Biking and Energy Conservation / Renewable Resources and Peak Oil21 Aug 2009 09:39 am


Today marks the second anniversary of my biking-to-work adventure. Still enjoying it! I’m especially appreciating the summer riding; the winter, with all those layers and all that cold, gets to be a bit of a drag.

Meanwhile I’m looking forward to getting the bike commuter tax credit (AOL is still working out details of how they are implementing the legislation).

My old bike is still going strong, although I’ve gone through several chains, freewheels, and wheels. The last flat I had was over a year ago. About 5 months ago I moved to Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires — not the lightest, but more important to me is avoiding flats.

My old ’92 Accord, on the other hand, is showing its age and may not be with us much longer (it logs ~3500 miles / yr taking kids to soccer practice, running weekend errands, etc.). Which would ruin my plan to have this car be the last internal combustion vehicle I own :-/

Biking and Energy Conservation / Renewable Resources21 Aug 2008 06:58 am

Today marks the one year anniversary of when I began biking to work.

I’ve logged about 3500 miles. I’ve had three flats (only one was a blowout; the other two were slow leaks that I could fix the next day at home). I haven’t had any spills or any accidents, though there have been a couple of (kinda) close calls.

Payments for gas, insurance, inspections, and repairs have been quite low  ;-)

My original goal was to get more exercise. While I’m not in any kind of great shape now I’m a good bit healthier than I was a year ago.

And I still love it  :-)

Biking and Energy Conservation / Renewable Resources and Peak Oil22 May 2008 08:30 pm

My daily bike commute takes me from the W&OD biking / walking trail to Pacific Ave. To get from trail to street I have to cross a BMW dealership. For a long time, this didn’t present much of a challenge — I just rode along the big grass patch next to their parking lot.

A few weeks ago, however, the dealership lot started overflowing and they began parking cars up on the grass where I ride. It certainly makes the trip a bit more interesting, having to worry about slipping (on wet grass or muddy track) into a fairly expensive car  :-/

I assume their overflowing inventory is due to decreasing sales (though I have no data to back that up). It wouldn’t be surprising, since you have to question the wisdom of buying a new car at this point in history. The end of the age of oil appears to be upon us, and gasoline prices are likely to be bouncing around — but generally heading upwards — for quite some time. You especially have to question the wisdom of purchasing a new car (or truck, or SUV) that isn’t particularly fuel efficient.

If I had to replace my car right now, I’d be looking around for a small, cheap beater that I could run into the ground over the next several years… or maybe a scooter. I certainly wouldn’t be in the market for something that is likely to be a super-expensive, over-sized paperweight in 5 or 10 years.

Biking and Energy Conservation / Renewable Resources and Life and Peak Oil17 Apr 2008 11:02 pm


Street Smarts

To the woman in the big black pickup truck who, when passing me on my way home from work today, shouted at me to “Ride on the sidewalk!”:

I tried to catch up to you at the next light so I could explain a few things, but by the time I got there the light had changed and you were gone. So here goes…

As a bicyclist I have the same right to the road that you have. In fact, if I need to take the entire lane for reasons of safety, I am legally entitled to do so. You cannot force me to ride on the sidewalk any more than I can force you to ride a bike.

That said, I’m a nice guy and I try to stay to the right side of the road so that motorists can pass me. But I won’t ride on the shoulder, I won’t hug the cars parked along the side of the road, and I won’t swerve off of and back onto the road every time there’s a break in parked cars. Here’s why:

1. One of the leading types of accidents for bicyclists is when a driver in a car parked on the side of the road opens her door into the path of a cyclist coming from the rear. Any bicyclist who knows how to ride safely will stay about three feet from cars parked on the side of the road.
2. Another common accident for bicyclists is not being seen by a motorist backing out of a driveway or pulling out onto the road from the right. I need to stay a bit in the lane to make sure these guys can see me.
3. If I swerve off and back onto the road whenever there is the opportunity to do so, I increase my chance of surprising an overtaking motorist, and I endanger everyone on the road (because motorists don’t know what to expect of me). On the other hand, if I consistently take the rightmost foot or two of the traffic lane, everyone on the road knows what to expect and how to proceed safely.
4. Whether you are in a car or on a bike, getting a flat is a complete pain in the ass. So I will generally try to avoid riding through debris on the side of the road (much the same as you will try to steer around broken glass in your truck).

The bottom line is that on a one lane road you may be stuck behind me for a short while until conditions are safe to pass. I try to make it as easy as possible for you to get by me, but given a choice between my safety and five or ten seconds of your time, the former trumps the latter (both legally and ethically).

Have a good trip home, and in a few years when you cannot afford the petrol to power your oversized, gas-guzzling truck, I look forward to biking alongside you down the road.

If you’d like to read some more, here are two good resources. And if you want insight into why I ride to work in the first place, check out this older post.

Note (5/22/08): This post was updated to reflect the fact that bicyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalk in Loudoun County, as long as they slow down for pedestrians. The original version of this post erroneously stated that bicyclists here were required to ride in the road (as they are in some other counties in VA). My bad…

Biking and Energy Conservation / Renewable Resources21 Oct 2007 04:36 pm

Today is the two month anniversary of when I started commuting to work primarily via bicycle.

I. Love. It.

Let me count the ways:

1. In the morning I arrive at work after a good workout, and spend several hours enjoying a mild endorphin high ;-)
2. In the evening I arrive home after a good workout, and spend several hours enjoying a mild endorphin high (and a beer or two).
3. As a result of item 2, all day at work I look forward to riding home.
4. As a result of item 1, in the evening I look forward to riding to work the next day. Life is good, no?
5. I’m finally losing the “tenacious ten” (extra poundage around my tummy). Despite the fact that…
6. I don’t have to worry so much about caloric intake. Yes, thanks, I will have some of those pretzels… That said, I often find myself less hungry at mealtimes than before. Go figure.
7. Miss a workout on the weekend? No prob, I’ve been getting a solid hour of exercise every other day this week!
8. I’m saving something like $1000 / year in gas and other vehicle costs (this is on a car which is completely paid for; otherwise it would be way more).
9. No more knee pain (which I started to get after about a year of running a few times a week).
10. I’m undergoing a very healthy mental paradigm shift about commuting, which spills over into the way I think about other things. I find myself questioning things I wouldn’t have thought to question before. Do we really have to do it this way??
11. On the road I feel like I’m reminding motorists that there is another way :-D
12. On the road I look really cool with my trusty steed (an old-school ’90s-era mountain bike), my goofy panniers, a supporting chunk of 2×4… Umm, never mind…
13. I love the thrill of (occasionally) dusting one of the slower roadies on the W&OD trail. Given that I’m on a mountain bike carrying 20 lbs of crap in my panniers, fer crying out loud!!  [6/09 update: a while back I added front panniers as well. I love the ability to swing by the store on the way home, but in a headwind I sometimes think I'm going backwards...]

There are down sides to bicycle commuting, however:

1. Flats suk.
2. Occasionally you have to educate a motorist about a biker’s right to the road.
3. You need to learn how to ride properly and safely. Here is a must-read for anyone who rides regularly:
4. I spend about $200 / year or so on biking gear, etc. Deduct from item 8 above.
5. Rain kinda sux. But not so much. It’s sucky in the same sort of way that camping is. Sometimes it is not super comfortable, and you are out in the elements. You’re wet, and you’re a bit cold, but you expand your awareness of the world around you. Yeah, you definitely feel at one with nature. Umm, wait, I reconsider… Rain is kinda nice ;-)
6. While short-ish commutes are cool (mine is about 7 miles each way), I imagine longer commutes (maybe after 10 or 15 miles each way) would get a bit tough.
7. I now have trouble imagining working at a place I couldn’t bike to.
8. Occasionally coworkers will campaign to get me off of my current ride (goofy panniers and all) and onto something more upscale…
9. Occasionally I get pissed off when some roadie passes me and I cannot keep up. The more I commute, the less this happens ;-)
10. Flats (still) suk.

Lessons learned and other resources?
Here’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far: when planning a route to / from work, do not think like a motorist. Very often, there’s a route that will get you there without fighting traffic the whole way, and without venturing onto high-speed roads. Check out this great article for more helpful info. Right now I’m kicking myself for missing years of bike commuting before figuring this out… Doh! :-/

In general, Paul Dorn is a great resource: