Monday, December 7, 2009

Master Plan and Girls, Grrls, Gurls

Good evening, Minneapolis!  The snow is a-comin’!  A-COMIN’!!!  My winter bike project has not progressed as quickly as it could have (I’ve taken off the front wheel), but a few days in the slop won’t kill my regular bike, Sir Fixalot (left).

This late fall, Sir Fixalot may be what my esteemed colleague OMGMRJ (right) calls a mullet bike, as it has a skinny tire with a sorta deep rim up front, and a fatty tire in back.  Or maybe it is a badonkadonk bike.  At any rate, I gotta carry two pumps and two kinds of tubes since the front is Presta and the rear is Schrader.  This symbolizes my bike’s indecision between the racey fast fixie crowd and the chill slow cruiser crowd.  Being a hybrid bike, it can never quite decide where to fit in.  In fact, currently, only the right pedal has a toe cage on it, but that’s because I destroy them like no tomorrow, and I don’t really want to replace the left one when the bike will soon be in hibernation.

What is NOT is hibernation is Minneapolis bicycle advocacy issues.  Which is why I’m happy to announce the formation of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.  What IS in hibernation is the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan, which needs to be read over, chewed on, digested, and metabolized into something beneficial to cyclists of all stripes in Minneapolis.  I’ll try and keep you posted.

Another hawt topic in Minneapolis bike internet circles is women (aka grrls or gurls) and bikes.  Historically, typical women’s fashion can interfere with the use of a bicycle as a form of transportation.  This currently includes skirts (it’s not “accepatable” to just let them fly in the wind), high heels, non-helmet hair (or hair tied up), and cleavage (you get a little more with drop bars); at one time in history, it also included hoop skirts and corsets.  Most of all, the image of what is feminine (not to be confused the reality of being female) does not gibe with the image of a bicycle commuter: sweaty, self-reliant, daring.  Having a disproportionate responsibility for child rearing in a often hostile commuting environment doesn’t help, either.  The best way to get Jane Q. Public to start biking would be to have Oprah start biking and talk about it on her show.  Oprah, if you are reading this, and I know you are, make it so.

Of course, soon, we will not be able to tell male from female cyclists, as all body shape will be bundled under layers of clothing and gear and obscured with yards of billowing snow.  Bicycle androgeny… looking forward to it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The White Stuff and the Salt Stuff

Hello Minneapolis (and those interwebbing from without Minneapolis).  It has been a while since I parked my bike in the blogosphere.  Apparently, they like me doing productive work at my job, and whining about cars doesn’t make the grade.

That is not to say that I have not have all of you, my billions of readers, in mind.  I think about biking a lot.  I think about things I might put in this blog (should I ever bother to make a posting) and how you might respond to it.  Will they laugh?  Will they cry?  Will they grab torches and pitchforks and storm city hall?  There just aren’t enough old-timey mob riots ITTET.

Hey, there’s snow on the ground!  Minneapolis has been tardy for seasons as of late, not starting summer until you forgot it was summer and not starting fall until mid-November.  Winter for me began yesterday when the wind chill was in the teens and there was at least a small dusting of the white stuff [cocaine joke].  My sources (left) report that St. Louis Park is already salting.  While some may scoff and say that 1 mm of snow and 0 mm of ice does not need salt, it appears that St. Louis Park is merely attempting to be proactive.  Plus, think of the salt and salt accessory jobs that are being created.

Tomorrow, a group of local cyclists are meeting at the West Bank Social Center at 11am to finalize the formation of a Minneapolis-specific bicycle (and tricycle, and unicycle, and … …) advocacy group.  Nothing can be more fun than committee (or is it spelled “commmmitttteeeeee”?) meetings and policy formation.  It’s kind of like what I do on the internet, but in-person, and I can’t do it while getting paid at work.  If you are at all interested in helping form this organization, you are welcome to come and share your ideas.  The WBSC is on top of the Nomad in West Bank.

Alright, that’s enough wordage after a 6-week hiatus.  Thanks for all the kind praise and well wishes, and perhaps someday you can say you read this “way back in 2009.”

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Wild West Suburbs

The US has a fine tradition of diverse and independent journalism.  In continuance of this tradition, Inside has done an undercover report and found that, get this, people have been injured while riding a pedicab.  They even went so far as to ride in one of this deadly contraptions for the report.  There were no survivors.

