Vehicle Detection for Bikes at Signalized Intersections

Cycling around the older neighborhoods of Mobile is relatively easy because the area is set up on a gridded street system making for multiple ways to get somewhere.   But this also means there are many intersections to get through and some of them have stoplights.  Most of the stoplights have a vehicle detection system embedded in the roadway to detect when a vehicle is waiting to pass.  Most of these systems that are in use today are based on magnetism, though some newer methods incorporate cameras.  When one of these magnetic detection devices is tuned properly it should be able to detect bicycles made of steel and aluminum.  I don’t know if aluminum gets picked up and I’m pretty sure carbon fiber does not.  But a good old steel bike works at many intersections but you just need to know how to use them.  Aluminum and steel rims on a bike should get picked up by a well tuned device if those rims are sitting right on top of the detectors.  Here’s a picture of my front tire riding on top of one of the lines in the road that are from a detector.  It’s important for a bike (since it’s small) to be right on top of these lines.  Go ahead and try it out.  It will make getting around more convenient and faster.

Lines marking vehicle detection equipment at the intersection of Canal and Broad St. This one works very well for bikes


Bike Connectedness… Casey from Canada

Casey is a long way from home.

One of the things that I love so much about riding the bike is that it gives me the ability to connect with people I would have otherwise never met tooling around in my Jeep.  I have met several interesting folks just because I was meandering around on the bike and taking pics.   Take this morning’s example;  I was taking some shots of this little boat over by the giant cranes on the Mobile River and Casey walks up to me curious as to why I was photographing his little boat.  We struck up a conversation and I found out that Casey is a fireman from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  He put this little 14 foot boat in somewhere in Minnesota and with its little 15 horsepower motor has brought himself to Mobile, Alabama.  It took him over 16 days and several nights camping along the Mississippi River, but he made it. He did confide in me that he spent 3 days in hotels along the way.  He wasn’t even sure what day it was.  He lost one somewhere in there.  He thought it was Wednesday.  So Apparently he had found someone to buy his little boat somewhere on Dog River, but was nervous about taking the little 14 footer into the bay.  If he sells it, he gets to reward himself with a flight home.  I gave  him my email address so he could keep me updated on his status.

I am not saying you need to talk to every stranger on the street, but biking certainly opens up opportunities to get to meet people, that you would never even see buzzing down the road in a car.

Cycle on!

The Little Boat that Could...AND DID!

Bikes Make Communities Better

Mobilians on Bikes, a local bicycle community in Mobile, AL supports many rides throughout the year.  One such ride is an easy ride to the Saturday morning  farmers market in downtown Mobile.  I fully believe things like farmers markets, where buyers and sellers get to know each other, build stronger communities.  They also help keep money local.  So those turnips you just bought, you can feel good that the financial exchange will have a more positive financial impact than a purchase made at a national chain.  Bikes perform similarly in that they build stronger communities because they foster more interaction between people in the community and the cheap transportation keeps more money in folks’ pockets to spend locally.  A cyclist is not behind steel and glass and therefore has to interact with the sounds, smells, and small details that you’d miss if you were in a  car.  Here’s an example, on our way down to the farmers market we ran into a breast cancer awareness and benefit walk.  As cyclists, we were privy to the conversations and sounds of the walk and we could easily talk to the walkers as we waited for a gap to get through.

A local breast cancer awareness walk brought 25,000 people to the streets.

Since we were on bikes we could hear the conversation amongst the walkers, chat with them, and take in the sights and sounds of the event.

Along the ride down each one of us is able to enjoy the details in sight, sound and smell of the neighborhoods we pass through.  When we get to our destination at Cathedral Square we are all treated to sunshine, neighbors, and local produce and artisans.   The combination is a real asset to building a positive, interconnected community and is something I love to support.  All the while we are getting our bodies moving, soaking up some rays, and producing those nice endorphins created from the physical activity combined with good friends and neighbors.  What is not to like about that?


Well when you get a promotion you buy your colleagues doughnuts.  Luckily there is a Krispy Kreme less than a mile from my place.
Here I’ve got 2 dozen strapped to the back of my bike.  Man I love my commute!

My commute may burn off 1/4 donut each way. Maybe.


The Beach on Bikes: Camping at Grayton Beach State Park

camping trip group photo

Our happy bike gang. Grayton Beach State Park really treated us right!

My family and I just got back from a great trip to the beach with friends and had an awesome time, partly because of what we didn’t do. That’s because we didn’t get stuck in beach traffic, rent a pricey condo, or spend hours watching TV. Instead, we camped out in the fall with with friends and spent all our time having fun. Fall bike camping on the Gulf Coast is a great way to enjoy the sand, sights, and surf without the heat and crowds of summer. Continue reading

Cycle Chic Going Mainstream

Fashion house Missoni is marketing some very chic looking bikes through Target.  I like it and I think a woman would look great on one of these.  What do you think?

Minimalist Shoes

I’ve been using minimalist shoes, sometimes called barefoot shoes, for over a year now and I must say I really like them.  They are great for fitness activities such as running, cycling, and working out at the gym.  Last year I read reports about Chris McDougall’s book Born to Run  because the findings and opinions of the book were  spreading like wildfire throughout the running world.  The book upended modern perceptions of the running shoe as it advises runners to turn back to running as barefoot as possible.  The author concludes that modern running shoes are actually bad for runners because they cause most people to change their gait and the placement of the foot as it strikes the ground.  The human running gait  and landing position has evolved so that people are naturally supposed to take quick steps and land on their fore or midfoot area rather than their heel.  The muscles on the bottom of the foot and the calf then reduce the shock caused by the landing.  With modern running shoes most folks change and land on their heel in a more heavy manner so that long term more damage is created.  He also does not believe in correcting foot alignment for supposed “problems” with feet as strengthening the lower leg and foot muscles will correct this naturally.

Cycling to the Beach on the Jersey Shore in a Pair of Vibram Five Fingers

Well I purchased a pair of Vibram Five Fingers for running and working out at the gym and I have not looked back.  I can hands down tell that my calves and especially my foot muscles are stronger.  Modern running shoes are really like a Lazy-Boy recliner for your feet.   The foot muscles just atrophy using them.  A Lazy-Boy is good and comfortable sometimes but not good for getting a workout.  My feet seem to connect more strongly with the ground which greatly improves balance and posture.  Cycling in minimalist shoes will give your feet and calves a workout because the shoes offer zero stiffness and therefore your muscles will have to do the work.  The Vibram Five Fingers offer just enough rubber in the sole so you don’t hurt yourself when stepping on little rocks, acorns, bumpy asphalt etc.   Another benefit is the shoes last a long time, well over a year.  No more trading out shoes every three months like you’re supposedly supposed to with modern runners.  That has got to be a huge marketing scam.  A $100+ pair of running shoes every few months or you’ll have all kinds of knee, foot and leg problems!  Whatever.

Check out a pair of minimalist shoes and give them a try.  But do start out slowly because your body and muscles will need to gradually work up to it.