Friday, March 28, 2008

The High Price of Bullets

I just read today that the U.S. is expected to pay $440 billion for oil imports in 2008. To contrast, our national trade deficit last year was about $700 billion. Wow, over half of our trade imbalance is based on our lust to pollute the earth.

I alse heard that 40% of our oil imports comes from terrorist countries.

Let's see...40%...So, for every $20 you spend on gas, $8 goes to a terrorist. At $40 for a box of 50, that means you just bought enough bullets for a terrorist to kill 10 American soldiers.

Think about it.

View of California (from the North)

My favorite part of this is how there is no sidewalk on the other side of the street. If you thought this was humorous, check out the rest of it for a real downer. And you want to know why we Oregonians make fun of Californians.

Hey, Nice Pedestrian Bridge!

From the League of American Bicyclists:

Want to Cross the Delaware River? Leave Your Bike at Home.

Reconstruction of the Milford-Montague Bridge across the Delaware has failed to accommodate bicyclists, leaving local riders with a lengthy detour. The “oversight” by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission has been getting worse: riders trying to cross in the travel lane have been harassed by Commission employees and a portable sign now warns that “no bicyclists are allowed” on the bridge. If you are in the area…give the Commission a call at 888-203-7690. And, even if you’re not…it could happen to a bridge near you sometime, so why not give them a call anyway?!
So, they build themselves a bridge upon which it is not safe for motorists to use. Obvious solution: ban potential victims instead of the people who are behaving dangerously. Right. Even the LAB doesn't get it right: the bridge failed to accomodate motorists. That's pretty obvious, at least to me! Here's how the article should have been written:

Reconstruction of the Milford-Montague Bridge across the Delaware has failed to accommodate motorists, leaving them with a lengthy detour. The “oversight” by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission has been getting worse: motorists are harassing Commission employees, and a temporary barricade now warns that “no motor vehicles are allowed” on the bridge. Commission officials are contemplating their next steps: to either repair or replace the new bridge when it has just been placed into service.

Of *Course* We Want to Drive!

OK, let's start by angering you.

Now for my two cents. There is the fundamental presumption on the part of traffic engineers that single-occupant motor vehicles are the standard, the norm, and the priority for their design targets.

This has become a self-fulfilling vision. If we want to see this changed, we frankly need to make an overt attempt on public policy to discourage it. Things like the referenced article confirm me in the thinking that we need to get motorists to reconsider their reasons for driving.

Keep in mind when you read my suggestions that, by a "car", I refer to non-commercial non-special use vehicles. I particularly exclude service vehicles, emergency vehicles, and commercial vehicles (those with apportioned mileage and taxation rates). I intend reasonable exemptions for businesses, the handicapped, and other uses that are clearly in the interest of public policy...
  • Withhold all highway funding from jurisdictions that do not make safety a priority that supersedes convenience or efficiency.
  • If an urban road does not have one sidewalk and two bike lanes, remove motor vehicle lanes until it does, even if this means making it one way or single lane with vehicle turnouts.
  • If a traffic jurisdiction concludes that a road is unsafe for motorists to share with bicyclists and pedestrians, block the road to motorists (who are the ones who typically cause the injuries) instead of the legitimate road users.
  • If a traffic light does not properly sense bicycles, modify it so that it does not sense motor vehicles either. Set the timing so that a motorist will have time to leave his car, cross lanes of traffic, push the inconveniently placed button, cross lanes against traffic, and then reenter his car.
  • Set a nationwide speed limit of 35 mph for cars. Not only will this reduce fuel consumption and pollution, it will save lives. Note that trucks and service vehicles are exempt from this. If you want to get there faster, take a bus.
  • Stop handing out car titles with a security interest. If you want a car, you buy it.
  • Individuals that "deal" (defined in Oregon, for instance, as anyone who sells more than eight cars per year) will be required to perform 200 hours of community service per year. Motorists convicted of traffic offenses will be required to perform some amount of community service in increments of 8 hours. The idea here is to make people who sell or operate cars get the idea that they're doing something wrong.
  • If you commit a traffic crime (such as DUI or reckless driving), the car you are operating as well as any others with your name on the title will be seized and destroyed. I say "destroyed" as opposed to resold, because it is clearly public policy to reduce the number of cars on the road.
  • Traveling at a speed greater than 50 mph is a traffic crime, since you are providing material aid and support to the enemy on the War on Terror (see above).
Yes, I know, some of them are tongue-in-cheek. But...

