Thursday, December 21

The Slaughter of Civilization, Part I: The Combover Years

Previously, on From the Pavement’s Edge



Isn’t that the chorus of our binge watching lives now?  I’m not going to start bashing you for binge-watching Breaking Bad on Netflix now.  I’m guilty as anyone else when it comes to the entertainment glut we’ve conditioned ourselves to.  I do remember a simpler time when I watched maybe a half hour or hour of cartoons in the afternoon after school and three or four hours of cartoons on Saturday morning but he rest of my waking and unstructured time was dedicated to playing in the dirt, climbing trees, and pretending to save the universe from evil. 

When I was younger I watched TV and movies to stoke my imagination.  I most often built on what I saw in my mind and that fueled my play.  These days I watch House of Cards (damn Kevin Spacey!) and Designated Survivor to distract me from the real world.  When I want a more effective escape I watch sci-fi and fantasy or Vikings.  

The drama playing out in America today is too intense, too real, and in some ways even too unbelievable.  I was a Never Trump person.  I didn’t like Donald J. in his ten second appearance in Home Alone 2. I didn’t care to ever watch The Apprentice. It was the antithesis of what I believe good entertainment to be.  And it portrays the most crass of human behaviors and desires.  But I digress…



When I was active with this blog before I professed to be a political independent.  Technically that’s not true, though at heart I still am.  I’m not a Democrat and hate Trump; I hate Trump and became a Democrat.   Though as this tax bill travesty plays out I’m becoming more and more staunch in my allegiance.  While I abhor the two-party system, the reality of wanting to make a difference has cornered me into picking a side.  In the end I just couldn’t associate myself with the GOP.  I realize at the national level there’s probably not much difference between a democratic Congressperson and a republican one. 

The difference for me is that at the local level—I can speak first hand in rural Appalachia anyway—that ordinary, everyday people who identify as democrats tend to be less radical and irrational than their rightwing counterparts.  In all honesty I prefer the company of people, who like me for so long, just travel down the middle of the road and don’t hug the ragged edges. 

What troubles me the most at this juncture in human history is that it’s hard to know what to believe.  It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s reality TV.  I can believe Donald Trump and his confederates would loot the country for their own gain.  That’s not hard to believe.  What I find concerning is that I have trouble trusting even his most vehement opponents.  Are they truly outraged that justice and mercy are being suspended in an orgy of greed or do they just want to run the orgy themselves? 

Only time will tell.


Tuesday, December 19

Crying Out From Beyond the Pavement



It’s official: I’ve now been back in Kentucky for five years after a five-year stint in Colorado where I became a committed bicycle commuter.  I’m closing in on ten years as a professional planner now.   When we moved back this blog was going strong, and I had hoped to carry that momentum over into my renewed life in rural Kentucky.  At first we had planned to live in Lexington, but circumstances conspired to keep us on the edge of rural Eastern Kentucky.  We’re still there and going strong now.  I’d say we’re as settled there as we’ll ever be anywhere. But that’s a whole different story.

This post is meant to be an update and perhaps and exploratory procedure to see if I can rekindle my cyclo-blogging voice.  I’ve mostly been writing at my other blog The Chainring Report where I tackle such controversial topics as what next organized event I’ll sign up to fail at and bemoaning my fatness (a theme of all of my blogs I must confess).  I lost my way on the Pavement’s Edge a few years ago.  At first Jeaph and I were road riding tons and I was also edging myself as close to being an urban cyclist through work with rides at lunch and commutes by bike to in town meetings.  But over time those things faded, and I went completely off-pavement to become a dedicated mountain biker, trail builder, and trails advocate. 

I’m still cognizant of transportation issues.  I keep abreast of what’s going on in state and national bike advocacy as much as I can, but in the end I just stopped caring because I have found myself trapped in the passenger compartment of a Single Occupancy Vehicle for much of the last five years.  This past year I have even served as chair of the Lexington Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.  Unfortunately, that’s not been enough to make me care to keep blogging about cycling issues.



