January 31, 2012

A night with Nick Offerman

On Monday night, I explored campus (The Ohio State University) en route to watch Nick Offerman (AKA Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation) perform.

While I could talk about bikers on sidewalks, streets, and everywhere in between, you really want to hear about Nick Offerman. He was hilarious and it was a feel-good show in which he teaches life lessons. One of which was to eat all of the red meat that you can. Another was to carry a handkerchief because you never know when you'll have to switch out something involving guns.



It was also nice to hear about how much he loves his wife, Megan Mullally of Will and Grace. In fact, he did a beautiful song for her 50th birthday about rainbows where he used colors in various word plays, including "orange you glad I didn't say..."

The other thing he promotes is his love of wood work. Almost every piece of advice included some tidbit of wood work detail. He even made a DVD of how to make a canoe which people have bought thinking it was a joke. It's not a joke and it's not funny, according to Nick Offerman.

Finally, the question you've all been waiting for, how long does it take him to grow a Swanson 'Stache? It takes him about 6 weeks because it takes time for the hair to grow from beneath the nose to over the lip.

Cool link of the day:

January 30, 2012

Flat Tires

Most bicyclists probably know that a flat tire is more or less caused by the inner-tube going flat either by puncture or an improper seal. What's an inner-tube you ask?

For the longest time, I had no idea of what the specifics were for a bicycle. There's a wheel, a tire, and a mythical inner-tube which keeps air in it. I finally learned what some of the components were when I suffered through a flat tire.

It was the luckiest kind of flat that one can get. I heard a loud bang in the middle of the night which I investigated. My tire had a glass shard in it and was completely flat! I believe the glass came from riding on bike lanes earlier that day. This was a complete fluke as most flats happen on the road.

It's difficult to change an inner-tube the first few times but after awhile, you'll get used to it. There's plenty a videos online of how to change it, but for now here's a list of tools that you'll need to change a flat tire.
  1. Bicycle tire lever - The smaller the width of the tire, the more difficult it is to pry the tire off to access the inner-tube. A lever makes the job do-able although it can still be a slight pain.

  2. Spare inner-tubes - You can also patch up a punctured tube, but if you're on the road, an actual spare inner-tube works best because you don't have to worry about finding where the tube is flat. I carry two because one time I was unfortunate enough to suffer two flats. A tube has to be sized right, so you'll probably want to go to a local bike store to purchase them, or you can look at the sidewall of your tire and buy it based on those specifications.

  3. Portable bike pump - If you're trying to replace a flat, you'll obviously need to inflate it somehow. All portable bike pumps aren't a true substitute for a floor pump, but you should at least be able to get to your destination.

  4. Tube patch kit - I have a patch kit which is more or less a sticker. I keep it on me as a quick fix but if I have additional flats, I would use a more heavy duty patch kit in the future.
Those are the basics of on-the-go kits. I would also suggest that you use routes by public transportation when possible and carry change or a pass so you can use it in a pinch. 

Link of the day (not me if you're curious):

January 27, 2012

What's the deal with helmets?

A minor cycling controversy is helmets albeit most people are pro-helmets. I, for instance, always wear a helmet because my girlfriend tells me that I have a pretty head.  The problem that some cyclists have is the emphasis that is placed on helmets.

For instance, in a situation where there's a car-bicycle crash, the first thing most people do is blame the bicyclist. The second thing they do is ask whether or not the bicyclist had a helmet or not. I find myself doing the latter as well because it's reflexive.

A similar thought with car-car crashes would be if a passenger was wearing his/her seat belt. Most people do not instinctively ask that question. Sure, if the person wasn't wearing a seat belt the reaction would be a little bit more, " The crash sucks but people should wear their seat belt." In other words, there is not enough sympathy for bicyclists involved in crashes.

Hopefully, in the future, we can get people to say," That sucks that the bicyclists was in an accident. I do hope that bicyclists will consistently wear helmets in the future."

Cool link of the day:

January 26, 2012

Bike lanes and downtown - How does Columbus fit in?

