Critical Mass Houston Bike Ride!

Critical Mass Houston is a city wide event open to everyone. Streets are shut down and cyclists rule the road for one Friday evening per month, the last Friday. It is official. Police shut down the roads, preventing drivers from overtaking the many thousand who come out to ride.

Did you know? I am a total sucker for large group rides. They really bring me a sense of community, no matter how slow I might be going. So it’s my second week in Houston, and I knew I had to go.

Since I left my bike in Louisville (#bicycleregrets), I have been using the trusty Houston B-cycle bike share which is a cheap 9$ per month membership. I grabbed my bike from a near downtown dock and swiftly went to Market Square, the official meetup. Upon arrival, around 6:40PM, there were already at least a thousand people there.

I swiftly ran into another PhD student who explained that critical mass is a physics concept of nuclear fission which is what the ride was named after. He explained the ride as gathering so much mass to where there isn’t any space left, causing a nuclear chain reaction. Cool.

There were a lot of interesting bikes, contraptions, and uses. A ton of people carried their subwoofers in baby trailers. Riding to a new area meant a new sound. Some people had a full decked out sound system bike trailer. Ugh, I need one.

I got a couple pics before we headed out.


The Cycle Path Cruizers. A community bike works that donates bikes to people in need.

Things were slow at first. But people didn’t seem to mind.snapchat-131374405


Actually, we had a few gridlocks.


But at one point we even rode on the highway!


The view from the highway we rode on!

Then we stopped at a Fiesta Mart for a pit stop. I met these guys to whom I feel I essentially became a groupie (not really ) because I liked their music so much. Haha.


These guys get the vote for best music providers of the evening. And its not because they also gave me some free beers.


And we took off again through the night. We rode for about four hours through East and West Houston. I’m guessing around 20 miles. I don’t know.

What I do know is I am now a Critical Mass convert and I am looking forward to making one happen in Louisville, Kentucky!



Posted in commuting, cycling, group rides | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cycling as the Ultimate Social Distancing Activity


It is the time of corona virus and we are all experiencing life in an entirely new way. Many of our life structures have collapsed, like job, income, school, (in-person) community, and much more. Time no longer has the same weight. Hours seemingly go by while weeks still seem to pass like an eternity. How are we all staying sane?

Thankfully, there is an overdose of self-care tips right now. Embrace the uncertainty. Talk about the uncertainty. Mediate. Attend virtual dance parties. Exercise at home. Watch TV together. Zoom chat, zoom chat, and zoom chat some more. Constantly look at your phone. Put down your phone to look at your computer screen. Shut your computer to watch TV. Take in the never-ending content available to you. Forget. Forget what is going on.

Don’t forget that it is spring. The ground is warming, showers are coming in, trees and flowers are budding, and animals are coming out of their hiding places. Let’s go outside, but like, six feet away from other people. Walk, hike, run, cross-fit, boot-camp, paddle, picnic, and bask in the sun. Smile.

Or, try riding a bike!

Cycling is one of my favorite activities. You can go really fast. You see more scenery than you would on foot. You can transport yourself further distances. You can replace your car. There is a breeze. You can exercise. You can feel like part of a community.

Initially, I thought to myself that cycling is the ultimate social distancing activity. You can be outside. You can enjoy the weather and you don’t have to necessarily touch anyone. But with more and more people out of jobs, school, and capitalism, the parks and paths are overcrowding. Some municipalities have even had to shut down parks and recreational areas due to overcrowding. To prevent more COVID-19 outbreaks.

So, cyclists, well everyone: you know what isn’t closed? The streets. The sidewalks. Yes, maybe they are urban areas. Yes, maybe they are concrete jungles. But are they safer than a crowded park trail? YES. Will riding on a street next to a car be less exposure than riding on a crowded bicycle path? YES.

My new advice is to stick to the streets, especially for cyclists. Let others enjoy the walking paths. The streets are practically empty anyway. There is a larger network of city streets to ride, much larger than a network of paved bike trails. City streets are our paved bike trails. Reduce your exposure to COVID-19. Reduce others’ exposure to COVID-19. Ride the empty streets.

The empty streets are, for once, more available to us than ever.