I tried at first to draw attention to the hurdles to progressive transportation development in the state, but that became so disheartening I had to walk away.  I had to focus on things that were more positive in my life.  And the cracks in the rock were outdoor recreation.  I’ve been able to work on a project to improve river access near my home.  I’ve been able to build trails.  And I helped form a non-profit mountain bike advocacy organization.  The dysfunction in my state’s transportation industry has not faded in the slightest.  At the national level it seems we may be moving backward in transportation much like we have in so many other areas. 

So here we are…five years gone and there’s not much on the horizon that’s promising in the realm of bicycle and pedestrian advocacy in my world.  And I’m loath to turn this into a wailing wall of gripes against humanity.  That way lies madness.

I will say that after five years of working at the local, regional and state level in Central and Eastern Kentucky I have a grasp on what’s going on.  I know many of the players.  I have historical context, a deeper depth of knowledge, and experience now.

The absence of cycling in my life—as an integral part of daily life—leaves a void that’s hard to fill.  All of that pedaling was my daily therapy, and fitness regime, and escape.  These days getting on the bike takes planning, and work, and time.  When I rode daily it still took a little planning and time, but it was my default and it was just part of who I was.  I miss that. 

There’s no easy path back from where I am in life right now.  I may try to start addressing the issues I’ve identified with constructive criticism and maybe some potential solutions.  Unfortunately, many of the obvious fixes to the problems I see are on a geologic timescale and uncertain at best. 

I can’t promise a regular posting schedule at this point, but I’m going to try and post here again and seek to right some of the wrongs I see in the world.

Still (quietly) fighting the good fight



Friday, February 10

The Leadville Saga: Leadville or Bust Didn't Bust

Leadville or Bust by Chris Chaney is now published on Amazon for Kindle.  I'm working on getting a print version out there and will update as soon as I do.

If you've not been following the progress of my book please don't read past posts :)  I've made numerous assertions over years that the book was almost done, almost ready to publish, etc, etc.  There are a lot of reasons its hasn't seen the light of day until now.  For those who have been following my progress I'll give you the briefest summary as I possibly can :)

In 2010...

Let's jump forward instead.

At the beginning of 2013 my family moved back to Kentucky from Colorado.  Earlier that fall I had DNFed during my first Leadville attempt.  I'd been a regular bike blogger since early 2009, and I had been chronicling my journey toward the red carpet at Leadville.  When I failed to cross the finish line the stakes went up a bit.  I got into the 2013 race through a qualifier, and then we moved 1,200 miles east.

I kept writing; even then I knew I was going to take my blog posts about the Leadville saga in my life and turn them into a book.  The hitch was that I hadn't finished...and who wanted to read a book about a quitter?  So I had to go back.

After the 2013 Leadville 100 I came home and wrote up the final chapters of what I thought was going to be a quick self-published Kindle book.  And it should have been.  However, I got caught up in trying to go big with the book.  I tried to shop it to publishers.  I looked into vanity presses.  In the end it came back to this being a DIY project from start to finish.  I couldn't beg friends and family to read the drafts and give me constructive criticism.  Without investing money I really didn't have there was no way I was going to be able to get the book published as I envisioned it.

So there it sat on the hard drive of my computer in a file titled: LOB FINAL DRAFT.doc.  I'd decided there was little else I could do.  I was too close to it to see any glaring flaws and it was my darling baby book.  How could I kill it?  Believe me, I debated it.  But I had too much invested emotionally and too much time put into it to delete that file and everything else in the folder with it.

A week or so ago I was driving somewhere and doing my typical daydream thing where I fantasize about my life being exactly how I want it to be (in those fantasy daydreams I'm a writer living modestly but comfortably) and it occurred to me that the book was doing no one any good sitting in that folder on my computer.  So I decided to publish it via Kindle and through Amazon's print-on-demand service.  At least then I could share it with those who are/were interested and I could have a physical copy of my book on the bookshelf.  Maybe then the demon imp on my shoulder would just shut the hell up.

It took a week because I'm so easily distracted from everything.  Finally, one night I was sitting in front of the TV watching not much of anything and I grabbed my laptop and started the process.  To get it onto Kindle was fairly easy.  I had a great cover design that a good friend had come up with for me a few months ago when I thought I was really going to go through with publication so that was no problem.  Once the Kindle was away I started working on the Kindle print-on-demand beta service.  I thought that would be easy and that was what I wanted, but once it finally went through I realized I couldn't offer reduced price author copies.  I went back and looked and apparently you can only do that through CreateSpace.  So as of today I'm waiting on the CreateSpace review process and then it will be live.

