Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Few Things I Saw While Riding Today

For most of my life I watched the world from the driver's seat of a car. For the past few years I have been seeing the world from my seat astride a bike. It's life at 12 MPH and one of the things that is easier to do is stop and see things even more closely.

I went riding in the countryside outside G'ville to day and here are some of the things I saw.

The whole family's watching
Look at the handlebars on that dude!
Does it matter whether stripes are fattening or slimming?
No, the sun doesn't bother me. Why do you ask?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

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

Butler Plaza is a focal point for activity in Gainesville whether you're driving, riding or on foot. For riders security accomodations are less than ideal, but the recent remodeling and upgrading of a portion of Butler has changed that significantly.

The Esplanade at Butler Plaza has actually recognized bicycle riders as potential customers with highly visible U racks spaced regularly along the remodeled store fronts. There are even some suitable flyparking options associated with handicapped access points where bikes could be secured without being obstacles.
Bike parking at The Esplanade at Butler Plaza-McAlisters Deli
McAlisters Deli
Bike security at newly remodled Esplanade at Butler Plaza-Miya Sushi
Miya Sushi
Bike security at The Esplanade at Butler Plaza-near Great Clips
Flyparking at The Esplanade at Butler Plaza-Ada's Clothes Repair, Falafel King and CiCi's Pizza
Flyparking near Ada's, Falafel King and Cici's

I'm sure Publix has good reason for keeping a second store in operation in very close proximity to the one which replaced Albertson's on the west end of Butler Plaza. It was once rumored that it was to become one of their special products stores specializing in natural foods. Nonetheless, special store or not, it's more convenient to local mass transit stops as routes 1, 12, 62 and 75 all stop nearby. Common to Publix are bike racks at both entrances. Unlike those at the former Albertson's these are U racks set in concrete. Both are readily visible with the one outside the east entrance being visible to the ATM security camera, a coincidental and fortunate arrangement.
Bike security at the old Publix at Butler Plaza, west entrance
Publix, west entrance
Bike security at the old Publix at Butler Plaza, east entrance
Publix, east entrance

Crossing SW 35th Blvd which separates Butler Plaza East from The Esplanade brings you to the area dominated by Walmart. Here, also, is the Tax Collector's office and Tag Agency, Firehouse Subs, Bonefish Grill and other business on the west side of Walmart. On the east side of Walmart are Payless, Outback, the GameStop and additional businesses. All of this vast area is served by two bicycle racks. One is located well away and not visible from the main entrance to Walmart.
Bike insecurity at Walmart, Butler Plaza
Bike insecurity at Walmart, Butler Plaza
Bike security at Butler Plaza East, The Game Stop
Outside GameStop is the second rack. Both are inadequate and only the one at GameStop is readily visible and then only from that establishment.

Should better security accomodations be expected at Butler Plaza? Subjectively, yes. Objectively, yes. The changes made to The Esplanade section of Butler demonstrates the viability of peaceful coexistence.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Embrace Safety . . . Release Fear

I lived in Atlanta metro for nearly 30 years and while living near Brookwood Station spent about 6 months without a car. I rode a 10 speed Puch about 3 miles to work following half a mile of Peachtree Road before passing through some appealing intown neighborhoods. While not wanting to sound like an authority on urban commuting I do have a keen appreciation for the dangers of riding a bike among two ton vehicles. Especially since the ride lasted only 6 months when I did a face plant on the side of a FedEx truck.

Stop me if you've heard this one . . . I was riding home about 3:30 and was n the middle lane of Peachtree Road anticipating a left turn when I did a face plant on the side of a FedEx truck when it shot unexpectantly across P'tree. The driver brakes to a stop and comes running to where I am sitting in the middle of Peachtree, bleeding, hurting and, literally, seeing stars. "I didn't see you," he says excitedly. I blink trying to clear my vision and find that shaking my head simulateously is a bad idea, but manage to reply, "I certainly hope not."

The point? In any close encounter with an automobile (or larger vehicle) the one on the bike will generally lose. So, it's important that we not enbrace any car as our friend. G'ville is a much easier place to ride than truly large urban areas, but being aware of potential danger makes riding anywhere more successful.

