Posts Tagged ‘cycling’

Stimulate North Lamar!

So yesterday in the web 2.0 social media circles there was much derision over the City of Austin’s inclusion of a disc golf course in the stimulous package going through the political process up in Circle K Ranch, aka Washington D.C. The Statesman ran articles here and here and an editorial here all of which attracted some helpful and some not so useful comments, but such is the online world. Safe to say though that the Statesman was just reflecting the opinion of the Wall Street Journal who outed the story in the first place.

This morning, News 8 ran a piece by Reagan Hackleman, where city official John Hrncir said the disc golf course was “Very much taken out of context,” – in a very cover our ass – sort of way. The piece ended with Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez saying he wants to make sure the public is involved in choosing which projects get funding.

Well Mike, having biked from South Austin to Round Rock twice this week for work, I got to tell you if the city doesn’t have funds allocated to re-pave Gaudalupe from 38th St and then North Lamar from around the point where it merges with Gaudalupe to all the way up to just before 183, then you need to get that on the list quickly. It is one of the worst streches of road I’ve cycled on in many countries.

That stretch of the road, especially where it goes up and past, ironically, the Texas Dept. of Public Safety is just way too broken up to cycle on safely on anything except a mountain bike. There are also a number of covers missing from access holes. There is no bike lane up there, and no room for one, so the road surface on the edge of the road is really important for cyclists.

There are many cracks and holes that you have to swerve around, bump over, or try to jump. Of course, in peak commute time that increases the danger as that means the car drivers behind have to expect the sudden weave in and out around these obstacles. Leaving the road as it is won’t save money, New York, London and other big metropolitan cities discovered that, they don’t repair themselves, and just get worse as the cars, trucks and buses regularly hit the defects!

Of course, thats not really my idea of a stimulus item to get the economy going and create jobs, but hey-ho think of it as an earmark, some ones got to do it.

Bike racing downtown this w/e

No, it’s not an ROT do-over, the engines this time are human powered.

With the Tour de France about to start, the timing of this weekends 5th Annual AT&T Downtown Austin crit couldn’t have been better placed, unless that is you need to get around on the course.

Saturday afternoon and evening will see the roads around City Hall and the 2nd St District including The one-kilometer course will be laid out around City Hall, including Guadalupe, 2nd Street, Colorado, and 4th Street, closed completely, or partially while the races going on.

Crit racing is possibly the most interesting of cycle racing since it normally uses small circuits such as the one out in East Austin, everyone starts at the same time and the first person across the line wins. If only it were that simple though. Bicycle racing has as much to do with aerodynamics as it does with muscle, jump out of the pack at the right moment and you can get a 50yd lead. While Saturday afternoon and Sunday see the regular cyclists racing(aka the amatuers), Saturday evening from 7pm sees the pro’s race and there are some good teams, such as Rock Racing and Toyota United Racing, including international riders such as Ivan Dominguez from CUBA and Henk Vogels of Austria, as well as Sean Sullivan from Austrlia to give local team Hotel San Jose and the US domestic riders a hard time.

There is a PDF flyer here with an overview of the racing, and you can find a list of the pro teams here. I’ve considered having a go a couple of times, only I really don’t think my sprinting is up to it, besides I don’t want to be responsible for a crash.

So, feel free to go along. Unlike last nights Yoga at the Blanton, which I knew I shouldn’t have written about, as it was full when I got there, there will be plenty of room on the streets for more spectators!

Live and Let Live

Really, seriously.

I’ve been following the increasingly rancorous debate in the Austin Chronicle between the cyclists and the car drivers aka the motorists. It has from the start been very polarizing and has become increasingly aggressive as one side take offense at the other.

One thing’s sure, Austin is changing and there are loads of people that don’t like it. Buildings are getting bigger and taller, traffic is getting busier, the steets more cramped. Anywhere where people get “in your face” it causes friction. People in New York City are not a different species, yet they seem to have a hardened, more aggressive voice, nature and look, inside they are just people but they’ve had to adopt a certain attitude in order to survive the pressures of daily life.

