Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Virginia Considering Texting While Driving = Reckless Driving

Reports indicate that the Virginia State Crime Commission is considering recommending to the legislature that texting while driving fall under reckless driving. Apparently, according to this article, a judge declined to find that a driver, who had been involved in a fatal accident, was involved in reckless driving because texting while driving is currently listed as a lessor offense.
"Many of us were puzzled by his legal reasoning but, in any case, if that's something that's happening in the court, we need to make sure texting is covered under reckless driving," said state Del. Robert B. Bell, R-Albemarle, the commission chairman.
The Commission makes influential recommendations to the VA legislature - and will be considering this in a Dec. 5 meeting. The Commission can be contacted as follows
Patrick Henry Building
1111 East Broad Street
Suite B036
Richmond, Virginia 23219
FAX: (804) 786-7872
I could just go off on the number of times I have almost been hit or run off the road by someone with there head down and their nose in a mobile phone - teenagers running stop signs because they are talking on a phone. I have biked up Lee Hwy during rush hour at about the same speed as traffic - and watched drivers text the entire way up the road. It's because sort of a punch-buggy game - observe some driver do something really erratic - and then see whether they were in fact talking on a phone or texting. 

When you are behind the wheel, you need to be doing one thing: driving - nothing else. Anything else? It can wait.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Scraper Bikes! #Oakland #Video

Youth bicycle movement from Oakland. Love how these kids make their bikes their own. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bicycle Movies - The Short Film Collection #bikedc

"Here is the trailer for our newest release "Bicycle Movies." The film is dedicated to those who know that following their dreams is not a hazy goal but a daily call to action. Bicycle Movies: The Short Film Collection is your ticket to the front of the breakaway, so grab some popcorn, clip into your pedals and enjoy the show." 

Think I recognize a couple of vids in this collection!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Draft Guide to Bicycle Parking Racks #bikedc #bikeguide

The best bike rack is one that provides for the greatest number of bike parking spots for the smallest buck - right?  Wrong

Photo by Lori & Todd (cc)
When management opens up the handy ACME bike rack catalog, they will find the classic school yard bicycle rack promising lots of parking capacity at a reasonable price.  Cyclists disparagingly refer to these as wheelbenders. The rack does not properly support bicycles, the bicycles fall over on their wheels, and the wheels get bent. These racks have the distinction of being the only racks specifically recommended against by those people whose job it is to review bike racks.

So who are those people and should they be listened to?  Those people are the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals and they have put a lot of work and thought into bike parking. In 2010, the APBP published its 2nd edition of Bicycle Parking Guidelines.

The new edition is now a comprehensive resource for practitioners and includes:
  • General bicycle parking principles and definitions of bicycle parking terms
  • Guidance for both short- and long-term bicycle parking
  • Elements of a good rack or locker, including specific performance criteria
  • Maintenance best practices
  • Sample site plans and diagrams to help avoid blunders in rack and locker placement
  • Sample quantity requirements for bicycle parking to meet need by land use
  • A worksheet for programming bicycle parking for a building or cluster of buildings
  • Abundant images and charts to illustrate concepts and conditions
The APBP Guidelines specifically review the major types of bicycle racks, providing the strengths and weaknesses of each type, and criteria for what should be considered a good rack. Again, only one rack type was specifically not recommended:
NOT Recommended: Wheelbending racks that provide no support for the bicycle frame. (P. 2-14.)
Photo by Lars Hammar (cc)
What type of rack was recommended? Inverted U racks, which are now prolifically visible in the Washington DC area (DDOT was giving these out for free for a while; Bike Arlington takes requests for where inverted U's should be located; inverted U's are standard issue for WMATA).  What makes a good rack?
  • Two points of contact with the bicycle that supports the bicycle without the bicycle falling over;
  • Ability to lock the bicycle securely to the rack (generally want to lock the frame and at least one wheel to the rack with a U lock);
  • A solid construction that is difficult to cut;
  • Clearance between the parked bicycles in order to avoid handlebar conflicts (handlebars or pedals of one bike protruding and damaging the adjacent bicycle); and
  • The ability to be secured the rack to the ground.
One inverted U will park two bicycles; inverted U's can be placed as a series.  Properly situated there will be lots of space between the U's.  With lots of space between the racks to move bicycles, and with solid parking, cyclists tend to love these racks - resulting in a proliferation of cyclists utilizing these racks.  Good infrastructure promotes good cycling.