And now I enter the truly nebulous space of promotion.  I have no good idea how to promote my work as I have presented it to the world.  I've shared on social media.  I beg those who say they will buy the book (or already have) to review it.  Beyond that I'm flying blind.  In the whole scheme of things that's okay.  This book was more for me than for fame and glory.  I'd love to be able to make a living off of writing, but I never expected that this book would be the one to thrust me that far into the limelight.  It's just not that kind of book.

So for my long time fans and Dear Readers I give you a finished product...finally.  And I apologize for not being more decisive years ago.  But then that's totally in character for me.

If you do buy the book in any format please go back to Amazon and give me a review. Be honest and constructive, but please leave something.

Thanks in advance and in the end for all of your support and interest.  This has been a great book to write. There have been some really memorable moments in the acts that I ended up describing in the book and in the writing itself.  I'm somewhat numb right now to how I feel about suddenly having the book on Kindle.  I think I expected more emotion and fanfare.

In the end I hope people enjoy the book and take something positive away from it.  The journey for me was rough, but somewhere along the way, despite my failures, I discovered there is a strength and tenacity in me.  Maybe not a punctualness necessary to be a mountain bike racer or successful author, but definitely something solid under the flab.

Friday, February 12

To Build a Trail


Last night I presented a proposal to the Stanton City Council for a new shared use path.  While groundbreaking is still an uncertain and distant thing, it's become a real possibility when for so long it had been simply a daydream careening around inside my skull bouncing off so many other ideas.  Not all of these ideas are my original creative thoughts.  But this one I can take a little more credit for.
To be completely honest this wouldn't be happening if not for the help of Blake—a local runner and engineer.  Well over a year ago he and I started brainstorming about potential trails in and around Stanton and into Powell County beyond.  We shared a few ideas; meaning we both had come up with basically the same ideas independently of each other.  And each of us had our own unique ideas that we brought to the table.
In the process of writing the countywide bike ped plan last year I incorporated all of those ideas.  A conceptual idea that I had was to build a shared use path generally within the floodplain of Judy Creek.  The creek begins on the north slope of Furnace Mountain and flows through the heart of Stanton to the Red River.  It runs past the grocery store, numerous residential areas, the library, elementary school...it ties the community together.
In a conversation with the county Judge Executive I mentioned my idea and specifically the section of Judy Creek that runs along the back side of two industrial parks south of town.  The Judge suggested that a trail in that area should connect to the future senior citizens center which will be immediately north of the industrial park.
The current senior citizens center is at the city park where there is currently a half mile paved trail.  The location of the new senior center is where the new trail is proposed.  If the trail isn’t built the senior center loses that amenity.  For me that is a clear selling point for this project. 
Not only will the trail provide proximate access to around fifty homes, but a little over a quarter of a mile away is a low income housing development.  A few hundred people will be within spitting distance of the new trail.  Please don’t spit on the trail.
The trail will ring two industrial parks.  Reed is becoming close to built-out and Manning is still a greenfield.  This trail will provide an amenity to prospective companies that may look at locating to either park.  Those companies may be able to leverage the close proximity to the trail and its amenities for their wellness programs and to entice employees and managers.
Acting as a linear park and expanding the community’s park facilities the trails will provide relief to trail users who are frustrated during little league season, the Corn Festival, and other events at the city park that inhibit their use of the trail there.  There will also be more potential for running and walking events, bike rodeos, and other fitness and recreation activities.
All of this is good and fine.  But my insidious purpose behind getting this trail built is…
Well, it’s no real secret.  I see this project as the low hanging fruit.  The Industrial Authority owns the majority of the property where the trail will be located.  They are fully supportive of the project and therefore there is a high likelihood of its success.  Once we get a real life honest-to-god shared use path in the county I think it will be easier to get broader support for more such projects.  My grand scheme is to connect Clay City and Stanton to Slade.  I want to span the county with multiuse trails. 
Judy Creek Trail (Sections 6 & 7 from the master plan) is the first step.
Preliminary proposal
 
The Council approved the proposal so fast it made my head spin.  We’re well on our way. 
I still have three or four committee/council meetings to go to for this to be official.  The public meeting is already scheduled and I need to start working on that presentation.  There are a couple of spots of private land that need to be addressed as well.  We’re working on that.
Best case we have a new trail by the end of this year.  Worst case the grant is denied.  I feel confident that we’ll be awarded the grant.  This is huge for my rural community.

