Wednesday, September 17

Scotland Vote

Saw this last week at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup and it reminded me of the Invisible Visible Man's recent post about the upcoming Scottish vote...



Wednesday, September 10

Banned From Bike Shops

Old Reflectors Looked Like This One, Which Was Made in the USA
Way back when, people bought rear reflectors for bikes like the ones in the photo above. It was all that was available. It was basically made to the same SAE standard as automotive reflectors. Unfortunately, these reflectors had poorly engineered attaching hardware that caused the metal to fail as shown in the photo below. In addition, reflector technology is better than it was 40 years ago. In the normal course of events, this would have been no big deal, since better combinations would have evolved. Unfortunately, government got involved, namely the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Instead of doing the sensible thing and requiring a rear reflector using an existing standard, they required ALL new bicycles to be equipped with their own standard which compromised rearward reflectance in favor of “all direction” reflectance. You can see discussions about reflectors here, here, and here, as well as many other places. I’m not going to repeat all that.
 
Old Reflectors Failed Like THIS
The practical effect was that every manufacturer and every bike shop stopped selling SAE reflectors in favor of the CPSC variety. I have never seen a SAE reflector at any bike shop. It’s sort of like the Snell bike helmet standard, which has been eclipsed by the inferior CPSC standard. I can’t say that I’m happy with an inferior standard legislated for cyclists when better exists, but government DOES get influenced by industry as well as the public, and we might not always endorse the outcome. Perhaps I’ll cover this in some future post or posts.
 
However, things are not all bad for those that are willing to do a little extra work. SAE reflectors are readily available at auto parts stores and RV supply stores. In Ocean Shores, people also frequently buy them to stick to posts and mailboxes. Following is the story of how I adapted better reflectors for my bike. Better reflectors than you can currently buy at almost any bike store.

First off, current SAE reflectors are not configured to make them real easy to attach to a bike rack or rear fender, much less any other bike part. Fortunately, I was able to find a “Tie Plate” that was just big enough to mount two reflectors and even had holes in it that matched the spacing I needed. The only item I needed to buy that cost over $3 for two reflectors were the tin snips I needed in order to cut the tie plate to a “good for a bike” size. Interestingly, the tie plate was located for me at Ace Hardware by a clerk that caught on after he realized I did not want to attach my reflector to a car, RV, or post. Thanks, Ace! You may not have a bike rack, but your people know their stuff.

STEP 1: Cut the tie plate in two with the tin snips.

Tie Plate is Cut into Two
STEP 2: Cut each half of the tie plate with the tin snips so that the sharp metal edges won’t extend past your reflector. A Sharpie pen helps here to mark enough of the metal to trim, while leaving a lot left for the reflector adhesive to stick to.


Tie Plate Trimmed to Suit the Reflector. Excess is at Upper Right. Fasteners are at Upper Left
Ace Hardware Part Number is on the White Tag
STEP 3: Attach the modified tie plate to your rear rack. The photo shows it attached to a Topeak Explorer rack which has two holes that conveniently EXACTLY match the holes already in the tie plate. If you have an old Pletscher rack, it’ll only have one hole, so you’ll have to make a choice between a less solid fastened installation, or reinforcing things with glue. If you have other racks, you’ll have to improvise, or not. Either way, it’ll be FAR better than either an ancient reflector or anything the CPSC would endorse.

Tie Plate Installed on Topeak Explorer Rear Rack Prior to Reflector Installation
STEP 4: Stick the reflector to the tie plate. I used nails as a guide, as in the photo, to ensure that the holes lined up before the adhesive contacted the tie plate. That ensured I’d be able to put fasteners in afterwards. See “Belt and Suspenders” post recently.

Reflector Getting Stuck to the Tie Plate - Nails Act to Line the Holes Up
STEP 5: Install the fasteners and you’re all done! A better reflector than is available in any bike shop, or from any bike manufacturer, all for about $2 in parts per reflector. This reflector is installed strongly enough that I expect it to last for decades to come.