There is lots more to discuss about racks:  
  • Location of racks (where on the property);
  • Placement of the racks (how far from walls, what orientation);
  • What about bicycle lockers and cages?
  • Security
I highly recommend buying a copy of APBP's Bicycle Parking Guidelines, 2nd Edition, and using it as a blue print for procurement and engineering.  It is well thought out.  

In addition, DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) has some very helpful information as well as some requirements.  If your agency is in a commercial building in DC as a tenant, that building is obligated to comply with those regulations; if you are in a federal building, the DDOT regs can be a compelling argument for what should be done.  Note how an Inverted U rack would comply with DDOT regulations, where a Wheelbender would not:
2119.1 Bicycle parking spaces shall be provided for office, retail and service uses, except for retail and service uses in the C-3-C (Medium Density Office, Retail, and Housing), C-4 (Central Business District), and C-5 (Pennsylvania Avenue) (PAD) districts.
2119.2 The number of bicycle parking spaces provided shall be at least equal to five percent (5%) of the number of automobile parking spaces required under §2101.1.
2119.3 Bicycle facilities shall have convenient access from the building or structure and street or other bicycle right-of-way, be clean, secure and well lit and shall be located within a building or structure, either on the ground floor, basement, or first cellar level.
2119.4 All bicycle parking spaces required under §2119.1 shall be a minimum of two feet (2') in width and six feet (6') in length.
2119.5 An aisle five feet (5') in width shall be provided between rows of bicycle parking spaces and the perimeter of the area devoted to bicycle parking.
2119.6 If a room or common locker not divided into individual spaces is used to meet these requirements, twelve square feet of floor area shall be considered the equivalent of one (1) bicycle parking space. Where manufactured metal lockers or racks are provided, each locker or stall devoted to bicycle parking shall be counted as one bicycle parking space.
Note : When GSA negotiates leases with commercial landlords for garages, GSA commonly only leases the car parking spaces in the garage.  There is frequently empty space in parking garages that cannot be used to park a car - but the agency cannot use the space for a bicycle rack because the agency did not lease that empty space. When setting up a lease with a commercial landlord for garage space, make sure that the agency leases space for bicycle parking as well as car parking. 

Final thought: if you apply for a Bike Friendly Business certification, the League of American Bicyclists will ask

Does your bike parking meet the security and convenience guidelines recommended by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP)?
The APBP Guidelines are good, well thought out standards.  They are rich with information that address different concerns.  Take rich advantage of them, using them as a blueprint for decisions.
Photo by Lynn Gardner (cc)

This is a first installment in an attempt to create a best practices guide for federal agencies.  The goal is to provide a concrete complete checklist for agencies and employees as they work to build bicycle friendly federal agencies.  

This is a draft - Your feedback is encouraged.

Monday, November 19, 2012

ABC7: Bike cameras trending among cyclists for safety #bikedc

Link to Story

I have a Contour Roam camera strapped to my handlebars.  I bought the camera after getting hit by a car on the Lincoln Memorial circle.  I was the fifth bicycle in a pack of five.  I had lights and high viz.  I was doing everything by the book - and still got hit by a distracted driver - and the police issued no tickets (the insurance company, however, negotiated a settlement easily).  I thought - never again.

The Contour Roam has a nice form factor, fitting easily on my handle bar.  It takes a micro SD card so basically you can have as much memory as you want.  The battery is not bad; needs to be charged every day (my commute is 1.5 hours total - if I dont charge the camera, it will last some of the next day but probably will not last the full day).

The strap that keeps the camera on the handlebar broke; that's bad.  As a result, the camera went flying off my bike and into the road - its still working just fine!  That's good!  It's a pretty reliable piece of equipment.

I have seriously thought about getting one for my car as well for pretty much the same reasons.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Escape from Black Friday! ALEX BPAC Ride

The Alexandria BPAC November informal community bike ride will be an Escape From Black Friday. While everyone else is shopping, we will ride directly south on the Mt Vernon Trail. This is a fun winter ride--with less leaves on the trees there are some nice river views. We will turn around when we hit the halfway point in terms of time, so we won't necessarily cover the entire 18 miles to Mt Vernon and back. 

When:  Friday November 23, 10 am - 1pm
Where: Firehook bakery (meet outside), 430 S Washington St, 22314
Bring: Yourself, a bicycle, water, a sense of adventure
Cost:  You may discover you like riding so much that you forget to do your holiday shopping.

RSVP recommended: Jonathan Krall at jonathan@jonathankrall.net
This ride will be beginner-friendly--we won't drop anyone and will  
regroup as needed. We will go ahead unless rain or snow is expected.
We look forward to seeing you there!

