Monday, April 30

April Miles Bring May Trials

The numbers are in. It's not bad, but its not good.

April: 376 miles, 3rd highest mileage out of four so far in 2012, 3 miles less than the 2012 average so far.

If you multiply the average out the projection for the year is 4,554 miles. Ugh. But the 260 miles in February really kicked the legs out of my overall average.

And what's up with two posts involving math in one day? I can do averages though.

Tomorrow I change shifts/schedule. Four years of this undignified swinging from 7:30 – 4:00 and then to 9:00 – 5:30...I absolutely hate working until 5:30. Traffic is bad enough between 4 – 4:45. But by 5:30 rush "hour" is in full swing and the moto-fascists are looking for someone to take their commutes out on.

The upside is that I now have more time before work and don't have to get up as early. But I'm a morning person...

Let's go for 500+ in May!


Has cycling become so normal in my life there is no novelty left? Have I stopped loving the act of riding a bicycle only to hate the obstacles to doing so?

Yesterday I did an odd thing. I rode my bike 0.9 miles (round trip) down to Echter's (garden center). I meandered around, picking up some seeds, organic fertilizer, garden soil for seedlings, and I chatted with a wonderfully knowledgeable lady about alternate grasses for my "lawn."

That was not the odd thing. I'll tell you what it was, and here it is:

When I approached the register to check out I realized I had forgotten my wallet. It was either out front in my bike or at home less than a mile away. As the person in front of me checked out I quick called Mandy.

"Do you see my wallet?"

 "Yes, here it is. Do you want me to bring it to you?"


"Uh, yeah." Now, this is a complex equation. Mandy has been feeling the onerous effects of seasonal allergies. Her asthma has been almost out of control for a few days and yesterday she was particularly not well. We'll call that X.

The likelihood that she would ride her bike down with my wallet when I was clearly feeling fine while she was not was something like (Y – 100). She was not going to ride.

The likelihood that if I left my cart stashed somewhere while I rode back up the hill to retrieve my wallet myself that an employee would return all of my items to their respective places was probably (Y – 99), but in my mind it was a certainty: Y + 100.

 My sense of urgency to be productive around the house—to get the small shed torn down to cannibalize for a chicken coop and rabbit hutch, finish the shelves in the big shed, finish the siding on the big shed, get some stuff planted in the garden, get the slash cleaned up from when I pruned the apple trees, etc, etc—was high, we'll call it C.

The elevation gain from Echter's is around 50', so irrelevant as a factor to dissuade me from making the back and forth trip to home. For fun let's call that one (0).

 I could have just abandoned the items in my cart, but the acquisition of those items was directly tied to C, so we'll call it (Cx2).

And the distance to be ridden...0.9 miles. Isn't it odd, grammatically speaking, that we'd say 0.9 miles, plural, if it's less than a mile? If you called it "nine tenths" then perhaps, but "zero point nine?" I think not. Confused yet? Wait til I start assembling this equation.

Since I hate math so I'm just going to times everything together. Except where I divide. We're solving for 0.9 (ZERO POINT NINE).

X(Y – 100)(Y – 99)/(Y + 100)0(C) + C2 = 0.9

So for anyone out there with a mathematical knack, please let me know what the answer is. I have a quiz I need to turn in from 1988 that's really overdue.

While you're working that out (SHOW YOUR WORK!) I'll share some of my observations from my complex decision making process. I could have ridden back home fast, returned, pushed my cart back into line and felt all green and gushy inside. If Mandy hadn't offered I wouldn't have asked her to come down because I knew she didn't feel so hot. It was a quick decision, but even so, I knew the ecologically responsible choice would have been to suck it up, ride home and back and go on my way. If I hadn't been so frantic to make some headway on our projects around the house I may have been more apt to have taken the extra time. But in the end I was trying to maximize my efforts for the day. I did so by employing fossil fuels and the benevolence of my wife.

 I didn't beat myself up over the gasoline bail-out. I could have. I could have laid down in front of the train on principle alone, but I think in the whole scheme of things the little carbon age sins aren't worth getting all worked up over.

Saturday, April 28

The Leadville Chronicles: 10 Miles Per Hour

Gravity pulled and I pushed. We got that !@#$% mountain bike down Bear Creek Canyon in no time flat. Miles and miles lay behind me.

The ride back was thankfully not the proverbial "long" one. The upside, if you will, of 3,400' of climbing over 29 miles is that when you turn around and point your wheel toward home the hardest part is over.

I left Arvada at 5:25am this morning. The sun had not yet risen and the temperature was about 45F. I hit Morrison at 6:35, Kittredge at 7:45 and Evergreen at 8:00. Once I left the road at Evergreen Lake and began the slog up the Dedisse Trail into Alderfer/Three Sisters it took me another hour to reach Bluebird Meadow, my goal for the day.