 

Friday, February 5

From the Planner's Desk: It's Safe to Pass This Law

UPDATE: The bill passed the Senate 33-4.  Now it goes before the house.

Kentucky Senate Bill 80 has passed committee.  On Wednesday, February 3, 2016 the Senate Committee on Transportation voted unanimously to pass the bill.

SB 80 is the “Safe Passing Law” or “Three Foot Law” that has been championed by Dixie Moore and supported by various organizations and a host of individual cyclists and advocates.  Kentucky is one of only a very few states that do not already have some form of a safe passing law on the books.  It looks like we’re getting closer, though nothing is guaranteed at this point.

L to R: Asa Swan, Sen. Robin Webb, Troy Hearn, and Doug Brent
before the Senate Committee on Transportation

Unfortunately a controversial cyclist in Nicholasville a couple of years ago complicated the conversation.  Before that I had not heard the standard fare anti-cycling rhetoric that was so well rehearsed in the national dialogue and more specifically in Colorado where I lived for five years.


Yes, oddly enough, a more bicycle friendly state seemed to have greater controversy surrounding cycling than my “unfriendly” home state where I was pleasantly surprised upon moving back to discover that Kentucky drivers tend to slow down, get over, and in general act more friendly to cyclists.  At least in rural areas.

Something that struck me as odd was that a number of Senators on the committee cited the Kentucky Trail Town program and its exploded popularity among constituents across the state as influencing their support of the bill.  It’s not that I don’t see the value in the Trail Town program myself, but what mystified me was that it had such a profound effect on the legislators in regards to the bicycle safety bill.  I’ll take it!

So what’s next?  The bill is not yet a law.  First it must go before the full Senate for a vote.  Then to the House Committee on Transportation for a vote, then before the full House and finally before the Governor for his signature if it makes it that far.  We still have a few hurdles to get past, but this is a positive start to be certain.


Now the real legwork comes into play for advocates of this bill.  It’s time to ramp up the letter/email writing and phone call campaigns to Senators and Representatives.  It's time to storm the Capitol on our bikes!




Friday, January 29

Ramming Speed Friday: The Winter Commute Part III


I was always antsy after lunch when the weather was cold or looking to turn snowy.  Even when my schedule allowed me to leave the office at 4:30 darkness would fall as I was riding home.  But much of the time during winter the end of my day was at 5:30.  Darkness had long come and the cold temps had set themselves up in ambush for me along the route home.
I got antsy.  And no amount of reasonable discussion would affect my release from the cubicle sentence I found myself serving.  Only a couple of times did sympathy win out and I was allowed to leave early to beat the weather.  Official office policy was that it was my choice to ride my bike to work and therefore no concession need to be made for my well-being.
It was only sort of my choice.  My car wouldn’t pass emissions.  We couldn’t afford to replace it.  So I rode.
Running snow tires on the X
Maybe I was bitter.  Heck, I was pissed off!  That didn’t change anything once I rolled my trusty human-powered mode of transportation into the dark winter evenings to ride home from work across the western Denver suburbs.
The first part was always a fast downhill unless there was still significant snow or ice.  By the time I got into the streets of Golden I was typically a popsicle.  In fact, I was halfway home before the grade lessened enough that I could get my heartrate up and start warming my digits beneath their layers.
I dodged black ice.  I surfed fresh snow sometimes.  I almost always took the longer route that was 90% multiuse path to avoid the evening vehicular traffic during low visibility conditions.  Though I did come to appreciate the superior visibility provided by strong LED lights in darkness.  Still, I felt safer heading home far from the reach of work weary commuters in their big steel coffins.
 