Let’s take back the streets.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Equity in Louisville

One of our central parks in Louisville, Kentucky, Louisville Waterfront Park, recently voted to charge for vehicle parking. The park is in a centrally located area in our downtown area that is frequented by all walks of life and holds many events. The park has a recently built pedestrian bridge, a river view, and a large playground and splash park. Needless to say, the decision has caused much debate on Twitter and from city officials. Many have commented that the decision reduces equal access to healthy choices and opportunities. Others are happy for the change due to the recent increase in crime in the area. The matter is a problem of equity in Louisville.


Waterfront Park borders the Ohio River separating Louisville Kentucky from Jeffersonville, Indiana


Pedestrian bridge from Jeffersonville, Indiana the day of Thunder over Louisville

Equality and equity are quite different concepts though they are often used interchangeably. Equality is the concept of treating everyone the same. Equity is making sure everyone has what the need to be successful. The problem with equality is that everyone is different and requires specific services. For example, a family has different needs from a single person and a white person has different opportunities than a person of color. Equity recognizes this fact of different needs and purports to fight for each different person to have what they need. Therefore, equality is not a sufficient solution, equity is.


One side of the debate for paid parking in Waterfront Park is that vehicles are being charged to park, not people walking or cycling. Yet the concept of equity is not being considered. People need and use cars for different reasons. Families, people with disabilities, and the elderly all use cars to access things they can’t normally access walking, or cycling for that matter. Thus charging for parking creates barriers for some (not all) people to make healthy choices. Everyone does not have equal access to the park due to a lack of equity.


As cyclists, we must seek to understand the other side of the coin. Cycling is not an option for everyone. Cyclists often benefit from goods and services like free parking because they are healthy, fit and sometimes more privileged people. The argument that vehicles are being charged to park, you may walk or cycle to remove that barrier, is insufficient. Certain people require the convenience of parkside parking to access goods and services.


Bicycle parking at Waterfront Park

In fact, the whole city of Louisville does not feel the same about increasing alternative modes of transit like cycling. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has fought over the years to build more bicycling infrastructure in an effort to reduce vehicle traffic. It is welcomed by many. Yet others believe those resources could be used for something more necessary. At a recent metro council meeting, a woman from West Louisville stated that her community did not want more bicycle lanes. Her community was lacking certain resources for which those funds could be better used.


Our city must consider the community as a whole to support everyone’s needs when building bicycle lanes or charging for parking at central, high volume parks. We need to retract the board decision to charge for parking in order to allow equal access to the Waterfront Park by providing equity.

Posted in cycling, Local Advocacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When You Yell at Me, I Yell Back

When You Yell at Me, I Yell Back

I was riding the peaceful neighborhood portion of my commute when a car suddenly honked at me and zoomed by. I quickly gave them the finger (not that they ever see it) and received a consolation from a passing pedestrian telling me ‘It’s okay’.


It’s not okay.

Fortunately, the lady who honked quickly pulled down a street and then parked at her home which is very near my home! I immediately began fantasizing about what I could possibly say to my ‘neighbor’.

A simple threat like, ‘I know where you live’, particularly struck my fancy.

It would teach her to not harass cyclists.

Instead, the rational, adult version of me said something else.

‘Please don’t honk at cyclists.’

She responded, saying that I shouldn’t be in the middle of the lane. (There was a car parked on the side of the street.) I rode past silent. Hopefully letting it sink in, that I in fact, do know where she lives.

Perhaps I will drive by her home early in the morning to honk my horn. Or late at night.

The possibilities are endless. The cyclist holds the power!

[Maniacal laugh]


Posted in Adulting, commuting, Storytelling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Change of Pace


Forgive me readers, I fell off the face of the planet. You may think it was due to the election, and in a small way you are right. I admit, I have not felt as excited about politics lately. Instead I am constantly angered by the reduction in evidence based reasoning or even the complete indifference to scientific fact. In a world where environmental science is my path, I find that it is threatened by our newly elected president.

Of course I am pissed.


But other than that, I have been superbly busy with my PhD.


And, I have been failing to ride my bike, I am ashamed to tell you. I have a lot of great excuses, but I’ll just sum it up with the excuse of life unfolding.


