Monday, September 1, 2008

Trimet Follies

I think Trimet occasionally goes out of their way to hire people whose interpersonal skills may be a little suspect. I will allow that many, many Trimet folks are great, but there are a few that can turn on the "charm" enough to sour one's view of the organization.

This morning as I hopped on the MAX at Goose Hollow a attitude laced voice came over the PA that went something like this (can't remember the actual words):
Hey cyclists make sure you're not in the way of the doors or aisles. If you are, better get yourself right.
The rude was dripping off her tone. The fact that she actually said this seemed pretty rude to me as well. As a cyclist I know where I am allowed to place my bike, I don't need to be chastised. Yes, I was standing holding my bike where it kind of blocked the aisle as all of the hooks on the train were filled. But considering there were less than 15 folks in my care, half with bikes, I didn't see this to be a problem. Was I in the way for anyone getting on or off? No. Just that the operator said this irked me some. Other than that, the ride was uneventul.

What, may I ask, am I to do? Wait for the next train? On a Sunday morning where the trains run with at least a half-hour in between? I think not. Love to see her wait around at the end of her day...y'know it ain't going to happen.

Sunday Mornings

Some mornings getting on the bike to ride home is a monumental task and sort of a drag. Others it is a wonderful commune between rubber and the road. Sunday was one of those mornings. I usually love leaving Good Sam on weekend mornings. There's no traffic, the normally bustling streets of Northwest Portland are near deserted. In short, it's near perfect. And Sunday was the best for some time.

It was cool, not cold, but cool, with a slight nip to the breeze. Just a touch to remind me that fall was not completely banished and keep me awake all at the same time. The sun was out, low in the sky, casting a great golden light on near everything. Instead of the sigh of desperation a I swung a leg over, I got the chill of anticipation. As I rode, I felt the stress of the last 2 nights of work start to melt away. Gone was the tension in my neck brought on by the constantly ringing phone. Gone were the cramps in my hands from entering order after order. Cleared from my mind was the lingering resentment of the resident physicians who couldn't quite seem to see the forest for the trees. But as the rubber hummed along the pavement those thoughts passed away.

When co-workers ask me how I ride home after the night shift, I always extol the virtues of it in its ability to clear my mind. On more than one occasion I have said the even if I have a completely shit night, by the time I have ridden home, it's gone from my thoughts. It gives me the chance to process as needed. Some mornings are better than other but this Sunday was a jewel. I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. Wish every morning was like that.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Equipment to Ride

There is a spectrum of what people wear and carry on their bikes. Some don the full superhero spandex outfits for their commute hoping to turn it into a training ride, others wear the same clothes they work in. Some of us straddle the middle line. That would be me. I thought I would share what my basics are. The bottom line basic stuff that I use every day I'm out, commuting, running errands or just out and about.

The bag:The waterproof pannier made by Banjo Brothers has been my bag of choice for over a year. As you can see from the pics above, it has an inner liner that can be removed should the need arise. I still roll with it. Capacity is OK. This is not a trekking bag mind you. It has enough room for what I need to carry: scrubs, lunch, grab bag, tool set and when it gets wet a jacket. And I've been hauling shoes as well having been wearing sandals this summer. When I leave in the evening it gets pretty packed between everything I carry, but it has held up. Normally I strap my lock to the rack instead of carrying it internally. People as me why panniers? One big reason: my back. I was having a lot of extra back pain last summer before I bought this and both my physical therapist and I ventured to guess that it was either the backpack or messenger bag I was using to carry my stuff that was adding to the strain. Not that I've been pain-free since, but it had helped greatly.

If you look closely, you can see that the seams are pretty beat up. That has been my one beef with the bag, it doesn't take abuse well. I have a feeling that I'm going to be needing to replace it soon. On the upside however, it was $40, which if you have every priced panniers, is damn cheap. Second, I made it through the whole winter with nary a drop of water inside. Completely dry.

The tools:
I learned the hard way that carrying tools was not a waste. Stuck with a lose crank and pedal I had to shamefully walk to work and back home. It was not enjoyable. It's a basic set. Allen wrenches, pedal wrench, tire levers, screwdriver, patch kit and my newest addition, a CO2 inflator. That little guy fits so much better than my previous pump and it actually works. And the kit rolls up into a small bundle that sits neatly at the bottom of the bag.

