Sunday, July 12

Only a Fool and No Fool

A few days ago, I was headed north in Ocean Shores and, what to my wondering eyes did I see other than someone on a bike headed against traffic. Now, that is not totally unusual by itself, but the wrong-way dweeb had a dog on a leash running alongside his bike. I thought about yelling out, but then the missive "only a fool argues with a fool" took hold and I simply shook my head in wonderment about whether the guy would fall due to the dog diverting his front wheel, due to the dog darting toward a nearby dear just as oncoming traffic approached, or simply due to some other cause. In any event, it did not seem like a teachable moment. I consoled reflecting on how cycling is fun and safe, even when practiced by someone completely clueless.

Yesterday and today, I saw more intelligent actions. Yesterday, I came across a black bear about three blocks from my Ocean Shores house. The bear saw me shortly afterwards and took off, not wanting to tangle with an apex predator on a Schwinn Cruiser. Today, the same thing happened when I encountered a coyote just south of our local IGA Grocery. These two were no fools!

For the record, the bear looked well fed. The coyote not as much, but not emaciated either.

Saturday, April 25

So Long John

You can read my posts that have  a "John Forester" label if you're in stay-at-home mode with a fair amount of free time. John Forester passed away on the 14th of April, 2020 at age 90. I heard he had been ill for some time. I imagine there will be lots written about him in the days and weeks to come. I will simply say that his principles on the best ways to ride bicycles changed my life for the better.

Saturday, April 18

Lost, and Found Again

Brand New Pearl Izumi "Ride Thermal Lite" Gloves with Decade-Old Gloves a Saint Returned and my Orange Hat
While the Orange Hat is "Just a Hat," its Color Probably Helped Find the Gloves

Nearly ten years ago, in a post, here, I related how I bought a pair of good winter cycling gloves (Pearl Izumi Softshell Gloves) at a bargain price at the Hotter 'N Hell 100. Unlike the shoe covers I also reported on at that time, I've gotten almost constant use out of the gloves in colder weather. They're good from about 25 degrees (-4C for any Canadian friends that use French temperature units) up to about 55 (13C). Outside that range and things are either a bit chilly or a little sweaty. For $15 gloves (they sell for about $60 on Amazon), they have proved exceptionally durable and versatile. While they no longer look new, they remain in good overall shape, with only a some of the extraneous rubber non-slip dots falling off through the years. The gloves are a size too big, which turns out to be perfect, since they're easier to get on and off; pretty much mandatory at coffee stops.

Well, they WERE until all this Coronavirus stuff cropped up. You see, as things started to ramp up (while the NYC Mayor was still working out at his local YMCA), people got confused. Even I, grumpy as I sometimes am, elected to purchase groceries for an entire week rather than my usual every-couple of days routine. Well, to make a long story short, that entailed using a shopping cart, and I left my cherished gloves behind, along with an orange hat I frequently use to keep my head warm.

I rode back to see if I could find them, or if they'd been turned in. Alas, I was out of luck. I even looked in the store garbage can in case someone had taken it on themselves to dispose of items that might be contaminated. No luck there, either. Sigh.

Later, at home, I was resigned to purchasing another pair as much like the originals as I could find. I was somewhat dismayed to find the "non summer HH100 price" was $60. In an attempt to be frugal, I bought a pair of lighter gloves, figuring I could always use a liner with them. The cheaper Pearl Izumi gloves were still $20, and, as we will find later, work more in the 50-60 degree range.

The day after the new gloves arrived, I inquired one more time at the grocery store lost and found. Hallelujah! They had them and the mention of the orange hat helped them pick them out of the pile. For the remainder of my ride home, I put those new gloves in the pouch of my hoodie and thought kind thoughts towards every one and every thing. What can I say, I'm not grumpy all the time.

Still, the new gloves were not a waste of money. They do work in the warmer ranges of what we see in Ocean Shores, Washington. Now that we're headed towards May, I can see myself using them frequently. They are called "Pearl Izumi - Ride Thermal Lite Glove" and the blurb on Amazon claims "A top seller, these lightweight unisex gloves are ideal on their own when the weather gets cool. Or use them as liners under our P.R.O. Barrier WxB Gloves in truly cold temperatures." More importantly, the new gloves gave me hope for a brief period that Pearl Izumi made good "not quite so cold" gloves.

Well, they certainly ARE lightweight, but there is no noticable insulation on them. They're just another pair of non-waterproof, full-finger cycling gloves. While I've not tried it yet, they might work well as liners for my softshell gloves for those rare "really cold" Ocean Shores or North Texas mornings. We shall see. OTHO, such mornings also seem to work well with ski gloves.

Sunday, February 16

One of Our Nuclear Bombers Has Gone Missing

Avro Vulcan - Capable of  Carrying a 21,000 Pound Bombload - or Nukes
In 2016, I related how I was impressed when I saw an Avro Vulcan flying at the Edwards Air Force Base Air Show in 1979. There is more to the Vulcan story, however. Just as one went missing in the James Bond movie, Thunderball, one went missing while on a real mission. This happened in the only conflict in which Vulcans were used against targets with live ammunition. The story has not been well known, for obvious reasons.

In 1982, Argentina decided to take the Falkland Islands from Britain. Beset by domestic problems and knowing of upcoming British military spending cuts, the Argentines bet they could succeed. However, Margaret Thatcher was not made of sugar candy. The British soon sent a task force south. To conserve their naval resources, they refitted six Vulcan bombers to attack Argentine targets in the Falklands; principally Stanley Airport. Stanley Airport was a facility capable of supporting Argentine air attacks against the British fleet.

The bombing missions were made from Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. Each mission required 11 aerial refuelings. On one of these missions, a Vulcan's refueling probe broke while returning from the Falkands. The pilot and crew were faced with the unpleasant choice of ditching in the ocean (shades of Thunderball!) or of making it to the nearest land, which was Brazil. After some drama, the Vulcan landed in Rio de Janeiro with no fuel to spare. Brazil, which was neutral, promptly interned both the crew and the British nuclear bomber. The United States also got dragged into the situation since it had secretly supplied the British with anti-radar missles, one of which was still attached to the bomber when it landed.

To make an intriguing story shorter, after many negotiations, the Brazilians eventually released both crew and bomber back to Britain. They kept the American missile and the British agreed to supply quite a few helicpter parts to Brazil. The whole story is related in the video below. Somehow, I don't think we will see a movie entitled "Locked up in a Brazilian Prison!"

Wednesday, January 22

Rise and Decline of Bike Share

Five Years Ago, Bike Share and Scooter Rental were Neck and Neck. Now Scooters FAR Outpace Bike Share

This is a fable for our times. It was just a bit more than five years ago that bike share programs really go going. I will use history from the Seattle Bike Blog (SBB) as illustrative of bike share.

