Monday, April 27, 2009

Energy Boss Steven Chu Misses His Bike

Perhaps it's price of success or maybe, in my opinion, they need to find a way for Mr. Chu to keep commuting via bike. Charles Komanoff references a New York Times Sunday edition interview with the Energy Secretary Steven Chu were he admits he doesn't drive a car and commuted to work on his bike before stepping into his new job. Komanoff takes that and adds data showing how biking is good for your health. Maybe we should start a petition to get Mr. Chu back on his bike? What do you think?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rainy Ride Gamble

Red hat for visibility. 

Spring has been on hold in Minnesota.  The trees are leafless and the grass still has a lot of brown in it.  But today we finally had some rain.  With that rain, will come an explosion of green!  Since it was the first rainy day in awhile, I could have stayed inside and got some projects around the house done.  But I like to procrastinate.  When the rain stopped, I hopped on Harvey and headed out to make a nice 10 miles circuit, before the rain returned.  I would have made it, but I discovered something very cool... but that's another story.

Please Finish the Job!

I'm love my commute(the bike one).  It's great to be out in the weather, checking out the scenery, and collecting my thoughts.  But there are those tough spots.  One of the least pleasant parts of of my journey home is this little stretch on Wirth Parkway between Interstate 94 and the Cedar Lake Trail. It should be listed as "off-road with obstacles". The worst part is where it dips down, before rising again. You can't help but go fast and it feels like you bike is being stressed tested, as you try and dodge the worst pits. You're happy if you wheel doesn't bust a spoke. It's one of the worst pieces of bike trail in the city.

Hang on.

What makes it even more vexing, is that it right next to a bridge and trail entrance that was completely renovated a few years ago. At great cost, I would guess. It looks great and is a model for bike trail exits. So why, 50 feet away, is there one of the worst stretches of bike path, connecting to it?

Nice bridge ahead.

Some people would rather to risk it with the heavy traffic, then ride this stretch. But I stick to the trail, because there are some wicked potholes that you can't avoid without moving out into traffic. It's really sad that a situation like this exits, right next to an excellent, high traffic trail. I'm guessing they ran out of money or a fix is in the works, but I'd really love it, if they'd finish the job.

Night Riders

Saturday, April 25, 2009

M Ward/First Avenue

The beardless one.

M Ward was in town, so me and some friends rode our bikes over to First Avenue(Prince?) to check it out.  The show was very good, but he left me wanting more.  The last time I saw him a couple of years ago at the Varsity Theatre, he did two sets and I walked out of there in awe.  But I didn't know anything about him and he's a little more popular, now.  Still it was well worth it.

One thing I noticed was there were at least 30 bikes parked outside of First Ave, but no bike racks.  I bet there'd be a lot more, if they put some racks on the sidewalk.  I love not paying for parking.  Great to see all the fellow cyclists.  It was nice to ride home in the chilly, night breeze.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This is How We Roll

This lady knows how to get around. She is loaded down and doesn't bother with the fancy gear. Any raincoat will do. Practical.

A Brand New World

Thanks to a fellow blogger, I now have new camera.  I've always loved her pictures and was wondering why her pictures were so much more vivid than mine.  I mean she's great, but she can't be that great.  Can she?  ;)  So I found out what kind of camera she has and bought one, yesterday.  It's a Canon SD990 IS.  Compact but powerful.  

Cedar Lake

Well from my first day of shooting, I can say... she's an excellent photographer.  But it does help to have a nice camera, too.  The 990 has lots of cool features that I look forward to trying out.  I was really winging it on my ride home from work, trying to find the right settings for the conditions.   I got lucky on a few.

Paddle boat on Mississippi: A sure sign of Spring.

If you are ever headed through San Fran, be sure to look her up, but please, do make sure to take her out for a coffee.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

NiceRide Bike-Share Wants Community Input

It's in the works. Bike sharing is coming to Minneapolis, next Spring. What will it look like and how will it work? From what I have read, there will be 1000 bikes placed at 75 kiosks around the U, downtown and uptown. People with memberships will be able to use a credit card to get a bike that they can use for short trips around the city. It's being tried in cities around the world and I'm happy that it is coming to Minneapolis. It is transforming other cities and I'd like to see that happen here. Get people on bikes and their perspective changes. Change their perspective and our city changes.

