Wednesday, April 7, 2010

One Key, Two U-locks

Yesterday I wasted about 45 minutes online trying to find out if you could get multiple U-Locks that all use the same key. Once it started looking like I'm the only person in the world who wants such I feature, I called Kryptonite to express my opinion, hoping in the future they might make such a product.

To my surprise, it turns out they do offer "keyed alike" locks. Sweet! You just have to call them up and place an order. It's a little pricey. The cheapest is $60 per lock for the Evolution Mini (one of their better locks), plus shipping (I'm assuming). However, I think this could be really useful for a lot of people who have lots of things to lock up (or maybe a family could have the same key for all their bikes).

Apparently you can't find out everything on the internet...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why Can't I Park There?

So, UT-Austin usually at least acts like they are trying to encourage cycling. My building used to have bike racks at all four corners (until construction blocked of one of those corners). Every time I ride to the gym the racks there are full and I'm tempted by the many bikeless meters out front. For some reason I allow this menacing sign to thwart my convenient parking. I'm pretty sure the threat is empty (I've seen a bike out there for the past two weeks), but I was silly enough to put a UT registration sticker on my ride, which I'm now convinced is just a ploy so they can send me a fine if they find my bike somewhere they don't like.

I get why you're not supposed to lock up on a railing, somebody might need to hold it, but what's wrong with me squeezing a little extra use outta this meter. I'm pretty sure they still work when there is a bike locked to them...

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Giant gaping hole: Major road malfunctions of Austin

If I had to quantify it (I don't but lets say I did) I'd say that the streets in Austin are a good 45% less smooth than the streets in Portland.

Take for example Speedway, a street named for horse racing that runs through the center of UT, which has been undergoing construction projects since I got here. Speedway is a major bike route for me. I take it to school, to work, and to most places south of me. I do this because it has a bike lane and there are no arterial crossing aids on any of the smoother, lower-traffic streets that parallel it.

Internet sleuthery got me nowhere in finding out what they are doing on Speedway (I sadly admit this and am glad I haven't had library patrons inquiring). "Private construction" has been suggested to me by some Austin natives. As they don't do private construction on public streets in Oregon, I'm going to have to assume some evil private concern is tearing up the street for the sheer joy of it, leaving the bike lane, bumpy, cracked, and full of debri.

The road has gotten so bad that I've taken to riding a lot of speedway well in the middle of the lane. I don't think a lot of cars behind me understand what I'm doing and I've been overtaken and cut off by a number of buses pulling over and cars turning right. I have small tires that don't take well to bumps and gravel. One time I almost beaned a catholic school kid in the head with a rock when it shot out sideways from underneath them. I'm just trying to keep everyone safe.

A friend of mine declared that she'd like to see the mayor try and ride a bike along the stretch from 35th to 45th. If he did he might fall into a giant gaping hole just like Spike did the other night.

As we were biking home from the grocery store after dark Spike, riding ahead of me, suddenly crashed into a sink hole that had opened up where road crews had drilled and filled a day or so prior. Luckily Spike managed to clip out of his pedals and start running, and I to dodge (not so lucky my friend Adam behind me who dog piled into the hole with Spike). Given that Austin has a serious lack of streetlights the hole was virtually invisible until you were almost in it. So Spike called Austin's non emergency line and we stood blocking the hole for a while, angry cars swerving around us not knowing we were keeping them from damage. A woman on a motorcycle cruised by on 43rd and I told Spike, who seemed to be getting a less than worried response from the person on the 311 line, to inform them that the hole was surely big enough to send a motorcyclest flying. By morning the hole had been re-filled and made a spongy black mound, treacherous but no longer a death trap.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Need More to be Merrier in The Fort

More people are riding their bikes. It’s true. I notice a few more around. And that’s a pretty cool thing.

I’m back in Fort Wayne, Indiana, my hometown. I hadn’t lived here for 12 years after moving to Portland, Oregon in late 1996. (My wife Sarah and I miss Portland. A lot.)

There are more people on bikes here than I remember. The weak economy has forced some minor changes on all of us. When I was a kid it seemed the only people riding bikes in Fort Wayne were kids and those guys who, well, you know, had to ride a bike because their driver’s license was revoked. There are more riding by choice now, I would say but the area is still kind of a hold-out when it comes to progressive bike-mindedness.

The urban mentality is much different here than Portland and, overall, it’s actually a challenge not to use a car. (O the urban sprawl!) When we first arrived here in August, we borrowed clunky old bikes and rode as much as we could -- to the library, to the store, to work. There are no bike lanes here in this city of about 230,000 people, so we had to be careful. Sometimes very careful. And honestly, I’ve got to give props to the motorists here who have shared the rode more than I thought they would.

But distance and absence of bike lanes is only a part of the problem. Strangely, one of the most difficult obstacles to get around is convincing people that cycling isn’t dangerous. My parents always wanted me to go pick Sarah up from work when it was getting dark. Even though she rode on sidewalks and not on busy streets. And even though it was a 15-minute ride. We had this conversation most every night. I could never convince them that she was OK.

We did this until winter set in. It’s gets pretty cold here, and we got lots of snow and ice so far. But there’s this guy who lives close by who bikes everywhere, even on ice and snow. I saw another guy riding his bike one night when the temperature was in the teens (without factoring the windchill). These two shame me a bit.

