Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cleaning Up This Town

We've had some of those warm, clear days we seem to get every February in Issaquah, the days that sucker you into thinking spring is just around the corner and then the cold rain returns for many more weeks. But for now, it's wonderful. I'm out running a bunch of small errands on my bike when I see her. She's walking her dog, but stopping every few feet to pick up trash and shove it in a big plastic bag. She's got one yellow plastic glove on her garbage hand. This is obviously not some random action. This is pre-meditated.

I'm the kind of guy who talks to strangers and I guess a forty-eight year old dude on a tiny bright red Dahon folding bike isn't too threatening a figure to a woman walking a large, friendly dog. At least she doesn't pull out any mace or anything when I ride up and say "Hey, are you picking up garbage because you're a cool person or...?" I kind of let the thought fizzle out as I realize I don't quite know how to end that sentence. I said I'm a guy who talks to strangers, I didn't say I was any good at it.

The woman laughs and says she has to walk the dog anyway, she might as well pick up some trash as long as she's out. "That's awesome," I gush. I introduce myself and she introduces herself and the dog. I have a mind like a steel sieve and manage to forget both names while I rummage through my pockets for the pen that is usually there but today is back home on the kitchen table. "Can I take your picture?" I ask while doing a bad job of explaining about GAIT and my blog. Somehow she decides that this penless blogger on the funny little bike is probably mostly harmless and agrees. I give her my card and if she emails me, I'll point her to this blog entry.

It doesn't matter what her name is, what matters is that she's doing something to make her town a little nicer. And if she can do it, heck I can do it too. Not every day perhaps but maybe a bit now and then.

The next day is another sunny day and I have to run some more errands. I grab a bag on my way out the door. It doesn't take long to fill it up.

Gandhi said we should be the change we want to see in the world. I'm glad the lady with the garbage bag and the yellow glove and the big black dog reminded me of that.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why Don't You Commute By Bicycle?

Over the years I've learned some interesting things from the comments folks leave on this blog, so I figured I might as well ask a couple of questions here and see what answers you come up with.

In this post the question is:

Why Don't You Commute By Bicycle?

Use the comment section to post as much or as little as you'd like about why you don't commute by bicycle. If you do commute by bike, please go to the companion post Why Do You Commute By Bicycle? and comment there. If you sometimes commute by bicycle and sometimes don't, feel free to comment on both posts.


Why Do You Commute By Bicycle?

Over the years I've learned some interesting things from the comments folks leave on this blog, so I figured I might as well ask a couple of questions here and see what answers you come up with.

In this post the question is:

Why Do You Commute By Bicycle?

Use the comment section to post as much or as little as you'd like about why you commute by bicycle. If you don't commute by bike, please go to the companion post Why Don't You Commute By Bicycle? and comment there. If you sometimes commute by bicycle and sometimes don't, feel free to comment on both posts.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ernesto Bike Lube

What a cyclist uses for chain lubrication is one topic that can lead to lively debate. You'll find folks who swear by (or swear at) White Lightning, Boeshield, ProLink, TriFlow, Pedro's, etc. Ultra-distance legend Lon Haldeman is more casual about such things, lubing his bike's chain with whatever leftover oil he finds in discarded gas station oil cans. My own preference is for a lube that holds up well in the wet, isn't excessively messy and ideally isn't adding to Exxon's morbidly obese bottom line.

A couple of months ago I noticed that some guy called Ernesto is sponsoring nice guy Dave Nice. Ernesto and a couple of his buddies have a little company that makes chain lube from soybeans. I needed some lube, so I took a chance and ordered a four ounce bottle of the stuff.

It works. I've been using the stuff for the past couple of months (about 2,000 miles) of commuting and other on-road and off-road adventures in the Pacific Northwest. I've used less than an ounce of the lube in those two months. I use just enough lube to keep the squeaks away and wipe off the excess with a rag. That seems to be the recipe for keeping things reasonably clean and reasonably quiet.