The gloves:
Full-finger you ask? In the summer? Yep. There is something about the way the cut finger gloves feel that I just don't like. These Kona Chevrons fit great, have minimal padding which helps me not grip so tight and breathe really well. They get a little warm, but I've been wearing them all summer long. They look good, feel good and work good.

The brain bucket:Call me a ninny, or a sissy, or unmanly, but I wear a helmet near-religiously. I have seen first hand the effects of a traumatic brain injury having taken care of those patients adn it ain't pretty. So if there is something i can do to prevent that I do. Sure, I may be giving myself a false sense of security but ignorance is bliss. I figure if folks don't want to wear one, its OK by me, they just have to deal with the consequences of not doing so. The only crash I've been in *knocking on wood* didn't dump me onto my head and as I was wearing the bucket, I would have been just fine!

So that's it. I put my equipment through the wringer and am pretty tough on it, but it has survived. The bag is going on over a year, the gloves 3 months, the toolkit has been with me for a long time and the helmet is recent as well. The best thing about it all is that it does work.

Next? Clothing, fair and foul weather.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

!$@#! Heat

I moved from Arizona, so heat is nothing new to me. Nothing says August like sitting in a car on the freeway in Phoenix, with no AC on a 105 degree evening. But then there's Portland in August. We hit 90 and the news folks go all atwitter with ominous warnings of "Heat Wave 2008!" I find it comical to say the least. But yes, it hes been hot. Hot with a capital "f". It's the kind of hot where you start sweating the moment you walk outside.

And I'm the dumb-ass riding my bike out in it. Me and the other half of Portland.

So I get to work the other day, one of those 100+ degree days and I'm sweaty. Dripping in fact. One of my co-workers says to me, "Isn't it a little hot to be riding your bike?"

"It's not like I have much of a choice." I respond. Inside my head I'm saying, "Yeah, it probably is, but hey, at least I'm enjoying the weather."

I'm writing this to file it away, so when January hits and I'm layered in 13 layers of fleece and waterproof fabric being blown around by the wind and blinded by the falling rain, I can remember that the opposite is not exactly the most pleasant thing. Me, I'll take bad weather over heat any day. At last you can warm up.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tryin' it Car Free

Had to run to Home Depot for some 'round the house stuff. Thought about picking up a 2 cubic foot bag 'o soil for Linda, but after much thinking, hefting, measuring ang sighing, I realized that wasn't going to happen. Until I get a trailer.

After the Depot, just bummed around. It was a beautiful day. A little warm, but pleasant. All in all a good day to ride one's bike.

Now I have to get working on plans for a trailer and the new bike I'm drooling over. Time will tell.

Oh yeah, no insanity today.

Monday, August 4, 2008

And this isn't helping...

Clued in by my daily look at, found this website full of vitriol and hate, along with some ideas that actually do make sense: Bike Free Portland.

Somethings I do completely understand, like the idiots running lights, running without lights, entering areas that say, "NO BIKES", but the rest is just hate filled ranting. This is NOT the way to make things better for cyclists (she purports to be a cyclist herself!). Spewing this putrid crap in the name of making things better is a fulfillment of what I keep saying: the few are ruining it for the rest of us.

Is she wrong that there are a multitude of stupid cyclists in Portland? Nope. Is she wrong in saying that the cyclists here in Portland are horrible? Not really - there are good ones and bad ones, but seemingly more bad ones.

But calling them Bikenazis and making your symbol reminiscent of the Swastika makes it even worse. So Myra, stop adding fuel to the fire. If you had constructive things to add, feel free, but c'mon being hateful will make things worse and furthering the whole us v. them mentality adds nothing to the debate.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Me: All you ever wanted to know

I read Bike on a near daily basis. And when I read they were soliciting profiles, I just had to submit mine. So read all about my commuting life here.

And for those disinclined, here's a montage to fill you in.