The first SBB post on the subject was made on May 5, 2014. By August 25, 2014, the headline: 
"It’s really happening. Today, you can buy a membership for a Seattle public bike share system."
 Somewhat grumpily, I forecast, on July 29, 2014:
"They’ll later use our tax dollars to subsidize the bike share system when it fails due to their policies. Perhaps they’ll emulate NYC in outlawing large soft drinks and in arresting cyclists for imagined offenses."
 At this point, the system was run by Pronto, a subsidiary of Alta Planning. It used fixed bike stations and tried to work around the Seattle helmet laws in order to draw in casual riders who didn't happen to bring their own helmets along on the chance they might want to rent a bike. Before too long, this became a drain, leading them to charge for helmet rentals. On May 11, 2015, SBB reported:
"If you buy a 24-hour or three-day pass to use Pronto Cycle Share, you will now have to pay an extra $2 to check out a helmet."
It also became clear that the service area with bike stations was pretty limited, and, as a result, on June 8, 2015, SBB reported:
"...the biggest problem with Pronto is that the service area is simply too small to meet most people’s needs. And under the current business model, the system would expand slowly over time as more private sponsorship investments or city budget line items lead the way. It’s a plan that creates solid benefits for relatively little public investment, but it’s not a plan that can truly revolutionize transportation and low-income access to bicycling in Seattle. 
"That’s why the city has put together a visionary plan for a massive, fast expansion of Pronto that would increase the service area from five square miles to 42 square miles..."
Bike share was growing by leaps and bounds! However, cracks were beginning to appear. While Seattle proposed a massive expenditure to dramatically increase the size of Pronto, and (move in to management of Pronto as well), the Feds said "nope." By October 27, 2015, SBB reported:
"...the city still intends to move forward with an expansion. Mayor Ed Murray’s proposed 2016 budget includes $5 million for expanding Pronto. If that funding is approved by the City Council, the path forward really hinges on whether the city focuses on expanding the station area or on electric bike technology."
Scooters - Cheaper Than Ebikes, Faster than Pedal Bikes
Electric bikes - well that IS a new development indeed. Things went down a bit further, when, on February 4, 2016, the SBB post headline read:
"Pronto needs city buyout before end of March, how did we get here?"
And things continued downhill for the Pronto, station-based bike share. By October 10, 2016, SBB reported:
"Though it’s not final, Seattle has indicated that it intends to select a young Quebec-based company to launch an all-new electric-assist bike share system. 
"That means both Motivate, the current Pronto Cycle Share operator, and the existing Pronto equipment are out if the deal goes through. The city is now negotiating directly with Quebec-based Bewegen to finalize a deal."
Now, bikes were only a part of the solution if they were electric assist, though bike stations were still the fundamental backbone of the system. By October 20, 2016, the SBB headline read:
"Council faces a choice: Kill Pronto now or make lemonade out of the existing stations?"
There it was, bike share, at least if it wasn't "electric" was going away - and fast. In January, on the 13th, SBB headlined the final resolution:
"Mayor Ed Murray has scrapped his bike share expansion plan, ending the city’s efforts to create a new public e-assist bike system to replace the doomed Pronto system set to shut down March 31. This officially ends a frustrating era..."
And so it was. Bike share was dead in Seattle. A victim of inflexible docking stations, mandatory helmet laws, and bureaucratic meddling, just to mention three factors. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!

On July 19th, 2017, SBB reported on the beginning of dockless bike share. Spin and LimeBike started operation and exceeded the old Pronto system ridership in their first week. They would have done better, but old city rules were still in place that presumed an "ease into the water" approach. The report of the death of bike share was greatly exaggerated. By December 15, 2017, SBB headlined:
"Bike share pilot’s daily ridership blows past Pronto’s lifetime totals, rivals both streetcars combined."
and, in that article, stated:
" share services are already rivaling two streetcar lines that cost about $190 million to build is pretty incredible. Free-floating bike share services have cost the City of Seattle almost nothing. In fact, these companies pay the city permit fees. And at $1/ride, bike share is the cheapest way to get around other than walking or owning your own (not-high-end) bicycle. That’s far, far cheaper than other private mobility services, like car share, taxis and app taxis."
However, this was about the peak for bike share. Instead, the future looked like e bikes and scooters. On August 19, 2018, SBB reviewed the timeline. Notably:
"2018: Lime introduces 15¢ per minute e-bikes, Spin leaves town as it transitions to scooters and ofo leaves town as their China-based business begins imploding. Bike ridership in Seattle increases significantly, smashing bike counter records all over town. Uber-owned Jump joins Lime at the end of the year as the $1 pedal bikes disappear."
Lime Rental Scooter
Scooters are Getting Fancier
Which brings me up to the present. Recently, in downtown Dallas, I noticed scooters ALL OVER THE PLACE. All of them were electrically powered. There was not a single "regular" bike to be had. Things didn't look a whole lot different in Seattle. The story continues to evolve. As with bikes, it appears that many of the people who rent these electric scooters do not understand that they are really renting a small motorcycle and zooming along sidewalks and against traffic is really NOT a good idea. Perhaps our driver licensing system should start by ensuring that  prospective motorists understand that the rules of the road apply to ALL that use wheeled things on public roadways (sidewalks are also part of those roadways) and require people to demonstrate they can do so with scooters and bikes before they move up to more powerful vehicles.

But I digress. Over on SBB, they are arguing that the best thing to do is bring back the dock system, but spend a LOT more money and make the bikes cheap to rent. Somehow, I think most people want a motorized item that they can simply pick up wherever they happen to be. It's been 30 years since the Soviet Union fell...

After Renting, Many People Scooter Along the Sidewalk