And I like supporting Ernesto and his buddies instead of the guys whose business is built on sucking the remains of dead dinosaurs from the every corner of the globe. It makes me feel like I'm doing my bit to live up to the slogan on my t-shirt.

Friday, February 22, 2008

DNA trail led cops to unlikely bike theft suspect

The Seattle Times has a fascinating story today about a guy who would test ride high-end bicycles and then never return. The guy managed to steal a lot of bikes this way. Read all about it here:


The big break in the case came from DNA the police extracted from the disposable coffee cup the suspect left behind at one of the bike shops.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Two Motivational Videos

I really like both of these short videos because they both stress the same basic message, ordinary people can make a difference. The first video, produced by the CTC, does feature a very attractive young model on a bike but I think the real power of the message comes from all the ordinary and not so ordinary people who join her. The guy in the suit on the folding bike, the speedy old lady and the fun jumping BMX bloke all add to the "we can do this" feeling. My favorite has to be the snaggle-toothed fellow on the recumbent with the peace sign on his army helmet. I totally relate to that dopey grin of his.

The second video is maybe even better than the CTC video. It wasn't even made to sell bicycling, Miller made it to sell beer. This is a such a beautiful image.

Those of us who love cycling have all the motivation we need. We know life is better outside the box. Videos like these two do a great job of getting that message out to a wider audience.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Do I Contradict Myself?

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
The words are Walt Whitman's from Song of Myself, but they could just as well apply to a Humvee with a Share The Road License Plate. Note, this picture is real. It was sent to us at the Bicycle Alliance by one of our members who snapped the picture while driving on one of the local roads. The only image manipulation I did was to obscure the plate number to protect the Humvee owner's privacy.

And I'm not posting this to mock the Humvee owner. The Humvee owner is probably also a member of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and even if they aren't, a portion of that license plate money goes to the Bicycle Alliance. And it has always struck me as ironic that my work, which is basically helping people figure out ways to get around without using a motor vehicle, is funded, in part, by license plates on motor vehicles. Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself.

Now I have often said that I am not anti-car, I'm pro-bike. That said, I have been known to go into a good, foaming "SUVs suck" rant now and then. And they do suck, you know. I mean, really, look at the safety stats. But what they really suck is resources. Don't kid yourself. SUVs take a lot of energy to build and run and they spew a lot of stuff into the atmosphere.

But if you need one for, whatever the heck you need one for, there is something you can do. Drive it less. Drive is less by yourself. Maybe you can ride your bike to the store. Maybe you can carpool. Or walk. Or take the bus.

The folks over at the Sightline Institute think about things like this a lot and they published this handy chart:

We're not just sharing the road, we're sharing a planet. My big beef with SUVs is that, as my wife observed "they share the way Eric (our son) shares donuts." Eric makes sure he's got all the donuts he wants and if any are left over, he shares those.

I like bikes because they're fun, but also because they are a very efficient way to get around. These days there is a lot of talk about bio-fuel but a lot of that seems to come down to making choices of growing food or growing fuel. When you bicycle, food is your fuel.

We all make choices every day and those choices add up. My friend Chris commented, "We're not saving the planet, the planet will get along fine with or without us. We're saving ourselves." And while he's right in one way, geologically the planet will do fine, in terms of the biosphere we have a damn big impact. And that big impact is as the result of a lot us doing a lot of little things, over and over again.

Is this trip necessary? Do I need that widget? Can we keep doing this? I think these are questions that are worth asking.

And often times I find I contradict myself but I continue to try to do what I can. Little things can add up. A few more bikes on the road. A few trips not taken. A few more filled passenger seats.

We do what we can.

Bike More. Drive Less. Share the Road. Share the Planet.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

One Watt Planet Bike Blaze (and some other lights) Reviewed

OK, first off, here's the disclaimer. For quite a while I've said that I'm just an ordinary guy who bikes around and writes some stuff. But by riding more than a lot of folks and writing more than a lot of folks, I find myself, more and more these days, in situations that don't happen to normal folks. I call this the Jerry Pournelle Syndrome.

