Monday, January 28, 2013

Sisters who bike together stay together

My sisters Alison and Valerie, visiting for the weekend from North and South Carolina.
Despite an uncharacteristically rainy weekend in Phoenix, my sisters and I were able to bike to the Metro on Sunday and travel to Tempe  for a tour around the lake and around the Mill Avenue area.  I had never been over this pedestrian bridge that sits just outside the Tempe Center for the Arts. The rain had mostly diminished to occasional light sprinkling during our visit.  While they weren't able to bring their own bikes with them from their homes in the Carolinas, Alison and Valerie used Bob and my Breezers.  We attached the Ortleib panniers for visibility on a greyish day and for storage just in case any purchases were made - good thing, too, since Val picked up a new pair of Sanita clogs to replace an exceedingly worn but comfortable pair she couldn't bear to part with. 

My sisters are awesome.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Update on February bike advocacy meeting - date change

Just a quick FYI for Phoenix city cyclists:  due to the Super Bowl, the monthly meeting of the Downtown Bicycle Action Group has been changed to Tuesday, February 5 at 5:30 p.m.  The location remains at Angel's Trumpet, 810 N. 2nd Street in Roosevelt Row Art District.  Business will begin closer to 6 p.m.  Last time, people parked their bikes inside the outdoor seating area if they couldn't find space outside the restaurant.  Bike parking is also located just around the corner on 1st Street.

The agenda will include:
  • bike racks in Central Phoenix (where do we need them and how do we get them there)
  • name change for the group
  • becoming a 501 c(3)
  • the next group ride
  • exposure to make an impact and increase awareness
I urge Phoenix transportation cyclists to attend and participate.  Last month's meeting was great.  If you plan to enjoy a drink and a meal, please bring a means to pay and remember to do so.  Nothing breeds contempt for an org like not paying your bill.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Watching from the sidelines but from a bicycle

The start line of this morning PF Chang's  Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon in Tempe.
It's hard for me to go to a race (and by that I mean a 10k, half or full marathon) and not feel sorry for myself these days.  It's been an entire year since I could run and training in general has been hit or miss depending on whether or not my knee wanted to cooperate with me.  The result is that I've lost significant muscle tone and generally feel out of shape.  The clot situation has thrown me off not only my school schedule but my rehab schedule as well since I'm not yet sure what I'm allowed to do.  I am supposed to move around but not exert myself - that last part being completely the opposite of what I've become accustomed to in my quest to stay strong and healthy in to middle age and beyond. Nonetheless, I decided to strangle my urge to pout and cheerlead the Planner Guy at this mornings PF Chang Rock and Roll Marathon in Tempe.  Bob's work schedule has put a serious dent in his usual training regimen but he found enough time in the last few months to prepare for the half-marathon race and since he wasn't going to give in to pouting about lost fitness I couldn't either.  I told him that I wanted to go and would bring my Brompton for tooling around Tempe as opposed to hobbling on my cane (yes, I've graduated from the crutches!).

Nobody could possibly not see that jacket.
Other than a bike trip a few days ago to knock out part of a class assignment, I've haven't been on my bike. Yes, I promised Bob, I would wear my helmet.  I also wore my mustard JCrew swing jacket for extra visibility.  I'd be very careful and cautious on the road and bike paths about getting bumped, knocked over or otherwise struck by a moving vehicle.  Whatever!  There were medical and emergency personnel all over the place to care for injured runners.  I marked my wallet to indicate that I'm on blood thinners, so I think I've taken all the safety precautions I can think of.

We decided to drive to Tempe but regretted it as cars moved at a snails pace to the parking lots and garages.  We should have bike to Encanto Station and taken the Metro, as we certainly would have arrived in plenty of time for Bob to do some pre-race stretching and hydration.  As it was, he had to jump out of the car and sprint to the start while I was unloading my bike.  Lesson learned:  always bike to anything Tempe (except for maybe IKEA).

Bodies in motion.
Anyway, being out among the runners and their friends and family was just what I needed.  Good to be out among the hustle and bustle.  The runners looked to be very fit and well trained this year, inspiring me to get on with it and start PT as soon as possible.  I want to be among them next year!

Cool single speed.
The crowd was quite large and included a lot of people on bikes.

At a coffee stop.
After the race got under way, the crowds dispersed along Mill Avenue, many, like me, heading for coffee and breakfast. No worries about finding a spot to lock up.  Bike corrals are aplenty in Tempe. I spoke briefly to the owners of these three bikes, who stopped for eats after completing the full marathon course that had been open to cyclists earlier in the morning.

Firemen on bikes, ready to render first aid.
By the time I finished sipping my coffee and thinking about the world, I noticed it was time to head over to the finish area as Bob would be coming in shortly, in just under 2 hours.  First aid responders from the fire department on bikes waited along the last mile to the finish.  So far I hadn't seen anyone who looked beaten up by the course though.  I was pretty envious of them as they came in that last mile.  Perfect weather for race day; nobody could have looked happier.  Bob finished about 15 minutes after I got to the finish, pleased with his effort after only a few months training, though reporting that the course was surprisingly hilly as compared to past races there.  We made our way back to Mill Avenue and stopped for brunch before heading back to the car and then home.

So first real day back on the bike and I didn't die, although I did get bumped pretty again, this time on the knee that just had surgery, when my pant leg got caught on something on the Brompton - maybe an Eazy Wheel, not sure.  Maybe I should use that reflective strap to secure my pant leg the next time.  Good grief!  A pant strap and a bike helmet?!  The only thing left to make me look like a complete bike nerd is a reflective vest.  I can't get off blood thinners quickly enough.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Life is a risk so I might as well bike.

Hmmmm. . . . so as some of you might recall, in mid-December I had surgery on my knee for a torn meniscus thingy and to repair a chip in my kneecap.  The kneecap repair required that I keep off the leg and for a few weeks so my activity level has been pretty limited - and all of it on crutches.  To add a little excitement to an otherwise bland recovery, I ended up developing a deep vein thrombosis between the knee and my ankle last week, which was supposed to be my last week on crutches.  A lengthy visit to the ER, some expensive blood thinners, another week on crutches, and a slew of other medical appointments to monitor my progress on the blood thinners and here I am.  I haven't been on my bicycle in almost a month.  I thought about my bike a lot, went to a bike advocacy meeting and had a double pronged kickstand installed on it but I didn't ride it.

The thing about blood thinners is that while you are on them your supposed to avoid falls, sharp knives, car accidents and really just about anything that can make you bleed.  My internist would prefer that I not ride my bike since I might get "knocked" or bumped".  Kind of a tough situation given that the Planner Guy and I only have one car.  I have already been bumped, rather firmly I might add, earlier this week when I was putting my crutches in the backseat of a friend's new BMW and the back of the passenger seat flew back and hit my arm.  Ouch!!!  Really, ouch!  I panicked a little bit because whenever one has a potentially life-threatening condition everyone and his brother has a terrifying story about how someone died because of the thing you have.  Can you imagine the story? 

And she bled to death, right there in Kelly's brand new convertible BMW!

Well nothing happened except that my arm was a little sore but I didn't get so much as a bruise.  When I called into the BCBS on-call nurse, she calmly gave me the symptoms to watch for and none of them ever appeared.  I wondered how many times the car door would fall back on my leg when I'm getting in and out of the car, as if that NEVER happens!

But back to biking.  I've only been hit once, and the offending vehicle never actually touched my person, only my bike.  And, it was partially my fault for not making sure she saw me, which she didn't.  I'm even more cautious than ever since then.

Planner Guy finally let me drive Monday night.  I drove to an evening class and on the way home a reckless driver nearly took out three other cars, including mine, as he zigged and zagged between car in his haste to shed 10 seconds from his arrival time.  I am more worried about getting in a serious car accident while I'm driving than getting hit while I'm on a bike.  It's not like I bike on 7th Street; I pretty much stick to side streets and bike lanes.  If traffic is thick and fast I move to the corner and use the cross walk rather than try and make a left turn.  I think you know where I'm going. . . I'm going to go ahead and ride my bike.

My plan is to ride from Palm Lane, which has very little traffic, to Encanto Station and take the Metro to campus.  It's a good compromise.  I'll even wear my helmet.  I'm a good cyclist.  A cautious cyclist who doesn't talk on her cell or listen to her Ipod when pedaling.  I'm probably a better cyclist than I am a driver (and my driving record is nearly spotless in 30 years of driving).  I can't live in fear of something happening, either in the car, on my bike or walking up and down the stairs.  All I can do is the best I can do.

I have an early evening meeting that I need to attend for class.  I'm going to bike the short trip, which is a mere .7 miles from my house and half a block from the ER.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sticking my toe into Phoenix's bicycle advocacy community

Desmond and Courtney, both city cyclists, at the January meeting of the Downtown Bicycle Action Group.
I've been pretty hesitant to become actively involved in bicycle advocacy, partly because up until pretty recently I was a municipal employee and didn't feel particularly free to voice my opinion in public forums.  Now, I'm back in school and in a much larger city.  City size, I must say, lends itself rather nicely to anonymity.  So in the course of exercising my compulsion to schmooze, I somehow got on a email list of another bicycle enthusiast and before I knew it had "liked" the newly formed Downtown Phoenix Bicycle Action Group, otherwise known at DBAG - I know, a very unfortunate acronym for a group seeking political influence but it looks like the name will be changed.  They met a couple of times already but I couldn't attend due to previous commitments but I made plans to go to January meeting last Sunday night at Angel's Trumpet.  I decided that before I complained too loud and too often about Phoenix's car-centric culture, I should at least find out what is being done to improve upon the situation and if anyone seriously cared to make it better for city cyclists.

Normally, I don't have a lot of hope for "activists", even when I support (and I often do) their cause.  My professional experience with them is that they too frequently do not have patience with the process of how to get worthwhile but new ideas on to the public agenda and don't or aren't willing to tailor their message to the desired audience.  While most people who read this blog simply want transportation options, quite a few people out there, married to their automobiles, assume a bike lane is really a secret plot to take away their cars.  Others believe any funding for bicycle infrastructure is a certain path to socialism rather than an opportunity for economic development.  Message matters and along with that, image - one reason why I don't want a group I'm connected with to be known as "a bunch of douche baggers".

So while I feared I might be at the meeting for under 45 minutes and leave in exasperated disappointment, I ended up staying for the two hour meeting and another 30 minutes of schmoozing afterward.  When I left I felt excited and uplifted because the group clearly understands that in order to be taken seriously by the City of Phoenix and the surrounding business community we need to be about something more than "Bicycles are great and everyone should ride them" or group-rides  noteworthy only for the number of drunken cyclists buzzing lights and flipping off frustrated drivers.  Group rides are wonderful and fun but bicycles are children's toys.  Grownup and "serious people" also ride them to get places.  About 20 people, representing a range of ages, skin colors and walks of life, attended participated in an active and respectful exchange of thoughts about who we are and what we represent.  Rather than shooting down ideas that were disagreed upon, attendees shifted out the strong points and improved upon the weak.  We came up with a short and sweet mission statement that pretty much sums up what we hope to accomplish:

Inspiring cycling as a transit option for the city of Phoenix.
Objectives will follow in the next meeting.  We'll also be working on a new group name, identifying subcommittees to work on goals and objectives and looking at ways we can expand out reach in downtown and Central Phoenix.
The next meeting will be held on Sunday, February 3 at 6 p.m.  The planned location  is Angel's Trumpet, 810 N. 2nd Street in downtown Phoenix.  A group ride from an undetermined location to the meeting will begin around 4:30.  Check out the Downtown Bicycle Action Group's Facebook page for details and updates.  Sorry for the lack of photos in this post, by the way.  For some reason, the insert photos tools isn't working.  Please help, Google!