Thursday, April 30

Bad motorist, thy name is Zack Colman

Meet Zack Colman.

Zack Colman criminally bad motorist
Zack Colman
criminally bad motorist
Black 2001 Saturn SC2. That's the car I drive — and if you're a bicyclist on the road but not in a bike path and you see my car, I hope you're wearing a helmet, because I might run you over.

Maybe not intentionally.

But you see, with all these things I can do in my car nowadays, such as choose a different song on my iPod, send a text message while driving or fall asleep at the wheel because I had to wake up for a worthless 8 a.m. biology lab, I might not notice you.

No this is not an article from The Onion, (America's finest [satirical] news source) though it would be a dead ringer. (possible future employer Zack??)

I hope to god Zack's article is merely a brilliant parody of Zack's alter ego. If so it is very fine piece of satire and appears to nail with certainty the attitude and criminally ignorance of the bad driver. However his publication is not known for its fine satire.

Zack is the poster boy of every bad driver.

The majority of all drivers are in fact courteous to cyclists but as much riding as I do I still run into the proverbial "Zack" about once a week.

Usually the Zack's of the world are anonymous cowards. They just proclaim their ignorance loudly out the car window as they drive by at high speed often putting the foot down on the accelerator, engine racing, perhaps even letting loose with a long blaring horn to let you know that you have inconvenienced them.

This anonymity and attempt to escape any response causes me to wonder if they subconsciously know of their ignorance and want to escape any possible enlightenment as to the law or otherwise. Fiercely protected ignorance.

I respect bicyclists who use bicycles as a form of exercise, since people certainly can never get enough fitness in their everyday routines.

But for as much as I respect and appreciate bicyclists, I will not hesitate to honk at them when they are interfering with the roads.

My concern is not merely about inconvenience.

Heh it's your fault as a cyclist for daring to inconvenience Zack.

At least, that's how Zack sees it.

While Zack cannot be inconvenienced with your life, nay even be bothered to stop text message while driving to prevent you physical harm, he sincerely claims to write this editorial out of an altruistic concern for the safety of all cyclists.

The truth is the Zacks of the world have no clue as to the law but are always certain of their superior knowledge on the subject of bicycling a subject which they've clearly never endeavored to try or educate themselves on.

As State News commenter "Dumb as D. Bobby" states:

Uh .. Z .. there are things called "facts" that journalists are supposed to be concerned about .. so —

Biking Regulations on Campus

" .. Since bicycles aren't legally allowed to ride sidewalks on campus .."


Facts. They're hard.

Zack Colman has gone a step above and beyond the usual brood of bad drivers by proclaim his ignorance of cycling law in an editorial in the The State News, a Michigan State associated newspaper.

As State News commenter "Michael" (no relation to myself) also states:
Here's the law:


Michigan Vehicle Code

Each person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or moped or operating a low-speed vehicle upon a roadway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter

There are in fact over 250 responses to Zack's editorial. All of which seem to grapple with the same general question... is Zack for real?

A very impressive number of responses indeed.

In summary.

Zack is a bad driver, Zack knows he's a bad driver. Zack even appears to be proud of it. He's constantly distracted by his gadgets. He cannot be bothered not to be distracted. He feels entitled to drive distracted or half asleep because through some unfair stroke of fate he is required to go to "a worthless 8 a.m. biology lab".

Zack feels this inconvenience entitles him to put not only every cyclists life at risk but any pedestrian, even other drivers that may be on the road.

Furthermore Zack feels this inconvenience entitles him not merely to put you at accidentally risk, but even willful and deliberately harm.

I'm left with the following questions.

What kind of idiot proclaims his deliberate ignorance of the law in print?

What kind of idiot declares not only his disregard for law, but human life in print?

Most of all what kind of idiot puts in print his deliberate intention to not only break the law but to deliberately harm people?

Zack does.

Hence Zack is the poster boy of bad drivers.

My only advice to all cyclists, pedestrians and other drivers is:

Yes, the Zacks of the world do exist, but you can't set foot out the door in the morning without taking that risk. This is why helmets and laws were invented. There is little else that can be done unless you choose never to venturing out the front door. You aren't any safer walking or even driving, hence carry on as you are.

My only advice to Zack: consult a lawyer.

