A Change of Pace

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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.

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The Planned Louisville Loop

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

 

Breathe.
Breathe.

 

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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?

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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!

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Bikes in Dreamland

Last night, I had a dream about my bicycle. A beautiful black miyata, vintage. I was laying in the grass, as I often do after a ride, next to my bicycle. The grass was crowded in my dream.

There was a man and his friend sitting somewhat close to me. He made an offer to me, to purchase my bike. He offered me $850.

I paid $500 dollars for my bike.

I remember considering this in my dream, considering 850 dollars.

I said no.

And I rode away.

Happy.

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