Ride Diary: Saturday 10/19

Weather started out cool. Wore my new long sleeved Novara jersey for the first time and needed my full fingered gloves.

Headed west via 26th Avenue and 32nd Avenue. Passed and was passed by many cyclists. Lots of groups out. I rode by a rather large one gathering at a church at 32nd Ave and McIntyre St. As I went by the Coor’s brewery, they went past me in a rather spirited fashion. They looked like they were having fun and ready to climb Lookout Mountain (I’ll do that one of these days).

Got to Vanover park in Golden. The leaves were falling on a couple of trees and presented an excellent photo op.

Autumn Ride

After a brief rest, turned my bike back around and went up Clear Creek. According the RideWithGPS app on my phone, I reached 37.5 MPH on a downhill section of this. If that’s true, I think that’s my record on a bicycle. Fortunately, the trail was completed devoid of other humans at that time.

Once I reached the I-70 underpass along the Clear Creek trail, I took a moment to debate if I wanted to keep heading up it, or head back home on the roads. I took the road option.

Turned down the Youngfield Service Rd and headed back east on 32nd Ave. At some point I ended up on 26th Ave and headed home.

Here’s my ride from the RideWithGPS app.

Bike Lock Strategies: The Ring Lock

Leave your bicycle unattended anywhere, and you’re going to worry about someone walking away with it. It’s important to have a good strategy for locking bicycles.

Many locking strategies often consist of carrying multiple items to lock your bike, such as multiple locks, or supplementing your lock(s) with cables. This is necessary because parts on modern bicycles are made to be easily removed, which is the opposite of what you want if you need to leave your bike unattended.

The ring lock, or frame lock, is not seen very often in the United States. Very common in Europe, the ring lock usually attaches to the seat stays, and immobilizes the bike by placing a metal rod through the wheel’s spokes. My primary commuter bicycle is equipped with one, and it is my favorite lock ever.

Ring Lock & Purple Tektro CantileverWhat’s great about the ring lock, the lock is always with my bicycle. I can put my key in it and immediately immobilize my bicycle. Great for quick trips.

Also, many ring locks like the ABUS Amparo pictured above have cables and chains you can plug into the side. This allows you to secure your bicycle to a stationary object such as a bike rack. Combine it with anti-theft skewers (such as Velo Orange’s) and you have a pretty decent bicycle theft prevention system.

Unfortunately, these are pretty difficult to obtain in the states.

Stop de Kindermoord (Stop the Child Murder)

Most cyclists in America are aware that the Netherlands is a cycling country. So much so, that nationwide, 27% of all trips in the Netherlands are by bicycle. Digest that statistic for a moment. That means, over one quarter of all trips in the Netherlands are by bicycle. So how’d the Dutch arrive there?

A lot of articles on the subject point to a movement in the 1970s calls “Stop de Kindermoord” which literally translates to English as “Stop the Child Murder.” The following is a quote from David Hembrow on a blog post of his:

1973 was also the year that the pressure group “Stop de Kindermoord” (“Stop the Child Murder”) started. The object of this group was to point out the number of deaths caused to children and to campaign to reduce them. They successfully influenced the Dutch government to re-emphasize building of segregated cycle paths, and to make money available to pay for them. This resulted in both a rise in cycling and a reduction in cyclist deaths, reversing the previous trend. It has been a success not only for child cyclists, but for all cyclists, and indeed for the population as a whole.

In my opinion, campaigning for children is the best way to make progress in America. People for Bikes has recently taken this idea and started their own campaign: Build it for Isabella. It’s a simple concept: “Every new bike project should strive to be usable by a 12-year old.”

Here’s Isabella:

Source: http://www.peopleforbikes.org/green-lane-project/pages/build-it-for-isabella

When considering current designs of infrastructure in the Denver area, I have a hard time imagining Isabella riding on most of our infrastructure.

For example, can you envision her sharing the road when sharrows are involved?

Denver Sharrows on Sherman St

What about even buffered bike lanes like this?

Champa St Bike Lane

Or is this more like it?

Bannock Cycle Track

The above looks like something Isabella could safely ride on, if she’s heading toward the photo. But what about the bike lane for those riding away from the photo?

I would also like to point out that protected tracks like pictured above are not enough. Protected intersections are also necessary. The Bannock cycle track posted above abruptly ends, leaving Isabella on the sidewalk, mixing with pedestrians and riding through crosswalks. (The sign in the photo below cautioning cyclists to slow has since been removed.) There is no clear indication of where she can safely ride from here.

