Sunday, October 4, 2015

#Coffeeneuring 2015 - Week 1

This morning's brief respite from the rain opened the door for me to give a go to the 2015 Coffeeneuring Challenge. I have started the challenge more than once in its 5 year history, but never successfully completed it. Maybe this year, but who knows. Doesn't matter, though - I like coffee, I like bikes, no time spent with the two is ever wasted, regardless of any parallel goals.

I threw my dual fuel Coleman stove, my moka pot, a thermos full of grits, a banana, my bluetooth speaker and a book into a waterproof bag and headed out.

After a quick stop at a gas station for some unleaded for the stove, I rode about 5 miles south on the American Tobacco Trail to CM Herndon Park for a "coffee shop without walls" trip. The forecast gave me about two hours of 0% chance of precipitation, but that turned out to be 0% accurate. I didn't get drenched, but I was less than comfortable.

The concession area at the park gave me the break I was looking for from the wind and rain and I sparked up the stove and settled in for my warming cuppa.

Coffeeneuring 2015, so far so good.

Week 1, Coffee 1

Monday, March 17, 2014

I heard the squealing tires this morning...

First things first, I wasn't hit. My string of nearly 12 years of bike commuting without a single crash with a motorist remains intact.

But, today was the first time I have heard the squeal of a car's tires as the motorist realized there's a bicyclist in front of him/her. And, it was a little creepy.

I was traveling east on NC54 between NC55 and Alston Ave. NC54 in that location has 2 lanes in each direction and a center turn lane that becomes a left-turn only at Alston. I control the right lane in that section of NC54 for a few reasons;
  • There are a lot of large commercial vehicles on the road that make it challenging to share even the wide outside lane. Specifically, there are usually school buses and transit buses. Also, there is a FedEx distribution center south on Alston, so there are sometimes FedEx trucks.
  • There are a lot of larger passenger vehicles on this road as there are schools both north and south on Alston.
  • There are a number of right turn conflicts. The auto parts store and eye doctor aren't typically open when I am rolling through, but there is an office campus, a convenience store on the corner (that some motorists use as a cut-through) and lots of people turning right at the intersection, especially on school mornings.
This morning was like most. Since much of my route is nearly due east, I left home a little early to avoid the sunrise effect. This meant it was indeed a little darker than normal, but also meant less traffic overall.

As I crossed NC55 and approached Alston, the platoons of traffic released from each green light cycle flowed smoothly around me as always. My hi-viz stuff and lights make me conspicuous and my lane position, in the left tire track, clearly communicates that that the lane is occupied and motorists need to change lanes to pass me.

In my mirror, I saw the cars approaching and moving over as always, but as I got closer to the convenience store, I heard the tire squeal from a motorist behind me who realized just in time that he/she was about to hit a cyclist. After slamming on the brakes, the driver moved to the left lane, passed me, and moved right again in order to make the right onto Alston.

So, did my lane position, controlling the lane in the left tire track to communicate that there was not enough room to pass, put me in danger, or keep me safe?

Had I been hit, certainly there would be those who would argue that riding in that position endangered me. But having had thousands of motorists pass me safely on that stretch of road over the last decade, I'm completely confident that the problem was the tire-squealing motorist, not me. And, when faced with an inattentive motorist, I am far better off being in their immediate line of sight where they are less likely to overlook me than tucked away on the edge of the road where they definitely aren't looking.

And, what if I had been on the right edge? This motorist was clearly not paying enough attention. If he/she had approached Alston to turn right, his/her focus would've been to the left looking for cross traffic, or to the diagonal left looking for oncoming traffic turning left.  A bicyclist on the edge to this motorist's right would be completely irrelevant to him/her and is at serious risk of a right hook.

This morning's commute is the closest I've ever come to being hit in over 11 years of riding around the Triangle, and I am confident that my conspicuity, both in high-viz/lights and lane position prevented that crash.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

On passing cyclists

My friend Brian asked me recently, "how do you define being 'buzzed' by a discourteous driver?" In answering his question, I want to add a few "best practice" type tips for all my motoring pals.

