High On Bike

A Bellinghamster On Wheels


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The Road ID App for iPhone: Be Still My Fredly Heart

bike gadgetsI like gadgety things. I really do. Just ask my husband or my cat about my iPad. My husband will tell you it’s attached at my hip. My cat will tell you he wished the damn thing had never been invented. He gets thoroughly disgusted when he’s on my lap and I’m on my iPad and often claws at my hands as I’m using it. He has sharing issues. You can also take one look at my bike and make a very well-educated guess that its owner likes gadgets. So when I read the All Seasons Cyclist’s Post about the Road ID iPhone app, I squealed like a prepubescent girl at a boy band concert. Being the safety conscious Fred that I am, it immediately stirred my desire for feeling safe while out riding—and for cool gadgety stuff.

Road ID is an online company that offers identification tags for runners, bicyclists, walkers, and hikers. Their app was designed to work with the tags (I haven’t gotten around to purchasing those yet) by allowing you to set up your iPhone’s home screen with pertinent ID information and emergency contacts. But the really cool thing the app does is allow you to send an e-mail to family or friends when you head out for a ride, and your contact can follow you live using eCrumb—an electronic bread crumb feature that provides a detailed map of where you are. If you stop moving for five minutes, eCrumb will send an alert to your contact. So, lets say that dickweed’s harassing behavior takes a darker turn and he clips me or runs me down (see dickweed post here) and I am unable to call 911. eCrumb will send my husband an alert and he’ll be able to notify first responders. And of course, my lock screen will give them valuable information as would the tags, which I really need to get to feel complete.

But let’s say I’ve just stopped for a cup of coffee on my way home and have forgotten all about eCrumb. After four minutes, the app will sound an alarm reminding me to pause eCrumb thereby avoiding the embarrassing moment the paramedics storm Starbucks looking for a downed cyclist. What the app won’t do is track your miles but it does run side-by-side with apps that do without too much of a drain on your battery.

My husband lECrumboves this app almost as much as I do. Not only does he feel better about me being out and about on my bike, if I make a random stop at the grocery store he sometimes calls me and asks me to bring home something good (a euphemism for Italian sub ingredients) for lunch. He also enjoys watching where my rides take me. He says watching me ride via eCrumb is like watching a video game. Just when he thinks I’m on a set route home, I make a turn and off I go in a completely different direction.

I really can’t recommend the Road ID app highly enough. Chances are you’ll never need it but it can literally be a lifesaver if you do. Oh…did I mention the app is free?


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Will Ride For Pizza

Little Shop of HorrorsIt got up to a scorching 84 degrees the other day but I barely noticed. I had three fillings and my last wisdom tooth removed. I’m hyper vigilant about dental care but thanks to bad genetics and living where they refuse to fluoridate the water, I’m basically screwed. Thank goodness for nitrous oxide, I may be screwed but at least I can get a high out of it every once in awhile. I initially thought I’d ride my bike to the dentist but there’s really no good way to go by bike. I may figure out a route someday but not on a day when I was getting a tooth yanked out of my mouth and had to ride home post-nitrous and numb to my eyeballs. Plus I strained my knee a couple of days before taking a hill a little too aggressively and another day of rest wasn’t a bad idea.

So I came home, whined sufficiently to my husband, popped some Tylenol, grabbed a book, and read for a bit as I waited rather impatiently for some feeling to return to my mouth. I don’t know why they can’t come up with an antidote for Novocain that actually works and doesn’t cost a fortune. They came up with a little blue pill that can put lead in a man’s pencil for next to nothing so you’d think they could give you something after a visit to the dentist so you didn’t have to walk around wondering if you had a line of drool dripping out of the corner of your mouth for the next several hours.

