Friday, April 26, 2013

Racks and Hard Places: The Archer Road Tour, Part 3

So far on the Tour de Rack along the south side of Archer Road a few places offer adequate, if not exceptional, security and access for your bike. An equal number are inadequate by any standards. The standards for comparison are quite subjective but include: visibility while in the establishment and to customers entering or leaving the facility; substantial rack; accessibility.

Willy's, Wendy's and Chick-fil-a offer the best security using the above standards. Willy's rack is the least visible and Chick-fil-a's the least sturdy. Rack size is the only knock on Wendy's.

Papa John's Pizza
Not known for it's dining-in facilities also offers no provision for a rider wanting to use take-out. There's not even practical flyparking nearby. Better ingredients? Better Pizza? Not so good parking for bikes.

Papa John's lacks any place to secure a bike
The Century Shoppes
It was surprising to find that the location of Five Guys Burgers and Fries was totally lacking in bike security, but since it also lacks adequate accessibility not having a bike rack is a minor matter. If you're going to visit the battery place, chinese take-out or smoothie place you have to trust in your fellow man, use the not so nearby chain link fence or avail yourself of the assorted flyparking places at Five Guys.

Flyparking on the fence

Five Guys lacks a rack but has some flyparking
There are several places to secure a bike while in Five Guys and it could be visible, so things are not quite so dismal there. To Five Guys' credit, they also have provided accessibility.

The only accessibility at Century Shoppes?
Dine outside and watch your bike

Across the street from Five Guys (and The Century Shoppes) is KFC. No discussion is necessary. No rack. No nothing.

No bikes allowed?
Pizza Hut
Recent renovations to the Hut included many accessibility changes such as lowering portions of counters. Along with these and other modifications a wave rack was placed at the edge of the parking lot. Visibility will be difficult from within, but at least there is something.

The Hut's new rack

Panera Bread, Moe's, Cold Stone and Starbuck's
All four establishments are served by a multi-bike rack. Seldom is this rack empty and it is quite visible for patrons seated outside at Starbuck's. Everyone else takes his or her chances.

Always in use but not very accessible except to Starbuck's
Both Walgreens and it's competitor CVS provide sturdy racks, but placement is well outside the secure comfort zone. Maybe the feeling is that anyone coming to a "drug store" is too ill to contemplate theft. (One recently complete CVS, Archer at Tower, has a rack installed within ready view of its entrance, so it meets customer visibility standards.)

Sturdy but not visible

Pita's Republic had a good arrangement
Dunkin' Donuts and formerly Pita's Republic
Pita's Republic will eventually become something else at which time its bike parking will be very good; sturdy and highly visible. Sharing the same building with Pita's Republic is Dunkin' Donuts which provides no other secure parking and limited flyparking. America may run on Dunkin', but unless you're seated outside someone might run with your bike. 
Nothing but flyparking here

Two asides:
1.If you want more caffeine to start your day amnd you are driving east of Archer, Starbuck's is the better choice according to Twelve ounces of Starbuck's will give you 260 mg while Dunkin' provides a paltry 178 mg in its fourteen 14 ounces serving.

2. For one of those examinations of a question you never thought about asking, in this case, "What's the difference between Starbuck's and Dunkin Donuts coffee drinkers?" visit this blog; No, really, go look at it!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Very Pleasant

Archer Braid Trail near starting point in Archer
Near the Trail's starting point in Archer
I t was another perfect spring day in Florida and required that I do something outside. I joined three things I wanted to do into one extended ride.

Heading toward Archer gave me an opportunity to see progress on the Archer Braid Trail after I recently discovered how much work had been done and how little remained to be completed. I hoped to be able to ride into Archer on the segment that disappearing into the woods west of SW 143rd Street. Before doing so I spoke briefly to two men working on the path. They expected that asphalt would be ordered to begin paving "sometime next week." I thanked them for doing all of this work for me and set off toward Archer.

The nature of the path changes dramatically when it enters the woods east of Archer. To that point traveling west it will be a wide black ribbon and it will be a well used black ribbon, too, but the Archer section will become one of the favorite places to ride because of the  seclusion created by the canopy of trees. Sounds of Archer Road remain a constant, but visually it will be a nice place to ride.