There were always more people out in the afternoon/evening during winter along the path.  In the mornings it wasn’t odd to make my entire commute and not see another soul.  Most of the time at least a few people were out on my way home.  I never felt like there were enough people to be a safety benefit should I crash and hurt myself.  And crash I did!
A coworker once fretted that if I kept riding I might crash someday.  My response was: “I crash every day.”  And it was true.  I just kinda learned to take a fall on snow and ice.  It rarely hurt.  And with no other trail users around it was rarely embarrassing.
I’d pass into Wheat Ridge on the Clear Creek Trail and then I had options of when to bail from the trail onto side streets.  The best case was a little longer but only three-quarters of a mile of street riding from trail to my house.  It was a little busier road than the longer option, but for the most part it was mellow.  The busier streets usually had more exposed real estate to ride on in winter.
 
When finally I returned home to the Bikeport I had an evening routine of stripping the bike of all my gear, maybe putting down towels if there was slush clinging to all the components, and hanging up my layers to dry.  Sometime before bed (unless it was a Ramming Speed Friday) I’d gather up all of the things I’d need for the morning commute the next day and stow them in panniers or cargo bags.  I’d get the coffee pot ready and hang up clothes for the next day. 
It was a pretty good life being a full time bike commuter.  There were a lot of challenges.  And at times it was difficult.  When I was getting over a cold I had to bum a ride.  One morning I made it all the way to the bike path counting on it being clear and it had not been plowed as usual.  I tried to call in, but my boss came and picked me up at the park in his Suburban.  And there were just some days I ended up having to drive to work.  When my family stayed home from school and there was two to three feet of fresh snow on the ground it was nearly impossible to ride my bike no matter how determined.
I resolved that if it was too bad for me to ride in it then it was probably too bad.  I may not have been the most hard core bike commuter to ever ply the roads in the Denver area, but I was more committed than the majority.  It once took me two and a half hours to make my eleven mile commute.  That day it was safer to “ride” than to drive.  That day they should have closed the office.  I still beat most of my coworkers in.
I highly recommend winter bike commuting if you have a reasonable route and the right cold weather gear.  You don’t have to have a lot of expensive stuff.  You just need to be somewhat resourceful and determined.

Thursday, January 28

Lowering the Barriers: The Winter Commute Part II


The alarm goes off.  I don’t need to look outside into the darkness and try to see what the weather conditions are.  I went to bed with the forecast burned into the surface of my brain.  It’s cold out there.  I can hear the wind.
 
“Do you want me to drive you?” my wife mumbles from under the blankets.
“Nah, I’ll just ride,” I reply, and drag myself out of the bed.
My clothes hang in the bathroom.  But first I hike into the kitchen and flick on the coffee maker.  I return to the bathroom and begin piling on the layers.  I have a thin base.  I put on two layers of socks, a polypro undershirt and tights.  Over that I pull on a t-shirt and cargo pants.  My wool button-up is draped over my bike behind the couch in the living room.
The coffee stops hissing as I sit down at the kitchen table to pull on my light hikers.  I pour the coffee into a Klean Kanteen, snug down the screw on lid, and tuck it into the cargo bag on my Xtracycle deep into the down coat that’s already there.  The coat provides a little extra insulation and keeps the coffee totally warm despite the sub-zero temps outside.
 
I pull on the wool shirt, yank a thin balaclava over my noggin, and snap on my helmet.  Last are my gloves.  I have a pair of thin liners with a medium weight pair of Windstopper fleece gloves over them.  With that combo I have pretty good dexterity for shifting and breaking while keeping my digits relatively warm.
I don’t need to check my lights.  They were charged the night before and are already on the bike.
I carefully roll the bike to the door and wrangle it into the predawn darkness.  The cold bites at my cheeks right away.  No other skin is exposed.  Once outside I pull ski goggles over the whole mess leaving no exposed skin for the wind to burn.  It’s ten below zero and I am heading out for work on my bike.
The wind is not in my favor.  It never is.  But I am in good shape and it’s not gale force at least.  I know where the patches of ice lay in wait and easily avoid black ice and lingering piles of snow and slush that are frozen until the sun hits them alter in the day when they will reform into new and exciting shapes.
 