Monday, March 24, 2008

35 Pounds

Just so you don't assume that I ride a lighter-than-a-gnat's fart bicycle for my daily errands, here's my pimpin' ride.

In addition to full mudguards (with water bottle mud flaps), it has a rear rack, a tail bag, a huge 3 pound U-lock with a cable, three tail lights, and three headlights (including one with a 2 pound battery). The bike itself is a height-of 1970's Japanese steel frame with gen-yoo-wine 27" by 1.25" wheels.

The drive train is probably the newest thing on it; I upgraded it from the original ten speed to a 21 speed, courtesy of a friend of mine whose similar vintage bicycle decided to implode on a country road about year ago (unfortunately, while she was on it.)

The beauty about having a modest bicycle is that it doesn't have "steal me!" written all over it.

And hey, all that weight builds character. Yeah, right, that's the ticket. That's what I keep telling myself...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

900 Miles Per Gallon?


"There must be some sort of trick," you're asking.

Not at all! The 900 mile-per-gallon vehicle really does offer:

900 Miles per
gallon on inexpensive fuel available everywhere!

Now, folks, the 900 mile-per-gallon vehicle consists of two parts:
  • The chassis, and when I say "the chassis", I mean not just the frame, but all the parts and accessories that go on the frame, including the wheels, tires, brakes, seats and steering, cargo compartment, and cup holder, and
  • The engine.

The secret is in the engine, but before we get to that, let's talk a little about the amazing range of chassis and accessories you can find on the 900-mile-per-gallon vehicle.

The chassis is available in a wide range of prices and styles and it comes with a terrific range of accessories.

The price range is truly fantastic. You can purchase a chassis for as little as $5 or you can spend up to $5000 on a high-end luxury model. It's a lot like choosing between a used Yugo to a new Mercedes, except you can't find even a used Yugo for $5, and you certainly can't find a new Mercedes for $5000, so the 900 mpg vehicle is much less expensive to purchase than a regular car. In fact, you may already own a usable one.

OK, so now you know a little about the chassis of the 900 mpg vehicle. A little later I'll tell you where and how to purchase one—information you won't find anywhere else! But first we need to talk about the real secret ofthe 900 mpg vehicle:

The Engine:
  • It's not available in any store!
  • Due to an obscure 1865 constitutional amendment, it's not available for sale anywhere in the US!
  • However, most people already have a suitable engine. Your family may have several! It just needs to be tuned up!
    That's why we're here... to tell you how!

    We'll get back to the chassis in a minute, but first some more about the engine:

    • It doesn't come with a warranty. (After all, who would offer you a warranty, since there's no
      seller?)The engine has a 75 year average lifetime (often even 50% more! and it works better the more you use it!
    • It's low pollution.
    Isn't that great!?

    Look at the amazing advantages of the 900 mpg vehicle:

    • It's small and light--it can even be shipped by air freight.
    • It goes almost everywhere--even places 4-wheel drives can't.
    • It is inexpensive to maintain (even the tires cost less than $20 apiece).
    • There's a wide range of accessories available. You can even purchase extra cargo space or extra seats--just like a minivan.
    • It's America's most popular recreational vehicle.
    • The 900 mpg vehicle actually saves everybody money because it needs smaller lanes and causes no road damage. That makes everybody's takes less. Imagine: your neighbor can save you money by using the 900 mpg vehicle!
    • It's the ideal commuting vehicle; you'll actually enjoy commuting to and from work with the 900 mpg vehicle.
    • It's safe: about the same injury-accident rate per hour or per mile of operation as an automobile--if you know how to use it.
    • You can park it almost anywhere!
    Now to be perfectly honest (have I ever lied to you?), I'm going to tell you about the disadvantages of the 900 mpg vehicle:
    • It has a relatively low top speed. (but its average speed is about the same as the average speed on L.A. freeways).
    • It's not really the best vehicle for long trips (though lots of people have taken coast-to-coast vacations with them).
    • It's not really the best vehicle for use in freezing or wet weather (though many people do use them).