Personally, I would feel "buzzed" by a motorist if they passed within 3 feet at speed. So, a full speed pass outside 3' may not feel like a buzz, and a slow pass at 3' may not feel like a buzz.

If you feel like you have to "squeeze by," don't. It won't be comfortable for you or the cyclist.

Legally, in NC, vehicles must maintain 2' separation. This is not bike specific, it pertains to all vehicles.

Typically, a 3-4' pass is the minimum distance that is comfortable for both motorists and cyclists. In fact, many bike advocates lobby for 3' passing laws in their states, and several states have adopted such regulations.

But, honestly, the "best practice" in this regard is to give all the room you've got beyond 3-4'. If the whole oncoming lane, or a center turn lane is available, pull completely into it. If there is a solid center line, but no oncoming traffic, cross the line to make the safest pass. In addition to creating the safest and most comfortable pass for you and the cyclist, your wide pass will encourage motorists behind you to do the same.

In many places, it may be technically illegal to cross a solid center line, but the smart advice I learned from the i am traffic folks holds here, too - don't let paint think for you!

Big thanks to Brian for asking! It's incredibly cool for a motorist and casual cyclist to ask, not just about how much space one *has* to give, but also how much space is best for cyclists' comfort.

Monday, May 7, 2012

This morning's odd incivility

I had an interesting bit of mild incivility this morning.  I was riding my big Dutch bike to work when a red pickup truck buzzed me.  I didn't yell, I didn't raise my arm in either wtf or one-finger salute gestures, and I didn't try to catch up to him for further discussion.  I just shook my head in frustration.

A little further up the road, I saw a State Trooper had his lights flashing and had pulled over a different pickup truck heading the opposite direction. Strangely, they were stopped in the left lane against the raised median rather on the shoulder on the right side of the road. As I got closer, the red pickup pulled behind the State Trooper. I hadn't yet made the connection, because it had been a few minutes since I was buzzed, there was no incident, and I was over it. No harm, no foul, I'm not gonna let it ruin my day.  I actually thought the driver in the red pickup knew the driver in the white pickup and stopped to help.

The driver of the red pickup got out, walked up to the Trooper and started talking to him.  Then I noticed the driver was looking over at me, and gesturing and pointing at me as he spoke with the Trooper.  It was then that I realized he was the guy who buzzed me.

I pulled over to the shoulder on my side of the road, waited for a few cars to pass and walked my bike over.  I was on the right side of this conversation and with a State Trooper there, I was willing to take my chances.  As I approached, the driver was walking back to his truck and he said to me, "you can talk to him."  So I went up to the Trooper, who was still writing a ticket for the guy in the white pickup, and asked him if there was any problem.  He said, "No, not at all, you're good," and sent me on my way.

I do honestly wish I'd had a chance to engage with the motorist. I know it makes no difference 99% of the time.  But it would've been a pleasure to make my point about state law and, hopefully, have that point reinforced by the State Trooper.  Maybe then the message might've sunk in a little more.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Adam Little Billboard and the Cyclist Inferiority Complex

On Facebook this morning, a number of my cycling pals shared a link to a new billboard erected along I-85 by the Adam Little Foundation.  From the Foundation's website, Adam was "a cyclist from Mt. Pleasant, NC who was struck and killed by a distracted motorist in March 2010 as he commuted to work."
Adam Little Billboard

With all due respect to the deceased, and his family and friends, I think their billboard's message falls flat for a number of reasons.

First is the obvious irony in conveying this message via a medium that is expressly designed to distract motorists.  Adam Little was struck and killed by a distracted motorist.  Sure, there would've been something on this board regardless, this is perhaps better than a commercial message, and there are, of course, no bicyclists on I-85, but still...