The starting point in Archer is much further from completion that the rest of the path. For riders accustomed to riding through Archer on one of the many GCC routes and stopping at
Starting point of Archer Braid Trail in Archer
Not yet ready for Prime Time Riding
the Kangaroo will be comforted knowing that the path is a conveniently short distance south of the common stopping point where the railroad crosses N. University Avenue (US 41). While there is still much to do the result of the investment of money and time will be of broad benefit, especially to people living in Archer. For anyone trying to ride the path now be aware that you cannot easily exit the path in Archer, as the accompanying pictures show, but this is a minor and temporary inconvenience.

Yet to be completed starting point of Archer Braid Trail in Archer
Looking north toward Kangaroo in Archer from unfinished starting point of Archer Braid Trail
After enjoying discovery of this portion of the Archer Braid Trail I headed north on US 41 to Newberry then east on State Road 26 with the intention of stopping at Tioga Town Center. The last time I'd had a battery replaced in my Fossil chronograph I felt the guy who did it didn't have even a hint of customer care. I knew. I knew that I could count on the people at Lang Jewelers to do the same thing and I'd feel better about the whole transaction.

When I received the Fossil as a gift it had been many years since I last wore an analog wrist watch, but reduced visual clarity made seeing time on a digital very difficult. Hand position solved the problem of telling time. Eventually, new lenses cured the problem of being able to see at all, but by then I had grown very attached to the chronograph. You say, "But it's only a battery!" I say, "Yeah, but it's no different than choosing to have work done by my FNBS" (which you all know is Friendly Neighborhood Bike Shop and that is, of course, Bikes and More). It's no different than choosing a set of Marathons over any other tires. And it's no different than making my FNBS the place to acquire 'em. Some things make more sense to me than other things do.

I got to experience the Archer Braid Trail, got my watch running again and did a very pleasant 32 miles. What a day!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Back In The Day . . . Really?

It was one of those really fine days yesterday; low 80s, blue sky, puffy clouds, gentle breeze, and decidedly early spring. Days like that are a catalyst, making each moment on my bike like a journey aboard a time machine.

I chuckle when someone in his or her twenties (or younger) makes reference to "back in the day" so instead of applying the much overused phrase I'll be more precise, Back in the late 50s I had a red bike. I've no idea what kind, just that it was red and had smaller wheels than anyone else (probably 24 inch) and I rode it a lot. Everybody in the neighborhood had a bike (there were five boys living in adjacent houses and we were within a three year age range) and we used them to go everywhere around town. In the summer you'd hang your baseball glove on the handlebar and hold your bat horizontally across it to ride to the "stone quarry" (which wasn't one but was mostly gravel) or the Acorn League field (because the town wasn't big enough to support Little League) or the Teener League field across from the American Legion building and you'd play baseball all day.

I received my red bike when I was 8 or 9 and the 24 inch wheels and smaller frame were ok then, but by age 12 I was six feet tall and probably looked as weird as I thought I did. One of the neighbor boys had a Schwinn with a knee action spring fork. He had a passion for adjusting things (which usually meant taking things apart and not reassembling them properly) and had removed the front fender. It was common to carry passengers sitting on the handle bars which resulted in the fork striking the front wheel when hitting a severe bump and causing an abrupt stop and an over-the-handlebars dismount. I didn't envy him.

I did envy the boy with the Raleigh English three speed, or so we reverentially called it. I was fascinated by the mechanical advantage he had over the rest of us. And the wire baskets on the back. And its exotic appearance compared to the rest of us. He'd drop his glove in one basket, add a bat or two, even a ball and then he'd handle all but the steepest hills without standing and zigging and zagging from side to side. Eventually we got older and someone had a car and the bikes became less necessary. (When you could ride in the back of a Corvair pickup why would you want to ride a bike?) And baseball became more organized and competitive and life in general lost its innocence.

Yesterday was like one of those early naive
summer vacation days. The Dodgers still played in Brooklyn. Roger Maris wasn't a Yankee, but most of us hated the Yankees anyhow. The Pirates were showing some signs of improvement and By Saam tried to make you believe the Phillies weren't mediocre. The joy of doing something that is wonderful just because you can do it slips from our adult grasp, but occasionally it can be seen and gripped and enjoyed. Bombings and disasters and anger and hatred may continue to follow, but for as many moments as you can manage you can embrace simplicity. Ride that bike!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Perils and Dilemmas

There are some very useful and useable bike paths around here. As I noted recently, the one soon to be completed from SW 91st to Archer is a great addition to the bike travel infrastructure for both recreational and commuting riders. Many of the paths within the city are transit routes are convenient ways for recreational riders using them to get to places beyond the urban area. For daily commuters and life-stylists they take on a different and much more familiar role. Where we go and how we get there can pose problems that the motoring public and recreational riders might never understand.

I use Kermit Sigmon Bike Trail and the bike path paralleling Archer Road where it ends at SW 16th Avenue to very near the intersection of SW 34th Street and Archer Road. At that major intersection I am faced with a dilemma. Should I cross to the north side of Archer Road and ride on the sidewalk with traffic or remain on the south side and ride against the flow of traffic?

The decision is actually a very easy one. I have ridden along the sidewalk fronting Butler Plaza. It is always a perilous ride and when I must ride on that side of Archer Road I try to use Windmeadows Blvd. instead. The alternative is to remain in the south side of Archer and be aware that drivers will seldom glance to the right (eastward) as they pull from parking areas onto Archer Road. One might expect that drivers making right turns into Butler Plaza would be more alert to pedestrians and bicycle riders. There seems to be a let down in attention when leaving Archer Road. Maybe drivers feel safer then. And those exiting Butler are no better at looking for pedestrians or bikes coming from the east.

For about a mile and a half I ride the sidewalk being very aware of cars leaving end entering parking for businesses along the southern side of Archer Road. Interestingly, riding along there at night seems less dangerous because of headlights. Literally, the Princeton Tec EOS mounted to my helmet often attracts the attention of drivers who otherwise might not look to their right. No false sense of security here. Caution and patience remain the primary directives. After passing under I-75 there are no more businesses with which to contend and as soon as possible I cross to the north side of Archer to ride in the bike lane.

The decisions we make as bike riders may not always (or ever) make sense to drivers and many may make no sense at all. The best decision we can make is to not challenge drivers and their vehicles because we have the right-of-way. It may infuriate me when a driver fails to look right and left or when a driver is texting or talking on the phone and doesn't yield. My frustration is brief. Injury or death is too damn permanent.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

And There It Was!

West, Archer Road Bike Path at SW 143rd
West, SW 143rd at Archer Road
Weeks ago, coming back from Cedar Key, I saw the beginings of the bike path from Archer to SW 91st Street. I'd not ridden that way since so when I did a Parker Road loop and crossed Archer Road I was . . . stunned. It's actually going to happen!
Currently a significant portion of the path is tarred sand while the rest is just hardpacked sand, but it's quite rideable where you don't have to compete with the ongoing construction. Many of the chip seal roads common to the area are not as smooth as most of the already existing path. According to one of the construction workers they are aiming for completion in about 30 day.

West, Archer Road Bike Path at SW 143rd
East, SW 143rd at Archer Road

I have never felt in great danger using the bike lane on Archer Road and there is nothing but contrast between it and the miles of South Carolina roads I traveled last August. Still, the convenience and safety provided by a dedicated bike trail is a wonderful thing.

Construction Continues on Archer Road Bike Path
Construction Continues

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Racks and Hard Places; The Archer Road Tour, Part 2

Continuing East on the South side of Archer Road

Campus Outfitters' rack
A suitable rack at campus Outfitters
Campus Outfitters
The building currently housing Campus Outfitters has been an eatery in the past. Maybe a Gator clothing outlet will survive.

The rack here is sturdy and visible to traffic, but not readily visible if one is shopping. Still, it provides adequate security for an employee.

It's a local institution and very popular, but Sonny's provides no bicycle specific security. There are flyparking options and high traffic probably makes this a relatively secure place despite not being able to see your bike from inside. They have racks and half racks to feed you, but no racks to secure your ride

Sonny's is good for a rack, but is rackless for riders
Sonny's will sell you a rack, but provide riders with none!
And old but usable rack at Chaick-fil-a
Chick-fil-a's rack is commonly in use
The rack at Chick-fil-a is almost always in use and this creates some problems because of its size, placement and design. Larger bikes and those with fenders do not easily fit in the designated slots and large bike can create an obstacle for a car using the adjacent parking place. The nut and bolt construction of the rack is a lesser problem here because of the high visibility and traffic. Except for the lack of space, parking here is quite secure.

Old styl nut and bolt rack at Chick-fil-a
Nut and Bolt Rack
Highly visible bike parking aty Chick-fil-a
Easy to see your ride at Chick-fil-a


Willy's Mexican Grill
Newly arrived Willy's meets many of the standards I set for secure bike parking. The rack is sturdy, set in concrete and permits easy locking of front and rear. Ideally there would be two racks set at a right angle to the current single and providing more space. Yet, even using the rack in the typical manner (meaning parking the bike perpendicularly to the rack) security is good becasue of visibility from within. The only time when a parked bike is out of sight is upon entering and ordering.