Finished Installation on Topeak Rear Rack. Cowabunga!
NOTE: I selected a RED reflector. If you read literature, such as here, you might wonder why I picked a RED reflector, rather than an AMBER one that has double the reflectivity of a red one. Well, it is because most local laws require RED. While I typically ride in the dark with a red rear light as well as my reflector (meaning I comply with the law even if I had an amber reflector), should the light fail (not uncommon with bike lights), only a RED reflector would comply with all state and local laws. Sigh…

Monday, September 8

Round About the Roundabout

Google Maps Satellite View of Ocean Shores Roundabout
More About The Bike Lanes Later...
Not long ago, the Bike League instructor email list had a discussion about roundabouts. Roundabouts are an up and coming feature of roads that allow traffic flow without the disruption of four-way stop signs or traffic signals. They work quite well for motorized traffic, but cyclists and traffic engineers do not seem to understand how they can also work quite simply and well for cycling. The Ocean Shores roundabout is a case in point. The roundabout replaced the only traffic signal in town.


Uneventful Traffic Flow Through Ocean Shores Roundabout
The Wrong-Way Motorist Wasn't Using it Today!
If You Ride a Bike, The Bike Lane Striping Appears to Direct You into the Crosswalk
At the beginning of this post, you can see a “Google Maps” overhead view of the roundabout. Mostly, traffic flows through it without incidents of any kind, though I heard a motorist tried to go through it the wrong way a few days ago. Most motorists are competent enough to go around in the right direction and mostly they also pay attention to the signs. Ocean Shores is a tourist town, and so a lot of these motorists that do well have not encountered roundabouts prior to their visit.

I’ve ridden through this roundabout many times now and, up until a week or two ago, it’s been the height of simplicity to simply follow the signs that apply to the rest of traffic. Basically, if you plan to turn right or go straight, you stay in the RH traffic lane. If you plan to make a left or U turn, get in the LH traffic lane and exit into the street appropriate to your destination. As with most well-designed roundabouts, traffic entering the roundabout must yield to those already going around. This works well for motor vehicles OR for bikes, since bikes can go around in a circle at least as well as the typical motor vehicle. It is a simple case of elementary destination positioning. For those not recalling this principle, it states “stay in the rightmost lane that serves your destination.”

Simply Follow the Arrows and Get in the Lane that Goes Where You Want to Go
HOWEVER, recently, the city restriped the bike lanes, creating needless conflict. The approach reinforced my belief that traffic engineers are often clueless dweebs that are ignorant about how to keep all people safe. In short, remembering that Ocean Shores made it ILLEGAL foranybody to ride on city sidewalks (even little kids on bikes with trainingwheels), these traffic engineers striped their bike lanes to direct cyclists on to and off of sidewalks into their painted lanes. You might wonder how this puts anybody in danger, considering that there are few crossing driveways on these sidewalks. Well, once so directed, people on bikes then use the pedestrian crosswalks across the roundabout. This IS a problem, since pedestrians without wheels travel fairly slowly and have the equipment to stop without problems. On the OTHER hand, people on bikes are going much quicker and they cross the roundabout in a manner that is unexpected for motorists using the roundabout. Personally, I also have a problem with city-installed infrastructure that encourages behavior that the same city has made illegal.

Following the Striping "Suggestion" Leads a Cyclist onto the Illegal Sidewalk and to Cross the Road at Right Angles to Traffic
Once again, traffic engineering in action – creating danger and encouraging illegal behavior when doing NOTHING would have been far better AND safer. I look forward to their next folly, when they create problems on the street immediately north of the roundabout…
Odd Striping Strategy for a City that Made it ILLEGAL to Ride Bikes on Sidewalks. I Guess They Expect Everyone Will WALK Their Bikes for a Block?

