Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It's Raining!

I got caught in the deluge in South Austin yesterday, thankfully in my car, but I still got soaked during the run to my apartment door. I rode my bike home from work, and the sprinkles from earlier in the day did make my commute interesting. First of all...I really want fenders now. It didn't seem like that big of a deal, but I noticed the water droplets on my feet. Also, there are an inordinate amount of potholes on my way home. I avoid them as a habit, but full of water they are just so much more noticeable. Third, and I already knew this, Austin drivers are the WORST inclement weather drivers. I saw someone with no headlights yesterday making their way in the rain. Ugh. I may have to wander over to Dave at Portlandize for some more rain-avoiding tips, as it appears this cold front ( its 89 ha!) is supposed to stay for a few days.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Bicycle Lanes Planned

Austin officials have decided to add bike lanes along Barton Springs Road near Lamar. This is a welcome change in my opinion, as it provides a needed link between the Zilker Park and the BikePed Bridge, as well as South Congress. With the fast moving traffic, I usually try to pedal as fast as I can to the relative safety of Dawson street.

I'm glad they acknowledged the heavy bicycle use along that stretch of road and there needs to be safe space for cyclists. Now if only they would get the bicycle lanes to extend the entire stretch of S. Lamar, and then we could truly have an easily traveled neighborhood.

On the BikePed Bridge

This my favorite spot to photograph cyclists. They are set against a great backdrop, are generally pedaling slow, and you get all kinds of people. I took these yesterday, around seven in the evening. Despite the sun already going down, the temperature was still in the nineties.

Obviously coming back from Whole Foods, yum

Social cycling, another rare event here.

Check out the high bike!

I believe this was a planned social ride, I checked atxbs and found nothing...

My woeful photography skills can't capture the awesomeness of seeing all these bikes spiral down at once.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bicycles On the Cheap

One of the many reasons to get a bicycle is to save money on gas and upkeep of a car. However, the small expenses of outfitting your bicycle for the commute may result in sticker shock, so I've gathered some ways to make your bicycle functional on the cheap. 

1. Panniers

These can cost a pretty penny, ranging from $30 to $100 and up. If you have a back rack with a spring loaded trap, then you can easily substitute reusable grocery bags. Place the handles through the trap, and they will fall on either side of your bicycle like panniers, and of course are super durable. I've transported milk and a six pack using this method. If rain is a concern, wrap your stuff up in plastic bags or plastic bags. Some of these bags come in lovely designs, but I had the standard issue green HEB (local grocery chain) ones. They cost a $1.

2. Basket

These you can find relatively cheap, but the rear ones can be costlier. Solution? A plastic crate. You find these behind every convenience and big box store. I had a bright red Coca Cola crate and tied it on using zip ties. Obviously they are very durable since they are meant for stacking, and can hold quite a bit of weight. I also used these for transporting groceries, and would lace the bag handles through the crate holes for security. With some creative thinking, you could make a cover for your crate like some of the fancier back racks. 

Neither of these solutions are for cross country commuting (I would imagine), but these work great as everyday commute solutions.

3. Cycle Gear

Do away with the hassle of bringing a change of clothes and ride in the clothes you already own. This is a no-brainer for many, but I mention it because there are some obstacles you will face. First, oily grease is not a good look on anyone. A chainguard and fenders will keep your clothes looking nice and free from the moving parts of your bicycle. I have neither on my bicycle, and get around those problems by wearing skirts and dresses most days. It's easier to get grease off my leg than my slacks. If you are a guy, I see them using a clip on their jeans. I also see many wearing capri pants, but from a woman's perspective I don't like them. Sunglasses are a good idea, especially here in Austin, where you are guaranteed to not have any shade whatsoever at least part of your trip. In the winter, wear gloves, even if you would not normally. Since your hands are in a static position most of the time, they get frozen quickly. I also like to carry a handkerchief around to quickly get sweat off my brow and upper lip.

4. Go to a bike swap meet. Those are good places to find quality parts for a good price, some give away stuff for free. I found my back rack at Frankenbike here in Austin for $40. It's better to see things in person, especially when you are dealing with bike parts. My rack seemed a perfect fit, but we still had to enlarge the holes with a drill so I could attach it. Imagine trying to get the right fit over the Internet. Plus, they are fun, and here in Austin they had free beer.

