The Online Voice of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Confessions of a Maphead

I love maps.  Nothing launches me into scheming and daydreaming for an adventure like a good map.  Maps reveal interesting routes to destinations near and far.  They help me plan a bike tour through Canada’s Gulf Islands, plot a backpacking route into Eagle Cap Wilderness, and navigate my way to a mountain onsen in Japan.

Maps are my friends and I am blessed to have an abundance of them.   In fact, I confess that I have a dresser drawer full of maps.  I have maps that accompany me on urban bike commutes, bike tours, mountain bike rides, snowshoe outings, day hikes, wilderness backpacking trips, ski tours on trails and into untracked terrain, and road trips.

The map is my co-pilot.  It suggests route possibilities, warns me of potential obstacles, and guides me through unfamiliar territory.  Maps take a licking and keep on ticking—or something like that.  I have spilled beverages on maps, dropped them on muddy trails, used them as notepads, and refolded them all sorts of ways.  They continue to serve their purpose in spite of the abuse.

Maps—don’t leave home without one.  In fact, carry several.  I usually stash an extra Seattle bike map or two with me on my commute to hand out to the lost or confused cyclist I occasionally encounter along the way.  It’s a not-so-random act of kindness and a way to spread the map love.

“Thanks!” exclaims the grateful cyclist.  “I didn’t know Seattle had a bike map.”

Seattle does indeed have a bike map.  So does Vancouver, Spokane, and a host of other communities.  There’s even a Washington State bike map.  Check the maps section of our website for some links.

I’ve been known to select a destination because I saw it on a map.  I hiked to Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground and the Plain of Six Glaciers simply because I was attracted to their names on a map.  I camped at Kodachrome Basin State Park because, with a name like that, it had to be scenic (I wasn’t disappointed).  I biked the Columbia River Gorge because it looked like an interesting route on a map.

Maps can’t tell you everything, but they can reveal enough information to get you scheming on an adventure in your neighborhood or someplace far away.  Where has a map led you?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Cycles: lust and lasting love

Have you ever gotten bike lust for a bike that you have been riding for years? I have an undisclosed number of bikes, but i ride two of them the most and they are my oldest steeds. I've been riding them both for over a decade and they are decidedly familiar. This year i've had my most prolific mountain bike season in nearly a decade which has helped me to fall in love with my mountain bike again.
This 1996 Ibis Mojo is a classic steel hardtail built in Sebastapol, CA from custom drawn Tange Prestige tubing. In 2001 i had a disc brake tab and bracing tube silver soldered onto the frame by Martin Tweedy who was then the Ti Cycles steel frame builder.
At that time i also updated the parts kit to include Shimano XT drivetrain, Marzocchi Atom 80 coil sprung fork and Hayes disc brakes. As you see in the photo above i am currently running Avid BB7 cable-actuated disc brakes. Of course now it is due in for some new drive train parts, speaking of which...

My daily driver is the other bike to which i have a renewed attachement; it is a 1999 Surly Cross Check. All it took was replacement drivetrain parts, cables, brake pads, handlebar tape and rebuilding the wheels and voile... rebirth. Aside from the years that we've spent together, both of these bikes have special personalities.
The Ibis and the Surly are quite a pair. They've been my two main squeezes for the aughties. While other bikes may come and go, i am quite sure that i will be riding both of these bikes into middle age. The Ibis is one of a kind, even though it began life as a production bike. It was built in 1996, when cantilever brakes were still the norm for mountain bikes, so it has the classic Ibis cantilever brake cable stop as seen below.
In 1997 linear pull brakes (AKA V style brakes) set a new standard for the industry. With the frame modification the Mojo was assimilated into Northwest mountain biking and happily become a disc brake bike that is a modern classic. Another special feature of the Mojo is that it is equipped with a thumb shifter allowing trimming of the front derailleur that is much better than what you can do with a contemporary trigger shifter (the rear derailleur is cabled up to a trigger shifter).

The surly is far from unique, but it is mighty special. The surly isn't just special because of our fifty thousand miles together, but i also don't see any others like it around town. While the Surly Cross Check is a rightfully very popular bike, the first generation bikes are extra cool. The tubing used to build the first generation frames is nicer than that used in later models (sporting Reynolds 631 rather than Surly housebrand 4130 steel tubing) and the steerer is one inch threaded as opposed to the later one and an eighth threadless version (which added half of a pound to the frame and fork). Dark blue paint also hasn't been used on the Cross Check since the first generation with the exception of the Traveler's Check. The Surly has a solid mix of Shimano goods including Ultegra, XT and XTR and some other nicer parts like a Ti Cycles titanium seat post.
The Misfits icon on the headtube keeps things Surly. In all seriousness though, these bikes are great but the experiences that they've enabled me to have are the truly compelling thing about the bikes. These bikes have taken me from everyday commuting and utility rides to world class mountain bike rides like Devil's Gulch, Suntop and Noble Nob. As much as we might love our bikes let's remember that the ride is what matters. Any trusty steed, no matter how humble or fancy, deserves reverence, recognition and replacement parts. Enough of this, i'm going riding!

