Tuesday, November 22, 2005

New York Bike Fatalities Rise

The Washington Post reported that cycling deaths in New York City have risen from 15 last year to 21 this year. From the Article:

NEW YORK -- Jen Shao, the immigrant owner of a Chinatown souvenir shop, wasn't trying to make a political statement as she pedaled her bicycle through downtown Manhattan.

The 65-year-old woman biked, her family told reporters, because she found it easier than walking.

But her September death beneath the wheels of a tour bus was one of an increased number of biking fatalities this year, adding a melancholy edge to long-running tensions over the presence of bicycles on the city's crowded streets.

With a month left in the year, police records show 21 cyclists have died in traffic accidents in New York, up from 15 in all of 2004.

The number may just be a statistical anomaly, transportation officials said. Between 2000 and 2004, traffic accidents killed 82 cyclists in the city, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration _ an average of about 16 deaths per year.

The article also mentioned that the amount of riders has risen drastically in the last couple of years.

Bike advocates enjoy a better relationship with the city's Department of Transportation, which in the past few years has done plenty to encourage cycling, including the creation of more than 100 miles of new bike lanes.

Those steps contributed to a growing number of riders citywide. An annual survey recorded 16,292 bicyclists pedaling past a series of checkpoints during a 12-hour period in 2005, compared to 12,757 five years earlier.

In the early 1980s, the same surveys found between 6,000 and 7,000 bike trips, said the transportation department's bike program coordinator, Andrew Vesselinovitch.

Most people allege that the number of deaths are a statistical anomaly. Tensions have been high this year, however. Ever since the Critical Mass ride during the RNC, the NYPD have been cracking down on cyclists. To me, it seems like abuse. And since cyclists still represent a minority of people on the road, they are getting away with it. This does not bode well at all too me. I know from experience that cars are allowed to run wild in NYC. You would never get pulled over for speeding or dangerous driving. Most police officers don't bother because it's too much effort to pull someone over. A cyclist, on the other hand, makes an easy target.

To read the full article, click here.

Friday, November 18, 2005

No one really cares

Ever wonder how easy it is to steal a bike? This video I discovered shows several different methods, which attracted absolutely no attention in broad daylight. It's definitely an eye-opener.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The whole world

Updating has not been regular. I choose to remedy this with a bulk posting of as much information that I can humanly depict without causing semi-serious brain hemorrhaging.

Increased Sales

Bike shops around the country have been reporting an increase in sales this year. This article from the San Jose/Silicon Valley Business Journal tells the tale of a well known shop in Pittsburgh that has expanded due to the increased interest in commuting. From the article:

To Scott Bricker, the executive director of Bike Pittsburgh, a nonprofit that promotes bicycle use and works closely with bike stores throughout the city, such dramatic expansion is encouraging. Bricker has seen a growing number of bikers in the region, particularly among commuters fed up with the high cost of gas. While five years ago he felt like he recognized most of the bikers in the city, now he can no longer say that.

"I've heard a lot of times that local area bike shops are usually hard pressed to turn a decent profit. Any move like that to open up a new, larger store like that is a positive," he said. "Definitely, it can be a tough business, especially in a city where, arguably, the riding conditions are really good six to eight months out of the year."

I'd say this is very positive. I'm sure something similar is happening right now in Boston, but I feel some people are going to chicken out with the impending winter at hand.

Cagers and Ragers

An interesting case in Colorado lead to heavy fines being inflicted upon a man who punched a female cyclist in the face. From the article:

Pam Zaske was coming down Vail Pass into East Vail as it was raining around 6 p.m. on July 9, and was riding on Big Horn Road going about 35 mph, when Matthews pulled up next to her in his Lexus SUV.

"I was staying very close to the white line, but I made a conscious decision that I didn't want to be crossing in and out of it because it was slick," Zaske said. "He came up behind me with his vehicle. He honked his horn. He slowed down and stayed right at my side. He made three distinct movements, closer to me and closer to me. I was doing what I could to slow down and stay away from that line and not crash."

Matthews continued after Zaske slowed down, and she saw his car pull a U-turn down the road and park in a dirt lot facing the oncoming cyclists. She rode up to his car, motioned for him to roll down his window. When he did, she began telling him how dangerous his actions were.

"I probably got four words out, when he blew up at me and started yelling," she said.

