Archive for the ‘Bicycles’ Category

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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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.

Cathedral Square Market, 7-9-11

I thought I would beat the heat by heading out at 8:00 a.m.   Gonna tell ya, folks, no matter what time you get up during the summer months in Mobile, Alabama you just aren’t going to beat the heat!  Actually, it’s more of a humidity factor.  Nevertheless, headed down my usual route…from my house on Demouy, up Conti (following the “bike route”), through the Monterey area, across Catherine and Anne, Broad and down Dauphin.  Traffic was light.  Got to the Square, chained by bike, and strolled around.

The crowd was light, I guess it was fairly early for most Mobilians.  One advantage of getting to The Cathedral Square Market early is you get the choicest of the choice.  My FAV seafood vendor, J & J Seafood, usually runs out of oysters first, and then folks start snapping up the lump crabmeat.  Jerome, the owner, knows I visit him first, then stroll around, so he packs my goodies on ice and sticks them back in the cooler for me to pick up after my shopping.  Picked up by goat cheese, and then bought “gourmet” pickle slices from a new vendor.  Always good to support new businesses!  Ben and I will be feasting tonight.

Anyway, sorry I missed the C & S ride this morning, but plan to do it tomorrow with the Sunday Morning Breakfast Ride.  I did my first one last week…and it was definitely d0-able, even on my ancient Schwinn.  Told Ben at least he should do the Sunday Stroll tomorrow afternoon.  We’ll see.

Later folks, I’m headed down to Fowl River where I will pop a cold one, and plop into some sort of inflatable, and let the past week float away.

Summertime Grocery Run

Well it is hot hot hot down here on the Gulf Coast and it will be so for another several months.  But you know, with a little adaptation one can keep cycling through the summer without much problem.  Now the combination of high temps and humidity does turn people off to cycling in Mobile for much of the year.  And the weather is one of the more frequent reasons I hear people say they won’t ride their bikes or they feel cycling cannot take off in Mobile.  I for one don’t buy this.  Virtually every place in the world has some form of inclement weather.  Southern California might be “perfect” weather but the most bike friendly cities in North America are found in the rainy northwest or freezing Minneapolis or Montreal.  Mobile is hot during the summer but we almost never have snow or ice on the roads.  We get thunderstorm bursts in summer but just about everywhere gets summer afternoon rains.  Nope, Mobile has mild weather 7-8 months of the year and it is a flat topography.  Rain might cramp you style every once in a while but this is a minority of times.  Most hours of the day the sun is out.  By the way New Orleans is coming along just fine as a bike town.  Their climate is identical to Mobile’s.

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My jaunt up to the grocery store is approximately 2 miles and on the way I ran into several neighbors and chatted them up.  One of the great things about getting out of the car is it is so much easier to see, stop, and speak with the people in your community.  It really does build a sense of community and place.  And while I never feel like I’m getting exercise I know all the little activity created by casual cycling really adds up and is good for me mentally as well as physically.  And I only had a slight sweat going, not enough to show through my t-shirt and something that was gone after 5 minutes back in air conditioning.  By the way, my feeling is that on flat terrain and hot weather that a speed of approximately 7-8 mph is ideal for getting somewhere on a bike because it is just the right balance of exertion and breeze creation.  But I’ll need a speedometer to know for sure!

Local Business and Bike Marketing

I work in downtown Mobile.  Last year  a new hotel went up right across the street from my office.  It is now an up and running Candlewood Suites.  One day while walking to the local YMCA for a lunchtime workout, I noticed two bikes parked just out in front of the lobby .   Intrigued, I walked over to get a closer look.  Turns out the hotel provides two Huffy bikes, with baskets, for their guests to get around downtown Mobile.  This is the first business I know of that provides bikes for their customers.  Wow!  You’re telling me a business in Mobile is using bikes as a part of their marketing strategy.  Someone, somewhere, decided that purchasing bikes, and a rack, and placing them super conveniently right outside the lobby entrance, was a smart business decision.  Maybe they think providing the bikes gives them a slight edge or differentiates them from competitive hotels.

David, a visiting businessman, using his hotel's bike to check out downtown Mobile.

While eating downtown I noticed David (pictured above) riding a bike I recognized.  Sure enough it was one of Candlewood Suites’ bikes.  I introduced myself and asked him if I could take his picture for local bike advocacy purposes.  He happily agreed.  I learned he works for Alabama Power Credit Union and visits downtown Mobile regularly.  He enjoys taking the bikes out in the evening because he can get around downtown more easily and quicker than by walking.  Nice way to use bikes in your business Candlewood Suites!

Bike Advocacy: Encouraging New Cyclists

Ride participants hang out by the bay during last Saturday's ride. Vikki (middle left) is holding up scones she made for the riders.

Mobilians on Bikes (MOB), https://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_120942041277691&ap=1, is a utilitarian bicycling group in Mobile, AL.  The group focuses on encouraging the use of the bicycle as a vehicle for urban transportation.  Many short (< 5 mi) trips can be accomplished using a bicycle and bicycle use can partially address a variety of social ills.  These ills include pollution, traffic  congestion, and the poor health of the community.   MOB creates an encouraging and fun environment for those who may initially be too nervous to ride on their own.  MOB weekend rides focus on fun and strive to show folks that “regular” people wearing “regular” clothes and of a “regular” fitness level can ride a bike.  The purpose is to dispel the myth that bicycles are only for sport.  This way the group hopes to convert people one by one.  Each driver that begins riding a bike, even if only every so often, will be a more empathetic car driver in the future.

One recent success story is that of Vikki Finch.  Vikki got a new bike (Rivendell Betty Foy of all things!!) and began re-learning to ride a bike just a few months ago.  Her husband, Bill Finch, is a prominent member of the Mobile community and an avid cyclist.  I figured he got her the bike in order to spend time together.  Well Vikki would practice riding around my neighborhood and when I would see her I would encourage her to come on some MOB rides.  She would politely decline saying she wouldn’t want to slow us down and that she was too nervous to ride in a group.  Hah!  Like our 8mph rides are too fast and intimidating.  Well I’m proud to say that Vikki is now not only riding with MOB but is leading a weekly Saturday morning ride down the western side of Mobile Bay.  On the last ride she made scones for everybody.  What a ride leader!  She jumped from newbie to ride leader in only a few months.  Her unassuming, positive personality will bring in new bike riders who are looking for a stress free, social and fitness oriented bike ride.

Riders pose in front of one of the few things Mobile has done for bicycling.

Saturday, Warm Weather, Birthday Party, Friends, Bikes !!

The title of this post says it all.  What a Saturday!  My son Alex is celebrating his 4th birthday and my wife Megan planned a low key, stress-free birthday party with friends for him and friends for us.  We are fortunate to live very close to a nearby square that offers a lot of shade from impressive live oak trees.  This is particularly important since we have no backyard space for entertaining.  We also live in a neighborhood that is very bikable.  Four families biked, 1 family walked, and 1 family drove.  That’s not a bad rate of sustainable, healthy transportation to a birthday party.  While we were there we saw other folks, some friends and some strangers, out and about enjoying the great weather or going about their errands on their bikes.  This got me to thinking about what makes a neighborhood truly enjoyable and what characteristics give its citizens a sense of community and well being.  Having a public square that is easily accessible is important.  This allows people to meet, converse, and

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enjoy a public space together.  The bikability and walkability of our neighborhood builds well being and a sense of community because they foster active lifestyles and impromptu meetings with neighbors and friends.  Even if it is a casual wave and saying “how do you do?”, these things are important for building a sense of connectivity in a community.  At one point during the day I was thinking about these things and how it is really the small, inexpensive, simple things that are truly important.  At one point I thought to myself “this is the good life.”