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a.....


Totally random and fun, but also educational. On Friday December 2 Bellinghamsters will put on their favorite superhero cape, decorate their bikes with lights and parade through town.


A bike ride/parade celebrating opening day of the Pacific Arts Holiday Market in downtown Bellingham, to coincide with the First Friday Downtown Art Walk.


It will be fun, and it also showcases lots of different lights and ways to reflectorize yourself and your bike for the long dark winter nights. We will be riding in a lawful manner, that means no more than two abreast and stopping at stop signs and lights. We can have fun on our bikes and still follow the rules of the road.


Meets at the Pacific Arts Holiday Market, next to the Bellingham Public Market on Cornwall Ave. Ride will take place on downtown streets, one loop is 2 miles, participants can either do one or two loops.

Friday, December 2, meet up at 6:30pm to decorate your bicycle, we'll have a limited number of lights, and reflective stickers & ribbons to give away.
Ride leaves at 7pm.
A bell is highly advised, as I predict we will be doing lots of waving of hands and ringing of bells as we parade through town.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remember the Thrill?

Most people can vividly recall the first time they successfully rode a bicycle.  It’s a thrilling experience and a memorable accomplishment for a child.  It’s also a proud moment for the parent, as Bicycle Alliance member Jeff Moran can attest.  Read Jeff’s account of his son Jack’s first ride on a bicycle.  Caution:  There's a huge cute factor in this post.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Yahoo! Grand Opening of Ship Canal Trail Extension Tomorrow

The long awaited and much anticipated opening of Seattle’s Ship Canal Trail extension under the Ballard Bridge is Saturday, November 19, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony slated for 11am. 

This extension fills a critical missing link in Seattle’s bicycle network.  The trail offers a safer connection for bicyclists traveling between Magnolia/Interbay to Queen Anne and Fremont by bringing them under the Ballard Bridge and avoiding the gnarly cloverleaf interchange at bridge level.  Check SDOT’s Ship Canal Trail Phase II for directions to the ribbon-cutting and more information on the project.

View Larger Map

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bicycling is Funny Too

Bicycle advocacy is serious business but, every now and then, it’s important to look at the lighter side of life.  Last year we ran a post called Bicycling is Funny. Here’s a second rendition with some new bicycle jokes.

Q. When is a bicycle not a bicycle?
A. When it turns into a driveway.

Q. What’s gray, has two wheels and weighs 4 tons?
A. An elephant on a bicycle.

A nerd was walking on campus one day when his equally nerdy friend rode up on cool new bicycle. The first nerd was stunned and asked, "Where did you get such a nice bike?" The second nerd replied, "I was walking home minding my own business when a beautiful woman rode up to me on this bike. She threw the bike to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, 'Take what you want!'"

The second nerd nodded approvingly, "Good choice. The clothes probably wouldn't have fit."

Q. What do you get when you cross a chemical with a bicycle?
A. Bike carbonate of soda.

Did you hear about the vampire bicycle that was biting people’s arms off?  It was a vicious cycle!

You know you’re a bike geek when a Power Bar tastes better than a Snickers bar!

Q. A man lay dead in a room with 51 bicycles.  What happened?
A. He cheated at poker.  The bicycles are on his deck of cards.

Cyclist dies and goes to heaven. St Peter greets him at the gate and the cyclist asks if there are bikes in heaven. “Of course,” St Peter replies, “and we can have one custom-made for you.” Just then, another biker flies by them on a custom gold bike, a total blur. “Wow!” says the cyclist, “That must be Lance Armstrong!!”  “No,” sighs St Peter, “that's just God. He thinks he's Lance.”

Q. What did one bike wheel say to the other one?
A. Was that you who spoke to me?

A tired cyclist decided to hitch a ride home.  A guy in a sports car pulled over and offered him a ride but the bike wouldn't fit in the car. The driver got some rope out of the trunk and tied it to his bumper. He tied the other end to the bike and told the rider: "If I go too fast, ring your bell and I'll slow down."

Everything went well until another sports car blew past them. The driver forgot all about the cyclist and put his foot down. A short distance down the road, they hammered through a speed trap. 

The cop with the radar gun and radioed ahead that he had 2 sports cars heading his way at over 150 mph. He then relayed, "and you're not going to believe this, but there's a cyclist behind them ringing his bell to pass!"

Okay, now it's your turn to share a bicycle joke with us!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tips for Trail Advocates

I was the keynote speaker earlier this month at Forever Green Council’s Pierce County Trails Conference.  Around sixty trail supporters turned out for this event to network, learn from each other, and celebrate trails.

Before I assumed my current mantle of Outreach and Communications Manager for the Bicycle Alliance, I worked with trail advocates around our state and helped organize support for a variety of trail projects. I drew from that experience to prepare my presentation and assembled some tips to share with conference attendees.  I think they’re worth sharing with you as well.

You’re in it for the long haul.

It can take years to build a trail.  The rail corridor that is today the Burke Gilman Trail in Seattle, was abandoned as a railroad in 1971.  The first segment of trail was not dedicated for public use until 1978.  Although additional segments have continued to be built, forty years after abandonment the trail still has a missing link.  You can read a more detailed history of the Burke Gilman Trail here.

It takes a coalition to build a trail.

Behind every successful trail is a determined group of citizens who made it happen.  The coalition often begins with a few folks who envision the trail and they get others to buy into their vision.  Successful coalitions build a broad-based constituency that includes individuals, trail user groups, business organizations, government agencies, community groups, and other influential partner organizations.  The Friends of Centennial Trail (Spokane), Yakima Greenway Foundation, and Peninsula Trails Coalition are a few examples from Washington State.

Make your vision tangible to others.

Do you hope to convert an old railroad bed, a river corridor, or a greenbelt into a trail?  Invite people to walk it with you so they can visualize what the trail could be.  Touching it, seeing it and experiencing it can help make the trail real for others.

Plan and prioritize your work.

Develop a plan for your trail and get it formally adopted.  Having your trail plan approved by  your City Council, or incorporated into local and regional plans gives it credibility and makes it eligible for certain types of funding.  Trails are frequently built in phases, so it’s important to prioritize your work.  Pick “low hanging fruit” and aim for impact.

Celebrate the milestones.

Since it can take many years to complete a trail, it’s important to celebrate the milestones along the way.  Hold a groundbreaking ceremony when you’re ready to build your first phase of trail or invite the community to a celebratory ribbon-cutting when you open a new segment of trail.

Cultivate the next generation.

Life throws us curve balls.  You and your fellow trail advocates may not always have the time to serve with the coalition.  It’s really important to recruit and mentor new advocates if you want your coalition’s work to continue.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Support Complete Streets for Spokane

All of us use streets, right?  We use streets to get to work, school, run errands, and to visit family and friends.  Sometimes we move around our community in cars, but we also use transit, walk and bike on our streets.  And sometimes we reach our destination using a combination of these modes.  So it stands to reason that we want streets that safely accommodate us whether we’re walking, biking, taking transit or driving a vehicle.

Many folks in Spokane have that expectation.  A steadily growing group of Complete Streets advocates in that community convinced Spokane City Council to pass a resolution in April 2010 to develop a Complete Streets ordinance.  Great news!  Sadly, over a year later, citizens are still waiting for City Council to enact the ordinance.

Complete Streets Spokane advocates are turning up the heat.  They are circulating an online petition urging City Council members to pass the Complete Streets ordinance.  They have also created a Complete Streets Spokane II group on Facebook.

The Bicycle Alliance of Washington was one of the first groups to raise the Complete Streets banner in our state and we encourage our Spokane members to sign the petition.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Commuting: The Best Part of the Day

Commuting is the best part of the day?  Many folks will disagree with me but, since I am a bicycle commuter, it often feels like the best part of my day.  After spending a long day tethered to my desk, it’s invigorating, stress relieving, and sometimes an adventure to hop on my bike and pedal home.

A recent study by Swedish researchers bears this out.  They found that people who commuted to work by car, bus or train reported more adverse health conditions than those of us who bike or walk to work.  You can read more about that study here.

It's easy to check out Harbor Island when you're on a bike.
Besides reaping the health benefits, I find that biking to work is more interesting and spontaneous than using transit.  It’s easy to alter my route or stop on my bike to check out something attention-grabbing.

My bike commute is from West Seattle to Pioneer Square.  One evening this summer, I detoured over to Harbor Island to watch workers unload freight containers with forklifts.  Not only was the activity interesting to observe, but I glimpsed some unusual views of the city.

More recently, my commute provided me with an up close vantage point of the viaduct tear down.  While car and transit commuters had some pretty horrific commutes to and from West Seattle, my bike commute time didn’t change.  Reporter Eli Sanders filed a Slog post about the West Seattle bike commute during the viaduct demolition.

Enough about the cool sights and experiences I have thanks to my bike commute.  What interesting things have you seen or experienced on your bike commute?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bikes Don’t Fare Well in Senate Transportation Bill

MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century), the Senate’s recently introduced reauthorization of federal transportation legislation, sets bicycle and pedestrian programs back instead of forward.

Under the current SAFETEA LU, there is dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects, Safe Routes to School and trails.  Not so under MAP-21.  Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails Programs have been eliminated as dedicated funding sources.   Projects eligible for these programs must now compete for CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) funds.

America Bikes coalition prepared a side-by-side comparison of the existing programs and what’s proposed in MAP-21.  Read America Bikes response to MAP-21 here.

Expect more action on the reauthorization in coming months.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Some Planning Projects of Interest to Bicyclists

Bicycle friendly communities don't just happen. It takes public planning, citizen support, political will, funding and engineering.  There are opportunities in communities around the state to shape things in the planning stages to benefit bicyclists.  Here’s a sampling:

WSDOT’s SR 520 bridge replacement project is holding a Seattle community design public session on November 9.  The process is intended to further refine the basic features of this project.  The bridge replacement project includes bicycle pedestrian pathway and connections to it.  Meeting details are here.

Sound Transit’s light rail system expansion in Seattle and the Eastside (King County) have elements that impact bicyclists.  The North Link project has a couple of open houses scheduled to update the community on the Northgate Station (November 9) and Brooklyn Station (November 16).  Open house details can be found on the Sound Transit website.

The City of Federal Way is creating a Bicycle and Pedestrian master plan and held an open house on it last week.  You can still provide input.  More information can be found on the city website

Ferry County is developing a trail plan in a 28-mile railbanked corridor that stretches from Republic to the Canadian border.  Check out the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners to learn more about the planned trail.

Public comments are welcome through December 5, 2011 on the Sinclair Inlet Development Concept Plan.  The plan includes a trail connecting Bremerton and Port Orchard via Gorst.  View the plan online.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pierce County Trails Conference

Do you live in Tacoma and wish you could ride your bike on a trail to Eatonville?  Perhaps you’re a Puyallup resident dreaming of the day that the Foothills Trail extends to Tacoma.  Maybe you live in Graham and your kids need a safe biking route to school and to the Foothills Trail.

The Forever GreenCouncil shares your vision of a trail network in Pierce County and they are holding their annual trails conference and dinner next week.  Trails and pathways don’t happen overnight and it often takes the work of many committed individuals to get these facilities off the drawing board and onto the ground.  Maybe it’s time for you to get involved in your local trails movement.  Details of the conference can be found here and I’ll be there as a speaker and supporter.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No to I-1125, Yes to Seattle Prop 1

The Bicycle Alliance Board adopted positions on two transportation measures - one state, one local - appearing on the November ballot:

“No” on State Initiative 1125

I-1125, the latest scheme from initiative pro Tim Eyman, prohibits variable tolls and congestion management of tolled facilities.  It will take tolling authority out of the hands of an independent, non-partisan commission and put it in the hands the state legislature - making Washington the only state in the country to put tolls in politicians' hands.  That means Seattle legislators can set tolls on projects in Wenatchee, and Spokane politicians will have a voice on Puget Sound decisions.  Projects that will be in jeopardy if I-1125 passes include the SR 520 bridge replacement - and its cross-lake bike path - across Lake Washington and Vancouver’s Columbia River Crossing, which also includes a bike facility.

But wait, there’s more. If passed, I-1125 will kill the expansion of light rail across Lake Washington to Bellevue, Redmond and other east King County communities. Why? Because the initiative includes a clause explicitly restricting light rail's use of I-90 as it crosses Lake Washington.

“Yes” on Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1

Proposition 1 is a 10-year $200 million investment package that will fund bicycle, pedestrian, transit and street improvements.  Nearly half the funding is targeted to improvements that will speed up bus service around Seattle.  Notably for cycling, it increases current bicycle funding by 33%.

These investments are significant because they prioritize family-friendly bike infrastructure, increases in safety for everyone with new sidewalks, better crosswalks, repave and repair local streets to make them work better for everyone. For each year of its 10-year life, Proposition 1 will directly dedicate $1.4 million to bicycle improvements, $3 million for pedestrian and neighborhood improvements, up to $7 million in roadway maintenance improvements that can include Complete Streets elements, and close to $10 million in transit improvements.

Apart from the Bicycle Alliance's interest in supporting local measures across the state that improve bicycling conditions, this vote is important in the statewide context because it shows that we want more investments in transit, street maintenance & operations, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

Join us in voting next Tuesday for a better transportation future!