Why Do Cyclists Break Traffic Laws?

August 28th, 2012 No comments

Photo Credit: BR!AN QU!NN

I’m paying close attention to my behavior and the behavior of other cyclists on the road. I made a decision to ride my bike consistently with the rules of the road, but other cyclists may not share that sentiment. The problem lies not in the cyclists themselves, but in the way that cyclists are treated as road users.

There is one particular crosswalk on my commute that represents the issue. It is a pedestrian activated traffic light that allows people to cross Iliff Ave (a fairly busy road) and connects two sections of bike path with homes and a school. It’s a major crosswalk that is ignored by essentially every pedestrian that uses it. The problem is that it is a 3 minute wait for the signal to change (that doesn’t sound like much, but the average traffic light changes every 30-60 seconds). During that 3 minutes there are frequent breaks in traffic, and there is a large median in the center of the road, so most pedestrians just cross when they can rather than wait. The question I ask is, “is there a timing for this signal that people would be willing to wait for to cross safely?” I think the answer is yes.

Apart from being a long wait, this traffic signal sends a clear message: “Pedestrians are not important!” It effectively treats anyone who uses the crosswalk as a second-class citizen. As a result, people act like second-class citizens and ignore the laws that are meant to protect them. This is the same behavior I see from cyclists. When infrastructure is provided that creates a positive environment for cyclists, generally there are fewer infractions. When cyclists are marginalized, however, the reaction is to act outside the law.

Of course there will always be cyclists that ignore the law, just as there are motorists that do the same. But some cyclists’ perception that they can ignore stop signs and traffic signals is just as prevalent as motorists’ perception that bikes don’t belong on the road in the first place. If the infrastructure and attitude changes to give bicycles equal share of the road (and really we’re only asking for 3 feet), then I believe we will see more cyclists acting responsibly. The result will be safer roads for everyone.

Categories: bike, commute, opinion, safety Tags: ,

New Adventures at California Pizza Kitchen

August 19th, 2012 1 comment

Plank Grilled SalmonI was invited to a preview tasting of the items on the “New Adventures” menu at California Pizza Kitchen. These new offerings will expand the choices that diners have at the restaurant, and at less than 600 calories each, are a healthy addition to the menu. If you are trying to find flavorful and healthy options for dining out, the New Adventures menu choices will appeal to you!

There are five new offerings: Cedar Plank Salmon and Corn Succotash, Fire-Roasted Chile Relleno, Grilled Chicken Chimichurri, Quinoa and Arugula Salad, and Shrimp Scampi Zucchini Fettuccine. My two favorites were the Cedar Plank Salmon and the Fire-Roasted Chile. The salmon is an Atlantic salmon, seasoned with smoked paprika and grilled on top of a cedar plank. The plank is soaked so that smoke from the cedar infuses the salmon as it cooks, marrying beautifully with the smoky flavor of the paprika. The sweet corn in the succotash is balanced by a touch of cayenne pepper bringing out wonderful flavors, and paired with the saltiness of some feta cheese. You won’t believe you are eating a meal that was designed with low-calorie in mind!

roasted pepperHowever, if you are looking for a dish that really packs a flavor punch you will want to try the fire-roasted chile. This features a poblano pepper that has been grilled and stuffed with a corn and black bean salsa, wild mushrooms, chicken, spinach and eggplant, covered with quesadilla cheese and creamy avocado salsa. The mild spicy pepper brings so much flavor to the traditional stuffed pepper, and the tender eggplant makes for a hearty stuffing. The result is a truly satisfying entrée that will have you stopping just short of licking the plate clean. The best part: 380 calories for the whole dish. I almost wish that the nutritional value was not printed on the menu, and saved for the end as a surprise for guests!

Each of the other menu items offer something special as well. The zucchini noodles in the shrimp scampi will have you wanting to try the dish with no pasta at all! And if you are wanting to try quinoa, but aren’t sure if it is something you will enjoy, the quinoa salad is a beautiful presentation of the healthy grain. The chimichurri sauce on the grilled chicken is a new experience as well, especially if dietary restrictions have you looking for low salt flavor options.

In the end this represents a slight change of direction for a restaurant like California Pizza Kitchen, one that I wish more restaurants were considering. Cook wonderful, flavorful food with fresh ingredients, and you can offer patrons satisfying dishes that won’t hurt their waistlines. These are the kind of small changes that can help turn the tide in our nation’s fight against obesity. Because eating healthy shouldn’t be a chore, it should be fun and easy for everyone!