Bannock Cycle Track Ends

We even have here in Denver, the first of what cycling advocates are calling a protected lane in the form of the 15th Street Bikeway. It has many positive design elements, such as:

  1. A protected buffer from the rest of traffic (done with plastic sticks bollards).
  2. Intersection treatments, like green zebra strips.
  3. Bicycle signals at the end of the track.

Here again though, the design has serious deficiencies that would keep Isabella’s parents from considering it safe for her:

  1. “Mixing zones” where cars need to turn left across the bike lane.

    Source: https://www.denvergov.org/bikeprogram/BicyclinginDenver/15thStreetBikeway/tabid/444594/Default.aspx
  2. A lack of interconnected routes.
  3. Abrupt ending of the lane where cyclists must merge back in with traffic.

Denver can and should do better. If we ever want to cycling to reach double digits modal share, or to see our children cycling like the Dutch we need to do better. This video is something that I think we can achieve in American cities:

How the U.S.’s Bicycle Infrastructure Fails the Rural Cyclist

Greetings long time readers. Thanks for bearing with me during my hiatus from posting as well as the moving around of things. If you’re still reading this, you’re a dedicated friend. 🙂

I’d like to take a moment and discuss Cherokee Schill’s fight in Kentucky. The basic gist, she’s been fighting a court battle over whether or not she has the right to ride in the middle of a lane on a busy highway running between two towns in Kentucky. I’m not familiar with the highway or traffic conditions at all, so I’m not going to express an opinion except for this, she should have never have been placed in a position to have to make that choice.

The U.S.’s bicycle infrastructure has failed Cherokee Schill and has failed every other cyclist who has been forced to make the choice of taking the lane on a busy highway and possibly incurring the wrath of local law enforcement (even if the law allows you to take the lane) or riding in a shoulder poorly designed for cyclists. Either option is also not seen as safe by the general public, nor is either option pleasant for cyclists who chose to brave these highways.

We can do better. Infrastructure for cyclists, where it exists in the U.S., is piss poor. This is doubly so for rural highways where motorized traffic speeds are much higher.

Take a look at this video:

This is great cycling infrastructure from the Dutch. They’ve got this figured out.

Compare that to conditions that Cherokee Schill encounters on her commute:

Yes, Cherokee had a shoulder. It’s difficult to tell, but there is a rumble strip on that shoulder that is no fun for cyclists to cross. It also difficult to see if and what kind of debris exists on the shoulder. That’s not a road that the large majority of people in the U.S. would ride their bicycle on, much less on a daily basis for their commute. Kudos to Cherokee for braving that road.

Bicycling will never become mainstream for transportation in the U.S. until we step up our game and design and provide infrastructure that is on par with that of the Dutch.

The Car is Becoming Less Important

I read an interesting article from Denver Urbanism today. It is part of a common conversation lately. Many young folks simply don’t see cars the same way the older generations see them.

My wife and I, for example, own one car between the two of us. Even with a son on the way, we just don’t see the need for another car. Our car isn’t even used for commuting to and from work. We have planned our lives around the idea that one car is enough for a family. Not that we don’t recognize the utility of cars. We use ours for various errands and to visit friends and family. Most days though, it just sits in our driveway.

The fact is, many major cities make it easy to get around without a car. Our lovely mile high city of Denver has excellent bicycle infrastructure, a large public transportation system, and the first large scale bike share system in the USA. I hope in the future, many families and individuals will find it easy to go car-lite or even car-free.

Sturmey Archer Duomatic

Hipsters who ride bicycles do have one good idea. You don’t always need more gears.

Sturmey Archer Duomatic 2 speed Kick Shift with Coaster

It is a Sturmey Archer S2C, two-speed kick shift hub with coaster brake. I picked red because it would look hot.

I’m waiting for a rim to arrive so I can lace it up. This is going on my ’70 Hercules. Rim is a silver Sun CR-18 in the standard 26″ x 1 3/8″ (BSD 590mm) size.

Grandma’s Saddlebag

I picked up one of these at the Bike Depot. It was actually a gift for Niki, but I thought I would try it out. One of the Bike Depot’s mechanics’ grandmother knitted a few of these for them to sell. It is quite awesome and quite versatile.

Grandma's Saddlebag

It comes with a pair of leather toe clip straps to hold it onto your saddle. You’ll need a saddle with bag loops like a Brooks or similar. It has a rope on the one end to seal it up. I found it was easy to make a bow with the rope and shove it into the tiny opening in the saddlebag.