    Here are some things I'll bet you haven't thought about:
    • The average trip in the U.S. is less two (2) miles! So, you really don't need a very fast
      vehicle or a long distance vehicle for most trips.
    • If most people used our 900 mpg vehicles for just the short trips, traffic congestion would disappear! The air would be cleaner! And it would be a whole lot quieter and safer for our children.
    OK, so now you're wondering, "What is he selling," and "What is it gonna cost?"
    • We're not selling hardware.
    • We're not selling supplies.
    • We're not selling vitamins or minerals.
    • We're only selling an idea, and it's


    All we ask is the same thing that every multi-level marketing organization asks: that you tell other folks about the great things you've learned from this show. We'll show you how to do that, and we'll show you how to join our organization and get all the benefits of our marketing plan.

    But first, you have to find your engine and get it tuned up, and we have lots of free literature to help you do that. We also have free group get-togethers every Saturday morning to help you learn what you need to know to get the job done.

    Isn't that amazing?

    So what is this idea?

    The CHASSIS of our 900 mpg vehicle is a BICYCLE, and the ENGINE is YOU.

    We've got free literature to help you learn how to use this amazing vehicle and help you get your engine tuned up. We'll offer you personal advice and we're here to answer your questions.

    We also consult with the city and county on bicycle issues and we lobby for appropriate bike facilities to make it easier for you to use your 900 mpg vehicle in Washington
    and the Portland Metro area.

    All we ask is that you try it. If you like it, tell your friends. To help you do all of that, you can join our marketing organization for the unbelievably low price of just $25 per year. You heard me right! Not $5000, not $500, but a measly $25 per year.

    But you'd better hurry, this offer won't last long. Look at what you'll get:

    You'll get personal invitations to all our planning meeting, sent to you by either US
    mail or electronic mail—both if you prefer!

    You'll get our Saturday morning tune-up session schedule delivered the same way.

    But that's not all!

    You'll get our newsletter telling you what's going on in the 900 mpg vehicle world. We'll tell you where to take your vehicle for fun, what facilities the city and county are planning, and how you can help speed those plans along. We'll tell you what groups are planning organized rides and tell you about commercial tours. It's all right there!

    But wait—there's more:

    You'll get free classified ads in the newsletter and on our internationally acclaimed World Wide Web site to help you buy or sell 900 mpg equipment (no engines please).

    And you'll get the support of other 900 mpg enthusiasts.

    If you act now, you'll be sure to get our September/October schedule delivered to your door very soon.

    So, line up, sign up, and join WashCo BTC today! You can join the BTC online!

    All right, there's one nagging question left:

    So how do we figure it's a 900 mpg vehicle?

    This is the fine print, for the mathematically inclined.

    We are comparing fuel economy between a motor vehicle and a human on a bicycle. Can we make it a fair comparison? We can if we can find a fuel that can (at least theoretically) power both a motor vehicle and a human. Naturally, it would be even better if the fuel really is a liquid. We're in luck, there is such a thing; it's vegetable oil!

    Vegetable oil can readily be used as a fuel for small diesel engines. Remember the story about the guy who ran his Volkswagen Rabbit on used McDonald's French-fry oil? There a more recent story about a Joshua and Kaia Tickell who are traveling around the country in their Winnebago powered by used Long John Silver's frying oil. (A fishy story if I ever heard one.)

    Now that we have a comparable fuel for both humans and cars, all we have to do is figure out how far someone can ride a bike on a gallon of oil.

    An exercise table suggests that an average person burns about 600 food calories (Kcal) per hour when he rides a bicycle at 16 miles per hour. (Note: 16 mph is not very fast; almost anyone can ride a bicycle all day at that speed. Racers can easily average 25 mph.) That means that a commuting
    bicyclist burns

    (600 Kcal/hr) /(16 miles/hr) = 37.5 Kcal/mile.

    How many Kcal are in a gallon of vegetable oil? That’s easy! Fat is 9 kCal per gram, and there are about 3785 ml per gallon (assuming about 1 gram per ml), so the energy content in a gallon is

    (3785 g) * (9 Kcal/g) = 34,000 Kcal,

    Note that published figures for the energy content of gasoline are around 34,000 to 35,000 Kcal/gallon, so our calculation is in the same ballpark as the estimates given by other sources.