Easy to see bikes outside Willy's
Easy to watch your bike at Willy's
Bike rack and entrance to Willy's Mexican Grill
Bikes are readily visible outside Willy's

Sturdy wave style bike rack at Willy's Mexican Grill
Wave style Rack at Willy's
A word here about rack design and position. Wave style racks are cost effective and simple to install. (see The Art of Bike Parking) To effect two point parking a multi-bike rack becomes much less efficient. The racks provided outside The Pita Pit and behind Brass Tap encourage multiple bike parking and make two point locking possible simultaneously. Choosing the best rack and placing it effectively requires more than casual thought if it is going to promote bike security.


Sharing a parking lot with Willy's, the rebuilt Wendy's also shares the same bike security perspective. Their wave style rack is readily visible from within. Wendy's and nearby Willy's offer some of the most secure parking available on Archer Road.
Sturdy and accessible rack at Wendy's
Parking much like Willy's
Bike rack is visible from inside Wendy's
The view from inside Wendy's

Monday, April 15, 2013

Picking Up

Picking up along the path
High Sierra and Burley Travoy
I went for a ride intending to think about advocacy. Instead, I picked-up.

One of my usual exits from where I live includes a short transit along a wooded path. Where it used to be little used and almost pristine, it's become a commonly traveled route showing users' disregard. There'd always been some of the out-of-place clutter typical to wooded places on the edge of civilization: a tire half buried and entwined by years of undergrowth; a broken concrete block; and a length of radiator hose emerging in a snake-like loop then disappearing beneath a log. The old clutter disappeared under and behind heavy spring growth reappearing, a bit less obvious, the following winter. Heavier usage has changed the path.

On a whim, stimulated by a promise to myself to "come by sometime and pick this stuff up" I

Formerly Little Used Path
Short Transit
went by and picked up some stuff. Yesterday's heavy rain had exposed more broken glass than I had noticed along the sandy trail and I wondered how many flats I'd started here. Beverage containers were the most common item: beer bottles; soda cans; and styrofoam cups. Someone had shredded an application for health insurance then dropped it like a path of oversize bread crumbs, perhaps intending to follow the path back home. Snack bags were well represented, too.

Dioscorea bulbifera
Air Potatoes Invade Florida
I was surprised to find Air Potatoes (Dioscorea bulbifera) , but should not have been as they are a well establish, invasive plant in Florida. I'd never paid attention to the plant's vines and made the connection with what they are. They're eaten in some places (Africa and Asia) and reviled here. So, I gathered any of the tubers laying close to the path, adding them to my trash collection. I wondered whether Euell Gibbons might have included Air Potatoes in his first book, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, if there'd been any around his home in Pennsylvania.

Burley Travoy as trash truck
The Multipurpose Burley Travoy
The result of my search for something to advocate became a public service I guess. Well, not actually. For a few days when I ride the path I'll enjoy it a little more, so it was a self serving thing I did.

Advocate What?

There are a lot of people advocating individually and as groups and it's probably a good thing to do. The following seems to be a reasonably accurate meaning.

"Advocacy by an individual or by an advocacy group normally aims to influence public-policy and resource allocation decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions; it may be motivated from moral, ethical or faith principles or simply to protect an asset of interest." (

In many ways what is being called advocacy now is what was once identified as protesting. At least the goals are similar. My attitude about Vietnam was certainly motivated by moral or ethical principles and I hoped that the stance I took would influence the opinions of a small part of the public. Now, forty years later, I find myself believing that there are too damn many things to support, or dislike, or want to change, so that it's hard to see how anyone can invest enough effort into any one thing for it to matter. There's also the possibility that I am just being curmudgeonly since that's known to happen along with the passage of time.

I have thought about some kind of advocating, but I can't see how what I care about would have much impact on "social systems and institutions." What I'd like to advocate is more activity for people of advanced age. Seniors? Mature adults? The label doesn't matter much since those of us who are it know that we are. Aging is the most simple fact of life to comprehend. Might not like it, but it's real obvious. What isn't so obvious, when you are in the midst of getting old, is how much you can do to confront the negative consequences.

