Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When its Hot Panniers are a Must For the Bicycle Commuter

All of a sudden summer is upon us and temperatures have reached into the mid 90's here in Missoula - while in other parts of the country its been well over 100. With temperatures getting up there bicycle commuters face the choice of riding in their work clothes and showing up potentially drenched in sweat and smelling of the open road, a pair of gym shorts, and car exhaust or spending a few extra minutes of planning and packing each day so as to ride in more comfortable clothing.

This is when panniers come in handy. I have a set that strap onto the side of my rear rack that within the last week I have been using to carry some food and my work clothes. This allows me to ride in bicycle shorts and a t-shirt and have a much more enjoyable ride to and from work.

Panniers are extremely useful in other situations as well. Most are the perfect size to allow a grocery bag to fit, making for an easy trip to the local grocery store or the farmers market on a bike and still allowing for a substantial payload.

A reasonably priced set of panniers shouldn't cost more than $50 or so. But, like anything else, the price goes up the more features there are. And, if you are looking for something that is guaranteed to be water-proof in the wettest of environments, its going to cost a lot more than $50.

Here I am using my set of panniers to carry supplies to Missoula's People's Market where I am a vendor selling prints of my photographic work. They come in hand for those little items that are too small to strap down on my flatbed trailer.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Three Months of Being Carfree in Missoula

Well... three months have gone by in which I haven't driven a car. There have been times when I have carpooled when necessary, but overall the experience has so far been worthwhile and fullfilling. Missoulian's can thank me and everyone else out there on a bike this summer for making traffic just that much less of a headache.

Week 12 Stats
Miles biked: 61.91
Gallons Saved: 3.87
CO2 Not Emitted: 24.3 Ibs

Month 3 Totals
Miles Biked: 253.26
Gallons Saved: 15.83
CO2 Not Emitted: 397.62 Ibs

Friday, June 26, 2009

Republican John Mica on Alternative Transportation

This will be one of the rare times I quote a Republican congressman (unless its to disagree with them), but Representative Mica from Florida seems to have his head on straight when it comes to understanding transportation issues.

"Even if your a fiscal conservative, which I consider myself to be, you quickly see the benefits of transportation investment. Simply, I became a transit fan because its so much more cost effective than building a highway. Also, it's good for energy, it's good for the environment - and that's why I like it... seeing the cost of one person in a car. The cost for the environment. The cost of energy. You can pretty quickly be convinced that there's got to be a more cost effective way."

-Rep. John Mica, from a PBS interview

WOW, a conservative that actually advocates conservation of our resources, that's a novel concept. I feel like I'm living in the days of Teddy Roosevelt. My cynical side thinks he only expressed this view because he knew non of his fellow Republicans would be paying attention to PBS, but lets hope not.

Glad to have Rep. John Mica on our side, he's the type of Republican we need more of; to replace the fundamentalist types.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Carfree Week 11 Stats

Miles Biked: 70.89
Gallons Saved: 4.43
CO2 Not Emitted: 27.82 Ibs

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Carfree Day at the Missoula Farmers Market

Saturday saw a wide variety of weather role through Missoula, but that didn't keep people from the ritual of spending a day wondering among produce and hand made jewelry vendors. Missoula's weekend markets have become ever bigger and better attended in the last several years; to the point that it is often hard to walk through the crowd because baby strollers block the way.

Missoula is home to three separate and often very different markets. The original farmers market is held near the old train station at the end of Missoula's main drag, Higgins Ave. It is home to vendors selling a wide variety of produce, flowers, baked goods, and native plants. My mornings at the market, when I'm not trying to sell my photos, begins here and often the first stop is the Black Cat Bakery stand werethey sell an amazing huckleberry scone.
And of course one of people's favorite ways to get to the farmers market is by bicycle. They are parked all over the place.

Here is Said who is a Missoula resident and merchant at the People's Market. His wife was watching their table while he took care of their daughter. He makes hand made baby shoes.