One of the important things about G'ville drivers is their awareness of bikes. That doesn't always translate to safer riding and an exchange of cordial greetings with drivers. Fortunately, G'ville does have a large portion of bike-friendly drivers who make concessions and smile or smile when I yield at an intersection.

There are also a lot bike-tolerant people, the ones who wait for an on-coming car then after it passes, swing out and make sure we are aware of their sacrafice by belching exhaust from their poorly tunes engine.

When you allow yourself to believe that the driver behind you is friendly or tolerant you take a step toward one of the sometimes fatal flaws or drivers; indifference. Too many drivers are indifferent to their responsibilities as drivers of potentially deadly weapons. I think they are at least as dangerous as someone who nakes an effort to do harm, mostly because indifference is unpredictable

A year or two ago (is that "back in the day?") regularly after work when I road west in the bike lane on Archer Road a SpUte (sport utility vehicle) would intentionally pass close to me so the driver's dog could bark as it passed. Most of the time I'd be startled and pissed, but at least he wasn't being indifferent. He was unlikely to hit me because the fun for him was scaring me, not hitting me. I can accept that passive level of dislike because he probably gets a big laugh from his buddies when he tells the story.

I work at not being complacent when I ride, kinda like when I owned an MG-B in the late 60s. I was so aware of the potential for something to malfunction that was probably a much better driver. We can't potect ourselves against all the idiots, but we can behave on our bikes as if our limbs depended on it. Doing what we can to stay out of trouble: be-seen lights; sidewalks where discretion is the better choice; using the backside of malls like Butler; bike trails and urban trails; alternatives offer us more control.

I work at being safe and aware, but for me part of the appeal is the challenge. I blame Colin Fletcher for making me want to walk the App Trail and it was REI where I bought the book and to which I have been a member since then (1972) and how I ended up accepting his attitude toward challengesI wanted to kick and fight rather than surrender to aging.

But if you judge safety to be the paramount consideration in life you should never, under any circumstances, go on long hikes alone. Don’t take short hikes alone either—or, for that matter, go anywhere alone. And avoid at all costs such foolhardy activities as driving, falling in love, or inhaling air that is almost certainly riddled with deadly germs. . . . Never cross an intersection against a red light, even when you can see that all roads are clear for miles. And never, of course, explore the guts of an idea that seems as if it might threaten one of your more cherished beliefs. In your wisdom you will probably live to a ripe old age. But you may discover, just before you die, that you have been dead for a long, long time.
—Colin Fletcher, The Complete Walker, 1968

I haven't quite reached the height suggested by one of his other notable statements, “Every walk of life falls under the Testicular Imperative: Either you have the world by them, or it has you.”

Ride like you give a damn and make nice to tolerant and indifferent drivers.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Looking Back

A year ago I was two days from commencing my first (and so far, only) tour. I set off on August 7 and had to answer numerous questions regarding my sanity for doing something so strenuous in the heat of summer. I was confident of my conditioning and ability to remain hydrated after more than thirty years living in the south. There were numerous other things that challenged me more than heat.

I mention this now as an explanation for my meager postings recently. I have been working at putting my experience into an understandable format for anyone else considering setting off on a bicycle adventure. The most difficult thing about the pre-trip events was finding relevant and useable information. There's plenty of information, but so much of it is aimed at people with greater personal resources and experience. I was approaching my ride from the most basic of places. I needed a bike and equipment and an understanding of how to deal with . . . well . . . everything.

My journey from ignorance to novice knowledge was, in its own way, as exciting and frustrating as riding, but it was definitely a necessary part of the whole experience. I never imagined that there could be such heated and sometimes profane arguments about saddle choice or tires!

I am nearing the end of this post-ride assessment and will begin putting some of the information here so others can benefit from my experience of successes and frustrations. Maybe it'll help some would-be tourists to make bike choices, for instance, that will please them as much as my Safari pleases me.

If you're a regular here, thanks for being patient. If you're just passin' through check back occasionally.