A short screaming match ensued, and when Zaske went to leave, Matthews grabbed her jacket with one hand and punched her in the jaw with the other. Matthews then drove away to a party he was attending in East Vail with his mother and two boys - aged 9 and 12 - who were also in the car. Zaske called the police, who found his vehicle shortly thereafter and arrested him.

To read the article, click here.

Road rage is a very interesting thing. This guy claimed he was stressed because he had just taken his father off life support. Even given the situation, that doesn't excuse punching a stranger in the face for using the roadway legally!

Motorists, sometimes referred to as "cagers", seem to just see cyclists as an annoyance. I'm sure much of this stems from the fact that no-one is really properly educated on what rights cyclists have, and are confused by vehicular cyclists. Conversely, many cyclists don't know that they have a right to the roads as well (for example, people who ride on the sidewalk).

Road rage really freaks me out though. The fact that a person driving a 3,000+ pound weapon can all of the sudden go nuts and decide to hurt someone else says something about driving. If cars afford us freedom, why do they make us go crazy? Heavy debt, traffic, increasing gas prices, or maybe just being cooped up in a metal cage? I can't say anything for certain.

A lack of foresight?

Road designers in New Tampa, Florida who were engineering the expansion of a main road from four lanes to eight decided to only afford cyclist's a 3-foot shoulder to ride on. Stating that there was a lack of money, they still decided to make each lane of traffic 12 feet wide, instead of the standard 11. From the article:

HUNTER'S GREEN - As designers draft plans for a $172-million expansion of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, there is one clear winner: the passenger car.

The losers? Bicycles and mass transit. By extension, some say, the environment and public health are losing out as well.

When New Tampa's main drag jumps from four lanes to eight in a job that begins in 2007, there will be, at most, a 3-foot-wide shoulder for those who dare to cycle.

The design also calls for only 20 feet of transit space, confining high-speed bus or rail to a one-way service that would render it virtually useless.

Road designers are violating county and state road design policy by omitting the bike lanes. They blame a lack of money. Yet they have chosen to make the car lanes 12 feet wide instead of the 11 feet that traffic-calming advocates recommend. The result, critics say, will be hostile to anyone not in a car.

To view the article, click here.

I find this to be absolutely ridiculous. Wider lanes just make traffic go faster, which makes the roadway dangerous for everyone. A bike lane is just a painted line, it wouldn't kill them to put some effort into this project. I feel bad for anyone who takes the bus as well.

Project Bike Update

The Nishiki is slowly taking shape. I think last time I left off, I had finished priming the frame.

Afterwards, I laid down three coats of aluminum colored spray paint. It came out pretty well.

Then, I masked off all of the lugs so I could spray them another color.

Once I started spraying, I immediately noticed a problem. The black paint was causing the silver to run, and wasn't sticking correctly. I waited for the paint to dry, and then took some sandpaper and roughed up the surface of the paint so it would take hold. After that, I removed all of the masking and clear coated the frame. The result:

Unfortunately, the paint came out terrible. When I pulled off the masking, it also took some of the silver paint with it. Some of the black paint managed to seem through the masking, as well. Here's an example:

I figure next time, I'll just stick to one color. It would have helped if I had let the paint dry, but I was slightly apprehensive leaving it hanging around in the staircase.

Later on, my wheelset from Iro Cycles arrived. Needless to say, I was very excited. These are the most expensive part of the bicycle, but also the most important. They are 32-hole Iro/Formula hubs laced to Velocity Aerohead rims. Tony at Iro puts great wheels together and I would recommend his stuff to anyone.

After that, I purchased a set of cranks, a bottom bracket, a chainring, and chainring bolts.

The top left is a 44t Rocket Ring chainring, below that is a Shimano bottom bracket, to the right are Dimension cranks and Sugino chainring bolts. The cranks and chainring are BMX parts, but they are used commonly on fixed gear bikes because of their low cost.

I had to buy a special bottom bracket tool, but otherwise the installation went smoothly. I bought some grease, and made sure to lubricate anything that was threaded so I would be able to service the parts later on.

I decided to reinstall the headset as well, although I feel it does not have much life left in it. I mocked up the bike to get an idea of what it will look like.

The handlebars are temporary. I have a new stem, seat, tires and handlebars coming soon. I hope to get this bike done in the next couple of weeks, hopefully.

As if I haven't said enough...

Last weekend me and my friend Ryan decided to hop on our bikes and venture north to Nahant, where Northeastern has a Marine Science Center. Our Marine-Biology friend is there now monitoring kelp or some other craziness, so we decided to stay overnight. The trip was 19-miles one way.

