Friday, February 29, 2008

Ask Google to Add Bike Routes to Google Maps

I love Google Maps. Who doesn't? They're easy to use and run a lot faster than most mapping sites out there. They even show non-highway routes, transit routes, etc.

What they don't do, though, is show bike-friendly routes! Well, sign this petition, and ask Google to add that functionality to its maps!

The petition's creator has a blog on the effort as well, at Google Maps "Bike There."

People, not speed.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Couple New Features

You may notice that I've added a couple of new features in the past two days. One is a link to chat with me via GoogleTalk whenever I'm online and checking my email (which I normally leave open whenever I'm online), so feel free to say hi!

The other is the pair of links near the bottom of the right column to the Columbus Streetcar effort and the Ohio Hub. Check them out and join me in supporting them!

People, not speed.

The Columbus Bicycle March

Several months ago, I found THIS image on the internet, but I have no idea what it's for. It appears to be for a song that a Fred Neddermeyer wrote here in Columbus, and I'd love to hear it!

It says "Two Step" on it, too... it may be a dance song. Here's some more information about these types of songs, apparently they were quite a thing back in the days of the League of American Wheelmen. Their PDF file on the release dates of these songs says it came out in 1897.

Does anyone know anything about this?

Edit: Looking around for information on Fred Neddermeyer, apparently he was a ragtime composer and band leader (for the appropriately named Neddermeyer Concert band of Columbus) around the turn of the 20th century.

He had a song dedicated to him by Karl King... also a bandleader of that era who played in Neddermeyer's band. It was called the "Neddermeyer Triumphal." He's mentioned in Ragtime: A Musical and Cultural History by Edward A. Berlin.

Now I really want to hear this song! It sounds like it could have really cooked!

Edit #2: Mr. Norman Batho of the League of American Wheelmen sent me a MIDI file of the March, and is going to get me a copy of the WAV file of it, too! So, for those of you who'd like to hear this little piece of bicyling Americana, here you go! It's easy to listen to this and imagine groups of people in the late 19th/early 20th century riding along on their pennyfarthings and safety bicycles, it's really a neat piece of nostalgia!

Many thanks to Mr. Batho for his contribution!

People, not speed.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Columbus Looking To Reduce Stop-and-Go Traffic

One of the main complaints of motorists in Columbus, it seems, is the stop and go nature of surface route traffic. To help solve the problem, the city wants to interface with other cities' traffic routine and synchronize the traffic lights. The Dispatch covered this issue in today's paper. It sounds like a great idea.

It's not.

Traffic already moves way too quickly in Columbus and the suburbs. One of the few things acting as traffic calming on High and other streets is the lack of synchronization between lights. And how else can we discourage the use of single-passenger cars and encourage the use of public transportation and other alternative sources of transportation if we keep making it easier to drive? The answer is that we can't.

The city needs to abandon this effort. Period.

People, not speed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

WCRS Cranksters Now Online!

For those of you who want to listen to Zach Henkel's Crankster show on WCRS, Columbus's Community Radio station, their episodes are now available for streaming or full download. Just follow the above link. The episode that Zach featured my blog as well as other Columbus cycling resources is #6.

People, not speed.

Review: The Reelight

Back when I was on Zach Henkel's Cranksters show on Columbus's Community Radio Station WCRS, I promised a review on the Reelight. I've had a good opportunity to evaluate the product at this point and I'm going to pass along what I've found with it.

I have the SL120 model, which has a feature that earlier models don't, which I'll mention as we're going along.

This is a really great product, especially at this time of year when nights are long, weather is poor, and visibility is limited. Any sort of light you can add to your bike is a bonus, and the Reelight is a perfect visibility enhancer.