Some things to splurge on: a good lock and Krog lights. The first one is self-explanatory, but Krog lights are these wonderful little LED lights that require no mount and can easily go from one bicycle to another. They are pricier than lights from Wal-Mart, but are worth it. The light they emit is powerful, and they are light and smushy enough to stuff in your purse.

Any other money saving ideas?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Churchgoers and Traffic Laws

I read this on jezebel Ridiculous New Law Would Permit Churchgoers to Ignore Traffic Lights

I took them literally, but this is actually about a very vague constitutional amendment in North Dakota that could be manipulated into protecting religious discrimination against gays.

The thesis of this post was completely disregarded in the comments however, which quickly devolved into hating all those churchgoers who take up precious parking spaces. Apparently in SF there is a big problem with churchgoers essentially taking up all the parking on entire streets. An excerpt:

I don't know if it's a State thing or just a local thing, but in San Francisco you're allowed to double park your car during services if you're going to church. When I lived in Western Addition, the block I lived on was pretty much impossible to drive through from all the double parked cars.
I never understood the exception. Finding a parking spot was hard for EVERYONE in our neighborhood. Everyone else had to circle around for 45 minutes and then walk five blocks, why did some people get to leave their car in the middle of the darn street just because they were going to service? Having to endure basic inconveniences of city living isn't exactly throwing them into an arena to be eaten by lions.

There is a similar situation in downtown Austin, where churches offer free parking in pay to park lots to lure churchgoers. As far as I can tell it is not a huge problem in Austin, (but what do I know, I am sound asleep like a decent person on Sunday morning) but it does bring up an interesting question. Who has more of a right to those precious few spaces? Churchgoers or those who chose to spend their Sunday with a nice mimosa, eggs benedict, or pregaming before whatever sporting event is in season?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Spotted Around Town

Riding to School on S. Lamar

Shoal Creek Park

On S. Lamar again as I rode home

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Riding the Bus

I've taken to riding the bus to work with my bicycle. With me spending around $100 on gas a month it made sense. It was a little difficult at first since you have to lift your bike onto the mechanism that holds it in place on the front of the bus. (Let's just say I don't spend my free time lifting weights) However, once I got it down it was pretty nice, and I get to work relatively sweat free.

Using a bicycle in conjunction with the bus gives you more options. Technically for me to get to work on foot alone I would have to make two transfers, with a bicycle, I can simply cycle over to the direct bus line. As soon as I finish pimping out my bike with a rack where I can stash my purse, it'll be a very nice commute.

I have to commend CapMetro, I really can't think of any way to make it easier to take your bicycle, other than doing the heavy lifting for me.  Buses are only equipped with two spots, so if it is already full, your out of luck, as I was yesterday. Several bus lines go by my work though, so even if I couldn't pedal home and take my car, I would still be able to get to work in a timely manner. However, I rarely see one, much less two on the buses around town. A problem for the future, and a good one to have. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Bikeway

I heard there was a new cycle track here in Austin somewhere along Red River, but hadn't seen that yet, my sole reason for going to that part of town being a need for German kitsch at Scholtz Garden. However, I caught a glimpse of it on my way to the ciclovia. 

It runs along the commuter rail on 4th street, and is meant to provide a way to cross I-35. That intersection presents the one and only fault I found with this project.

That is the I-35 access road, which you must cross to continue on the bikeway. There is no light, no nothing. It is you against the fifty or so cars coming continuously, so good luck finding a gap to cross the street. I finally said to myself, "Grow some balls" and went. In an otherwise good plan, why did they place the crossing here, where there is no stoplight? Really, for safety's sake, it might make sense to cross over one block and cross at 5th or 6th street.  On the other side you come to this weird intersection where not only do you have to watch for access road traffic, but cars turning right from a side street. Its hard to explain the exact layout.

Here is a picture of the "pretty side" of the bikeway.

I'm glad Austin is building things like this. However, sometimes I just scratch my head with some of the odd layouts you come across.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Austin Ciclovia

Austin held had its first ever Ciclovia as part of Bike Month. City officials shut down E. 6th street, and let the locals loose to do as they pleased. (Family-friendly things-that part was heavily emphasized in the paper.)