Our trip began at my apartment, and we rode across the Mass Ave. bridge and followed the bike path to the Museum of Science on Monsignor O'brien Highway. We crossed the bridge over 93 into Charlestown, and took Main St. to Sullivan Square. From there we crossed over the Malden Bridge into Everett, and turned onto Beachem St. This was an efficient route, but the road was in pretty bad shape. It was mostly lined with warehouses and traveled by heavy trucks. That road went directly to Marginal St. in Chelsea, which we took until we hit another bridge (name unknown).

From there we got on Bennington St., passing Suffolk Downs on the way. Somewhere in between East Boston and Revere, we were stopped at a light and a man crossing the street said, "You stop for lights on bikes? How Come?" I responded, as the light turned green, "Because they're legal vehicles." We travel up the road some more, until we hit a traffic rotary that funnels us into Revere Beach Blvd. This was one of the best parts of the ride, biking right alongside the ocean.

After we crossed the bridge into Lynn, the landscape changed drastically. That is, the road turned into Route 1. Ryan and I tried to find a back way, trespassed into a car lot unintentionally, and Ryan got a flat tire. As I was changing it, a bunch of security people bugged us. One guy tried to tell me how to fix the flat, but I ignored him because he had no idea what he was talking about. After that episode, we continued on. As the road was a fairly congested 3-lane road with absolutely no shoulder, we rode on the sidewalk (much to my humiliation). Fortunately, this was short lived, and we made it to the causeway that takes you into Nahant. This had an absolutely lovely view, and I loathe to say I forgot my digital camera. From then on, it was easy. Nahant is a really interesting town, considering it's proximity to Boston.

For the return trip, we got lazy and decided to go to the Wonderland T stop and got out at State. From there it was an easy trip home.

To view a map of our route, click here.

And that concludes this compilation. I'd be impressed if you read it all.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Well I thought they had bigger problems in Columbia, but . . .

The Columbian presidential candidate and former mayor of Bogota Enrique Penalosa was giving talks to schoolchildren in Roxbury last week about the virtues of cycling as transportation. This article was also interesting because it was written by my Journalism 1 teacher, David Abel.

Penalosa brought up several good points. From the article:

Penalosa didn't dwell on politics. He offered the pupils a version of a PowerPoint presentation he delivered earlier in the day at an MIT forum on sustainable development. He skipped the slides with statistics and too much text. ''What's going to happen now that all the Indians and Chinese want cars?" he asked the students, some of whom started losing interest.

This is a very good question to ask. Development in both countries is skyrocketing, and even while significant segments of the population live in poverty, there is a growing level of wealth. Cars are a huge status symbol, especially in developing countries. Imagine what would happen if car ownership in India and China started to skyrocket? I could guarantee that the United States would not be able to continue the cheap oil party we've been having for so long.

Penalosa understands this. He's responsible for a great deal of public bicycle infrastructure in Bogota, and realizes the practicality of transportation that doesn't significantly affect the cost of living. To view the whole article, click here.

New and improved products for less effective living

A recent Anchorage Daily News article hailed the benefits of Tubeless Tires. Traditional bicycle tires use inflatable rubber innertubes to support the tire. The idea behind tubeless is just that -- the tire holds all the air, instead. To read the article, click here.

This stuff is a bad idea. It works for cars, but the tire design is completely different and is also aided by a heavy duty suspension. Changing flats on a bicycle is not a big deal once someone gets accustomed to doing it. Tubeless tires, on the other hand, require messy bonding agents and special rim strips to make the wheel air-tight.

A satirical ploy of the NoTubes.com website, YesTubes.com, emphasizes my point that sometimes the more complex solution is not the better one.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Primed and Proper

I've made more progress on my Nishiki. First, I cleaned the frame with acetone behind my building, and then sanded it again. After another acetone cleaning, it was ready to be primed. This raised a problematic question: where does one paint a bicycle frame in a cramped Fenway apartment? In my case, it's not really possible. So I went to the top of the back stairway and set up shop. I suspended the frame from a pipe using some picture frame wire and a coat hanger. I put the hook through where the seat post bolt usually goes. Then I applied three coats of primer. The end result:

Monday, October 24, 2005

Project Bike Update

The project Nishiki is now sanded down and ready for primer and paint. I considered sanding it down to the bare metal, as you can see on the seat tube, but it really isn't necessary. Roughing up the surface is sufficient.

