Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It's still November so go helmet yourself

There are only four weeks left until this year is over, which means that very soon we will have a new president who is going to make our country great again.

These last few weeks flew by too quickly. I didn't even had a chance to do much bicycling even though weather was favorable, as I was out sick for over a week. That's what happens when you decide to grow little human children of your own. They go to preschool and bring back home viruses you have never heard of before. In no time, everyone in your household gets sick.

Nevertheless, there's been some interesting news circulating recently. First of all, our roads still suck. Their outdated design is killing us and lately we can also add Driving and Using Phone Applications (DUPA, which means ass in Polish), to the list of main reasons why we drop like flies on U.S. roads.

Don't think the situation will improve in 2017. We just love driving too much. Driving is safe, right? It doesn't require those stupid foam hats. Well, they don't have to be made out of styrofoam actually. Apparently, helmets could be made out of paper too. This folding blue banana won even an international award:
Not sure why this origami was awarded at all, since according to the inventor it's not sure whether "you can make a helmet cool" (No, you can't.), but apparently, "you can design it so it's not embarrassing". Unfortunately, this paper pasta strainer is:
Interestingly, this funky device was invented by an American, even though I would think that Australians would be the first to develop it. The good thing is that they finally start asking themselves the question that should've been so trivial to answer decades ago - should cyclists be forced to wear helmets? Results are promising:
On the other hand, who knows - maybe there are just 645 cyclists in Australia who don't feel like wearing one?

Finally, because it's the end of the year, let's talk about the future. You may find various different reports forecasting what new "standards" and "must haves" we will see introduced in the cycling world in 2017. For me, the most interesting one predicts the rise of sub-compact - or simply-speaking, road cranksets made for an average Joe who never uses a 53/11T combo because he's not a superhuman on steroids. Sub-compact crankset may let him use more than just 3 largest cogs of his cassette. Too bad this "novelty" is still up to come. A few years too late but better late than never, I guess.
My sub-compact crankset. No need to wait until 2017.

Alright, it's getting late. That's it for now. I'm going to bed but I will put my paper strainer on first, because "it absolutely makes sense to wear one—always".

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Turkey Day!

Thanksgiving - a holiday also known as The Mass Turkey Slaughterfest To Thank All Indigenous People Of America For Showing Us How To Grow Corn, By Giving Them Smallpox.

Anyway, the bird is in the oven so let the celebration begin. Provided that you are able to reach the table first and this might be difficult, as many others got the same idea. This is that time of the year when Americans travel more than usual, which results in a huge clusterfuck at airports and on highways, such as this one in Los Angeles:

Not sure if this was intentional but if citizens of Los Angeles wanted to honor Poland's Independence Day (of November 11th), they are late by nearly 2 weeks. If they had Indonesia in mind, they should've planned for such gridlock on August 17th. On the other hand, there is always huge traffic on 405 so red and white ribbon must be a common sighting there.

My number one rule for going back home from work, prior to any major holiday or summer weekend, is simply not to drive. When roads are clogged with hundreds of vehicles, a bicycle is the only sure way to be home on time. This way no matter how bad the situation is, I know I'll be home at the same time as usual.
Of course, I realize that not everybody is in such a comfortable situation to be able to ride a bicycle to work, which is why we should definitely invest in public transportation and high speed rail. But we somehow know better, so we would rather spend millions on the extra lane on Interstate that will get clogged shortly after cutting the ribbon. And it doesn't seem that 2017 will bring any changes here. Apparently, "making America great again" means simply "greatly clogged". I wish our government introduced a radical prune juice policy ASAP.

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Paint protects only from corrosion

You might have sensed some disturbance in the Force recently and that's likely because we have elected the President of The Divided States. This resulted in a series of unforeseen events - stock market went downhill, Canadian immigration site crashed and cows stopped giving milk. One thing is sure though - the next year America will be so Great, we won't even recognize it.

I'm sure that the new President will put us on path to Greatness by building thousands of new bike lanes in American cities. Yes, bike lanes! (And no, sharrows won't cut it, since we all know that sharrows are shit). The new bike lanes should be obviously protected to avoid situations like these:
(I stole those pictures from Jonathan Fertig's Twitter feed. You know him as the guy who "fertiged" half of Boston with orange cones.)

The lanes in pictures above are not protected, i.e. there is no buffer separating them from the traffic lane with fast moving cars. Bicycling advocates have been calling for protected bicycle lanes in Boston for a long time and not too long ago, they finally started popping up. Unfortunately, when that happened, we all learned one important lesson - paint protects only from corrosion:
Apparently, the city of Boston left the job halfway done and didn't bother to install any real protective barrier between the lanes and the street. This made hundreds of drivers think those lanes are some kind of fancy new on-street parking, even though they had proper parking spots painted right next to them (see picture above).

Clearly we need a bit more than a bucket of paint. It turns out that a few orange cones take care of this problem:
I don't have an answer why cones or other barriers were not immediately added to the new lanes. Some people pointed out that the city may be reluctant to do so, as it would make snow clearing in winter difficult.
With a physical barrier from the street side a full-size plow can't be used to clear the bike lane. Other equipment needs to be employed. (By @sadbikelane)

It essentially all comes down to willpower. Many cities manage this problem well because they want to. In fact, they give clearing sidewalks and bike lanes in winter a priority. In Boston though... well, let's just hope that we reach Greatness by a vast network of connected and protected bicycle lanes very soon. Fortunately, things are getting better:
Bicycle Use and Cyclist Safety Following Boston’s Bicycle Infrastructure Expansion, 2009–2012 F.E. Pedroso, F. Angriman, A.L. Bellows, K. Taylor, 12/2016, Vol.106, No.12 AJPH