One lane, one Escalade driver, one cyclist

escalade_fat_blood

The term ‘one lane road’ itself ought to be the clear indication to a driver that there is no room to pass. If you’re driving a small car, you may eek out enough room on a small road to pass a cyclist. If you’re in an Escalade or Hummer, however, driving such a huge vehicle comes at the price of waiting your turn on one lane roads. I cannot generalize that it’s all large vehicle drivers, but it just so happens that on this tiny rarely used residential road that winds from the bicycle path up a narrow, short, steep hill into my neck of the woods, I’ve had encounters with an impatient Escalade driver, a Hummer driver, and various large truck drivers. I have not once had an encounter with a small vehicle driver. That seems to indicate that in at least some cases, the larger the vehicle the smaller the brain.

The hill takes all of two minutes to ride up. It’s not long, but sections of it are fearfully steep. You don’t ride up this hill unless you have a good fitness level. Yesterday’s Escalade driver didn’t care. I could hear him revving the engine to hint that he wanted past, but of course there is absolutely nowhere to pull over or give room. And the thing is, two minutes is a small price to pay for ruling the road by sheer size.

Upon reaching the top of the hill, as I took the sweeping right hander, my Escalade adversary swung out into the oncoming lane of traffic which he could not possibly have seen was clear, and gassed his behemoth engine like his life depended on it, which in a way it did since he was taking a blind corner in the opposing lane of traffic.

Like a larger animal does not equal greater intelligence, a larger vehicle does not equal a smarter driver.

Sometimes I wish I had an Inspector Gadget arm to reach inside a speeding vehicle and slap the driver silly, but a friendly wave often works just as well.

The math of why cars don’t fit in Seattle

Virtually every day you drive a car in Seattle, you’re going to sit in traffic. I keep seeing a city adding mass instead of reducing it, and I wonder (aside from the whole big business thing) why the fairly obvious math of why cars don’t fit is consistently left out of the conversation. The only people who don’t sit in traffic are those of us who ride bicycles or walk to get around.

At its current population, if each Seattle metropolitan resident drove a car every day at the same time, we would have roads full of skyscrapers made of stacked cars. If you love sitting in Seattle traffic (4th worst in US), you can skip this post. If you would like to understand why it’s so durned gridlocked and learn a simple approach for doing something about it, read on.

Upon returning from virtually any ride through Seattle’s traffic mess, I could easily sit down and tap out a scathing rant about how poorly driving humans treat riding humans, but why? I understand the plight of drivers. The fact is bicyclists can react and maneuver in traffic quicker than cars, and it probably frustrates people who have spent a year’s salary on two thousand pounds of steel, plastic, rubber, and glass to have to share “their” space with human counterparts aboard 19-pound machines of love and grace that cost maybe a month’s salary. Goats are likely gotten when they have to witness that same bicyclist travel across town faster than their more expensive vehicles will allow on the very same roads. But since we all pay taxes, there’s realistically no valid argument against bicycling.

Whilst addressing the ‘us versus them’ approach of car drivers versus bicycle riders, whereas drivers use gas pedal pressure, hand gestures, yelling, and borderline psycho steering in wielding their belted-on massiveness to state protestations on road sharing, I tend to use agility, good bike handling, and the keyboard.

I know how frustrating it can be for a motorist to not elicit the hostile response that would justify the not-so-lovely hand gestures bestowed upon bicyclists, instead receiving a friendly wave of the hand when you really want to see the rapid ascension of a middle finger rocketing skyward. I get it.

I understand. It’s about apathy. The thing is, we don’t need to be apathetic about changing commuting habits. It’s a solvable problem which can inspire healthier, happier living for durned near everyone.

We all want to change, but change is hard. Many of us see the ridiculous nature of planting 3.5 million human beings (Seattle metropolitan area) in automobiles in a city that can’t possibly house that many. I’ve been doing a little math, and the numbers paint a clear picture. The cars don’t fit.

The right of passage at 16 years old for earning a driver’s license sets people up to believe we have a right to “own the road,” but there simply is not enough road for each of us to own it.

Washington state is ranked as #1 in Bicycle Friendliness, an interesting score which ranks states by legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement, and evaluation and planning. Oddly, however, less than 2% of Washington residents commute by bicycle. Clearly, Washington, and particularly Seattle given its small area footprint, are poised to turn bicycle commuting into the majority transport method.

It is high time to stick those angry hand gestures in your ear, face the realities of our region, and embrace healthy change. Here’s the math:

Seattle Traffic Math - It's not rocket science to see that a change in commuting methods is essential to our health and happiness.

