Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Narrow Detour

The American River Bikeway has been closed near Northrop for more than a month now. I had to give it some time before I blogged about it, because I was so annoyed when the barricades first went up.

There was plenty of noticed--signs noting the coming closure and dates were posted more than a week ahead of time. I appreciated that. The implication was that a detour would be provided. Whoever designed the detour didn't study traffic patterns at this location very carefully.

The site of the closure is an access point for the trail, where trail users can get onto the street system and the reverse. The detour allows trail users to pass through but not to leave the trail and get back onto the street. It effectively closes Northrop--an important bike route--to users of the bike trail. My commute, with its good pavement, light traffic, and effective bike lane (read: no on-street parking) has been closed to me since August 22 and will remain closed until October 17.

In the meantime, I have been forced off of the bikeway at CalExpo, onto an after-thought spur trail of broken pavement and broken glass. This spur puts me into the RV entrance for the California State Fairgrounds, near the corner of Ethan Way and Hurley.

From the Fairgrounds, I turn onto Hurley. Hurley, here, assails me with yet more broken pavement and a constant stream of traffic that still thinks it is on a freeway. At the next intersection, a traffic signal at Howe Avenue, two lanes of traffic turn left. Each day, I take the middle lane on my bicycle so that two lanes of traffic aren't turning left in front of me. Each afternoon, I defy automotive-altercation while crossing two lanes of busy traffic with the rising sun in my eyes. In the afternoons, I do the reverse. 

All this, from what I can tell, is so that the contractor working on the leveee does not have to provide bicycles with access at Northrop. There is no work going on at the Northrop access--just access. Contractors' vehicles come and go through this gate during the workday. The amount of temporary fencing that was used to block off the bike trail could have been used to make a temporary bike access around the contractors' work area. 

In a few weeks, I should have my quiet, tree-lined commute back. In the meantime, I will practice riding my bike in real traffic.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Home Improvement by Bicycle

So I have this ancient little house. My partner and I purchased it a few years ago. It was built in 1893--so it survived the 1906 'quake and presumably can survive another one hundred years with proper care. Unfortunately, the last owner didn't have the means to care for it properly... so everything is broken.

Up until last week, that included the front porch. The steps were sagging and the deck was a little skew-ha.  No big deal, right? Just grab some 2x6's and set it to right. Well, understand that I am both interested in exploring responsible alternatives to old-growth redwood and also that I do not own a car to transport lumber with.
I ordered the necessary amount of composite lumber made from recycled plastic bags and wood waste through my local lumber yard. On the day it arrived, I gingerly rolled down there with my Bikes-At-Work 96A trailer. "I'll just toss this on the back and stop at the gym on the way home," I thought. 

So there I was, at the gym, after the lumber yard guy loaded my trailer with a forklift. The boards came in 12' lengths--which really is the max for an 8' trailer! In addition, the boards turned out to weigh something like fifty pounds each. That was one heavy trailer. As you can see in the photo above, I had to choose between blocking the sidewalk and blocking the accessible parking at the gym.  

I made it home, though, and it was an adventure. Now I have a front porch that is at least decked with recycled plastic. The railing is made from recycled lumber that I either pulled out of the old porch or bought at the Urban Ore Ecopark. There's a lot of sweat in that porch--but none of the materials were transported under gasoline-power after they left the lumber yard!

In the future, I expect that we will continue to use combustion-engined trucks to deliver bulk materials to cities like mine. In that same future, though, I expect that adventures like mine will need to become more commonplace.

Three hundred pounds on the BAW trailer is heavy, but the bike is geared low. The heavy weight just means that we roll slower. Rolling slower, though, still means rolling at like three times the speed of walking! Yay bikes!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Round and Round and Round!

I've been out travelling for work a good chunk of the summer so far, but now I'm back to going back and forth on Amtrak and riding my bike all over Sacramento and Oakland/Berkeley.  It's kind of nice, actually. 

Last week, I got on the train and sat down.  It had been a long time since I had just sat in one place for almost two hours with nothing more to do than look out the window.  Okay--well I'd done that on planes, but it's not the same.  Here, I wasn't THINKING of anything but looking out the window--I wasn't crammed into a little corner of an economy airline seat. 

Cycling in Sacto has been nice--not too hot this week.  My new schedule has me in Oakland a few more days a week which means about one good hill-climb per week. 

Two weeks ago, I rode up into the Oakland Hills, down to Orinda, up to El Sobrante, and then back home... a nice thirty mile loop with a solid climb in the middle. 