By saying "he's not just a cyclist slowing you down," (emphasis mine) the billboard is stating that he is a cyclist slowing you down.  This billboard is telling motorists that cyclists are road users who are hindering traffic. This is a divisive message, likely based on the author's apparent cyclist inferiority complex.  It separates "cyclists" from "traffic" based on speed, and positions cyclists as being a problem ("slowing you down").  This is absolutely the wrong message for an advocacy group to be sending. Cyclists are an established part of traffic that are to be respected as other components of traffic.

While I expect that one goal of the sign is to honor the memory of Mr. Little and personify cyclists by showing his picture, I would suggest that a more effective image may be one of a motorist successfully passing a cyclist on the road.  A clear and obvious illustration of the right way to interact with cycling traffic on the road.  Perhaps something like this picture from Paul Dorn's "Bike Commute Tips Blog.".  An image like this clearly shows expected traffic behavior in a form that can be readily understood in the extremely brief time that a motorist has to view the billboard.

Lastly, I think in order for behavior modification messages like this to be effective, the target audience has to understand how they are part of the problem and have at least a passing interest in changing their behavior.  An example is "stop smoking" messages.  Smokers know they smoke and probably understand that smoking is dangerous.  I think this sign, though, is like "Baby on Board" signs in that it's trying to get people who generally think they are behaving safely enough to behave more safely.  My sense is that people viewing this billboard will understand the message, but feel that it doesn't pertain to them.

I applaud the efforts of the family and friends of Adam Little to turn their tragic loss into action in support of the cycling community.  But I fear their efforts, based on the cyclist inferiority theory, risk having an outcome that is 180 degrees off from their self-stated goal of "mak[ing] motorists aware that cyclists have the same rights as any motor vehicle on the road." I welcome the Adam Little Foundation to the NC bike advocacy community and encourage them to pursue relationships with existing cycling advocacy groups such as CABA or NCATA to pool efforts and leverage best practices.

Update:  Just noticed in a tweet that the Adam Little Foundation is indeed engaged with CABA at some level. Good on ya!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thoughts on Kerry Sutton's upcoming run for the NC Senate

I passed tweets with Durham attorney and NC Senate candidate Kerry Sutton (@KerstinWSutton) last Thursday and wanted to share my additional thoughts with her in more than abbreviated 140 character bursts.

Full disclosure:
I am a middle-aged white guy.
I am also a fan of Mike Woodard. Through my volunteer work with Durham's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, I met Mike and have had the opportunity to speak with him on occasion. In many ways, I feel like my views on how Durham should evolve have an ally in Mike Woodard.

The back story:
I greeted the news of Mike Woodard's candidacy for the NC Senate as both good and bad.  Good because I will be thrilled to have his views represented in our state legislature and bad because I was hoping someday he would be a mayoral candidate in Durham.  

I learned of Mike's candidacy from Lisa Sorg's Thursday post on the Independent's "Trianglulator" blog entitled "Mike Woodard, Kerry Sutton running for Durham state senate seat."  In speaking to his credentials, Mike implied that his work in city government is good experience for a roll in state government, saying, "I know the range of issues the Legislature deals with, I can hit the ground running."  When commenting on representing the Person and Caswell county constituents in the new Senate district, Mike commented;
"There is a lot of sharing between Durham and Person counties in terms of economic development and jobs. And there's a strong Person-Caswell link. I can be an effective advocate for them."

On reading the article, though, I had the sense that the sole basis for Kerry Sutton's candidacy is that she is a woman.  The article says;
"Sutton announced her intention to run last December at the urging of several women activists. 'one of the main things that gets to me is the phenomenal and disturbing dearth of women in the Legislature and government in general,' Sutton told the Indy today. 'I can be an asset to the Legislature. I’m not afraid of the old boy's club. [...] I think people need to consider if we need more of the same in Raleigh. If anybody looks at the Legislative pictures, they'll see middle-aged and retired white guys. I don’t think that what's the people of North Carolina need. [...] The way the Legislature is set up discourages women, single mothers like me and people who aren’t financially well off. I see myself a little closer to the ground than the average legislator.'"  
Differentiating yourself from your opponent solely by stating that you're not a "middle-aged white guy" is sexist.  Technically, it's racist and age discriminatory as well, but the pictures on that I assume to be of Ms. Sutton lead me to believe she's as middle-aged and white as I am, so I further assume that she doesn't see these attributes as negative factors in Mike's candidacy any more than they are in her own.