There have been several times during the past couple of years when I have encountered moments and circumstances that have challenged my willpower and ability or both. Losing my job, for instance, gave me an understanding of how critical it is to have a reason to get up every day and shower, get dressed and do something. If losing a job can do that how overwhelming it must be to lose a spouse or become seriously ill or disabled! When I learned of my need for cataract surgery I felt the touch of deep fears of becoming dependent. A detached retina some months later reaffirmed and emphasized the harsh reality that my physical and emotional well being is made more tenuous as I age.

I say it here a lot and maybe it becomes boring to the few regular readers of my ramblings, but the single thing for which I can advocate is the joy and value of riding a bike. Having never been much of a joiner (at least not since the 70s) I don't visit Senior Centers and don't have a bunch of local acquaintances who are contemporaries. Still, I see and encounter and know people who seem unwilling to challenge the passage of time. Of course I can't win! The pale rider will overtake me one day, but not easily.

What might I say to convince a Senior to put some fun between his or her legs and ride? Probably something to overcome the idea that riding a bike is hard or dangerous or expensive or requires wearing those tight shorts. I spent a lot of time during the initial draft of this posting listing objections and counter arguments, but I kept reaching the same conclusions; riding a bike is inherently dangerous and so is not making an effort to remain active.

The options we have are to do or not do. I enjoy the challenge and the sense of daring that riding a bike delivers. I enjoy the satisfaction I gain when I complete a long, recreational ride. I enjoy the satisfaction I feel when I complete a grocery run. If I over do my recreational rides I feel it, but at least the soreness and aches are self induced and will disappear over time. My arthritic knee always hurts and does not hurt more because I ride. I also know it isn't going to stop hurting if I sit around and become inactive.

Keeping yourself entertained is pretty easy. Television can keep you slack-jawed and entertained from rising to bedtime. I have "my shows" like most people, but I refuse to become captured and unmoving by someone's idea of what is interesting. Riding is my self-created physical activity of choice. Gardening works, too. Walking can satisfy. But, damn! I have to do something.

Maybe I'll go for a ride and think about whether I can be a good advocate.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lighting the Way #2

Is it possible to spend too much time researching and planning? Of course, if it becomes an excuse for not acting. Years ago I accepted "Car and Driver" as my definitive guide when buying tires and light and other devices useful for being highway scofflaw. Basically, at the time, there were two publications that talked about the things I wanted to know and only "C and D" spoke to driving faster than the speed limit on a budget. Forty years later I have no interest in exceeding the speed limit and my budget is much less than it was back then. There's also much, much, much more information available because of the internet. Researching a single item can take as long as a transcontinental tour.

Everything I purchase carries a definitive requirement. It has to remain within budget. Applying this single requirement while researching lighting eliminated many of the lights I would have liked to have. Both "Bicycle Times", which is my current-day "Car and Driver", and provided basic and deeper technical information, along with comparison pricing. After that I was left to read purchaser reviews on various on-line retailer sites.

Spending more time riding after sundown changed getting additional illumination from a want to a need. My 70 lumens Princeton Tec EOS is adequate as a be-seen light and is very useful when helmet mounted. It is less successful at lighting the path ahead, especially where substantial ambient lighting exists. At those times obstacles not visible under the ambient light are also not made visible by the EOS until quite close, requiring a dramatic reduction in speed. Where nearby street lights cannot cast ambient illumination on a tree lined bike path the EOS works ok at only moderate speed reduction. The variability of lighting is one of the issues needing to be overcome if one is going to ride typical urban streets and bike paths.

Eventually, Ben's Cycle made the decision much easier when I found a NiteRider Mako 150 on their ebay listing. The price was better than good and I ordered it immediately. Sent by USPS it arrived in three days. Nice price. Nice service. Why the NiteRider? Price, of course. Why the Mako 150? Because it was dramatically less than the Mako 200 or 300 I was considering, but, additionally, the price was such that I could view this purchase as an experiment if the Mako turned out to be significantly less than I hoped. The EOS had been my first venture into bike lighting and all I really wanted was something demonstrably better than it was.

Several night rides later I know that the Mako was a good purchase beyond price. It is not rechargeable, which was a requirement based on my touring experience. If it was going to serve me on a tour I knew that I could not depend on getting electricity at every stop. It mounts easily. Criticism of the mounting system being fragile seem to be unfounded. It's an unusual system, but does not appear to be a potential weak point. It is much brighter than the 70 lumens EOS with the beam presenting a narrow spot that easily overwhelm ambient light, illuminating potential obstacles that would otherwise be invisible. By using the EOS as a helmet mounted light I can scan left and right, supplementing the Mako's side lighting. Basically, it's pretty damn cool!