I went down and checked it out, arriving on the tail end of it around 2. I'm hoping that is why there weren't too many people, although those that were left certainly made up for their lack of numbers with personality. Here are some pictures.

Something you hardly ever see in Austin- little kids riding their bicycles on the street.

Aww training wheels. Remember those?

I sincerely apologize for this unflattering shot. But, you hardly ever see women riding those kinds of bikes, so I'm including it.

This is as crowded as it got while I was there.

Riding it backwards---Oh yeah I'm cool.

Along with the fun of riding your bike in the street safe from 2 tons of metal, there was also food, music, and a farmer's market. (Those seem to be almost standard festival fare now, like Ferris wheels and funnel cakes.) An Asian beauty contest was going on too it seemed-- I got there in the middle when they were posing in front of the bluegrass band. 

I hope the Ciclovia was a big success and Austin will continue to hold these kinds of events around town. Looking at pictures of other ciclovias held around the world, our crowds paled in comparison. I enjoyed it though, because it takes you back to when you were a kid and you just road your bicycle for the hell of it, up and down the street. By the way, anyone else think Ciclovia was the name of some prescription drug at first?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New Bike!

My new baby.
1980's Azuki road bike, beautiful blue color.
So far so good, but I want to put a rack on it and maybe a basket. I felt like I was flying when I rode it the other day, but it did take me a couple of tries to become adjusted to the road bike posture. I can actually lift it, which will come in handy if I ever want to take the bus.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In the Middle of Chaos

Been off the grid for awhile since I didn't have internet. Thank you At&t, I have spoken more to your customer service reps than I have to my own family.

Anyway, I snapped this on my way home. It was taken at Lamar@ Manchaca during 5:00 traffic. Brave, foolish, law-abiding- all of these words could describe the cyclist. He acted exactly as if he was driving a car, even though that meant being in the middle of fast moving traffic, a position very few people would like to find themselves in. Most people would ride through on the crosswalk, myself included.

This picture exemplifies the problems cyclists face on many Austin roads. The law demands you behave as a vehicle, with very few exceptions. However, to conform to societal attitudes about what is "safe", many people behave differently. This gray area causes confusion among cyclists and drivers, as everyone operates within their own vision of the proper and safe way to cycle. Then, there are those that bend, or more accurately, break the law with the justification that it is safer for them to do so. Or, even more annoyingly, that it is just too inconvenient. (I'm looking at you, people who don't want to stop at stop signs.)

Certainly, there are some laws that shouldn't apply to cyclists, and of course, there are others that everyone needs to follow to maintain a level of courtesy and respect on the road. So where do you draw those distinctions? I, like every other cyclist on the road, have my own version of the "right" way to do things. I'm sure not everyone agrees with how I ride and judges me for it, and God knows I do the same thing. So what is the solution? More cyclists on the road for sure, since peer pressure would curb more outrageous behavior such as running red lights. (We have horns in our cars for a reason.) Increased scrutiny from knowledgeable legislators would be a plus too, since much of that gray area is a result from half ass laws. In the meantime, riding in your bicycle in Austin means operating in a gray area where right isn't always clear and being wrong could mean you and your bicycle in a twisted mess.

Fun fact: I know that guy. I'd know those dreads anywhere.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

At the Corner of Manchaca and 71

Cyclists in this part of town tend to be a little more utilitarian. No fancy, or even trendy clothes, and very few wearing Lycra. Not surprising, since this intersection is a little perilous right here and not conducive to gaining speed, and I would always cross over one exit down rather than try and navigate this intersection.

Sticking with the crosswalk, perhaps a safer choice at a point where cars blast through if they can.

Unusual Bicycle

I cannot imagine how much this baby costs. I'm not sure what the perks would be for this type of bicycle, other than the back support. It must be very hard to look over your shoulder to see traffic. I don't know, I don't think I could ride this bike.


We interrupt the usual theme of this blog with pictures of Texas wildflowers. I took most of these at a park near my work. The great thing about these flowers is they grow in the nook and crannies of our highways and streets, bringing beauty to a drab part of the streetscape.