On a positive note, my family and I will be moving soon, to the inside of the Watterson! We will be in town again and I think it will be a lot easier to ride again, even when the weather is not cooperating. I am …. Elated.


Since I started this blog, I have been pretty focused on writing about riding a bike in a car centric city. I have had a lot of ideas to focus the pathway of my writing. For example, I thought of doing a 365 challenge, where I would ride my bike everyday for a whole year. But that would be impossible, did you know I have stepkids? They require a lot of things, especially driving, and it is not like I have a lot of control when co parenting with multiple families, dealing with extracurriculars or choosing where their school might be. Louisville just isn’t conducive to car-less transportation for families.


Another idea I had is to focus on environmental problems in the city. I could give you a quick history and maybe I can conduct a group ride to major sites such as these, via bike. This may prove to be difficult as well since a lot of the pollution sources are located on the outside of the city. I have been reading a lot of books for my environmental policy class and the recurring theme seems to be that people are unaware of the problems around them. Basically, a pretty large disconnect between the services we are provided, the costs we pay for these services, and the effects of some of these services, including health effects.


In fact, many of the bike rides I attend are on the edge of Rubbertown on the Louisville Loop. Rubbertown is home to three major synthetic rubber producing companies: Zeon Chemicals, Lubrizol and Polyone. The major emission from the three companies are vinyl chloride, a toxic chemical formed when making synthetic rubbers. Vinyl chloride is used to make polyvinyl chloride and is classified as ‘known to be a human carcinogen’ by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). These three companies also sit on the edge of the West Louisville neighborhoods, some of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the city. Some of the neighborhoods most affected by environmental health effects.


The Planned Louisville Loop


Perhaps this could be a good start.

A good start to the new presidency: a newfound focus on environment and environmental justice.

A good start for environmental awareness.

A good start to a new biking season.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Overcoming Rational Fears of Biking

A few months ago, I wrote a piece called Rational Fears When Biking. The four major fears I encounter when cycling with traffic are being hit by a car, hitting debris in the road and slipping or falling, baggage falling off, and stolen bikes. In order to combat these fears, real solutions and prevention tactics are necessary for the commuter, or even the sometimes rider.

First, be visible. To do this you must use strong lights, use multiples. Buy reflective stickers and put them all over yourself and your kit. Obtain one of those orange, reflective triangles and put it on the back of your helmet. Wear reflective or bright clothing.


What you wear is not your only choice either. You must ride in the middle of the lane. I cannot stress it enough. Ride in the middle of the lane. You must ride defensively. If you ride at the edge, motorists will overtake you. You may be shoved into the shoulder, or a parked car, possibly causing a collision. Ride in the middle of the lane. I know it is hard. Drivers will intimidate you. But do it. Do it for your own safety. We live in the US where people mostly drive. Many motorists believe it is their road and their road only like in this article.

Second, have diligence in your environment. Pay attention to the road. Keep your eyes on the road and pavement. Cyclists have it hard because they must be very alert at all times and of all surroundings. Look for debris such as large rocks, glass, big potholes or even large puddles. You want to dodge these. Puddles may cause hydroplaning if braking. A minor mishap may cause a fall. And if you are riding in traffic you may have a collision if thrown off by a pebble or pothole.

Third, use proper carrying equipment. Panniers are wonderful, though I rarely use them. Bungee cords are great tie down equipment, but the wide bungee cords are better. Have multiples, have back ups. They break. Put a rack on your bike to strap things on. Use a basket. Or a milk crate. The possibilities are endless. But make sure to test out your tie down equipment!


Finally, use a strong lock and lock your bike appropriately. Strong locks are locks like U-locks or canvas covered steel chains, or uncovered steel chains with a padlock. People can cut through those flimsy plastic and wire one very easily. Don’t let bicycle theft happen to you.


To lock your bike appropriately, you must lock both the frame and the front wheel. And if you are very particular or paranoid, own two locks and lock the back wheel as well. The wheels are the easiest to steal from a bike and someone can sell it for around $100.

I also like to play it safe and lock my bike in a well trafficked area. I think people are less likely to steal things if they think someone is watching.