But I didn't stop there . . .

Bike Works, a local bike shop, relocated from Tioga Town Center to bicycle center where it is one of three within less than a mile of each other. Among the things they had not sold prior to relocating and wanted to sell was a pair of Stella 200s by Light and Motion. I didn't need two more lights, but sometimes there are offers you cannot pass-up. Now, instead of inadequate lighting I have exceeded my minimum daily allowance of lumens. I will probably try to sell the spare. Wanna buy a light?

Have I made two good decisions? I hope. There are some limiting things. The NiteRider is water resistant but not water proof like the EOS. The Stella is rechargeable with a proprietary charger and requires a battery pack to be attached to the frame. The cord on the Stella is too short to allow it to be used with the included helmet mount. The up-side? Light. Lots and lots of light. Below is a wholly unscientific representation of the patterns cast by the Mako and Stella.

Mako 150 on a white wall showing spot-like pattern
Mako 150 against white wall
Stella 200 against white wall showing broader pattern
Stella 200 against white wall

I plan to use the Mako on the Schwinn and the Stella on the Novara where the battery pack will mount more easily. When I tour I'll use the Mako. With both bikes the EOS is now a helmet mount and that might be the best addition to my lighting situation. Being able to look side-to-side is a big advantage. While riding last night I was able to alert a texting driver to my presence by turning the 80 lumens of the EOS onto his face. His response was positive, but I expect some people will take offense. Guess I'll see. And be seen!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Racks and Hard Places; The Archer Road Tour, Part 1

Stuff happens along Archer Road in Gainesville. Eateries and places to buy things are the basic fiber of the area with Butler Plaza being the center of this retail universe. For many people coming to the area for the first time or just passing through on I-75, Archer Road is Gainesville. Residents of the area live with the dichotomy of feelings generated by what is there and the too-often heavy traffic. Riders are able to skirt and avoid the congestion, but must be perpetually alert for inattentive drivers. It’s just the way it is. Evenings can be especially dangerous as date-night activity can easily supersede driving skill and traffic awareness.

This isn’t about drivers or danger on wheels. It’s about what riders do with their bikes if they want to use the abundance of eateries and places to buy things? As noted in the previous entry, good locks (the HOW) are one part of the security thing. The other part is the WHERE.

Some business owners blame landlords for the lack of bicycle racks. Some claim “rules” prohibiting them. Few deny the need, though it may be nothing more than momentary lip service. Large, old, eccentric Vietnam veterans have a way of sometimes stirring contradictory comments. The cost purchase and install a satisfactory bike rack is less than $500. The actual cost depends upon the rack choice, site, preparation of the site and installation. An in-depth examination of bicycle usage and parking can be seen at

Back to Archer Road, specifically the south side across from sprawling Butler Plaza . . .

We’ll start on the south side of Archer Road, across the street from Butler Plaza near the intersection with I-75 and begin looking at bicycle security accommodations. This is not a scholarly examination. It’s one guy’s perspective and will be far too subjective at times, maybe objective occasionally and probably tainted by some personal bias. The things that matter to me include proximity, accessibility, quality of racks, existence of racks and visibility.

Burger King
As noted previously, the Burger King on NW 16th Avenue has a well placed, sturdy rack. The Archer Road establishment does not. It doesn’t even have a rack. It does have a lamp post. It’s not designed nor designated as a place to fasten a bike, but it works. A U-Lock cannot be used and a chain or cable has to be long enough to encircle the post.

This is one of those places where flyparking is probably ok, mostly because of visibility and proximity. It’s a busy place, the post is at the front door and the area can be seen easily from inside. The Archer Road BK doesn’t score for taking bikes into consideration, but its “facilities” are useable.

Flyparking only at Archer Road Burger King
Burger King, SW Archer Road

Waffle House
Across the street from Burger King is a Waffle House that has neither a rack nor useable flyparking places for securing a bike. As with all Houses you can easily see into the parking lot, so leaning a bike against the building would keep it in sight, but not secured. Lack of a place to secure a bike is disappointing because I like Waffle House. Of course, one could affect the I’m-a-Waffle-House-regular-so-don’t-mess-with-me attitude. The pragmatic side is that Waffle House severs are extremely protective of and loyal to their regular customers. Thus, a regular’s bike might be safer leaning against the wall outside than chained anywhere else. Actually, anyone visiting Waffle House could expect that the servers would be or could be made aware of a bike parked outside.