In the coming months, I plan to start setting myself up to do some weekend bike tours this winter.  Stay tuned.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Such a beautiful day and I'm not on my bike! Begone, illness!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Best tool for the Job?

I often tell people that the best tool for a job is one which was made to do the job. That is, most multi-tools are pretty mediocre at most things that they can do, though there may be many things that they can do.

Today, though, I was very grateful for one of my multi-tools.

My daily commuter, my Schwinn Tempo, is currently outfitted with M324 pedals from Shimano. These are true multi-tools--SPD clipless on one side, platform pedal on the other. 

It's raining, today, and I'm completely decked out in rain gear.  This morning, I went to look for my shoes... no clipless shoes.  Well.  I found my Keen sandals with the SPD cleats on them. I wasn't about to go out in the rain wearing sandals.

I was out of town all weekend. I left from my home in Oakland and got dropped off at my apartment in Sacramento. So. I'm missing one bicycle. I had to borrow a helmet to ride to work in. And no shoes.

Fortunately, these pedals did all right. I found myself fiddling to get the SPD side down once or twice, but it sure beat pushing against egg-beaters with my sneakers.

Hooray for multi-tools when they save the day, but I am still glad that I own five different hammers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Posey Tube

I spend about half of my time in the Oakland area and half in the Sacramento area.  The fact that I mostly blog about Sacramento should speak more to my access to the internet in Sacto than about the amount of cycling I do in Oakland. Thinking of this, I took a couple of photos after experiencing the Posey Tube, yet again, on Saturday.

So the Posey Tube, for those of you who aren't familiar with Oakland, is a ceramic-tiled concrete tunnel that runs under the Oakland Estuary and onto the island of Alameda. I usually ride across the Park Street Bridge to go to Alameda Bicycle shop, in Alameda. On Saturday, I decided to return to Oakland via the Tube. 

I usually don't ride the Tube because it is strictly unpleasent. About three times a year, though, I do it just to remind myself of how much nicer it is to ride my bike down the pot-hole-littered freeway-feeder streets of Jingletown.

The accessway in the Tube is legal bike access.
As you cans see, though, it is narrow and shielded from the rush of traffic by a metal railing. Maybe from the picture you can get an idea of what a ridiculous experience it is for two cyclists travelling in opposite directions to pass one another at the bottom of the tunnel. I won't even discuss the issues that arise when trying to pass someone pushing a shopping cart through the Tube. 

The Tube dives deep under the Estuary, to allow ocean-going ships to pass overhead. One can pick up a bit of speed rushing down into the bowels of the earth, only to have to crank back up the other side. All the while, the cyclist must avoid whacking the uneven metal railing, less than three feet from the wall. 

When two cyclists meet, one must put his bike onto the rail so that the other may pass. The cyclist on the wall side actually has the worse lot. I have hardly mentioned the wall, have I? 

The wall is concrete, covered with ceramic subway tile. I expect that the wall hasn't been power-washed in twenty years. Thousands of motorists drive through the tunnel every day. All of that exhaust has to go somewhere. When I finished passing my fellow cyclist, my right arm was as black as coal. I barely brushed against that wall, but that soot is thick. I strongly recommend against touching the walls in the Tube.

My real advice, just avoid riding the Tube. The metal grating on the Park Street Bridge is much nicer. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Latest news from the Sacramento Bikeways

This is the time of year that I recall how beautiful a place Sacramento can be to live and cycle in.  The sun is out now, late enough that I can ride without lights after work.  The winds are generally light and temperatures are mild.  I know that in a few months, I will miss these conditions, but they'll be back in the fall.  Two out of the four seasons here are superb for cycling.  That being said, winter is pretty tolerable if you have lights and summer is okay if you don't mind being hot!

Since I've been riding this commute for more than nine months now, I have been making some adjustments to my collection of bicycles.

If you've been following me, you've doubtless already seen a photo or two of my new ride.  It's a 2010 Globe Vienna 4, which was quickly dubbed, "the Blue Ox," by one of my roommates.  I haven't blogged about it until now because we were still getting to know one another!

I picked up this bicycle to improve my ability to carry larger cargo.  In this photo, I have my laptop case on the front basket and panniers on the rear.  As I do more telecommuting, I spend more and more time in transit with my laptop.  Right now, it's no big deal to put it into a messenger bag.  In mid-summer, though, I will be glad that I can put it on the basket and keep my back well-ventilated.

The racks aren't stock.  Both are made by Civia Cycles.  They are turning out to have been an excellent investment.  My many thanks go out to the nice folks at Alameda Bicycle who helped me figure this rig out.