It is NOT a headlight. They are simply two flashing lights, one white one for the front and one red one for the rear. As has been mentioned previously elsewhere, they require no batteries and nothing that will take energy away from your forward progress like some of the battery-less lights we've seen in the past. It uses elecrodynamic induction to create the power, and I'll let their actual site explain that better:

The lights are based on the electrodynamic induction principle, and work when you screw two magnets on the spokes and fix the light to the wheel’s hub. Electric current is then produced when the magnets pass the light, which incorporates a spool of copper wire. The light then flashes every time the wheel rotates. Simple, effective and ingenious.

And it is just that. This quote is a tad misleading, but in a good way. When I first got the light, I thought that it would blink twice with every rotation of the wheels, at the point the magnets that you attach to your spokes pass the light. That is NOT the case: the magnets simply power the internal dynamo, and the lights flash at a consistent speed - even AFTER you've stopped moving, long enough for most traffic light stops. This is that feature that the SL120 has that the earlier model does not - once you stop with the earlier model, so does the light.

Installation was pretty easy, though I would recommend that you get your bike onto a work stand to do it. Not having one, I did it with the bike on the ground, and that was harder. The directions tell you to have the magnets (which attach fairly easily to the spokes) 1-3 mm away from the light on the rotation, and having to adjust that a few times by picking the bike up slightly, turning the wheel, and checking the distance made it tough. Do this with a stand. And they're not kidding about the 1-3 mm. The closer the lights are to the magnets, the better, as the lights will power on sooner.

Operation is easy - just ride your bike. They take a few rotations of the wheels to get re-charged, but once they're on they're on for a while. One thing I did notice when I first got them: with a shorter commute like mine, it takes a while before the lights get powered up enough to stay on at traffic lights or stop signs as I mentioned above - a couple of days. A longer commute or ride will power them up faster. That is to say, that for a couple of days, the lights will actually turn off more quickly after a stop until the dynamo gets enough charge to store up enough power to keep flashing at a stop. I hope that's clear.

The front white light seems to do better with this than the red rear light. Your results may vary here: my red light is a tad further away from the magnets than the white light, so that may have something to do with it.

The mounting of the lights is excellent. One of my concerns with the lights was that the rear red light wouldn't be easily seen underneath my panniers, which are fairly large. That was not an issue - though I wish it was easier to check back and make sure that the light was flashing when my panniers were on the bike. I'm a careful guy, I just like to check on occasion.

I'm impressed enough with this product that I want to order two more pairs for my wife's and son's bikes as soon as things get a little more light out and they're more liable to ride. They are totally maintenance-free and I like the idea of having the lights available 24/7 for their rides. They are a bit pricey compared to other blinky lights, but to me the maintenance-free nature and the power of them makes up for that.

All in all, I HIGHLY recommend this product. I use it in tandem with regular headlight and a red blinky that attaches to my rear rack and I've never had a problem being seen. I bought mine at Pricepoint.com, but other outlets have them as well, obviously.

People, not speed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New Office, New Route to Work

Well, for the now fourth time since I've been an employee at OSU (Nov. 2003), my office has moved. And it's a little further away than it used to be, but it's a bit easier a ride, in that my route (basically just straight down High Street) is pretty well kept-up as regards snow removal and such. The potholes are MUCH worse, but the traffic isn't quite as fast and there's no street parking on weekdays on most of it.

The office isn't quite as nice as the last one, but at least I'm not stuck out where the COTA routes are few and far between (just in case, you know?) and I have to hop a bus of some kind just to go get some lunch. I'm on campus now, within walking distance of some good healthy alternatives for lunch. So that's nice.

You can tell I didn't ride yesterday (as I needed our car to move my stuff from one office to the next) because after the rain on Tuesday, my derailleurs were frozen, which I didn't realize till I'd been going for a bit. Should have taken the bike inside on Tuesday to dry off instead of locking it in the garage, but it didn't occur to me then. It will now. Maybe I need to build one of those solar heaters for the garage out of empty pop cans and such. That'd be a fun project and it might even work!

Here's my route, from Bikely:



People, not speed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Look at an Old High Street

One of my fellow Columbus bike bloggers, Douglas Morgan, is soon to be starting a journey down the yesteryear of High Street, the main north-south surface street thoroughfare in Columbus (for those of you not living here - I assume the rest of you are familiar with High Street).