Seattle Traffic Math – It’s not rocket science to see that a change in commuting methods is essential to our health and happiness.

Sources
Seattle Office of the City Clerk
WikiAnswers (How big is a car?)
Seattle Department of Transportation
NWCN – Study ranks Seattle 4th for worst US traffic
The League of American Bicyclists
TomTom Americas Traffic Index
Bicycle Friendly State Report Card

A compendium of other interesting facts resides at Cars Stink.

A word from your no longer exhausted writer

At last it seems I have emerged from the exhaustion I bought down upon myself, which caused me to not put up any of the posts I had been writing for this here Bikelops cycling blog.

In September, I made a misguided decision to take up cyclocross racing as inspiration for writing this blog for a self-directed class for school. I do a fair amount of these self-directed studies, and they usually work out great, with huge learning benefits. The lessons I learned this time were not what I was after, but they were equally important nonetheless.

It was a good idea actually, but not the right time. Since I had no real time to set aside for training, I fit it in where I could, which ultimately caused my body to sort of shut down for a time. It was as if aliens took over and imposed long hours of deep sleep. I had no say in the matter. Imagine taking melatonin supplements midday every day for six weeks.

I was writing posts the whole time, but at a slower than normal pace. I was consistently failing to revise them however, and did not post them regularly as intended. This week I am putting that wrong to right, adding in all of mid-October, November and early December’s posts.

The biggest takeaway from the project was that my normal super-productive self cannot slot cyclocross racing into a schedule that already includes full-time university and full-time work. Sometimes my ambition gets the better of me.

In any case, I am now putting up all of the backdated posts from when I was suffering through exhaustion. Since the writing here is not time-sensitive, I hope it will still be of some entertainment value to some kind reader or three.

– Your humble cyclist and writer

A Confederacy of Dunces On Bicycles

A Confederacy of Dunces On Bicycles

Although densities are different, these two fabulous books utilized the same color palette… 31 years apart!

Being a life-long graphic designer, mine eyes are quite attuned to colors and palettes. So it was as I sat down to some bathroom reading, debating betwixt “A Confederacy of Dunces” or “On Bicycles,” that I noticed a peculiar thing: They’re the same book. Oh wait, that’s not right. They do, however share identical color palettes on their respective covers. So now I know there is someone else in the world who loves and admires “A Confederacy of Dunces” and loves riding bicycles. Awesome!

The non-thrill of sleeping on the bike

Have you ever fallen asleep at the wheel? People do it all the time. In fact, Wikipedia says 250,000 people fall asleep at the wheel every day. That’s why there are road turtles on the side of highway lanes – to wake you up. Being asleep at the wheel is so common that it’s often used as a metaphor for f___ing up. Driving is quite often as boring as watching oil dry, especially if you’re doing a daily commute.

Sleeping on the bike is much more difficult since your entire body and brain are (generally) fully engaged in keeping you upright and moving forward, yet I’ve fallen asleep on the bike. It isn’t pretty (well, compared to its driving counterpart, it is pretty, but I digress). I’ve done it about four times I think, unless I count the roughly twenty times on one ill-conceived ride.

I’ve considered forcing myself to train through this exhaustion thing, but I keep recalling the time I attempted to thwart jet-lag after returning from Japan. I tend to struggle with weird sleep patterns for about two weeks after an ocean crossing back to the States. A friend suggested I stay awake through the day, and maybe go for a bike ride. It seemed like a reasonable idea at the time.

About five miles in, my eyelids made the suggestion that this was in fact a bat-sh*t crazy idea, and they closed. I’m hurtling forward at something like 20 or so mph, and I’m suddenly asleep. I hit a small bump in the trail, woke, and hit the brakes.

‘Twas an easy decision to turn around and ride home. Riding home, however, was not so easy, for my eyes closed over and over along the way. Each time I felt them droop, I stood up to sprint in order to wake back up. I repeated this countless times until I got home, folded into bed, and woke at 3am for my destined appointment with the jet-lag god and goddess who rained their reign over me.

All other instances of bike-sleeping have occurred at approximately mile 155 of the Seattle to Portland ride. Luckily, I had caffeinated gels with me to WTFU (wake the ____ up) for my self-appointed date with the finish line.

Mmm… STP.

Running with the bike, like a woman? (Not)

With apparent exhaustion putting the kibosh on regular training, I’m instead reading up on everything cycling. In today’s book, “Cyclocross” by Simon Burney (a great cyclocross training resource), I’m reading ‘Running with the Bike’ in Techniques and Tactics, in which Burney notes that Dutch cyclocross racers encouraged him to, “Run like a woman… you know… swinging your spare arm and using your whole body to run, like women do!” [Erm... I so hesitated to write this, but, well, it really says that.]

