A Day for Flats

Day’s Verse:
3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

This morning as I rode up the hill on 112th NE, I noticed a distinct squishiness in my ride. I ride on 120 psi tires, and when fully inflated — as they were when I left this morning — they feel about as soft as rocks. I would never describe my tires, when functioning correctly, as “squishy.”

A quick stop confirmed my fear: My rear tire was slowly going flat on me on the first rainy day in a week. The good news is that I only had to ride a couple miles to the Bellevue Transit Center and my favorite bike shop. The next 10 minutes turned into a race against the air leaking out of my tire. I won, but just barely.

When I say “won,” of course, I mean I won the opportunity to change my flat in a dry space with a floor pump readily available. I didn’t actually pay Dean to change the flat, but he loaned me his floor pump and helped me seat the wheel right when I finished (I always have a hard time with that, thanks to disc brake finickiness). I found the location of the puncture without any problems, since the water on the tires bubbled as air escaped from the hole. Whatever had slit the tire did the deed and then escaped before I could wreak my retribution on it.

With the flat fixed, I rode on, arriving at work just before 10:00 to find my coworkers in a bit of a tizzy. I’d informed Every of my intention to arrive late, but Every threw her back out and didn’t come to work today. The remaining employees had become anxious for me when I didn’t get to work anywhere near the usual time. For bicycle commuters, extreme lateness can mean something really bad happened, and they worried that I’d crashed again. It’s very nice to work at a place where people care for you and wonder why you’re not doing the usual thing.

Speaking of “not the usual thing,” my other flat falls firmly into that category: The exercise ball that I’ve used as a chair for the last 5 months exploded this morning exploded while I sat on it. I fell smack onto my rear while the ball emitted a loud BANG!

The sound of the explosion spurred the bike shop guys to call, “Are you OK?” When one of them ventured back to see what had happened, he stood for a minute looking at me sprawled in the scattered wreckage of my chair and then started laughing. I had to join him — after all, I bet I looked really ridiculous falling as the ball exploded around me.

I’ve switched to a kind of bizarre chair that has a “cushion” made out of rows of very sturdy black bungee cords. Let’s just hope they’re up to the job… and that I don’t have any more flats today.

Open Letter to Honking Motorist

Day’s Verse:
But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is!
Romans 1:18-19 (context)

Pink Rear FenderTo the man driving the silver Ford Ranger with license plate no. B341437E (or F),

On Monday, you pulled up behind me on S. Dearborn near 5th Ave and honked repeatedly at me as I rode in the driving lane. I waved you back, but you kept tooting your horn at me anyway. When we pulled up next to each other on 4th Ave, you waggled your finger at me in a “naughty, naughty” gesture. I shook my head and indicated I belonged where I was. That spurred you to roll your window down and tell me emphatically — although not rudely, which I appreciate — that I was legally obligated to ride in the bike lane. I politely replied that I was allowed to ride anywhere in the road. We repeated that exchange a couple times, clearly not communicating effectively, and then the light mercifully turned green.

Imagine my feelings when, today, you pulled up behind me in the same place and we proceeded to enact exactly same scenario we’d just played out on Monday, sans the conversation. This time I think I memorized your license plate number correctly, but I’m sure that I’ll see you again just in case I didn’t.

Now, sir, I know you think you know the law. However, I’d like to point you to RCW 46.04.670, which states, “‘Vehicle’ includes every device capable of being moved upon a public highway and in, upon, or by which any persons or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway, including bicycles.” Additionally, please refer to RCW 46.61.755, which states,

(1) Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter, except as to special regulations in RCW 46.61.750 through 46.61.780 and except as to those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.

In fact, I encourage you to check out all the laws relating to bicycling in Washington State so you know when cyclists really are breaking the law. I fully accept that bicycles must follow the same laws as other vehicles on the road (RCW 46.61.750), and I think you’ll agree that when you honked at me, I was riding perfectly legally straight down a road.

About that honking thing. In Washington, according to RCW 46.37.380,

(1) Every motor vehicle when operated upon a highway shall be equipped with a horn in good working order and capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than two hundred feet, but no horn or other warning device may emit an unreasonably loud or harsh sound or a whistle. The driver of a motor vehicle shall when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation give audible warning with his horn but shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway. (emphasis mine)

This law clearly says that you should only honk “to insure safe operation,” and in this instance, nobody was in danger. Now, it’s true that you’re not in imminent danger of getting a ticket for honking at me, but common courtesy would suggest that driving along behind me while tooting your horn just is not polite.

Sir, before you honk at me again, please know the law. I have the right to operate my bicycle as a vehicle on any part of the road, as long as I follow all the applicable vehicular laws. You, on the other hand, are not allowed to honk at me unless I jeopardize your safety — which, I think we’ll both agree, would be difficult while I’m on a bicycle and you’re in a one-ton mass of metal.

Thank you for not honking at me in the future.

That bicyclist with the yellow helmet and red bike that you’ve wrongly honked at twice this week

Helpful Weather Forecast

Day’s Verse:
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Matthew 8:27 (context)

The weather forecast for tonight:

Showers likely. Precipitation may mix with snow in heavier showers. Lows in the 30s. Southwest wind 10 to 15 mph…except northwest wind north part.