DooThe minute a little feeling returned I ate some ice cream with chocolate sauce to fortify myself before I tricked our little girl kitty with some cooked chicken so I could catch her and put her into the travel cage to take her to the Vet. She’s lost some weight recently and because she’s 12 (that’s 70 in human years in case you needed that bit of cat trivia) we decided we should get her checked out. Here’s where I tell you that I get super stressed and anxious taking my cats to the Vet. The only reason I don’t yowl and meow plaintively on the way there is that I try to set a good example for them. They don’t buy it for a second however and complain vociferously despite my best efforts. Fortunately our Vet is only about a mile away. I thought about taking my bike for about a second. Strapping a cage filled with an unhappy, loud cat is probably doable but just because it is doesn’t mean you should. Kitty is fine. But we were both exhausted from the trauma. It was 5:00 PM before I realized it was hot, but then I was too worn out to care.

Trader JoesThe next day though, was a different day and about 10 degrees cooler, I had full feeling in my mouth, my cat forgave me (a healthy portion of chicken helped), and my knee felt good enough to ride down to Trader Joe’s to pick up stuff to make a pizza later that night. I just wish they’d get their bike parking issue solved. Last time I went the already large bike rack was so full I had to lock my bike up to a bench. After fielding tons of complaints, the property manager has decided to do something about it. But who knows how many studies they’ll have to do before they get it resolved. I could resolve it in two seconds— just put up another bike rack! But that’s me. Worst case scenario: I just ride around the lot until some space opens up, aggravating all Canadians in their SUVs who come down for the cheap prices, vying for their own version of a parking space. Fortunately there was room on the rack and I didn’t have to annoy our neighbors to the North.

If you’ve read this far and are not comatose, you’re probably wondering what’s the point of this post. So am I. Just kidding. As much as I love to commute by bike and do so at every opportunity, there are times when it’s just not possible. It makes sense to pick up pizza fixins by bike, but not so much taking kitty to the Vet or riding with a nitrous hangover. But I eat pizza much more than I ever go to the Vet or dentist so there’s always someplace to ride.


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National Bike Challenge 2013

NBC_webbanner_600x200_finalI’m well into the fourth month of the National Bike Challenge with close to 700 miles behind me. While it’s not as many as others have under their belts or tuchuses as the case may be, it’s still a lot of miles! With over 33,000 riders nationwide I rank in the top third, and among the 900-plus in Washington I’m in the top half. As for Bellingham, there are 14 riders registered but only three of us are logging in miles regularly. Here I’m ranking a close last. However, it’s not about competing with others, at least not for me. I only mention where I rank because I have to live up to my rep as being a font of useless information. What’s important is that I’m getting on my bike most days of the week and a enjoying the hell out of each and every mile.

A friend asked me recently if I would have had as many miles if not for the Challenge. My answer was that in the beginning, probably not. But as I kept choosing my bike over my car to rack up both points (you get 20 points each day you ride a mile or more) and miles, it simply became a habit to hop on my bike. I don’t even think about it much anymore. Going to the gym? Take my bike. Going to the store? Bike. Same with my knitting group, bank, and hairdresser. So those almost daily 6-12 mile trips, most of them being commuter miles, have steadily increased. In that sense, the Challenge did what it was designed to do which is to get people on their bikes more.

With just over a month to go, I’m already feeling kind of sad that this year’s Challenge is winding down. It’s been inspiring and a lot of fun. I wish there was something similar for the winter months because it isn’t as easy to be motivated to ride when the weather is wet and cold. But as I write this, it’s raining and cool and I’m getting ready to ride down to the gym. I haven’t even considered taking the car.


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Driver — Fear Thyself

Car running stop signDriver — Fear Thyself Today, apropos of nothing, I decided to count the number of cars breaking obvious traffic rules. Riding home from the gym that takes me on approximately three miles of road, I counted 20 cars that rolled through stop signs, zoomed through a “pink” light, didn’t signal, or drove above the speed limit. At the same time, I noticed that out of the numerous cyclists on the road, not one did anything wrong. In fact, they didn’t even come close.

The misconception that bicyclists are scofflaws is rampant in our society. Sure some are, but no more so than those who drive a vehicle. I’ll go so far as to say that proportionately, cyclists adhere to traffic laws more than drivers. But I’ve had numerous conversations with non-cyclists over the years who declared that they weren’t against cyclists on the road per se but that it would be a lot easier to tolerate them if so many didn’t break the rules. I’m not going to get into the conversations I’ve had with the idiots who hate cyclists whether they follow the rules or not. The people I’m talking about here are otherwise normal and rational. In fact, many of them think cycling as transportation is kind of cool.

