Oct 27, 2011

Oct 23, 2011

V. 2.0 and Marathon Support

Since leaving the working world this summer, I've been decompressing and trying to find some sort of 2.0 release of myself. The concept is to hit the existential "reset" button and then keep what I like, dump what I don't like or isn't helpful, and make the second half of my life better than the first.

This is not exactly a quick process. It takes some discernment and trial and error, but slowly I will get there.

One component of the 2.0 Project is a better commitment to health and wellness. On that note, we joined a local gym and have been doing yoga. Last week I broadened that out to include working with a trainer/coach type to get up to speed on weight lifting. That package includes a BMI scan at the start of the sessions.

According to my BMI data, I am apparently constructed mostly of lard, with just enough muscle mass to hold myself upright and get me to and from the dining table and back to bed. Kind of disappointing, but it's a good starting data point, I guess. The end point for these sessions will be a routine that includes weights, intervals/cardio and stretching/yoga to carry on through the winter.

On related note, I had the chance to assist the medical support team at the Mankato Marathon this weekend. This entailed schlepping my bike down to Mankato on Friday evening to make a pre-dawn organizational meeting of the rolling medical support team at 6:15AM on Saturday. We got our assignments and headed out to our part of the course by 7:00, which gave us plenty of time to see the route before the start of the race.

My stretch included the first and second aid stations and was mostly flat farmland. Thankfully, it was not windy or we would have been cold; in fact, it was a lovely day and once the sun came up we were just fine.

In our stretch of the course, we only a few runners in distress, and nothing really significant happened as far as I know. I thought there was, um... room for improvement on the traffic control aspect of the race, but otherwise the medical support seemed to be really tight and well organized.

The end marathon was capped by a lovely brunch that my in-laws hosted for some runner-friends and leisurely drive back to the Twin Towns. All in all, a favorable experience. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how many "thank you's" I got from the runners during the race.

Oct 18, 2011

Dear Mr. Fantasy

Dear Mr. Fantasy, play us a tune
Something to make us all happy.
Do anything to take us out of this gloom
Sing a song, play guitar. Make it snappy...

Oct 11, 2011

GM Steps in it

This corporate miscue is using up a lot of one's and zero's on the interweb tonight, but it's so egregious that I will re-post it. Thanks to League of American Bicyclists for the source information.

GM Blunders onto Campus
If you are a student looking to add tens of thousands of dollars of long term debt, care little about the environment, and want to lump two tons of steel around campus while paying through the nose for insurance, gas, and parking…General Motors has got a perfect deal for you. Bonus: it’ll make you fat and unhealthy! All you have to do is give up that dorky bicycle that’s easy to use, practically free, gets you some exercise and is actually fun to ride.

In one of the more remarkably ill-conceived car ad campaigns of all time, good corporate citizen GM is heading to campus to actively stop you from riding a bike by trying to make it look like it sucks. Obviously it’s been a while since GM execs and their creative teams set foot on campus. Anyway, I’m sure the campus facilities people will love having to add thousands of extra car parking spaces on campus at $30,000 a pop (who needs more buildings to learn in anyway, lets fill campus with parking structures); and University Presidents will have a little bit of explaining to do when it comes to those end of year climate and greenhouse gas targets… Maybe it’ll generate more business in the gym where students can drive in to go and ride on stationary bikes. Hope there’s enough parking. 
In case you were wondering, GM has a fine-sounding corporate responsibility statement – carefully crafted by the best in the business, I’m sure. One sample quote: “As a responsible corporate citizen, General Motors is dedicated to protecting human health, natural resources and the global environment.”  
And if you wanted to send a quick note to Chevrolet or GMC, there are instructions on how to do that.
I am happy to see The League take a little more confrontational approach on this one. I am all for education and working with elected officials for the betterment of the world through bicycles, but occasionally something so off-base comes out that calling the offender out and issuing a call to action is the best response.

Well done, Bike League of America. And the good news: GM is getting totally roasted on their FB page right now for this.

More Doing and Less Talking

I see that my last post on this blog was a hissy-fit rant back on October 5 about the lack of response to bike parking.

The co-author let me know that it's time to cleanse the palate of that unpleasant after-taste with a newsy current events post, after all, we've been busy on a number of fronts, so pardon the long post...

In late September I got a great opportunity to assist with the Fall League Cycling Instructor course in St. Paul. The timing was perfect because this came on the heels of the Traffic Skills 101 course that I assisted/instructed in early September, so a lot of the material was fresh and I had some really useful road test experience under my belt.