Not only may a lawyer be able to explain to you basic laws regarding cycling, but they may also be able to advise you as to the legal liabilities / ramifications of putting such nonsense in print.

I pray you never get into an altercation with a cyclist as your editorial may come back to haunt you (nevermind the poor cyclist).

Wednesday, April 29

Review: the Planet Bike SuperFlash

Planet Bike SuperFlash

The best kind of review is the one you don't have to give. I 100% agree with the below quoted review. (I even use the exact same technique with a zip tie, but I use a reusable zip tie.) The Planet bike Superflash (Serfas also makes an identical version) is the single most important piece of saftey equipment money can buy for cycling besides a helmet, and it's only $20. The brightness of it's primary LED makes all the difference in the world, the price tag makes it a given. If you commute, this is a must have.

The bottom line is cars will behave differently when you use it.

1) cars will actually slow down

2) cars will actually give you the 3 feet entitled to you by law

I think it's simply because the light is so bright they actualy register you. No more brain dead drivers flying buy at 55+ mph inches away. Or maybe they even think you're a cop or construction workers or something. I don't know what they think, but it works.

Do you have one of these? If not, you need to go straight out and get one - they're about 20-bucks US and are unequaled in the battery operated arena of rear lights. This thing uses a single 1/2 watt LED, backed up with 2 smaller LED's that more than adequately keep you visible to passing cars - not just at night but during daylight hours as well.

Cons to this light? Well, a few times I've had this light fall off my bag, usually with the light arranging itself into its white back, clear red lens, and its 2-AAA batteries rolling around underneath a dumpster or another undesirable location. Fix you say? Simple, take a zip-tie and wrap it around the light such that it grabs onto the back clip - two benefits to this; 1) light doesn't fall apart and 2) light is 'locked' to your bag or quick-attach mount. If you don't use this zip-tie method, people may possibly ridicule you and laugh when you roll by - don't take that chance.

Recharge the batteries when the light fades - this light will continue to function under a reduced battery level but at a much lower light output. Put fresh batteries in this gal and you'll notice the difference immediately.


My advice - go get at least one of these lights. Even better, put one on your bag and one on your seatpost or seatstay. A few close friends have received this light as a gift from me - I believe it to be the best out there.

One last point. In winter lithium ion batteries last infinitely longer then regular batteries or rechargeables. Rechargeables are particularly suseptible to cold. In the summer any battery will last virtually forever.

Original post:, The Planet Bike SuperFlash

Sunday, April 26

rural architecture repurposed

There's just something great about the repurposing of something you see everyday, in this case the ubiquitous 1940's grain silo, into something with a completely different purpose. In this case a B&B. Yours for only $175 to $210 a night.

Via the Tiny House Blog

...essentially a one bedroom loft apartment built into a 1940’s grain silo.


Gruene Homestead Inn purchased and moved the silo in 2007 and have since remodeled both the interior and exterior in our own inimitable style.

This unit has a very upscale feel and is quite a unique lodging experience.

The silo has a queen bed, full sofa-bed, stand up shower, two sinks, wet bar, microwave, refrigerator, private porch and can be rented for $175/$210. You can visit the Gruene Homestead Inn’s website and learn more about their unique lodging.

more photos on the Tiny House Blog

Wednesday, April 22

The coming "great age of redevelopment"

From Recycling the Suburbs,
The American suburb as we know it is dying. The implosion began with the housing bust, which started in and has hit hardest the once vibrant neighborhoods outside the urban core. Shopping malls and big-box retail stores, the commercial anchors of the suburbs, are going dark — an estimated 148,000 stores closed last year, the most since 2001. But the shift is deeper than the economic downturn. Thanks to changing demographics, including a steady decline in the percentage of households with kids and a growing preference for urban amenities among Americans young and old, the suburban dream of the big house with the big lawn is vanishing. The Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech predicts that by 2025 there will be a surplus of 22 million large-lot homes (on one-sixth of an acre [675 sq m] or more) in the U.S.