Want to learn more about it, get involved, or just put your 2 cents in. NiceRide is having 4 "community input workshops" later this month. I plan on attending one of them, because I'd like to see this thing work and I have many questions about what they are doing to make it a success. This program isn't a guaranteed success or for that matter, a failure. How they set it up, promote it and sustain it, will go along way in determining how well it does.

Picture courtesy Lilia of Velo Vogue.
From what I have heard, the Paris(See how it works at Velo Vogue) and Barcelona bike-sharing programs are successes at this point. I myself have a lot of questions to ask. What is this program doing to model the successes of other cities and avoid potential problems? NiceRide is relying on Federal funding and user fees. Is it smart to rely on government funding and will the $50/ year user fee, deter use? Where will the stations be and how will they get right of way? And the list goes on... and on. So if you're not too busy on April 30th or May 1st, come to one of these workshops and see what it's all about. And if you come early, they are doing a bike tour to scout station locations. For more info on Bike-sharing around the world, check out The Bike-sharing Blog. Velo Vogue also has several blogs with great photo's of the nuts and bolts of the Parisian bike-sharing program Velib.

Last Bearded Ride

Every Fall, at some point, a more perminant beard sprouts, as the temperatures drop.  It's a very useful thing to have in Minnesota Winters.  Every Spring There comes a point when I look in the mirror and don't see myself anymore.  I know then that it's time for the beard to go.   And so, last nights ride will be the last one with a serious beard, until the chill of Winter returns.  But, now is the time to enjoy Spring, fresh faced and baby smooth.

Riding Through Other Part of Twin-City's.

Got an invite to a party way over in the other Twin city, so I hopped on Zippy.  As I made my way into that into that city, I am reminded how different they are.  

Zipping down East (Mississippi)River Road.

I was born in Minneapolis and have lived most of my life inside it's boundary's.  It's a part of my DNA.  But there is a city just across the river that often seems to me, to be a foreign land.  That would be St. Paul.  While have spent a lot of time in St. Paul and even lived there, it has always be a bit of mystery to me.  A place that I wouldn't call home.  I'm not saying it's less than Minneapolis, just different.  Newcomer's to the Twin Towns often don't notice the difference, but it's there.  Can't you see it?

This will all be very green soon.

Without trying to get into the rivalry between the cities, here are some of the bigger differences.    St. Paul is the capital of Minnesota, while Minneapolis is the center of business.  St. Paul is a provincial city.  It is kind of like a big small town that is more traditional .  Minneapolis is cosmopolitan, thus more connected to the outside world.  St. Paul is quiet(Absolutely, dead after dark!), while Minneapolis is brash, busy and loud.  St. Paul was traditionally the Catholic town, with Minneapolis being the Protestant(Lutheran) one.  

Cool flats on Summit Ave.

Because St. Paul hasn't had the development pressures for a long time, that Mpls. has, it has kept a lot more of it's beautiful old buildings.  I think that STP's downtown has a much prettier than present day Minneapolis.  Except again, that there almost no hipness to the place and it's usually a ghost town in the evenings.  Things just move slower in St. Paul.  

St. Paul is also has a lot more hills.

I could go on and on about the differences, but in the end, I should just be happy there is a town right across the river that I can come to mellow out and enjoy the simpler things in life.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

First Commute for the Year

I haven't commuted to work since early December, when the snow came in great abundance. That's a long time. Longer than I imagined it'd be. But it was a harsh winter. December: snow, snow, snow. January: bitter cold. Febuaury: snow, cold and ankle injury. March: melting snow and perhaps sloth. Perhaps. It is 13 miles to work and my route would have been unpredictable. Parts of it are shared with cars and some of the trails would have been real dicey. As time went by, the idea of commuting seemed more and more daunting. It became a mental barrier that kept me in the car, commuting. Finally, the weather cooperated, making excuses seem less defendable. Even though the last 2 weeks have been very nice, I had too many conflicts. So, today was the day.

