Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Columbus Bikeways Plan

It's now possible to view the Columbus Bikeways Plan and get on their mailing list if you are so inclined (and hopefully you are).

I highly recommend that you take their survey as it will help them make a plan that works best for the bike commuters of Columbus!

Consider Biking Considered Once Again!

I've finally had time to go out and re-check out Consider Biking's website, and I am impressed with it. It's currently in my favorite forum format, in that it uses phpBB as its engine. And hey, they even linked to yours truly in their links section! :)

Columbus residents, get out there and read and post! Get some good discussion going!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Performance Bike Opens Store in Columbus

If you buy bike equipment online, you've probably heard of Performance Bike. The new store will be up on Sawmill Road (ironically, one of possibly the most bike-unfriendly streets in the city) in the old home of Gateway Computers, near Borders' Bookstore just south of Snouffer.

More in the Dispatch (wow, bike news in the Dispatch).

Good Advice

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Racks Getting Crowded at Work, and A Note on My Posting

We may have to petition the University for another bike rack soon... more bikes are appearing on the rack! I actually had a nice conversation with another commuter down at the racks last night on the way home... he was riding a recumbent bike and I was curious about it a bit. I don't think I'll ever ride one, myself. I don't think they look too safe as they are so low to the ground and that reduces their visibility. Plus I like being up where I can see.

It's nice to see how more people are biking, now, especially as the weather gets nicer. Now we just have to keep them biking...

I've noticed something in my posting habits, too... I haven't been posting as much as I was originally. That's not because I'm losing interest, but as my commute becomes more and more routine, I'm finding less to post about. That combined with a rather short commute leaves little to talk about.

I'm not going to stop, obviously, but if you're checking this site regularly (both of you) and you're upset at the infrequency of posts as compared with earlier on, please bear with me! I highly suggest using the RSS feed (link at the bottom of the page) on a reader application of some kind if you want to be able to read whenever I update without constantly checking back fruitlessly. I personally use Google Reader which is easy to use and works great.

Thanks, and Keep On Biking.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bike To Work Month/Week/Day in Columbus... WHAT A DUD!

Note (5/23/2007): Please read the comments on this post for more on Columbus's Bike-To-Work Week events. Apparently there was some activity, just not anything from the groups I mentioned below. I stand by my criticisms of COBAC and the Dispatch, but heartily applaud Consider Biking and Green Drinks. Now, back to the post.

As many of you probably know, it's Bike to Work Month, Week, and Day. I've been enjoying reading all the stories on various blogs about the activities that cities and groups are promoting to get people out on their bikes. And I've been so busy the past couple weeks that I haven't had a chance to sit back and reflect upon how Columbus has celebrated this great time.

And then I realized that the reason I haven't really done this reflecting wasn't only that I've been busy, but also that NOTHING has been done here in Columbus!

I've ridden to work every day this month, but since November, I always do (except for a couple days in February when the weather was in the negatives and I took the bus). So that was no biggie for me. But it really JUST occurred to me that there has been almost NO activity by anyone in Columbus (that I've seen) to promote Bike to Work Month, Week, or Day.

I went to look at the Central Ohio Bike Advocacy Coalition website today after realizing this fact, and I did see a post in their news section for a Ride Of Silence two days ago, which I wish I'd seen. But, to be frank, I'm not impressed at all with COBAC... I've emailed them several times with requests for information on joining the group and never gotten a reply. And I've checked my spam filter, for those of you wondering. Not even a banner on their page... NOTHING.

I looked at the Columbus Dispatch and searched for articles about Bike To Work Month, Week, or Day.... NOTHING. The one article that mentions bikes is about widening Sancus Boulevard up near the Polaris Catastrophe from a two lane to a five-lane road, the plan for which includes a bike trail. One person in the article is actually complaining that they put in sidewalks but didn't widen the road.

So, what's to be done? The obvious answer is: "get involved earlier next time." And for that, I have no response other than "you bet." This town is in such dire need of an improved infrastructure for bikes that next year it's almost mandatory for me to get more involved. I feel like I shirked a duty this year in not getting involved now. I tried to give a co-worker who wants to bike but doesn't think she can a push by recommending some books and websites to her... but that's it.


I'm shocked and ashamed for Columbus, and I'm ashamed of myself for being so complacent.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Benefits of Bike Commuting

I've had a pretty hellacious week here at work. Something caused one of my users' reports to go haywire. This is a report for a legacy MS Access system that I inherited, and I didn't really do much to it till now, but it went haywire. So Tuesday night I stayed at work till almost 11:00pm to re-write it (the thing was a huge kludge that no amount of modification was going to make better, so I decided to start from scratch with it). Well, the fixed I made had the effect of making clearer just how poor my users are at data entry and editing in our database... so I've been working to point out where the problems are, how to fix them, etc.

And of course, the users still aren't completely sure that this isn't somehow my fault: after all, I did write the report, so how can it be their fault?

But the point I want to make is that even though I have had two very long days at work, I got home happy and fairly stress-free because of the physical exertion I put in during my commute home. Being outside and exercising are two great ways to calm the nerves (seriously! There have been studies done!) and when you put the two together, you've got a winner. The ride home at 11:00pm on Tuesday was surprisingly refreshing, and last night's ride at around 6:30pm was just the thing - I got to blow by some stopped traffic and I even got to chat briefly with another bike commuter!

And the best part was that when I did get home, I was happy and got to enjoy reading to my son, play with the dog a bit, help my wife a bit with dinner, and the whole nine yards - with no residual stress from the day.

I can't wait for my ride home today!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Olentangy River Trail Construction Plan A True Foul-Up

If you commute from Worthington or Beechwold into downtown via the Olentangy Bike Path you've probably noticed the closure due to construction on the pedestrian bridge just south of Antrim Park. Using its usual bit of expertise, the city has routed all the traffic for the trail out onto Olentangy River Road between the park and Henderson Road.

If you've been on Olentangy River Road between Antrim Park and Henderson, you know what a rotten idea this is. There are people flying on and off 315, people who are trying to use ORR instead of getting on 315 at all, and of course no one is in a good mood because they're driving.

According to the city, they expect to fix the problem of cyclists being forced onto Olentangy by building a temporary trail around the construction.

My question: why wasn't this done before construction ever started? If there was work being done on High Street, or Morse Road, etc., there would have been proper detours set up before work ever started. But in this case, since it's just a bike trail and therefore just a recreational thing, it wasn't necessary.

This is why the city's so-called "Green Plan" as the mayor put it in his State of the City address is doomed to failure: they still consider bikes to be recreational instead of actual transportation.

Perhaps part of the problem is that the trail is managed by Parks and Recreation, when it should actually be part of the city's Transportation Department. Of course, that assumes that the Department knows how to handle bike traffic.

Yeah, we have a long way to go here in Cowtown...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bike Routes

We've all seen them around town - those green signs that tell you that the road you're on is a Bike Route.

But what does that really mean? Is there a map anywhere of ALL the bike routes in Columbus? The only maps I've been able to find are nearly unreadable or incomplete.

So... I'm going to throw out an idea: putting the Columbus bike routes into - the route mapping website. If you haven't seen this site yet, check it out. It's really useful and a great source of information for cycling wherever you go.

If you know of an official bike route in Columbus, please consider entering it into Bikely with "Columbus Bike Route ##" - and then any sort of description you'd like to add.

Not Owning A Car

I've read the first five chapters or so of How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Mileage Out of Life so far, and I'm impressed enough with it that I'm not putting it down. So far it's just been the author's work at convincing people of the benefits of not owning a car and the awful things that an automobile culture does to both us and the world.

So, basically, not a lot of stuff I didn't already know, though it's interesting to see him break down the money part of it (and point out that the figure $8410/year spent on cars from AAA was for 2003 - when gas was only $1.55/gallon).

But the thing I got the most out of was when the author started talking about how HE came to be a carless gentleman. It got me thinking about how I came to this and therefore how I got more into biking.