By contrast, motorized cab drivers are paragons of lawful and safe driving.  Here’s two of them not killing anybody:

Not to be outdone, I did my own “undercover” investigation of traffic this morning, dressed in disguise as myself riding a bike.  Nobody suspected a thing.  On my way down the Bryant Bike Boulevard, I counted driving infractions I saw:

1 blown stop sign
1 unsignaled right turn
1 blown-at-the-last-second red light
1 crossing into oncoming lane to make a left turn
1 Calvin pissing sticker

Keep in mind I only saw about a dozen cars as I biked down Bryant.  When I got over the Wedgetip Bridge and next to Hennepin/Lyndale, I quit tracking it because it would be like counting ants on a spilled ice cream cone, and because I was busy trying to not die.

As much as drivers whine about bikes not following laws, it seems to be pretty universal amongst drivers, too.  If you drove today, did you at any point exceed the speed limit even by 1mph?  Did you signal every turn and lane change?  Did you come to a complete tire-stops-spinning stop at every stop sign and light?  Did you try and beat any red lights?  Did you pass any cyclists with less than 3 feet?  In reality, everyone breaks traffic laws, and often it’s not even that unsafe.  Of course, if a driver sees a cyclist break a law, it’s unacceptable because in many minds, we don’t have a right to be in the road to begin with.

Meanwhile, a St. Louis Park cop is aggressively ticketing cyclists who don’t follow the 6” stop sign posted at this perilous intersection:

Ya never know when a 10mph ginormous and noisy train is gonna sneak up on you at this completely unobstructed intersection.  Also, my reports say that train robberies and stagecoach robberies are down 267% in St. Louis Park, with a margin of error of 267%.  Perhaps Inside Edition can do an undercover stagecoach investigation.  It might just be too dangerous.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bandwith Rage and Brand Differentiation

 Welcome to Minneapolis, #2 cycling city in the US according to percentage of commuters, but that does not discourage the barrage of bikehate from inconvenienced drivers, even on public radio (websites).
That said, there is plenty of bikelove, bikelust, bikelike, and biketoleratewhenIhaveto out there.  In that spirit, I give a shout out to fellow Minneapolis bike blogger Snak Shak at  Sr. Snak came down all the way from Alaska to tell us Minnesotans to quit bitching about our winters and grow a pair.  Besides, he had to deal with the likes of her.

Another BikeLover (similar to a Chicken Lover) noticed that my blog bares a striking resemblance to another website.  I can only assume he was referring to my greatest inspiration to join the Internetweb - being dragged kicking and screaming into the 1990s - and risk association with Nigerian bank scams and lullzcats.

Of course there are other bike bloggers out there who I risk association with, such as Penny Farthing Prig New Amsterdam.  To be fair, we are using the same medium, the Blog, which has the journalistic and literary respect somewhere between yellow lines in snow and middle school newspaper editorials.  Therefore, our Work is similar in form and tone.  We also have many important differences.  For starters, I have honestly zero interest in professional cycling, much the same as many drivers do not enjoy cars driving in circles really fast [].  Also, I live and commute in Minneapolis, whereas PFPNA lives and commutes in New York, which has a higher proportion of celebrities, and a lower proportion of Celebrities.  Finally, my photography is actually even worse and taken on a shitty cell phone camera, or more often not taken at all.

Chances are PFPNA will never hear about me, though I have heard reports of his sighting on Grand Avenue in St. Paul.  Here is a shot of him 'benting in New York:

The resemblance is striking.

And it is a shame my photography (and photographability) has not yet developed, because I miss the opportunity to capture such stunning such as that by one Orkid.  Also, my blog posts turn out a little bare in visuals.  To compensate for that, I leave you with a shot I took of a awe-inspiring example of Uptown ingenuity

Let that be a reminder to share the road, but BYOB.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pettifoggery and The Loring Bikeway Epic

Good afternoon readers, and get ready to dance your way into Indian Summer. What does shitty corporate chain pizza have to do with dancing chickens? Frankly, if you have to ask, you’ll never know. But there are stranger things in a city with its Westside in the south, two Norths, its South just east of West, its East hiding between a bunch of southeast suburbs, and an Uptown and Midway thrown in the western part.

Enough about St. Paul, let’s focus in on Minneapolis, and that strip of road that takes me to and from work, or any location roughly north and slightly east. To be fair, this city has its Southwest in the south to the northwest, its South to the south and southeast, its Southeast in the east and northeast, its Northeast to the northeast and north, and its North to the north and northwest. There is no East nor West to Minneapolis, as they ran out of real estate in establishing the aforementioned geography, and had only St. Paul to compete with in establishing a coherent map.

My commute early on joins the Bryant Bikeway, named after poet William Cullen Bryant, who, according to Wikipedia, grew tired of courtroom pettifoggery. In honor of this tradition, the city of Minneapolis chose not to quibble over the trivial details of what is or isn’t a bike boulevard and slapped down a “sharrow” every block or so.

The sharrow does not give the cyclist any additional rights, as it is simply reiterating to drivers (or horse riders) that they must legally share the road with cyclists. Bryant has the added advantage of being already well utilized by cyclists coming on and off the Greenway who don’t want to die on Hennepin or Lyndale, the major thoroughfares. Whether the sharrows have anything to do with this or not is unclear, but I hear that if you ride over them when they are glowing, you get a boost of speed.

Bryant north of the Greenway becomes another simple residential road with two-way stops that baffle drivers, speed bumps that scrape their undercarriage as they speed over them, and enough width to comfortably fit two mopeds between parked cars. This brings you to the Loring Bikeway Bridge. The bridge is something of an oddment (not to be confused with a condiment). The western end is on a parking lot disguised as a street at the tip of The Wedge. Cars routinely don’t notice it while parking, though I’ve yet to see a car driving on it, which is something. This bridge has a hip-urban-looking northern side, routinely covered with sorryass-looking graffiti. It follows the I-94 onramp then takes an abrupt 180 degree turn (as few cyclists have decided to continue down I-94). This turn is fenced in by iron and is typically coated with sand, debris, and even ice.

After this perilous turn, you continue down the Loring Bikeway so named because paving a sidewalk with blacktop and putting a yellow line down the center now makes it a bikeway. Sure, there is no suggestion of where pedestrians are supposed to go on one of the most pedestrian-commuter-dense routes in Minneapolis, but we end up sharing it with little conflict. Maybe they could put pedestrian sharrows up and down it?

I then take a brief ride through Loring Park, and then join the Hennepin or First Avenue bike or bike/bus lanes, the topic of my previous entry. There is a Dominos Pizza here, which with any luck will have dancing poultry or other livestock out front. In fact, to assure this become a reality, I am emailing the city of Minneapolis soon to get a dancing livestock sharrow painted on the sidewalk. While we may not know Northeast from Southeast in Minneapolis, at least we’ll know where on Hennepin giant cocks will bust a move.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Hennepin/1st Avenue Epic Tour

Hello, you are now reading my first post in what promisses to be several millions more. I am a Minneapolis bicycle commuter who spends too much time on the internet. I also like to see my opinions in writing (or typing) so I am creating this blog to waste other peoples' time. And maybe I'll actually learn how to use Blogger in the process, instead of linking all of the photos.

It's a crisp autumn morning in another year that has barely seen an autumn. It's 37 degrees or so, but that 37 feels much warmer when it is dry and sunny out. Beautiful biking weather, fer sher. If you are heading out, you may want to cause yourself some minor frustration and travel the Hennepin and 1st Avenue bike lanes.

The large print does not exist as seen in plan photos, and neither does the enforcement - yet. Riding them in their current state is basicallt riding a big fat lane. The problem being, the car traffic can't agree on which side of the lane is best for them. I find myself splitting the lane on left or right side depending on the traffic. Also, the lane constricts every other block, making the lane splitting dangerous and difficult.

As for 1st Avenue, take a look at some shots from my friend and colleague omgmrj:
Not being able to stomach these injustices without being super annoying ourselves, we decided to "tour" the two roads. Our route was roughly this.

Anywho, we rode around a few times, 4 strong. There was a collision between one of us and a cameraman who stepped into the bike lane and just expected us to veer around him. The cyclist (I forget his name) went back and exchanged some words, the tone of which I did not hear.

There were sporadically cars parked in the 1st Ave SW-bound bike lane, as is the norm, as the first person parking in the parking lane has to literally park in the middle of the road. Many drivers just don't have the heart to do this, so they pull up to the curb, as they would any other road in Minneapolis, blocking the bike lane (which exists as two solid white strips and a few bike images) If one person blocks the lane, all the rest will follow. If they park in the parking lane, all will park in the parking lane.

What we need is this. But that sort of treatment is reserved for Edina commuters.