Traffic is light and I make my way easily to the long lane that parallels the railroad track.  I can easily make out where the city/county corporate boundary is.  The road is a priority for one but not the other.  Two miles pass on the road with a stout headwind.  By the time I enter the park and approach the multiuse path my core warmth has started to spread into my extremities.  I know the window of pleasant warmth before The Sweat is small.  Once I really start climbing up into town I’ll begin soaking my baselayers.
There is a long straightaway between the mesas on the path.  I call that stretch The Wind Tunnel because the wind out of Clear Creek Canyon from the mountains is always fierce and cold.  It slams full in my face and threatens to stop me dead in my tracks.  I keep pedaling until I find some shelter in the lee of the highway.  I’ll get a reprieve until I pass through the trail tunnel and come out on the west side back into the full force of the Wind Tunnel.
The Wind Tunnel on a cold but snowless day
I miscalculate a turn and my rear wheel sinks suddenly into soft snow where I thought there was path. The edge of the concrete path caught my wheel at an angle and I fail to remount.  Before I can react I’m down on a shoulder and hip on the ice of the path.  I stand up, drag the bike upright, and shove off toward work.  Once I’m moving again I run a diagnostic on my systems.  Seems my clothing took the brunt.  My shoulder is less than numb and I know there’s no permanent damage.  The ice and slow speeds play in my favor. 
At the end of the Wind Tunnel there is a steepening climb to a bridge over the highway, and then another stretch of climbing to the high point of the Clear Creek Trail.  On the return—under warm blue skies—I can easily hit 35-40 mph on the descent.  At the top of the first climb just past the bridge I stop at what looks like a rest area along the path.  I snap a photo of the brightening landscape to the east.  Then I get back on the bike.  I’m only starting to sweat.
I make the apex a few minutes later and really begin warming up.  There’s a nice downhill to the icy and treacherous Tucker Gulch Trail, but I avoid it and jump over on the well-plowed streets.  I cut through town and pick the path back up in the park. 
Tucker Gulch Trail
All that’s left between me and a shower and then a day in the cubicle is a few hundred feet of elevation gain from Clear Creek to the JeffCo government center at 6,000’.  The first hill is a bear but short.  I cross Lookout Mountain Road and fight speed on the descent before the last long slog up to the building.  It’s long, maybe a mile, and too steep to ride on the snow.  I’m-a walkin’.
By the time I roll up to the lower level entrance and swipe my ID I’m a sloppy mess under my synthetic layers.  I whip off my balaclava and gloves and stow them in my cargo bags as I roll the bike through the empty halls to the elevator.  I’m dripping sweat but my face is numb from the cold. 
I leave the bike in my cubicle and gather my clothes from where they’ve hung since Monday.  I hike back downstairs to the locker room to shower and start my day.
Part III will take it all home.

Tuesday, January 26

Lowering the Barriers: The Winter Commute Part I


 
Winter bike commuting can be tough.  It can also be very rewarding.  And regardless of whether or not you commute by bike in the snow, riding a bike for fun in the snow can be…well, fun. 
I live in Kentucky now where winter weather typically shuts everything down and doesn’t linger very long.  But I cut my commuting teeth in the Denver, Colorado area where if you’re a dedicated full time bike commuter you just get used to riding on snow and ice. 
 
The purpose of this post is to just lay out a few tips and tricks for keeping upright while riding in the snow whether for recreation or utility.
1) Leave yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going.  This is sound advice regardless of your mode of transportation, but on the bike it is more imperative to make sure you arrive safely.  Sometimes plowed snow may block a preferred route.  Sometimes bike paths that normally get plowed don’t.  If you have mechanical trouble it’s much harder to change a tube, fix a chain, etc in cold weather.  And it’s good not to be rushed.
 
