Friday, December 3, 2010


Sharrows are those chevron shapes you see on streets sometimes that indicate that car drivers should be ready for bikes in the lane. It's an explicit direction to cars to share the lane. It's a feature I like, although there is a debatable downside since drivers may assume that the absence of sharrows means bikes should not be present. The most prominent example in my neck of the woods is on Dean Keeton St.

My attention was recently directed to a study (an actual! scientific! study - find it here) showing the benefits of installing sharrows, especially in reducing the risk of one of my greatest fears: dooring. Dooring is when a parallel-parked driver opens their door in front of a biker in the "door zone" who is then forced to choose, in a split second, between attempting to stop, hitting the door, or swerving into the lane (there may or may not be a car there, and there's probably not time to check). It's definitely a great way to get the heart pumping and circulate adrenaline.

The best way to avoid being doored is to ride outside the door zone. If you have to ride to the side, take the lane early when there are parallel-parked cars, and watch for tell-tales on parked cars. Brake lights switching off or interior lights turning on are a good sign that the driver-side door is about to open. I also have a habit of looking in the side-view mirror to see whether there is a person in the driver seat. I never assume that person sees me and slow down or give a wide berth in case the door opens.

When a sharrow is installed, a bike rider can have more confidence riding in the lane outside the door zone, and many of these things are not an issue.

Be safe, ride hard.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Where I've been

In case anyone's been wondering why there hasn't been a post in 15 months, here's what happened. I got real busy working on this:

Woo hoo!

Then we went to Mexico to celebrate.

Then I got real busy being a post-doc, still at UT.

Back when I used to blog regularly, it seems I generated most interest on this blog by posting about my Dynamic Crosstown and about bike commuting in Austin, so here's an update:

I still commute almost every day on a bike. My back-and-forths take me about 80-100 km each week. After three years on my Crosstown 7, I've racked up almost 13,000 km (8000 mi). It's still holding together nicely, although I think I'm going to need to replace the shifter and cables and give the rear axle a good cleaning to make the shifting a little more precise. Shifting has been finicky lately. Also, the cranks are a little creaky. They probably need to be greased and tightened. Overall, though, no major complaints.

During the summer, I used the new Capitol Metro Red Line commuter train, because sometimes, it's just too hot to go both ways.

If you're still reading, post a comment to say hi.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Safe Passing Law SB488

Our dear governor, Rick Perry, recently vetoed a bunch of bills. Some, like the one allowing the state to take kids from homes for interviews away from their parents, I was glad to see. Others, however, we not OK. I'm speaking in particular of SB488, which would have established rules to protect bikes and other non-car users of roadways. Of particular interest in this bill was a clause establishing a safe passing distance of 3ft. Making this into a law would give bikers some (currently lacking) specific legal recourse in the case of side-swipes, mirror hits, right-hook crashes, and eventually increase biker safety in the state of Texas. Governor Perry didn't want to create another class of protected citizens (classic conservative response) and vetoed it, despite overwhelming congressional and public support. I often side with the conservative political point of view, but not this time. Our laws and culture are biased toward cars on the roads and the legal system can be hostile to bicyclists.
So what can you do? You can go sign the petition at Bike Texas like I did, and make sure that the issue doesn't go away. Even if you don't commute or recreationally ride a bike, sign it anyway. It'll take less than 2 minutes, max.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Too Darn Hot!

Time to break the months of blogging silence with my second annual whine-about-the-heat session. It's been busy in the lab.
I was so proud of myself for continuing to bike through the Texas summer. I was that studly biker who never let the weather get him down, cold or hot. That was until this week. Today is our twelfth consecutive day over 100°F, and starting Wednesday it was just too darn hot to ride. I learned that by experience, riding home through the 103.5°F afternoon. I drank liters of water; I rode very slowly; I followed the shade, and when I got home, I lay down on the couch and didn't recover for over an hour. Believe it or not, I wasn't even that sweaty because I didn't exert too hard getting home, but I was just sapped. I thought I was conditioned for the heat, but some days it's just too much.Yesterday and today, I came on the bus. Yesterday, we set a daily record with a high of 107°F, and today at 2:00, it's 103°F and climbing. Yes, I'm enjoying the bus.
Courtesy of the Weather Underground, here's a record from a small weather station near our house, showing high, low, and average temps for the week.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Extreme Ice Survey

I heard about this on NPR the other day, and then I recently discovered the website for the Extreme Ice Survey. I have now spent far too much time watching time lapse video of glaciers. This is really cool stuff. You should watch at least a couple of these videos and find out a little bit about the project.
Maybe it's just my own Arctic adventure on Spitsbergen Island, memories of which were recently rekindled by a National Geographic article on the effects of global warming there,  but I've always had a fascination with the arctic, glaciers, and geology in action. Watch and enjoy, and please let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Commuter Tires

By request (I'd say popular demand, but that's a bit pretentious, and there was only one request) I'd like to say a few words about tires for commuter bikes.
I used to work for the research and development branch of Michelin North America, and now I have a  fondness for tires. I cannot help but notice them on cars (my wife used to laugh about this, now she just rolls her eyes and nods politely), and I am a firm believer in paying for quality.
If you've read this blog before, you probably know that I devote many of my posts to describing my experiences with my Dynamic drive-shaft bicycle. If you've read my reviews of that bike, you may know that I was disappointed with the quality of the tires that they supplied with it. In particular, because I have fenders and because removing the rear tire is less than convenient, the puncture resistance of those tires was unacceptable. I was having to repair a flat on at least a weekly basis.
That led me to one of the best $30 purchases I've made for my bike. I visited my LBS (Clown Dog Bikes) and requested Kevlar commuter tires, and the guy there handed me a pair of CST Selecta Kevlar tires. These tires have a steel bead, a Kevlar carcass (forgive the tire-nerd lingo, that's the weave inside the rubber that provides the strength and shape for the tire), and a reflective strip in the sidewall. There is a very light, directional tread pattern, which for a road bike doesn't serve a whole lot of purpose. The tread pattern is designed in such a way that it does not induce a vibration or noise during rolling (as a mountain bike tread would do, for instance) and may provide some help with water evacuation (although in my experience with tire design, the swoopy directional patterns tend to be more marketing hooplah than functional features).

What's to say about a bike tire? Well, in 6000km, I have had to patch my inner tube precisely two times: once because of bad rim tape, and the other time because of a nasty sharp nail that could have pierced plate armor. Note that when I ride my wife's bike (to which I retired the original tires provided by Dynamic), flats occur on about a weekly basis, more or less, over the same route. The Kevlar works.
What else? The reflective strip, after two winters' worth of riding through dirty sandy black road water, is still visible in my car's headlights (and this camera's flash). There is at present no sign of that strip separating or coming out of the sidewall.
Last of all, the tread. I see only modest signs of chunking. There is still plenty of tread depth left. The photo above is of the front tire, which spent 5000km at the more aggressive rear axle. I'm guessing these are only about halfway through their life on this bike. I ride moderately aggressively and with a heavy backpack.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

From the NY Times - Dear AIG, I Quit!

May I direct your attention to this article in the NY Times? It does much to expose the hype and distraction surrounding the AIG payments, which in fact are not bonuses as the media hyperventilatingly call them.