Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Bike Rack Band

I am pleased to introduce the first in an occasional series of remote postings from Louisville, Kentucky by She Rides A Bike reader Sushi K! Applause please! Sushi K has some great wisdom about the placement of bike racks or the lack thereof. If you happen to know or love an urban planner or someone who is merely passing as one, please pass this post on to him or her.

Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Bike Rack Band

Louisville has quite a few bike racks. However, they are not everywhere. I often have to lock to a signpost or a parking meter when a proper rack is not nearby. Or sometimes a nearby rack is already full of bikes! That is always a sight that makes me smile! However, I am sad because I have recently noticed several forgotten, lonely bike racks that never seem to have bikes locked to them, such as this one:

This is a serviceable rack, maybe a bit old school, but otherwise fine. What is its problem? Why is it shunned by Louisville's bicyclists? Well, dear readers, the answer is....LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! These racks, even though they are all in downtown Louisville, near destinations such as hospitals, schools and businesses, are tucked away into forgotten corners, and no one knows they are there. So sad. I realize that the folks who bought these racks and installed them had good intentions, but they seem to be assuming that all bicyclists have bike rack x-ray vision to help them find racks that are in strange corners of the city. That would be a handy skill.
This rack is around the back of a hospital: It is by a door labeled "Non flammable gas." Hmmm...what a great place for a bike rack. At least it isn't next to the toxic waste or the flammable gas entrance....but still is a weird spot for a rack. I go by it every day and have never seen a bike locked to it.

I found this rack in the dark back corner of a parking would be a good, secure place to park a bike in a rainstorm if people only knew it was there! A sign on the outside of the garage would help. The Do Not Enter" sign doesn't seem friendly!

Ahhh...finally a rack that is seeing some love! Yay. This rack is always full, often it is overflowing with bicycles. Located right next to the main (and only) entrance to the downtown YMCA, everyone knows it is there and uses it often. However, even when this rack is full, and people are locking to poles and fences nearby, its "sister" rack not half a block away in the YMCA parking garage is always empty: sad. This rack is so lonely. Even though I have worked nearby for several years, I didn't even know this rack was there until I recently discovered it when I was in the garage for an unrelated reason.

So..the moral of this story is: people don't use racks they can't find! I am tempted to put up some signs on nearby poles directing people to these lonely, forgotten racks. Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch! - Sushi K.

For more about bike commuting in Louisville, Kentucky visit Bike Louisville on the Metro Louisville website!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Little Bit of Amsterdam

Like most bike commuting bloggers, I'd love to see my community become the next Portland, Amsterdam or Copenhagen. Unfortunately, in Flagstaff this past week everyone seemed to be behind the wheel of a car, including yours truly - I was only on the Breezer twice this week.

Despite the lack of inspiration on the streets, I did run into this young woman window shopping at Aspen Sports, her bright orange cruiser resting on a street tree a few feet away. The scene looked so natural and spontaneous. One doesn't need to think very much about whether to stop at the cafe or the boutique when one is on a bike. No real worries about parking or feeding a meter. As I approached, my eyes zeroed in on her delightful saddlebag. She told me that a relative got it for her in Amsterdam. Pang of jealousy. I stepped in for a close-up and noted that it was waterproof. Her saddlebags was overflowing with "stuff", and I wondered what she carried around with her but thought it gauche to inquire.

I spied her bike bell, too, embellished with the image of a dinosaur.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Being Visible, Part ll

Another way to be visible is to know how to get noticed. Often just being yourself rather than conforming to the accepted standards of . . . whatever . . . work just fine. This young lady and her dreadlocks caught my attention as she was locking her bike. I have always had a secret desire to have dreadlock-able hair. Unfortunately, I don't but but admire the daring of those can and do wear their hair that way. I think she looks happy and confident; yet another way to get visible.

Although, not with or on a bike, this Beagle knows how to get attention - sit inside a planter box! Sitting inside a planter box will get a Beagle noticed everytime and likely earn him a scratch behind the ears and a dog cookie.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Let's Get Visible!