Viva Streets

August 7th, 2012 No comments

On August 12 I will be checking out Viva Streets which is being put on by LiveWell Colorado. This is a program in its second year designed to build activity and community by closing down an entire city street to traffic. Residents are encouraged to get out walking or on their bikes to enjoy the car-free street. Like a giant block party for people all over Denver, this will be a unique experience in a beautiful neighborhood. The event will take place on 23rd street between City Park and Stapleton in the Park Hill neighborhood, and there will be a bike parade down 23rd starting at Kearney at 10am. This is a wonderful opportunity to get out with your family, and learn more about the easy ways you can get active and connected to your community. Check out the video from last year’s event below!

Categories: fitness Tags: , ,

Bike to Work Day 2012

June 20th, 2012 No comments

Next week on June 27th I will be participating in Bike to Work Day 2012. If you live elsewhere you may have already done this back in May, but in Colorado we have it in June due to the fact that it is less likely to snow. I have a special fondness for BTWD (as us old timers like to call it) due to the fact that it kicked off my attempt to commute to work via alternative transportation. The first year I participated I had no bike, so I ran the 14 miles to work. I vowed to get a bike for the next year, and that May my dream was realized. By the time my second BTWD rolled around my butt had almost healed from my first attempt at riding to work without bike shorts. Now a few years later, BTWD is just another day on the calendar that I ride to work but I love to remember how it got me started!

If you talk to many hardcore bike commuters you will find that many of them hate BTWD. It’s the one day of the year that you are guaranteed to see someone on a bike do something crazy, putting themselves in harm’s way. It’s inevitable when people are trying something for the first time to have problems getting started. And I know it is tough to ask for help when you are doing something that most of us have been doing since we were 5!

So for BTWD 2012 I thought I would write a few tips that I have picked up over the years of riding my bike to work (and I’m still learning). You probably know all of these things already, but you’d be surprised at the things I’ve seen and done.

Choose your route carefully! You are not going to want to ride the same roads that you drive to work on your bike. You are not going to be able to pedal 40mph, so it’s not going to take you any longer than it would otherwise by taking side streets. And if you can avoid streets completely to ride on bike paths, do so even if it’s out of your way! It is SO much less stressful traveling on a bike path than it is on a street with cars. Bike lanes do improve that comfort somewhat, but even with them there is the feeling that you are going ridiculously slowly compared to traffic. Google maps has a great feature that will let you search for directions to travel by bike. It’s not perfect, but I’ve found lots of potential routes by that tool that avoid many of the main traffic problems. Don’t be tempted to ride on the sidewalk, or ride on the road against traffic. Cars are expecting other cars on the road, so if you act like other cars they won’t be surprised. I’ve run into a few “bike lane salmon” in my time, you do not want to be that cyclist!

Be prepared! Make sure you have an extra tube, tire levers and a pump with you. If I meet you stranded on the trail I can probably help you change a tire, or make adjustments to your bike with my tool set, but I don’t carry tubes and pumps for all sizes of tires and chances are you don’t have the same size I do. If you have the things you need most cyclists will be happy to help you deal with the problem if you are in over your head. Ask for help if you need it. There are not “born cyclists” who are good at everything from day 1, everyone has had to start at some point. If you do know how to change your own flat tire, great! Just make sure you don’t leave any trash behind. Abandoning your blown-out tube on the side of the road will not give it time to think about what it has done.

Be comfortable! I know you hate spandex, everyone does. But there’s a very good reason that bike shorts exist, if there wasn’t no one would wear them. It’s not to make you more aerodynamic. Apart from providing some much needed padding for your sit-bones, the chamois ensures that there are no seams rubbing against any part of your body that touches the saddle. The chamois is your first line of defense against discomfort, and it’s not a thing you want to go without. If you are concerned about the spandex issue wear bike shorts under your regular shorts. Once you get to work, change as soon as possible, a sweaty chamois is not your friend.

Ride your bike like you drive your car!  Stop at the stop lights and stop signs and wait until it is your turn to cross. Take your place in line at intersections, just because you can fit by on the right side doesn’t mean you should. Cars are not expecting you to come flying by on the right and that’s an invitation to getting cut off. Signal your intentions with hand signals, and thank drivers that give you extra space with a wave. Don’t react negatively to cars that cut it too close. If they are dumb enough to be trying to “teach you a lesson” with a 2000lb hunk of metal, they are probably not going to park their car to politely debate the merits of bike travel with you.