Right now we walk as much as we can until the spring thaw. People still think we’re crazy though. The other day Sarah got yelled at for crossing the street (within a crosswalk). And once, we met friends for coffee, and told them we had walked there. “Chris, we need to give them a ride home,” our friend Laura said, concern heavy in her voice. It was looking like rain and the temp was in the 40s. Don’t try to convince them you like getting around without a car.

My Mom once referred to it as our “lifestyle,” our walking and riding bikes. She thinks it’s nice but, “That’s not my lifestyle though,” she said.

For the last two years, neither my wife nor I owned a car. In Portland, Sarah taught yoga and mostly used her bike to get around, though occasionally used what was then called Flexcar to get to classes. I biked my 15-20 minute commute to my job each day.

But Fort Wayne’s strip malls sprawl from one edge of the county to the other, because that’s how a Midwest town grows. There are no bike lanes here, and the bus system is extremely limited. (Its budget just got cut again.) It takes us anywhere from 15-25 minutes to drive to work, so we had to buy a car -- a $1,200 1994 Mercury Topaz. It’s light blue.
I miss my bike.

I wonder how I can raise awareness. How I get someone to listen to me. That taking the bus, riding a bike, walking is not a lot of work. It’s enjoyable. But it’s hard to unite the few of us here because most people, honestly, have never thought of getting around by anything other than a car or truck. That’s just the way it is here. For now, at least.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Arturo leaves the bike at work and I learn to fear the rain: Feb in Austin

I was sitting at home with nowhere to be and a huge wind came up and tore our screen off. Within minutes torrential rain like nothing the northwest ever gets was coming down and the temperature had dropped almost 30 degrees. Water filled the street and our nearby dry creek became a river. We lost a couple more screens. I thought about how Austin is in a flash flood plain and was happy for the strange cinder blocks that elevate our house a foot or so off the ground. I wondered if our neighbor's kitten, its first night out of doors, had made it back indoors or was still under our house.

The housemates and I gathered around the porch door and discussed tornado readiness and what we'd do if we got stuck out on our bikes in something like this.

Spike claimed he'd take refuge on the nearest porch, "I'd tell them, don't worry I won't steal anything."

I said, "Glad I'm not getting off work right now." It was the right time of night just the wrong day of the week. Just then a text from my co-worker, his shift about to end: OMG! I biked to work.

In Portland I scoffed at people who refused to bike in the rain. I own some pretty nifty rain gear but no way it could compete with this. Here's crossing my fingers I stay lucky. Red, my friends, means bad.

Blowin' in the wind

Well, it looks like I'm the first of (hopefully) several new contributors to this blog. I live in Austin, TX and have a friend in San Antonio. Your average motorist would most likely just hop on IH-35 for about an hour and a half if they wanted to go and visit said friend. But why spend all that time looking at Car Dealerships and Outlet malls when you could spend several hours bonding with your bike and enjoying a much more scenic view? Normally, I don't have a good answer to that question. Saturday however, the answer was 20 mph head winds (gusting up to 30mph).

I'm busy grad student and although I ride at least a bit nearly every day, I just don't have time for big rides every weekend. Obviously, I didn't want all my planning to be for naught. So, Saturday morning I just decided to start riding and see how far I made it. I figured the worst that would happen was that I'd find I hadn't gotten very far after a few hours of getting a good work out and then I could turn around and let the wind blow me home.

I don't even think I was riding at half my normal pace. I called my friend after about 25-30 miles to let him I was turning around. It turned out he had his parents’ minivan and he offered to pick me up somewhere if I needed. Since I was no longer risking complete exhaustion even further from home I decided to keep going. Coming out of San Marcos I met a racer named Nick who graciously let me draft him most of the way to New Braunfels. About 30 miles from my destination I decided the wind was just too much and called in for a ride.

Sunday, I made it about 15-20 miles (with a great tail wind!) before this happened:

I don't know how well you can see, but suffice it to say that wheel is nowhere near true. My options were now: ride without breaks or be slowed way down (and I'm sure at least wear out the pad). I called my friend, and it actually turned out he was leaving for Austin (something came up at the last minute) and I ended up getting another ride.

Some rides just weren't meant to be...

On a lighter note, I never got stranded anywhere and always had options other than get picked up (turn around, and ride with just the back break). Using a bike for transportation does require some more flexibility than other forms of transportation, but it does work.

Needless to say, it’ll be awhile before I plan to make it 83 miles straight into that kind of wind.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

New Directions.

We are reshaping this blog but not giving up on our project. As I've mentioned before Austin's bike culture reminds me of Portland's bike culture 6 years ago. This, and the notable increase in bike traffic I observed this past trip to NYC, got me wondering. Is Austin really so weird? It is certainly more bike friendly than say a place like Vegas. But the older lady riding across Manhattan in heels and fur, my parents riding bikes to the pub in White Salmon, and Obama's promise to increase funding for bike and pedestrian projects make me pause. So I want to ask, what is it like where you are?

We'd like to gather a cast of writers (regulars and occasionals) to share stories and news from various cities and towns around the world. Want to write for us?