I went through my actual bicycling history in an earlier post. And this post is going to be more about my recent adult life.

When I lived up in Alma, MI, I was not a huge car fan. I came to the conclusion, though not formally, that they were more trouble than they were worth. And though I had a car at college that my parents let my brother and I take, I didn't use it all that much. Notre Dame is a walking campus, and honestly there's not that much stuff off-campus to do.

So when I got out of college and my initial military training, I had to buy a car for the first time. I didn't want to spend a lot of money and get myself into horrible debt, so I bought myself a $2,000 1987 Mercury Lynx wagon (this was in 1993, by the way). It was in good shape, and basically served as a good first car. Plenty of cargo space (which was nice when I moved to Lansing, MI) and good gas mileage.

I took a lot of ribbing from my friends and co-workers who didn't understand why I didn't get a new car or at least one that wasn't a station wagon. But I really didn't care - I never attached any sort of sense of self-worth to my car purchases. I think that in the two years I owned it I put something like 40,000 miles on it - mostly from having to drive on business trips, which my job required at the time. It was reliable and I think I only put $600 of maintenance into it (not including regular oil changes and such).

I had to get rid of it, not because it died or anything like that, but because the girl I was dating at the time wanted me to get a car that had a working heater in it. And, I figured it was time for a new car anyway - the Lynx (which I fondly referred to as the "Jazz Odyssey") was almost ten years old at that point and had well over 130,000 miles on it.

My next car was a 1992 (I think) Mercury Mystique, bought in May of 1996. I overpaid for it ($13,000) and put more maintenance into that car than I knew what to do with. Coil spring replacements, head gasket replacement, computer chip replacements, I don't even WANT to put all that together. Truly a poor purchase.

During one of these car-less times, I had to figure out how to get to work as it was going to be over a week. I didn't want to rent a car as money was tight and my insurance at the time wasn't so good, so I looked at taking the bus. There was a stop right outside my apartment complex that got me almost all the way to work, and another right next to my job. Perfect.

So I started taking the bus. It took about 40 minutes each morning and evening on the bus, but I discovered something: I loved it! I loved not having to drive, being able to read something, and just sitting back and letting someone us do the driving for me. I got to work without any stress, found myself walking around to get to lunch, etc. and all in all my frame of mind improved immeasurably.

When the car was fixed, though, I went right back to driving... pretty much until the car died again. This was right before I moved from out near Easton to Clintonville. The car made it as far as the front of our house and I never drove it again. I took the bus to work because it was even easier than it had been from the Easton location.

A gentleman noticed that the car had been out there forever and asked if I was interested in selling it. I had always planned on selling it but to actually be asked was weird. So I sold it, and I haven't owned a car since then. And I've been happier getting to work almost every day since then. Even on the cold wet mornings of February and March, I realize that I'm still happier busing or cycling to work than I ever was driving. And now I keep finding new ways to make biking for my main form of transportation easier and more fun.

So get rid of your car! You really don't need it!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Bike to Work Month

The start of Bike-to-Work Month is upon us, and it appears that there are a few people taking advantage of it at our office. Till today, I'd never seen more than three bikes including mine at the rack and today there were four (still including mine). And campus police have removed that bike that had been here, unmoved, since November (at least). So that's four bikes utilized regularly!

Granted, many of the folks who work here are students getting work-study time. But... you can take that as good or bad. Good, because younger folks are getting out on their bikes more often, and that bodes well for the future. Bad, because people my age or older are still too lazy to get out of their gas guzzlers.

I was sort of amused by the fact that I had to fight for a parking space, actually... for the first time ever, it was a nice feeling!

In other news, I picked up a couple of new books on Amazon: How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Mileage Out of Life, and Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back. I've started the first book and I'll talk more about it when I'm done. So far I like it - I'm on chapter two and the author, Chris Balish, has been chatting about the financial benefits of not owning a car. It's not a bike-specific book but I've glanced through it and biking most certainly is a big part of it.

I've also ordered Divorce Your Car from Amazon but it's coming in another shipment, for whatever bizarre reason.