This has me squirming in my seat because, well, it’s sexist (as Burney notes), but also because I run with my whole body. In fact, I ran competitively for ten years with my whole body. In further fact, perusing videos of the 2013 Track & Field World Championships, it’s pretty clear to see that nearly all runners – female and male alike – swing their arms and use their whole body. One could argue that running without the whole body would in actuality be standing still, but of course you’d be arguing only to Dutch male cyclocross racers.

Look at how goofy this guy looks:

This has me recalling buried surreal dreams where I am channeling my inner scamperer. It turns out there are real-life people who run on all fours, on the track no less. In fact Guinness decided there should be a world record for it (although it seems to be conspicuously missing from their site). Surely these people will be the leaders of a new colony of humans bent on devolving the species to its four-legged yesteryear of four or so million years ago. There’s a photo here, or just imagine a leopard without the spots or long stride, and dressed in black and red track togs and spiked flats, with its head down.

One thing I did some years back to make running with the bike more comfortable was to augment my frame with a high density foam pad to cushion my season-long bruised collarbone and back, but one day I moved the padding to my jersey instead, which worked out great. Eventually, a coach taught me how to shoulder the bike in such a way that it no longer seems to bother me at all.

Colnago World Cup cyclocross bike

Colnago’s cyclocross frames feature a curved support beam between the top and seat tubes, so the bike can rock on your shoulder easier while running. My guess is they’re going with the idea that you’ll be using your whole body.

The national personal trainer program

How about using those millions of tax dollars doled out to build mass transit in the name of fighting obesity to instead fund a national personal trainer program? Such a program could provide a trainer, dietician, and whomever else needed to help people become motivated to take the baby steps necessary for improving their own health. This program would create thousands of jobs across the country and directly address a host of health problems such as obesity, lethargy, heart disease, stress, and Obamacare, plus societal issues like laziness, boredom, and traffic rage, all while keeping metropolitan traffic manageable.

Anyone?

National corndog month

A few years back, I recall reading that Seattle had secured federal funding to the tune of one million dollars to study the idea of mass transit combating obesity. If they could show that it did in fact support a reduction in obesity, they could score more funding to build mass transit. The basic premise behind the study was the notion that walking to and from the train stops helps people get exercise in which they otherwise would not have the opportunity to take part (because walking for any other purpose is apparently not Kosher).

[I'm getting to the corndogs, I promise...]

How the federal government concocted this notion I’m unsure. But the city got money and built light rail, and after much lobbying/demanding/begging, some of that money was used to improve bicycle access. Everyone is happy with that in theory.

This solution seems about as sane as moving people off to Mars to combat overpopulation (assuming that Mars is inhabitable to something other than amoebas).

If the government has millions of tax dollars to provide to needy cities, this seems to say that cities are people, in the same way that the government regards corporations as people for tax purposes.

If cities are people, wouldn’t spending the money on the people be a more direct path to fighting obesity? It seems that building more mass into the area only serves to make the city itself more obese.

How about a national personal trainer program instead?

So it is that I find myself confounded when I see that for nearly every major light rail stop in Seattle, there is a large parking lot so that people can drive to the stops. What happened to the notion that people were walking to the stops for exercise? If people are driving to the stops, sipping a Super-Duper Big Gulp or 96 ounces of coffee from behind the wheel, other than in their adrenal glands, where exactly is the exercise happening?

I have no beef (or corn dog) with obese humans. It’s a glaring symptom of a bored population. Where it becomes a target is when obesity is used as a means to gain federal tax money for funding projects that support the status quo of building support systems that promote obesity/laziness/boredom. Mass transit does not seem to actually alleviate congestion. It simply allows for more traffic in a small area. (It’s great for transporting factory workers from suburbs into offices, but what good is it when the factories are going bust?) If you want to curb the traffic problem, you have to inspire a change of commuting habits.

It seems we are in the midst of a time when the federal government actually prefers humans become obese. Or at the very least that they are rewarding obesity.

Since humans rarely change in the face of the status quo, strongly preferring disaster as motivation, perhaps the federal government could fund a national corn dog month (National Corndog Day is already well-stablished), where citizens can bask in the glow of ever-expanding bellies.

How about Seattle city council court the federal government for $1,000,000 to study the effects on obesity that bicycling to work can render? Or how about a study on how much joy and health benefits people get from bicycle commuting? How about building massive secure bicycle parking lots at the light rail stops?

Bike parking lot in Niigata, Japan

A parking lot for bicycles in Niigata, Japan. Source: Wikipedia | July, 2006 | Photo taken by Rei.