Produce at the Missoula Farmers Market

Flowers at the Missoula Farmers Market

A few blocks down from the farmers market is the Missoula People's Market which is an eclectic mix of hand made crafts. There are plenty of vendors selling hand made jewelry, plenty of photographers, and lots of women's clothing and accessories.

As interesting as the markets are to walk through, it is often just as fun to people watch as the crowds wonder between the three markets. And even though Higgins Ave and Broadway are two of the less accommodating streets in downtown Missoula of bicycles, on Saturdays cyclists make up a good portion of the traffic. The women in the photo below is something one doesn't usually see on Broadway; a woman taking the lane, unafraid of vehicle traffic, calmly waiting for the light to turn so she can take a left.

The third and usually final market I hit up is the Clark Fork Market, so named because of its proximity to the Clark Fork River. This is my favorite of the three markets, having a wide variety of pastries and snacks. This is also the only market where one can purchase organic and locally raised beef and bison, and let me tell you its of the highest quality; the bison makes great sloppy joes!

The Clark Fork Market with the historic Wilma Theater in the background

Of course, after all this walking around, I have to make my way back to my bike, which parked all the way at the other end of downtown. Not really a big deal, since it provides me a great opportunity to practice getting some more photos of people. I've been using Saturdays in downtown Missoula to practice my panning technique.

I was surprised to see this women without a helmet, especially if she is, as the baby seat would suggest, a mother.

Two guys enjoying a bit of sun for the short amount of time it was out that morning.

This was my favorite photo of the day, simply for the gang of cycling gardeners that it captures. Saturdays in downtown really show that a community can come together and enjoy a day of leisure without the need to ever turn a key in an ignition.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What NOT to do With a Car Door and Stupid Bicycle Tricks

This post is a little scattered, just like my life right about now. But I'm going to get to the business end out of the way and leave the funny till later. In the following video, I don't think a bike helmet would have helped, but a brain for the car passenger would have.

Warning: Sensitive subject mater

The above scene is a tragedy, and an awful example of what can happen when people in cars don't take people on Bicycles seriously. I saw this yesterday in the local bike shop and everyone watching couldn't believe what they saw. The automatic response was anger at the idiot that was trying to door the bicyclist. Obviously the kid doing the dooring realized he fucked up big time, but remorse for an action is not good enough.

Many motorists still feel that cycling is a joke, and that somehow they have the right to ostracize and harass bikers simply because we are not in a vehicle of equal size and killing power. At a recent group ride in San Jose that my cousin took part in, along with 1500 other bikers, participants were repeatedly spit on and had things thrown at them by motorists. That is the type of behavior that prompts cyclists to be agressive and militiristic in their approach to asserting their rights to the road; if motorists won't respect us and share the road, we'll take our share of the road.

The San Jose Bike Party:

Now for something lighter on the stomach: Spot the Lame video

Two videos I came across the other day, both involving fixed gear tricks, but very different styles. Both are kind of lame, but only one actually displays some crazy skills with a fixed gear.

The first video is pretty amazing to watch, but the music and the setting makes me feel like I'm watching Olympic gymnastics, which I can't stand. The second video seems to have all the elements of a sick video with some crazy tricks; urban setting, fixies, high speeds, and some catchy music. However, all you really see in the teaser is a bunch of kids braking on their fixies and balancing. If I remeber correctly from the time long ago when I learned how to ride a bike, those are the first two things you learn as a child. So, if the tricks in the first video could be combined with the style of the second, fixed gear tricks might be cool.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day: Thoughts Inspired by My Father on Social Responsibility

Today is Father's Day, and many people are celebrating by the exchange of gifts and spending time with family. For someone that has had a rough relationship with his father over the course of the last year, a card and a blog post might just have to suffice.

My father and I do not agree on many things and often, when we do talk, argue about almost any topic that comes up. That is why I am writing this post, because we had a conversation last week in which we found agreement on a particular subject, and I have been thinking about it ever since.

One of the behavior's that my father can't stand is being told what he should do. This extends to how he should act, what he can spend his money on, and how he can choose to manage his private property. His vision of a Utopian personnel existence is living in seclusion far away from the nearest neighbor.