And so it is here in Austin with the cyclists and motorists. I’ve been lucky enough to have cycled in many of the worlds biggest cities, London, New York, Paris, Sydney, Manchester, San Francisco, Melbourne as well as in Spain, Italy, Germany and more.

I bike to work from South Austin to up past Braker Lane a couple of times most weeks mostly on the most direct route up Lamar and Burnet. From time to time when I don’t have early meetings and have left my laptop at work, I do the whole length of 360 and some.

What I can tell you is that I’ve been really impressed with most motorists here in Austin. Mostly they do leave space, in town it is not uncommon to be cycling in the right lane and to have 25 out of 30 cars actually pass in the left lane. Would almost never happen anywhere else.

Yeah, you get the occasional driver who really doesn’t think through making their next right turn, overtakes and completely underestimates the 22-24MPH I’m going and cuts right in front of me, causing me to brake. Then there are the motorists not paying complete attention as they make a turn out of a parking lot and I am coming down the street, its hard to “stop on a dime on a bike”, the easiest way is to put a 2000lb steel object with 4-wheels in the way!

And yes, motorists and cyclists don’t adhere to the letter of the law. However, generally Austin is better than many. Rather than escalating letters blaming each other for our problems, lets try to understand that we both have “issues”, both are not perfect but things can get better.

I for one have realized that storming down the right gutter at a long line of cars waiting at a light, probably isn’t the smartest thing I could do. In other cities that might be acceptable, here in Austin though where most drivers will move into the left lane to overtake, it just frustrates the motorists as not only did I possibly pass dangerously, but now I’m making the line even longer forcing them to have to wait more. Mea Culpa, I’ll wait in the traffic from now on.

On the other hand, next time you are coming up on a right turn in your car, and there’s a cyclist between you and the turn, think about it. If you slow, wait for the cyclist to pass the entrance to the turn, at most it won’t even cost you a minute.

A pack of cyclists cycling together is often referred to as a “train”. When a train makes a crossing, you wouldn’t expect every carriage to stop in turn, the same for cyclists. Cycling in close proximity requires attention and a pack like behavior, while the law might require each cyclist to stop individually, in reality, it’s impractical and probably more dangerous, so cut us some slack when it’s our turn to go, please wait if there are more than one or two.

Equally, cyclists need to realize they are often the master of their own destiny, cycling in a cavalier or irresponsible manor will ultimately get payback. We need to take a sensible, consolatory perspective. Many drivers are increasingly finding Austin a difficult place to drive in, and increasingly expensive. Many can’t afford to make the changes that they want. Apart from a minority, nobody enjoys sitting in traffic on I35, Mopac or downtown to go a few miles, and watching the dollar bills get blown out of the tail pipe. Like it or not, cycling to work isn’t an option for most people, most days even me.

I for one applaud the cities efforts in raising awareness of a healthy lifestyle, including cycling. I appreciate their effort to provide an increasingly cycling focussed means of getting around. But equally motorists and cyclist need to focus on safe driving. As the city gets bigger and busier, we all need to do better and focus more, blaming each other for the problem gets us nowhere.

Collide by Howie Day is playing in the background, nothing more than a coincidence I hope.

Even the best fall down sometimes
Even the wrong words seem to rhyme
Out of the doubt that fills my mind
I somehow find
You and I collide

Yes, Bike to work on Friday!

“I owe the city birthday cake, and thank you cards are due”(1)

It’s been nearly 18-months since I moved to Austin, and many things are making it seem like home, places, faces, events and more. Some events are more memorable than others, good and bad.

One of the surprise things I did last year, and will be repeating this year, is bike to work day. Last year I headed from South Austin up north to work. I do this often, but only in the quickest, shortest, most direct route, it’s an 25-mile round-trip and not particularly memorable if you discount racing the buses, and sometime breakdowns, getting caught in a true Texas downpour,and the occasional car drivers’ abusive hand signals. Mostly though, I’d say the car drivers here are better than most other cities I’ve cycled in!