Based on that, I tweeted on Thursday, "@KerstinWSutton, it's sexist 2 differentiate frm @MikeWoodard saying NC doesnt need anothr mid-aged white guy in NCLeg.," to which Ms. Sutton replied, "@binghypo in 2012 we ought not have to beg for diversity of any type in any place, let alone in our governing bodies."

That brings me to today, and my desire to comment on this in more (*way* more, apparently) than 140 characters.

She's right, of course, about begging for diversity. But, in the few quotes in Sorg's blog post, one would think Ms. Sutton is herself begging for diversity.  She was not quoted as citing her experience or understanding of the constituency.  She was not quoted as downplaying the implication that mere physical attributes may make her better than her opponent.  Quite the opposite.  She was quoted as touting those physical differences and implying that her being a woman would make her a better state Senator than any male candidate.

That is sexism.

And, if that's the basis for why you are asking people to vote for you, that is a "beg for diversity."

I share what I believe is at the core of Ms. Sutton's comments.  I truly believe that society benefits when our elected officials represent the diversity of their community.  But more importantly, we need leaders who are passionate about supporting and improving their communities. We need leaders who are honest. We need leaders who are willing to learn about the lives of their constituents, particularly those consituents who are in different life circumstances, so that the leader can understand how to effectively represent all their constituents' needs.  And we need leaders who will not try to divide the community based solely on physical characteristics.

Fortunately, people who could be those leaders walk among us, in *every* community. All of us need to find and support those leaders, regardless of their physical attributes. By doing so, we can have the diversity in goverment for which I think Ms. Sutton and I both yearn, without needing to beg for it and without needing to draw differentiation among candidates based solely on physical attributes.

I don't think I live in the new district Mike and Ms. Sutton are running to represent. But were I a constituent, you would've lost my vote already, Ms. Sutton - not because I am a Mike Woodard fan, but because your approach is 100% wrong.  Asking voters to support a candidate solely because they are a [insert sex/age/race/religion here] is wrong.

[Update:  According to a neighbor, apparently I do live in District 22 and will have the opportunity to not vote for Ms. Sutton.  Goodie.]

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Quick no-measure oatmeal - great for camping, bike or otherwise

This morning I tried the oatmeal-in-a-jar trick tipped to me recently by my bike commuting and camping pal, Daniel.

It's simple, fill a Mason jar half with oatmeal and toppings, which for me meant a little sugary stuff, some cinammon, and raisins. You can do that part anytime... you know, like the night before, or as you're packing your panniers. At breakfast time, you simply fill the jar with boiling water, shake and steep for 15 minutes.

It worked like a charm. This will get a shakedown run in October when we take a family camping weekend, and will definitely be added to the arsenal of S24O / Bike Overnight breakfast options.

Originally spotted on Lifehacker (follow their link for the true original source), and thanks Daniel for the great tip!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bicycles are vehicles

Coworker: So, I know you ride your bike to work everyday and don't usually bring a vehicle...

Me (interrupting): *Motor* vehicle. I drive a vehicle to work everyday.

Coworker: Never mind.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

S24O / BikeOvernight to Falls Lake

There is a Bike Overnight trip to Falls Lake this weekend, please email me if you'd like to ride along, jack @t bingshaus dot org.

What is it?
This is a one-night bike camping trip. You load up your camping gear and food stuffs on your bike and we pedal over to Falls Lake and hang out for the evening.

Want more info on Bike Overnights? Check out these links:
Adventure Cycling's new Bike Overnights site:
Rivendell Bicycle Works' S24O info:
PathLessPedaled Bike Overnight/S24O in Durham last Autumn

Where and when does it start, and how long is the ride?
The route to Falls Lake is 20-25 miles from Durham. We're going to have two starting locations in Durham (downtown and SoDu) and maybe one in Raleigh. We will roll out of Durham around 2:00, will ride at a mellow, conversational pace, will stop at a convenience store for water and stuff on the way there, and expect to roll into Falls Lake around 4:30-ish.

How much does it cost?
Nothing. I got a group camping site at Falls Lake, and y'all are invited. The only thing I ask is that you let me know you're coming as there is a limit to the number of folks that can occupy a group camping site.

Who carries the gear? Is there a support vehicle?
Nope, there are no support vehicles. This is a self-supported ride, we all carry our stuff on our bikes.

What should I bring?
Anything you need to spend one night in a state park. For me, that's a tent, sleeping bag (although I probably won't use it in this heat), toiletries, a change of clothes, food, a magazine and maybe my frisbee.

For the ride out there, please be sure to bring ample water. We'll be stopping on the way, but still...

Yeah, what about food?
With a trip this short, there are lots of food options. You can bring "traditional" camping food, stove and utensils. You can bring nothing and buy food at the convenience store we'll be visiting on the way to the campsite (just plan room for it on your bike). You can pack dinner and breakfast like you pack lunch for school or work. You can load up a bike trailer with the harvest of your neighbor's garden and make a ginormous salad for everyone (like Lee did last Autumn). You can place a take-out order with Kemp's Seafood and pick up on the way. I imagine you can probably even order subs or pizza if you wanted, but I don't know if Falls Lake is in anyone's delivery area.

Its worth noting that alcoholic beverages are NOT permitted at NC state parks.

I'll be bringing home-roasted coffee. You're welcome to some if you bring a small plastic filter cone and some #2 filters to make it with. You can find them at many groceries for a few bucks.

What will we be doing at the campground?
Well, there's cooking and eating, undoubtedly some gear talk, probably some hanging out over by the water. There's a fire ring (but who knows if we'll bother to spark it up), there's plenty of room for frisbee and such. And, Tom Ed will be bringing his violin, so there's liable to be some music (I'm offering to carry another instrument or two, depending on size, if anyone wants to bring more music along - strapping it on my bike is about the only way I'll ever carry a tune...). Oh, and s'mores, there's gotta be s'mores.

More info

Monday, May 2, 2011

Scene from my bike: the tops of people's heads

Thanks to the groovy folks at the Durham Bike Co-op, I got to ride a tall bike for the first time this weekend whilst downtown at Durham's Earth Day festival.

As a tall guy, I was looking forward to giving it a shot. But, as you can see from the pic, even though the bike is tall, its actually sized for someone a lot shorter than me. Its amusing being on a tall bike that's actually too short for you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Scene from my bike: Counter Culture Coffee

Durham is the home of one of the finest coffee roasters in the country, Counter Culture Coffee, and I am fortunate to pass within a mile of their roastery on my daily bike commute.

Coffee Driven - Counter Culture CoffeeOne of the things I enjoy most about bike commuting is the ability to take in my surroundings at a pace that allows me to enjoy them. And, the wonderful smell of Counter Culture's fresh roasted coffee is absolutely part of that. A few times a week I roll by at roasting time and ride in a coffee cloud for a few minutes. Its pretty wonderful.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ah, that's the way, Patriot

I rode my bike to lunch with a friend this afternoon. In addition to catching up, we had ulterior motives. We had each come across highly sought seasonal beers that the other likes, so we were trading. I was pretty pleased to have received a Rivendell shipment yesterday that had just the right size box and packing materials to travel with his half six-pack. And, tied down with John's Irish Strap, the box was firmly affixed to my rear rack.

My trip across the Triangle with beer strapped to my bike reminded me of this wonderful Erroll Morris commercial from a few years ago. I love the implicit messages in this commercial as much as the explicit.