Grandma's Saddlebag

If you want one, you’ll have to walk into the Bike Depot and purchase one. Alternatively, if you know someone that is crafty and good with a pair of knitting needles, I bet they could make one for you.

Making Denver a Cycle Haven pt. 2: Better Bike Share

Denver B-Cycle is great. I’ve used it many times during the last season. Let me say though, it has huge room for improvement.

A few ideas:

  1. Make B-Cycle a year round thing. I was disappointed when they closed B-Cycle for winter hibernation. While I can sort of understand the reasoning, its utility is severely diminished when it gets closed for a few months out of the year. Then, I get an email today that they delayed its reopening by two weeks.
  2. Saturate the city with kiosks, expand beyond Denver. This should go without saying. B-Cycle should have a thousand kiosks in the Denver area with ten thousand bicycles. For now, I’ll settle for some more outside of the core of Denver.
  3. Kiosks that actually work. I was extremely frustrated last year with some of the touch screens. They didn’t work, became unresponsive, and few times, the station two blocks from my house hadn’t woken up yet. I was unable to retrieve a bike.
  4. Bells on the bike that the hammers don’t break off of.
  5. Cheap prices, similar to Dublin’s bike share. Did you know, that for only ten euro (about fourteen U.S. Dollars), you can get a year long subscription? Much better than B-Cycles sixty-five dollar cost.

Really, I’m being very critical of B-Cycle. It is a great system. I would be entirely happy with it if I could get a bike throughout the entire year.

Making Denver a Cycle Haven pt.1: Colfax Bike Lane

Colfax Ave in Denver is a 26 mile long arterial that stretches from the west end of Denver all the way to the east end of Denver. I’m not sure how accurate this is, but it is often thought of as the longest continuous street in Denver.

It serves as an important arterial, with two of RTD’s busiest bus lines running down it (the 15, 16 and respective Ltds). It is also often considered a blight on our fine city. Many sections of Colfax are run down with crime and poverty. The local communities have tried many things in an attempt at urban renewal with mixed results.

I’m not saying this is going to be a panacea for all of Colfax’s problems, but what if, an easy fix were to take away the car traffic and make a 22.6 mile bike lane along Colfax? It could easily become a heavily bike trafficked corridor with safe and easy access to much of Denver’s neighborhoods.

My idea, would be to run a bike lane from where Colfax meets US6 near its west end in Golden to the intersection of Colfax and Tower Rd near its east end in Aurora.

22.6 miles of bike lane

Now of course there would have to be significant re-engineering of Colfax and traffic lanes removed in many sections. Particularly at the viaduct of I-25 and the train tracks. It also gets rather narrow as it passes through the old sections of Capitol Hill.

I’m not saying this would be easy by any stretch of the imagination. I do believe, however, it is possible and would love to see some municipalities start this initiative.

Banning Cyclists Completely on 16th Street

The downtown Denver partnership is looking to ban bicycles completely from the 16th street mall after a tragic collision occurred between a mall shuttle and an elderly rider a couple Sundays ago.

From an article in the Denver Daily, the DDP spokeswoman says

“We still feel that bicyclists on the mall, when you combine the pedestrians and all the RTD shuttles, that that’s not a good equation,” she said. “And I think Sunday’s accident illustrates that even though Sunday is a very low traffic day…we need to look at Sundays and our bike policy on the 16th Street Mall.”

Let’s keep in mind the following that comes from the cited Denver Post article above:

The driver has been ticketed for careless driving resulting in serious bodily injury, said John White, a Denver Police Department spokesman.

Some further details from an article on 9News’ website:

RTD Spokesman Scott Reed says the bus driver honked at the cyclist, but instead the noise startled him. Reed says a witness told RTD the cyclist then slammed on his brakes and flew over his handlebars and the bus driver ran over his right leg.

This is clearly the shuttle driver’s fault. The shuttle driver not only could have avoided the accident by hitting his brakes first, before honking his horn. Also, the shuttle driver was even cited by the police for careless driving.

How does this make sense? Instead of taking time to properly train the shuttle drivers, making sure that they drive safely and not carelessly, they’re just going to get rid of cyclists? What if the cyclist was a pedestrian instead? Would the DDP turn around and ban pedestrians as well?

This is a perfect example of the “sacred bull in society’s china shop.”

Instead of focusing on the real problem, the shuttle buses that are potentially deadly machinery, we focus on restricting the road users who are most vulnerable. This is very often the case with road safety campaigns. Ridiculous.