Back in the early days of personal computers, Byte magazine was the magazine for computer nerds. A guy named Jerry Pournelle (yeah the same Jerry Pournelle who writes science fiction novels) wrote this column that was supposed to represent the "normal" user's view of computers. But his column became popular, people sent him stuff and when he'd have a problem, he could make phone calls that "normal" people couldn't. I remember one instance where he had a problem with some Microsoft product and Jerry's solution was something like "so I called up my buddy Bill Gates and he flew a couple of techs down from Redmond to look at my system..." OK, maybe it wasn't quite that extreme, but it was close.

Anyhow, these days if you have a blog and a point of view and a reasonable set of eyeballs that show up on your web pages, folks will send you stuff. I turn down a lot of stuff that doesn't interest me and I sometimes do spend my own money on some stuff I review. And, as the folks at Accelerade will tell you, freebies don't guarantee a good review. It really helps if you actually have a product that the reviewer likes.

Another factor that adds to the moral fog of the blog review process is that some bloggers, like me, make some money off sales that come via blog links. So if I say good things about Planet Bike and the link goes to Amazon and you buy a Planet Bike light there, I do get some money. Which I then spend on still more bike stuff and the cycle repeats.

So, as I've said many times, I may be biased. Let the buyer beware.

Which brings me to Planet Bike. They make good stuff. They donate 25% of their profits to Bicycle Advocacy. For example, they donate to my employer, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and have helped us out with programs like Get Lit. And sometimes they send me stuff. For free. Sometimes being a blogger is pretty dang cool. The freebies (along with red cape and goggles and getting to hang out with Xeni and Cory in the Boing Boing hot air balloon) are definitely up there on the list of blog perks.

Monday I wind up signing for a package at the Bikestation. Inside the box was a nifty "Global Cooling Machine" t-shirt from Planet Bike and their brand new, first sample batch off the boat, not availiable is stores yet, One Watt Planet Bike Blaze Headlight.

Initial reaction among the folks at the Bikestation was "Wow!"

The Blaze One-Watt is bright. Low beam is brighter than what is put out by its half-watt sibling. I've been happily commuting with two of the half-watt lights this winter. At 6:00 PM, I set off for my 18 mile commute home in the 48 degree rain. The new light uses the same mounting bracket as both the Beamer and the half-watt Blaze but the light itself is about a centimeter longer.

I played with the light on the commute home. This is a very nice light. I have good night vision, so I mostly ran it on low. Low beam doesn't seem much lower than high, but the difference is noticeable. The flash rate is rapid. I have mixed feelings about flashing lights, they help drivers notice you, but it's hard to gauge the location of a flashing light. Because of my mixed feelings and an appreciation for the value of redundancy, I'll probably stick to a dual light set-up, but the one-watt Blaze would really be all the headlight I'd need. Still, I think a Blaze as the main light and a slightly lower powered Planet Bike light, possibly set to flash, makes for a real nice commuting set-up.

The new one-watt Blaze uses a very efficient Cree XRE Power LED and when I got home at the end of my hour and half commute, the light was still cool to the touch. The extra centimeter of length on the light is taken up by an aluminum ring which seems to do a fine job as a heat-sink.

As you can see from the pictures, the new light is iMac white. I'm not wild about the color scheme, but the light works well enough I'd use it even if the case were purple with green polka-dots. And, since the back part of the light is identical to the grey half-watt light, I can swap back portions to make a couple of unique white/grey and grey/white lights.

I haven't ridden with the one-watt Blaze enough to test the battery life claims, but in general Planet Bike seems to be in the right ballpark with their claimed battery life. The light works fine with NiMH rechargeable batteries.

Planet Bike lists the battery life (probably assuming alkaline cells) as:

High beam -- 7 hours
Low beam -- 14 hours
Flashing -- 20 hours

The suggested retail price of the one-watt Blaze is $39.99 to $44.99

And Planet Bike is also coming out with a two-watt version (Even I don't have one of those yet!) They tell me the specs on that light will be:

High beam -- 4 hours
Low beam -- 8 hours
Flashing -- 15 hours

The suggested retail price of the two-watt Blaze will be $49.99 to $54.99

From left to right: Planet Bike Beamer 3, Planet Bike Blaze Half-Watt, Planet Bike Blaze One-Watt. All three lights are powered by 2 AA batteries and can run on NiMH rechargeable batteries. Note in this picture, I used the flash on the camera. This picture probably most accurately reflects the relative brightness of the lights.