Bike to work day last year was much more fun than the normal ride to work! I rode the shoulder on 360, up Great Hills Trail to Jollyville Rd and finally coming to rest at Bucks Bikes. Donuts and a quick chat with some other bike to workers including one of Austins tireless(no pun intended) Volunteers @anetmarie, and I was off to work.

This year there is an even longer list of places providing a “free” breakfast for cyclists and the weather is looking good. I’m going to venture a bit further, in fact all the way up to Music City Cycles on W Parmer, where this year @anetmarie is a co-host.

In fact, checking the current list of breakfast stops, if I plan my route carefully, I could end up in a calorie surplus, there goes the waist line!

Bike to work day is part of Bike Month, the Austin Cycling Association usually have a calendar online, but as of writing it’s gone AWOL. Hopefully it will be back in shape soon. In the meantime, the current list of breakfast stations includes the following and official hours are 7-9am:

•Whole Foods, Sixth & Lamar
•City Hall Plaza, 301 W. Second (sponsored by city of Austin employees)
•Texas One Center, 505 Barton Springs Rd. (also sponsored by city of Austin employees)
•Texas Bicycle Coalition, 1902 E. Sixth
•Mellow Johnny’s, Fourth & Nueces
•Wheatsville Co-op, 3101 Guadalupe
•Bicycle Sport Shop, 517 S. Lamar
•Shoal Creek Boulevard at the Far West Bridge
•Music City Cycles, 6301 W. Parmer #504
•Jo’s Coffee, 1300 S. Congress
•Freewheeling Bicycles, 24th & San Gabriel

If you see a big guy cycling on 360 on Friday with a bag over-flowing with donuts, that will be me, make a wide pass please!

(1) Lyrics (c) Steven O’Reilly, Tammany Hall NYC, Ceilings in the sky.

Cycle month starts Friday

One thing I learned last year is that May is a big month for cycling in and around Austin, this year won’t be any different.

Events start out on Friday with the Civic Bicycle Cruise/Political Pedal. Meet up at Meet at City Hall Plaza, 4.45pm. for the 5pm to 6pm ride, this isn’t just for just dedicated road bikers, anyone with two or even three wheels, fat tire, mountain bike, or a commuter bike should come along. It’s a chance to join your elected officials and community leaders in this convergence of politics and the joy of cycling!

Plan on staying downtown after the ride for the Bicyclists’ Happy Hour – from 6:00pm – 7:30pm at The Rio Grande Restaurant, 301 San Jacinto Blvd. (on the Lance Armstrong Bikeway no less). Snacks, drinks and meeting of minds! I’m told there will be valet bike parking available, something I for one have never seen before and live Austin music by Jim Keaveny and Shand Walton. The Happy hour is put together by the Austin Cycling Association, the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant and the Rio Grande cycling team along with sponsors Bicycle Sport Shop, the Austin Yellow Bike Project, the Texas Bicycle Coalition, the League of Bicycling Voters and REI.

For some of us, Friday is a warm-up for Saturdays Austin to Shiner GASP ride. The 2008 edition celebrates the Spoetzl Brewery’s 99th anniversary and for those volunteering or riding the 90-miles from Austin to Shiner, there will be a party with BQ dinner with brisket, sausage, vegetarian options, Live Texas Country Music as well as Miles From Nowhere, Eric Middleton, as well other bands. One of the big attractions is the FREE Shiner Beer. Makes cycling sound fun doesn’t it ;-)

I’ve no idea what effect Shiner beer is going to have on me after cycling 90-miles, but either way I guess I’ll end up “legless”. Fortunately @cruisergirl has agreed to give me and my trusty aluminum steed a ride back to Austin. If you are riding, do yourself a favor and do packet picket either Thursday or Friday at Jack and Adams on Barton Springs, then Saturday morning you’ll be ready to ride. If you want to ride and raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, registration is still open, you can even register on the morning of the ride. You’ll need to figure out how to get back though.

For other Bike Month activities, the Austin Cycling Association has an excellent online calendar. If you spot someone walking around like John Wayne, that will be me, not that I becoming localized, but 6-hours on a bike saddle… as John Wayne famously said “It’s such an adrenaline rush. It’s America’s most extreme sport.”

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