Banning Bikes

Sometimes, cities try to deal with real or imagined bike problems by taking drastic measures. The Austin American-Statesman reported last week on an ordinance passed in Manor, Texas, that bans bikes from a stretch of road in the small city.

Manor is just east of Austin. The road in question is called Blake-Manor Road, and runs out of town to the southeast, giving bikers access to rural roads in the area. But it’s in bad shape, narrow, with large cracks and heavy traffic.

The Manor City Manager says the road is a “poor place” to ride bikes. He says there are other places for bikers to ride.

The map shows the road in question, marked in pink. There appear to be other city streets to ride, but getting out of town to the southeast — not so much.

The city has no plans to repair the road.

The ordinance passed after a cyclist filed a $250,000 claim with the city after being hurt in a bicycle accident on the road. The city denied the claim, since the accident happened outside the city’s jurisdiction.

Predictably, cyclists are claiming discrimination. They think the road should be fixed.

But in the meantime, enforcement of the cycling ban is expected to begin soon, and bikers could be in for a $200 fine if they ride the stretch in question.

Manor is on the opposite end of Austin from where I live, so I’m not familiar with the road in question, and I’m running this item simply to point out that sometimes, dealing with cyclists can take a drastic turn.

Have you run into situations in your locales where cyclists are prohibited from using public streets or roadways? How was it resolved?

Wrapping Up the Bike Fine Saga

Way back in August, I wrote about an incident involving some members of my club’s B ride who were ticketed for not stopping at a red light before making a right turn.

We were stunned to find that the fine for such a violation is $217. That struck most of us as excessive. The question became, what to do about it?

(BTW, I was not one of the ticketed riders. The incident happened while I was away on vacation.)

Two of the riders decided to simply pay the fine and avoid the hassle. A third, Judy, also planned to pay the fine, but because of an illegible date written on the ticket, discovered that she was overdue, and the fine had gone up to $275!

That’s a lot of money, so Judy requested a court date. In a municipal court situation like this, the options are to pay your fine, request a jury trial, or appear before a judge. Judy sat down with a prosecutor and played “Let’s Make a Deal.” She got a reduced fine of $150. (Traffic violations are dropped from your record if you don’t have another one within three months, but biking violations don’t appear on your driving record anyway.)

Pippa had to get a later court date, because she had to travel back home to the UK for a few weeks. When she did appear in court, she had a similar experience as Judy. But Pippa balked at the $150 fine. Can’t you do any better? she asked the prosecutor. It turned out that if she agreed to 10 hours of community service, he would reduce the fine to $111.

“Does the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center qualify for community service?” asked Pippa. The prosecutor flipped through a listing, and confirmed that it does.

“Perfect,” said Pippa. “I volunteer there anyway.” So Pippa wound up paying the least amount, and didn’t add work to what she was already doing.

The moral of the story: If you’re ever ticketed for a biking violation, request a court date. It’ll cost you less in the long run.

Some Reading Over Thanksgiving Break

We’re gearing up for a busy five days around our house. We’ll have relatives in for Thanksgiving. The holiday is not until Thursday, but they’ll come in Wednesday and stay until Sunday. My wife has some kind of activities planned every day for her sister, our son and his girlfriend, not to mention her sister’s dog and our dog. We’ll be busy.

So, I don’t expect to post for a few days. In the meantime, since I am a professor, I thought I’d leave you with some outside reading assignments for the holidays.

The first comes courtesy of Bike Noob reader Danny Ashton, who points us to a blog called Sidiergo.com. (Note from the Bike Noob — this is not the corporate blog for Sidi cycling shoes — that’s at sidisport.com. The sidiergo site is registered to Danny, who is in Manchester, UK. I do check the whois listing for unknown sites I am referred to.) He’s got a post there called “Nine Driving Habits That Most Annoy Cyclists.” I think we can all relate.

But most of us are drivers, too, and we know there are two sides to this coin. One of my favorite bike bloggers has been former frame builder Dave Moulton, and his latest post deals with that other side — bikers who just don’t get it. Check out “Stop Handing Them the Stick.”

Finally, there’s a nifty article from Scientific American magazine. Yep, you heard right. They’re wondering how to make cities more bike-friendly, and the solution they come up with is an interesting one: make them more women-friendly. In a nutshell, instead of putting bike lanes and bike routes through parks and along rivers, put them where people can use them for a purpose — heading toward grocery stores and daycare centers. (Attacks on my unintended sexism are welcome in comments.)

So, those should keep you satiated on things bicycle until I get back. It could be as early as Friday, or as late as Sunday. And wherever you are in the world, I hope you have as much to be thankful for as I do. Take care.

Garmin, Shmarmin

Guest poster Don Blount finds that sometimes, it’s better to just ride.

This was to be an early morning ride. And because of my schedule, I had to be back home no later than 7:30 a.m.

I don’t like these early wake up calls when it is dark and cold. According to Accuweather, the windchill was about 34 degrees.

But I was set to go. I was dressed, tires inflated and even had warm non-caffeinated tea in my water bottle. I pushed the button on my Garmin 305 to get it powered up as I hit the road.

I hopped on my saddle and looked at the screen of the Garmin, it was blank, showing none of the familiar settings. I pushed the button again. It beeped, the welcome screen flashed, and then it went out again.

I had charged the darn thing, or so I thought, two nights earlier. I tried two more times. Nothing.

So it was 6:30 a.m., my choice was to either go back inside and not ride or ride without a bike computer. I had my Blackberry in my jersey pocket, so if I stopped I could use that to view the time. However, I had nothing to track distance, cadence, speed, heart rate or any other of the data that I use while riding.

Left, what it's supposed to look like. Right, what it looked like on this ride.

I decided to set off on a familiar route of about eight miles out, focusing on the bottom part of my stroke. I felt as if I were riding blind since I had no idea how fast I was pedaling, or my speed or my heart rate.

But I was comfortable, warmed up quickly and my breathing was steady.

I arrived at my turnaround point and stopped to check my clock. If my calculations were correct, I had gotten there in about 25 minutes.

I doubled back, and arrived home – another eight miles – in about 25 minutes.

It was a short ride but a good ride for that time of the day. I felt I had worked but enjoyed the ride and really could’ve gone much farther.

And by not having my Garmin available to show me what I was doing, at least for this ride, I enjoyed myself in a different way than I usually do. Maybe because it was more of a self-regulating challenge and less of a “trying to do what the reading tells me to do because I want to get a workout challenge.”

I do all of my riding alone because of my work schedule and family obligations. But, I think I had gotten so wrapped up in the numbers of my Garmin that I was missing out on enjoying the ride just for the sake of riding. (It’s the Type A part of me.)

My Garmin is charged and ready but I’m going to find a way to do this type of riding more often.

Minor crash statistics (Are there any?)

After recent posts about my crash in the rain and its resultant slow-healing road rash, one Bike Noob reader sent me this email:

There are few good statistics on simple-minor crashes. Crashes that involve a simple fall or losing control of your bicycle. The majority of bicycle crashes are in this catagory. I am a commuter.  I have had 11 simple minor crashes in the last 12,000 miles. One year I had only 1 crash in 3,000 miles but this year I have had 3 crashes. All of my crashes have been my fault. Usually going to fast for conditions. But, I am a commuter. I ride in the dark. I ride in the rain. I ride is some crazy traffic. Now, 11 crashes is more than I would like to have, but I have no idea if this is average. I would love to know how many simple-minor crashes other bicycle riders are experiencing.

Obviously, one of the problems in finding data like he suggests is that the kinds of injuries he’s talking about usually go unreported. We fall, we get road rash, we get back on the bike, and we don’t contact a doctor or hospital. So there’s no one around to compile data on simple minor crashes.

However, I poked around a bit, and did come up with some info:

The so-called “Moritz Study” of 1998 tallied all kinds of injuries, and concluded that 29% of cyclists reported having had some type of ‘accident’ in the study year (1996). Just over 9% reported having had a serious crash (resulting in at least $50 of property damage or medical expense) in 1996. Of these, 54% happened during on-road recreational cycling.

Only 28% of serious crashes were reported to the police.  Women have more serious crashes than men: 11% vs. 9%, and at a slightly higher rate: 29 vs. 22 per million kilometers biked.

As you might guess, the most common type of bike crash is a fall (59%). That’s followed by running into a fixed object (14%), a moving motor vehicle (11%), or another bicycle (9%).

A Consumer Products Safety Commission study in 1994 found 588,000 bike accidents requiring a trip to the emergency room.  Fewer than 3% required a hospital stay.

Streets with bike lanes, or signed as bike routes, have fewer bike crashes than major streets without bike lanes.

So, to answer our anonymous reader’s question, is 11 crashes per 12,000 miles high, low or average? The Moritz study says people reporting a “serious” crash have 1.2 of them per year. But there’s no similar stat for minor crashes.

I think I’ve been crashing at the same rate as our reader. I’ve gone down four times in the last year, over roughly 3,000 miles. All minor, all unreported.

How about the rest of you? Can you help us get a handle on whether our reader is better than average, average, or “needs to crash more”?

Road Rash

Road rash (not mine).

After my crash a week and a half ago, I noticed that the road rash on my hip was taking awhile to heal. The abrasion took off just the very surface of the skin, but it was slow in scabbing over. The fact that I treated it like a “guy” probably didn’t help, either. Oh, I washed it with soap right away, and applied NeoSporin — but because it covered a somewhat wide area, I decided not to cover the wound. I’d let it get some air. It would heal quicker that way, anyway.

Problem was, I didn’t think about nighttime. When I woke up in the morning, getting out of bed was a bit painful, because the road rash stuck to the bedsheet. And pulling my leg off the sheet opened the already weeping sore spot.

This went on for several days, until my wife snapped at me about the mess I’d left on the sheet. So I poked around the medicine cabinet, and came up with some stuff that makes a liquid bandage on the skin. I put it on, and it actually worked. The wound scabbed over, and the scab stayed.

It turns out that letting the wound scab over was the “old fashioned” way to treat it. Nowadays, they say I should have cleaned the wound, continued to put NeoSporin or something like it over the sore, and cover it with some kind of bandage, like a non-stick gauze pad. And repeat every day. Once a wound scabs over, it’s harder for oxygen to reach it, and the no-cover method could result in a longer healing time. That’s just what happened. The smaller abrasions around my knee scabbed with no trouble. But the scabs are quite thick, and they’ve become a bit painful.

I’m on track, though. Now that the weeping has stopped, the wound should heal in another week to 10 days. It’s still sore when I touch it (“Then don’t touch it!” — bah-dang!) but it’s smaller than it was.

Well, I’m a little smarter, anyway. Next time I go down (Oh, there will be a next time — I’m realistic about my riding ability) I’ll be more aggressive in treating the road rash. But as a friend of mine likes to say, “Bikers get the coolest scars.”

For more detailed info on road rash, download the free publication from cycling coach Arnie Baker:

Above photo used under Creative Commons license.


Goats and Ghost Bikes

I decided to ride with the B’s this morning, even though I’m not fully recovered from last Sunday’s crash. But I felt pretty good on a 15-mile jaunt with my wife yesterday, and we were scheduled to ride one of my favorite routes today.

I headed out to Dripping Springs, a town of about 1500 15 miles west of Austin. We meet up at a park on the west end of town, where a circle drive makes a great place to park our cars and get ready for the ride.

The weather must have kept people away today. It’s autumn in Central Texas, and still quite mild. The temperature was in the high 60s (19-20C), but it was heavily overcast. Rain was forecast for later in the day. I figured some folks thought it would come early.

Four of us headed out at 9 a.m.  We maintained an easy pace, taking the small hills as they came. No one tried to race — not that the others would have chased, anyway.

Ram2-1Lots of ranchers in this area keep goats, and we passed several herds. At one road intersection though, I saw a couple of guys who apparently had had enough of watching over their nannies and kids. They came close to a fence along the road, and stood as still as statues while I clicked away with my crappy cell phone camera.

Ram1-1I’ve never really noticed the bucks before. These guys were something special, and I lingered a little to watch them. Then I had to get back on the bike and hustle to catch up with the others.

I didn’t have to press too hard, because one of the group, Duke, had to stop for some roadside servicing. His last bike, a nice tri bike, got a cracked frame, so his bike shop replaced it. He decided he didn’t like the feel of the tri, so asked for a comparable road bike, and he’s still getting used to it. This time, he felt he had to move the seat back a little, since he could see the hub of the front wheel while riding in a normal position. That was fine with us. We’re the B ride, after all, and any excuse for a rest stop is welcomed.

Duke-1

Duke fumbles in his seatbag for a multitool.

None of us has been riding much lately — the return to standard time has eliminated our evening weekday rides, so weekends are all we have to get some riding time in.

A bit farther on from this point comes one of the more interesting scenes on the route — a ghost bike. I’ve noticed it on several past rides in the area. A little research turned up the information that the ghost bike is in remembrance of Adam Raymond, who was hit head-on by a pickup truck that was driving on the wrong side of the road. The county DA was unable to get an indictment against the driver for criminally negligent homicide, but did get a conviction in February of this year for reckless driving. The driver got two years probation.

GhostBike1

The ghost bike on Mt. Gainor Road.

Cyclists like these roads because of the scenery and the varied terrain. Motor traffic is generally light, because this is not a heavily populated area. The ranchers who live around here seem to be used to bikers — I’ve experienced very few incidents of drivers passing too close, honking, flipping the bird, etc. But I’m reminded when we get too accustomed to riding three or four abreast that people do use these roads to get back and forth from their homes, and we have an obligation to ride safely.  The slogan, “Share the Road,” becomes more poignant when a ghost bike is around.

We finished 33 miles in 2 hours, 24 minutes, for an average speed of about 13.7 mph. By now, the temperature was up to 74 (23C), but the rains never materialized. These are the days you wish autumn would stick around forever.

New Jerseys – the State of Our Kit

Attended a meeting of my bike club tonight. The main item of business on the agenda was to figure out what to do about our club kit.

Bob

Unfortunately, the bottom third of the jersey was obscured in this shot.

Last year, the design of the club jersey was modified radically — a complete departure from earlier designs. The idea was to create something that was highly visible — so a diagonal “sash” of our club letters (CCRCC, for Circle C Ranch Cycling Club) dominated the front. They’re in bright yellow against a black background. There’s also a picture of a biker figure in blue against black. Meh. The blue and yellow stripes on the sleeves work, though, in my opinion, and the red stripes are a holdover from earlier versions. We’ve got matching arm warmers, which carry through the stripes, and look pretty good. But it’s been apparent that the jersey needs a makeover.

Bob3

Black and blue aren't a great color choice, even on sunny days.

They’re just not as visible as had been hoped. The back — which one would like to be seen by motorists at enough of a distance that they have time to react and avoid hitting the cyclist — features rays of blue emanating from the Circle C logo. The logo is the only thing that’s yellow, and it’s kinda thin. It just doesn’t stand out. If you completed the kit by buying the shorts, they have a wide yellow band across the butt. However, way more people bought just the jersey instead of a jersey-shorts combination.

I never even got in on the jersey purchase, and other club members joined too late this year to get in on it, either. So, we had the option to place another jersey order, using the template on file at the custom jersey company. Or, we could redo the jersey for the fourth time in four years, and see what we could do to make it stand out more.

We decided to go for a redesign. Instead of a bunch of us all contributing different ideas, and resembling the committee that was commissioned to design a horse but came up with a camel, we turned the job over to the member who had honchoed the last jersey order. He knows the folks at the jersey company, and he’ll work with them to come up with a new look, while preserving the feel of our current kit.

We should get the new ones in mid-January.

If you’re in a bike club, have your jersey stories been like ours? Are you happy with the look of your team kit? And while we’re at it, how has customer service been from the custom jersey company you do business with?

CO2 or a pump? — It never ends

I was chatting with a friend the other day who’s just getting into biking. He was telling me of his experience with his first flat. No pump, no CO2. He had a patch kit in his seatbag, but realized it was worthless unless he could fill his tire with air, so he wound up walking the bike home — three miles.

CO2

Do you prefer these?

“I saw these canisters of CO2 at the bike store,” he said. “Are they any good?”

Here we go again — the endless debate between CO2 and a pump.

Well, I told him, each has its advantages. CO2 takes up just a little space in your seatbag, and you don’t have to carry a pump. Just attach the inflator, stick it on the valve, and whoosh! you’re back in business. He liked that. He thought he’d try it.

But wait a minute, I said. There’s a problem with CO2, too. Sometimes, you misfire it and waste all the gas in the canister. Then, you can find yourself in the same predicament you were in last week.

Pump

Or this?

I told him of a recent A ride from our club, where a guy flatted along a major highway. One of the other guys had several CO2 cartridges — and managed to depressurize all of them. Without inflating the tire. Luckily, another rider in the group carried a pump, and stood by to watch the antics — then stepped in and saved the day.

“It took me probably 10 minutes to pump up a tire to 70 psi,” said guest poster Don Blount in an email awhile ago. “That’s longer than it took to change the tube.”

I’ve been there. It doesn’t take me that long to pump a tire up to 70, or even 90 psi. But those last 10 pounds to 100, to make it roadworthy again — I should be doing some strength work at the gym.

But Don also said he blew a tube with one cartridge, and when he went to use another one on another tube — it was a dud. He thinks he might just suck it up and go back to the frame pump.

At least that’ll get the tire inflated. With a cartridge — I’m guessing 50-50 odds.

My friend went back to the bike store and got a frame pump.

Lesson #11: Turn slowly in the wet

Just adding here to the Top Ten Lessons enumerated in the previous post.

Our B ride took a 38-mile route today in nice autumn weather, but the weather deteriorated as the ride progressed. We started in fog and temps in the low 60s (17°C). A little more than halfway through the ride, the rain started falling. We were about 16 miles from home, and wanted to waste no time getting back.

The four of us on the ride headed out in the downpour, and actually caught a much larger ride at an intersection two miles down the road. But those folks dropped us, and one of our own riders peeled off to head home by a different route.

One of the riders with me started cramping, and dropping back. We were on a two-lane blacktop with no shoulder, and I wanted to turn into a residential subdivision where he could take it easy while we made our last several miles home.

I braked before the turn into the subdivision, then turned. My front tire gleamed from the amount of water on the asphalt, even though the rain had subsided by now. I watched the wheel as it slid out from under me, and I went down hard. Unlike previous crashes, I didn’t have the out-of-body experience where I watch myself fall and tell myself what must be done. I just hit hard on my right hip, and slid along the pavement. My helmet clacked against the hard surface. Two water bottles shot out in different directions. The rider immediately behind me maneuvered between me, a rolling bottle, and my bike — and managed to stay upright while doing it.

Several drivers stopped to ask if I needed help, but once I got to my feet, I felt all right. Road rash on the knee, my hip really hurt, but the most bothersome thing was the soreness in my right shoulder. Although I could move it, and raise my arm over my head, I knew that would be the problem area. A cursory examination of my helmet revealed no cracks, so we mounted up and soldiered on.

Back home, I found that although my leg and hip stung from the road rash, the injuries were really quite minor.

Ow

Shin, left, and upper thigh, right.

The shoulder, which has no visible marks, is still sore, and I expect that it will be for several days to come. Neither my shorts nor jersey has any tears or scuffs.

Maybe it was the wet, maybe it was because I was going slowly when I fell — but the bike is OK. It’s all wiped down and ready for the next (upright) adventure.