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 everything...so 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 economy.gov, 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.