    Finally, we divide the energy content of a gallon with the energy required to go one mile to get our miles per gallon. A gallon of fuel will take a bicycle

    (34,000 Kcal/gallon) / (37.5 Kcal/mile) = 906 miles/gallon!

    Many thanks and original credits to Randy Hudson and all the good folk at Loveland Colorado P.E.D.A.L.

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    Reader's Digest: They Just Don't Get it

    OK, so I guess I have to start with a guilty admission: I enjoy reading RD . However, the latest issue really annoyed me (and no, not due to the endless advertisements of pharmaceuticals).

    First, they talk about how Canada and California are "aggressively" courting higher fuel economy standards, talking about raising "fleet" economy by oh, 50% sometime before you and I die.

    Then, a few pages later, they write about a fellow who gets a whopping 150 mpg by practicing extreme conservation measures with is Toyota Prius.

    Ummm....I've got news for you guys. VMT (Motor "vehicle miles travelled") has increased five fold over the last fifty years. In order to get back to mid-twentieth century consumption levels, we would have to increase "fleet" economy by more than five times, since there are many more vehicles on the road today.

    Reality check number one: Americans are lazy. Go check out the Two Mile Challenge. 60% of our trips are two miles in distance or less. So, if we were willing to stop using the car for those stupid short trips, that would effectively reduce our VMT to 40% of its current levels.

    Reality check number two: trading agricultural food acreage in favor of fuel is stupid. Not only is it a false economy, we've just changed our carbon footprint, not reduced it. Burning one kind of fuel instead of another still means that our grandchildren will starve due to lack of viable farmland.

    I'm not a Luddite, but it seems like we've lost track of the importance of transportation for essential goods and services, and instead seem to think that it's our right to shove three thousand pounds by the Starbucks drive-through window. Less than 5% of our VMT is associated with essential goods and services and mass transit.

    In World War 2, my grandparents survived on three gallons a week of gasoline. Have we really sunk so far that we can't acknowledge that we are at war again, with our environment, our ecology, and our freedom at stake? Remember, it's oil that made Bin Laden rich. Every time you fill your gas tank, you're paying Al Q'aida to kill US troops, making your home a little dirtier, and making the planet a little less hospitable for life.

    So, how about it Clinton and Obama? Specify a ramping tax on registered and insured noncommercial non-farm vehicles. Start at $1000 per year in 2009, ramping up to $10,000 in 2019. Make it gradual so that the yuppies who live many leagues from their jobs will have time to adjust to the fact that their commute just got four times longer. Make it extreme so that it's clear to people that driving a car is a stupid thing to do. Specify exclusions for the handicapped and make sure that essential goods and services can be maintained, but set it up so that people who drive will eventually be regarded as selfish, and boorish (if not simply pitiable because they are handicapped).

    Set a nationwide speed limit of 35 mph, like they had during the gas rationing days. Make it 15 mph for noncommercial non-service vehicles. The only way someone is going to stop driving their car is if they see a genuine benefit to using another mode to accomplish their errands. Make it slow enough and expensive enough, and they will opt for change.

    What you choose to do does have an effect on those around you. Think about it.

    Monday, March 17, 2008

    David Feherty and Bicycling in Dallas

    OK. Let me get this straight. A motorist can't be bothered to slow down and wait while an oncoming vehicle passes, so that he can pass safely. Well, although this is sad and criminal state of affairs, as bicyclists we're unfortunately accustomed to seeing this.

    BUT...the article almost makes it sound like it's OK that the trucker chose his own safety over the cyclist's. The mind boggles.

    I guess it's easy for me to forget how nice I have it here in Portland. Other than that, I'm pretty much at a loss for words.

    CBS Golf Analyst Struck by Truck

    Posted: 2008-03-16 22:46:56
    ORLANDO, Fla. (March 15) -- Golf analyst David Feherty broke three ribs and punctured his lung when he was hit by a truck while riding his bicycle near his home in Dallas. He expects to be fully recovered in time for the Masters.

