living are urgent, and certainly urban cycling is a worthy cause. However, I believe rural places deserve a look as well. Cycling could offer those communities some of the same benefits cyclists promote in big cities.

By rural, I don't mean literally out in the country. I mean small towns like the one I grew up in. A town of 13,000 people, city limits perhaps 5 miles long by 3 miles wide. It takes about 15 minutes to drive from one end of town to another, so nothing is that far away.

Firstly, small towns are ideal for cycling. Quiet neighborhood streets would be safe and pleasant to cycle, and the main artery roads rarely see speeds more than sixty miles an hour. This is an environment novice cyclists like to start out in the first place.

Secondly, rural people stand to gain some of the same benefits urban people do. Cycling is great exercise. Diabetes and heart disease are big killers in my hometown. It saves money. With rising gas prices and historically lower incomes in rural areas, if promoted right cycling could become a preferred alternative to autos. Plus, you don't have to compete with public transportation at all.

Thirdly, even more so than in cities, getting around by bike in a small town could be just as quick as going by car. It might take some convincing, but the time myth could be overcome. The small downtown holds a grocery store and several boutiques. The movies are three blocks away. Everything could be within an easy ride.

Of course, bicycles have a unique set of cultural notions to work against in rural areas. Bicycles are seen as child playthings in rural areas, the only time you see an adult on a bike its usually someone in full cycle gear, and there is a great love of huge trucks. Young teens on bikes are troublemakers. (Really any teenager on a wheeled contraption is seen as a threat.)

Most damagingly, there is no incentive to take up a bicycle as a transportation option in many rural areas. Yet.  That could change as it petroleum prices rise. Economic circumstances could force many three car families to go down to two or one. Or, cities that promote cycling in a positive manner could start a cultural shift. That is probably the most unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

Certainly, for those of us who live in cities the priority is in our own backyards. However, it is worth considering that efforts for a better bicycle culture in the U.S. should spread beyond the city. The benefits of bicycles should not be left for urban folk.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why Not Bicycles For Kids?

I like bicycles. I rode one in high school for fun long after everyone else had sold theirs in a garage sale. Sadly, in junior high I did not stick up for our librarian who rode her bike to work. I remember we made fun of her, scoffing at her efforts to save the environment. Of course, she could have ridden a bike just because she liked it, but all we could see was someone different. Of course, we were driven to school by our normal parents.

So I have been thinking of this for awhile. Why don't more children bike to school? Many attribute it to fear of kidnapping and pedophiles, but I think something else is going on as well. While I do think that fear plays a significant role, it does not completely explain the efforts against bicycles for children in junior high and high school. These are children that have a modicum of good judgement, and ability to defend themselves and call for help.

Cars represent control.

As a parent, driving them to and from school gives you the ability to control your children's whereabouts all day. You know they go to school in the morning, and when you pick them up right after the bell rings, you know they have not had any time to get into trouble.

This applies to other scenarios as well. You drop them off at the movies, you know with relative certainty that they will not be able to go anywhere else. Of course, teenagers and tweens are wily, and limited transportation can be worked around, but the point remains that if you provide the sole means of transportation for your child, you have significant control over their lives. We are in the era of the helicopter parents.

Now add a bicycle to the mix. You allow your fourteen year old to get themselves to school, how do you know they aren't getting themselves in trouble? How do you know if they come straight home? Bicycles, like cars, represent a certain level of freedom that many parents are not comfortable with. Cars of course offer more freedom, but their use is limited to sixteen and up, an age many parents are willing to give more responsibility then. I believe many parents aren't willing to allow that sort of freedom before sixteen, and that is why you do not see more children bicycling to school or to activities.

Is this line of thinking a little strained? Perhaps, but I don't think parents always think logically when it comes to their children. Teenagers manage to get themselves in trouble, access to a bicycle or not. Certainly, in other parts of the world where bicycle use among all ages is more common, they have found ways to keep tabs on their children. Perhaps there they have a more "it takes a village" approach. Perhaps they have discovered that device on your phone that allows you to keep track of your kid through GPS.

Whatever it is, bicycle use will not rise until parents are willing to relinquish some control, real or imagined, over their children. The woman that allowed her child to ride the subway when he was seven was flayed in the public sphere, that is indicative of our collective thinking towards children and transportation. Until she and others like her are held up as someone who made a rational choice, we will probably not see an increase in bicycle use among tweens and young teens.

Another Beautiful Day

The weather has definitely taken a turn towards spring. It was very nice out yesterday, so of course I couldn't stay home. I love riding through the area around my place because of the interesting homes. I don't think you can tell too well in the picture below, but they painted their door an eggplant color.

A very unique octagonal tower on this home. And again with the purple!

I actually forgot where this is...I guess Zilker Park.

Bike parking in front of Barton Springs. It looks like the city is building a boardwalk of some sort, which will make these racks a little difficult to use.

Relaxing in the park
 A couple with a couple of bikes. Kind of made me barf to see them so cutesy with their bikes, but forgive me, I'm single and Valentine's Day is tomorrow.

Bikes with no owners. I suppose this is good though that people feel comfortable enough to leave their bikes alone here in ATX. Or they are stupid. I'm not sure which one, I always lock up my bike.

Captain Morgan pose.

I met up with a friend, and so I forgot to take any more pictures. There were definitely a lot more people out on their bikes.

An odd thing did happen to me on my way there though. I was waiting on the red light at Lamar & Barton Springs, and a car pulled up right next to me, as though he was trying to edge me out of the queue. I was obviously going straight. He gave me this look and freaked me out. I just scooted around the car in front of me to get away from him, which I do not like to do. I wait my turn in line, but in this case I was afraid. It's crazy that even when you know you aren't doing anything wrong, you still get treated like you are a criminal.