These let out the most awesome aroma. It is a very heavy scent that just hangs in the air.

This is heaven to walk by.

Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail

I throw this in here just because. I'm not sure what it is or its purpose, other than to creep.

Friday, April 6, 2012

No Longer a Rite of Passage

I remember getting my driver's license. The bitchy lady at the DPS (she is legendary in my hometown) gave me the two page test, which I promptly failed. Apparently, she liked me. She then coached me through the test and voila! I was a licensed driver. Freedom!...to go anywhere by myself between the hours of 6 and 10. I got my license right around the time lawmakers in Austin thought perhaps it wasn't a good idea for teenagers to be distracted while driving.

Getting a driver's license was almost mandatory in my small town. There is no bus system, maybe two taxis, and bicycles were practically nonexistent. You have a car or live by begging rides, and in a town where almost everyone else has a license, its hard being THAT person, you know, the one who is a bother asking for rides. I lived about 10 miles outside of town, so I had to be schlepped everywhere  by my parents. Once I had my license, all that dependency was gone.

Apparently that experience is becoming less common. According to this article, fewer Americans teenagers are getting their license.  Experts are pointing to increased social media usage as the reason for fewer face to face interactions, and therefore, the need to leave your home. However, I find that hard to believe. Maybe I'm a little too old for this, but I just can't see that filling the need for human contact and interaction. I believe it plays a role, but not to the extent they say in the article. More likely teenagers simply can't/won't take on the cost of a car or they live in cities with good public transportation. I think there could be some ancillary reasons that weren't really discussed in the article.

1. Cars have lost some of their cachet.  Compared to the 50s and 60s, the cars of today are very utilitarian, mpg here and fuel efficiency that, the culture doesn't embrace them in the same way. Cars are just less sexy than they were a couple of decades ago. When I was in high school, people would cruise up and down the strip on the weekend, just for something to do. With gas at 4 dollars a gallon, anyone doing that would look like a fool. Or a douche.

2. Greenwashing. Maybe some of that environmental message has come through.

3. Car companies. Perhaps the automobile industry needs to do a little PR with the group that was greatly affected by the Great Recession.

Whatever the reasons, and it sounds there still needs to be some research done on this issue, it is a boon to alternative transportation advocates. When I first moved to Austin, I remember many of the country bumpkins, myself included, were afraid of Capmetro. Hippies! Homeless people! Now? Couldn't love it more as a tool to help me get around town. Cycling? All those UT kids made it look easy! ( I did not go to UT, but rather St. Ed's, where we through a shit fit when they wanted to start charging for the garage.)  Once I got a taste of being less reliant on my car, there is no way I'd want to live like that again.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Political Officials on Bicycles

Came across this picture of Ron Paul on a bike from a friends Facebook page. He is I think, a little obsessed with Mr. Paul. I like that Paul looks so relaxed, one-handed slouch and everything.

So, I went looking for other political types on bicycles, finding the governor of our great state of Texas, Rick Perry:
I almost didn't recognize him without the hair.  

President George Bush, who makes sure wherever he is there is an American flag in the foreground.

President Barack Obama. There are some of him with a helmet on, but the one thing I like about the majority of the pictures you find of him on a bicycle he is wearing regular clothes. 

Looks like no matter what your political beliefs, everyone enjoys a little time on two-wheels!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Riding on the Sidewalk

My friend got hit by a car yesterday, thankfully she got through with a scraped knee and perhaps broken pinky finger. Immediately putting her ordeal on Facebook, her post quickly filled with comments. Besides the usual "Omigod are you ok?" comments you get the other typical comment associated with cycling accidents, "I always ride on the sidewalk..."

No. Just NO.

Riding on the sidewalk is NOT safer than riding on the road. It does not make you smarter than the bloke riding on the road, and if you do it without recognizing the real ways you can get hit by a car, it means you are actually in MORE danger. In your false sense of security and safety, you won't pay as much attention.