The Reason:
The Bike:

The Ride:

An Open Letter to the Cyclists of Portland

Dear Fellow Cyclists,

As a dedicated cyclist and resident of our fair city I have a couple of things to say to y'all. Please take this in the manner it is intended: outright and blatant criticism.

Too many of you are giving the rest of us a very, very bad name. You cry and moan that you get no respect, that you are constantly under attack and it's you versus the city. Guess what? You're absolutely correct. And you know what else? You have brought it on yourself. I am so fed up with the entitled attitude y'all bring to the table. Just because you cycle doesn't mean your shit doesn't stink or that you can walk on water. Believe me, your halo, er, aura is pretty much tarnished as well. After seeing my pedestrian friends nearly hit innumerable times yesterday, I almost feel ashamed to call myself a cyclist in this city.

Example 1: Thanks to the wonderful people at Trimet, we were walking across the Willamette via the Steel Bridge. Along with quite a few others. Yet there was a constant stream of cyclists trying to get across that way as well, some at a fair clip. Ringing a bell, shouting, "On your left!" as you zip past does not absolve you of the common courtesy expected of folks sharing the sidewalk. And getting an attitude about it makes it even worse. Either join the flow, get off and walk your bike when there is heavy pedestrian traffic, or, gasp...go another route!. It's not like there isn't any other way across the river.

Example 2: Don't expect to ride fast on the waterfront on a busy Saturday morning. When there is a festical about and thousands of people walking to it, bobbing and weaving in and out of people as you try to get there faster is a recipie for disaster. How about wising up and using the bike lanes on Naito instead? Or if you persist on using the boardwalk, slowing down, or walking like the rest of us?

Basically put, I am so incredibly tired of dealing with this bullshit. In our small group yesterday at the Flugtag, we had 3 near misses from cyclists inthe above examples. I guess the whole "Yield to pedestrians" is only a suggestion. How about thinking about waht may be hapening out in the city when deciding how to get to where you're going and choosing an alternative route to get there? There are more than a few ways to get across the river, other than the Steel Bridge. There are other ways down the waterfront than the boardwalk. If you ask me, there woldn't be such as rising backlash against cyclists if we took it upon ourselves to express the common courtesies of life.

Look, I'm no saint either. I run stop signs, turn without signaling and don't stop for pedestrians crossing my lane of travel. But if I'm headed out by bike to a large event, I'm not going to expect to be given the right-of-way over pedestrians. I'll find an alternative route and when the situation warrants it, walk the bloody bike.

To close this out, let me reiterate: just beacue you're on a bike doesn't make you any better than the next person. We're all in this together and a little bit of courtesy can go a long way to making our great city even better. Or, quit your bitching, you reap what you sow. Take whichever way you want.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bikes v. Cars

The new "war" between cars and bicycles erupts anew in Portland, with the local media stoking the fires in a vain attempt to sell papers, increase viewership and to continue the strife. All the while, the cycling community feels more and more under attack from various angles. As a cyclists, we're used to being under attack. Everyday is a challenge and adventure between motorized traffic, other cyclists, the traffic environment (i.e. roads) and the weather, being under attack is a normal thing. But this new spate in incidents really takes to task the issues facing cyclists and drivers in a city with a burgeoning cycling culture.

Sparked by an incident over the weekend where a cyclist started beating a car of a man who had cautioned him to not blow stoplights, then this week where a driver responded in turn running down a cyclist who yelled at him to slow down. And the local media jumped all over it. From local bike blog, to the Oregonian and local TV news, like Pavlov's dogs they jumped on the story pointing fingers at cyclists and drivers to explain to odd change of situations. Most have backed off, toning down the inflammatory nature, some even trying to look at each side of the story. one evn going so far to showcase how in spite of the increasing numbers of cyclists in our fair town, the accient rate has actually been going down (dilution effect).

So what is the answer to the strife? Let me share...

1st: Everyone needs to calm down. Being uptight and ina rush to get everywhere does no one any good. In fact that entitled "me first" attitude has contributed to both cases above. We all need to realize that we all share the road, and not just between cars and bicycles, but pedestrians, scooters, wheelchairs, donkeys and porter chairs.

