Thursday, November 29, 2012

Riding in rain

Winter is almost here. Earlier this week, we were supposed to get some snow but I guess it is still a bit too warm for it and we ended up with a light rain only.

I mentioned before that I don't like riding my bike in rain and in general, my main motivation to ride my bike to work is to have some fun. Riding in rain is not fun for me so I try to avoid it. Sometimes, it is not exactly possible. Just like the last Tuesday - it all started really nice in the morning. It was just a bit chilly but dry. Then, instead of the snow, it started raining. It wasn't a heavy downpour, just a light drizzle. I had no choice but to go back home the same way I arrived to work - by bike. There was no way I could get soaked from that rain since I was properly dressed for this situation. But the worst thing is the vision. I wear glasses. So technically, I should see this:
But unfortunately, I see something like this instead:
Well OK, it maybe wasn't really that bad as shown in this picture above but it wasn't much better either. Sometimes I wish I had some mini wipers on my glasses...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pre-Thanksgiving work commute

I was leaving my house yesterday morning and looked at the car in the driveway. Definitely, an iced windshield is the reason why I prefer to ride my bike to work.
Today's morning was much warmer though (another good reason to choose the bike) and on my way to work I stopped at the hardware store to pick up some painting supplies. That's right, after I finish the turkey, I have some painting to do this long weekend. Seeing my helmet, the clerk asked me if I used their bike rack at the front door. When I confirmed, she just said: "Yay, somebody is using it!". Apparently, cyclists in a hardware store are a rare occurrence. Maybe most people have not figured out yet how to transport a snowblower or a shovel on a bike.

Winter will be here soon and it's not the colder mornings and iced windshields that remind me about it. It is the... Christmas decorations I start seeing everywhere. We are supposed to have Thanksgiving first, but I guess that some people are thinking about Christmas already.

Anyway, days are getting shorter and since riding in darkness is unavoidable at this time of the year, I decided to add some extra lights to my bike. Unfortunately, my Coffee doesn't come with a generator front hub so I have to rely on rechargeable lights. I am using my tiny DiNotte light all the time and it works great. It is small, light, bright and consumes batteries at a reasonable rate (usually, when I commute daily, I recharge it just once a week). But I thought that I should have a just-in-case backup so the last weekend I visited REI and got a Planet Bike Blaze Two-Watt front light. REI had it on sale for only $45 (Regular price is close to $60). I really like this light. It is powerful enough to illuminate the road ahead and runs on only 2 AA batteries. Nice! The minor problem I encountered was when installing it on my handlebars. I had to mount it upside-down, otherwise there was no place to have it positioned properly since the wide basket bracket occupies most of the flat section of my bars. It's probably not designed to be installed this way but it does its job just fine.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The age of a bike?

Earlier this month, British newspaper The Times published an article announcing the end of car domination in large cities. Apparently, at least in London, car use has been on a few-years long decline and it seems that it has passed its peak.
Travel statistics in London, UK (Source: The Times)
The number of miles traveled by car each year has been shrinking since 2007, while at the same time travel done by bicycle has became much more common. There are probably 2 main reasons for this phenomena:
  1. Recession - people will not buy new cars if they can't afford them (expensive gasoline, high purchase prices, high maintenance cost),
  2. Frustration - people will not buy and use cars if they can't park them and have to drive them at snail speed (congested cities, lack of parking spaces).
So it basically narrows down to money and freedom. Since bicycle will cost you less and gives you more freedom (faster in heavy traffic, less maintenance, easier to buy and sell) the choice for those living in London's City is obvious. Will London follow Dutch or Danish example? We will see...

Meanwhile in Boston area...

This morning I had to drop off Elka at Harvard. We drove from Arlington to Cambridge using our favorite side streets and generally avoiding Massachusetts Ave., which is terribly congested at that time of the day. This was a rare chance (for me) to see how Cambridge and Somerville look like in the morning.

It's been a while since I visited Harvard Square the last time. I commute to work in the suburbs, outbound - riding my bike from suburban Arlington to even more suburban Burlington. And I was pleased seeing so many cyclists on streets of Cambridge. It should not be surprising but I was still amazed how much... better a city looks with many cyclists and pedestrians around, not just anonymous cars passing by at too high speed.

I left Elka at Harvard and drove back to Arlington. What a change! On my way to work I counted... one cyclist. That wasn't surprising at all. Normally, I don't see more than 1 or 2 of them on the road. Do bikes belong to downtowns only?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Daylight "savings" and ninja drivers

So we pushed the hands of the clock back the last weekend. And now, I am still trying to grasp the benefits of it. I can't see any.

Sure, it is brighter on the way to work. I only need to run the little blinking red light at the rear rack of my bike. That's enough for cars to see me. But on the way back home it is completely dark now. Just last week I could still have some daylight, now it's gone. Four months of darkness ahead.

I have read and heard so many times about it - when it gets dark turn on your lights. It is dangerous to ride your bike ninja-style, i.e. lights out. This statement has even more meaning once days get shorter, just like now, in early November.
Bike ninjas (Source: YehudaMoon)

One day the last week, before the time change, I was riding my bike home, as usual. I left work after 5 p.m. and it was obvious to me that I had to turn my lights on. The sky was cloudy and grey and I had only about an hour before it got completely dark. I passed only maybe 2 other cyclists on the way. Both had lights on as well. Great!

Not so great and very difficult to understand was the number of ninja-drivers on the road. Considering the late hour, complete overcast and general low visibility, it should be clear to them that turning on their headlights is as important as fastening their seat belts. I understand that there is no law, based on which police could stop those drivers and ticket them (unlike in Sweden, Poland and many other countries). But if you drive your car and it gets dark, please turn on the headlights! It doesn't matter that you can still see the road. What if others can't see you?

Just thought I would share this, since there is a lot of talk everywhere how bad cyclists are not using any lights on their bikes. Judging on what I see around me - drivers are much worse. Statistically, many more of them drive ninja-style than cyclists. And if you're a cyclist, turn on your lights too. Those reflective accessories you have on you or your bike are not good enough. Especially, with ninja-drivers around.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Impatient drivers

I am sure most of you, cyclists, were in a situation when an impatient driver required you to give the way, thinking you were slowing him/her down.

Last evening I was riding back home from my workplace. At an intersection, the light was red and I was patiently waiting for it to change. I stopped my bike in front of all other cars, a bit to the right. This way, I was sure that drivers could see me. Then, I heard a loud honk. First I thought: "Relax, it's red. You are not going anywhere". But I turned around. The car that stopped behind me had no turn signals on, so I was sure that driver's intention was to go straight. I was about to ignore it when I saw a woman driver hectically waving her hands and showing me to move over. I assumed she wanted to turn right on red (legal in Massachusetts in most situations) and I was blocking her way. Well, I moved over, saving her less than 10 sec. That's how long I had to wait for the green light.
I wish there were more signs like this on our roads (Source:

I noticed that before - cycling to work relaxes me. When I am on my bike, it doesn't matter if I arrive a minute earlier or later. I know that I will be there anyway. But I think when people drive, they are more stressed, more impatient.

She was lucky, anyway. Lucky that I saw her hand gestures. Usually, I just look for turn signals, no further, so I would simply ignore such a "request".