Bike to Work Month Results: My Name in the Cascade Courier

Day’s Verse:
“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. …So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24, 31

Bike to Work Month Mention

Remember how May was Bike to Work Month? Here’s the page from the Cascade Courier listing the results. You can’t see it unless you click and zoom in, but I’m listed in the right-hand column under “Most Overall Miles by a Female Rider on a team.”

For this honor, Cascade Bike Club sent me:

  • An ORCA card with $5 on it (one-way fares are $2.75).
  • A medium T-shirt that says “Let’s bike to work, shall we?”, leftover from the shirts they were selling on Bike to Work Day.
  • A printed certificate stating my miles, team, and name. (I bought a frame for it myself.)
  • A CD of music paid for by Clif bar (based on all the Clif advertising), possibly bicycling related? I’m not sure, not having listened to it yet.

Thank you, Cascade Bicycle Club! That was definitely worth riding 709 miles in the month of May.

Even More Food and Bikes

Day’s Verse:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
Acts 2:44-45

You may have noticed that my blog has narrowed to two topics lately: Food and bikes. The interest in food really flows from the interest in — and time spent on — bikes. More time on bikes during the month of May simply means that I spend more time thinking about food, more time eating, and more time planning to eat. So, in honor of food and bikes, here they are:

My bike, finally completely repaired from the crash in March:
Artemis Pink 1

Artemis Pink Fork & Fenders

My first attempt at lemon meringue pie, assisted by my friend Rachel Klas from church.
Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie Cut

Thank you to Nana and Grandpa for the delicious lemons and Ken and Karolyn Alford for the extremely fresh eggs. The pie would not be what it is without your contribution. Yum.

Continue reading “Even More Food and Bikes”

Thoughts on Blog Popularity

Day’s Verse:
Do you think their faithlessness cancels out his faithfulness? Not on your life! Depend on it: God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth. Scripture says the same:
Your words stand fast and true;
Rejection doesn’t faze you.

Romans 3:3-ish (context)

American ScaleI’m now theoretically posting on three blogs: This one, the Bicycle Alliance’s new blog, and the AmeriCorps blog. Fortunately, my commitment to the AmeriCorps blog extends to only one more post. I have agreed to write one post per week for the Bicycle Alliance blog, not exactly an overwhelming task. It’s sure strange to have to dig up something creative to write; I’m so used to posting or not posting on my personal blog as I please for all these years.

Lately I’ve been thinking about Bike Snob‘s rise to fame. Waaaay back in 2007 he started an anonymous blog making fun of…well…everybody in “bike culture.” His dry wit has led to his meteoric rise in popularity, and recently he released a book and, to much fanfare (in the biking community), revealed his true identity. Here’s a guy who’s basically a normal guy and who started a blog — much like millions of other people. Yet, of all the bloggers in the world, Bike Snob rose to extraordinary popularity, while most blogs perish or languish in the twilight world of family-only readership.

Why?

It’s pretty simple, actually. He:

  1. Kept his personal life entirely out of it. Until he revealed himself, very few readers actually knew his identity. There was no “I saw Date Night with my dear wife last night” on his blog.

  2. Stuck to one specific topic. Bicycling and bicycling culture. He didn’t worry about appealing to a broad audience; turns out, the audience came to him.

  3. Wrote daily and profusely. This must have taken hours every day, quite a labor of…well, not love, but something serious anyway, since he held a real job at the time.

  4. Used humor ruthlessly. He has occasional moments of hilariousness and he made fun of everybody across the board. Nobody can accuse him of leaving some bicycling group unscathed. He also coined humorous, expressive phrases like “bike salmon” and “colorway” that have actually made it into fairly broad usage.

I really believe that those are the relatively simple recipe to “success” as a blog. When people find your blog funny, they come back. They talk about it. Word of mouth does the rest.

My blog, for example, would never achieve that level of popularity because I don’t adhere to any of those practices. Ultimately, it comes down to a question of what your blog is for. How you answer the question “Why blog?” really determines what format you choose to follow. For me, this blog has become as much of a record for my own reference as an opportunity to share. “Readership”? Who needs it?

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.

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

Teaching Urban Cycling Techniques: Day 2

Day’s Verse:
But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike.
Acts 26:22

Done!

I can now breathe a huge sigh of relief: After yesterday, I finished all my major weekend commitments. Maybe now I will have some time to:

  • Sleep in.
  • Bake bread.
  • Hang out with Ian.
  • Hang out with friends.
  • Clean our bedroom and bathroom.
  • Go for walks and hikes.
  • Clean my bike thoroughly.
  • Watch a movie occasionally.
  • Go somewhere to take pretty pictures.

Those are just a few of the things I look forward to doing in the time I hope to keep free in the future. Ian and I will be gaining possession of a house almost exactly 1 month from today (!!), but between now and then I intend to use my weekends to RELAX as much as possible.

Yesterday, though not overly relaxing, actually went incredibly well. I rode to Cascade that morning, met up with Ellen, found an empty parking lot, set up the Avoidance Weave course, and returned to gather the students. Then we rode to the parking lot, practicing turning left a few times along the way, and did the Avoidance Weave, the Rock Dodge, and the Quick Stop. I demonstrated (badly) the Instant Turn, and we gave people the opportunity to try it themselves — and all but one wanted to. We had to take the course down to stop them from riding through it, they were having so much fun.

After that, we had lunch and talked about crash statistics and how to choose what gear to be in on your bike in different situations. Then we finally got to the meat of the course: The road ride. We took this route:


View April UCT Ride Route in a larger map

Nobody got killed, only one person got honked at, and we had a great learning experience at this intersection:


View Larger Map

I didn’t have a chance to see the student evaluations before Ian picked me up, but I came away feeling like I’d done a decent job, especially for my first-ever major class like that. I also ended up thinking that I would probably find teaching bike classes much more enjoyable than my first experience indicated.

So, in a nutshell: Pretty good experience for me; I’d probably be willing to do it again, but not any time soon. It’s still a ton of work and time, and that’s what I’m short of these days.

Teaching Urban Cycling Techniques: Day 1

Day’s Verse:
I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.

Job 19:25

Bike HandleYesterday I co-taught the first half of my first-ever Traffic Skills 101 class. Cascade Bicycle Club calls it Urban Cycling Techniques. To prepare, I diligently reviewed the materials I received during my instructor training and last weekend I practiced the bike handling skills we’d teach this weekend.

Not that I didn’t need to do all that; the review did help keep the material fresh in my mind. But my co-teacher, Ellen Aagaard, runs such a laid-back, easygoing class that if I needed to refer to my notes or the book, that wasn’t really a problem. I liked how Ellen ran the class as a discussion, soliciting most of the information and ideas from the students. I’ve learned quite a bit having watched her interaction with the students. She listens respectfully and makes it clear that the students’ ideas are very important. The class ran over by an hour (!), and a couple people had to leave before then, but everybody stayed engaged and interested, even though it was after lunch and the after-lunch sleepies set in.

Yesterday we spent most of the day in the classroom. After introductions where students talked about their experience and what they want to get from the class, we talked about bike fit and parts of the bike. Then we moved outside to do the ABC Quick Check (despite having said to bring “a bike in working order that you’re familiar with,” people brought bikes they’d just bought the week before, bikes with brakes so badly damaged as to require replacing, etc. I suspect this is normal). Because some of the students’ bikes required adjusting or quick fixes, we split up: Ellen took care of those little emergencies, and I led the rest of the class to the parking lot, set up the course, and started going over starting and stopping. Unfortunately, the parking lot we agreed to meet at happened to also have a marching band practicing there — something Ellen had never had happen before. Once Ellen and the rest of the class met up with us, we picked up the course and moved to another parking lot farther away from the marching band. This weekend also happens to be the annual FlorAbundance plant sale for the Arboretum Foundation, which means that there’s a lot more traffic and a lot fewer open parking lots than usual at Magnuson Park.

That aside, we found a parking lot that was sparsely populated enough that I only had to kick one driver out. He parked in the middle of the course. I felt that Ellen and I worked together really well particularly outside; while she instructed, I set up; then while I demonstrated and led off the practice, she observed the students’ technique. I think we kept dead time to a minimum, although setting up/taking down the course and transitions did kill more time than I would like. On the way back, one of the students dropped her chain as we rode up a little hill, so I stopped with her and we talked about why chains fall off and how to shift. Then we walked back down the hill and rode up again, this time in the right gear. The student was amazed at how much easier it was to ride up a hill in the right gear. She’s an urban planner doing pedestrian and bike infrastructure, but had hardly ridden a bike in all these years. I hope the class gives her a different perspective on riding and what infrastructure supports safe cycling.

Anyway, everybody got cold standing around in the wind, so we decided to stay inside the rest of the day. We talked about bike gear — a topic that always interests people — and then moved on to the real meat of the class: Rights and responsibilities of cyclists; how to ride safely, courteously, and legally on the road; lane positioning and where to put yourself in different situations; all the stuff that’s different between riding a bicycle and driving a car. Generally if you ride your bike the same way you’d drive your car, you’ll do the right thing, but you have to make different decisions at some times because you’re so much smaller than a car. That was the part that went way over time. People wanted to talk about personal scenarios: “I have this one intersection…” or “What if…”

Today we’re doing the avoidance techniques — the avoidance weave, the rock dodge, and the quick stop; instant turn is off the menu, since these are such new, shaky students — followed by an in-classroom discussion of what causes crashes and crash avoidance, and then the road ride, where students practice everything they learned. At least, that’s the plan. As I learned yesterday, anything could happen. We’ll be flexible and make sure the students get the most out of it, no matter what we do.

The weather calls for partly sunny skies, light winds, and temperatures around 60°F, but right now it’s 47°F and quite cloudy. I may wear my jacket just in case.

All in all, yesterday was a wonderful redeeming experience after the fateful LCI Seminar I helped co-teach back in February, and it makes me think that maybe I do want to teach more of these classes now and then.

Interlude

Day’s Verse:
I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Psalm 61:4

Once again, I get 15 seconds — if that — of fame, this time in the Bicycle Paper. I mentioned that the Bike Alliance won the Bicycle Paper Peoples’ Choice Award. Little did I know that we would get our picture in the paper. Of course, this is the paper that ran an article on a bicycle hearse, so I’m not sure how auspicious this mention really is…