2nd: Cyclists need to get off their high entitled horse. Yes, it sucks to have to follow the laws, especially when it is things like stop signs and signaling to turn, but we are smaller, less protected and need to be more aware. Do I blow stop signs? On occasion. Do I blow stop lights? Are you crazy? By being the bigger person, we can show that not every cyclist is a stuck-up urban hipster who flaunts the law when the feel like it. So do the right thing: ride on the corect side of the road, use the bike lane when present, ride single-file when neccessary, follow things like stop signs and stop lights along with traffic control devices, ride like it is a privelege - not you right and try to follow that Golden Rule: do unto you would ahve them do to you.

3rd: Drivers, pull your head out of your butts when you get behind the wheel. Put away the cell phone, make-up and fast food and pay attention to one thing: driving. Too often we see peole doing far too many things behind the wheel to the detriment of what they should be concentrating on. Realize that there are other people sharing the road with you, people who are less protected and more vulnerable than anyone in a car. Show these folks the common courtesy
that you would to other car, and in that same vein, show the other drivers that courtesy as well. But mostly, slow down. Getting there 2 minutes faster will not make true difference (unless you're heart surgeon or an ER doc) and by doing so you may negatively impact someone's life beyond what you believe.

I'm mostly a cyclist, I commute by bike and try to do errands as able the same way, but I also drive. I see things from both sides of the complaint, but am more biased towards those on bikes so I tend tosee things in that light. Mostly though I think folks need to take a step back, calm down, take a deep breath and get back to what really matters in life. Settle down folks, a little courtesy goes a long ways and karma is a bitch.

Be safe out there!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What's next?

OK, this article freaks me out.

Like several commenters noted, I too would be scared to stop if someone in black just yelled at me to stop. No identification, no, "Stop, Police!" or anything like that. Hell, I've been yelled at many times and just keep on truckin', more for self-preservation than anything else. So now what? No riding at night? Sure, PDX is a Platinum city, but our cops are not on-board with that.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Daily Commute

I'd like to believe that I'm luckier than most. I only work 3 days a week. Granted, they're 12-hour nights, but it works out in the wash. I say this because if I don't, this sounds more impressive than it really is: I commute by bike everyday I work.

Without the disclaimer it sounds pretty hardcore, with it, not so much. The reality is that in commuting by bike I'm able to exercise, clear my head and not be a complete road hazard. At least when riding a bike in a sleep deprived state I'm not going to kill/maim/injure anyone but myself. I'm less of a danger to my fellow commuters than if I was driving.

It's nice though. I can have the roughest night at work and by the time I'm home, it's gone. Awhile ago we a had a particularly nasty code situation that affected my physically and emotionally. By riding home, I had the time to process the situation and debrief myself a little, allowing me to relax and slow down enough to sleep. Had I been driving I more than likely would have been still stressed and still running on pure adrenaline when I got home. It is my meditation time.

The commute itself is truly multi-modal. I'm sorry, no matter how hardcore I may think I am, there is no way I'm going to ride over the Hill and then spend a 12 hour shift on my feet. Sometimes I feel like a poser, having to use the MAX, but then I realized I ave nothing to prove to anyone. One evening talking with a fellow MAX rider and fellow cyclist I was remarking on this very subject to which he said that the only reason he can ride all the way in is because he sits in a cubicle all day. When I first started working on my floor, I wore a pedometer to see how far I walked in a shift. I figure based on that I average 5-6 miles a shift. Combine that with a 13 mile ride and I'm burned by the middle of the shift. So I multi-mode it. Ride to the MAX, take MAX over the Hill, ride from the MAX to work. It averages 6 miles a day, round trip. The nice thing is that I can get off early and ride further home, ride further before getting on the MAX or ride the normal run. It works.

I've been doing this now for over a year. I started in April 2007 and went through the winter and continue it now. How many times have I driven? Both ways: twice since 2007. One way: 2 times since the start of the year. Even when I don't ride my bike, I ride the MAX and walk.

That's my daily commute, in a nutshell.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Greetings and Salutations

I realized recently that I have been commuting by bike for over a year now. The thought shocked me and sparked an inspiration. Instead of folding this into other blogs, why not start fresh? Start from scratch and build a new blog from the ground up.

So here it is. Enjoy.