Relax! Riding your bike to work is fun. Give yourself extra time to enjoy the slower pace. If you wanted to be at work “right away” you would have taken your car. On BTWD, find a couple of breakfast stations and stop to chat. In the morning it is cool, and if you are doing it right you probably won’t even need the shower when you get to work! If you really do need that shower, just take it as an opportunity to brag to coworkers about how you just rode to work.

Categories: bike, commute, fitness Tags: ,

Take a Hike

June 17th, 2012 No comments

Hiking with kidsAs a dad, I am always interested in finding activities that my kids enjoy and that I enjoy doing with them. One of the best activities I’ve found is hiking. Kids are natural climbers, and interested in exploring the outdoors, so it’s never a hard sell to convince them to go for a hike. But there are some things that can make it a pretty miserable experience. Here are the ways that we have found to keep hiking a fun, family activity.

Length is important. A hike that takes too long will quickly become a test of patience as the kids complain about how far they have to go or how much their feet hurt. Miles aren’t as important as time, if the terrain is challenging even a one mile walk may be too much. We recently completed a hike that was a 2 mile round trip, but with 1000 feet of elevation. With all the breaks, it took almost 45 minutes to get to the top, then we had to get back down again. Being flexible with your schedule is important as well. It’s hard to gauge how quickly children will hike, so if a hike is taking too long don’t be afraid to adjust your plans. A good way to ensure that a hike is not too long is to be heading back to the start well before you are feeling tired.

Route is important as well. Loop trails are great for grown-ups as the sights are different for the whole trip, but for kids they can be problematic. Having to finish a full loop can make a hike too long if you are not prepared for the distance, and it can seem never-ending for kids who don’t have an idea of how close they are to the finish. An out and back hike can be turned around at any time, and the kids see familiar landmarks on the return trip that give them hope for the finish.

The goal of a hike doesn’t have to be a destination, but it should always include snacks. Bring granola bars, or trail mix and eat them at the half-way point. If kids are older you can plan a day hike and eat lunch. Always bring more food and water than you think you need, even if you don’t eat it all it’s better to have a reserve than to run out. Trail mix is great for keeping kids moving when they are tired. They can be snacking on raisins and peanuts right out of their hand as they walk. As well as keeping their energy reserves up, it’s a distraction from sore feet.

Bring extra clothes. Jackets and hats weigh very little for a grown-up, but can be a huge source of comfort if the weather changes. Make sure you bring clothes for yourself as well, young kids walk slowly enough that you may not be generating as much heat as you would on a hike on your own. Raincoats or ponchos are cheap and pack down incredibly small, there’s no excuse for not having one at the bottom of your pack.

In Colorado we are fortunate to have trails in the foothills and mountains that offer incredible opportunities for hiking with kids, but mountains are not necessary for a great hike. Kids are interested in everything around them, and wildlife and insects can be found even on urban trails and parks. Take your time to examine things with them and you will find things to talk about both on the trail and long after the hike is over. It’s an adventure that everyone in the family will appreciate!

Categories: fitness, parenting Tags: , ,

DIY Hurdles for Kids

June 1st, 2012 No comments

HurdlesOur youngest son is finishing preschool this year, and the class was participating in a field day event. There was very little support from the school for the event, however, so the parents ended up doing most of the organizing. We are fortunate in that there are at least two or three parents involved with the preschool that understand how fun a field day can be for young kids.

Melissa asked the school for access to some of the small hurdles that were being used for the older kids, but was told that preschoolers are too small to jump hurdles and they might get injured. Not one to let adversity get her down, she decided we could make some hurdles ourselves. I thought that would be a great project, and I advised her to get 3/4″ PVC pipe and some tees and elbows for the project. She ended up getting the following items:

  • 3 x 10-foot lengths of 3/4″ PVC pipe
  • 8 x 3/4″ PVC Tees
  • 8 x 3/4″ PVC 90° Elbows
  • PVC Primer
  • PVC Cement
  • Tubing cutter for PVC pipe less than 1 5/8″ diameter

Using these supplies I was charged with making 4 hurdles of reasonable size for preschool children. I first laid out the three pipes and measured for the feet and the cross-bar. I wanted the feet to be 8″ each, and the cross-bar 36″ across, but I didn’t know how much that would leave for the vertical supports. I got all of the feet laid out and the cross-bars and was left with 3 sections of pipe 24″, 16″ and 48″ long. I divided these into six, 12″ pieces and two 8″ pieces, which would give me three hurdles approximately 14″ high and one hurdle 10″ high.