Lacking Waffle House regular status, bike parking there is less than satisfactory. Visibility is good and the bike could be kept in close proximity, but security would still be limited.

No place to put your bike at Waffle House on Archer Road
Waffle House, SW Archer Road
Kerr's Wing House
No parking at Kerr's Wing House
Kerr's Wing House, Archer Road
Formerly Denny’s, the Wing House is a busy place in its early days of existence. When it was remodeled no provisions were added for bike security. Flyparking is possible, but potentially conflicts with take-out and handicapped patrons. Seating in the open air section would permit easy visibility of a bike fastened to the fencing.

Chaining my bike to the fence would not be a choice I’d be likely to make. Surely there is a wing place offering better bike accommodations
Flyparking possible?
Want to compete with to-go and handicapped parking?

Parking provided at the Pita Pit
Adequate provisions at the Pita Pit
Pita Pit, Mochi, Chipotle, Brass Tap, and whatever else is there
The strip with its back to Archer Road houses several popular eateries. There is one set of bike racks outside Pita Pit that are readily visible from both inside and the open air section. A second rack is behind Brass Tap at the other end of the strip. Patrons of Mochi, Chipotle choosing that smaller, less conspicuous rack would need to feel less secure. It is visible to the parking area, but because of its location near some utility cabinets does not stand-out as does the larger one near Pita Pit.

You’d probably feel pretty secure at Pita Pit. From Chipotle you can see the rack behind Brass Tap, so that might make it ok. There is a railing along the east side of Chipotle, also, where a bike can be secured and viewed while dining. Visibility from any of the other places is lacking. Activity in and around the businesses could lower risk or, unfortunately increase invisibility.

Parking out behind the Tap?
The Brass Tap's parking is out of the way
The Tap's rack is out of the way
Useable by Chipotle, the Tap's rack is out back.
There are a few subjective observations about bike security along Archer Road. Maybe you’ll find ‘em to be useful.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Racks and Hard Places

So, you invest in a high quality locking device, a chain and good lock, maybe even a U-Lock, too. You’re prepared to use some security-best-practices like being sure to minimize spaces where leverage can be applied and include both wheels when lacing the chain through the frame as you lock your ride to the bike rack. But . . . uh . . . there’s no bike rack to which you can fastened your high quality chain and U-Lock. Hummmm.

This is a bike friendly town; even “Bicycling Magazine” says so. There are bike lanes and paths and most people avoid running into you. The topography is great. Weather is outstanding, especially this time of year. Even when drivers fail to signal turns and deliver close calls because they are texting a significant others it’s a great place to ride because it’s pretty damn nice here. Problem is, when you get where you’re going you can’t settle into whatever you intended to do because of uncertainty that your trusty ride’ll still be waiting for you when you’re done doing whatever you intended to do.

The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing offers a lengthy and informative guide regarding bike theft and security (Bicycle Theft, Guide 52 (2008)). They identify bicycle theft as a prime example of opportunistic crime and place initial responsibility on bike owners. If you don’t secure your bike with an adequate device (or secure it at all) you have enhanced the opportunity. Beyond that, having an adequate place to secure the bike is essential. Ok . . . so what? Having an adequate means for securing a bike becomes significantly less useful if the place to secure it is inadequate or missing. Both HOW and WHERE matter.

There are lots of different WHEREs  for securing bikes ranging from task-specific bike racks to what is referred to as “flyparking” which is using signs and non-bike-specific fixed objects. You might presume that an actual rack would be the superior option, yet within the set of racks variability is vast. Shape, size, construction and location all bear upon their usefulness. Sometimes, flyparking is the better option. Often, it is not. Once a rider settles upon a locking-best-practice the focus falls upon where to lock the bike. The above mentioned Guide 52 talks extensively about Locks and Parking Facilities. If you care about security, read it.

Before I go on, care enough to read it . . . Guide 52 can be read online or downloaded as a PDF or as an Ebook.

So, now what? Well, recently, as I began to pay more attention to where I secure my bike, I thought about the qualities that make me feel better about leaving my ride unattended. There are several variables here, too. I’d like to park in an area of high traffic, but not where it is so high that a thief becomes anonymous. A rack within sight of the entrance to a business makes me feel better. Being able to see the rack from inside the business feels pretty good. Sturdy construction improves my state of mind. If I am forced to flypark the same concepts apply. Can someone pull that sign out of the grown or lift my bike off of it? Would someone be carrying a saw to fell that tree?

