Thursday, February 27, 2014

If I Know What's Good For Me . . .

Today is the birthday of my long-suffering-wife.  So, I left work early and skipped the ride around the bay, so we could go have a family birthday dinner.  I have since been informed that "if I know what's good for me," I won't be blogging today either.

So, loyal readers, I will leave you with this to tide you over until Monday  --

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bikes At The Winter Olympics?

I know, I know -- you've been sitting there for two weeks now wondering when your favorite Bikeist would devote a post to the Winter Olympiad in Sochi.  Well, I'm really not, quite, sure what it is you've been expecting as these are the WINTER Olympics people.  What, possibly, could they have to do with bikes? 

Well, leave it to this world-class bike enthusiast to find a biking angle to the Sochi games.  I've been watching the games pretty closely, and was pleasantly surprised when I tuned in the other night to see the cameras following one of the American athletes as she whizzed through the Olympic Village on a road bike en route to a practice session.  As it turns out, the Village and the venues were fairly spread out, so each of the nation's provided bicycles to its athletes to help them to get where they needed to be quickly and efficiently.  Pictured here is American short-track speed skater, Alyson Dudek, clearly having a blast on the bike Team USA provided for her transport:

Even cooler, though, is that the Finnish hockey team actually used their fleet of bikes to get to their first game together (click HERE to read the entire story).

Sure, they look like lighter versions of the Citi-Bikes I recently made fun of, but still so cool that these world class athletes (many professionals who make millions) got to their first match the same way I used to get to baseball practice as a kid.  The bronze medal winners are now auctioning off their rides for charity.

You'd think that a Winter Olympiad would have athletes getting around on skis vice bikes, but with temps rivaling our own weather here in San Diego, bikes were the perfect way to get athletes around without the logistical hassles of loading them on and off of buses to fight traffic to and from their venues.

Here's a shot of the Dutch fleet of bikes (orange, of course) being staged for the arrival of the Olympians (think the Dutch need much prodding to hop on a bike?).

Once they arrived, they wasted no time putting the bikes to good use:

We often hear the term "Olympic Ideal" tossed about.  The Olympics are supposed to represent what is best about us -- what we are capable of when we put differences, politics, disputes, wars, etc., aside.  Very nice to see that the nations of the world incorporated bike transport as a key feature of that ideal during these games.  Yes -- we are at our very best as a species when we are at play and even better than that once we hop on bikes, aren't we?  Well, I'd like to think so . . . 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Let There Be Light?

You wouldn't know it from the 70+ temps and clear, clear, skies, but it's actually winter here in San Diego.  While this "season" is merely notional to most San Diegans, us bikeists (the ones with day-jobs anyway) have to contend with severely diminished sunlight.  For me, that means leaving for and from work in the dark every day.  As discussed in one of my previous posts, my NiteRider "MiNewt" helmet-mounted light makes my 23 mile ride home possible by, almost literally, turning night into day.

Given the lame, AA battery powered CatEye lights I squinted home with in the past, this San Diego-made product that charges via my USB port, represents the pinnacle of bike-light technology for me.  Very hard to imagine lights getting any better (I mean, come on, these are pretty much blinding as they are), but that doesn't mean that there aren't folks out there who will keep on trying.  And, thanks to my loyal readers, the Bikeist is up on two of the more recent attempts to re-invent the (bike) light-bulb.

First up is "Lumigrids," designed by a group of Chinese engineers (and brought to my attention by Stacy from Jersey and DC Dan):

As discussed HERE, this product is supposed to make night-biking "safer" by replacing a steady beam of light with an LED grid that's reveals imperfections in the pavement ahead.

I absolutely love the following "Flawsome" review that, pretty much, de-bunks this entire concept:

My favorite passage from the review:

"I’m pretty sure if I saw something with a shadow that’s in front of my bike path, whether that shadow is concave or convex, I would
  1. know what that object is, because light is shining on it, causing it to have a shadow, which means I can clearly see it
  2. make sure to avoid it.
How do I know that I would do this? Because  I HAVE A BRAIN. I don’t need a freakin’ grid of light that changes shape to tell me that there *might* be something in my bike path."


The author concludes by wondering if the designers ever even actually attempted to ride a bike in the dark.  My money is on not . . .