Preschool hurdlesHappy with the fact that I would be able to build all 4 hurdles with zero waste I set about making the cuts. You could do this with a hacksaw, but using the tubing cutter was MUCH easier, resulting in nice clean cuts, in a fraction of the time a saw would have required! Starting with the feet I attached two of the 8″ pieces into each of the tees, and then attached two elbows to each cross-bar. I was planning to cement these pieces together, but the fit was pretty tight without glue and I ended up just leaving them loose. I may go back and glue them later so that I don’t have to keep straightening out downed hurdles. Regardless of whether I glue these pieces or not I will leave the vertical pieces unglued so that I can make the hurdles taller as the boys grow. I may also get some PVC end caps for the feet so that the cut edge of pipe is not exposed.

Once they were all assembled, I tossed the 4 hurdles into the back lawn and let the kids at them. The laughing, running and jumping left them both breathless in 10 minutes and it was obvious the project was a success. It took about half an hour to finish, and cost $34 for all the items on the list. Expansion of the current set of hurdles will require only PVC pipe, and the sky’s the limit!

And no one was hurt at field day!



Categories: fitness, parenting Tags: , ,

What’s Your Workout?

May 25th, 2012 1 comment

I was featured this week on KWGN‘s “What’s Your Workout?” segment. Check it out!

Categories: bike, fitness Tags: ,

Activity Versus Diet

May 16th, 2012 1 comment

I have been thinking a lot lately about the role that diet plays in a healthy lifestyle. In the past I have been quick to write off dieting as a weight loss method due to the fact that I place a heavy emphasis on activity. With my level of daily activity I can maintain my weight, and even lose weight, without any adjustments to what I eat. I tend to boast that I can eat whatever I want as I know I’m going to be able to run or bike it off later!

But, “whatever I want” is different for different people. Even at my worst I don’t eat fast food, junk food like potato chips are reserved for the weekend, and healthy portion sizes are the norm. The question that has come up in my mind is, “Even with my level of daily activity, would a poor diet lead to weight gain?”

The reason I think this question is important is related to the childhood obesity problem currently affecting Americans. The current trend is to blame lack of activity for children’s weight gain. No doubt that plays a role, but are video games and lack of physical education programs at school just scapegoats for the food industry? If you have children you know that they have almost infinite energy, and their desire is to be active without any motivation. Despite changes in the school system that limit physical activity, all schools still have recess and playgrounds. Kids have far more daily activity than adults, so it’s hard to believe that lack of activity is the main factor in childhood obesity.

Instead, I am starting to think that it is possible to undo all of the healthy effects of activity merely by dietary choices. And more importantly, blaming video games and schools for childhood obesity while the fast food and junk food industries rake in profits with little to no oversight, seems unfair.

Everyone makes choices, whether consciously or not. I consciously choose to exercise because I know it helps me stay healthy, but to some extent I unconsciously choose to eat healthy options because I have been doing it for so long. For some, the choice to exercise and to eat healthily are both conscious, and often difficult, decisions. However, ignoring the effect of one or the other is shortsighted, and can only lead to failure. Small, positive activity and dietary choices every day are the true path to success.

Project Bike

May 11th, 2012 1 comment

Commute BikeThe conversion of road bike to commute bike is complete! With this I forgo any aspirations of ever racing this bike, and instead dedicate its use to meeting my transportation needs. I began this journey a few months ago with some investigation of how to attach a rack to a road bike. As my bike has no attachment points for accessories I was clueless as to how to begin. The search revealed two possible solutions. The first “P-clamps” which are readily available at hardware stores, and the second, a quick-release adapter to mount a rack directly to the axle.

The QR adapter was favored by touring enthusiasts and I wasn’t sure I needed to go that route for my 20 lbs of gear (I weighed my usual full commute bag). But I did know that I needed to go with something more robust than a seat mount rack, which are generally rated to only 15 lbs. It turned out that a particular brand of rack (Racktime) could be adapted to work with a QR-adapter specific for Tubus racks. Tubus racks are much more robust, and designed specifically for touring, but Racktime offer a similar design with slightly weaker aluminum construction. I ordered a Racktime rack and figured I would try with P-clamps first.

My first attempt at mounting the rack with P-clamps resulted in a functional rack system, but it did not feel very robust. With my loaded panniers (a sweet set from KoKi), my heels would occasionally catch on the bags, even in their farthest back adjustment. Also, the P-clamps that attach near the axle were carrying a lot of load on just a thin, sheet metal mounting point. My fear was I would be riding home and the clip would snap, leaving me stranded without any way to fix it.

Rack and Fenders

Rack and fenders attached with QR adapter kit from Tubus

I ordered the QR-adapter, and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to mount the rack on the supplied brackets (just two holes needed to be drilled). Mounting the rack on the bike with the wheel and attaching the rack to the seat stays was another issue entirely! Eventually, after several failed attempts, and a couple of trips to the hardware store, I am finally happy with the way the rack is mounted. The QR-mount is a solid attachment point, and I would have no problem loading the rack to its full 66 lb rating with the current configuration. Heel strike is a thing of the past as well.

Buoyed up by my success with the rack, I went about adding fenders to the mix. I was convinced that fenders were essential to allowing me to ride my bike on inclement weather days. Usually, the only times I ride in the rain are when I get caught in an evening thunderstorm. The result of this is that I arrive at my destination drenched, having to completely disassemble my bike, and needing to stand in the shower for half an hour to warm up. None of these things are possible at work, so I couldn’t ride my bike to work on days when it was raining in the morning.

I bought a set of fenders that were specific for a road bike. They are 35 mm wide so that they can (potentially) fit through the brake calipers without touching the wheel. I managed to get the rear fender mounted, but it turned out it was rubbing along the whole left hand side of the fender. In other words, my rear wheel had moved over in the frame a few millimeters, and while not enough to notice without a fender, with a fender it was a big deal! I went about tightening up the spokes on the right hand side of the wheel to move it over, and in a few short minutes had completely destroyed the wheel. Not only was the dish still off, the rim was completely bent and un-true.

Front Fender

Front fender attached with P-clamps

It was then that I tapped out and took the wheel to my local bike shop to fix. They returned a true wheel, that fit properly in the frame. With that the job of attaching the fenders became much easier, and it was only 2 or 3 hours of minute adjustments before I had two fenders mounted and clear of the tires.

This week I got to reap the full benefit of my labors as I rode to work in the rain on Monday. Fenders make a massive difference, and I arrived at work almost completely dry. In addition, all of the water had been directed away from the sensitive parts of the bike so no disassembly was required, just a re-lubrication of the chain. My work clothes emerged from my water-tight panniers dry, and by the time the ride home began my bike clothes had dried out too!

Making the switch from road bike to commuter was a lot more difficult than I had imagined, but the payoff is huge. I have added so many days that I can potentially ride to work to my calendar, helping to keep me healthy, and keeping me off the bus!



Categories: bike, commute Tags: , , , ,

Days That End In “y”

May 1st, 2012 No comments

I’ve been feeling pretty encouraged lately by my activity level. Back in March I was out of shape and I knew it, now I feel like I’m getting back into a groove. For me that’s the hardest part about staying active. If I miss one day, then the next day follows, and pretty soon I’m not doing anything at all. But if I work to make sure I’m doing something every day, then missing a day just seems wrong. Lately I have been much better about getting out for a run or riding my bike to work every day, but there’s still the weekends where I am not consistent at all.

I can’t say that I’m not doing anything on the weekend, at least I am up and on my feet most of the day, but finding the time to get a workout in when I have family plans and chores to do is tough. After all, my kids only really get me to themselves those two days, for me to wave goodbye and then head out the door for a 4 hour bike ride seems irresponsible. Maybe when they are older and don’t really care if their dad is there I can get away with that, but at this age I can’t justify it.

I know I’m making excuses. There are some chores that don’t have to be done right away, I’m sure I could slip out for an hour to run. I could be getting out of bed at 5am to run long before everyone gets up. I could be making an effort to eat healthier meals on the weekend so that I don’t put such a big dent in my “fitness reserve.”

So I have some work to do, but I’m a lot further along than I was at the beginning of the year. And when the goal is maintaining daily activity for the rest of my life, slow progress is to be expected.