I believe that part of the problem is that except for psychopaths, no driver actually wants to hit a cyclist. Even the Neanderthals who believe that bikes don’t belong on the road really don’t want to be involved in a collision with one, if only to save them the inconvenience. So drivers view cyclists as obstacles to avoid instead of simply considering them as a normal part of traffic and that makes them uncomfortable, even scared, and yes, sometimes hostile. And, when you’ve invested all of those emotions in a group of people it’s easy to slap a label on them. But it’s probably safe to say that most cyclists riding the streets are to varying degrees more alert and more cautious than their driving counterparts. We don’t want to be hit either. A driver might be inconvenienced but we could easily be dead—and we know it!

imageAs a driver you might shake your head at another person running a light or stop sign but you wouldn’t then condemn all drivers (or even most of them) as scofflaws. In fact, you probably just take it for granted and, unless there’s a major collision, don’t give it much thought at all. And isn’t that interesting? When someone operating a ton of metal does something risky or illegal, isn’t that infinitely more dangerous than say someone operating something as flimsy as a bicycle? Just sayin’!

I’m glad I did this little exercise. The next time somebody tells me that cyclists would be easier to tolerate if they followed the rules, I’ll whip this nugget of observation out and see where the conversation goes.

 


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I’ll Take My Penguins To Go

stay-cool-and-ride-your-bikeOne of the major hurdles to getting more people commuting by bike is their fear of riding in traffic. Just the other day, I had a conversation with a young woman who was working the express lane at my grocery store. I rode down to pick up something for dinner, wearing my awesome and current favorite Fred shirt, the one with big, goofy penguins. She commented on my shirt (she loved it) and she asked me if I rode a lot. When I exuberantly told her I rode almost every day, she wistfully said she would love to ride her bike more but was terrified of traffic and getting hit. I understood her fear but took the opportunity to be a good bicycling ambassador and explained that with trails, bike lanes, and Bellingham being a fairly bike friendly city, getting around by bike in many areas of town was pretty safe. The key, I told her, was to be seen, be aware, and follow the rules of the road.

We are a society that has been conditioned to think that we are safest traveling in our cars. The truth is, more people die or are injured traveling by car or truck than by just about any other form of transportation including airplanes — and bicycles. And that’s per capita. We get in our cars and head out jabbering on our cell phones, texting, eating our lunch, putting on mascara, or zoning out to the radio without giving it a second thought. However, we’re much more concerned with getting on a bicycle (or in an airplane). Sure, accidents involving bicycles and planes are more dramatic and newsworthy, but people die everyday in their cars and we hardly bat an eye.

 

Fred Shirt

Fred Shirt

I didn’t get into all of this with the checker as the guy behind me was already getting his tighty-whities in a wad because our conversation continued for about two seconds after she handed me my receipt. I also think he had an aversion to both penguins and bikes and I didn’t want him to spot me out on the road and take me out in a fit of grocery store checkout lane rage.  But I hope I was sufficiently supportive and encouraging of her desire to ride more because from my perspective, the awesomeness of being on a bike far outweighs the risk.


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Don’t Justify The “Cyclists are Scofflaws” Mindset

Years ago during a very rare visit from my parents, I let my Dad drive us up to Mt. Baker for a picnic. I did not let him drive us down. Blowing around corners much faster than the speed limit and crossing the double yellow lines while doing so, had me white knuckled, exhausted, and angry by the time we arrived at the top. Well not really the top top, just as far as the road would take us. Anyway, Dad was not happy that I bumped him from the driver’s seat and was rather surly for the rest of the day. He just didn’t understand why I was upset enough to take the keys away. When I told him that by not obeying the speed limit he could have killed us, his response was that speed limit signs were merely “suggestions,” he was in completely control, and knew what he was doing. Of course, the flip side to this is that he was very prone to road rage when other drivers didn’t follow the rules.Stop