Next up is this product that "Portland Bob" alerted me to:

The "Blaze" doesn't try to replace the beam of light that has served motorized vehicles traveling at critical speeds through the darkness so well over the years (as it does contain an actual head-light), but it attempts to supplement it with technology that may have been suggested by Dr. Evil himself.  Yes, say it with me, the "Blaze" utilizes LAAASERS.  The image you see above is a laser projection of a bike-rider that will be visible on the pavement several yards ahead of the rider.  

Check out this video (set to inspirational music) that shows the "Blaze" in action:

I'm not quite sure what to make of the "Blaze."  I'm all for anything that makes things safer for us hard-working bikeists, but, besides the obvious problem posed by Portland Bob (having to dodge feral kitties who won't be able to resist a laser dancing around in the road) doesn't the projection pose a risk of luring the attention of drivers away from bike-riders themselves?  If I saw a magic image suddenly appear in the road in front of me, I'm looking at the image itself, not where it came from (although I may be wondering where it came from - further distracting me).  Further, isn't a strong beam of light an equally good way to let other vehicles know you're coming?  It works for cars and motorcycles, right?  Finally, and most importantly I think, the examples depicted in the video emphasized (for me) the most important element required for bike safety at night:  the exercise of caution by bike-riders themselves.  Bike riders need to avoid riding in the blind spots of cars -- especially as we approach intersections where they are bound to turn into us.  This is a good topic for an entire post, but the best way to approach an intersection is to take the lane and move with the flow of traffic between the cars.   Staying in their blind-spots to the far right is almost begging to be "T-boned."  Back to the video - why on earth would someone try to squeeze through the blindspot of a double-decker bus as depicted in the video?  Pure folly.  Also, how about the example of the car about to pull out in front of the bike?  Sure, the car might not see the approaching bike.  However, an attentive rider should easily be able to spot a car pulling out ahead and slow down and/or move out into the road until she or he is sure they can be seen.  It is easy, sometimes, to blame driveists for hazards we encounter on the road, but sometimes we are our own worst enemies. 

Hard to come to an ultimate conclusion on the Blaze at this point, but I CAN conclude that I'm not ready to shell out $200 for one.  Looking forward to seeing it in action, though, so let me know if you have one and maybe we can go for a night ride sometime!

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Thousand Pound Bike in the Room . . .

Happy Presidents' Day everyone!  I think we spent enough time on politicians and bikes on Thursday, but, with pitchers and catchers having reported,  I can't resist posting this one:

It's tradition for T.R.'s attention deficit to get the better of him in these races (normally on foot) around the Nationals' Park warning track, but it looks like the bike (as it has for many with ADD) has brought him an increased level of focus here.   As detailed in the Bicycling Magazine article "Riding Is My Ritalin"  that may not be a mere coincidence.  I don't need scientific evidence to convince me of the benefits biking has for the brain, as I experience the soothing effects of pedaling every night as I escape work, but it's fascinating (and encouraging) to see that biking and exercise in general can trigger positive reactions akin to those brought about by prescription drugs.  Leads me to wonder whether we truly have a modern epidemic of ADD and ADHD, or just a predictable by-product of kids being so much less physically active than their historical predecessors.

Shifting gears a bit, our big-headed heads of state are pictured pedaling DC Bikeshare bikes (sure hope Teddy remembered where the docking station was).  Despite the fact that the company that manufactures these bikes for DC, NYC, and other cities recently went bankrupt (click HERE to read more), the program there is still considered to be a wild success.  New York City's program, despite apocalyptic predictions, has also been extremely popular and, dubbed a success by terms only true New Yorker's could appreciate:  "No Riders Killed In First Five Months of New York City Bike-Share Program." 

Even Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" took a pessimistic (albeit, hilarious) approach to the Citi-Bike program:

But, I'm sure you're asking yourselves at this point, what the hell does any of this have to do with San Diego?  Well, I'll tell you:


Imagine, you, too, will soon be able to cruise up Golden Hill on one of these sleek rides:

It looks like it only weighs about 1,000 lbs. or so -- very practical for all sorts of journeys (so long as they are about a mile or less with little elevation change).

"Wait, wait!" you say -- didn't the Bikeist say that the company that makes these went bankrupt?  Perhaps San Diego took the opportunity to contract with a company supplying something more practical!