Tuesday, September 2

Belts and Suspenders, So to Speak


The Ocean Shores Ace Hardware has LOTS of Belts AND Suspenders!
This post was INSPIRED by the notion of belts and suspenders, shown above by the “belt and suspender” department of the Ocean Shores Ace Hardware store. The implementation was mine alone.

Over time, I’ve concluded that the most effective and serious cycling raingear today is made by the “Showers Pass” company. That title was formerly held by Burley, and companies such as REI would like to assume that title, but Showers Pass (of Oregon) is IT at the moment. I’ve accumulated a fair amount of their items. For me the weak points of cycling rain protection are head and hand dryness. THIS post addresses head dryness.

Rain Hat, Designed to Work With Showers Pass Rain Jacket - No Helmet Needed or Intended
Showers Pass has two approaches to head dryness. The first is a hat that velcros on to some of their raincoats, as shown in the photo above. It works well, except that you wind up with the choice of one of two fatal flaws. In the first way to use this first hat, you cinch down the elastic to hold the hat securely on your head. In THAT case, the edge gradually creeps below your eyebrows and you lose the ability to see the whole picture up ahead. BAD - while I'm not in fear of cars killing me, who knows what a frightened deer up ahead might do? In the second way you use this first hat, you abandon the elastic. In that case, the hat drips all over and blows off before too long. ALSO BAD. If Showers Pass added a second elastic strap that would pull the hat UP when the main elastic is cinched down, this problem would be dramatically lessened, but neither they, nor anybody, else has come up with that idea yet.

Showers Pass Helmet Cover Rain Protection
Fortunately, Showers Pass also has a rain hat that is designed to cover the typical CPSC helmet available today. I used it in preference to the first hat when I was commuting to work in DFW. It works OK, except that stuff leaks through on to your head. It also only works WITH a helmet. FWIW, that strap at the back is apparently intended to hold a light. Odd to have a light holder in combination with a BLACK helmet cover. Said by someone who just bought the stuff to stay dry and has few dogs in the "style versus visibility" contest.

For "Best" Protection, Use BOTH Hats at the Same Time!
Inspired by the Ace hardware “belt and suspenders” Department, I tried using BOTH Showers Pass hats at the same time. With a helmet/hat on, the elastic was not needed on the first hat, and my head arrived back at home perfectly dry. Rain, however, never sleeps. As shown below, it got my “IGA Pink Espresso Card” wet while I waited, and THAT wet card stained my “high vis” rain jacket pocket. My saddle also got wet while I waited behind the motorists, but a rain cape recently mentioned by Chandra, could probably help that problem. Improvements continue…

Head May be Dry, but Wetness Seeps Through! Perhaps adding a Rain Cape?
 

Sunday, August 31

Butts on Bikes

More Butt on the Saddle While in Line for Coffee Would Have Avoided a Wet Rear End!
Perhaps things have a way of evening out. It was just a couple of days ago that I opined on “Citizen Rider” that “butts on bikes” types are rarely cyclists. Yesterday, I realized that perhaps we DO need more “butts on bikes.” At least we need more “butts on saddles” for those cyclists waiting in a line of motorists to get their daily coffee on Labor Day weekend, in the rain, in the Ocean Shores tourist trap. That saddle got real wet during the time I got off the saddle while stopped. Perhaps a rain cape would have avoided the wetness due to time the butt was OFF the saddle.

In addition to more “butts on bikes,” I realized that the flimsy plastic bags grocery stores offer should not be sneered at when you are getting pasta to bring home when the backpack isn’t totally waterproof. What’s more, I developed more appreciation for the benefits of combining “belts and suspenders” in the rain for head protection. More on that later.

Finishing, Richard of “Suburban Assault” opined that it rains harder in North Texas thanin the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps he merely remembers all the LIGHT rain in the Northwest and not the occasional HARD rain. I can testify that it DOES rain hard in the Northwest and not just in North Texas. It just also rains lightly a LOT more so memory might not be totally accurate for someone getting soaked in Texas.