Often I am asked if I get nervous or scared pedaling my bike in traffic. Not really. Life is a risk but I don't see bike commuting as particularly risky if I do my best to follow the rules of the road, pay attention to what I am doing and what is going on around me, and make myself visible. Regular, SRAB visitors might recognize my JCrew mustard, swing jacket purchased last year at the Anthem outlet. Very fashionable and very visible. I love the bright color and it never fails to get noticed. Recently, I visited Sundara at 22 East Route 66 in downtown Flagstaff and caught sight of this similarly visible yellow trench coat. If Secret Agent 99 rode a bike, she would have worn this trench. Perfect for a not too chilly fall day (still the norm in Flagstaff). It is thin so it won't do for the very cold winter weather to come but I would definitely wear it this time of year and in the spring.

When warmth is necessary, I'd just wrap one of these hand made scarves around my neck. Also at Sundara. I've been wearing a lot of scarves lately and thought these looked scrumptious. All for $30 or less.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dressing for the Weather

Winter approaches in Flagstaff and with it layering and preparation for drastic changes in temperature between morning and dusk. With frost of the roof-tops on Monday, I pulled out my 7-year old red suede car coat from Target. I report with pride that I only paid $60 for this coat and I love it. Fully lined. Deep pockets. No fussy details. Washable! The perfect length for my short size. And it never fails that someone pays me a nice compliment about how striking it is.

After carefully consideration of the temperature and the slight breeze, I decided a scarf was in order for the 7:15 ride into work. I pulled out a woof scarf selected for me by my father when he and my mom visited Scotland several years ago. One of my favorites. Still, would I get to warm with it around my neck very far into my ride?

A few week back, I mourned the loss of a leather mitten, lined in rabbit fur the Planner Guy gave to me for Christmas our first year in Flagstaff. Very attractive and very warm. Although, I considered ski gloves as a replacement, I was relieved to find the fur lined mittens before putting down $60 for mittens I didn't find very pretty. They really did the job too. While not completely impervious to the cold, my fingers neither hurt nor turned numb. Several people suggested that mittens and lobster claw gloves are superior to gloves in the bitter cold because mittens and lobster claw gloves allow fingers to exchange heat. Made sense, and my thumb did prove to be more uncomfortable than my fingers.

After work, I began my ride sans scarf and gloves but donned them halfway into my ride home. With the sun sinking in the west and the wind picking up, I began to shiver. I stopped at the shipping container house under construction on the southside of the tracks to apply my layers and check on progress of the work. I had noticed someone working on the site when I passed in the morning and was curious what I would find at the end of the day. Slowly things are taking shape. Landscaping rock had been brought in and placed around the house, presumably to keep down the dust and I could see the containers had been moved slightly. Not much else but movement at least. I'll keep you posted.

Closer to Ponderosa Trails and home, I stopped on the urban trail to admire the changes in color. I love fall.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Learning to Be a Bike Commuter with the Yellow Bike

A few years ago, Northern Arizona University instituted a bike share program to reduce the university's transportation emissions and encourage biking and walking to class, as opposed to driving to class (NAU actually has student parking at academic buildings, something I never experienced at University of Georgia or University of Louisville and was probably in better physical shape for it). Originally, NAU provided the bikes to the Center for Sustainable Environments from its collection of abandoned bikes. The bikes were painted yellow and use is limited to campus with hopes of expanding the program to off campus as the students and Flagstaff gain more sophistication are the bike share concept.

A week ago I found a several large bike racks on campus with the yellow bikes locked to them. I saw neither students or faculty checking them out, although bike racks all around campus filled with bikes at the beginning of fall semester. I wondered how students and staff get access to the bikes. Maybe if information about the program were easily found on the NAU website? Still, it's nice to see a bike share program in Flagstaff, even if it is limited to campus.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mystery Cyclists Revealed . . .

I know you do this, too. You see a cool bike locked up here and there for weeks but never the bicyclist. A bike with style and character but what of the rider?

I saw this beauty around the beginning of the academic year at NAU. Must be a student. But who? Where is she?

Last Thursday, she, on her lovely bike, waited at a light at Aspen and Humphreys. Amazingly, I think she looks just like her bike! Maybe a little Audrey Hepburn if Audrey Hepburn was alive, in her twenties and had a nose ring.

I love this cream-colored retro commuter bike. I see it about town quite a bit. Usually near a bar. I'm not judging; just remarking about just where I usually notice it. Might say more about me than the bicyclist.And there she was this past Monday. Very mountain casual. Is it just me or is her hair the same color as the bike? How does one arrange for that to happen?

And who owns this old Schwinn cruiser?

I have no idea. Still haven't seen him (or her).

Very impressive, indeed. Also, always tied up near a bar. Again, I am not judging.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fall Fashion and Urban Cool in Flagstaff

Another crisp fall morning in Flagstaff and in honor of Happy Friday I slipped on my dark, rinse Ann Taylor low-rise denims. I bought them last year but kept foot dragging on getting the length hemmed. At 5'1", even petite jeans and dress pants are too long. Jen at Red Thread got the length just right for both ballet flats and heels. I paired them with this colorful, floral, empire waist print top and was in good cheer all day.

Now in my mid-40's, I never would have worn a close fitting top like this in my 20's or 30's. I was all about hiding under bulk and layers. I have always had too pay attention to my weight, mainly through exercise and like many women often perceive that I have less time for it now that I am married. Commuter biking has been a great way to work exercise into day when other married life responsibilities (sitting down to a good dinner, running out to purchase meds for a sick husband, or just doing household chores that I might feel able to ignore when I was single) fill my time. In my late 30's spent two weeks and Portugal and was impressed that, unlike American women, Portuguese women of all shapes and sizes wore their clothes closer to their bodies and seemed to feel no shame or hesitation to show off their curves. I felt inspired upon returning to the U.S. to abandon my tendency to cover up in shapeless, boxy clothes that seemed to add the appearance of more weight and an overall frumpy presentation. As I began feeling more comfortable with my body (as opposed to trying to show it off) I became more confident and re-energized about running and exercise in general. I will never go back to formless, ill-fitting clothes.

Deviating from bicycling themes as I sometimes do, I'd like devote a little space to "cool stuff" I occasionally see on my bike commute. I've mentioned in previous posts that I often wonder if what attracts my interest also attracts the interest of other bike commuters. You tell me?

Last week I noticed that a previous empty lot on the Southside had been recently filled with several cargo containers. Later the cargo containers seemed to be deliberately arranged. Could it be that someone was constructing a cargo container house? I read about cargo container housing, both single and multifamily, on TreeHugger and was very intrigued. Seeing one on my bike-route was pretty startling but exciting. Something outside the norm. Unexpected. People are bound to protest! A shipping container used as a house?! The nerve. The next thing you know people will be building straw bale houses in the city and wanting to install solar panels on the rooftops. Another step toward godless socialism! I, of course, love it.

A new use for an old container. Cargo container houses, apartments and condo have been cropping up in Europe for some time. Will they catch on here? Would anyone but me, a few architects and the owner of this construction actually consider living in one? I wondered if this could possibly be a solution to our unaffordable housing problem. The Planner Guy wondered if the house could be adequately insulated against cold and heat. I'll be keeping my camera lens on this project and keep you posted. It will be interesting to hear what other bike commuters think.

Life Update: The Planner Guy Lives, as Does My Rescuer Complex
It is not enough that I hover over my H1N1-infected husband and run out at all hours to bring him hot and sour soup and Kong Pau chicken to open up his aching head but I must also step in on behalf of very large lost dogs. Last night, I took home a dog found wandering in front of City Hall by a very concerned young woman who appeared to be homeless. I thought it better that she be admitted to a shelter than spending the night in the cold with a dog who would not be allowed in with her and told her I would find the owner. Forgetting temporarily that my husband is sick and taking medication, I called and asked him to drive to City Hall and collect the dog, to which he agreed (dog love, of the most serious kind working here).

Bandit, for that is indeed his name according to the microchip company we contacted, was the perfect house guest and clearly from a home that has well socialized him to both people and dogs. A good thing since we already have three. At bedtime, Bandit, apparently used to sleeping with his owner(s) cried to be let out of the laundry room so in order to maintain calm doggy relations I bedded down in the guest room. Bandit made himself comfortable on the foot of the bed. Naturally, by the next morning I was quite invested in Bandit. I contacted the animal control officer when we had not heard from the owner by 11 a.m. He assured me that Bandit would not be put down and that his owners, given the microchip, 2009 rabies tags and dog license, were likely out-of-town and be reunited with him soon. Bob the Infected assured me we could not afford four dogs. With a heavy heart and teary eyes, I turned Bandit over to the very nice and patient animal control officer. Why do I always feel that I didn't do enough?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

SRAB and Fall Return to Flagstaff!

After 10 days of wet, grey weather in Cleveland and Louisville, the Planner Guy was ready to return to the sunshine of Arizona. Given the 80% humidity in the 'Ville, my hair was ready for drier conditions, as well.

Getting off the plane in Phoenix we were greeted with 104 degree temperatures at 6 p.m. The city is an oven and I don't know how people do it in the summertime. Quite a contrast from 2 hours up 17 where we shivered in the cold air outside our garage as we unloaded our luggage. Yikes! Fall had definitely arrived in Flagstaff and I was very glad I had put my potted plants inside and asked our neighbor to water them. I looked forward to biking into my office the next day, Sunday, to catch up on pages of unanswered e-mail that piled up during our vacation.

Yes,pedaling and walking downtown, I observed bicyclists a bit more covered up than prior to our trip. It seems that many of Flagstaff's twentysomethings are slow to give up flip flops and water sandals, even with the drop in temps. I don't know how they do it.

Nothing confirms the arrival of fall than the painful feeling of one's finger freezing in the early morning cold on a ride to work. Despite the blue skies and sun, Bob noted the dip in the temps before breakfast so I pulled out my heaviest bike gloves thinking they should suffice on October 1. Hardly, but more about that later. I also pulled on my yellow JCrew swing jacket and a knit JJill scarf to keep my neck warm. And socks. I wore socks; a true concession to cold weather.

Back to the gloves. Heavy though they are, they were no match for this mornings cold temperatures. Bob suggested gloves with more insulation so I decided to look for a pair at the outfitters in downtown Flagstaff as their cold weather gear is coming in. The problem I anticipated and is so far coming true is that finding attractive, feminine insulated gloves is challenging in the mountain southwest. The warm, insulated gloves are geared toward skiing, snowboarding and rock climbing and are overwhelmingly big, clunky and not very elegant. I tried on a pair insulated, wind resistant mittens at lunch today though and could tell my fingers would stay as warm as toast. What to do?? Can I find warm and style? I need help! Suggestions are welcome.

Life Update: H1N1 Undermines the Running Bob!

Back in Louisville, I could not tell if it was the utter lack of sunlight or all the time we spent in a car driving back and forth between the city and the far away suburbs where his parents live, but Bob's spirits were very low by the last few days of our stay. After returning to Flagstaff, he soon realized he wasn't feeling well and today was told he appeared to have swine flu!

How could it have happened?? Yes, we had spent hour aboard a plane breathing in recirculated air. Yes, we had spent considerable time with school aged children and at least one school had closed temporarily due to the very high number of children out sick with H1N1. Yes, we were out in many public places during our trip and undoubtedly came into contact with numerous germs. But, could swine flu somehow be related to the consumption of spec, that traditional staple of the Hungarian diet? (The Running Bob is half Hungarian . . . )? While in Cleveland, Bob and his brother were on a mission to buy szalonna (pronounced suhl-an-uh), basically a large chunk of pig fat that is roast on a green switch over an open flame, the fat dripping upon Jewish rye bread that is topped by peppers, onions and tomatoes. It is delicious and most unhealthy and the brothers nearly broke down the door of an Italian deli that had a large sign advertising szalonna on the door. They bought two large block of pig fat and we ate one on his parents back porch, all huddled around the fire. Was this his curse for falling off the triathlon diet-wagon? Who knows. I ate it too and I didn't get sick. Word has spread at work. The doctors say he is past the contagious period but he is now otherwise known as Danger Bob.