    Photo Gallery

    Sam Greenwood, Getty Images

    Sports Figures
    Surviving Crashes

    1 of 11

    CBS golf analyst David Feherty breaks three ribs and punctures his lung when he's hit by a truck while riding his bicycle, but expects to be fully recovered in time for the Masters. See some of the other top sports figures who have bounced back from scary accidents.

    Feherty said Friday he was returning from his morning bicycle ride a day earlier when a truck hauling irrigation equipment pinched him into the curb and he was struck by the side mirror.

    "He didn't want to hit the car on the left, so he ran over the cyclist on the right," Feherty said. "I don't remember a whole lot about it. There was a lady on the scene quickly, keeping me conscious. The next thing I know, I'm at Baylor Medical Center, the only hospital in the United States that doesn't have The Golf Channel."

    He then asked who was leading the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    Feherty is regarded as golf's most comical TV analyst, a former European tour winner and Ryder Cup player from Northern Ireland who has been working for CBS Sports since 1997.

    He has taken up cycling recently, and said last year after riding along 17 Mile Drive at Pebble Beach, "It's actually 28 miles." He has been injured a few dozen times riding his bike, but he described those accidents as "pilot error."

    "That's when you hit the ground and slow down. This was flying through the air and speeding up," he said. "It was entirely different, and not near as much fun. I was lucky I didn't go underneath the trailer."

    Feherty said he would be hospitalized for at least a few more days, and that he had a tube sticking out of his chest.

    "But it's not as bad as it sounds," he said.

    CBS Sports covered the PGA Tour during much of the West Coast swing and does not have another telecast until the Masters.

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Snoos[z]eville and other excitement

    Saturday was the annual "Snoozeville Populaire" held by the Oregon Randonneurs. This 100km ride is ridiculously flat and a great way to get off of your arse in early March.

    Complaint: the maps and the organizer call it "Snoozeville", but all of the maps and locals know the north end of Dairy Creek Road as "Snooseville." Ah well, the life of an OCD who can spell...

    At 6:45 sharp Nate, Lynne and Cecil "hand you your helmet cheerfully" Anne showed up at my door. Lynne suggested that we follow my commute route for the first two miles. I smugly agreed, since I have a real cake-walk of a commute, with no busy streets and about 1 km through a park.

    Not to say that the rest of the ride to Cornelius Pass Roadhouse was a problem. That early on a Saturday morning, the rid was pretty quiet and uneventful. The weather was well, nice. I know, 50's may not sound warm to you, but if you have some reasonable clothing and you're working on a bicycle, it's quite pleasant.

    At 8:02 sharp, the group headed west towards Hillsboro. Cecil Anne took off like a woman on a mission, so I held with her for about half an hour. At that point, I asked her what her goldurn hurry was, and it turns out she was on a mission: she had her mother in town. Since I hadn't seen Lynne for a while, I dropped back for a couple of minutes until Lynne showed up, and then held with her for the rest of the ride.

    The climb to Fern Flat Road (the first control) was just enough to keep me warm, since the sun wasn't out, and there's always a disproportionate temperature drop as you climb the oh, 600 feet or so to the top. (Note to Jason: nice place to visit on a hot summer day?) At Meacham's Corner we saw a sign reading in part, "lost steer". Uhhh...perhaps I left it with my cell phone?

    As we grabbed food and water at the eastern paved end of Fern Flat, Lynne deliberated removing her jacket. As it turns out, that was a wise thing. One forgets just how much downhill there is coming back south. The entire 7.5 mile length of Dairy Creek is one very subtle incline. However, as we reached the flats towards the bottom, the sun came out, and I started feeling a bit warm.

    On the far side of Frogger Junction (so named, because you feel like the amphibian in the computer game of the same name, as you have to cross US-26 without any sort of protection), we came across Susan France in a "secret control". I took the alternative to lose one of my layers, as the sun was profoundly shining at this point.

    The ride through Banks was uneventful (no caltrops, tacks, or rednecks hurling beverages at us). Got the impression I don't trust that place? SR-47 is just simply vile for its entire length, and I don't care even to ride on it for a mile or two like we did.

    Cedar Canyon is always a treat. Sure, it's got some hills, but the scenery is spectacular. (Oh, in all fairness, I should note that we had at least four very polite cars pass us there.) Lynne allowed as the western end of that road is actually known as "Killin Wetlands". Man, were the frogs busy. I read in the paper that it's a bumper crop of frogs this year (if frogs are part of your diet).