Here's the blurb from his blog:

Over the next several months, I'm going to take you for a journey along High Street and introduce you to some of the old and new shops and proprietors there..........and some of the memories. I hope to have photos to share with you, too. There are stories along HIgh Street that need to be shared and passed down.........stories of a community that was once connected. And there are new stories being created along High Street...........stories of the new immigrants to our community, stories of reinvention. As a community, I think we need to know these stories............and, in some ways, we need to go backwards before we can go forward.

As a history buff, and even as one who isn't native to Columbus, I find this fascinating. The face of Columbus has changed even since I've been here, and I can't imagine how it must seem to someone who lived in my neighborhood in the 1960s.

Definitely looking forward to this!

People, not speed.

The First Day That I Wish I Hadn't Taken My Bike

I've been bike commuting since late November, 2006, and every day I've biked I've felt better for it. Well, not today. It has nothing to do with fitness, the cold, etc. It has everything to do with fear for my life.

Perhaps I should have given it up earlier than I did today, when I got across Olentangy River Road and finally just hopped the curb and walked the rest of the way. But I figured that Dodridge/Ackerman and Olentangy would be cleared off. It wasn't. And in previous snowy weather, I didn't have nearly the problems I did today.

I was slipping and sliding all over the place. I didn't feel comfortable at all, and with cars going past me (even at their reduced speed) I still didn't feel like I was safe.

My bike has big knobby tires on it. Normally, that's enough to plow through whatever snow is there. Not today.

Do those of you who ride the snow regularly have luck with studded tires? I don't want to have to limit myself to Columbus's bus schedule (which, though improving, is still lacking due to lack of ridership), but I certainly don't want to have to risk falling just to get to work. Where do you get them? Which brands work the best for you?

Keep in mind here: I'm not a sport cyclist. I don't care one iota about keeping my bike's weight down. My bike is purely for commuting. So any discussion of how much the tires weigh will pretty much be ignored by me, because it just doesn't matter to me.

People, not speed.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Great Idea from Chicago: $500 Fine for Reckless Drivers

Here's a great idea from Chicago's mayor Richard Daley: a $500 fine for drivers who endanger cyclists. More from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Share the road with bicycles -- or pay


Mayor seeks fines of up to $500 for reckless drivers



February 7, 2008

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

Reckless drivers who endanger bicycle riders would pay fines of $150 -- $500 if there's a bike crash -- under a crackdown proposed Wednesday by Chicago's No. 1 cyclist.


Mayor Daley, who once scraped the skin off his kneecap during a marathon bike ride in Michigan, has been there and done that.


He has had drivers open car doors in his path. He has had cars turn left in front of him and had a car pass within three feet of his bike.


"When someone opens a door -- that's why you have to be very, very alert on a bike," Daley said.


"Yes, it's taken place. And [there were] a few choice words. Every biker does that -- salutes the driver in a Chicago way."


All three violations were targeted by the ordinance introduced by Daley at Wednesday's City Council meeting. It's designed to reduce the number of crashes involving bikes and motor vehicles. There were 6,000 such crashes in Chicago between 2001 and 2005, killing 30 cyclists.


The ordinance establishes a fine for double-parking in a marked lane that's supposed to be shared by bikes and vehicles. And it raises the fine for driving, standing and parking in a bicycle-only lane.


The city has more than 110 miles of designated bike lanes and 21 miles of shared lanes.


Also Wednesday, the Council approved plans by Children's Memorial Hospital to build a new 22-story facility downtown with a helipad on its roof -- despite objections from area residents worried about safety. The new hospital should open in 2012 pending further government approval.


The Council also approved Daley's plan to turn back the curfew clock effective March 12 -- to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends -- to curb youth violence.


