Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The CycleDog Research Laboratory...

Just outside Broken Elbow, Oklahoma, there's a nondescript one story brick building tucked away in a huge industrial park. The sign out front says Broken Elbow Consulting Associates. It's a genuine, money-making business, run by some of the best minds in the area, namely me and Wally Crankset. We consult on a wide variety of jobs, though to be perfectly honest, consulting doesn't provide much income. The real money comes from the CycleDog research lab carefully hidden within the building. Much of our work there is classified and cannot be discussed with the public. Please join us for a rare tour of the facility.

Wally led the way.

“Just this once, we're allowing visitors to do a walking tour of the laboratory.” Wally pronounces it in the English fashion - la-BORE-a-tory. “This is where our ideas come from, some good, some bad, and some destined never to see the light of day. Please don't take any photographs and be careful about touching anything. Be especially careful about eating or drinking anything that may appear to be edible. We've lost a few interns that way.”

“The front offices are occupied by our administrators and engineering staff. Through those double doors at the end of the hall there's an airlock that leads into the lab itself. I'll enter the security code so we can all pass through.“

“As you can see, the main lab building is large enough to be an aircraft hanger, though 3 of the 4 levels are below ground. Just follow me along this catwalk.”

“On our right, there's a Pseudo-Random Association Generator churning out ideas that may or may not have some connection to each other. Sometimes it's hard to tell. This is where the Bolivia Newton John idea got started, as well as some lesser known ones. High school boys are the biggest customers for this generator's output. It's a consistent money earner. Technicians enter names and phrases from a wide variety of sources, including newspapers, magazines, television and radio broadcasts, as well as more obscure material from bloggers and failed comedians. Once, we made the mistake of feeding it some Henny Youngman one-liners and the EPA shut us down for a week. It's powered by over-worked imagination hyped with caffeine on the positive side, and anger, frustration, and irony on the negative. The trick is to combine them in just the right balance that stays mostly on the satire side with few excursions into sarcasm.”

“The next level down is the Copy Room where an infinite number of monkeys hammer out text. Please don't go in. They're highly excitable and their hygiene is non-existent. The stench is appalling, but gosh can they can write! If you look in through this little window set into the door, you can see that the whole copy room is powered by bicycle driven generators. In fact, they provide electrical power to all the labs. When you have an infinite number of monkeys pedaling an infinite number of bicycles, the power output is staggering.”

“Across the hall is the Rant-O-Lator room. I'm very proud to tell you that we use a steam operated Rant-O-Lator from the late nineteenth century. Unlike the more modern versions, this one delivers smooth diatribes free of the profanities that make contemporary rants so lumpy and unsatisfying, though it tends to use obsolete Victorian expressions. It's down for a much needed overhaul right now, and frankly it's getting difficult to find parts. We just finished a big production run commissioned by Faux News and it was a heavy load on the machine. We hope to have it up and running again well before the presidential primaries start early next year.”

Wally held open a door. “This next room contains our dialog generator. Come on inside. I think it's working on my lines today. It's really a three stage process. The raw text arrives over here. Then it's fed to a socializing filter that cleans it up considerably before it goes to publication.” One of the women picked up some raw copy, blanched, and then turned bright red with embarrassment. Later, I caught her eying Wally with a speculative look.

“Final quality control is performed by an audio process to see that the dialog sounds as natural as possible.” Wally's voice came out of an overhead speaker:

“There's some guy out in the bar who says his name is Ford Prefect and he's buying everyone drinks. I don't think he's from around here.”

“I could wear a Santa suit to the meeting”, Wally offered.
“No”, I replied. “It's probably not a good idea.”

“It has all the intellectual challenge of a comic book.”

"She has everything he looks for in a woman."
"A pulse?"

"I know we don't see eye-to-eye. We could, but then I'd have to squat down to your level."

“Well”, Wally opined, “we've been endorsed by BLAMBLA. I think they're an offshoot of the NRA. I got a phone call from them that had lots of heavy breathing and a message about how they LOVE their guns. Kinda creepy, really.”

"His brain is a treasure-trove of the useless and obsolete, a vast suppository of information."

“Down here on the lowest level there's only one room, and it's the entrance to Hell. The place is tightly packed with ex-wives, dentists, used car salesmen, and my short tempered fifth grade teacher. Occasionally one of the used car guys escapes, but they usually settle down if someone reads from the NADA blue book or some other fairy tales. If one of the ex-wives escapes, we have to evacuate the building. 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned' or something like that. Most of these people are copy writers too.”

“You might wonder why we have our own private entrance to Hell, but I'll tell you straight out, it's very useful. Some of the most insidious and subversively funny ideas come from here, like Walking 101 or the upcoming satire based on Les Miserables. These guys really crack me up, though that's tempered with the occasional blood-curdling scream that echoes through the whole building. Well, it's still Hell, after all.”

“We'll take the elevator back up to the main floor. I want to thank all of you for taking the tour today. I assure you that some of what you've seen and heard will be incorporated into upcoming posts on CycleDog, and remember, a smiling reader is our most important product!”


I hate having a good idea and not having the time to put it down on paper. All too often, the idea slips away, never to return. There are days I ride to work chuckling at a wonderfully funny story line, only to have it evaporate before I can write it down. Sometimes I'll have a good one and I'll do some research to support it, only to be distracted for a time. Oh, I still have the supporting arguments, but the unifying idea is long gone. My files have far too many incomplete texts.

Likewise with dialog. I come up with some funny lines, but can't find anyplace to use them. So I keep snippets in a file, hoping that they'll find a home someday. Most of the Wally Crankset stories begin with a single idea that drives some of the dialog. I'll use the snippets and write more around them. It's almost like connecting the dots, as a list of ideas gets fleshed out with connecting verbiage.

It's obvious that this post uses some of those orphaned snippets.

What's the difference between satire and sarcasm? Satire attacks human folly or vice by using irony or derision. Sarcasm is mockery or contemptuous irony intended to wound. Note that both satire and sarcasm use irony, so it's more a difference of degree rather than type. I try to strike that balance, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday Musette...