I rode Zippy, my lightweight Gary Fisher, because I wanted to get in shape before riding Harvey. After riding Harvey for most of the month, Zippy was a very fast ride. I liked it, but it did feel a little too fast at time, so I slowed it up some(Gave me an idea for a future post).

Exit, stage right

The route I take out to Plymouth, the suburb where I work, has many lakes and lots of nature. While riding on Wirth Parkway, I stopped to take a picture of the a pond. When I looked over, this Deer was sitting right in the middle of a perfect picture. But, my camera was stowed in my pack. By the time I had dug it out, she was heading away from me and this is the best I could do. Next time I'll keep that camera holstered!

From Wirth Parkway, just before the Death Trap

After work I decided that I must have have a chai. So, I turned right on Wirth Pkwy. instead of left, and headed toward Uptown. But before I got there I had a little big surprise. I came upon a cyclist who looked familiar. Last year, I used to see her on this same stretch, every so often. She was very pretty and rode a cool, older bike. Some mornings, last year, when the idea of riding was seeming a bit drastic, the thought that I might come across her again, would get me on my bike... hey! Whatever gets you on your bike, so much the better.

Well, today as I'm riding up on her I notice that her bike is a Schwinn... and Orange(And I must say, Orange is her color), just like Harvey! I traded pleasantry's with her, telling her that it was a very cool bike she was riding and that I had bought a Schwinn, last November. Not wanting to seem like a creepy stalker, I moved ahead and went on my way. Only later, did it dawn on me that I should have asked her if I could take a picture. Again, missing the shot.

North end of Cedar Lake

The blessed Chai

You don't know what your missing, until you ride again.

Not Sure What to Make of This Bike

I really like the color of this bike, with it's red stripped wheels, but I wonder about the mountain bike handle bars.  It doesn't seem to go with the motif.  Some metaphors are getting mixed up, here.  With different handle bars and a basket on front, she'd be a gem.  Then no need for the fanny pack.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

First Blush

So, with this new blog, I'm supposed to be sharing about my love of chai(Tea).  I've been thinking and thinking.  Lots of good ideas, but where to start?  Where is that in?  That first chapter?  The longer I delayed, the higher the stakes got(In my mind anyways).  

Then a week ago, as I was digging through my tea shelf, I saw these cards that were apart of a tea box that I had received a long time ago.  Actually, so long ago that was probably one of my first, favorite teas.  It had been given to me by my girlfriend, at the time.  She had received it from her friends in South Africa.  What a tea!  It was unlike anything tea I had had before, with this wonderfully distinct, spice flavor.  Exotic.  I burned through that box of tea bags pretty quick and wanted more.  But this was the 90's and I was new to the world of tea, so I had trouble finding it again.  

Honeybush says "Loved by Babes and Old"

By the time I found it again, I had moved beyond tea bags to the next level of tea appreciation and was steeping loose leaf teas with infusers.   While tea bags are convenient, in some situations, loose leaf teas are almost always going to taste better, usually because they are a higher grade of tea.  Plus the infuser allows the tea to expand as much is it needs to, allowing the water to flow between the leaves.  Thus, more flavor ends up in the water.  

So what is Honey Bush?  It is a plant that only grows in certain areas of South Africa and is very similar to Rooibos tea.  It tastes a lot like Rooibos, but with more of a honey/spice flavor.  It is also a tisane(Herbal tea), which are plants that don't come from the traditional tea plant.

Honeybush's Redish/Brown liquor.

A few days ago, I went and picked up some Honeybush at the Tea Source, to try and recreate the first blush of Tea-love, and over did it.  By that I mean, I always think that more is better.  If I put big teaspoon scoops in, it'll taste more.  But I came back to the realization that sometimes less, tastes so much better.  The flavor was too strong.  So tonight, I put in three small teaspoons into my three cup pot, and it tastes wonderful.  So wonderful that I made another pot, which is okay, because Honeybush doesn't have any caffeine.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Velib Coming to Beantown?

