Friday, November 19, 2010

Bicycle Checklist


Not much has happened over the last month for me.  Oh, except that the Cyclist Bill of Rights passed!  Let's not forget the new bike lane on Lanvale!  Now it's easier to get to Falls Road!

OK enough with the shouting.  Let's get onto a subject I haven't completely tackled yet:  Necessary Bicycle Accessories.
1.  Rear-view mirror
All cyclist should not assume the cars or other cyclists behind them are going to pass as expected.  Cyclists are not the only people on the road.  There are plenty of faster vehicles out there that barely get a scratch if they hit the meat-bag known as your body.  Following the rules of the road is not always enough because not everyone is on board.  It is the most logical thing for a cyclist to have an extra pair of eyes on the back of their head by installing a $15 mirror somewhere on their bike.  When you don't, you put other cyclists in awkward situations:
video

2.  More Reflectors
I get it, you don't have much money or just plain old cheap.  Everyone has to cut corners at some point in their life.  But there is a difference between cutting corners that SAVES money and cutting corners that ENDANGERS lives (more specifically, yours).  I see people with single gear bikes (cringe) with maybe just one, front-tire handle brake and maybe a reflector on each pedal, and that's it!  Seriously?!  You actually feel safe like that?  One of the safest things a cyclist can do on a busy road is be seen, especially at night.  

3.  Blinking Handlebar Light
This one should be a no-brainer.  What kind of light easily catches the human eye?  Blinking light!  So when you are riding at night an a car is coming from the other direction, they will be able to detect you long before they actually "see" you.  Blinking lights are also good for catching peoples' eyes in their rear-view mirror so they know that if they hit their brake suddenly for no reason, a cyclist will lose his wings.

4.  Helmet

I can't believe it, but there are a lot of cyclists in the downtown area who ride without a helmet.  It boggles my mind every time, which is funny, because then I think about how their mind wouldn't boggle much after they hit a pothole wrong and fell off.  That's right, I just made a joke about a severe head injury at the expense of my fellow cyclists who don't wear helmets.  I'm OK with that because they seem to be OK with increasing their risk of head injury on a daily basis.  Wear a helmet!


Just four today.  Maybe I'll add more as I come across more cyclists who still think they are invincible.

If you notice, to the right, I've added a link to BikeBaltimore.org.  There, you will find plenty of information about cycling in Baltimore because the site is ran by Baltimore's bike planner!

Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm back baby!


Well, after almost a full month of no bike riding to/from work (and no blog posts either...sorry) I have to say riding in a car to work still sucks...For the record, the reason why it took a month to fix my bike is because the part that broke is very unique to my already unique bike.  It took two weeks just to get the wrong piece and send it back, then another two to get the right one...so back off.  

I did, however, carpool with a good friend, and I appreciate his tolerance in letting me bum rides off of him every day.  Although I do recommend the carpooling option, there are still a few notable negative aspects.

To lighten the mood, let me discuss a few of the good things first:

1.  Carpools = that many fewer cars
For however many people, minus the driver, there are in the car on the way to and from work, it means there are that many fewer cars on the road that day.  This is great because it's that much less crap we put in the air and hey, it probably saves the carpoolers gas-money.

2.  Getting to know people
Carpools are a great way to socialize with people in your community.  Whether you met up on a carpooling website or it's your neighbor, it's always good to know at least one person from your area.

3.  Forces you to keep a solid morning and evening schedule
Since the person(s) is(are) involved with your daily commute, you must now stick to a schedule that includes their schedule.  This is a very good thing for people like me who usually wake up at the latest possible moment to get to work on time.  In the evening, it's not too bad especially if your employer knows you carpool.  Then you can sometimes leave a few minutes before 5pm because your carpooler's schedule changed at the last minutes.  If your employer gives you crap about it, you can pull out the environment card and say "so you don't want me to take part in saving the planet?."  Then hit them in the face with a copy of "An Inconvenient Truth" and then again with a copy of "2012."

Now onto the bad things about carpooling:

1.  Carpools = Cars
Cars suck, especially when the driver lives within 5 miles of their office.  If you drive to work and you live within 5 miles of your office, then you shouldn't be surprised when "someone" leaves a flaming bag of poo on the roof of your car...I know who you are.

2.  Getting to know people
People suck, as do their driving.  Last thing people need in the morning is someone else talking to them about the latest mobile phone technology and the stupid youtube video/internet meme of the week.  We don't care about you're new Android phone and how you can watch kittens sneezing on youtube with it, we just want to get to work like all the other "sheeple."