It was along the Dedisse Trail I resolved to throw out the clipless pedals once again. I've ridden harder trails with more success and more enjoyment in tennis shoes on flat pedals. The only benefit I'm getting from the eggbeaters is a slightly higher average speed. So I need to crank harder. I don't need clipless pedals.

I rode 57.5 miles in 5 hours and 50 minutes: 9.9 mph. My training goal is forty miles further and 9,000 feet more of gain at 11.1 miles an hour.

 It was only 47F when I blew back through Evergreen. It never really got warm today and it took me about three hours this afternoon to finally stop shivering.

Mandy and I watched Ride the Divide and Race Across the Sky 2010 before making an attempt at being productive around the house. Then I worked on the shed a bit and now I'm wiped out, tank is empty, brain is shut down...

Friday, April 27

Ramming Speed Friday: Math Hurts My Head Edition

I had to think to hard to figure out if my ride home was a verifiable "Ramming Speed" Friday. Plugging in my raw time the ole computeratin' machine speculated it at 19.7 mph. I was on Minus, and if you'll remember, I had reclassified "Ramming Speed" for the road bike at 20 mph.

I croaked in protest. Then Mandy and I agreed I should round up. Then I remembered I had sat dead still at not one, not two, but THREE traffic lights on my rocket ride home. Benefit of the doubt notwithstanding, I knocked off two minutes from my overall time, from 35 minutes down to 33 minutes: 20.9 mph.

Smug self-satisfaction wafted through the house, choking us all...

Anyway, I'm calling it. It's been awhile since I've had a solid RSF, and I think I deserve all the glory that goes along with it, no matter that I had to bend time and space to make it so. Number One.

Before the sun (also) rises in the morning, tomorrow, the day after today, I will venture forth on the One for a Leadville training mission. The destination? Three Sisters open space, one of my favorite places on earth to ride. It's not the trails so much, but the ambiance.

I'll give a full report upon my return to the land of cubicle dwellers and smog.

The Leadville Chronicles: Overcoming My Inner Wuss

My wife is truly a closet hard woman. Last night I was moaning about the rain, blubbering that my plans for a 50+ mile training ride into the foothills tomorrow morning were being thwarted.

Blunt as an instrument she said:

"Well, you need to get used to riding in mud."

I think she really wants to ride Leadville with me but is afraid to show me up.

C'mon Babe, I'd draft you any day. That Armstrong guy probably won't even show and I'll have to do all the pulling out front. I'd love to trade turns up front with you!

All seriousness aside, in the spirit of my wife's cold indifference to my suffering, I will not, from this point forward, cancel any training ride for weather.

Stay tuned for another installment of Ramming Speed Friday.

Find more Mtn Biking in Arvada, CO

Thursday, April 26

Shuffle It All...

...we're back to Bean-less commutes so I'm riding a lot of Minus.

I'm going to sling the rear pannier rack on it. I foresee Minus being my primary commuter in good weather. I'll ride the MTB often, at least til I'm looking at Leadville in the rearviewmirror, but unless I've got time for a mountain bike commute I'll most likely be going on skinny tires.

That's not to say I won't ride the Cannonball from time to time, but I've grown to appreciate the simplicity of just riding a bike. If you don't need the luxury of a cargo bike then you should probably just enjoy the freedom of short wheelbases and light weight.

Pondering an early morning training ride this coming Saturday. I need to crank out some miles. Back to Bismarck? Crawl up Coal Creek Canyon? Shoot for Evans?

We'll see...

Wednesday, April 25

Peak Bicycling

I ride up hills because I enjoy the challenge, and I really enjoy bombing down the backside. The proprioceptive stimulation I get from rocketing down from airy heights is unrivaled. The effort to climb to the heights will challenge your will and stamina. The bomb-run descent will test your focus and reflexes. Up and down makes for good cycling.

Much like my attraction to a good climb on my bike, peak oil follows an up and down path. The difference is that, while the good climb up was good the dive-bomb back down the other side isn't going to provide such a fun ride.

Consider a 2007 Energy and Capital post by Keith Kohl. In 2007 when oil was at $80 a barrel Mr. Kohl wrote:
"In 2002, we all would've agreed that $50 for a barrel of oil would be ridiculous, considering prices were $20 a barrel. A few years later, we would have said that $60 oil would never sustain itself, and prices would soon be back to $30. All of a sudden people are saying that $100 oil is within reason?"
Today (4/23/12) Brent crude was at $118/bbl and WTI was at $103/bbl. And we know that oil hit $147/bbl not so long ago. We are seeing the signs of peak oil all around us. Consistently high oil prices, expensive drilling methods like deepwater, fracking and tar sand extraction, and socio-political volatility in and around oil producing countries all point toward a reality that we're not familiar with as a society.

"Gentlemen, we have just turned gold into lead." --Matt Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert, on tar sands 

In The Transition Handbook, permaculture guru and Transition movement founder Rob Hopkins writes:
"It [tar sands] is literally scraping the bottom of the barrel, and rather than negating the peak oil argument—as those who say "look, see, there's loads left" propose—this confirms the peak oil argument: that we have reached the mid-point of the Oil Age, and the era of cheap oil is well and truly over."
It is so important not to focus on the negative aspects of peak oil and the impending post-carbon age, but to take advantage of the perspective to be gained and apply it in a more examined life. That doesn't mean you have to plant a garden in your backyard and get chickens and rabbits. That does seem to be a fairly strong urban trend, and despite my typical loathing of anything remotely trendy, I find myself fantasizing about having a very robust urban homestead.

I think in this case, the trend is following sound reasoning that leads to the same widespread conclusions: that our industrial food supply is suspect, and if we don't seek out some self-reliance we're setting ourselves up for a social catastrophe of historic proportions.

On our road trip this past weekend I couldn't ignore the range of gas prices across the continent. In Colorado we paid about $3.69 a gallon and in Kentucky everyone was breathing a sigh of relief at $3.81.

Thankfully we had rented a Nissan Sentra and enjoyed 30+ mpg for much of the trip. We noticed a marked difference between the Sentra's mpg and that of our beloved Forester Gump. Even still, I couldn't help continually fantasize about doing the trip by bike instead of by car. And on my mind was always the reality that costs fluctuate much less when you travel by two wheels than when you go on four.

Tuesday, April 24

Petals and Blooms

If you noticed no new posts in the past week then you are truly a sick individual, subjecting yourself to the indignation of following a hack cycling blog. I took the whole tribe cross country, though no family truckster was involved, for a whirlwind trip so that Bean could be flower girl for our flower girl.

Decades ago I took the ring to Mordor for my uncle Darrell, then his daughter Ashley was flower girl for Mandy and I a dozen years ago, now Lily has been Ashley's flower girl, though on rehearsal night it seemed as if Lily was not going to follow through.

After one run she sat in my lap streaming tears and sobbing "Being a flower girl is scary!" Once she was in her dress and holding the basket full of petals her demeanor changed radically.

She did amazingly well and seemed to have a great time on wedding day. It was worth the road trip hell we went through to get her there.

We didn't take the bikes and there was no time while we were there for riding anyway, so my April mileage has taken a hit, but it was a good trip. Other than my wife's allergy induced misery (Missouri?) it was nice to be back in Kentucky in the spring.

Developments behind the scenes leave me wondering where this blog is going to go down the road. Changes are coming on the horizon. One way or the other the status quo is going to be disrupted. And I'm not referring to the state of the world necessarily.

To tell the truth, I've still not recovered from the drive back. I shouldn't have worked on the shed yesterday, but we're trying to get a chicken coop/rabbit hutch built ASAP and I can't do that until I could move the stuff out of our tiny shed into the new Chateau Storage (pronounced stor-AHge).

Today was my first t-shirt and shorts (morning) commute of 2012. It was nice to ride without the encumbrance of thick clothing. Simplicity is beauty. However...the ride home is going to be a sweat-fest as
the Front Range is pushing 80F today.


Composed on my iPhone

Tuesday, April 17

What (N - 1) Means to Me

No Bean pickup this afternoon so I rode Minus. The speed afforded by skinny tires, relative low weight and less backend make for a nice commute. I didn't break any records this morning, but I still managed a respectable 45 minute commute.

The road bike provides a nice, simple and enjoyable ride. I'd prefer to have panniers instead of riding with a backpack, but my laziness has kept me from installing the rear rack. And if I put a rack on it I'd just want to put on fenders. Adding all that weight and accessory would defeat the purpose of the "skinny" bike.

No, Minus is perfect as he is, a nimble, lightweight bike for getting somewhere fast. The Cannonball seems to have gotten slower over the past few weeks. It's been just over a year since the initial build. I think a major overhaul is in order. I dreamt I'd put the slicks back on it last night. I think it's time. The threat of long lasting snow on the ground has passed I think.

It's time to start stepping up efforts toward Leadville. Next week I'm going to start strength training hot and heavy, and I need to start sneaking in some mileage. In May it will be somewhat easier to get in a long morning commute once in awhile.

The one hundred day mark is fast approaching. I think from that point on my anxiety levels are going to intensify.

Monday, April 16

Monday Propaganda: Seeking Resilience in a Thirsty Land

Not too long ago I was in a group of people where someone made the comment: "People come to Colorado to get rich." The statement hit me right to my core. It's true of me. I wasn't necessarily looking to get rich, but I was seeking an avenue to more wealth than I believed I had available to me in Kentucky when I accepted my current position. When you look at history though, it rings true. There was once a land grab, a gold rush, housing booms, and these days the promise of (somehow) a better life in this oasis on the borderline of the Great American Desert (as Zebulon Pike described the High Plains) and the Rocky Mountains. This oasis sits in a rain shadow and siphons water from the more moist (moisterest?) Western Slope.

When I first landed on the Front Range my new boss sat me down and gave me an hour long dissertation on western water law. On my own initiative I later read Marc Reisner's controversial Cadillac Desert. Reisner's book came before my concerted effort to educate myself on sustainability issues. But it had a more profound impact on me than even Silent Spring.

Before I'd even finished the book I felt like our move West had been a mistake. We had relocated to an area that had already exceeded its natural carrying capacity. It had not been a sustainable move.

In my Watershed to Waterwise class as we discussed these issues I made the point that the questions is never asked if we should perhaps prohibit new growth in an area like the Denver metro. It's a battle between common sense and a perceived sense of entitlement. "You can't move here!" versus "I have the right to move wherever I want!"

It's a tricky idea to attack. If we allowed that sort of mentality (indiscriminately prohibiting new development) to prevail anywhere then the whole world would end up being nothing but gated communities owned by the rich. Right?

But, if a region has truly exceeded its carrying capacity then why should policy allow further densification? In the case of Denver the real issue is water. And, as I have discovered, western water law is a complex system designed to...well, I'm not sure what. I've discovered that it's a complex system and it seems to benefit those with the strategery and dignitude to acquire senior water rights.

It was the recognition of the Front Range's true weakness that took me to the conclusion that, in the shadow of societal collapse, the Denver area would not be a happy place to be. And so, that line of thinking inspired two things: one, my Family Emergency Plan's Apocalypse Clause, and as a direct result of that clause, the inspiration for the story I've been working on. It's sort of a speculative autobiographical fiction.

Echoing my long standing feelings on the issue is this passage from Last Myth:

"The American way of life may not be negotiable, as former vice president Dick Cheney famously said at the beginning of this new century, but to an ever-increasing majority of our population, it doesn't seem quite sustainable either."

I don't really want to see society fail, but I can't stomach the idea of perpetuating an unsustainable society to uphold the sanctity of the American Dream.

Colorado or bust...that was the sign we put in the rear window of Forester Gump when I drove the tribe cross country on our move West.

Geez! Hindsight and all...

Would it have been better to have busted? I don't think so. I needed this journey to bring me to the understanding I have now. My perspective was limited in that place we left. But so many windows have opened and my perspective is so much broader now and my experience and knowledge have grown and become more robust and real.

I'm not happy with the precariousness of our chosen home. Resilience is superficial. We're still dependent on the fossil fuel scaffolding that keeps our house of cards from toppling. True resilience can only occur where the land and the sky provide for the majority of your primary needs. True resilience only resides where carrying capacity has not been exceeded and where overshoot does not exist.

I end up second guessing myself a lot. I realize I didn't have all the information in the years before we moved. I was trying to learn. I was seeking the truth. It just came to me later than I would have liked.

Then there is the part of me that desperately wants to be settled and looking back on a period of time spent building a home and a homestead and not thinking of change. That part of me wants to ignore the nagging feeling that life in arid suburbia is heading for calamity and ruin. Now is not the time for a career or lifestyle change! the voice implores.

I've learned not to question my better judgment though. And my better judgment, my reasoning and logical components, tell me that now is the best time for life-altering change. Always...

I'd be a farmer. I'd give up the house in the suburbs in a heartbeat, easy access to the city and its amenities. My soul longs to live closer to the land, further from the built environment. My body yearns to move in the sun and dress and keep the land. My mind cries out for escape from what it sees as a farce, a facade, an unsustainable lie.

Water rights. Rain shadow. Great American Desert. Gold rush. Get-rich-quick. Whore for sprawl. Rabid entitlement. Exponential growth. American refugees.

These are the thoughts that barrel through my head randomly, like a nine year old hopped up on Redbull through a crowded room, and keep me focused on the event horizon where my worldview will be revealed as truth, or not. Hope this explains the obsession a bit...

Friday, April 13

Sacred Unsustainability

My cubicle sentence is aptly termed “permit review,” and that really just about sums it up. I simply apply regulations to submissions , verify compliance, and then move the submissions on down the line. Well, I also argue with people a lot. I argue about things I have little or no control over. The arguments I have with citizens and developers are akin to those you’d see between an irate customer and a burger clerk making minimum wage (for maximum work). I can’t change the cost of the burger. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else.

Recently two contractors came in to pick up a slew of building permits for new single family homes in a new outbreak of sprawl north of town. They were bragging that they were going to be building many more of the same and it seemed as if they somehow believed by perpetuating the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of mankind that they were doing the world, and more particularly me, a favor. I gave them the blankest look back I could muster. I wanted to scream at them.

Of course the backlash wouldn’t have been worth the brain damage it would have caused. And every time I give disagreement to the merits of the sprawl we perpetuate with our current regulations I get the looks that say: “It’s job security for YOU;” as if I should just shut up and like it because I’ve been suckered into being a whore for an unsustainable system. I gotta feed my kids, man.

If we justify something simply because it’s necessary for the good of the economy, but that thing is not good for our future, then there is a good chance the economy is not good for our future. If we’re justifying dubious means at any cost, then the end can’t necessarily be a good thing.

The largest component of our current societal dysfunction is that we view (what we believe to be) free market capitalism as sacred and eclipsing all other considerations. We put aside community, conservation, and thrift in pursuit of the almighty quick buck. We create those quick bucks by possessing land, churning up the resources there, those that should be conserved as part of the The Commons, and we turn those resources into cash. If we dribble a little cash around through the process we grin like Cheshire cats and brag about creating jobs.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—with oomph—NO JOBS ARE SACRED, even mine. All of those manufacturing jobs that have gone overseas? I would argue that instead of bringing them back to the US they should just go away. Period.

A recent Grist article addressed the move for big box stores, led by Walmart, to make goods that are of increasingly inferior quality. The goods are cheaper, but we end up buying more of them because they just don’t have a realistic lifespan. But since the junk is so cheap we just buy new to replace the old.
Why should we support this kind of gross unsustainability?

I’m sure there are many people who get all tingly inside thinking about the proposal to build a “Super” Walmart less than 800 yards from an existing mild-mannered Walmart along my current morning bike commute. To me it is a travesty that, instead of looking toward a better sustainable plan, Walmart will enter into greenfield development to “upgrade” an existing facility. And what will happen to the old box? It may sit empty if past trends continue. What’s an even bigger travesty is that within 6 miles there are two other existing mere mortal Walmarts and another proposed “Super” Walmart. Now, I do happen to live in a sprawling metro area pushing 3 million souls, but c’mon! FIVE Walmarts in a 6 mile radius? How much Chinese junk does one suburban hell need?

Back to “creating jobs:” Our current political discourse throws that phrase around like free money. We don’t need “jobs,” we need occupations, professions, trades, careers. The political athletes jockeying for power today look only to the raw numbers that they can spin and say: “Look, I created jobs.” Only the most oblivious of Americans wouldn’t realize that those numbers don’t tell the whole story, and the slick-haired crooks that are using them in their propaganda had nothing to do with the numbers anyway.

We absolutely do not need more Walmart associate positions in this country.

The modern Western lifestyle is unsustainable. The only true work worth pursuing is that work which transitions us to a more sustainable culture. More. We’ll never be completely sustainable, but we can work hard to create a more elegant and resilient American fabric.

Those bragging contractors? I can’t be too hard on them. They gotta feed their kids, too. I’m sure if we sat down over coffee to discuss sprawl the chat would quickly devolve into a yelling match, but I hope before the end I could bring them around to seeing the unsustainability of our current path; not to shame them, but to help them make more informed decisions down the road.

As for me, I am stuck being a whore for sprawl for now. When I exited those hallowed halls of learning four years ago, diploma leaking ink into my palm, I hoped to take my degree in Geography (emphasis in planning) and save the world. Instead, I brokered a deal with myself: work the menial entry level job to pay your dues, but NEVER settle. I am diligently seeking to change my professional path now that I have a better perspective and understanding of the realm of planning, but for the time being I must keep feeding those kids. They eat A LOT.

To bring this into a Pavement’s Edge context: we have a friend that works for a big oil company. When we’ve had discussions about transportation and energy issues he and his wife have affirmed that big oil has provided well for their family. I understand their position. I understand the value they see in what they perceive as a secure, stable, and even lucrative job. I can’t fault them for that.

If you want to get down to brass tacks though, in a true free market, the market will eventually correct for unsustainable goods and services, including the petroleum extraction and refinement industries. For those who have chosen unsustainable professions (planners, construction workers, oil industry workers, etc) there will be market pains as the system adjusts to future changes.  And make no mistake- in an unsustainable system the bill always comes due. A finite sphere cannot contain an infinite curve of growth.

If we can, as a society, as a race, make the smart changes we need to make to slow the rapid pace of development down to something closer to a sane level then people like myself, my friend, and those contractors most likely will have to transition to other occupations to continue providing for our families. At the very least, as the market realigns to more realistic realities in the future, there will be more competition for our jobs.

Future Site of a Temporary Repository for Goods Made in China En Route to the Landfill by Way of Your Home

Wednesday, April 11

Operating Costs

Cross posted from the Bike Arvada blog

The late Ken Kifer, in 2003, calculated that the average cost of operating a motor vehicle to be 93.8¢ per mile and the parallel costs to operate a bicycle to be 12.8¢ per mile, a difference, and benefit to riding a bicycle, of 81¢ per mile. I've been using that figure to tout the merits of full-time cycling, but I've had the nagging feeling that those figures were horribly outdated.

Then I found this nifty online calculator to determine the cost of operating a motor vehicle. Currently, based on recent reported fuel costs, this calculator figures the direct cost to the operator of a motor vehicle to be $1.02 per mile and the combined cost—including all indirect expenses—to be $1.41 per mile.

To simplify my argument I am going to assume only the direct costs for comparison, but please don't think I undervalue the impacts of those indirect costs. If you read down through them you'll see items like "State and Local Construction, Improvements and Repair," "Air Pollution Damage," and "Barrier Effects on Pedestrians and Bicycles." Those costs are important in the whole scheme of things, but for the sake of argument I want to focus on the direct impact to an individual's wallet to make the case that the bicycle is the better economic solution to your transportation problem.

Next we need to calculate the direct expense of operating a bicycle per mile, and then we'll subtract that from the expense to operate a motor vehicle to find the benefit of riding a bicycle.

First we compare the expense items:

Fixed costs (insurance, registration, motor vehicle taxes) 11.9¢ per mile
Finance Charge 6.3¢ per mile
Depreciation 27.9¢ per mile
Fuel 19.2¢ per mile
Maintenance and Tires 5.3¢ per mile
Residential Parking 6.7¢ per mile
Parking and Tolls: user paid (if applicable) 2¢ per mile
Travel Time (with average delays) 11.3¢ per mile
Accidents (personal costs of injury and property damage) 10.9¢ per mile

Fixed costs (insurance, registration, motor vehicle taxes) 0¢ per mile
Finance Charge 0¢ per mile
Depreciation 6.2¢ per mile*
Fuel 0¢ per mile
Maintenance and Tires 4.9¢ per mile*
Residential Parking 0¢ per mile
Parking and Tolls: user paid (if applicable) 0¢ per mile
Travel Time (with average delays) 0¢ per mile **
Accidents (personal costs of injury and property damage) 0¢ per mile

So we come up with $1.02 per mile to operate a car and 11¢ per mile to operate a bicycle (direct costs only). That is a difference of 91¢ per mile. As I suspected, not too far off from Ken's figures nearly a decade ago. Obviously, as the cost of refined gasoline rises, the disparity will only increase.

One factor that is painfully absent from the whole equation is the "fuel" costs of operating a bicycle. Ken's table allocated 0¢ per mile for fuel for cyclists. On one hand I agree. You have to eat regardless of whether you ride or not. On the other hand, I recognize that you burn more calories and therefore need more "fuel" than if you stay on your behind and ride in a car.

The direct benefit of riding a bicycle versus driving a car is 91¢ per mile!

I also did a quick extrapolation of the indirect costs using Ken's figures and the SCCRTC figures to come up with this comparison:

Total indirect cost of operating a motor vehicle: 39¢ per mile
Total indirect cost of operating a bicycle: 4¢ per mile

The total benefit, including indirect costs, is a whopping $1.26 per mile!

Last year I rode 5,100 miles total. I saved $4,539 out of my own wallet and a total of $6,426 including societal and governmental costs.

These figures would vary with the purchase of a new bike depending on cost and method of payment.

So the conclusion is that there is a distinct benefit to choosing the bicycle over the automobile. Combine the monetary savings with the knowledge that your transportation costs will stay virtually the same regardless of the price of a barrel of oil it is easy to see the bike as a tool for resilience in uncertain times.

The US EPA claims the average mileage driven by US motorists is 12,500. One other estimate I found had that number as high as 13,000. Going with the lower number you could see how a stalwart and committed bicyclist could save upwards of $11,000 a year by completely forgoing the use of an automobile.

How much can you save?

* Extrapolated from Ken Kifer's figures
** Assuming time spent riding the bike is not considered "lost"

Tuesday, April 10

Pedaling Against the Wind

My shed building shenanigans over the weekend left my body in wrack and ruin. I overdid it. Monday morning I dragged my ragged self out of bed, moaning and groaning all the way to a semi-wakeful state. Ugh.

I avoided making eye contact with the Cannonball. It leaned there behind the couch on its kickstand nonchalantly, as if to say: "I'm ready to go, what's your problem."

But then the bill came due. 6:10am, Monday morning...I had to make a choice: apply force to the pedals or call/text in sick. Well, I played the "sick" card the week before on Monday. I didn't want to establish an unsustainable pattern. I trundled the cargo bike out the door into the pre-dawn air light and with a heavy sigh I pushed off for Golden. Ugh.

I managed a normal commute time at the long end of my typical range. 55 minutes is not bad considering that I felt like I'd been run over by a moto-fascist. I wasn't in terrible pain as I rode. Oddly, the musckles I'd abused in building the shed were counter to the ones I used to propel my two-wheeled steed. The real pain began when I dismounted the bike and tried to walk it in to the service elevator. Ouch.

Switch the Cannonball X to walker mode. And when I say walker, I mean like the kind you'd see in a nursing home.

Much to my chagrin I discovered I felt best sitting still. But when I got up the stiffness and soreness screeched awake and hobbled me, restricting my movements to an elderly shuffle.

As I faced the long commute home at the end of the day I resolved that I would just take my time. I had to swing by and pick up Bean, so I knew it was just going to be a casual-type cruise back to the Bikeport. And so it was. We rolled home in another 55 minutes, but on a downhill commute that usually takes 30-40 minutes.

These are the factors that I had not anticipated when I decided to go carlite back at the end of 2009. I knew there would be unseen hardships. I wasn't naive when I reasoned that I could sell the car and rely on my bikes for my personal transportation. But I couldn't foresee all the myriad obstacles that would be flung up in my path.

When I admit to people that I ride every day I get the usual: "Even in the snow?" questions and the like. No one ever asks about days I am sick, injured, tired or just plain unmotivated to ride. Those days of riding are much harder to face than those with some precipitation or cold air. I can easily mitigate the effects of rain or snow. No sweat, man.

The hardest thing to articulate, when attempting to encourage new riders to ride, or experienced riders to ride more, is how to get past the "soft" obstacles. And, even when you really have no choice but to roll over them, sometimes the self-talk gets rather heated.

There are many days I am certain, that if I had a car at my disposal, I would choose to drive instead of ride just because of "laziness." Take the car out of the equation and laziness become a serious factor. Do I call in to work because I'm "tired?" That's a big stretch.

So how does one make the big leap to eliminate the car from the equation, or alternately, to leave the car parked when temptations are high to get behind the wheel? Honestly, the only answer I have is to look inside and decide for yourself what are the true costs and what is the real benefit of choosing bike or car.

To honestly answer that for yourself you need to have as much real knowledge and data to make an informed choice.

The simplistic answer is to always keep Ken Kifer's figurin' in mind: 93.8¢ per mile to operate a motor vehicle (in 2003!) versus 12.8¢ per mile to operate a bicycle. Given Ken's rough (and assuredly outdated) figures that is an 81¢ per mile benefit to ride a bike.

I think it might be good to update Ken's figures, though I would have to say the relative difference, that 81¢, is probably still close to being as accurate as it was in 2003.

Monday, April 9

License to Pedal

Last week the subject of licensing bicycles came up in conversation. I can't remember if I've ever really broached the subject on the Pavement's Edge, and because I'm too lazy to read back through four years of posts to find out, I'm just going to tackle it full-on.

The arguments for compulsory bicycle licensing are few, and dubious. One is that there would be an increase in accountability for scofflaw cyclists. Motorists could report cyclists that flaunt the law. Assuming motorists could see a bicycle-sized license plate and as a whole would not abuse the ability to report infractions there would be some tool in place to track down and penalize those that break the law.

A second, and more dubious on an order of magnitude, argument is that the increased revenue from the licensing fees could offset the costs associated with "accommodating" cyclists.

I think these two general arguments are a good place to start. There are so many factors and issues that I could go far on into the night rambling about them. I'll spare you the brain damage.

Let's look at accountability. Sure, if you had a license plate attached to the rear of your bike and you blew through a four way stop, or, heaven-forbid, caused an accident then witnesses could call the law enforcement authorities and give an accurate report, and you would presumably be held accountable.

There are a few problems with that scenario. How big would a license plate or decal have to be for a witness in a motor vehicle or on the side of the road be able to make out any information? You could not impose upon cyclists a license plate sized for a motor vehicle. A reduced scale plate wouldn't be effectively visible at any measurable distance, and if a cyclist were traveling at a high rate of speed the plate would be a blur up close. Of course, a witness could follow a cyclist until such time as they could read the plate clearly, but that opens up many other issues. Where on a bicycle would a plate have to be mounted? A non-cyclist would probably just point to the rear of the saddle. But that effectively takes away the only viable place for the underseat bag for tools and spare tubes on bikes with no panniers and is the best place for a rear light if the bike has no fenders. Where else on a bike could you place a license plate? Sticking out perpendicular from the seat stays?

And then let's assume someone could read the license plate on your bicycle. The witness reports that you blasted through a controlled intersection. What do the local authorities do? What would they do if you were in a motor vehicle? Of course that answer will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the reality is that most likely nothing will be done unless the action resulted in an accident or incident, unless there was a mandate to crack down on so-called scofflaw cyclists, in which case there may not be equitable treatment between motorists and cyclists.

I'll get back to that, but before I do, let's go back to the idea of licensing bicycles as a way to generate revenue for a municipality. Let's assume there are two types of adult cyclists: utilitarian and recreational. For the strict utilitarian, carless cyclist, the fee to license a bicycle might actually be reasonable. Unless...the individual has chosen the bicycle because they are too poor to afford the associated costs of driving a car. The fees would have to reflect a vehicle that is of less value and impact upon the infrastructure. Let's face it, assessing the same fees for bicycles as for automobiles is a drastic inequality. But for the recreational cyclist, those that may only ride on the weekends or infrequently at best, the reality of licensing and additional fees may encourage them not to ride a bike at all.

Revenues generated by the licensing of bicycles would hardly cover the administrative costs of managing the system. And if the fees were substantial enough to cover the costs and generate revenue on top of that then it follows that there would be a high instance of non-compliance.

I think the onerous nature of implementing and enforcing such a program is why you see so few such programs in existence.

From a personal standpoint, I would be very reluctant to willingly comply with bicycle licensing unless there were some guarantee that the enforcing jurisdiction would crack down on anti-cycling behavior and would do everything in it's power and more to reduce the marginalization of bicycles on the roadways. And I don't think that's ever going to happen.

While I believe cyclists should be accountable, and should obey all traffic laws, I also believe there is a huge lack of equitable treatment between cyclists and motorists. Scofflaw cyclists get a disproportionate amount of press while a vast majority of scofflaw motorists are ignored and legitimized through a lack of enforcement.

The reality is that cyclists are accountable under our current system of laws. There are laws and consequences that directly apply to the scofflaw cyclist. If stopped by a law enforcement officer, the nefarious two-wheeled menaces can be fined and can have points taken from their automobile drivers' licenses. Those without drivers licenses can also be penalized and are still accountable under the law.

Given the practical constraints of a bicycle licensing system I think the wise course of action would be to allow the current system to work. It seems to be working fine for motorists, and in most cases favoring them.


...for long hiatus between posts. Last week was jam-packed with all kinds of work related fun, the best of which being my day and a half sitting in a Bicycle Facility Design Class hosted by CDOT. I say that in complete seriousness. It was an awesome class. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have already been using the new lens I have acquired to view, not only cycling facilities, but transportation facilities in general. Wow, never thought I'd say this (because of a distinct math disability) but I might actually like being an engineer.

The instructor was a planner/engineer and he did a wonderful job of speaking both languages.

Ah, and then over the weekend I waded into a shed-building project and came out stiff and sore, but with 75% of a shed complete.

Tuesday, April 3

Burn All Couches!

I'm really not into organized sports. I was the scrawny, bespeckled kid that always got beat up by the jocks in school. Actually, to say that I'm not into organized sports is a gross understatement, I tend to view sports mania much like cigarette smoking: imposing on my right not to participate.

However, it was difficult not to be interested in the outcome of last night's NCAA championship game. I have no especial hatred for Kansas. And I have no specific attraction to UK's current men's basketball team. Let's face it, very few of those boys are actually from Kentucky. They've been recruited from many other places around the country.

I will have to say that I am impressed with Anthony Davis' massive reach and how he applies it to the game. The kid is good. It was an exciting game.

Now that there is a distinct couch shortage in my home state, I feel as if I should go back and help rebuild and reupholster. Such a tragedy...

After a weekend of summer the Front Range got slapped upside the head with some winter this morning. The weather stooges predicted today's actual weather for yesterday. Yesterday was only cold, no rain, no snow. This morning provided a wet, snowy commute upon the Cannonball X.

The sustainable transportation class I was registered for later in the month through the CU Sustainable Practices Program was cancelled due to low registration. I was bummed, but of all the classes I think the transportation component is one where I am fairly confident in my own self-education. I'll probably take the Permaculture class in early June instead.

The end of this week I will be taking a Bicycle Facility Design Class offered by CDOT. Pretty stoked about that...