Let's walk through a typical scenario. You are on a busy street, let's say N. Lamar near 12th street. Riding on the sidewalk seems preferable to riding with traffic that is moving very, very, fast. Here are 4 points you can get hit by a car:

1. Cars pulling out from driveways and parking lots.

Especially on streets like Lamar with a lot of businesses, you need to pay attention to cars trying to turn onto the main street. Drivers do not expect to see you there, and will pull forward as far as possible to get a good look at oncoming traffic.

2. Cars emerging from cross streets.

Streets like Lamar have a lot of intersections, and for each one you have to look and see if there is a car coming from your right looking to turn onto the main street. Drivers rarely respect those white painted crosswalks, as they are trying to pull as far forward as they can to see traffic, and often their view is obstructed by other vehicles or stupid bushes. (Sorry that happens to me so often here in Austin) Unfortunately, this is exactly the path that you are using and it is up to you to make sure the way is clear. Here, I sympathize with the driver, since you are not expecting something as fast as a bicycle to be there. When coming to an intersection it is very important to slow down and observe.

3. Cars turning left onto a cross street. (Meaning they are turning left into your path)

These drivers are looking at oncoming traffic only. They are not looking on the sidewalk to see if you are there. I know I never did before I started cycling, and still really don't a lot of the time. This one takes perfect timing, but I've had a close call with this very type of situation, so it happens. The best way to avoid this is to ride a little behind a pack of cars, thereby ensuring nobody but someone with a suicide wish would turn left into. Otherwise, check to see if there is someone in a turn lane before crossing.

4. Cars turning right

Technically if you are riding alongside a car, the driver should notice you, but that doesn't always happen. People get distracted, are looking at a billboard, whatever. This type of accident is a big possibility even if you are on the road with them, so imagine how more dangerous it is if you are in an unexpected place, out of their line of sight. Every time you come to an intersection or driveway, you need to look over your shoulder and make sure a car isn't preparing to turn in front of you. And don't trust that just because you don't see any turn signals means you are home free.

So, riding on the sidewalk requires just as much vigilance as riding on the road, if not more. You are in a place where drivers don't expect to find you, and even though many cyclists ride on the sidewalk at some point or another here in Austin, it doesn't mean Austin drivers are aware of it.

In the case of a road like N. Lamar, riding on the sidewalk is the lesser of two evils. I know I would ride on the sidewalk there, but it is also where I almost got hit. Choosing to ride on the sidewalk is more comfortable for me, but I go into it knowing it is not necessarily safer. In some parts of Austin, like Parmer, where there are wide sidewalks and few intersections, it might be a safer choice. It is important to remember that getting hit from behind by a car is the least likely accident, but for some reason is the one that people imagine and fear the most.

Also, in certain parts of Austin, riding on the sidewalk is illegal. Guadalupe in the West Campus area and certain part of downtown (I don't know exactly where, its like the 1600 block of Congress to no one is going to remember that on their bike). So I don't ride on the sidewalk at all downtown just to be safe, and I don't know why you would want to with the pedestrians, benches and other crap in the way.

So, wherever you are be safe, and remember safety is a combination of factors. Once you get used to looking out for these things, you can relax and enjoy the ride. Riding is supposed to be fun.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Technical Difficulties

I would love to post some pictures up, but unfortunately my camera is not working. I'm thinking it just needs to be charged, but I cannot for the life of me find the charger. So, while I was out and about today I kicked myself about five times because I saw some pretty cool stuff.

1. A man had a dog in his back basket. Dog looked like he didn't have a care in the world.

2. Austin cowgirl riding downtown. She had the classic boots, but a razored haircut.

3. Lots of couples. Not sure if it has something to do with the weather, but saw quite a few.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Kite Festival 2012

Here are some pictures from Austin's 2012 Kite Festival, with an emphasis on the two wheeled transport people used to get there. With Barton Springs Rd. closed down for the festivities, only a few insane people tried to drive directly to the park.

It was a perfect day for flying a kite-warm and breezy.

I'll forgive her for wearing pigtails since she rode a bike.

Crepes vendor- didn't try one at $6 a pop but smelled delicious

Awesome cat sighting

Nice cruiser

Several people lounged next to their bicycles

The turnout was impressive-this was around 4:30 when the festival was winding down

Random shark balloon....

Never sighted before- a family riding together

Close-up of the Dad