Instructing the LCI candidates was both challenging and very rewarding. This was the largest group of LCI candidates we have had, so that made time management a real challenge. Add to that the fact that we had excellent representation from the bike shops, so we had very knowledgeable participants as well. Finally, we had excellent out-state representation, and even had people coming in from as far as Kansas for this course.

The course feedback was generally very favorable, and most of the class intends to go on to instruct (either through bike shops or scout troops, churches and other local venues). Nice to add such a big group of strong LCI's in training to the population.

The Bike Alliance of Minnesota held its first Behind the Big Wheels event last weekend. This was a first run at educating cyclists on blind spots and how to drive their bikes around large vehicles. Kudos to the Bike Alliance for doing this - the last three fatal bike/vehicle crashes we have had in the Twin Cities have been exactly this type of accident.

The set-up was relatively simple (although the logistics of getting the road closed took a lot of work, I would bet). One block of 2nd Street No. was narrowed and a school bus, an MTC city bus and a semi-trailer were parked as if they were driving in the southbound lane, next to the bike lane on 2nd. We were invited to ride around the trucks, get inside to see the driver's perspective and better understand what the drivers can, and can't see.

I mostly pedaled around and around the trucks giving people that showed up a chance to watch a cyclist pop in and out of the mirrors, but I got inside each of the vehicles with my Flip and captured some imagery as well. Here is a link to the semi-trailer view and here is a second link to the Metro Transit bus view. Click through - it's worth seeing and the videos are super short.

Although we didn't get what I would call huge participation, this was a very successful run because we were able to actually see how this would work and we were able to get still photos and video that will be useful for education and promoting these events going forward. MTC, Supervalu and the School district were great to help out with vehicles (and drivers) for the morning.

Finally, this week brings the start of my Emergency Medical Responder class. For those that may not know, Emergency Responder is a defined term that translates as "EMT Lite". EMR is a 60-hour course that is a lot more advanced than First Aid/CPR but less advanced than Emergency Medical Technician or Advanced EMT and big step below Paramedic. I had the chance to take a accelerated EMR course but demurred, because I was concerned about being able to really absorb the material. Although it's early, I am glad I stuck with the longer class - it chews up more time but makes it easier to digest each session before getting more information crammed down the brainhole.  This course will wrap up by Thanksgiving or so, at which point I should be a certified EMR, with all the rights and responsibilities that go with that title.

At that point, the trick will become putting this credential to work.

Oct 5, 2011

What is it Going to Take?

Faithful Readers will know that I have been badgering the merchants at the 48th St. and Chicago Ave. node for improved bike parking for almost a year now. As of this writing, exactly zero new bike racks have been installed.

EVERY TIME that I go to Townhall Tap I leave a "I arrived here by bicycle" card with my check and harangue the staff about bike parking (or lack thereof). Every time I get the same response - concern, empathy and no action. In fact, tonight they deleted my post on their Facebook page asking about bike parking with no response.


Nobody at Townhall Tap has authority to address the issue. It's the only place I have ever seen without a manager (I should apply for a job there, not that I think of it). The "decision-maker" is never around. Sometimes I get the story that they talked about it and are going to do something, but the details are sketchy. Tonight I got a lot less than that.

I even led a group ride down to 48th and Chicago this summer to petition for improved parking. That got some "results" - Bike and Pieces took up a collection for more bike racks at the intersection during the Southside Sprints race. They got about $100 (which buys slightly less than one Dero hitching post, BTW). So far nothing has happened with that, either.

Townhall is not the only bad actor - Turtle Bread is not much better. There are two hitching posts at Turtle, but they are used by staff most of the time. The other racks are in front of the Sword Club. I have talked to Harvey (the owner) about this and pretty much got the stiff-arm treatment from him as well.

Help me out here - go to the MPLS Bike Coalition blog and print out a handful of "I Arrived By Bike" cards and leave them if you go to Turtle Bread, Townhall Tap, Pepito's or any of the other merchants on 48th and Chicago. If you are feeling bold, talk to the staff, and better still, the manager, and let them know that you are cyclist and demand adequate parking facilities. It's good business - every cyclists is a customer and you can fit 10 paying customers in the space it takes to park ONE car (duh).

Do me another favor and post on Townhal''s FB page, too. Tell them that bike parking is important and that they need to make some simple accommodations to those customers as well.