One place I visit frequently is my local grocery store, the Publix in Tower Plaza at SW Archer and Tower Roads. There are two racks, one each to the left and right of the store’s entrance, where they are out of the way, but readily visible. They are not especially sturdy racks; bolted together and to the concrete. I’d prefer immovable and heavier, but in every other way they’re adequate for the time I spend shopping.
Publix at SW Archer and Tower Roads
The oldest Burger King in Gainesville is located on NW 16th Avenue. Its bike rack offers considerable security of mind because of location, construction and visibility. Not everyplace you go can meet these standards, but as a starting point I tend to judge every bike rack by this one. The rack is in close proximity to the business and its entrances, of heavy duty construction, set in concrete and readily visible from inside. How cool is that! Give the King a Crown!
Burger King, NW 16th Avenue
Inside Burger King, NW 16th Avenue

I’ll continue to look at bike security more carefully and critically, if only to make myself more aware. Will I stop going to places where my bike’s security is reduced by poorly placed or nonexistent racks? Possibly. . . if an alternative exists.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lighting The Way

If your gonna ride a bike full time lights are going to be necessary, eventually. Finding a suitable light has been much more difficult than finding tires and other equipment. It’s complicated, initially, by differences in specific information about brightness. Watts versus lumens is at the center of the problem. Lumens describe the amount of visible light generated than does watts which relates more to power consumption. Lumens, therefore is more useful in determining which light will be more useful. Unfortunately, many manufacturers use watts in their information making comparisons difficult if not impossible. Certainly, more wattage suggests a brighter bulb, but not necessarily. The most useful reviews are the ones providing actual images of lighting capability, thereby making comparisons possible.

I looked at the light comparison in a 2009 edition of Bicycle Times magazine ( It provided descriptions, technical information and images showing light patterns and intensity. Price was the deciding factor and I purchased an ungraded (better) light I chose a Princeton Tec EOS to replace an inadequate, vintage light.

At the time of the review in Bicycle Times light output was 50 lumens. When I purchased the EOS it had been raised to 70 lumens and that has been upped to 80 lumens in its current form. Other reviews identified it as a good “be seen” light and it has served well for the two years I have used it. As a helmet mounted light it works very well and adds no noticeable burden. Because I anticipated needing a good light if I toured I chose a light using batteries (three AAA) rather than a rechargeable light assuming recharging might pose a problem on the road. Among the nice things about the EOS is that it came with accessories to permit handlebar, helmet and head mounting. Costing about $40 (with shipping from BrightGuy) I have no complaints about its utilitarian qualities. The EOS is a satisfactory commuting light because most of my nighttime riding is on roads with which I have familiarity. Lighting is needed to show unexpected obstacles more than to actually light the way. At its brightest setting the EOS works very well for my short single track section where speed is greatly reduced. On unfamiliar roads it would be adequate but I would plan to ride at or below 10 mph. Because I commonly use the middle or lowest setting on well lighted urban streets and I do not do a lot of night riding batteries last a month of more.
I supplement the EOS with a tiny flashing light made by Nite Ize ( called Buglite which is a micro LED flashlight. The flexible legs allow it to be fastened on handlebars, stays, bags or many other places. Its very bright light is hard to miss. Had I needed illumination while touring the EOS would have sufficed. One of the potential issues around here is the attitude of some police officers who have stopped riders because they were using only a flashing white light. The officers insist that the flashing light "distracts drivers." If distracting means a rider is noticed it's a good thing. Could "distract" mean something else?

I have had more reasons to ride at night since returning from my aborted tour and recognize reasons why more and better lighting is valuable. All of the things that Make Cars Dangerous exist after dark and inattention is compounded. Being seen and being able to see are good concepts! In my search for better information I found a test conducted by Road,CC, an English website; “The big lights test 2012”. Its method for depicting lighting quality is unlike any I have seen and the information they provide for a myriad of lights is complete. Some of the products are unavailable here in the Colonies, but most are. Pricing is in Pounds Sterling, but that’s fine for making relative comparisons prior to seeking local sources and costs. I won’t try to explain their images suggesting only that seeing it is worth the minimal effort required.

The result of recent lighting study has me leaning toward something from Nite Rider, specifically in their Mako series. Where the EOS is waterproof, the Nite Rider products are only water resistant. Since I do not intended to dive with my bikes this should not be a serious limitation My decision will be based on the usual combination of usefulness and cost and if anyone is interested my opinions and observations will appear here.