Edit 1/28/2012: I wasn't happy with the title. I apologize for the harshness of the original title. 

I often try to give the impression that I don't care about stuff, but honestly, I care a lot. I care that a reader can feel assured that he/she can state facts found on this blog and be able to quote this blog without making an ass of his/herself. Sure I joke around, but I am optimistic that our school system has educated people to know when I am joking about historical figures.

I will summarize my beef so that readers who are uninterested in bicycle gossip can live their lives. A press statement (discussed below) had some inaccuracies whilst reporting on the state of bicycling in Columbus. With that said, Columbus could be a lot more bike friendly which includes increasing bicycling infrastructure.

Recently, Consider Biking has been working on "Connect the Core" which aims to add bicycle lanes or bicycle tracks downtown. Within their summary, the cost for 12+ miles of bike lanes would cost ~$140,000, this is less than what we've been spending on the bike shelters. Although I'm iffy on bike lanes, that's a relatively good price and sometimes a city should just dive in. 

One part of the push is using a recent report released by the Alliance for Biking and Walking. One fact included in the Consider Biking press release is that "[The report] also shows that Columbus is the 2nd largest city without on-street bike lanes in downtown." This news has also traveled to Columbus Underground with this headline: "Report Says Columbus is Second Largest City with no Downtown Bike Lanes."

The problem with this statement is that the report's scope of work does not focus on the downtowns of the 51 cities studied. Searching for the word "downtown" returned only 3 instances of the word within the report. Looking closer at the data shows that Dallas is the only city studied which has no on-street bike lanes. According to Census Data (through Wikipedia), Dallas is the largest city studied which has no on-street bike lanes. From there, it's easy to extrapolate that Dallas is the largest city studied that has no bike lanes downtown.

Columbus is the 15th largest city by population. What about the other 13 cities? As I said, the report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking did not include any breakdowns of downtown areas. I suspect that the least dense places would be least likely to have bike lanes downtown.


City
On-Street bike Lanes
City Population Rank
City Density (per sq. mile)
Bike Lanes Downtown
New York
407
1
27016
Yes
San Francisco
100
13
17169
Yes
Chicago
115
3
11844
Yes
Philadelphia
431
5
11380
Yes
Los Angeles
167
2
8092
Yes
San Jose
400
10
5359
Yes
San Diego
325.5
8
4020
No
Columbus
20
15
3624
No
Dallas
0
9
3518
No
Houston
206
4
3501
No
San Antonio
236
7
2880
?
Phoenix
371
6
2798
Yes
Austin
168
14
2653
Yes
Indianapolis
59
12
2270
Yes
Jacksonville
320
11
1100
No



The above chart is of cities with populations greater than Columbus arranged from least dense to most dense. Using Google and looking at the "Bicycling" layer of Jacksonville, FL yields this map:

Jacksonville has no bike lanes downtown according to Google Maps
A quick Google search for Jacksonville and downtown bike lanes also leads to this article (Dated August 10, 2011):
"'No bike lanes downtown, but cobblestones? Come on.' — graffiti on a small building at Fishweir Park.
The author obviously hasn't found an appropriate forum to express himself, but he did raise a couple of legitimate public policy issues. So, I asked City Hall for an explanation.
Since most streets are too narrow for bike lanes, Mayor Alvin Brown's spokesman says, they're being added when roads are built or widened. You don't see them downtown because roads there were built before they became fashionable."
Indianapolis and Austin both appear to have bike lanes in their downtown. San Antonio has a disjointed connection of bike lanes downtown. Houston does not have bike lanes within their inner-belt:

Blue = innerbelt. See Google maps for more
Even according to Houston's GIS system, the inner-belt only consists of signed bike paths and multi-use pathways which is all that Columbus has downtown. Hell, even downtown San Diego doesn't look like it has bike lanes downtown:

Blue = Inner-belt/Ocean. See Google Maps for more.
The takeaway message is that according to a recent report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking and Census data, Dallas is the largest city without bike lanes. According to personal research done by Biking Columbus, Columbus is the 4th or 5th largest city without bike lanes downtown, albeit most large cities have multi-use paths downtown and the term "downtown" is difficult to define.