2) Dress like you’re going cross country skiing.  I heard someone give this advice and it changed the way I dressed for cycling and cross country skiing.  I typically would dress for my maximum heart rate but carry heavier clothing in case I had a problem.  So that meant panniers or a backpack until I got my cargo bike.  Layers are good, but ultimately cycling consistently in cold weather comes down to knowing what to wear for your comfort level and then carrying layers for contingencies.  No one wants to stop to peel off or pile on layers while riding.
This is what -10F looks like
3) Your water bottle will freeze.  Figure something else out, but make sure you keep drinking.
4) Winter days are short.  Lights. Lights. Lights.  I prefer rechargeable front and rear LED lights.  I carried the charger with me on the bike; that way if a light started going out on the ride to work I could charge it before heading home in the evening.  I ran my bright (250 lumen) NiteRider light even in sunny conditions.
Sporting chains (no kidding) and a light
5) Have a backup plan.  If you have a car and it’s just too bad to bike then drive.  There is no shame.  If you’re comfortable riding the bus and it works for you then don’t hesitate to jump on to avoid worsening conditions.  But make sure if you have a motor vehicle SAG option that when you call you’re not putting friend, family, or significant other into danger by having them come out on bad roads to save your nappy ass.  I remember calling once and then worrying about my wife getting out on icy roads with both kids in our only car.  We made it home safe, but I regretted not sticking it out and letting them stay at home where it was safe.
 
6) Have fun!  As much work as it was and as much as I suffered being a full time bike commuter in Colorado it was a whole lot of fun and I have a lot of great memories (and photos) from sticking to my guns even when the skies, roads, and pathways were less than optimal.
I don't know, where would YOU rather ride?
For my next post I'll roll you through a day in the life of a winter bike commuter.
Not THIS day
 

 

Friday, January 22

From the Suicide Lane: Bigger or Better?

Currently there is a Senate Bill before the Kentucky legislature to provide protection to cyclists on the Commonwealth’s roadways.  It’s a safe passing bill or what is typically known as a three foot to pass law.  Kentucky needs this.  Currently Kentucky is ranked the 49th bicycle friendly state by the League of American Bicyclists.  Kentucky needs safe passing legislation.

I was contacted by the bill’s champion to see if I knew any cyclists within a certain House District that might contact the Representative who happens to be the head of the House Transportation Committee.  She commented that his responses had been along the lines of “bicycles are dangerous and shouldn’t be on the roads,” that legislation like SB80 make cycling more attractive (duh) which will result in more people on the roads on bikes who shouldn’t be there in the first place, and that cyclists and motorists would be in more danger because of it.

So dangerous!

I find it odd that the head of the House TRANSPORTATION Committee doesn’t realize that 1) bikes are legal vehicles in Kentucky per KRS 189 and that 2) people are going to ride bikes on the roads for myriad reasons and they deserve the same kind of protections as other users regardless of how he feels about their presence or absence thereon.

But it’s a mentality that is prevalent.  This week is the annual Kentuckians for Better Transportation Conference in Lexington.  The conference is the yearly get together of statewide legislators, local elected leaders, and more specifically all of those people in the same room with all of the Big Transportation industry folks; the contractors, asphalt companies, the planning and engineering firms, and anyone who has an interest in big ticket transportation projects around the state.  And of course the state level transportation officials are there as well.  So all the decision makers and al the demand desire-ers get together to network and drink together in a hotel before returning to a full year of schmoozing and finagling all of those transportation dollars into the appropriate coffers.  Do I sound cynical?

Of course.  Despite the Kentuckians for Bigger Transportation claiming to represent ALL modes of transportation those that are not deeply connected to gasoline and diesel powered conveyances get the short end of the stick shift.  Too many people in positions of power have flippant attitudes toward cyclists and pedestrians while too many local elected officials are forced to deal with issues they have no real power to confront.  They’re told by knowledgeable “experts” in the Transportation Cabinet that there is simply not enough money to accommodate walkers and bikers in their counties and if they try to do so that the larger number of constituents in single occupancy vehicles are going to suffer for it.  Do I still sound cynical?  Do you disagree that this is not the culture in government today?

And do you disagree with the flawed logic in this thinking?  The new republican Governor spoke at the conference luncheon on Thursday.  If we could truly believe him to be speaking Truth then most of those industry bigwigs should have been shaking in their expensive shoes yesterday.  And I think they were, but not for the right reasons.  See, the Governor said he was committed to eradicating waste in the state budget.  And while I’m not sure what he will determine to be waste, I do know that if we appropriately cut up the pie and if we planned and built projects based on real needs and not contrived demand and selfish greed then perhaps more human scaled projects would end up coming to life in communities that desperately need them.

I actually heard one conference attendee (and I did not see his face and do not know who he is) say: “I’m just here to find some money.”  My guess is he was half joking and that he was likely a county Judge-Executive.  Our rural county Judges never have enough money to run their counties.  I truly hope it was a mirthful county Judge because had any other attendee said that it would have just been creepy.

I try to check my conspiracy theories at the door.  But it’s really hard to ignore big meetups like the annual KBT conference as being the informal lobbying sessions that they seem.  Or short of that being the networking orgies they definitely are for contractors to buddy up to county and highway district level decision makers for future favorability in the bid process.

There are no bike-ped sessions in the conference.  There was a token session last year, but it was more a novelty than evidence of a change in thinking.  If you check out KBT’s policy and bill watch pages you won’t find anything about the Safe Passing Bill.  I didn’t go to every session in the conference, but I didn’t hear anything about legislation that protects or even hints at promoting non-motorized or non-SOV modes of transportation.  Wonder where in ALL modes of transportation bike-ped fits in the eyes of KBT?

Thursday, January 14

Lowering the Barriers: Velophile Once More


I was once a velophile.  Our family had one car.  Full time bike commuting was my normal.  Beard-freezing rides stopped being novel.  When a coworker said of me riding on ice “you’re going to crash one of these days!” I replied that I crashed EVERY day, and as I said it I realized it was true.
 
Life’s distraction wore at me.  After moving from a major metropolitan area back to my rural Appalachian hometown cycling became a chore.  But I had signed up for a big mountain bike race “back West” before we moved so I was sort of obligated to keep turning the pedals.  The race came and went. In the aftermath I struggled to find reason and purpose in cycling again.
But I was no longer car-lite; I had become car-grossly-obese.  In the city I had ridden my bike twenty miles a day–one hundred miles a week–to get to and from work.  Back in bucolic climes I found myself behind the wheel of a car driving a minimum of four hundred and fifty miles a week! Life has conspired to strip me of my velophilic identity.  And I’ve not put up much of a fight.
I took up running.  There’s less gear and less issue with weather and traffic and  the paucity of legal mountain biking trails where I live.  Running was new and novel and just easier.  Since I wasn’t using the bike for utility or transportation purposes I didn’t miss cycling as much. I had forgotten the effort it takes to cover thirty miles for transportation purposes; when you’re not out for a leisurely ride but that you need to connect Point A and Point B with a line within a specific timeframe.  It’s a different activity than a mountain bike ride or a road bike ride for fun.  To plan to be presentable when you read your destination and to have enough fuel takes effort.  It’s more than just riding your bike.  It’s a journey, or a mini-journey, and we take these kinds of trips for granted when we go by car.  On a bike it’s commuting, but it can also be an adventure.
Inspiration comes in strange turns.  I’m the king of the unconventional bike commute.  In Colorado I frequently rode my mountain bike to work so I could detour over a mesa for some singletrack action before reporting to my cubicle work release program.  I took classes at CU Boulder and commuted twenty miles one way by bike through open space and suburban wastelands on both my mountain bike and my cargo bike.  I have actually biked my ninety mile round trip Kentucky commute, but it’s hard to get excited about riding in traffic in Lexington. It’s more suburban hell than urban heaven.  Throw in a healthy serving of extremely rolling rural countryside and it’s just TOO MUCH bike commute to bite off and choke down.
 
Recently I have recommitted to being my cyclo-centric in my life.  I have a cargo bike stationed by the basement door ready to roll at a moment’s notice.  I’ve made a couple of jaunts to town to the hardware store and grocery store.  Winter is settling in, but it’s an El NiƱo year so maybe this new resolve to bike in life will take hold. 
While it’s hard to take up biking for transportation for the first time, it’s also not easy to go back to it after being gone for a long time.  Cyclocentrism works best when it’s habit-formed and anchored into your lifestyle.  If you’ve got it hold on to it.