I love how it says southwest winds, except for the northwest winds. How delightfully quirky! This means that I got a headwind as I rode south on the way in to work, and then I also get a headwind as I ride north on the way home from work.

This forecast also looks suspiciously wintry, considering it’s supposed to be April.

I can hardly wait!

Philosophy Shift

Day’s Verse:
He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.
Acts 15:9 (context)

One thing I’ve been working on for my internship lately is working on a bike commuting brochure. After having a number of conversations with people, I decided to make a brochure to encourage transportation bicycling. Not commuting, which nearly everybody agrees means going to and from work, but just “going by bike” when you can. I’m aiming to encourage people to think about their bikes as tools, not just toys; to start asking, “What can biking be for me?”

The more I ride, the more I appreciate that cycling, like anything, is not a black-and-white issue. You don’t have to ride 100% on the roads exactly the same as you’d drive your car. You don’t have to buy Spandex and a new, expensive bike to start riding. You don’t have to ride to work rain or shine, every single day, to commute by bike.

What I’m coming to understand is that bicycling is big enough to accommodate pretty much any use. You want to short distances ride fast? Great. You want to ride long distances slowly? Go for it. You want to meander down bike path on a sunny day? Enjoy your ride. You want to ride to work occasionally? Good for you. My brochure focuses on the basics of what you need to bicycle.

Now, without any further ado, the brochure itself: Go by Bike brochure.


Rental Bike Time

Day’s Verse:
Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
Acts 9:22 (context)

I finally caved and rented a bike for the remainder of the time my Seven is out of commission. I’ve ridden the Xtracycle all week, first for fun on Monday with Mom — I took the day off after my Bike Expo weekend bonanza — and then to the Bellevue Transit Center on Tuesday, all the way 20 miles in to the International District on Wednesday, and then 9 miles that evening to Greenlake for the house/cat sitting we did Wednesday and Thursday night. The house sitting meant I only had to ride 9 miles each way Thursday and Friday morning.

I was already mentally gearing up for the arduous, headwind-y ride home (we’ve had a steady north wind since Wednesday at least, meaning I had a headwind every night, making the usual challenge of riding the Xtracycle just one notch more difficult) when I talked to Eric, owner of JRA Bike Shop.

I asked about rental bikes; they rent some sluggish bikes for tourists to tootle around downtown on, but that wouldn’t be much better than the Xtracycle. As we talked about it, Eric thought it over and said, “What do you think of that red one?” He indicated a red Cannondale Hybrid 600. Turns out it belongs to the shop; it’s a used bike they just built up with new parts, and he decided to let me rent that. So, for $150 a week, I get to ride the red chopper.

It’s a whole different riding experience, let’s put it that way. It’s got cruiser-style handlebars and incredibly low gearing. I can’t remember the last time I sat so upright on a bike — possibly on my first-ever bike? Aside from some saddle adjustment issues, the bike felt awesome. It was a ton of fun to ride, zippy and responsive and light feeling after the Xtracycle (but then, what wouldn’t be?).

The different position made the ride feel like a pleasure ride rather than a commute, a feeling enhanced by my meeting up with Ian about halfway home. We rode together the rest of the way, and that made it fun, too. We haven’t gotten to spend much time together, with my hectic schedule, so even riding a little ways together on a beautiful afternoon felt like a fun break.

Oh, and an assessor from Frontier Assessors came out and took pictures of my bike. I hope she doesn’t lowball me to Hertz. I just want to get my bike fixed, but I’m afraid to pay the $1,500 it’ll cost (plus, of course, the $150 I’m spending every week for the rental bike, a cost approved verbally by the Hertz rep via my contact at Oracle) without some assurance I’ll get reimbursed for all the costs.

Worse comes to worse I guess I have to call in John Duggan.

Real Work

Day’s Verse:
The apostles went out of the High Council overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name.
Acts 5:41 (context)

Real work is riding the Xtracycle. I thought my commute was difficult and slow on Artemis, but that’s before I rode all the way to work on Charlotte yesterday. Goodness, it gave me a whole new perspective on “difficult and slow.” I crept up the hills at 6 mph and was working hard at it the entire way. I must’ve burned twice the calories I usually burn riding to work. The bike just feels like a beast!

That said, I’m delighted to be back in the saddle. I’m tired and sore, and that feels so good compared to bruised and battered.

This weekend is Bike Expo, and I’ll spend all day Saturday and Sunday tabling for the Bicycle Alliance there. I hope to sneak away long enough to see the German bicycle gymnasts, at the very least.

Google Bike Directions!

Day’s Verse:
But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Acts 4:19-20 (context)

The entire biking community is in a tizzy over Google’s new biking directions on Google Maps. The League of American Bicyclists’ blog reported on it today, and of course the Seattle Times covered the fact that six Google engineers from Fremont created the system. Then there’s the women’s cycling forum I occasionally check in on; they always have lots of opinions on nearly everything, and Google Maps biking directions is no exception.

Personally, I think that anything that gets people on their bikes, even if it’s not perfect, is a step in the right direction.

Speaking of getting people on bikes, I got myself on my Xtracycle today and rode to the Bellevue Transit Center, my first ride after the crash. What I used to take for granted will, at least for a while, feel like a real accomplishment.