The healing wonders of drab green anti-Jello

Struggling still with the idea of regular sleep, I’ve decided to turn to my favorite injury food (though I am not apparently injured), Jello, but instead of loading up on cancer-causing artificial colors, I tried an experiment—anti Jello.

I’ve developed an odd affinity for Jell-o, with it being the first thing I crave when I have an injury or muscle strain. Yet Jello seems not terribly healthy when I peruse the ingredient list; in fact it contains artificial colors that have been shown to cause neurological issues and cancer in [at least] lab rats and children, which I think in essence means that 1) Humans are massively in debt to our rat brethren for this discovery, and 2) artificial colors are not actually food, so why the hell are they so common in supermarket foods?

My Jello affinity started after a tooth extraction some years back. I woke with a mad craving for it, which a friend reasoned might be due to some sort of similarity between the DNA in horse hooves and that of human cartilage, which Google seems unable to confirm or deny, but I’m going with it. The theory is that similar DNA begets faster tissue repair. Oh the wonder of it all.

Those neon colors you see in Jell-o make it more appealing looking, mostly in the name of profit. Sure, they could use other ingredients like turmeric, blueberry, and beets, but then colors wouldn’t resemble antifreeze and vitamin-enriched urine that is apparently so appetizing to humans. Instead it would perhaps look like US Army-issued drab green food substance designed to match fatigues.

Army-issue drab green anti-jello.

Still, I can’t quite reconcile the ingestion of artificially colored neon cancer-causing nonfood to satisfy the craving, so I decided to make my own anti-Jello using plain gelatin, herbal tea and tad bit of sucanat [pronounced: soo-ka-nat, which doesn't help at all].

The result tasted surprisingly like plain gelatin, but the drab green color made it seem even worse [note to self and, well, all three readers: try an herbal fruit tea next time]. I poured hemp milk over it, however, and it became pleasantly edible. And probably nontoxic to boot!

Happy Halloween from the time-hosed cyclist

Hosers:
hosers

Not to be confused with Archbishop Henryk Hoser:

Photo: Archive of Janusz Halczewski.

Photo: Archive of Janusz Halczewski.

Hosed:
One of my resources for this my cyclocross racing foray was Chris Carmichael’s “The Time-Crunched Cyclist,” which ought to have been a great resource given my generally packed schedule. There was just one problem. I wasn’t time-crunched, I was time-hosed, as in I had no spare time at all to work in any sort of a regular training regimen. (Why I did not realize this in advance has to do with the reprieve from school homework betwixt quarters.) Instead, I was slotting start practice, hill intervals, and time trial training into trips to the store or school commuting.

Turns out bike commuting doesn’t translate directly over to actual training, no matter how I tweak it.

The Time-Crunched Cyclist

On the cover of The Time-Crunched Cyclist, Carmichael says a rider can get fit, fast and powerful in 6 hours per week. What can you do in 2-1/2 to 3 hours? That’s about what I am working in. Somehow, I’ve managed to get a certain type of fitness with that. Any trace of body fat has pretty well disappeared, and I can hammer out a strong, steady pace for 30 minutes or more. Beyond that short amount of time, however, my body doesn’t seem to know what to make of my riding. I have convinced myself this should be okay though since cyclocross races are only 35-45 minutes anyway.

From the bizarre land of WTF?, I can do a 90-minute ride with hill intervals in the middle, but the last 30 minutes see me bonking like I’ve been riding for hours with no food. This is a clear sign that my body needs more rest, but an even clearer sign was when I resumed the 10-hour sleepfests after such a ride. How could a 90-minute ride with a couple of hard hill efforts level such tired eyes? I can normally ride 3-4 hours with no problem.

Back to the 6-hour week promised on the cover of the book… On page 31 (first edition) that subtly becomes 8 hours. And while getting back into racing for me was originally about the basic joy in racing, the book is quite scientific, which in reading form becomes a kind of antithesis to joy. I have moments where I wish I were a scientist, but they usually pass in the midst of a daydream about, oh, riding my bike.

It was somewhere around pages 43-44 when the author talks about the 3-hour rule, which I’ve translated into saying that I need to be doing regular 3-hour rides in order to be fit for shorter races (which deep down in the trenches of my gut I always knew to be true), that I realized I am in fact not a time-crunched cyclist at all. I have no time for being crunched. So it is that my reading attention has turned to other resources that might solicit laughter, including Bike Snob NYC’s “The Enlightened Cyclist,” and Amy Walker’s “On Bicycles.”

Happy Halloween.

Page 1 of 512345