If that's not your cup of tea, ride over to Baker's Wife/Buster's/Angry Catfish. Lock up easliy, enjoy the coffee, bakery and beer. It's just about as close as 48th and Chicago and they have ample parking, so it makes sense to spend your money over there and let 48th and Chicago figure it out.

I need to go walk around the block now...

Oct 4, 2011

Portland Water Bureau Bike-Truck Safety

This video from the Portland Water Bureau illustrates some of the blind-spot issues that truck/bus drivers face with not just cyclists but all vehicles. Yes - the sound is less than Dolby Surround Sound and it's a little stilted, but the content is good, people. I especially like this video (which is from the link I embedded in today's earlier post) because it features in-the-cab video of what a driver is seeing.

It would be worth reviewing this video prior to coming to "Behind the Big Wheels" and especially worth watching closely if you can't make this event.

I never want to sell fear, but the last three cycling fatalities we have had here in the Twin Cities are due to this kind of accident, so in my mind we can't do too much right now to educate rider on blind spots.

This Weekend: Learn the No Zone at Behind the Big Wheels

The trucks and buses we encounter on the streets have significant blind spots that make it impossible for drivers to see vehicles (including bicycles) around large areas of the vehicle. This can create dangerous situations for cyclists who may be unaware of the large "No-Zone" on these vehicles.

This Saturday, Twin Cities cyclists can can learn about these blind-sports and how to ride safely around trucks in a hand-on demonstration with real trucks in a safe, controlled environment.

The Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee, Minnesota Trucking Association, Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, and Bike Walk Ambassador Program and Minneapolis Public Schools have worked together to provide an interactive demonstration of large vehicle blind spots.  In this special demo event, bicyclists will be able to get behind the wheel of a big rig and sit in the driver's seat while bikes & peds walk in the bike lane below to check out blind spots. A new Share the Road educational piece directed towards both bicyclists and commercial drivers will be onsite for public comment before final release. Share your thoughts on the best ways for bikes and big vehicles to share the road.

When Sat, October 8, 10:00 – 12:00

Where 1700 block of North 2nd Street, Minneapolis

This is an exciting event and one that we hope a lot of cyclists will participate in. Bicyclists share the road with arge vehicles like semi-trailer trucks and buses every day but rarely get an opportunity to interact so closely.

I am planning to bring my Flip video camera and digital camera, so hopefully I'll get some imagery to post for those that can't make this, because it is definitely worth experiencing for anyone that rides around large vehicles.

Oct 3, 2011


Today was absolutely perfect for a Fall color ride. We circumnavigated Baker Park Reserve with our folders and only saw a handful of other people out there.

It was lovely.

Oct 2, 2011

Joy Riding with MBC

This afternoon, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition (MBC) held it's first (as far as I know) organized ride. The Joy Ride was created to bring diverse cycling sub-groups together to simply celebrate riding our bikes around the City. After all, even though we might have different styles or reasons for driving our bicycles, we all enjoy it, so why not do a group ride on a lovely Fall day.

I had the opportunity to help plan this ride; I was tasked with pulling together a route that show cased some recent bike infrastructure victories, showed some areas where improvements could be made, took us through North and Northeast Minneapolis and was safe enough for a group ride. That sounds like a simple enough request, but the reality of coming up with a route took a little more creative thinking than I originally anticipated, thanks to some gaps and poor connections.

Foolishly, I never anticipated that I would be leading the group during the actual ride. I figured there would be ride marshals or other dignitaries pointing the way, and I would be some sort of consultant in case anything went awry, but when the time came to head out, it was clear that I was In Charge. That was a little intimidating at first, but in retrospect, I was most familiar with where we were trying to go, and if anything came up, I could apply my Smart Cycling jujitsu ways and get us through the whatever.

No need for the jujitsu today. The ride worked out, people had fun, the weather was great and we showcased some new infrastructure and highlighted some potential areas for improvement. The route took us through some truly lovely areas, and some areas that could be lovely with a few curb cuts, better markings or other treatments, so it was very effective that way. We also got a fair number of comments from ride participants that appreciated learning areas of the City that they rarely (if ever) visit on a bicycle, so that was also a big success, I think.

It was also fun to be able to convert a few virtual friends into real-life friends and see some people that I haven't seen since the Flood Ride in early Spring.

Many thanks to Janne for being the creative force behind this ride, Alex for tackling all the logistics, and the Minneapolis Bike Coalition for bringing more than 60 people together today to celebrate riding our bikes.