Jonathan Krall
Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee

MVTree . . . . . #bikedc

The autumn trees on the MVT, glistening in the evening sun, were marvelous tonite.

RT Support Phoenix Bikes at Ten Thousand Villages Sat Nov 17 #bikedc

From Phoenix Bikes: The fair-trade craft retailer Ten Thousand Villages will host a Phoenix Bikes benefit at its Alexandria store, at 915 King Street in Old Town, on Saturday, Nov. 17, from 6-8pm. Phoenix Bikes will receive a percentage of all sale during this event and will have staff and volunteers on hand to talk about our mission and organization.

Ten Thousand Villages has been Northern Virginia’s Fair Trade destination since 1994.
It is proud to be a part of one of the oldest and largest fair trade organizations in the world. With 60 years of experience, Ten Thousand Villages is a global network of social entrepreneurs working to empower and provide economic opportunities to artisans in developing countries. A founding member of the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT), Ten Thousand Villages sees fair trade as an alternative approach to conventional international trade.

Ten Thousand Villages is now a global network of more than 130 artisan groups in 37 countries.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's Better to Light a Cyclist than Curse the Darkness #bikedc @bikearlington

As the sun slowly fades from the autumn sky leaving us with the gray of winter, the trails grow ever more precarious as darkly clad ninja's continue their quest for exercise, protected, so they think, by the invisibility of dusk. We know, however, that winter is the season of light's triumph of light over darkness - and look forward to the Winter Solstice with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads.

Bike Arlington celebrated Winter Solstice early this year, for the third and final time tonite.  Cyclists congregated at the corner of Columbia Pike and WOD, adorned with binking lights and reflective straps, generously offering them freely to passing ninja's and folks of other persuasions.  These events effectively achieve placing lights on cyclists, joggers, dog walkers, pedestrians, and critters.  They are also visible public relations events, communicating the good word of light and visibility. 

According to WABA, in Virginia the law requires 
"Front white light and rear red reflector required when dark; extra rear red light allowed- required on roads 35 mph and up, may be attached to operator."  
But I like to truly triumph over darkness (aka be seen by cars, and not get hit).  I have two white headlights, a large red rear light with a red rear reflector and a couple of red rear blinkies, and side reflectors in the sidewalls of my tires.  This weekend I will install my favorite - a string of battery powered Holiday lights for that extra smackdown on darkness.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

APS Accepting Applications for Multimodal Transport Comm #bikedc #arlingtonva

Photo by Cavorite (cc)
Like cycling? Like sitting in long meetings?  No?!?  Me neither.  But maybe you will be enticed by helping APS by providing advice regarding the safe transportation of kids to school by bicycle and whatever else people are using to get to school these days.

For more information, contact the Dept. of School and Community Relations at 703-228-6004 www.apsva.us
  School Board Lays Groundwork for Multimodal Transportation Committee
The Arlington School Board continued its discussion on the Multimodal Transportation and Student Safety Committee at last night’s meeting.

The proposed committee will report to the School Board and provide advice regarding the safe transportation of students to and from school by a variety of modes of transportation including walking, bus transportation, bicycling, and driving.

APS will begin accepting applications for the committee before Thanksgiving break. The applications will be posted on the APS website. The School Board is expected to approve the committee charge at the Dec. 6 meeting.

More information on the committee is available online.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bicycle Dog Trailers #bikedc

Been thinking about getting a dog trailer..... but I dont know...  Based on this vid, not sure I can stand all the slobber!!! (Pink Piggie!)

The above video is a Burley (the company famous for the bicycle trailers for kids). Another trailer which gets good reviews is the Houndabout by Solvit:

I am leaning towards the Houndabout. Looks more comfortable for the dog; looks a bit like a dog kennel on wheels. The Houndabout comes in different sizes; the blue version is for large dogs up to 110 lbs.  There is a red version for dogs up to 50 lbs.

Have talked to a number of people with dog trailers and received good feedback in terms of cycling.  I think the challenge is whether the dog itself will like or tolerate the trailer.

Stop the Texts

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Of chains and things #bikedc

I broke my chain this week.  Here's what I learned.

First, it is pretty simple to put a chain back together.  I got a Topeak Super Bicycle Chain Tool chain breaker from Santa Amazon, took the busted link off my chain, and spliced it back together. The Topeak tool got good reviews, and comes with a hanger thing that holds the chain in place for you as you splice it together.  In the video below, the bike dude made his own hanger out of an old spoke. 