Dad has long since departed from this world but unfortunately his ideas about traffic laws are still alive and well — as is his egocentric attitude that it is okay for him to break the rules but not for anyone else. I see it every day when I ride. Sadly some of what I see are bicyclists blatantly ignoring stop signs, stop lights, and other basic rules of the road. Look, I get it. Nothing is more annoying that stopping at a red light on a bike when the sensor doesn’t register that you are there and you have to wait for a car to pull up so it will change. I’ve been sorely tempted to run a red light or two when that happens. I’ve even asked a passing pedestrian to hit the walk button to change a light. It’s frustrating. Just as having to stop at stop signs every other block. But just because traffic rules are annoying and sometimes inconvenient doesn’t mean we get to be immune from them.

As cyclists, we can’t have it both ways. We can’t expect drivers to respect our right to share the road if we don’t respect and abide by the rules. If we believe its okay to blow through a stop sign because “we know what we’re doing” then you have to know that some other asshole behind a wheel believes the same thing. (Sorry Dad, but you were an ass behind the wheel.) The ultimate result of this kind of thinking is that someone gets killed — and it’s usually the cyclist. I was stopped at a busy crossroad when a roadie ran the stop sign. He turned to look to at me for a second, laughed and shook his head, like I was the idiot. He squeaked through traffic, leaving me wondering if he had a death wish.

Driver Cyclist HosingOne of the things I hear most often from non-cycling drivers is the complaint of cyclists blowing through stoplights and stop signs, not signaling, and hogging the road. It makes them angry and when there is a tragic accident involving a cyclist, it’s automatically assumed that the cyclist is at fault. Never mind that there are many cyclists out there that do obey the rules, people only remember the ones who don’t.

I can almost hear my Dad telling me what a pompous, preachy, idiot I’m being right now and maybe I am – at least a little. I’m just saying that cyclists get a bad enough rap as it is just for being out there, we don’t need to justify the idea that cyclists are all scofflaws and deserve whatever happens to them on the road.


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So I Ride

Illinois LaneI ride because it’s fun. It’s also healthy, good for the environment, and my gas budget, but if it weren’t fun, none of that would matter. It’s what gets me on my bike almost every day, even when I’m tired, not feeling my best, or just not in the mood. No other form of “exercise” has equaled it. I used to love to run but I was injury-prone and couldn’t do it every day. I certainly couldn’t jog down to the store and come home with a 6-pound chicken for dinner. Walking is okay but definitely falls around midpoint on the fun scale. I enjoy it, especially when I’m walking with a friend, but I’m not exhilarated by it. Walking won’t get me out on a chilly, wet day like riding will either. I do go to the gym to work on strength training regularly. I’ve done so since I was in my mid 30s, which means I started around the Jurassic period. But until I started riding, it had become increasingly (and alarmingly) easy to blow off going when the mood struck. Now I eagerly look forward to the gym simply because I can get there on my bike.

Whatcom Falls Bridge 2013And I absolutely love getting places by bike. Doesn’t matter where. Drug store, groceries, hair appointment, library, even my doctor’s office (although my doctor would probably prefer me not showing up all sweaty and stinking), all easily within riding distance. Some places I don’t ride to because the trails won’t take me there and the traffic is insanely scary which I hate because Bellingham is a relatively small city and I feel there shouldn’t be anywhere where I can’t go without fearing for my life. Yeah I know, there are cyclists who’d say go anyway, but I’m not having fun if I think I might actually die. But those places are few so I really can’t complain…too much anyway.

Because I ride, Bellingham feels more intimate. Side streets and neighborhoods come alive with people, gardens, cats, dogs, and even wildlife like deer and raccoons. The trails are full of people—walkers, runners, other cyclists, bird watchers—who smile and wave at me as I cruise on by. I’m more connected to the rhythms of town as they pulse fast or slow depending on the time of day, the weather, the season. Every day is a new adventure. Every day is fun. So I ride.