The mayor proposed that the city extend hardship eligibility for parking and red-light ticket payment plans to motorists whose homes are in foreclosure. And he proposed installing electronic message boards at McCormick Place with information about flights at O'Hare and Midway airports to make life easier for conventioneers.


People, not speed.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Second Review: Pearl Izumi Vagabond Jacket

Well, it was pouring today. So I decided that today was a perfect opportunity to test the rain resistance qualities of my Pearl Izumi Vagabond II Jacket. It's advertised to have excellent water resistance.

Well, water resistant is not water-proof. It kept me mostly dry, though around the joints it got a bit wet where it touched my skin the most. This was sort of like how a tent lets in moisture but you don't realize it till you touch it.

Still, the color kept me safe and visible in the darker, more hazardous driving conditions of the day. And the jacket will be great if I get caught in a storm again without my rain cape.

People, not speed.

Tour de Grandview 2008 Announced

Columbus cycling fans can get their fill of top-notch pro cycling once again at this year's Tour de Grandview. This year's event will take place June 28-29 in Grandview, naturally. There will be both amateur and pro races, and the website above has the links for those who wish to compete.

The complete press release is below:

GERMAIN LEXUS TOUR DE GRANDVIEW CYCLING CLASSIC RACES THROUGH COLUMBUS THIS WEEKEND

GRANDVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio – Top professional cyclists from the U.S. and around the world will race through the streets of Grandview Heights this weekend during the 15th annual Germain Lexus Tour de Grandview Cycling Classic.


A favorite stop on the summer cycling circuit, the event features two days of world-class bicycle racing as well as a number events and activities for spectators and cyclists alike.


'The Germain Lexus Tour de Grandview is a wonderful tradition and one of the great summer events in central Ohio,' said Grandview Heights Mayor Ray DeGraw. 'We’re pleased to have the race back for the 15th time this weekend and look forward to some incredible racing from another star-studded field and a great time for all those who come out to enjoy and support it.'


'The Germain Lexus Tour de Grandview is one of the truly unique sporting events in central Ohio,' said Germain Motor Company COO Rick Germain. 'It’s a great event with great athletes and great racing, and we’re excited to be a part of it.'


Among the events scheduled for this year’s race are the Reds, Whites & Bikes wine tasting reception on Friday night (7:00 - 10:00 p.m. at Global Living); the Kids’ Sprints competition (12:00 noon) and Ohio Cup Series criterium races (1:15 - 5:30 p.m.) on Saturday afternoon; the Saturday night Grandview Avenue Street Party (5:30 – 11:00 p.m.) with food, drinks, live entertainment and children’s activities; and the signature Tour de Grandview Criterium races (1:00 – 6:00 p.m.) on Sunday afternoon.


The races will feature both men and women cyclists in multiple professional categories. The criterium courses will cover a number of the hilly, tree-lined streets on either side of Grandview Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfare.


The Germain Lexus Tour de Grandview has been a showcase for emerging national and international cycling talent over the years. Among the event’s many successful alumni are 2006 Tour de France champion Floyd Landis, 2007 Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer, 2003 USPRO champion Mark McCormack, 2000 U.S. national road racing champion Nicole Freedman, and 2004 American Criterium Series champion Melissa Sanborn.


A $20,000 purse will be on the line during the event, the lion’s share of which will be awarded to the top finishers in the elite men’s and women’s categories. Prize money also will be paid to placers in the Junior and Masters categories, and will be paid equally to men and women.


The Germain Lexus Tour de Grandview Cycling Classic is Ohio’s premier cycling event, attracting an international field of more than 100 professional cyclists to central Ohio each year, as well as hundreds of cycling enthusiasts and spectators. Celebrating its 15th year in 2007, the Tour is organized by the non-profit Grandview Community Association with the support of the City of Grandview Heights and a host of local volunteers and sponsoring businesses. More information is available at www.tourdegrandview.com.



I'm rather ashamed to say I've never been to this event! I'm going to make sure I get to it this year, though, and my family will be coming with me!

People, not speed.