The same shot, but with the camera's flash suppressed. You can see a bit more of the side light spill from the Beamer 3 and the Blaze One-Watt.

The light added to this picture is the Princeton Tec EOS. The EOS has been on the market for several years and is still a very good light. My original review of the EOS is here. The EOS is still quite a good helmet light, but in terms of a light to have on the bike, the new Planet Bike One-Watt Blaze with it's Cree XRE LED beats the EOS. The beam is better, the flash rate is better for cycling and I much prefer having 2 AA batteries instead of three AAA cells.

Finally, here's a fuzzy picture of some tail lights. Here's the short story, if your current tail light is more than a couple of years old, you owe it to yourself to check out the recent LED tail lights. LED lights have gotten much brighter and more efficient in the past couple of years and even the cheapest lights of today may be brighter and run longer on a set of batteries than an expensive light from a few years ago.

In the above picture, the light on the left is an under-$10 Bell light that I blogged about over a year ago. That cheap light is still working fine, although the cheaper lights are often prone to problems in the wet weather.

The second light from the left, the light that makes all others pale in comparison, is the Planet Bike Superflash. This is a very bright, some might say obnoxiously bright, light. Some folks, including me, have had problems with water leaking past the seal on the Superflash, causing the light to shut off. Dan at Planet Bike tells me they did have gasket problems with some of the Superflash lights and they've now changed the durometer of the rubber on the gasket. Planet Bike has a good warranty and will replace lights that have a problem or you can do what I did, which is wrap a bit of electrical tape around the outside of the light. Since I did that, I haven't had any problem with water getting inside my Superflash.

The other two lights are also Planet Bike products. The kidney-shaped light is my favorite tail light, the Planet Bike Blinky 3. The Blinky 3 is inexpensive and plenty bright. I've never had a problem with one and I have them on various bikes and clipped to my backpack. The final light is a little Planet Bike tail light with a pivoting bracket designed to go on the back of a helmet. I uses a single AAA cell as it's power source. The pivoting bracket is nice in theory and the single cell keeps the weight low, but the light may or may not work on your helmet.

Finally, about that green shirt the Planet Bike folks sent me. It's green, it's cotton and it's something I can wear to all those planet-saving eco fairs I wind up going to as part of my job. Of course, the green clashes with my red blogger's cape, but I usually don't wear the cape out in public!

Keep 'em rolling,


Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Politics of Human Power

Politics effects public policy and those policies effect the places we live and how we travel through the world. This post expresses some of my views on the current political situation and does not necessarily represent those views of my employer, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. There are many people, many cyclists, who hold a wide range of views and I have friends (and family) whose politics run across a wide range of political thought. Whatever your views, I appreciate the time you take to read my blog.

Saturday, February 9th 2008, political caucuses were held across Washington state. Unlike primaries, where people simply vote (and in many places can vote by mail), in a caucus you actually show up. In a primary vote, your ballot is secret. In a caucus, you are physically in a room with your neighbors, making your preference known, discussing candidates and issues and possibly swaying others to your point of view.

Mark Thomas, Kevin Humphreys, Matt Newlin and I skipped the Seattle International Randonneurs ride on Vashon Island, opting instead for a more local morning ride that would get us back to our respective homes in time to attend our local caucuses. My precinct caucus was at a school on up on the Issaquah Plateau, about three miles from my home.

My wife and I live human-powered, human-sized lives and have opted not to own an automobile. We get around mostly by foot or bicycle and sometimes use various forms of mass transit. Christine is predominantly a walker, she walks to her job as a shopper for Safeway.com about a mile from our home and at work she walks up and down the grocery aisles, filling home delivery orders that customers have placed on the internet. Even though I'm a professional bike commuter, Christine and I often walk around Issaquah together rather than bike. It's simpler, more conducive to conversation and we're in no rush. We hold hands like young lovers.

Naturally, we walked up to our caucus.

The area east of Seattle, including the Cascade foothill town of Issaquah where I live, has grown tremendously over the past several decades. The downtown core of Issaquah is boxed in by low mountains to the south, Lake Sammamish to the north and the Issaquah Plateau to the northwest. The Issaquah Highlands, up on the Plateau, is where many of the new homes, businesses and schools have been constructed in the past few years.

Traffic is a problem here, but Issaquah's mayor (herself a walker) and city council recognize that cycling and walking are part of the transportation solution, so we have things like sidewalks and trails and we're working on getting more. A local group called Getting Around Issaquah Together (GAIT) works at the grassroots level to keep our city walkable, bikeable and liveable.

Christine and I walk from our home in downtown, along streets with sidewalks, complete streets, and up the Plateau via a pedestrian and cycling path. The last half mile, along the busy Issaquah-Fall City Road, has a narrow shoulder and a thin strip of grass where we walk, but this could be better.

As we walk to our caucus, Christine notes that the Republican caucus is happening over at Clark Elementary school, a much closer walk. Our family is fairly diverse politically, our 22 year old son Peter, who is currently attending Eastern Washington University in Cheney, has explained to me "I don't ride a bicycle because I'm a damn hippie like you, Dad. I ride a bike because I'm fiscally conservative." His 19 year old brother Eric, who is attending Bellevue Community College and working as an office manager for AOA Dental Lab in Seattle, is similarly more right-leaning than Christine and I and he gets exasperated with our low-consumption lifestyle. "You always say things like 'money can't buy happiness', Dad but how do you know? It can buy some pretty cool stuff! Maybe if you made more of it you'd see that." Christine and I are just happy that we've raised a couple of boys who can think for themselves, fend for themselves, figure things out and make the choices that they think are best.

Despite Eric's close following of the presidential election process, he's not going to his caucus. Things seem to be more settled on that side of things and he seems confident that Senator McCain will get the Republican nomination whether or not Eric Peterson of Issaquah Washington attends his caucus.

On the Democratic side, things are not so settled. Although I have a great affinity for Congressman Dennis Kucinich since, like me, he is short, carries a lot of stuff in his pockets and has a gorgeous wife. But even the quixotic Mr. Kuchinich has determined at this date that he cannot win the presidency. Christine and I are attending our caucus to have our say, to advance the cause of the candidate we feel best represents our views and has the best chance of winning the election.

The school cafeteria is packed when we get there and becomes more even more packed as the time approaches 1:00 PM. The Democratic caucus organizer truthfully jokes that George Bush has been the most effective person for Democratic recruitment ever. Christine and I find our precinct table and settle in.

The turnout is huge. Families with young kids, a hunched and wrinkled old woman with a walker, teachers, software engineers, retired folks, moms, dads, singles, couples, veterans, Americans.

We get instructions, a lot of us are new to this process. At 1:30 PM we sign in. We fill out our names, addresses, contact information and finally initial presidential preference. There is a second blank, one that we can fill in if we wish to change our selection after discussion. There are more people than blank sign-in sheets but tablet paper can be used.

Almost every on in our precinct votes initially for Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. One person cast a vote of Mr. Kucinich and a couple listed as undecided but the bulk of the votes went to the two Senators. And of the forty or so people gathered around our precinct's couple of tables more than thirty voted for Senator Obama initially.

We could speak to make our case for the candidates we chose. A young school teacher introduced herself and said why she was supporting Senator Clinton. She talked about Clinton's health-plan, how it would cover more people. I spoke after her and I spoke in support of Senator Obama.

I talked about my sister who lives back in the midwest, my sister whose son is currently on active duty in Iraq. I recounted a conversation I had with my sister where she stated flatly that she'd never vote for Senator Clinton. My sister is not alone in that sentiment. It may or may not be fair. While there are many folks who support Senator Clinton and her policies, there are many others who are steadfast in their dislike of her. Just as George Bush can mobilize the Democrats and independents against him, Senator Clinton can move the Republicans and independents against her.

And Senator Obama is bringing more people in. In terms of policy there is very little difference between Obama's and Clinton's positions. Earlier in the campaign Senator Obama filled a stadium in Boise with people eager to hear him speak. Boise, Idaho, a state not known for it's Democratic leanings. On Friday, Senator Obama over-filled the Key Arena in Seattle. He took time outside the arena to speak to those who could not get in. Senator Obama is bringing more people in, people anxious to change this country for the better. I don't think the large caucus turnout is just anti-Bush, there are a large number of people out to support Senator Obama.

A few members of our precinct caucus changed their initial votes. I believe one vote changed to Clinton and two changed to Obama. In the end when the ratios were calculated and the delegates assigned, our precinct allocated three delagates to Senator Obama and one to Senator Clinton.

Now, hours later, the caucus results for Washington are in. Democratic turnout was high state-wide. The radio tells me that in Kirkland the caucus was too big for the school cafeteria and overflowed into the parking lot. Senator Obama won Washington by a factor of about two to one.

I believe Senator Obama is good man and I think he has the best chance of any Democrat running to win the presidency this fall. I also believe in a lot of his positions and what he stands for. I like that he reaches out to work with others, a trait that also is apparent in his likely opponent Senator McCain. I'll also restate what I have often said about the job of President of the United States. Mr. T said it best, "I pity the fool" who gets that job.

Of course there is more to life than bicycles, but I do feel good about supporting a candidate who recognizes human power as a valid component of human life. Over on the Bicycle Diaries Blog I found this from Senator Obama's response to a letter asking for his support of Senate Bill 858: the Bicycle Commuters Benefits Act of 2007:

The benefits of commuting by bicycle is almost an endless list — reducing harmful emissions, reducing congestion, reducing petroleum consumption, promoting personal health — but our public policies have evolved to where smart and sustainable transportation uses are discouraged.
Roads are designed without pedestrian or bike paths, office and shopping parks are designed around the automobile, and even the best transit systems may be incompatible with bike use. It is time to revisit all federal policies to better accommodate the energy and environmental health priorities of the 21st century.
Also on that site I found this picture of a young Barack Obama on a trike. Even today, he looks like a man who still remembers what it was like to be that smiling kid. A man who hopes for a better world and tries to make the world be that better place.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

David Sylvester: Doing his best each moment

David Sylvester describes himself as "A man, just a regular guy." David's story, no make that David's life, is an example of what can be done by choosing a vehicle, choosing a direction and doing your best.

David's life is out there on the road. His story is here:


Dave Kannas: View From The Saddle

Dave Kannas recently started writing a cycling column for the West Seattle Herald. His piece yesterday, Can't we all just get along? is wonderful. You can read it here:


Monday, February 04, 2008

Sheldon Brown

A wise, gentle, witty, caring, thoughtful and generous man has left the world of the living, but he leaves behind a great example of what one man can do with a passionate life, freely shared. In the past few hours, the internet has bloomed with tributes to Sheldon, folks telling how he touched their lives, how he was always generous with his time and patient with his answers.

Sheldon lived an astoundingly full life and somehow found time to log his discoveries in rich detail. He certainly knew bikes but he also laid down some of the first tracks in a wilderness called the internet and he taught a lot of people how to homestead here. How to homestead and how to behave. Share what you know, do what you love, live life beyond the computer screen and report back. Sign your work. Laugh often. Read. Sing. Rejoice.

Sheldon was so encyclopedic in his knowledge, so prolific in his postings that some of us wondered sometimes if perhaps he'd actually joined with his computer, his email filters and databases of arcane facts welded together with home-brew scripts that of course he'd freely share. And now they tell us Sheldon is gone, his mighty heart has beat its last.

His cyber opus will live on, of course. Google's spiders will tell you how deeply wound the man's knowlege is woven into the world's web. But no more postings from the man himself? No more delightful bikes? No more reports of his lovely family, the books he's read, the songs he's sung? Our world is poorer for his passing, but so rich for his having been here with us, showing us a wonderful way to live.

Sheldon Brown had perhaps the richest home page on the internet, a page that gave the reader perhaps the truest sense of the man. Sheldon is gone, but in a way he's not. He gave us so much, so freely and because of that we can still go here:


Thank you Sheldon. Thank you for everything.

Danger In The Bike Lane

I'd mentioned a while back that I'd gone riding around the city with Mike Lindblom of the Seattle Times. Mike's article, Danger in the Bike Lane, is the Time's front page story today. You can read it here:


Saturday, February 02, 2008

An Update On Louise

Louise is out of the hospital now and is recovering at home. She's in very good spirits and she's strong as a bear. I think the doctors weren't used to seeing somebody as fit as Louise, they'd been concerned about her low pulse rate but that seems to be a function of her big cyclist's heart. And BTW, the other cyclist whose name I didn't get (sorry), was a seventy year old guy who was on his way to the Y to work out. And it sounds like he is going to be fixed up OK as well. Louise's comment, when she was told she was being discharged and it was OK for her to walk around a bit was "can I ski?" She was told that isn't a good idea yet.

BTW, for those folks who say cyclists NEVER stop at lights, both Louise and this fellow stopped at this red light. The crane driver stopped at this red light. The truck that was supposed to be attached to the crane just kept rolling. I'm pretty sure it was the crane driver who called 911. As far as Louise and the other cyclist's injuries and bike damages being covered, I sure can't say for 100% certainty but I can tell you that the folks from the crane company are expressing extreme concern and nervousness. If I was in their shoes, I'd be feeling the same way and I wouldn't be hesitant to write a couple of checks once the investigation is done and the extent of all the injuries is known. And Louise and the Bicycle Alliance have some pretty good cycling friends who also happen to have some pretty good legal credentials that will be working to make sure things balance out.

I've worked with Louise for a couple of years, her desk is right next to mine. She keeps track of what happens with the Bicycle Alliance money but more importantly, she makes things happen for cyclists. And even though she has to spend a lot of time sitting in meetings and lobbying folks, and sending emails and all that other not-very-exciting bike advocacy stuff, she also gets out there. She rides, she hikes, she gets things done. A couple of months ago I was out at the opening of the High-Point Trail Connector in Issaquah. I was representing the Bicycle Alliance there and I was walking along the trail chatting with one of the Issaquah City Councilmen. As we hiked along the trail, this guy says to me "Do you know Louise?" "Sure," I replied. "She and I were the first ones to hack our way through the blackberry thorns and map out this route years ago," the fellow tells me. That didn't surprise me. And I wasn't surprise that Louise hadn't told me this. She's one of those people who knows what matters is working together to get things done and she's too busy doing the work to spend much time talking about it.

That's what I know right now. Louise will be back working to make cycling better in our town and our state soon. Thanks to everybody for all their concern.

Be careful out there.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Low Probability Crash

Yesterday morning, just about the time I was starting to wonder "where's Louise?", we got the call at the Bicycle Alliance. Louise McGrody, our friend and colleague, had been struck by a truck as she was riding her bike to work. At first, details were sketchy. Louise and another cyclist had been hit from behind while they were stopped at a red light. Both Louise and the other cyclist (a 70 year old fellow) had been taken to the hospital. It turned out Louise had four broken ribs and the other rider had a fractured shoulder and hip.

Once we went through the initial "is Louise OK?" concern and got the "she's not, but she will be" we moved onto the "how's her bike?" discussion. But even before we extended our concern to Louise's battered Trek, we each remarked, in the way that only bike safety wonks can remark, "you know, that's a really low probability crash!"

It's true, even though it's human nature to fear being struck from behind, statistically it's a very rare type of bike crash. We speculated about the driver being distracted by a cell phone or tuning the radio. We never guessed how strange the real story would be.

Louise was struck by a truck with no driver. The story is here:


Be careful out there.