I made sure to measure key components of the frame, namely the bottom bracket shell and the dropouts.

Edit: The place where I host my photo's isn't allowing any more to be displayed on my page, so I'm just going to provide direct links.

The next step is to remove the headset. The headset is the bearing the holds the fork, and allows you to steer.




By the way, I would recommend doing this in a ventilated area with a face mask, because I didn't and my lungs are still hurting.

More to come with this project soon!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Stand up more often.

The laziness of people astounds me. The Hub, a Lansing, Michigan based online alternative/entertainment news site, recently published an article that described several alternative modes of transport. The sections involving biking bothered me greatly, because it seemed the reporters biggest problems were caused by poor planning in their commutes. I was also particularly bothered that the reporters biggest problems were being tired and sweating. From the article:
"But then it all changed. I began to sweat, the cool air made my nose start running and my inner thighs started burning. I found myself looking forward to the intersections, which meant a little break for my legs and the perfect opportunity to take a drink from the handy water bottle attached to my bike."
To view the complete article, click here.
Um, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that's usually what happens when you engage in physical activity! You can't just jump in and expect instant results. I feel like this need for instant gratification is a perpetual problem with some people, and has disturbingly become the norm in this country.

I feel that a certain amount of preparation would have made this reporters commute a little better, also. From the article:

"Plus there are other things that factor into riding a bike, such as what to wear. Heels and dress slacks weren't an option, so I wore a casual two-piece jogging suit. But at the office, I felt like I was in pajamas. Other problems included: how to carry my purse; worrying that the bike would be stolen outside and worrying about the weather. I could've also done without the cars honking at me as I rode down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and walking into the office sweating like I just left the gym."

Well, there are a few problems in saying this. Most people who bike commute bring a change of clothes for the office, and definitely don't carry a purse. She could have just carried a backpack. If you commute every day, you need to make sure you have the appropriate gear for inclement weather, just like anyone else who goes outside in the rain. It's not such a big deal. If you're worried about someone stealing your bike, buy a good lock! Stealing cars is just as easy, anyways.

As for cars honking at the reporter, that is more of an issue pertaining to the area. Some places are so car-centric, that cyclists are oddities. People are still under the impression that bicycles can only ride on the sidewalk, when in reality that is illegal. The more disturbing thing is that cities like this are the norm in our landscape of urban sprawl, clogged highways, and lifeless strip-malls as far as the eye can see.

The good news, however, is that CNN ran a very good piece last Wednesday that had a lot of good things to say about bicycle commuting. Something that peaked my interest was the reporters claim that he would save $1,000 over two months if he commuted by bicycle to work! That had to resonate with some people. To read the article, click here, and to see the video, click here.

There's a reason it's called a drivers "privilege"

Today, my friend Ryan and I embarked on an epic adventure to the far off land of Waltham, Massachusetts. The destination: Purgatory Cove, where there surely be pirates. Upon closer examination on arrival, however, the privateering test came up negative.

It was a good feeling to get there, though. This is definitely the longest continuous ride I've taken, although it's hardly anything to show off about in the grand scheme of things.

The trip also raised some concerns about motorists the farther we ventured from the city. Motorists on the narrower, under-lit suburban roads in Newton and Waltham seem to be utterly confused by a cyclist in front of them. I blame this more on drivers not knowing the dimensions of their own vehicle than the roads, as there was ample room to pass. But for some reason, certain people just wont do it. If you don't know how big your truck is, get a sedan and stop bothering me.

An article I stumbled upon in Governing, a policy magazine, addressed cycling issues that seemed someone relevant to mine. The writer takes it more from a helmet law perspective, though. From the article:

"For one thing, helmet use symbolically puts the burden of safety on the shoulders, or rather the head, of the cyclist. While this fits right in with the American ethos of individual responsibility, it's not realistic: It's primarily the conduct of others, particularly the drivers of automobiles and trucks, that ultimately determines a bicyclist's safety."

To read the article, click here. He also cites bicycle use in Amsterdam, Holland, which is considered one of the friendliest cities for cyclists in the world. He brings up an interesting point, in how automobiles need to lookout for cyclists, and not vice-versa. I'm sure many of the motorists I encountered tonight thought me and my friend were lunatics for riding on a winding road at night, but it's not like I'm asking to be killed or anything. I am just exercisinging my right to the road like everyone else.