Friday, February 25, 2011

Yay!

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.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I Should've Stayed Home....

Sometimes, there are signs that you should just stay home. Today is not your day, and by venturing out into the world you're just asking for it.

I should've stayed home.

First, a nut fell off my bike on the wheel. I'm pretty sure its the thing that holds the wheel in place. So, I could've gone flying off my bike because my front wheel fell off. Thankfully, I heard it hit the ground and put it back on.

Secondly, I got called a stupid bitch by some douche in a BMW. (I see the hypocrisy) Not particularly bothersome, but just something else to add to the list.

And then, my chained jumped off on my way home from UT and I had to take into the bike shop to get it fixed. Thankfully, I was on Barton Springs where there are like three bikes shops in a mile radius. I was very frustrated though because this is the second time its happened to me. The shop fixed it in a jiffy, although I wasn't very comforted when told there was nothing I could do to help it.

Anyway, I would like to thank the very nice cyclist in full gear who stopped to tell me what was wrong. Without rolling his eyes at my obvious helplessness. And Jack and Adams cycles, who didn't charge me.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Honk if You Hate Being Honked At

There are many little nuisances about biking, just like there are many little nuisances about driving. Getting stuck behind a garbage truck. Nuisance. Car turning in front of you even though they know you're there. Nuisance. Getting honked at by men who should know better.

Nuisance.

Apparently I'm not the only one. My friend who used to bike to UT had the same thing happen to her. We both subscribe to the, "They just want to see you jump" theory, whereas my ex-bf thinks its along the same lines as a catcall, or as he puts it, "They just think you're pretty." He used to ride with me all the time so he does have some experience in that.

Either way, its pretty annoying. I don't take it as a compliment, just like I wouldn't take a leering "Hey Baby!" as a compliment. Of course, men are much more bold in a car, and its not limited to honks. I could've sworn yesterday I saw a man mouth to me, "Oh wow" as he zoomed by. I hope that was it, anyway.

So how to deal? I try to cover both bases and show no visible shock to the honk, and also turn my head away from the source. Try catching a glimpse of me now sucker. I would prefer to have a huge boxing glove come out of nowhere and knock them senseless. That might cause a slight rise in traffic accidents though.

That's not to say I don't like being communicated with on my bike. A wave, for whatever reason, I'm more likely to respond to. I guess its not as intrusive, I can choose to ignore it, and most importantly, its not a signal that is supposed to be used to warn people. A wave is also not explicitly a come-on. Do I know you?
Others I tolerate because they are slightly amusing. "Can you give me a ride?" is my favorite. Sure, if you can fit in my crate, hop on. These are told to me by guys whose average age I would guess to be 18, so I can forgive if they have no finesse.

At a stop, a smile is always welcome. I have no problem with smiles. Or you know, talking to me like a human being. I like that.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Austin Cycle Chic

I really like Mikael's work from Copenhagenize and Copenhagencyclechic, which this little post is modeled after. While there are several nice sites here in Austin, his really struck a chord with me and helped me figure out how to approach cycling. Basically, just get on my bike and go, in my regular clothes. Maybe more in the future.
So, in that spirit, I went out to the Ped bridge and LAB to get some pictures of people on bikes. While wearing knee high boots with a heel.

 The Lance Armstrong Bikeway, politely telling cars to stay off. There is also a sign for pedestrians, but its ignored for the time being. I don't really care, they don't get in the way. The way I see it, if bikes become more popular and the bikeway gets more use, it'll be uncomfortable for pedestrians eventually.


                                                           One cyclist. A lot of cars.


                                           Taking a break and enjoying the views of the lake.

                              I would have gotten two bicycles but this nice man got in the way.

   I would say a pretty typical sight here in Austin. Looks like your average UT student
.
 I'm new at taking these pictures, so bear with me. I wanted to get a Lance wannabe getting his exercise too.

                               Going somewhere, headphones in, enjoying the sunshine.

   A little blurry, I'll get better at this. I just noticed most of my pictures are men. Oops?

 A near crash on the Pedbridge. Both screeched to a halt, exchanged words. Nothing rude though. Really I don't know who would have been at fault. With runners, walkers, dogs, children, and all, you really need to take it slow.
                                                       Pausing and admiring the lake.

                                   Of course, you see a lot of guys in full on gear.

                  Some of the stuff you can't see in your car. Spotted on 7th street.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow!

Its been a wee bit chilly here in Austin, Texas. We had a smattering of snow all over Central Texas, so naturally, everything has come to a standstill. I stayed in today, not in my car or on my bike, preferring to keep both in one piece. Texans are not good drivers in the snow.

Before it snowed last night though it was just chilly, and I needed to make a grocery run. I'm sad to say my iron ovaries left me and I drove the less than three miles. I want to say it was in the twenties or so, but I do think if I had dressed appropriately I would have made it there. I was afraid I would be the only crazy one on the bike!

I'm happy to report I was totally wrong. I saw several bikes on the rack, and I think even one Dad was there with his kid. I don't remember if he had a cute little bikeseat, but he got him home somehow. I tried to take some pictures, but they were through my car window while driving, so they are rubbish. On the drive home I saw several people on bikes too, maybe a little cooler than they would like, but getting on with their trip.

I can't wait till tomorrow when all the ice and snow is gone so I can hop on my bike. It's still going to be cold, so maybe I can get a little of my streetcred back. That and I have an adorable red coat I wear maybe three times a year that needs a little exposure.