So during the conversation we somehow wondered onto the subject of environmentalists and how they advocate for a change in our Nation's behavior of consumption. He finds it hypocritical for large environmental nonprofits to be advocating consuming less and restricting CO2 emissions while people at the top level of such organizations fly in private jets to conferences and meetings across the world. His favorite person to rail against is Al Gore, whom in my father's view is a hypocrite for berating people about their behavior while still consuming large amounts of just about everything.

My father's problem with this isn't so much the act of being told what to do and what is good for the environment, but the messenger being someone that doesn't appear to follow their own advice. I fully agree with the statement he was making.

That is why I have committed myself to not driving for an entire year; I am trying to be the change I wish to see. And while my effort might make only the most minuscule dent in the world's problems, if everyone took minuscule steps to adjust their behavior those actions add up quickly. Change starts with personal action.

I think there is a large gap in the way different generations deal with something like global environmental change. People of the generation that started the environmental movement, while being heavily opposed to the "establishment" back in the 60's/70's, quickly became integrated into the mainstream power structure of this country and largely organized nonprofits and wider advocacy groups on an older social model.

Today, that generation heads up many of the nonprofits that call for change in our relation to nature. While many are starting to use the social tools that have been innovated upon in the last decade, the organizations are still built on these older models. And while those that run these organizations can feel better about themselves when flying around the country by purchasing carbon offsets, even that action is somewhat questionable as a lot of carbon offset programs involve the planting of trees which absorb CO2. However, we're talking about the sequestration of carbon over the lifetime of a tree when a person taking a flight from coast-to-coast is creating emissions now (see section 2).

While it is true that certain things just can't be accomplished without face-to-face interactions, there is also a lot more that people can do than just buying carbon offsets and driving hybrids.

A good proportion of my generation - I'm 25 - grew up without really knowing what its like to be deprived of essential goods. In fact we often grew up with an overabundance of everything. A lot of this came from the constant drive of previous generations to provide for their children a better life than what they had as children. For the most part my generation can't provide our future children with more than what we had growing up and instead need to focus, not on providing consumer goods, but a better quality of life and that includes leaving behind an environment that is less poisoned than it is now.

For a generation of people that have grown up in an era of over-consumption, displays of wealth and social status are a cliche. That is why many reality T.V. shows (such as Family Jewels and Real Housewives) are such ironic social commentary; they are supposed to show what the American ideal of hard work leads to, but just end up in a farcical cluster-fuck of depraved bouguoise extravagance. This point is made in a post at GOOD with the example given of a business person giving up their BMW because he was embarrassed by it when meeting with younger professionals.

I'm not saying that my generation holds the ultimate moral high ground when it comes to personal social responsibility; we still over-consume. But the younger generation does understand the power that personal choices have in shaping our reality. Individual baby steps can turn into giant leaps when pooled together.

So, I must thank my father, for teaching me the that a person must take responsibility for their own actions and the value of being honest.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Stupidest Bicycle Safety Video

Bicyle safety is an important part of getting more people out on the road on their bikes. But this is just silly and possibly derogatory towards apes.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Creating Bike/Pedestrian Friendly Neighborhoods

I realy don't have all the answers when it comes to designing spaces that cyclists and pedestirans will feel comfortable using alongside traffic. But I do know that one of the elements that MUST be included are lower speed limits.

5 miles an hour doesn't seem like much, but it can be an important factor in changing the way motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists interact with each other on the street. Lowering the speed limit to 30 mph or lower can make a big difference by reducing traffic accidents and providing pedestrians with a higher level of safety.

This is something that I have noticed living and commuting in Missoula. The streets that have a 25 mph speed limit are very safe for other types of road users. The vast majority of the time motorists will automatically stop for both pedestrians and cyclists (even though they are not supposed to with cyclists). On the major arteries of our town however, its a nightmare to get cars to stop, and crossing at a light becomes the only option. If a car did stop, it would most likely cause a traffic accident.

Even on the major arteries that I cross on my commute, as long as the speed limit is no higher than 30mph, the vast majority of cars will yield the right of way if they see you early on and have enough time to easily stop.

Can you imagine trying to get across traffic like this as a pedestrian? Hell no.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm Not Selling Out, I Just Really Like These Products

When you spend a considerable amount of time on a bike over the course of a day, you learn what types of products make it easier for you to get through a commute and make the ride a more enjoyable experience.

In my opinion there is no other product more important than the right pair of shoes. The wrong pair can be clumsy, painful, and even dangerous if they don't grip the pedals easily. I just received a pair of Toms as a gift and they are certainly not the shoes to ride in; flimsy, no support, and soles that slip off the pedals make them very bad for even short and relaxing rides.

The right pair of shoes I have found are Simples. The pair I have offer great support and are extremely comfortable my 30 minute commute. They are made from a considerable amount of recycled material including used water bottles, old inner-tubes, and old car tires. The rest of the materials usually come from certified organic operations.

The fact that the soles on my pair are made from used car tires makes them grip well and they are thick enough that my feet are still comfortable after 30 minutes.

The right equipment to carry things in is also important. For a very long time I got by using an old day-pack, but this was troublesome just because of the bulk, it not being easy to get into, and the fact that my back would get excessively sweaty when using it. I switched to a messenger bag awhile back, which was better, but it was heavy and cut into my shoulder.

Now, however, I have a better messenger bag that I really like and is very useful. My fiance bought it for me in Seattle, and after using it for a few days I already see its benefits.

The bag is a made by Alchemy Goods and is pretty unique when it comes to messenger bags. Made from used bike tire tubes, which is a cool idea for a product the cycling community uses. I know I've blown plenty of tubes in the last few years, and I always take them to the local bike shop to be recycled. To think that one of my blown tubes goes into making this product is really interesting and definitely adds value to the product and a connection to it. To actually see what your recycling can result in is a good feeling.

In terms of utility the bag is great. Light wieght and water resistant, it makes for a good bag that can carry a lot of stuff and be comfortable doing it. The pockets are very limited, and the inside is basically one big space, but that just means less material used and more space to cram things in on your commute.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Puzzling Appeal

This is a photo that I posted to my Flickr account well over a month ago on the first Saturday market of the season. It is really the only photo of mine that continues to get views everyday and has just become the most viewed (usually a photo gets heavy traffic right after posting that dies off within a few days). I really don't know what it is about the photo, but maybe it is the subject matter?

Could it be the fixie, and people are searching for images of fixies because they really have no idea what one is, but they hear about them more and more? Does the girl have something to do with it; maybe there is a blossoming fetish involving girls and their fixed gear bikes?

If only I had tagged the photo as hot college coed on fixie (don't worry this is not an adult site, just what I found when I typed that into BING), then I would have gotten 20 times the traffic.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday's Quote and Weekly Stats

Nearly every significant new landscape designed in recent years occupies a site that has been reinvented and reclaimed from obsolescence or degradation as cities in the postindustrial era remake and redefine their outdoor spaces.... Perhaps the most pervasive landscapes encountered in our postindustrial era, however, are abused and polluted sites that present numerous challenges, ranging from the remediation of toxic environments to defining new programs for these postindustrial places.

Peter Reed, Groundswell: Constructing the Contemporary Landscape

Weekly Stats

Miles Biked: 77.2
Gallons Saved: 4.825
CO2 Not Emitted: 30.3 Ibs

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gathering Storm Over Zoning Rewrite

Who cares about zoning? Well... really everyone does since it can have the power to control so much of our everyday environment. If there is not enough parking on a high demand street or residents are not allowed to own livestock, zoning probably has something to do with the situation. But does anyone other than lawyers and developers actually spend the time to read and understand zoning regulations? The answer is no. A city council member I talked with hadn't even gone through the zoning document.

Missoula is undergoing a zoning rewrite; a process that has already spanned almost two years and is now at the stage where the Missoula City Council is ready to start weighing in on the topic. The current plan passed out of the planning board unanimously. Organization has begun on both sides of the debate to try and win the first round coming up on June 22nd when the city council will spend most of their time discussing the zoning proposal and listening to public comment.

In a nut shell the new zoning cleans up a set of dysfunctional regulations of cobbled together over many years into a more streamlined document. My understanding is that the current version has been watered down heavily from an original starting point that put significant emphasis on multi-use, transit oriented development, and infill; all things to create a more dense urban-core while slowing the spread of sprawl.

Their are gaps in the current zoning that need to be filled. For example, the current section of Higgins South of the bridge know as the Hip Strip (as one can see by the link, a gathering spot for hipsters both young and old) could not be rebuilt if it where to burn down because it violates the current zoning regulations.

Basically there are a lot of things being said about the zoning, and really no one is going to go fact check these things themselves. A petition is being passed around by the opponents of the rewrite that according to the Missoula Red Tape blog has gotten a lot of traction. In an article on Newwest.net that describes the opposition's approach, Roger Millar of the planning board is quoted, saying that the petition is "factually misleading." The planning board has even gone so far as to write up a document responding to the petition's misleading statements.

The petition doesn't speak fully to the opposition's tactics and I have heard of them using fear - it will destroy the character of neighborhoods and drop property values - the petition even shows a child being towered over by an ADU. My guess is that a lot of incensed people will show up to the meeting angry and opposed to the new zoning without really knowing what they are talking about. From the opposition's point of view, thats good, whats scarier than a bunch of pissed-off voters on an election year?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Riding in the Rain

In Missoula, bicycles are supposed to be treated just like any other vehicle that uses the streets; follow all traffic laws, stop at stop signs, don't use the sidewalks, and yield to pedestrians. This isn't always the case ( I Know I don't come to a full stop at intersections if there are no cars coming) as many cars often yield to bicyclists stopped at intersections along the streets that don't see extreme levels of traffic, speed limits under 30, and where people are used to stopping for pedestrians. This actually frustrates me since I don't mind waiting and don't feel that as a bicyclist I need any special treatment. Of course when cars stop, I'm not going to sit there and insist that the car keeps going.

Yesterday was a little different. On the commute home (about 30 minutes) it was raining pretty heavily and even with rain gear on I was getting a little soaked. At every street I came to cars yielded the right-of-way, even on the busy streets. On this particular day I was very grateful of their courtesy. They must have felt sorry for the stupid, lone-schlepp on a bike out in the rain.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Weekly Stats

Miles Biked: 43.57
Gallons Save: 2.71
CO2 Not Emitted: 17.1 Ibs

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Small update

I just added a list - a long list - of blogs all about bikes. I had promised a few people links and I have finally gotten around to it. Two that I highly recommend if you haven't already visited the sites are Bike Snob NYC (great cynical humor) and Ecovelo.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Classic Transportation Moments in Cinema

Sorry about the music, but Steve McQueen makes up for it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Two Months Down

It has been two months since I went car-free and so far I have found the transition to be easy. Other than a few arguments with my fiance all has been smooth. In two months of commuting and running all my errands by bicycle I have racked up almost 450 miles, which averages out to about 7.5 miles per day. This really isn't that much, as I had expected to register more miles.

I really haven't changed my behavior all that much. Other than foregoing a few trips and not staying downtown as late at night not much has really changed. One thing I have had to think about and plan out is my trip chaining; rather than a lot of little trips for small things throughout the week, I have tried to bundle all errands into one go. Its funny how easy it is to put 20-30 miles in on one day just from going from place to place in town.

In the two months of being car-free I really haven't saved that much money on gas: only a little over $60. But with oil almost back up to $70 per barrel its still one headache I don't have to worry about. I don't foresee any hardships in the next few months with summer here and great cycling weather into the foreseeable future.

Week 8 Stats
Miles Biked: 43
Gallons Saved: 2.68
CO2 Not Emitted: 16.8775 Ibs

Month One Stats
Miles Biked: 269.2
Gallons Saved: 16.825
CO2 Not Emitted: 422.644 Ibs

Month Two Stats
Miles Biked: 170.49
Gallonos Saved: 10.655
CO2 Not Emitted: 267.669 Ibs
Bookmark and Share