Thank you, Chic Cyclist for a link to a very good article about Boston's coming experiment in Velib style bike sharing.  The Boston Globe article "Is Boston Ready for a Revolution?" lays out the Boston Mayor's plan to have the biggest bike sharing program in the Americas.  Quite a feat for a city that usually scores very badly in bike safety.  Will it work?  The author of the piece, Tom Matlack travels to Paris to see the real deal.   The Parisian version of bike sharing is huge.  20,000 bikes spread all over the city.  While it has it's share of problems, it is according to this article changing Paris.  They have seen an explosion in cycling.  

But will it work in Beantown?  The streets aren't known for bike friendliness and car drivers are worse.  I'd say that if it works in Boston, it'll work anywhere.  I wish them much luck.

Photo by Lilia of Velo Vogue

Also, if you want to see how Velib works, check out Velo Vogue's recent blogs on the subject.  They get into the nuts and bolts of the Parisian bike sharing program.  Nice pics too.

Is Your City on Good Magazine's Best Bike List?

Well, "best burgoning bike cities" anyways.  Hint: Mpls. is on it.  Yay!  Thanks to
Urban Velo for posting the link to the "Good" Magazine article, provacatively titled "Sorry Portland".  I'm sure there is some big controversy because some cities didn't make it on the list, but they don't pretend that it is the definitive list, so take it for what it is.  A little shout out to the bike communities across the country, here's what's happening in these cities.  How does yours compare?  No harm in that.

As for Minneapolis, some of the comments were wondering why it would be on a burgeoning list, because they thought the city was more of an established bike city.  But some other commenter pointed out that all North American cities are pretty much burgeoning compared to some European cities we won't mention.  Ain't that true.  In Mpls., 3.6% of people commute by bike.  We have only 25-35% to go to catch up to Amster-Hagen.  Yes we can!

Now go and see if your city made it on the list.

ps.  Good magazine has some good articles on transportation this month.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Abandoned Bridge Put to Use for Bikes

 Stone Arch Bridge in Downtown Minneapolis.
(Why so yellow?)
Picture taken from The "New" Guthrie Theater has a yellow windowed observation deck on the 9th floor. 

Cyclist stops to take in the view of St. Anthony Falls.

The Stone Arch Bridge is a railroad bridge built in 1883 by James J Hill, for the amazing sum of $650,000 dollars.  That was a lot of bucks for the day.   They had to put a curve in it, due to land claim issues, but that made it an even more striking bridge.  Above it is St. Anthony Falls, which are the only falls on the whole of the Mississippi.  The falls are now a lock and dam.  

Today,  the Stone Arch Bridge is a bicycle and pedestrian bridge.  It has become a tourist attraction, too.  I don't live far from it and use it all the time, in all seasons.  Sometimes I even go out of my way to ride over it.  It's such a beautiful bridge in the oldest part town.  The city of Minneapolis is where it is, because of the St. Anthony Falls.  The falls were used to produce power for the grain mills.  The town was originally called St. Anthony.

Right now, the falls are raging with all the water, melted from snow.  A mist from the falls actually reaches the bridge.  As Summer comes, it'll die down to a more relaxed flow.  We have one other train bridge that has become a bike bridge, down river, at the University.  I'd really love to see us take over an auto bridge instead limiting future options for train transport, though.  Trains are a much more efficient means of transporting goods than trucks... but not as efficient as bikes... of course!

Monday, April 6, 2009

To Rack or Not to Rack?

This reminds me of the days when I would carry 2 plastic grocery bags on my handle bars.  I don't think I ever lost anything, but it was always more exciting than it needed to be.  So nice to have added carrying capacity with a rack on the back.  While I can carry decent loads on all my bikes, I should probably be looking to add something on the front of my Gary Fisher and maybe a rack on Harvey's back.  I'll have to start looking.