Perhaps.  I'll have to admit that when my crack research team identified "DecoBike" as the supplier of the 175 bikes about to descend upon San Diego and presented me with their logo, I had a sudden rush of optimism:

Wow!  A time-trialist on the logo!  What a good sign.  Surely we learned from the clunky design used back east and are going to go with something more useful for covering ground and getting some useful exercise!

-- Or not --

You've got to be kidding me.  Couldn't we have gone with something that actually resembles a real bike?  From the time of the first "safety bike" built in the 1800's to present day, the classic diamond frame (that gives the bicycle so much of its utilitarian elegance) has been almost ubiquitous in all styles of bikes, be they racing, touring, fitness, or just delivery bikes.  Now, I'm not saying we should have racks filled with carbon fiber racing bikes with drop-bars installed all over the city.  But, how about something like this beauty (which Kimpton Hotels uses as its "loaner" model for guests and which I witnessed two tourists easily taking on and off the water taxi to Coronado on Friday):

And here's the ladies model, for those who might need clearance for their hoopskirts:

Frankly, I think I like it even better than the men's model!  How about that -- share-bikes suitable for just about any journey a tourist (or even a local) might want to take.  These bikes actually look rugged enough for touring  if one was so inclined.  Don't you just want to hop on one of these right now and go for a spin?  Certainly not the feeling I get when I look at a Citi-Bike.

Kimpton devotes a page of on its website to its own bikeshare program for its guests, with this explanation of why they went with bikes by "Public" --

"Design has always been a part of our DNA, which is why our newest partnership with fellow San Francisco native PUBLIC was a natural fit to craft our debut fleet of Kimpton bikes.

PUBLIC shares our avid belief that design matters in everyday life. These European-inspired street cruiser bicycles offer 3 speeds for easy shifting and navigation, perfect for the novice cyclist or avid biker, like myself. Take a spin on these cherry-red rides for free."

How about that -- taking design into account -- what a novel idea!  I'm not sure if this is the perfect illustration of private vs. governmental decision-making, but it sure feels like it.   Really underscores the irony of the private entity going with a bike manufacturer calling itself "PUBLIC" - doesn't it?

Wow!  This post was all over the place -- must be the lack of structure resulting from my day off.  Better go hop on the bike to help get my mind back on track . . .

Thursday, February 13, 2014

New Mayor a Bikeist?

First off, congrats to San Diego's new Mayor-Elect, Kevin Faulconer, the winner of yesterday's special election to replace the disgraced and decrepit Bob Filner.  Always nice to take a job where you can only improve upon the record of your predecessor . . .

Along those lines, in case you are a loyal reader Mayor-Elect  Faulconer (and I'm sure you are), I feel compelled to share ex-Mayor Filner's official therapy schedule as a cautionary gesture to save you from a similar fate:

If you ever have the sudden urge to place female colleagues in a head-lock - um, well - who the hell would ever have such an urge?!  Just resign and get it over with . . .

Anyway, I digress.  Much more importantly, what does Mayor- Elect Faulconer's sudden rise to power mean for Bikeists?  Early returns are favorable:

(1) Click HERE to read SLATE's take on the new Mayor and bikes:

(2) Click HERE  for Candidate Faulconer's own campaign release identifying himself as "an avid biker."

Here he is pictured doing a bike tour of the streets of his constituency in OB.  No spandex for the Mayor elect folks -- definitely a potential bikeist!  Love the shirt!

(3) Best yet, is this article in Voice of San Diego:  "What Faulconer Means For California Republicans".

I love this quote:  "Faulconer’s long been pro-same-sex marriage, pro-bike and pro-other issues that put him on the left of the national GOP."

Being "pro-bike" makes you a leftist?  I had no idea.  Never really saw the like or dislike of bikes as a matter of political affiliation or leaning.  Republicans don't like bikes?  Shhh!  Don't tell this guy:

Or this guy:

Besides baseball, I can hardly think of anything more universally enjoyed regardless of political affiliation than bikes.  As final living proof, I offer the world's most conservative human, outside captivity (perhaps the most avid bikeist I know):


Best of luck, Mr. Mayor-Elect.  You have proclaimed your support for the Bayshore Bikeway.  The first litmus test for us Bikeists will be your ability to get the project completed for good -- particularly the treacherous stretch from 32nd Street to 5th Avenue . . .