And you thought cyclists were bad!

The next time someone cites that bit of nonsense about 'all cyclists are law-breakers because none of them stop at red lights' just direct them to this nice little piece in today's Tulsa World. Is it too much to presume that the law applies equally to all of us, without excepting Lyndsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, or the Drummond family? Does someone have to die before our police and courts take one of these driving menaces off the road and give them a nice, comfy jail cell? I thought we did away with an aristocracy in the late unpleasantness of 1776-1781.

Honestly, if one of us unwashed proletarians committed a similar string of driving offenses, we'd have been put away long ago. This story really stinks.

Excerpts follow:

By ZIVA BRANSTETTER World Projects Editor

Four Drummonds received more than 40 citations in the last decade, records show.

When he gave the driver a warning for allegedly going more than 100 mph, Osage Nation Police Officer Tug Broughton thought the man would be relieved.

Instead, Broughton said, the older man driving a new GMC pickup cussed at him and said: "You must not know who I am."

Before the man drove away, he told Broughton, "You will see me again."

The man, Charles R. Drummond, is a member of a prominent Osage County ranching family. At one time, the Drummonds were listed among the country's top 100 landowners, with 100,000 acres, including the Drummond Land and Cattle Co.

True to his word, Charles Drummond did see Brough ton again, three months later, on July 8, 2007. Broughton said Drummond was driving 100 mph and passing cars in a no-passing zone with a child in the back seat.

...The tickets Broughton wrote to Drummond, 61, that day are among more than 40 speeding tickets that Drummond and three of his relatives have received in the state in the last decade, records show. At least 18 of those have been dismissed in their home county.

The tickets reviewed by the World were written to Charles R. Drummond; his sons, Tim Drummond, 40, and Ladd Drummond, 38; and his nephew, Thatcher Drummond, 34.

They could not be reached for comment.

The four members of the Drummond family have been clocked by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol driving 95, 97 and 112 mph, all speeds listed on tickets that have been dismissed by judges in the county.

Although the Drummonds paid a fine and court costs on all dismissed tickets, the tickets do not go against their driving records.

Nanotubes in the news....

Another article in today's TW. I think nanotubes are a fascinating development. Imagine a bicycle frame, for instance, made of nanotubes but also operating as a computer. Long ago, someone (Arthur C. Clarke?) predicted that computer circuitry would be grown from molecules rather than etched with lasers. It's looking more and more probable every day. Light, strong, and conductive - what's not to love?

By MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer

Ground is broken in Norman for a $3.9 million factory to make nanotubes.

NORMAN -- The mayor admitted that she has only a vague idea of what a nanotube is.

"But I know enough," Cindy Rosenthal declared last week, "to know that this is a very big deal for Norman and for the entire state of Oklahoma."

...With the potential to change everything from cell phones to cancer treatments, nanotubes are such a big deal precisely because they are so very small.

Made out of carefully aligned carbon molecules, a bundle of 50,000 nanotubes would be the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Yet, they are stronger than steel.

Lighter than plastic, they conduct electricity better than metal. And scientists envision seemingly endless possibilities: a television screen that folds up like a newspaper, or a newspaper that reprints itself
every morning....SWeNT's new factory will make 1,000 grams per day.

At that pace, commercial applications will become possible for the first time, Arthur said. The earliest products will include touch-sensitive displays on cell-phones and other devices, while the aviation industry will use SWeNT nanotubes to make carbon-fiber composites.

By this time next year, Arthur expects the new factory to be selling $250,000 worth of nanotubes every week. And with 18 employees now, SWeNT will double its work force within a couple of years.

And finally...

Number One Son and I spent some time working on his elderly Toyota this afternoon. We inflated the tires and went to the auto parts store for a new battery. I installed it and showed him how to see that it was installed properly. For some reason, the old battery had its terminals reversed. I almost connected the new one backward, which would have led to interesting problems with the rest of the electrical system. But I double-checked before connecting any cables and showed him how the negative cable bonded to the car body. That's ALWAYS a good thing to check!

We got the car started. It wheezed and and blew out a big cloud of oil smoke. I drove it carefully to our local elementary school before letting Jordan behind the wheel. The brakes are spongy, so we'll have to check the brake pads and maybe add some fluid. It misses now and them so it may need new ignition wires. And there's a noise coming from the back end that could be a bearing, the differential, or simply a bad tire. We're hoping it's just the tire.

The interesting part will be next weekend when he gets to change the oil and filter! I'm not doing that - he is. I'll sit on the sidelines and take pictures! I'm soooo mean.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Are we not idiots?

A perennial favorite during the TDF is the annual 'most annoying commercial' whineage. And of course, I'm not immune. The worst-ever in my memory were those reeking Lincoln Navigator ads a few years back, so this year's contender is only modestly annoying by comparison. Still, the premise is that American consumers are basically morons.

You've undoubtedly seen the ads. Some schmuck wanders into a happily spinning business and gums the whole thing up by trying to pay for his purchase with - gasp! - cash. Think about it for a moment. If you were running a business, would you turn away a potential sale because the buyer offered cash? Of course not. Businesses exist to make a profit and in order to do that they must have satisfied customers. Otherwise they'll be gone from the marketplace in short order.

Now, it's been a while since I worked in a retail shop, but back then the credit card companies charged the store a transaction fee of about 3%, if I recall right. I'd suspect that hasn't changed. We lost 3% on each credit card sale in order to give the customer a convenient way to pay. Any business owner would rather take cash or checks. He makes more money.

So the assumption in these commercials is that the world runs more smoothly in its groove when we all use our convenient plastic debit cards, and somehow only the truly benighted Luddites among us insist on using real money. What kind of moron, other than an advertising executive, would believe this nonsense?

Tomorow morning, I'll pay for my coffee with a couple of crumpled dollar bills, just like last weekend and the weekend before that. Sandy will take them and smile. Maybe we'll share a joke or two. But we both know that if I or any other customer felt unwelcome in the shop because we chose to pay with cash, well, next week we'd be drinking our morning cuppa in a different coffee shop.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Trickster...

(Photo from exZOOberance!)

No, I'm not talking about that other trickster, Vinokourov. I don't have the words.

I'm talking about that ubiquitous native American trickster, El Coyote. I heard one on my way to work this morning, just as I was leaving the neighborhood. It howled from a drainage ditch along the highway between my neighborhood and the shopping plaza across the road.

Coyotes were a common sight and sound here before all the development. Just behind my neighbor's house, a female denned in a bush pile and raised her pups. We saw them nearly every evening, and if we didn't see them, we heard them. But that was nearly 20 years ago.

Since then, more houses have arrived along with numerous businesses. What was formerly pasture and woodland is now housing developments and big box stores. I haven't heard a coyote anywhere nearby for many years, until this morning.

The outside cats are wily enough to evade them, or at least I hope they are. Hello Kitty, who thinks she owns most of the block, usually naps on top of Lyndsay's Blazer, safe from prowling dogs, malevolent tomcats, and the vicious Oklahoma chupacabra.

I go along that frontage road just before dawn, but I'll try to get some photos if possible.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday Musette


Beth at BikeLoveJones has an easily comprehensible explanation of Q-Factor and why it's important. Think "knee pain!"

tech talk: crankarms and Q factor

Illustration by Daniel Rebour, possibly the greatest technical illustrator ever, and greatly admired and loved by bicycle historians because of the quality of his work.
For more, see these websites:




(heads-up: I'll do my best to clarify things here for those readers who don't work on their own bikes, but if something's not clear, just ask.)

One of the things that most folks don't think much about is something called Q factor. It's the measured distance between the ends of the crankarms (where the pedals bolt on) if both arms were mounted pointing the same way. I don't know what the Q stands for, though I assume it's mathematical. (Since I've never been good at math that involves letters of the alphabet, let's just leave it at that.)
Q factor is measured in millimeters. A good Q factor is in the 140's to around 150; most crankarms today START at 160 and go up from there, meaning your feet will be spaced more widely apart as you turn the cranks.


monkeymeter left a new comment on a post from 2005: "A question about road courtesy...":

Here is a poll anyone can vote on: Are Truck Drivers courteous to you?

I haven't visited it yet, but I will sometime this evening. And of course, I'll post some comments on it here in CycleDog.

For Peanut...

I'm happy to mention your blog (link), because you're leading a life that I only dreamed of in my youth. I would have loved to be a professional bicycle racer, but I had too many negatives. First, I was too damned slow! But beyond that, I never had time for training since I had to work. And I married far too young. It didn't take, but marriage has demands on time.

So my racing was more the Walter Mitty variety. That was all long ago. These days, I don't do any competitive events, mostly limiting my riding back and forth to work. The plan is to keep riding right through retirement, until I'm not physically capable of riding any more.

...and don't get me thinking about Erica Jong and the library stacks! I'm a middle aged man. Oh! My heart! My heart!

And finally...

If you don't read James at Bicycle Design...well...you should but if that's not possible just look at the pictures!


ORYX time trial bike

Several of you pointed out this concept bike to me over the weekend; thanks for all the tips. The ORYX time trial bike was designed by Harald Cramer, a recent graduate of the University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg in Germany. The design looks nice, especially the integrated front chainwheel/crank. I also like the subtle graphics that Harold chose for the raw carbon frame. I won’t elaborate much about the design since you can find several other blog posts about it at this point. If you haven’t seen them, check out the posts here, here, and here for more info.

But wait! There's more!

I stumbled across this after I'd posted all that stuff up above. If you like the Bicycle Design blog, you may like this one too. This is more art than bicycle, and it's absolutely gorgeous engraved titanium.

From: Pedal! Damn it!

However, it was at the 2006 North American Handmade Bicycle Show, where Merlin took the leap to full engraving of the Cyrene, that took my breath — and stole my heart — away. No gaudy, loud, eye-frying decals or stickers which hint at a newcomer's insecurity — just understated elegance. Confidence.

An approach reveals intricate, unbelievably beautiful, flowing arabesque detail, on the finest brushed titanium.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

I been tagged...OT

Dave Moulton tagged me to list 5 things none of you know about me. Now, I'm looking ahead to a quiet Friday evening sacked out on the bed with a book from the library. I guess it's no secret that I spend a lot of time in the library, but this time I'll write about what I like to read, and how I got that way. And like Dave, I'll put this in chronological order, but there's a common thread to all of it.

Before getting to that, here are 5 people I'd like to hear from:

The ultimate 'test to failure' of a department store bike: http://www.bikeofdoom.com/

Christine "Peanut" Vardaros, assuming she has time for this given her racing schedule:

Captain Parkus is on temporary duty at the Messenger of Doom: http://messengerofdoom.wordpress.com/

And yes, I know it's winter in Sydney, but what better time to write about painted people on bikes: http://sydneybodyartridehq.blogspot.com/

And finally, our own peripatetic Paul Tay. Skip the paint, Paul, and stick with the Santa suit! http://pimpthistownvotepaultay.blogspot.com/

The first tag:
I remember distinctly three books from grade school. In third grade, I read a book about 2 chipmunks who traveled the country from end to end. I don't recall the name of the book but I remember the sense of wonder and fascination that it brought. Sure, we had television, but a book relied more on my imagination and I could imagine things far more vividly than that black and white screen.

In fifth grade, I read a biology book on the human body. I remember being interested in the digestive and circulatory systems, but the sex stuff...not so much. Cutaway views of human anatomy are fascinating, but hardly sexy.

In sixth grade, I stumbled across Edgar Rice Burroughs. I read Tarzan, but the one that really snared my interest was A Princess of Mars. The idea of Deja Thoris wandering Barsoom clad in nothing but her jewels and weapons...well...did I mention my over-active imagination?

I read tons of sci-fi books for years afterward. Some few brought back that sense of wonder, but for the most part, it was simply a way to pass the time.