...a transformation is under way in regions that were known for some of the worst sprawl in the U.S. Communities as diverse as Lakewood, Colo., and Long Beach, Calif., have repurposed boarded-up malls as mixed-use developments with retail stores, offices and apartments. In auto-dependent suburbs that were built without a traditional center, shopping malls offer the chance to create downtowns without destroying existing infrastructure, by recycling what's known as underperforming asphalt. "All of these projects are developer-driven, because the market wants them," says Ellen Dunham-Jones, a co-author of the new book Retrofitting Suburbia.

Not every suburb will make it. The fringes of a suburb like Riverside in Southern California, where housing prices have fallen more than 20% since the bust began, could be too diffuse to thrive in a future where density is no longer taboo. It'll be the older inner suburbs like Tysons Corner, Va., that will have the mass transit, public space and economic gravity to thrive postrecession. Though creative cities will grow more attractive for empty-nest -retirees and young graduates alike, we won't all be moving to New York. Many Americans will still prefer the space of the suburbs — including the parking spaces. "People want to balance the privacy of the suburbs with more public and social areas," says Dunham-Jones. But the result will be a U.S. that is more sustainable — environmentally and economically.

While the Times is prone to exaggerating for effect (i.e. "the suburbs are dying") the basic data is true. Major malls, big box and retail developments have been closing for years. This is very similar to what was seen in urban centers. This is causing suburban blight which is devaluing the suburbs as it once did the urban centers.

The hope is that we as a nation will deal with it directly this time, via redevelopment, instead of simply fleeing it for greener pastures.

What's more the basic theory is sound. I think Americans are starting to see that we can no longer just keep sprawling. We have to take the time to redevelop and build upon the old, to try and deal with some of its problems instead of simply making a new suburb in another cornfield.

It's the layering on of new development over historical development over many, many generations that solves the problems of urban planning and teaches us lessons while creating the character and history sought after to sustain long term growth.

This layering is how European cities... and indeed all cities eventually developed. We've largely ignored this development in the U.S. simply because it's cheaper and easier to literally move to a greener pasture. Eventually though we must grapple with the issues of redeveloping areas, both urban and suburban.

We're moving into an era which might well become known as "the great redevelopment".

The rise and fall of great American cities, the rise of the suburbs, what's next?

There's no where else to flee, the entire mass population can't go back to the land. This age of redevelopment is barely at it's infancy... barely on the horizon. It's been going on in some small degree for years, but at this point it still barely started and I doubt we can expect it to be as radical as the flight to the suburbs.

I think when we look back we'll see it's symbolic start in the redevelopment of major league sports complexes in urban centers that we've been seeing for the last ten to twenty years. It's a sign of what is wanted, even it it's not yet known how to accomplish it.

Redevelopment of urban centers is a common concept, but few even recognize the decline and need for redevelopment in the suburbs as well.

To use a metaphor comparing investing in real estate to investing in the markets, I'd liken investing in new suburban real estate both commercial and residential to be like day trading and penny stocks. It's an easy quick good buck so long as you get out before the bubble collapses... but guess what, everyone eventually gets caught holding.

Alternatively I'd liken redevelopment to Warren Buffets "value investing". It may be very early in the game but there's value to be had in those blighted urban centers, small towns and even in those blighted suburban centers. The key is investing in finding the right markets and backing the right re-developers. They are the next growth market.

This real estate bubble collapse is a clear reflection of a market that's focused to much on the short term... bankers and buyers alike.

Wednesday, April 15

The complete streets initative

Transportation should focus on all Americans, not just people who drive cars. —Rep. Matsui
Our outdated transportation system fosters reliance on cars... we talk about an epidemic of obesity, and the way we design our communities is partly to blame.

Complete streets can re-invigorate corridors that are currently dominated by cars. We should transform these areas that are really nothing more than highways superimposed on surface streets.

The days of irresponsible transportation investment are over. We cannot afford them any longer. We cannot afford more asthma, more congestion, and more climate change.

I just did a trip along the Allegheny Passage from DC to Pittsburgh and I had to completely avoid the Pittsburgh area because the only East to West roads through downtown were unsafe for bikes. In order to ride through Pittsburgh I would have to have a guide with extensive knowledge over the course of many years of neighborhoods and streets throughout the greater Pittsburgh area.

I call this problem the culdesac problem.

Modern subdivisions are designed intentionally without through streets forcing all traffic out onto these "highways superimposed on surface streets" that Representative Doris Matsui of California speaks of. This design makes whole areas of cities and suburbs completely unnavigable by anything other then cars.

Despite increased awareness in core circles this is become more and more common do lack of planning in modern cities and suburbs which often completely leave out pedestrians and alternative forms of transportation. These Conservative political and raw market forces see putting anything besides a gravel shoulder on a road (sidewalks often ignored too) as a a liberal use of money... yet not doing providing for rich pedestrian and alternative transport is actually strip mining / clear cutting communities of future potentials.

Many is the time I've witnessed suburban areas where you can't even walk from your house a block or two away to the nearest grocery store without getting in a car because there are simply no sidewalks and no cross walks on these seven to nine lane super streets with their 16+ lane intersections separating quarter mile and even half mile culdesac subdivisions.

The thing is the enlightened and educated who are understand these problems are a tiny minority, as always 90% of their work is purely in helping people realize the potentials.

We have literally painted the pedestrian into a corner isolating our youth, anyone who doesn't have access to a car, and discouraging all alternative means of transportation and recreation.

I'm fond of saying of places like Phoenix and Los Vegas that they are truly democratic cityscape affording anyone from any section of town the same opportunities... so long as you own a car.

Is it any wonder why isolation and obesity have become such a high profile part of the modern American condition. Is it any wonder why children grow up without strong sense of identity and community and old people die alone. We're indoctrinating the young before they are even old enough to drive and hence partake in a larger society. And once they escape the nest they don't have that safety net to fall back on.

"Complete streets" legislation sounds like a superb idea to me, but the devil is in the details... I will believe it when I see it passed... AND working.

More info:, With Complete Streets, Matsui says roads will be for everyone

David Byrne's Bike Racks

Just stumbled on this Wall Street Journal interview from David Byrne from July 2008. Mostly filmed as they ride 6 miles across town from his studio to his fabricator and poweder coater.

I always find it interesting that David does commute regularly by bike, even when on tour.

Youtube link: David Byrne's Bike Racks

Tuesday, April 14

The ultimate gear review, Ian Hibell's gear

All I can say is holy crap.

This is an amazing high quality interview with Ian Hibell, famed world bicycle tourist from 1975 as he was headed from Norway to the Cape of Good Hope.

The interviews starts as they ride bicycles around the studio after which they proceed to go through every bit of his gear.

It's just amazing, I simply can't believe how much gear, in particular how much food he carries. Such as a half dozen eggs!? I have no idea how he fits it all in his bags, they must be magical bottomless bags.

Add the fact that everything is simply larger and heavier... pots, stove, sleeping bags. By comparison everything is now much lighter, warmer and more compact, and yet this guy traveled the world with only a couple panniers.

It's also interesting to note that the basic touring bike has not changed all that much since 1975. In fact you could ride his bike down the road today, almost 35 years later, and not many people would even notice the difference.

Via The Epicurean Cyclist

bike tour as real estate tool

From the Atlanta Journal - Constitution Real estate agent tries new sales technique: bike tour |

A real estate agent who was told in 2004 he would never bicycle again after a terrible accident, proved the doctors wrong. And now Ryan Castleberry of Keller Williams Realty wants to prove something else: Two wheels work better than four when it comes to showing homes in a sluggish market.

Castleberry, 32, plans to lead a dozen bike tours of homes from April 18 to Sept. 19 in Decatur and Avondale Estates. The first one begins at Glenlake Park in Decatur.

“Now you can experience everything that probably would have been overlooked while looking at homes in the traditional car way,” he said. “You get the chance to see parks, meet neighbors or experience the roads that your children may be playing very close to.” Castleberry mass-mailed 4,000 announcements and hopes 10 to 12 people sign up per tour. Each tour will cover five to six nearby homes.

Living in Chicago for ten years I found the bike not only the best way to get around but also the most superb way to find apartments.

1) Newspapers don't have everything... indeed newspapers don't have the best places... the brownstones owned by local people... just the real-estate agent ones who are in it for their commission.

2) Viewing by car makes it REALLY easy to overlook places and parking is IMPOSSIBLE in inner cities.

3) Finally, walking simply takes too long.

Biking works because it offers a nice fluid pace both within neighborhoods and from neighborhood to neighborhood. It's actually the fastest way to find and look at a lot of places quickly. You simply pick your neighborhood, pre-ride it when you have a chance... not a bunch of places, make some calls and ride back by on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

What's more bicycles as an extension of public transport mean virtually NO area of the city is off limits. Everywhere in a city like Chicago is within five minutes of public transit by bike... if not within 25 minutes ride of downtown. It opens up huge possibilities otherwise overlooked.

As for suburban real estate... I cannot speak on the subject... but I can say that looking at real estate from the perspective of a bike changes EVERYTHING. From one suburban area to the next attention to pedestrian traffic is fickle. Some suburbs have SUPERB pedestrian access... others you can't even cross the street without first getting in a car. I've seen it all.... but you would never know it if you don't get out of your car and move around a bit on bike or foot.

Saturday, April 11

Jeff Oatley's bike for the Iditarod Trail Invitational

Great article on Jeff Oatley's winning gear setup for the 2009 Iditarod Invitational.

From: VeloNews, via epic designs.

Component Highlights:

Frame: Speedway Cycles Fatback
Fork: Speedways Cycles custom steel
Wheels: Remolino 80mm wide rims; Hadley 165mm rear hub, Chris King 100mm front hub
Drivetrain: FSA Carbon Pro Team Issue crankset (22/36/44); Truvativ 100mm ISIS bottom bracket; Shimano E-Type front derailleur, SRAM X0 rear derailleur; SRAM X0 twist shifters; Shimano XTR 11-32 9-speed cassette; Nokon derailleur housing
Brakes: Magura Marta SL
Pedals: Crankbrothers Egg Beater 4Ti
Tires: Surly Endomorph 3.7-inch
Saddle: Sella Italia Flight
Stem: Bontrager 100mm 17-degree rise
Grips: Ergon GC-2
Aerobars: Profile Design Jammer GT

Gear Highlights:

Shoes: Lake MXZ300
Booties: Apocalypse Designs
Headlight: Lupine Wilma
GPS: Garmin eTrex Legend
Seatpack: Epic Designs Super Twinkie
Framebag: Epic Designs
Top tube bag: Epic Designs Gas Tank
Handlebar bags/hand warmers: Dogwood Designs Pogies
Gloves: Pearl Izumi Gavia and RBH Designs Vapor Barrier Mitten

Touring the Allegheny Passage

Some pics from my trip last week from DC to Pittsburg along the Allegheny Trail.

Via: Touring the Great Allegheny Passage - a set on Flickr

Friday, April 10

Great Allegheny Passage

I just got back from riding the Great Alleghney Passage. Amazing ride. (Pics and more info will soon follow.) Thought this was a relevant piece of news.

From: Pennsylvania Environmental Award to Present Lifetime Achievement Award to Linda McKenna Boxx, Reuters

Linda McKenna Boxx, the president of the Allegheny Trail Alliance and the
driving force behind the creation of the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile
trail connecting Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland, will receive a lifetime
achievement award, announced today by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.


In 1993, she saw an opportunity to work with a number of regional trail groups
in Western Pennsylvania and coordinate their local efforts into one large
continuous trail connecting with the C&O Canal Towpath trail in Cumberland,
Maryland, effectively creating a 335-mile continuous hiking and biking trail
from downtown Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

The success of that work resulted in the Great Allegheny Passage, which is now
nearly complete. All that remains is to finish a few miles of trail between
McKeesport and downtown.

Every year thousands of people complete the Washington to Pittsburgh trail ride,
including the hundreds of cyclists who last year participated in the week-long
sojourn or the 24-hour relay ride as part of the "Pittsburgh 250" celebration.

Ms. Boxx also serves on a number of boards, including the Fallingwater Advisory
Committee, the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern
Pennsylvania, and the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

A little more background info on Linda.
Ms. Boxx`s distinguished career includes public service positions in state
government in both Pennsylvania and Arkansas. Her experience included a wide
variety of positions in conservation, land use planning and the infancy of the
rails-to-trails movement in Pennsylvania.

She has also served as the chairman of the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation,
based in Latrobe, since 1982. In this capacity, Ms. Boxx has worked to provide
support for a wide range of innovative programs including the remediation and
protection of land and waterways, development of community and recreational
facilities, rehabilitation of landmark buildings and a broad range of
educational opportunities.