    As we stopped at the information control at Jack Road, Andrew, Lance, and Amy came upon us and rode with us for a while. Andrew is annoyingly strong, even on his new recumbent, as we were climbing Stafford Road. Of course, when we hit the rollers after that, he was long gone.

    As we passed through Kansas City, the Portland Velo "hammer and nails" crew passed us by. Hey...who was that wearing the iPod headphones. Humph. Lynne seemed to start hurting about now. I acted tough, but--truth be told--I was starting to feel the effects of not having done any long rides since the fall.

    Maggie's Buns was a madhouse, with it seems like about the half the cyclists in Washington County stopping by. As the "open control", we all felt obliged to purchase something. Lynne and I split a cinnamon roll (still the size of one's head) and talked to Lance and Amy.

    From this point we were kind of on automatic, because the return route from Forest Grove was pretty much the one Portland Velo follows. Except that, instead of turning off to go to Longbottom's Coffee Shop, you travel about another km to get back to McMenamin's.

    We had a nice lunch with friends, a short visit by a yarn shop Lynne wanted to visit, and then home. Approximately 80 miles, averaged just under 14 mph, which is pretty respectable seeing as I was riding a bike about the size and weight of a Chevy Suburban.

    Sunday morning came way too early, seeing as it was the daylight savings time change. I rolled up to Lynne and Fitz's house around 7:30 and then we carpooled over to Madison's Grill, where we spent a full day in a first aid class.

    Seeing as the last time I was first-aid certified I was dodging pterodactyls, I felt it was time to refresh my background. This was an amazingly valuable class. Yes, chances are I won't ever need this information, or I'll only use it once or twice. Still, it's one of those things that everyone should know, up their with naming the major muscle groups and the basics of nutrition.

    It was also a fun class with plenty of humor. We got to wrap Carlo DeLumpa up like a burrito, and Mike Mulligan gave us the straight story of his accident at the Portland Velo barbecue and ride last summer: on a downhill before one of those annoying and gratuitous hard left turns you get out here, his front wheel locked up. He let go of the brake, and then he didn't have enough remaining time/space to finish braking. He had an instant choice of going down on the pavement or in the field in front of him. Grass sounded like a better bet; the three foot ditch between him and the grass was the surprise. He went over the handlebars and landed on his head/back.

    Lying there, he immediately surmised that a) he could move his fingers and toes, and b) his neck hurt like hell. For those of you who don't know the rest of the story, he had a broken neck and a broken back. He's completely ambulatory, doing lots of physical therapy, and expects a full recovery. Note that Mike Mulligan works with the company that gave our class; how's that for delightful irony!

    Sunday night I was exhausted, yet again, and the week has been largely comprised of an IV drip of coffee at my side as I attempt to deal with the time change.

    Tuesday, March 4, 2008

    Four Months of Commuting...

    Saturday was not a ride day for me. As a board member of the Washington County BTC, I was obliged to make an appearance at Kissler's Bikes Saturday morning. The owner has made a gift of his capital equipment (fixtures, tools, even a trailer!) to the BTC. Susan Otcenas has been gracious enough to provide us temporary storage for a few months until we manage to get a cycling center open. The only catch: getting all that stuff from here to there.

    So...I biked over to Kissler's and helped load up trucks and trailers, then drove Hal's van out to Susan's where we unloaded. After I got back to Kissler's I loaded up, put on my rain gear, and then went down to the local Free Range Tofu supermarket to pick up some things for dinner. (Rachel only eats happy granola-eating animals that practice yoga after their massage every day.) I got dumped on with one of the few major showers of the day. I was returning home with a back pack full of flour, meat, wine, and other items for dinner, it hit me. After four months, the rain isn't as wet, the wind isn't as foul, and the hills aren't as steep. It just seems right now, for me to use my bicycle when I commute. It seems downright wasteful to take a trip of only three or six miles in a car.

    Add to that the realization that it was costing me about $5 every day in insurance and preventative maintenance just to have my car sitting in my driveway. mean I can get paid to lose weight, keep my blood pressure down, stay happy, and fight global warming?

    How can I make this message clearer?

    Current music: Shine by Edenbridge.