Second tag...
When I was about 15, my best friend and I haunted the local library. It was a long walk. But an older girl worked there and Mac and I both were infatuated. But she was an 'older woman' and all, probably about 18 or 19 and far out of our league.

We read a lot that summer.

Third tag...
In college, the quietest place to study was the fourth floor of the library. Studying in a dorm was nearly impossible. For that matter, sleep was almost impossible too. Most students didn't want to go to the top of the library building. It was very quiet and maybe a little creepy up there. I liked one corner as it was far from the elevator and any noises. One evening, my friend Laurie and I were comfortably ensconced in my corner when a librarian marched in and told us we were being too quiet! I had to wonder what else went on in that corner.

Fourth tag...
When I lived in Stoneboro, Pennsylvania, a couple of local ladies had a huge yard sale every summer. They scoured all the other yard sales and brought back box after box of books, which they sold for 25 cents apiece or 5 for a dollar, for paperbacks, and a couple of dollars for hardbacks. I knew that come winter I'd have nothing to do, so I bought sacks of books to squirrel away.

In one of those sacks, I came across an old hardback of poetry. I'm not a poetry fan so I gave it to my ex-wife. Big mistake. I found out later that it was a privately printed edition of lesbian love poems, a book that was illegal at the time it was printed, and as a result it was very rare and very valuable. I wonder if she knew?

Final tag...
As I mentioned above, I went through a sci-fi phase. And like most guys, I like the occasional techno-thriller. Most recently, however, I've been on a true crime kick. The latest is "Bind, Torture, Kill: The inside story of the serial killer next door". Way back in college, I majored in psychology and I've always been interested in abnormal psych. BTK didn't fit into the usual patterns for serial killers, or more clearly, he fit some but not others. While I read about
sociopaths, I don't ever want to encounter one.

So there you have it!

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100 ideas theme...

Here's more on the 100 ideas theme. These are from Commute By Bike, originally posted by Fritz, and including some comments appended at the end.


  • Signage: “Cyclists allowed use of full lane”. For examples around the United States see this page. I see these all over the place in San Francisco, and cyclists do indeed use the full lane in many locations. I believe these are much clearer than the ambiguous “Share The Road” signs. Motorists complain that when cyclists take the lane, the cyclist is not “sharing” the road.
  • Effective bike education in schools. When the state of Colorado opened up “Safe Routes to Schools” funding for 2006, communities requested $6 million for infrastructure programs — things like bike paths and bike lanes — and half a million for non-infrastructure programs such as educational and promotional activities. My former hometown of Longmont, Colorado received one of non-infrastructure grants, and Bicycle Longmont, the city of Longmont, and the St. Vrain School district made very effective use of their small grant. The money paid for overtime for teachers to take bicycling education, for the two LCIs in Longmont to provide the instruction to the teachers and children, and for promotional material and prizes for elementary and middle school children to take part in the Safe Routes program. Of the five Longmont elementary schools that take part, three of them have the highest walk/bike rates in the United States. “Prior to Safe Routes to School, our parent survey showed that 189 students were getting driven to school each day, some from closer than a quarter-mile away,” says Safe Routes coordinator Buzz Feldman of Columbine Elementary. “After the program began, the number of cars dropped to around 30 cars per day.”
  • Sharrows. Sharrows or “shared use arrows” are a symbol of a bike with two chevrons over it. These are painted on the streets to remind motorists and cyclists that bicyclists may position themselves anywhere in the lane for safety. These were pioneered in Denver, Colorado. In California, these are approved statewide for use on streets that have on-street parallel parking, and that are too narrow to accommodate
    full bike lanes. The San Francisco Bike Program is to be thanked for over two years of studies and lobbying the state to adopt a sharrow standard.

What are some things you’ve seen in your community that improve conditions for cycling or encourage people to ride a bike?

4 Responses to “Ideas to promote cycling”

  1. 1 huphtur

    * Public Service Announcements on TV (preferably by Mayor, Chief of Police) to let people know that bikes belong on the road and not on the sidewalk.
    * Police need to start handing out tickets to people who ride bikes on the sidewalk.

  2. 2 James Fellrath

    This summer, Columbus started providing bike corrals for parking at our series of downtown festivals.

    This calls attention to the idea that bikes can be ridden downtown instead of driving cars. It also keeps the bikes out of the way of harm and/or theft, and also keeps them centrally located and not chained to everything in sight due to a dearth of bike racks.

  3. 3 Richard


    In some states it is not against the law to ride on the sidewalk, and due to the lack of information goven to motorists it is sometimes the only sane place to ride. Texas is one such state, and there are some roads in Collin county that, unfortunately, you would be insane to ride on without hopping on the sidewalk.

  4. 4 Ed W

    Thanks for the plug, Fritz! Actually, I got it from http://100ideasok.blogspot.com/ where the state is soliciting idea to improve Oklahoma. There’s a name for these idea-spawning exercises but it escapes me just now. Regardless, there are no bad ideas or stupid ideas when you’re doing something like this, because even an idiotic one can provide the spark for someone’s better idea. And if you’ve read CycleDog, you’ll know that I’m hardly afraid of idiotic ideas!

Of course, I have a few more ideas to add, and I'll likely return to this theme as more ideas pop out of my bottomless coffee cup.

I'd like to see employers entice their personnel to use bicycles for daily transportation by offering small cash incentives. If healthier employees make use of health insurance less frequently, companies save money, some of which should go back to those employees.

Some cities are looking at tax incentives for businesses that have a portion of their employees commute by bike.

Promote Route 66 as a cross-state cycling route, along with the old alignment of US40, the Joad Road as written about by Jim Foreman. The idea of using the old highways that often run parallel to modern interstates has some appeal since they're usually lightly traveled.

