Author Archive

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

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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?

Doughnuts

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.

 

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.

Locavore Locomotion

My family has been eating produce from Grow Alabama for about 7 months now.  Grow Alabama is a non-profit organization that is promoting the consumption and production of Alabama grown crops.  Here is a little blurb from their website….

“The purpose of Grow Alabama is reversing the ratio of foods consumed in Alabama to the foods grown in Alabama, thereby increasing the production and profitability of all Alabama farmers, enhancing the economic viability of all Rural Alabama and bringing economic and environmental sustainability to the state as a whole, while providing the people of Alabama the highest quality foods available.”

We have really enjoyed the variety of foods we’ve been getting.   Every week we receive a box of goods that reflect what is grown in the state for that time of year.  Our diets are much more diversified because when we open up the produce box we get what is in season and what grows well in Alabama.   Items such as field peas, okra, turnips, muscadine, etc. are the types of foods we are eating regularly now but weren’t eating much of when we shopped for vegetables at the local grocer.  So it’s been good and I like the mission of the organization.

The "gold" box is good for a weeks worth of vegetables for a small family.

Well our pickup point for the boxes changed a couple of weeks ago and the new location is very close to my work.  I was actually very excited about this because I love testing out new utility tasks I can do with my bike.   This morning I brought along some extra bungee cords to strap the box to my back rack.  The Dutch bike I ride is really made so well for performing many tasks such are running errands in a city.  The rear rack is real beefy and can hold a small adult.  I gave my wife a ride on it for about a half a mile through downtown a while back.  Anyhow, the bike performed very well for hauling our box of goodies and I’m very pleased to have accomplished a task like this without using a car.

I’m going to try to do this every Wednesday (pickup day) from now on.

Nice Rack Ride

So last weekend Mobilians on Bikes, the local bicycle users’ group, hosted the Nice Rack Ride.  The Nice Rack Ride was a bike crawl to 4 pubs that provide bike racks for its customers.  Not many businesses in Mobile provide customer parking for those who choose to arrive by bike.  The lack of safe, secure bike parking comes up regularly in surveys that reveal the inhibitors to cycling.  No one wants to get their bike stolen or ruined and good bike parking can be a big encouragement for folks to visit a place via bike.

The ride was also a fun way to show that a person can do a lot of social stuff using bike transportation.  It’s a fun way to get around and the riders that night certainly found that out.  I was pleasantly surprised we had several newbies in the group.  The new folks were very energetic and had great attitudes, a wonderful addition to the veterans in the group.  Here are some pictures as we get ready to leave from a neighborhood coffee shop that, of course, has a bike rack.  There were 26 people in total.

Several members got dressed up and showed that you can look good on a bike in the middle of summer here in Mobile.  Yeah, everyone was perspiring a little bit but nothing 10 minutes in air condition couldn’t handle.

Heels and bikes, no problem.

 

The group hit up a diversity of bars, one mexican bar, one corporate bar, one gay bar, and one irish bar.  I bet most people had never been to all of these bars and so at least one was new to them.  Most folks got food and drinks at the first stop, the Ok Bicycle Shop and Taqueria.  The Taqueria has a very nice back patio that exudes a cool atmosphere once the sun goes down.  The margaritas and mojitos are great there.

After the Taqueria, we cruised down to the Royal Street Tavern.  I had never been to this spot before and I was thoroughly impressed.  The piano player was good and the drinks were well priced.  And best of all is that the bar is attached to a hotel so bar guests can go up to an 8th floor balcony to chill out outside and get some great views.  This bar/lounge will definitely be on my radar the next time I’m going out.

After the Royal St. Tavern we rode to Gabriel’s which is a local gay bar that offers a bike rack for its guests.  The folks at Gabriel’s were very nice and we had a blast there.  They allow smoking inside so I was a bit worried I wouldn’t like it.  But luckily there were hardly any smoking guests so the air was fine.  Most folks stayed inside but they do have a nice back deck.

After Gabriel’s we hit up my neighborhood favorite, Callaghan’s Irish Pub.  A customer recently purchased a bike rack for Callaghan’s so luckily we were able to add them to the list.  It’s a great local watering hole truly deserving of a bike rack.

It was  great night on bikes and we will do it again.  Everyone in the group imbibed responsibly and so the night was a fun and safe one.  A big thanks goes out to the bars that provide customers a bike rack.  Way to go!