3.  Forces you to keep a solid morning and evening schedule
Sometimes you oversleep.  On those "sporadic" mornings, where you are 20 minutes late to work, you can pull out the old "my bike had a few problems this morning" excuse, it works every time.  Except with carpooling, for every minute you are late, the other carpoolers are late too, and that just makes you look and feel like an ass.  There are other times when you find out, in the middle of the day, that you need to stay at the office a little later.  If you're the driver, you just abandoned you're fellow carpooler.  If you are the passenger, you just put yourself in a situation where getting home might not be so easy.  In my case, I live just far enough away from the light rail that walking home from the station would be a bit dangerous. Since I live in Baltimore, I won't risk it alone.

4.  You aren't on a bicycle
I'll be honest with you, I don't ride a bike to work because it's good for the environment, or that it's a good exercise, or even to please the ladies.  No, I ride my bike to and from work because it's FUN.  Yes, FUN!  You know, that thing you aren't having most of your work day.  No matter what the weather condition is, that ride in the morning is a great way for me to relax and truly enjoy a city that is slowly transforming into something better.  In a car, this morning fun-time doesn't exist.  Instead it's morning rage-time: "Go back to Jersey you moron!!!"

Thanks for reading!

p.s Videos of crappy people for next time!






Sunday, September 26, 2010

You Give Cyclists a Bad Name


Don't get me wrong, I can't stand cars anymore than the next cyclist, but there are certain people in the cycling population that give us a bad name.  I understand that there are different types of cyclists that fit different types of cycling environments.  The following list pertains to the city environment:

1.  The "hearing impaired" or as the guardian.co.uk refers to them as "zombie cyclists"
This type of  cyclist chooses to turn off one of their senses.  Usually it's their hearing.  At least once a ride, I see a person with earphones and think to myself "that better be the best indie-rock song."  What's scary about this is that there are a lot of cars that speed up when they don't see traffic.  It's those cars that wont be able to stop in time if a "deaf" cyclist forgets to check before changing lanes/make turns.  I've seen a lot of close-calls this summer, and the "hearing impaired" were involved in a lot of them.

2.  "Red light runner"
I get it, you have to get to work/home.  The last thing you want is to miss those "precious" moments of starting your day in a cubicle, or finish your day passing out on the couch while watching Simpsons reruns.  Come on people, red means STOP.  I don't care how good you are at timing traffic patterns.  What if your bike completely breaks down in the middle of the road?  Yeah, you got NOTHING!

3.  "Lane jumpers"
"Oh no!  The car in front of me stopped moving forward for some reason!  Maybe I should suddenly change lanes...right...NOW!"  At least, that's what it seems like they are thinking.  These lane jumpers don't give much of a heads up to cars and other cyclists when they know they are changing lanes.  I feel for them too!  When you are cycling and you have a good rhythm, the idea of stopping because a car can't make up its mind is just unacceptable.  But I'd rather get stuck behind a bad driver than get hit by one. 

4.  "Strugglers"
I'm no hater.  I urge everyone who is able-bodied, to figure out a way to ride a bike to work instead of a car.  Sometimes, the people who take the leap into cycling don't have the best bike, or aren't in the best shape to conquer the north-bound, (literally) up-hill battle on Charles Street.  From the inner harbor, up until the Washington Monument, the street is very narrow and full of buses, end-of-day cubicle zombies, package delivery trucks, and happy hour pedestrians.  Riding up the street at one-mile-an-hour will not make it any better.  Please, just get off your bike, and walk it up the side walk.  It's safer and, well, it's SAFER!!

I'll stop there before I piss off every Baltimore cyclist. Just in case I already did:  I have, or still do, fit into each of these ;)

Hello Fall weather!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Three in One Ride!

Hello (3) fans!

I have not been keeping up on my daily posts lately.  For that, I apologize.  Since there has been little for me to complain about lately, and my rides have been pretty smooth, I have trouble coming up with daily topics.  So let's just say I'm shooting for at least once-a-week posts.

Today, however, was action packed!

My first "idiot on the road" incident occurred around 5:45pm.  The place, is Charles St. and Centre St.
Apparently, this guy doesn't care to use a blinker, which means inexperiences cyclists would most likely feel the pain from his bad driving practices.

Let's watch, shall we?:
video

My next "who cares about checking our mirror and blind-spots for cyclists?" incident takes place at Charles and Chase St.  As you will see, I was staying the in the middle of the right-lane behind a cab.  All the cars are stopped at a red light.  Since there were fewer cars in the right lane, some dude, no more than 5 cars from the front of the middle lane, decided he needed to get over to the right for no reason (he wasn't turning right, I checked).

I guess he just hates being in 5th place.  You'll notice in the video that I begin to "drift," which is due to me hitting my back brakes abruptly that I skidded:

video

Last but not least, I witnessed a great example of an over gratuitous, space respecting, driver.  These are people who, when passing a cyclist, feel the need to go completely into the the opposite side of the road, as if that makes things any safer (it doesn't).  I forget if it's state or city law now or not but (edit: the bill passed!), unfortunately, after the recent deaths a few cyclists, cars must pass cyclists at a min of 3 feet, this is a good thing.  Law or not, it's not necessary to pass a cyclist with such an exaggerated distance like many people do.  If you have trouble, or feel nervous, with passing a cyclist 3 to 5 feet of space between, then YOU SHOULD NOT BE DRIVING.

This Mini-Coup had a close call, the video shows them jerking their car back into the right side of the road after almost causing a head-on collision with a minivan: (please disregard my typo/lolcat caption in the video)
video

If you're looking to be more active about getting the "3feet2pass" law passed, go here and do it to it!

Remember to ride without a jacket while you still can, it's going to get very cold before you know it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Falls Road gets a fix!


Will you look at that?!  A nice little, "temporary," fix for the sink-hole I mentioned in one of my first posts.  It's nice and smooth and if you aren't looking out for it, you just might miss it!

In fact, I almost missed it, I had to turn around and get this picture.  I then rode over it a couple of time in victory!

video

It's good to know that Baltimore cares about the cycling community.  I could complain that this came late being it's the end of the summer, but I consider this a win.  So, I will end this post saying something you won't hear often from me:

Thank you Baltimore City!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pedestrians Crossing to Penn Station Suck...and that driver that couldn't make up his mind (but still blamed me)

Of course, today, a couple decided to stand quite a ways into the I-83 on-ramp on Charles St., in the exact place I like to get over and wait for cars to pass me by.  You see, when coming down Charles St., towards Penn Station, I usually stay on the side walk, but today there were a lot of people out so I decided to stay in the street, in the left lane.  Usually, it's all OK because either I'll take up the whole left lane when the on-ramp comes up, or I get over the left and wait for an opening in the traffic and continue across the ramp.  

So when I realized, a little too late, that there were people waiting to cross the street, I figured "OK I'll just stay in the lane and hopefully I won't die."  Luckily, I didn't die.

Instead, when I figured I'd stay in the lane and keep moving forward, a car tried to pass me on the right, but wasn't going to make it, so I slowed down and went all the way to the left.  Of course, they didn't expect me to do that and then they slowed down and went over to the left, and then finally, I just get onto the curb and the dude curses me out (with his windows up, so I win!) and drives away.

Here's a quick video of the people in the lane waiting to cross, however, I did not get the car that couldn't make up his mind, on video.



video

On a lighter note, I exchanged e-mails with, Baltimore Bike and Pedestrian Planner, Nate Evans.  After looking over my blog he added these three helpful tips:

  • The short url to the bike info on the city website is www.baltimorecity.gov/bike
  • A super quick link to the interactive bike map (with direct link to the pdf) is www.baltimorebikemap.com
  • The Jones Falls Trail is proposed along Fallsway between the Inner Harbor and Penn Station, which should begin construction in the spring.  It’s proposed route gets lost on the map.

Monday, August 30, 2010

App Day - CardioTrainer Android App


Pretty easy ride to and from work today, my only complaint is that I hate when people temporarily park their cars in front of  the University of Baltimore Academic Center on Charles street...DURING RUSH HOUR.

How stupid are these people?  There's a little street (w Oliver St.) about 15 feet where they can stop instead.  What's worse is that this is right by Penn Station and an exit onto I-83.  Keep in mind this is when people are driving home thinking every little second counts.

When cars are stopped there, I am forced to use the sidewalk and wait to cross the exit ramp.  Not too bad of break in my ride since many cars decide at the last minute to get onto the ramp, which means they have an easier time not seeing me riding.

--Done Venting--

A few weeks ago I downloaded "CardioTrainer" for my Android phone.  It's an app that uses your GPS and depending on which mode of exercise/transportation you use, it will calculate your mileage, draw out your route on Google Maps and provide other health-related info like calories burned, average speed, etc.

After you save a "workout" you can go to their website, input the unique code they give you, and track your workouts from your computer and even share your results.

I used it for the first time last week and found out that my commute is about three miles each way.  I don't really care much for the health aspect, but it's definitely a bonus.

Check it out!