Of course, while waiting for Santa Amazon to deliver the chain breaker, I had to ride the subway *s*h*u*d*d*e*r* Never again.  So when I dropped off a neighbor's thrown out bicycle at Phoenix Bikes, I asked if they just might have a gigantic bicycle.  Turns out they had a 25" urban Trek!  It is karmic balance I believe: if you bring a bicycle to drop off to Phoenix Bikes, you should leave with one as well. Backup bicycle = insurance against subway and some other fun.

So back to my bike.  The chain broke for a reason.  And that reason might be that my @#$@^ derailer (excuse me) has been misbehaving.  According to one LBS, which made a very nice DIY video on rear derailers, the solution to any derailer problem is to bring it to your LBS.  Ah..... no.  Another solution might be to listen to another LBS.... which I did....  This LBS said that two big evils for derailers are the stays and a gunked up housing.  

Photo from Rock & Dirt Blog
I cleaned everything, adjusted everything, and still, my derailer was misbehaving.  So I when to Velocity Bikes, a bicycle co-op in Del Ray where you rent tool time, and the volunteers install wisdom in young converts. Funny thing: 4 pm on a beautiful Saturday and the shop was all but empty.  No problem getting tool time.  And the dude in the shop was fantastic.  Taught me how to swap out my housing, taught me how to adjust the stays and the barrel correctly.... and taught me, when all was said and done.... that my chain was toast. Using a chain measuring tool that looked a bit like this, he showed me that my chain had "stretched" and needed to be replaced.

* sigh *

Apparently the links of the chain are half an inch link to link.  An easy way to test whether the chain is stretched and needs to be replaced is to measure 12 inches of the chain.  The 0 inch mark should be on one pin of the chain; the 12 inch mark should be on another pin.  If its off the 12 inch pin by less than 1/16th inch, that's okay. If its more, but less than 1/8th inch off; time to change the chain.  If its more than 1/8th in off, then its time to change the chain and the cassette as well. [Bicycle Life]

The chain and the cassette wear out together.  If the chain gets stretched and no longer fits in the cogs, it will wear the cogs until it fits again.  If the cogs get worn, then the cassette needs to get replaced along with the chain.

Or you could change your chain more often and make sure you cassette doesnt wear out.  How often?  A number of blogs suggest once every 2000 miles - but that's more of a guideline than an actual rule.  Weigh more?  More often.  Go grinding up hills like the Custis Trail? More often.
Photo by Mo Kaiwen (cc) Flickr
So I figure, that works out to about twice a year for me. Going for a measurement will tell you for sure.
My old chain had a quick link in it (a little link you can squeeze together and it comes apart).  This has been quite useful as my bike has what I think is a design defect with the front cogs, permitting on a bad day the chain to jam between the cogs and the frame.  So I went to my local LBS and bought a new 8 speed (count the number of cogs on your back cassette to know how many speeds you have if you are not sure) chain with a quick link. Oh yeah, and a new bell for my new backup bike.

30 years ago I graduated from college, and with my new piece of paper, I took a job that studying Hobbs, Kant, and Kierkegaard prepared me for.  I became a bicycle courier.  I bought a steal FUJI hybrid, one of the first, and made money the old fashion way: dodging taxis.  I sat in the basement of the Reagan White House reading Marx waiting for a pick-up.  Back in the good old days, I would go home, wipe the chain off, and feed it a couple of drops of oil.  Not any more.  A chain has become a delicate thing that needs constant cleaning, constant oiling, and replacing more often than I change the oil in my car! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ballston Beaver Pond Renovation - and its impact on cycling

When I first lived in Arlington, we lived next to the Beaver Pond.  An accidental creation, the Ballston Beaver Pond was originally designed simply to capture run off water - until some beavers thought better of it - and turned it into a habitat.  The Beaver Pond is on a weird triangle of land between I-66, N Fairfax, and Glebe, bumping up against Washington.  It has recreational trails on all sides.  One trail runs up the west side of the Beaver Pond, crosses I-66, and connects to the Custis Trail.

Arlington is renovating the Beaver Pond.  This will impact the recreational trails. The Beaver Pond website lists three different concepts of what might become of the recreational trails - but is devoid of any information on what exactly the county has decided to do. While Arlco has figured out how to create a blog about the Beaver Pond, they are using the blog to tell use that you have to come to a physical meeting to actually learn what is going on (*sigh*).

The meeting to figure out what is going on is next Tuesday, November 13: