Reflections on Pick up Some Trash Day

Yesterday I celebrated Pick up Some Trash Day by picking up trash on my bike between work and the trolley and then again later on a short walk to the store. I think it is a lot easier to do when walking (say, with your dog) than when cycling. I also noticed that even with my slow speed and several stops on my ride to the train, I didn’t get home any later than normal.

The hardest part of Pick up Some Trash Day celebrations is retraining your self to see litter. After spending years ignoring trash I would often mentally skip over the trash as I saw it. Also, I noticed that on my bike, I don’t really want to pick up trash from the sidewalks or planters and walking I’d rather not get the stuff in the streets.

All in all it was a pleasurable experience that I look forward to for next week.

However, at one point I had to stop and ask myself: Am I turning into “that guy”? You know who I mean, the guy in your neighborhood growing up. You always saw him around. He seemed to bicycle everywhere he went (often in the same old jacket). You would often see him pick up trash (or at least recycling) and put it into his handle bar basket. When I asked my wife this question, her answer was a quick ‘yes.’ But then we both wondered, “is that a bad thing?” I don’t have an answer for that one.


Wednesday is “Pick up Some Trash Day”

Starting today and continuing on all following Wednesdays I will be observing “Pick up Some Trash Day.”

“Sounds great, but how do you celebrate?” you say. Well, start by getting a bag of some sort (preferably not a brand new store bought one). Then go around your neighborhood or on your way to or from somewhere, pick up the trash that you see. Trash in the gutter, trash in the planters, trash on the sidewalks and paths. Fill up your bag and then give yourself a pat on the back. Just be sure to wash your hands first.

Tomorrow Morning’s Weather believes that part of commuting by bicycle and public transportation is developing a sense of community that has been lost from the American psyche over the last few decades. That is why I promote things like “Pick up Some Trash Day,” guerilla gardening (info coming) and building relationships with your neighbors.

So do some good in your neighborhood or on your commute and pick up some of that trash.

Critical Mass – March

Just a reminder that the San Diego Critical Mass ride for March is taking place on Friday at 7:30pm. Meet at the fountain in Balboa Park outside of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. Be sure to have your lights (white in front, red in back), some water and a good attitude.

Come find me, I’ll be the guy in the yellow jacket with a video camera.


Blinky lights or constant lights?

I know there is a lot of controversy over whether to use blinking lights or constant lights when riding at night (or even day). Some people say that the blinking lights are more noticeable, others that blinking lights are distracting and the lights should be constant.

I’ve developed my own theory on this: Constant lights are for seeing, blinking lights are for being seen. My red rear light? Always blinking. My front light is a different story. Up until recently, I was making a decision about how much I needed light to see the road to decide if my light should be set to constant or blinking. If it was still twilight and I could see fine, but worried about being seen or if I was comfortable with the amount of light coming from the street lights, I would have it blink. But if it were dark and I had trouble seeing the road, I would set it to constant, and actually angle it down towards the road a bit.

Of course, none of that matters for me any more because I purchased a new head lamp and mounted it on my helmet. This light is my constant light used for seeing because it is much more powerful (my old light is kinda wimpy) and because it shines wherever I look. I still use my old light, but I always have it on blink mode and just try to ignore it on my handle bars. That gives me the best of both worlds.

So which do you use? Blinking or constant?


Sorry about the lack of posts over the last week or so. I’ve been battling a cough that has made it even harder to get on my bike and to work, leaving me with very little energy to post. I’m starting to feel better as the congestion has started to break up, but I’m still hacking my way through my work day.

While I’m apologizing, I’m sorry to the guy who brought his bike onto the trolley with him yesterday. I had my headphones in and decided against talking to him. I should have pressed pause, smiled and asked him about his commute. Sure he was breaking the rules by being at the same end of the train as I was during rush hour, but really, he was no worse than the guy with the 4 garbage bags full of stuff that got off two stops before he got on. I’m sorry bike commute guy.


Claim the Lane

“Claim the Lane” is a term given to the action of cycling in the center of a traffic lane rather than on the right shoulder. This makes is so that motor vehicles cannot pass you. It is considered, by this author, to be the hardest thing to learn about bicycle commuting because it is counter-intuitive.

Your natural reaction to cars passing you too closely is to move further out of their way. This will often move you too close to parked cars or into rough roads or debris, all of which are hazardous. When you feel that cars a squeezing you as they pass, move your line to the left into the lane. What will likely happen is that drivers, because they are more likely to notice you will slow down and change lanes to pass you. If there is not room to pass you, they will just wait until you get out of their way. This will sometimes upset drivers, but if you have the opportunity to chat with them at a stop light, they often will understand and will then be less aggressive towards other cyclists in the future.

Legally, most states allow cyclists to “claim the lane” in specific circumstances. Luckily, the language is generally vague enough that you should feel comfortable riding in the center of the lane when you feel it is prudent. In California the law states:

21208. (a) Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a roadway
pursuant to Section 21207, any person operating a bicycle upon the roadway at a
speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that
time shall ride within the bicycle lane, except that the person may move out of
the lane under any of the following situations:

(1) When
overtaking and passing another bicycle, vehicle, or pedestrian within the lane
or about to enter the lane if the overtaking and passing cannot be done safely
within the lane.

(2) When preparing for a left turn at an
intersection or into a private road or driveway.

(3) When
reasonably necessary to leave the bicycle lane to avoid debris or other
hazardous conditions.

(4) When approaching a place where a right
turn is authorized.

(b) No person operating a bicycle shall leave
a bicycle lane until the movement can be made with reasonable safety and then
only after giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in Chapter 6
(commencing with Section 22100) in the event that any vehicle may be affected by
the movement.

The key language here is “When reasonably necessary to leave the bicycle lane to avoid debris or other hazardous conditions.” I consider cars buzzing by me at high speeds and parked cars that might open doors in front of me (a major cause of accidents) to be “hazardous conditions.” So I am reasonably comfortable with my legal position when I take the lane. I suggest you research the laws in your state and make your own determination of their legality.

Many cyclists don’t like term “claim the lane” because the word ‘claim’ implies that the road does not already belong to the cyclist. The term “Controlling the Lane” has been bandied about but, frankly, it doesn’t rhyme, which seems to be an important part of slogans. I believe that slogan does a lot toward empowering cyclist to be aware of the law and what makes them safe on the roadways.

Getting Buzzed

Well, it was bound to happen. I knew from reading and just common sense that eventually I would almost be hit by a car. I was riding on B street in the tunnel underneath San Diego City College. This stretch of road has parking along the curb so the lane is too narrow for cars to pass cyclists, but there are 3 total lanes. Due to the conditions, I rode down the center of the right hand lane; there was little traffic so it would be easy for drivers to change lanes to pass me and there was still 300 yards before the signal to change lanes if a right turn was necessary.

The motorist that chose to pass me did so significantly over the speed limit (I’m guessing they were traveling 55 mph and accelerating). They passed within a foot of my body. My instinct kicked in before I realized what happened; I began to swear in a tone and volume that is usually reserved for referees at college basketball games.

The funny part is that I had commented, just yesterday, on the Commute By Bike blog post about “Claiming the Lane.” (http://commutebybike.com/2008/03/18/top-5-reasons-to-claim-the-lane-and-why-its-safer/) It would figure that in doing that very thing today, I would get buzzed by some jaggof.

Those of you that are drivers, I implore you, give cyclists room.


Do the Test - Reaction

Spoiler Alert!!! If you have not watched the video linked in my previous post, go watch it before reading this entry!

I’m going to start by assuming you had the same reaction I did when it the video finished: “No freaking way that was there the first time!” and then reloaded to page to watch it again. Of course, it was there all along. This kind of shock is perfect for making people think about what they are doing. It also shows the importance of making yourself stand out as a cyclist so that hopefully you can grab the attention of an inattentive driver.

Things you can do to make yourself more noticeable:

  • Flashing lights
  • Bright Colors
  • Bells or Whistles
  • "Claim the Lane"

I’ll be discussing most of these over the next couple of days (does bright colors really need a description?).

Do the Test

Transport for London and other London government agencies have been pushing real hard for cycle awareness. Their latest effort is their best so far and can be seen here:


I don’t want to spoil it for you so I’ll post my reaction later today. Please wait until that post to comment so that you don’t spoil it for others.

P.S. For those of you interested, the Silver Strand ride last Monday was better than before, but still not as good as I hoped. Took a spill trying to get out of my cleats in front of 300 sailors and missed the ferry again. The good news is that I found a bus that will carry me over the Coronado Bridge and into downtown. This might actually be fast than the ferry and in certainly cheaper (since I already have a bus pass).


So many stories, so little time

I have a lot that I want to talk about, but just not enough time to get all the posts done so here is the key synopsis of everything I want to talk about

Occasionally check the cleat screws in you cycling shoes! - I had one fall out and couldn't get my shoe uncleated without taking it off. Luckily, I was in a position that I could do that will out falling over.

I'm re-riding the Silver Strand tonight - I guess I won't get the great sunset this time because of the time change, but I am confident I will make the ferry. Hopefully I'll be able to post a summary tonight.

Couple of new blogs on the Blogroll - Bike commuters is an excellent read!

Bought a new light - I'll post a review after I've used it more than once.

Tomorrow Morning's Weather will be off for a week - off the bike too. Heading to Vegas for the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament. Still haven't got a folding bike so looks like I'll be using the shuttle if I care to make it over to the strip from our hotel.

To tide you over here are some bike safety tips from The Onion:

  • Always use hand signals when turning at intersections. There's nothing motorists pay more attention to than hand signals from bicyclists.
  • Leaving your bike out in the ice and cold all winter may cause serious damage. But it makes a nice subject for the cover illustration of a short-fiction quarterly.
  • Always wear a helmet. If this makes you uncomfortable, think of the helmet as a crown and yourself as King Dorko.
  • Placing your feet firmly on the pedals of the bike will help reduce the "Wheee" sound emitted from your mouth while going downhill.
  • Insist on a bicycle made of solid matter. Liquid and vapor bikes are a passing fancy; argon frames are particularly shoddy.
  • Taking your bike in for a professional tune-up is a great way to waste $25.
  • Be sure to wear your seatbelt, even if just biking down to the corner store.
  • Fat-bottomed girls may be riding today, so look out for those beauties, oh, yeah.
  • Visibility is crucial when biking. Ride with a lit highway flare in each hand.
  • Every three to four weeks, lightly oil the chain. Then dip it in flour and fry it for a real taste treat.
  • As soon as you buy a bike, talk to your friends about how great Shimano crank sets and STX hubs are.
  • Does your city have adequate bike paths? If not, consider bitching about it to your local government for the next 40 years.
  • If rich, spoiled Francis Buxton steals your bike, go on a hilarious and heartwarming journey through the American Southwest to get it back.
  • Bike safety can never be stressed enough. If you doubt this, try stressing it as much as you possibly can. It won't be enough–guaranteed.

Two Stories from SignonSanDiego.com

Two news articles pulled from the local paper's website (Union-Tribune's signonsandiego.com).

The first is a story about a new commuter light rail in north San Diego County:

The second is a Reuters article that talks about how public transit numbers are going up:

Both are good news. Enjoy.


A note on Sustainability

There are three main reasons I have started to cyclocommute (a word I just made up): financial, physiological and ideological. Financially, I was spending $4.50 each day in gas on my commute. That is at least $90 a month, before you figure in wear and tear on my car. A bus pass only costs me $64 each month. Physiologically, getting on my bike several times a week is good for my health. I’ve started stretching again and I have more energy throughout the day.

The most important reason, however, is ideology. Driving myself by car is not a sustainable exercise. What I do at work in no way equals the resources it takes to get there. Sustainability is about doing things in a way that does not leave a debt behind you (in this case, an environmental debt). Eventually all the chemicals and fuels we use are going to make the world unlivable. So I ride my bike to cut down the amount of chemicals and fuels.

There is something that happens when you get out on your bike; you become part of the community. No longer encased by metal, glass and plastic, you no longer shy away from conversations with neighbors and other commuters. You learn more about the area and more about where you fit.

There are many other areas where sustainability matters. One of the biggest (and most written about) is food. Learning how much of the food in this country is grown will destroy your childhood ideas of farms and farmers. Sustainable food is organic, free from pesticides and naturally fertilized. It is also tastes better and has more nutrients.

Take some time to look at your life; the things you use that you don’t really need, the things you waste and the things you throw away. Try to eliminate those things; (I know this will sound cliché) reduce, reuse and recycle (in that order).

Site News Update:

You may have already noticed, but I have added a blog roll in the right hand column that will give you a taste of the blogs that I am reading. There are two sections: the first is bicycling and commuting blogs, the second is sustainability and environmental blogs.


Learning My Lesson

Yesterday’s ride was a doozy. I left work with high hopes of a great ride and got home four hours later tired and cranky. My plan was to ride to Imperial Beach up the Silver Stand to the Coronado Ferry and then catch the bus home from downtown. Unfortunately, I did several things wrong which made the ride more difficult than it should have been.

What I did wrong
My first mistake was made in the morning when I forgot to grab a packet of GU to use as back up food. I’ve found that lately I’ve underestimated how much food I will want to eat during the ride and have been fortunate that I generally pack some extra, ‘just in case.’ This time I did not. I also decided to try out an ‘energy’ drink mix that a good friend gave me. This mix created a caffeine based energy drink, and I wanted to see how caffeine would affect my riding. (Some cyclists use caffeine to help keep them alert and focused.) Also, because I was auditioning this caffeine beverage, I did not have a place for my usual Gatorade bottle, so I did not have that source of calories either. Finally, I failed to check the bus and ferry schedules so that I could ensure a minimum of waiting.

What went wrong
The main thing that went wrong was that the caffeine beverage failed the audition. Miserably. On top of not actually providing any energy that I could use to power my bike, it interfered with the digestion of the one source of calories I did have (a fantastically delicious peanut butter granola bar). Once I ate the granola bar, my stomach knotted up around it and I had to ride the rest of the route with a cramp that impeded my breathing. As if only to top that, the ferry left the dock while I was purchasing my ticket. This left me with an hour to sit on dock waiting for the ferry to return. Once I disembarked downtown (at 8pm) I stopped at the first stop where I could get on a #15 bus. After a 20 minute wait, I jumped on the #2 bus which would get me within 10 blocks of home. Had I been more patient, the #15 was just a few more minutes and would have gotten me home quicker with less cycling.

The good news from all of this is that I learned a lot about riding and commuting. First, caffeine is not good for me so I will just stay away from it. Second, always check to see when busses and ferries run. And finally, even if I’m dead tired, sporting a stomach cramp and not really feeling that great, I can still finish my planned ride, which will be useful knowledge when I ride my first century.

Despite the seemingly bad experience I did enjoy myself and plan on making the ride again. I achieved my mini-goal of getting to the strand before sunset so that I could watch the setting sun as I rode along the beach. I got in a total of 27 miles on the day and I got to catch up with an old friend on the phone while I waited for the ferry. Looking at it from that angle, it wasn’t a bad commute at all.


Leap Year Mass

I want to start out by apologizing profusely for not mentioning Critical Mass last Friday. Despite being excited for it all day, I forgot to mention on this blog. I’m sorry.

[For those of you who don’t know what Critical Mass is, check Wikipedia, they have a good write up there.]

Leap Year Mass last Friday was a great time. The announced count was 475 riders and my mileage calculation was around 35 miles (which is pretty long for Mass). I, of course, did not have my camera this month, but promise that I will post at least pictures if not video of March’s event.

At some point I hope to figure out how to give the route graphically, possibly through Google Maps, but for the time being, the following word description will have to do:

This years event, as usual, began at the fountain in Balboa Park and we started out heading west across The Prado. We then headed south into the Gaslamp Quarter and then out along Harbor to Ocean Beach. From there we went north to Mission Beach and took the boardwalk to Pacific Beach. From there we headed down Garnet Ave through the bar district and to the east shore of Mission Bay. Followed that back to Pacific Coast Highway which took us back downtown.

All in all a pretty good Mass. I witness very little hooliganism and there seemed to be only a few crashes. The vehicular traffic was unobtrusive and there was no police action.

For those of you interested in attending future Critical Masses, the meeting point is the fountain in Balboa Park in between the Natural History Museum and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center; on the last Friday of each month at 7:30pm (we don’t usually hit the road until 8ish). Everyone is welcome; this month we had people from 12 to 65 years old riding everything from BMX to single speeds to vintage road bikes and hardcore mountain bikes.

I’ll post a reminder here before next month’s event.