It is easy to become discouraged when biking. Barriers exist in our roadways and in our culture. Don’t let it stop you. Biking can be an empowering activity! Embrace it!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bike Carrying Dilemma

In my mind, I have a fetish of carting around as much crap as possible, on my bike. I fantasize about having trailers, young children in front seated bikes (young children that I don’t have), friends in the back seat, and businesses on side bike cars. But I’m not there yet, which is probably why I romanticise these acts.


Yuba Mundo

The most I carry is an outdated, heavy laptop and some science books, which has proven difficult on its own. The problem is that now I commute ten miles one way. It becomes more necessary to have carrying equipment rather than carrying it on your back the whole way. Otherwise, you may end up with SBS (sweaty back syndrome). And when you have to look semi nice for the j-o-b, SBS is not going to cut it.

Today, I packed up two panniers to even out the weight on the bike. I have two, one that I love and one that I hate. The one that I love is the Banjo Brothers pannier that easily hooks onto the bike rack with sturdy, metal hooks. It also comes with the wonderful feature of backpack straps so that when you remove it, you can easily carry it around as a bag item.

You can purchase one here.

The one that I hate is more of a cube, a canvas cube (from here on out, called Canvas Cube). The cube clips on with plastic hooks which I am counting down the days for them to break and fall off. It also slides back and forth on the rack causing my heel to clunk it in each revolution, further concerning me that I will knock it right off the rack.

I won’t tell you the name of this one, because one, I don’t remember, and two, why would I give you a link to buy a crappy pannier?

But the major dilemma is the sharing of the weight on both sides. Yes, I could have easily packed up my cherished Banjo Brothers pannier and said forget it to Canvas Cube, but it makes for an unnecessary resistance during the ride. Even if I had two Banjo Brother backpack strap panniers. How am I going to walk around with two backpacks? That doesn’t make much sense.

So, I am shopping for rear trunk bags, big enough to fit a 13 inch laptop. That, or I plan to find a milk crate and strap it onto the rear rack. Hopefully, my huge computer will fit.

What are your favorite ways to carry?
Click here for some tips for carrying by bike. 

Posted in commuting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bicycle Regret When Travelling

My friend and I just travelled for ten days across the country to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We had completed the packing of the car and were just heading out of the city when I looked at my friend Emley and said, I want to bring my bike. She said let’s turn around and get them.

I said no, for various reasons.

One, we were already camping the whole time and our car was packed to the brim. Even though I know the bike rack would have been on the back of the car and would not have affected the space within the vehicle.

Two, we intended to hike. I know if I have my bike, I will only ride. I will not hike, I prefer cycling.

Three, I did not know the state of the parks and how many places would be accessible via bicycle. We had done quite a bit of research yet neglected to look into bicycle routes within the parks.

Therefore, we said no. And believe me people, Yellowstone is very beautiful without a bicycle. In fact, it is very car accessible because it was the first park to ever be established in the US and because it is SUPER touristy. I knew this in the back of my head even though it did not really sink in until we reached the park. Really, you do not even have to get out of your car to see the highlights of Yellowstone. And if you do, it is to walk less than half a mile to see the well known sites.


This beautiful photo is from the car, can you believe it? It was early morning in Lamar Valley.

But if you want to see the real Yellowstone, I suggest you hike. Because the untouched beauty is indescribable. And the tourists are decreased almost one hundred fold. You will suddenly feel as though you went to a national park like you thought you did. Initially, you do not feel this way.


Our hike around Yellowstone Lake

And there are cyclists. We saw many touring cyclists and racing cyclists, as well as the recreational cyclist with their family. The main road throughout the park is 142 miles long and is called the Grand Loop. The roadway traverses up and down large mountains and many flat valleys. For this reason, I am glad I did not attempt the bike here. That would have required a different type of preparation I did not complete prior to the trip.

It wasn’t until the Grand Teton National Park that I really experienced deep regret, specifically bicycle regret. If you want to experience the beauty of that part of the country in Wyoming without the large amounts of tourists and with more of the seclusion expected in a national park, I suggest you visit the Tetons. Spend the majority of your time at the Tetons and drive around to the points of interest at Yellowstone in a day or two.


Imagine riding by these sites on your bicycle. It is incredible.

And bring your bike. Because from Signal mountain (approximately halfway through the park, there is a beautiful protected bike lane that rides south  alongside the beautiful mountains to and through Jackson, Wyoming for 16 miles. In fact, there are multiple paved bike routes throughout the Tetons.


View the bike trail map in the Grand Teton Park from the National Parks website at the link below.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Hostile Commute

Some days the commute feels more hostile than others. Everyday there is an ebb and flow to the patterns of motorists on the road. And when you switch from major thoroughfares to neighborhood streets or sometimes even a bike lane, it is easy to recognize the vast difference. This difference may occur when you realize the volume of cars is less, the speed of cars is a lot less, and the speed of your heart rate is less. Because it slows after removing yourself from that high stress, high speed environment.


Safety from the Hostility

Today, the drivers seemed to whiz by at rates greater than normal. In contrast to my leisurely commute yesterday, there was a greater sense of urgency today. I felt this through the majority of my trip. It was magnified when I was at an intersection, going straight and a motorist passed me to get in my lane and then turn right. At which point, it almost caused a collision and obscenities to be yelled. I was happy to turn off the busy Bardstown Road onto a neighborhood street shortly after and afterwards a street with a bike lane. I mean geez, it was barely after seven. The main reason I leave so early is to avoid the crazy drivers and rush hour traffic.


Some days it is easy to feel terrorized on the street. Usually, I can’t wait to get out of there. And I have to remember to breathe. Breathe.




Posted in commuting, Storytelling | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rational Fears when Biking

I have been commuting for years, approximately seven. As time has passed, my comfort and proficiency with road biking has grown, naturally. Yet I still have many fears when commuting. The days I get up early to cycle to work are often wrought with fear. And there are varying levels of fear that change depending on my environment, such as the types of road I am traversing, the speed limit of the road, or even the neighborhood.

There are four major fears that I continuously have when commuting. I do not write this to deter you from commuting via bicycle, but to inform you that we all have fears.

The first and main fear is the possibility of being hit by a car. I worry about it constantly. Motorized vehicles like to go fast. And why not?  That is the allure of driving after all. Yet being on a road where cars and trucks whiz by at greater than 45 MPH, I often wonder when will I experience a collision. I mean, how awake are the drivers at 6:30 in the morning? Are they looking at their phone? Are they texting? Are they paying attention to the road? I know the driver is angry that I am in their ‘driving lane’, would they hit me out of spite?


Furthermore, a car travelling at 45 MPH that experiences a collision with a cyclist, will likely have one mortality, me, the bike rider. If not, I will definitely be the more injured one. I do not have a protective two ton frame surrounding me. I have nothing, except for my helmet. Will that save me? I think not.

Second, I fear slipping and/or falling. I am constantly looking for debris in the street that could cause any danger. Just a small rock could throw my tire. Puddles of water or other unknown liquids can also cause slips or instabilities. This is amplified in the street where if I slipped or fell I could risk hitting a car or vice versa.

My first time falling, ever.
The road was wet with rain but the fall could be attributed to the beer I drank. Luckily it was Cyclouvia and there were zero cars on the road.


Third, I fear that my baggage will fall off my bike. Bikes are so great in the fact that they can carry such weight in stuff and things. But not all baggage and tie down equipment is created equal. I have had computers fall off, backpacks, and even lunches that were lost forever.


Finally, my biggest fear of all, is that my bike will be STOLEN. It happens all the time. It has happened to many friends of mine. Everyday I leave work, I search for my bike in fear, wondering if today will be the day that it is stolen. I am meticulous about how I lock my bike; frame and front tire. I remove all my fancy lights (they are expensive), as well as any other attachment. I often double check the lock, and pull on it a few times. I lock it to a place that is heavily trafficked by the public so that it will look unusual to passersby if someone tries to steal it. Or I’ll bring it up to the workplace if it seems necessary.

wekilltee1Buy this tee here!!


So why do I continue to cycle?  And the answer is that I love it. I love the adrenaline that is coupled with the fear; the relief of making it through a dangerous area on my bike. I love the wonderful things I am able to see when I am not rushing through life in a car and the enjoyment of being outdoors. My anxieties and fears won’t stop me. I won’t let them.

Don’t let your fears keep you from the experience of cycling!

Posted in cycling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments