Friday, February 25, 2011

Weekly 2011 Bike Log Issue 1

I biked a bit more than planned this week, since snow was forecast (and fell) last night. But this morning, the pavement was fine, if oddly salty looking, so I rode.

Bike total this week:
Tuesday, 10 miles.
Wednesday, 10 miles.
Thursday, 10 miles.
Friday, 10 miles (projection, rode 5 this morning and will need to go home sometime).

That gives me 40 miles this week. Not sure how much I've done this year till now, but lets say I've for sure done at least 80 miles.

Total so far for 2011: 110 miles. Saved me from burning 5 gallons of gasoline!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Musings on When Streets Meet--Dangerous Crossings

What are the easy or hard street crossings that I encounter in Cedar Rapids during my daily commute?

Most are fairly easy. Much of my commute is along a quite stretch of E Avenue, where the busiest and diciest place is Kenwood School, but parents dropping off second graders don't seem to be Indy drivers, and so far, although I have to slow down and stay alert, the busy mornings at Kenwood had not been a problem.

I encounter several 4-ways stops on my route, and, to be honest, do treat them as "California" stops--I slow way down, watch and listen, and proceed if no traffic is coming. If there is a car in the cross street, I simply try to follow "car" rules--come to a full stop and whoever was there first has the right of way.

Whether headed home or to work, the most exciting intersection is C and Blair's Ferry. The intersection does have button-activated crosswalk lights, which I use, but drivers, particularly those turning right while facing you, vary a lot in terms of whether they care that there is a biker with a walk light cycling through the intersection.

Still, while exciting, that intersection does have a light. Near Mount Mercy University, I pass through the 27th Street-Prairie Drive intersection, which was the site of a fatal accident last year. I often see students on cell phones waiting at the stop signs on Prairie, and they don't always look for bikes very well. I think that intersection would be a lot safer as a 4-way stop (and I think the intersection of 29th and Prairie needs a traffic light due to heavy traffic coming from MMU and proceeding along 29th). I try to be on guard and careful, but I've nearly been creamed at that corner a few times.

Besides those two corners, there is one that's dicey in the morning, but not so problematic on the way home. Travelling south to MMU in the a.m., I turn right when I get to 32nd Street, and 1 1/2 blocks later turn left from 32nd to Lindale Avenue.

That stretch of 32nd is both narrow and busy, which makes it exciting, and then I have to wait at the corner for a chance to quickly dart left down Lindale. I try to be careful, but I'm looking over my shoulder to see traffic headed west down 32nd, and the gaps in the morning are never large.

Beyond those three corners, my commute is not too bad. I've blogged before about the lights on F Avenue where I have to wait for cars to trigger them, and I supposed the F-Collins Road intersection might be work it's own blog post sometime (you have to really know the lights and anticipate changes--particularly if you have to "steal" the light from oncoming traffic exiting Rockwell Collins because you know your bike won't trigger the light ... well, another day).

Anyway, watch for a brief post on this blog tomorrow, I've decided to do a "commuter log" which will just sum up the days and hours ridden each week, which I intend to post on Fridays.

Happy biking!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Knee by Any Other Name

Would hurt just as much ....

Well, last year I banged up my left knee. But long term, that's not the joint that controls my life. Despite a total lack of injury, over the past year, and particularly in the past few days, my right knee tends to get stiff and sore.

Hmmm. I am unsure of whether I am injuring it or helping it by biking (which I did today and Tuesday). But, in the long run, I suppose it will be stronger if I continue to bike. And it does seem to hurt more if I walk a few hundred yards across campus, while the 5-mile ride home is OK.

Well, it's 5:45 p.m., definitely time for me to go. Will be using my lights tonight--and riding a little slow.

Bum knee.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Looking ahead to March Madness

Not the basketball kind--the return of more reliable biking weather.

I got my hair cut Saturday afternoon, and afterwards went to the office. Since I was north of Boyson Road in Cedar Rapids, I decided to take a ride west over to my sister's neighborhood in search of the Hiawatha sidewalk alleys that eventually would let me access the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.

As fate would have it, Cate and Paulette were heading out to a birthday party and saw me on my bike, which was helpful because they were able to direct met to the shortest route to the alleyways of Hiawatha. Without their aid I would have still made it, but would have had an extra hill to ride up, and who needs that?

Anyway, the sidewalk alleys of Hiawatha are a bit interesting. They provide easy routes north and south to a street (Northwood? Northlane? Northsometing ...) that leads to the trail over by Center Point Road.

It was a great afternoon for a ride--sunny and cool. Sadly, I probably won't be riding Monday (rain today, possible rain/snow mix tonight) and the weather forecast looks a bit iffy most days this week.

March! The first day will be bitterly cold, but that's OK, once the lion is here, winter can't keep its grip much longer!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How I Survived A Dangerous Trip Down F Avenue

OK, so maybe that's a bit of an overstatement. F Avenue in Cedar Rapids does feel like the most dangerous street that I commute on. Why?

The 3 blocks (shown, looking north from Old Marion Road this morning, had plenty of time to snap this photo as I waited for a car to trigger the light) south of Collins Road are dark at night, pitted with potholes, and, due to poor drainage always wet (or icy).

This is the infamous stretch of road that I had my nasty fall on. This also is punctuated with two traffic lights that are a challenge for a bicyclist to navigate--both the lights at Collins and F and Old Marion Road seem to be controlled by sensors. I assume the suggestive rectangular "cuts" in the pavement near those intersections indicate the sensor locations.

I don't know how the sensors are designed--are they magnetic? Weight controlled? But, I know their practical impact.

A biker, travelling on F Avenue, as your humble bike correspondent does most days (and did today despite the damp) is at the mercy of motorized vehicles. Only motorized vehicles can trigger the F Avenue lights. At certain times of day (or night on the ride home), the wait can be a while.

Now, technically, the light at F and Old Marion does have a walk signal. At busy streets (Blair's Ferry and C Avenue, for example) I use crosswalks, cross light switches and sidewalks.

But the light switch at F and Old Marion is only on the east side of the street, and if you're headed north (the only direction you would be headed and be on the east side), you can't reach it from the street.

If Cedar Rapids wants to be bicycle friendly, it needs a solution to the sensor intersections. There either needs to be a crosswalk light placed so that both pedestrians and cyclists can reach it, or a light trigger sensitive enough to a bicyclist will cycle the light.

I've never seen the later, so I suspect the solution is the former. And I am willing to say it's not such an urgent issue that lights need to be replaced now--but whenever a light is placed or replaced, design it to be bicycle friendly, too.

After all, I'm a legal vehicle on the road when I'm cycling home.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A sunny, warm Feb. 13 ride

On Sunday, Feb. 13, I had to do some afternoon work at Mount Mercy University, and I decided to bike.

Other than a long wait at F and Collins Road for a car to trigger the light, the ride was as expected--a bit sloshy, my butt got a bit damp--but, dang, it felt good to travel by bike again and feel a bit springy!

I present one random squirrel photo and three other images that day. The first images is , obviously, the tree rat enjoying birdseed on my deck--my dog Zoe lives there most of the time, and you can sense how intimidating she is to squirrels. As in, not at all.

The next is "snow mountains" in a Rockwell Collins Parking Lot. I like a "thaw," but to me, spring won't be here until the 12-foot tall hills of snow are gone, and they're still here.

Third is the moon in the blue afternoon sky, just looks cool to me (and I had time to kill, this is taken at the F and Collins corner while I was waiting for a car to trigger the light).

Finally, just to show the kind of day it was, a spring of water flowing down the steps of Lundy Commons after I had arrived.

Sadly, due to late night grading and time limits, I did not ride on Monday, Feb. 14, which feels a bit wrong since I love biking, it was Valentine's Day, and biking weather for sure. Well, I did ride today, Feb. 15, although it's a bit grey this afternoon. I am hoping it's not too wet or icy on the ride home tonight!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A snowy spring ride

Well, I did it--rode the bike today.

It was a bit snowy, but not bad. I had to wait for a while at the corner of F and Old Marion Road for a car to come and trigger the light, but otherwise, it was OK.


1) Waiting for a car to trigger the light
2) My tracks at Mount Mercy Univeristy
3) The bike, all alone, in a bike rack--had to park on the street Thursday due to full parking lot--but the bike rack was very convenient.
4) Bike this afternoon as the sun shone down. Sadly, it has clouded up again for the ride home.

Never mind . I'm just glad to be riding again!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Not Quite Yet ....

Update from yesterday--24-hour change of plans. A warm up is coming, but isn't here today--decided when I went to the gym at 6 a.m. that minus 14 degrees with a bit of a breeze is a bit beyond my biking capacity.

So, the first ride of the spring will wait until at least Friday. But I have to come to campus Saturday for Scholarship Day--so I may get two rides in this week after all :)

I'll describe the first ride when it happens ...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ready to ride?

It's below zero right now, but I scouted my route today in the Beetle--and I think the streets are just barely good enough that I might do it, I might take the first bike commute of the spring semester tomorrow. We'll see--update to come!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Few Times I've Almost Died Biking

In light of it being "no biking season," I thought I would share a bit of my biking history.

What scary bike accidents have I been in? Not very many.

By far, the most serious was in January 2010 when I had a nasty slip on ice on F Avenue near Collins Road. I wrote about that fall in my other blog. I've since been more careful to avoid all snow and ice, which explains why I'm waiting for a change in the weather before resuming my usual bike commuting.

I have not, so far, had very many other calamities. I always wear a helmet when riding, because several decades ago a sister-in-law (my wife's brother's wife) received a serious knock in the head when she hit a street grate in Davenport, Iowa. Eventually, she was fine, but she was hospitalized for several days--and since then I always wear a helmet.

Besides the slip on the ice, I don't have much of a accident rap sheet. Just a few ...

I don't recall my age, but I was a teen and out riding my old red one-speed when my sister Toni and I managed collide on Kindler Avenue in Muscatine. There were no other vehicles involved, I don't think we were very hurt and it probably happened because we were yakking as we rode.

Another time, I was bike riding with Toni in Muscatine and we were a few miles out in the countryside on a gravel road in a forlorn hollow when my chain broke. It was a long, twilight walk home, but none of the bogeymen or strange country hill people armed with shotguns or pitchforks ever showed up. Even though we were expecting them.

Naturally, I feel a few times when learning to ride in the first place, and recall that in California I ran into the back fence while practicing. Anyway, since I was 7 years old when we moved from California, I must have been 7 or younger when that happened.

The most embarrassing bike accident was also the least serious. I was biking along a walking/biking trail beside Storm Lake in Storm Lake, Iowa, when I approached a couple of cute young shorts-clad ladies walking in front of me.

When approaching people from behind on my bike, I usually sound a verbal warning, and so far have managed to alert pedestrians enough that we have avoided each other on trails like this, but these women were walking abreast (or four) on the trail and there wasn't room for me to squeeze by. So I moved off to the right of the trail, went around them, and promptly toppled when my front wheel hit the ground-pavement interface in front of them.

Luckily--unlike the time when I slipped on ice--I was unhurt, injured in pride only.

Biking can be a dangerous hobby. No biker ever wins an encounter with a ton or so of plastic and metal powered by an infernal combustion engine (yeah, "infernal" is a deliberate usage).

Still, 7 from 52 is 45. Four and a half decades of biking--no broken bones yet, and, I hope, none to come.

So bikers out there? Go slow like Joe, wear your helmet all the time, sound a warning before approaching pedestrians. And watch out for cute ladies in short shorts. They are dangerous.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Sticks To CR Sidewalks

It's getting way below zero tonight and there's lots of snow and ice on the streets and sidewalks of Cedar Rapids. Here is what my sidewalk looks like after clearing more than 10 inches of snow, and many places are still not cleared, including the city sidewalk on C Avenue.

Not that I'm complaining. In fact, this winter I gotta say it seems like the CR street department has been more aggressive in snow removal--they cleared Brentwood Drive 3 times today and every side street in our area of town seems fairly well plowed. Yeah, I can see the streets coming before the sidewalks, and, after all, I ride on many more streets than sidewalks.

Good thing I've travelling for a couple of days because I'm not going to be able to ride the bike anyway. And spring is coming! (No, I don't take the groundhog seriously, spring is coming at this time of year every year.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

April Isn't That Far Away ...

The storm of the century, snowpocalypse, is in full swing outside.

Of course, it's only the storm of the century because there have not been that many huge snowstorms this century, which is fairly young. After all, we may get 10 to 12 inches of snow, which is A LOT, but hardly the end of the world.

But, it no doubt will keep me off my bike for a while. The year started with such hope, looking back at my January blog posts when I wore long underwear and cycled to work on some cool days seems a little sad, now, with the genuine Iowa blizzard blowing outside.

Well, despite the snow, we're arrived at February. It's the deep part of winter, but it's getting lighter, and spring is inevitable despite the monster storm (or maybe even the storm is, in a minor way, a sign of spring, since big snows tend to happen late in winter when moisture begins to return to the atmosphere).

Anyway, to cheer all my bike blog pals up, above is a photo from April 10, 2010, a magnolia blooming in my back yard. One of the joys of biking is passing by the scenery slowly enough and closely enough to see the flowers, and it won't be long before those nice spring biking days are here again.