What about the Lincoln Highway - US30? Michael Wallis' new book may promote the Lincoln Highway just as he's promoted tourism along Route 66. And this holds a special interest for me since my old home town, Irwin, Pennsylvania, is along US30.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Safe Routes to School

Another response to Kelley, who was concerned about getting her children to and from school safely:

As you've already noted, drivers exceed the speed limit regardless of their proximity to schools, and it's simply not possible for police departments to provide enough officers to enforce the laws. I live in Owasso. Fifteen years ago, there were rarely more than 3 patrol cars on duty at any time. I think they may have 6 or 8 on patrol now, and we have 12 schools. The PD just can't cover every school every day, though to their credit, they do a good job when a problem is reported. When a speeding problem is identified, they'll put extra patrols on that area for a time. Traffic gets 'calmed' but the effect is temporary.

Traditionally, we've relied on a triangle of ideas that support cycling and cyclists: enforcement, education, and engineering. Like most citizens, I prefer proactive police work that mitigates or eliminates problems while they're small, rather than waiting for the other approach, an officer showing up to take a report after something bad has already happened.

Most but not all of the local elementary schools are in residential areas served with neighborhood streets having 25mph speed limits. Most parents won't let their kids ride bicycles to school on these streets because others are simply driving too fast. The kids who do ride stay on sidewalks. Honestly, I can't understand the compulsion to drive fast through a neighborhood when children are going to and from school, and I particularly do not understand why people feel their need to get their own kids to school on time somehow justifies putting someone else's kids at risk. But that's a rant for another time.

I'll return to sidewalk riding in a moment, but first I'd like to talk about bicycling education. Most of our BikeEd focuses on adults riding on the road. There's a good reason for this. John Forester pointed out that most grade school children (most, but not all) don't have the judgment skills necessary to ride unsupervised on the road with traffic. Given my own experiences riding with children, I'd have to agree. But your son is in that 12-13 year old range where he could begin learning those skills. I've told kids that their bicycle is the first step to driving a car. It can be an opportunity to learn the rules of the road and some of those critical judgment skills so necessary to a new driver. This assumes a parent is willing to learn the fundamentals of road cycling, and that they're able and willing to spend the time on the road with their kids. It isn't easy. There are those heart-in-your-mouth moments, times of incredible frustration and exasperation, and moments of pure gold.

So bicycling education, then, is primarily focused at the individual level. It would be nice if we could get a curriculum into the public schools, and I believe there is some effort in that direction, but I'm not at all familiar with it, so I hope someone with better information can step in. Teaching BikeEd in the schools would get the information out to a much wider audience, hopefully with a greater impact.

The other side of the triangle is engineering. The goal is to change behavior by providing infrastructure that causes people to act in defined ways. Ideally, we'd have a network of multi-use paths connecting neighborhoods with schools, parks, shopping centers, and retail stores. But we live in a far from ideal world. Given the infill around neighborhood schools, building MUPs is impractical. Providing a bike lane may seem to be a solution, but I'd have reservations about permitting a young child to use one unsupervised. The SRTS material included some information on walking buses and bicycling buses, if I recall right, in which groups of kids travel to school together under adult supervision. This diverges from the facilities and engineering to some extent,because it's relying on a presumably informed adult to shape child behavior, but the necessity of good roads and signalized intersections should be fairly obvious.

None of our triangle's sides can exist independently of the others. None of them alone provide a solution to the problems we face as cyclists and parents of cyclists. Yet when we acknowledge the limitations inherent in both law enforcement and engineering, bicycling education offers a practical approach to dealing with problems, though admittedly it's at the individual level rather than societal.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Tulsa trails...

This was my response to a well-meaning plea for bicycle trails servicing area schools:

Building trails that provide connectivity is certainly a laudable goal. But as always, the devil is in the details. There are a host of questions:

- Where does the right-of-way come from? Most schools have residential housing adjacent. Whose homes will be demolished to make right of way? Think about the elementary and middle schools in your area. Would it be possible to build a trail system that accessed those schools?

- Assuming the right of way can be found, how do you fund the construction? Trails cost roughly $1 million per mile. Should it come out of the school's budget, or is it more the sphere of public works or parks? Does it involve city,state, county, tribal, or federal land? Each entity has to sign off on the plan.

- Who will maintain the trail, or more directly, whose budget will pay for it?

If you're beginning to get the idea that planning and building a trail network involves a multitude of questions, compromises, competing interests, and protracted bureaucratic infighting, you begin to understand why they're difficult to bring into existence. A trail idea will not meet with universal acclaim. Quite the contrary, in fact. The NIMBYs, naysayers, and simple obstructionists show up at every public meeting. They can be quite vocal, and more importantly from the political classes point of view, they vote.

But that's just the political and planning end. Even if you have a trail system, parents have to permit their children to use it. Given the "stranger danger" paranoia that infects so many parents, can we really expect them to let their kids ride a bicycle to school? It would be pleasant to think that one or more parents would ride with them, but the days of Ozzie and Harriet are long gone. If I recall right, less than 20% of families have a stay-at-home Mom. Chances are, both parents are hustling off to work. There isn't time to ride a bike.

Before anyone brings up the idea of bikelanes that service schools, or the idea of utilizing existing sidewalks for the same purpose, let's remember that bikelanes complicate intersections and traffic interactions for adults. Children would have a much harder time negotiating such intersections. And sidewalks offer another level of complication as kids don't obey stop signs and motorists simply don't look for cyclists on the sidewalk. The crash rate is 3 times higher than it is on the street.

I attended an INCOG planning meeting some time ago when they made the initial proposal for the trail network in their service area. One of the planners said the typical timeline is 10 years from concept to completion. And that's true if there are no major complications. Tulsa's trail network is nearing completion, and despite it's wide-spread nature, it doesn't allow full connectivity in that it doesn't fully connect neighborhoods with schools, parks, businesses and shopping. You have to ride on the street to reach many destinations. That will always be true. However, the on-street bicycle route network complements the trail system by using lightly traveled neighborhood streets.

But think again about what I said about stranger danger. Do parents allow their children to use the existing trails and bike routes to reach their schools? Has anyone ever done a count of students biking to and from school on a regular basis? I think that would be interesting information to have before tying to launch a construction project.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

A note of thanks to Fritz...

You can tell a lot about a mechanic by looking at his toolbox. I've heard that apprentices once had to construct their own and present it at job interviews as an example of the quality of their work. What does my toolbox say about me? It's covered with family photos, and there's a bin for battery recycling, a Melitta coffee maker, and that Fat Cyclist jersey hanging on the end to dry.

Yes, a very pink Fat Cyclist jersey. There's a story to accompany it, of course, because anything that pink just has to have a story.

A few months ago, Fatty wrote that his wife, Susan, would be going through a second round of chemotherapy and radiation. She had been in remission. I can't begin to imagine the stress that family is experiencing. While Mary and I live with the effects of her muscular dystrophy, my pitifully human imagination can't stretch enough to encompass the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis. Maybe that's a blessing.

As a fund raiser for cancer research, Fatty designed this jersey and offered it for sale. Truthfully, I didn't buy one. No, this jersey came from Fritz over on Cycle-licious as a big thank-you for some of the writing I've done for him. To my way of thinking, I'm grossly overpaid. But thanks, Fritz! I promise I'll wear it often.

Wearing this jersey is a small thing, a tiny thing in the greater scheme of life, and while pink isn't exactly my favorite color, I'll wear this and wear it proudly. I deliberately hung it over the end of my tool box. Numerous co-workers commented on it this morning, some snickering until I explained the purpose. Some shared cancer stories involving friends and family. I learned a lot about my co-workers, things I never knew and never suspected. Many have been touched by cancer in one way or another.

But that got me thinking about some old pieces I'd written, pieces about those silent killers: high blood pressure, prostate and testicular cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer.

High blood pressure has no outward symptoms. The only way to detect it is to have your blood pressure checked. This is fairly easy as many drugstores have a free BP machine out front. I discovered there's a difference in pressure between my right and left arms, so it's important to test the same arm consistently. Treatment can include various drugs, and those old standbys, diet and exercise – just what a cyclist wants to hear! (LINK)

Men are at risk from two other silent killers, prostate and testicular cancers. A prostate exam is unpleasant, but it's the most reliable way of detecting an enlarged prostate early. And early detection is the best preventative. You can learn to do a self-exam for testicular anomalies. (LINK)

Women can detect breast cancer with a self examination, too. (LINK)

Colon cancer is another silent killer that effects both men and women. It has no symptoms until it's well advanced. In my case, a family history of rectal polyps and colon cancer led my doctor to recommend I get a colonoscopy at age 50. Again, it's not pleasant, but the alternative is far worse. (LINK)

Last night we talked about all this at dinner. Now, in our house, a family dinner can go into free fall very quickly as the blonds at the table roar off on conversational tangents. We were talking about the Fat Cyclist jersey and I said to Mary that she should consider getting a mammogram. “Do you know how they do those?” she shot back. “They hurt!”

Well, I have to go in for an annual prostate exam, you know, and they're not fun either!”

I don't have a prostate!”

How can you argue with logic like that? I'll bring it up again and again until she gets the exam. I love her too much to let it go.

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Response to Richard Reeves

The Tulsa World printed an interesting syndicated column by Richard Reeves earlier this week. This is my response:

Bicycles may be too dangerous to use in many American cities, but are they any more dangerous to life and limb than vans and trucks bigger than the homes most of us grew up in...” Richard Reeves, “Free Travel in Paris? Well, Almost.

Here in Tulsa, we have a pilot program not unlike that bicycle program in Paris. If I recall the census date correctly, the average commute distance here is comparable, about 5 miles or 25 to 30 minutes at bicycle speeds. I don't believe anyone would ever refer to Tulsa as 'Paris on the Arkansas' but we can hope!

But my focus in writing to you is that quotation up above. You believe that bicycling in major American cities is a highly risky endeavor, a belief that is both common and greatly exaggerated. Roughly 800 American cyclists die each year on our roads, and about a third of those deaths are children. I won't bore you with a long statistical argument. Suffice it to say that cyclists are only slightly more at risk than motorists, and that's mainly because motorists do not topple over.

Why do I say this? I'm a League of American Bicyclists instructor with over 30 years of road experience. We know that young riders and new riders are the most likely to crash. Experienced club cyclists crash very infrequently and commuting cyclists are the least likely to have an accident. So those of us riding back and forth to work every day are comparatively safe on the road. This may seem counter-intuitive, that a vulnerable road user can safely mix in with motor vehicle traffic, yet statistics confirm it.

I don't expect you to take my word for it. No, I'd prefer that you discover the reality of bicycle commuting for yourself. The first step is to sign up for a League Road1 class your area. This is the bicyclist's equivalent of driver's education. We teach people to ride safely and comfortably in all types of traffic situations. And like most educational efforts, we overcome misinformation and fear with facts and practical instruction. Learning to ride confidently in city traffic isn't an exercise in mind-numbing terror. It's doesn't require the strength and speed of a racing cyclist. Bicycle commuting is something that ordinary people can do everyday as part of a healthier, happier life. Trust me on this one – despite all the verbiage about green issues, congestion mitigation, and the like, most of us commute by bicycle because it's fun and we adults should seize every opportunity for a bit of fun!

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Things that go bump in the night...

I was descending the Galibier in a howling gale, my fingers stiff with cold and rain. The brakes were wet making the descent even more treacherous. The speed made raindrops feel like stones hitting my face and arms.

It was 3AM.

Mary sat up in bed. “Did you hear that?” she hissed.

The air conditioner was set at Arctic Blast. When she sat up, she pulled the pitifully thin blanket off of me. “Huh? I didn't hear anything. Go back to sleep.”

Moments later she sat up again. “Did you hear it? There's something in the room with us!” She turned the bedside lamp on its dimmest setting.

I sat up, looked around the room, and then pulled the blanket back up over my shoulders as I lay down again. “No. There's nothing here. Just go to sleep.” A polar bear may have been lurking in the bathroom. I didn't care. The blanket was the only protection I truly needed. A chupacabra could have been hiding under the bed, but if only I could get back to sleep it wouldn't matter. I was losing sensation in my extremities as the cold sapped body heat.

She turned the lamp off, and then just as I was dozing, riding over the crest of the Telegraph and grabbing a newspaper from a spectator in order to stuff it under my jersey as protection from the cold, “There it is again! Get up!” She turned on the lamp, hopped out of bed and turned on the overhead light as well. She went down the hall turning on the hall lights and the kitchen lights.

I got out of bed quietly so as not to disturb that slumbering polar bear. In the kitchen, I got a glass of water and looked around more carefully but didn't discover any bears, elephants, cape buffalo, or any other critter the size of a Volkswagen. And believe me, I looked very carefully.

We went back to bed after I visited the bathroom, stepping over the sleeping bear on the way. Mary brought her cat to bed, an astute move on her part, because the cat's more finely tuned senses would be our early warning device, a trip wire against any intruder. Not that the cat would be much help, of course, since his normal reaction to anything unusual is to have an immediate nervous breakdown requiring hospitalization in a veterinary psychiatric facility. He'd warn us by completely freaking out, howling like a madman while going totally rigid and swelling up the the size of a furry beach ball.

The cat curled up with his tail over his head and went to sleep. Mary went to sleep.

I was wide awake. I got up and kicked the polar bear back to consciousness, and then we went out for coffee.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

100 ideas

For those of you in Oklahoma, please be aware that the state is soliciting ideas. I've seen one that recommended lengthening the school day, one to make I-44 into a 6 lane highway across the state, and some truly goofy ones. Here's the website:


But if the state can do it, why can't we copy the idea and come up with a list of things to improve cycling? Better bikes? Better roads? What ideas do we have?

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Three Headlines...(OT)

Here are three headlines from the same page of today's Tulsa World:

Report to say Iraqis haven't met any goals

Monthly cost for conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan: $12B

Iraqis warn against hasty withdrawal

So the Iraqi government is unable to help their own people, and we have to prop them up at a cost of billions each month, and they want us to keep on doing so for the foreseeable future. Thousands of lives have been lost. More thousands have been maimed. And our commander-in-chief's only plan is to push this off onto his successor.

Impeach the bastards - both Bush and Cheney. At worst they're the most corrupt administration is our history. At best, they're the most incompetent. They've trampled our rights, illegally imprisoned citizens, and ignored international law and our own courts. We have a system of checks and balances. It's time to check these guys - hard.

I know, I know. Some of you would be terrified of the very prospect of President Pelosi, but I ask you, would we be better off?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

An interesting mile...

It's roughly a mile from my home to the Panera coffee shop. I meet Wade there for coffee every weekend. We catch up on family news, bait each other with political tidbits, and sit at our table watching the world turn. There was a time in my life that I did this in bars. That time is long gone. Besides, I can't stay awake long enough for the bar scene these days. Early to bed, early to rise, etc. Even on weekends, I'm up before dawn.

So this morning was no exception. I was up and around before the sun was up. At about 6:30, I lifted the garage door and set off on the Centurion for the coffee shop. This bike is my utility/errand runner this summer, set up with flat bars, mudguards, and a big, blue milk crate strapped to the rear rack. Funky! Leaving the neighborhood, I have to turn right onto the frontage road that goes north toward Panera. I was about to make that turn, and I was looking down the hill to my left, when a wrong-way rider went across my front wheel! He missed me by only a foot or two. The guy could have been coming off the sidewalk because it ends at that intersection or he could have been riding on the wrong side of the road. Regardless, he was there, and just as quickly, he was gone, continuing down the hill on the wrong side of the road. I was so startled I didn't even think to yell at him.

I made a mental note to be a little more alert and aware, then pushed off up the frontage road. It crests and then descends for maybe a quarter of a mile. Up ahead, I could see a runner coming down the road on my side, just like the wrong way cyclist. Now, I'll grant that there's little traffic early on Saturday morning, so running in the road isn't much of a danger. Still, there's an unobstructed sidewalk along that stretch, and it's all at grade, meaning there are no curbs to step up and down. Regardless, I moved well to the left of the lane and gave the runner a friendly wave as I passed. He stared straight ahead, stone faced, evidently so concentrated on his training that he couldn't acknowledge a simple social nicety. Maybe my funky bike put him off because no 'serious' cyclist would ride something like that.

I decided his name would be Dick.

But that was the low point of my day. Wade and I had coffee, discussed the world's problems without settling any of them, and left to mow his acreage at an airfield north of Collinsville. I got to play with a 4WD Diesel tractor, a chainsaw, a pole saw, and various other implements of destruction. All the rain we've had made the grass very thick. It took 4 hours to cut it all.

And when I returned home, I mowed our grass. It's after dark as I write this and I'm very tired. This is one of those evenings I may have a tall, stiff drink and tumble into bed.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Six Signs...and more

Ya gotta love it!

Here's someone more snarky than me, and he's consistent about it too:


Now, click on the link and go read!

Mine's bigger!

And from Salt Lake City, the known center of the strange underwear universe, there this story about local cyclists and a proposed ban on tight, clingy bicycle shorts.

(By way of Dave Moulton's Bike Blog)

The writer, D. P. Sorensen, may be onto something. The decline of western civilization coincided with the introduction of Lycra as a substitute for good, honest wool in cycling clothing. That also involved the introduction of indexed shifting and a bewildering variety of gears rather than just the ten or so we really need. We cyclists are getting soft. Our civilization is at risk of being over-run by hordes of manpri-clad barbarians on single speeds!

And in other news....

Since I took vacation today, I did the Tour day Owasso, wandering around in search of yard sales. And I came home with some goodies!

I found a Wacom ET-0405-U tablet, a drawing input device, complete with pen and mouse. Also, the same people had MS reference books for Access 2000 and Visual Basic 6.0. I paid $5 for the lot! And the drawing device works!

Just imagine the trouble I can get into by drawing cartoons on the computer.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Preparation for the Tour day France

Poster Available from All Posters

Bicycle Net published a list of essential French phrases to aid in understanding some of the terms used during the Tour de France, or as we say here in America, Tour Day France. The list is long and fairly comprehensive. I've merely copied some excerpts below. If you need to pronounce them properly, try to speak through your nose as much as possible and do a passable imitation of Pepe Le Pew. While we Americans cannot claim to be intimately familiar with French culture, we can be very thankful for the culinary masterpiece they've shared with the rest of the world - French fries. With a bit of ketchup or mayonnaise, they're perfect!


Jul 2007

Parlez Vous Tour de France? - French Words Useful for Understanding the Tour de France

French Vocabulary Related to Cycling and the Tour de France

Whether you love cycling or just watching competitions like the Tour de France, you’ll want to learn some French vocabulary related to cycling.

un commissaire - referee who travels by car

un coureur - rider, cyclist

un cycliste - rider, cyclist

un directeur sportif - manager

un domestique - support rider

un échappé - breakaway

une équipe - team

un peloton - pack, bunch

un poursuivant - chaser

un rouleur - smooth and steady rider

un soigneur - rider’s assistant

un bidon - water bottle

un maillot - jersey

une musette - feed bag

un col - mountain pass

une côte - hill, slope

la flamme rouge - red marker at 1 kilometer from finish

la lanterne rouge - last rider

le maillot à pois - polka dot jersey (worn by best climber)

le maillot blanc - white jersey (worn by best rider under 25)

le maillot jaune - yellow jersey

le maillot vert - green jersey (worn by leader in points)

Of course, here at CycleDog, there are a few additions:

un dopeur - a rider who cheats by using banned performance enhancing drugs. According to the French, this includes all non-French riders.

un whiner - anyone who works for L'Equipe, the French sporting newspaper that covers the tour.

un fair and balanced - L'Equipe's coverage of foreign riders.

un loser - French rider.

un coureur American - upstarts who through chicanery, cheating, and out right thievery have prevented honest, upright French riders from winning their national tour.

L'année prochaine - Literally, "next year" in English, when the French can hope to win the Tour for the first time since 1985.

Enjoy these words, and feel free to use them in ordinary conversation around the office or shop. When others mispronounce them or use the English equivalents, correct them immediately. Honestly, they'll thank you for it and no one will think of you as a pretentious asshole.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Images from Velorution:



Now, I understand the reverse-snobbery appeal this clothing has for people who disdain the very idea of riding a bicycle while wearing clothing designed for the purpose. Those of us from the lycra-and-garish-jersey crowd are somehow traditionalists. Other than graphics, cycling clothes haven't changed significantly since synthetic fabrics replaced wool as the fiber of choice.

But as I said, cycling clothes are primarily functional. The fabric itself is meant to wick away sweat. The tight fit avoids bunching that can lead to saddle sores. It also reduces drag. A tight fitting jersey doesn't flap in the wind, creating both drag and noise.

I get the impression that much of the high-fashion-with-a-bike is just another reason for dressing up nicely, and that the bicycle is merely another fashion accessory. Most - not all - of these people will move on to the Next Big Thing when it arises. It's not unlike the newbie fixed gear riders who just had to have one, but discovered that despite the cool factor inherent in owning a fixed gear bike, actually riding it was something very different.

I'm not alone in thinking that, of course. Bike Snob NYC covers it all in far more snarky fashion than I can.

But time moves on, and clothing fashion changes. As is the case with the Nehru jacket above, we can be very thankful. Today's nattily attired rider in plus fours will be long gone, and some of us will still be on the road, wearing loud jerseys and riding fixed gears. I say that as a guy who uses cycling clothing for its functional aspects. I don't really care about style. In fact, I have no problem wearing plaids with stripes.

But on second thought, do you think that Nehru jacket would go well with those shorts up above?


Cyclists are no better than dogs...

Here's another "cyclist killed by a motorist" story. It pisses me off that a driver can kill someone, claim "I didn't see him", and walk away without any charges. It's almost like he hit a dog, nothing more.

If I walked outside, fired off a round from my .45, and the bullet killed someone in the distance, someone I never saw, do you think the police would accept the "I didn't see him" argument? No harm. No foul. No charges? Hell, no! My sorry ass would be in jail.

This cyclist was hit and killed on a bridge, and as we all know, bridges are known for their curves and undulations. Oh, wait, they're not! They're straight and relatively flat, a perfect place for a cyclist to lurk, waiting to hurl himself in front of an inattentive driver.


Cyclist killed on Clark Memorial Bridge
Driver didn't see him in time, police say

By Jessie Halladay
The Courier-Journal

A bicyclist crossing the Clark Memorial Bridge was hit and killed by a van yesterday.

George Cronen Jr., 57, of the 2100 block of Gladstone Avenue near Bardstown Road and Tyler Lane, was pronounced dead on the bridge at 4:34 p.m., Jefferson County deputy coroner Larry Carroll said.

Cronen, who was wearing a helmet, hit a steel support girder on the bridge and was thrown from his bike, authorities said.

The accident happened about 3:15 p.m. as the cyclist was traveling south in the right lane and was hit by an older model Ford van, said Lt. Doug Sweeney with the Louisville Metro Police traffic unit.

The driver, whose name was not released by police, told investigators that the cyclist was too close to avoid. "The driver just did not see him until it was too late," Sweeney said.

No charges are expected to be filed, he said.

As required by Kentucky law, the driver's blood will be tested for traces of drugs or alcohol. But Sweeney said police do not suspect alcohol was a factor. During the investigation, the bridge was closed in both directions.

Reporter Jessie Halladay can be reached at (502) 582-4081. Reporter Charlie White contributed to this story.


Monday, July 02, 2007

One sick puppy...

These are my 'sick puppy' drawings, done this morning with MS Paint on a lark. I may use one of them to replace the cartoon of me used here on CycleDog. Let's see how they look after they're posted.