See below for what Columbus looks like:

See Google Maps

How to roll




The last couple of days have been nice enough to bike and that means it's time for another bike lesson. When you see urban bicyclists, many of them have their pants rolled up. This is to prevent oil/grease from getting on your pant legs.  It also avoids the dangerous situation of pants getting caught in the bike chain. You generally only need to roll the right side where the drive train is.

Occasionally I hike mine up like Huck Finn, but it's not the most hip. People could also wear super skinny jeans or use boots over their pant legs.

On the other hand, I flash back to the '80s and use the "Pinch Roll." I could show you how to do a pinch roll, or I could just link you to eHow on an article about doing it. I wish I were more vigilant because I have too many pants with grease stains on them. People, please learn from my mistakes.

January 25, 2012

More on the ODOT I-70/71 Meeting

While sitting through the January 19, 2012, ODOT public meeting about the I-70/I-71 split, I was impressed with how many suits were there. I expected a bunch of Olde Town East (OTE) residents complaining about the freeway. Instead there were about 6 OTE residents and a lot of governmental officials. 

For those of you unaware, ODOT is split up into various districts. Franklin County is in District 6 which works out of Delaware County. The Deputy District Director Ferzan Ahmed had a lot of things to say about why the projects were delayed. Here are some of the ways that ODOT will try to save/obtain money to speed up the process:
  1. Reduce ODOT operating costs
  2. Utilize the Ohio Turnpike as an "asset" (i.e., privatize it)
  3. Public-private collaboration
When I have some time, I plan on doing a boring post about how I dislike the idea of privatization of the Turnpike. But for now I'm going to focus on how Deputy Director Ahmed is kind of partisan. I only know that I'm a liberal because people tell me that since I support universal healthcare, am against for-profit schools, and believe that defense spending should be much smaller, I am a liberal.

That's why I think it irked me when the Deputy Director said that the State of Ohio became fiscally responsible at the start of the administration. Last time I checked, the State of Ohio is Constitutionally  required to balance its budget. And promising all the road projects is different than spending money on them. I can promise every reader a gold bar but I am only bankrupt if I follow through with that promise. Since said promise is not a contractual obligation, I can pander all I want.

Next up: Bicycling is cool (except when it's not)

Cool link of the day:

January 24, 2012

COTA 2-Trip Ticket

I recently received a comment on the blog about the 2-trip ticket for COTA which was introduced at the beginning of the year. For those of you unfamiliar with the 2-trip ticket, it is a pass which allows 2 trips on the bus. The benefit of these cards is that you do not have to worry about exact change.

I would characterize the start of the 2-trip ticket as a very soft release because there is no mention of it on their online fares webpage or on their "complete" rate-card. The commenter wanted to know where one could purchase the 2-trip ticket so I was game to find out.

I spent my benjamins for you, the reader.
On Friday, before graduating with my MBA from the Elevator Brewing and Draught Haus, I dropped by the main COTA building at 33 N. High Street to get a pass. When I asked for the 2-trip ticket, the woman at the register seemed surprised, even nonplussed, but to her credit she was aware of the tickets and knew exactly where they were.

I asked her and another employee about how popular they were. The woman helping me said that they weren't popular at all. The other employee told me that not a lot of people know about them, either. I also asked if they were available outside of the main pass sales office and they believed that I could only purchase it at the pass sales office. COTA should definitely look at additional advertising the passes along with selling them around the city as they do with day, week, and 31-day passes. As for the 2-trip ticket itself:

Expires 12/31/14 if you can't read my terrible picture
If you're curious about the fine print, this is on the back:
"2 Ride & Transfer Ticket. 
This Pass is valid for two trips on COTA buses. May be used on different days. COTA and its retail outlets are not responsible for lost, damaged or stolen passes. Cash refunds are not available. 
COTA reserves the right to deny transportation services to any person who knowingly evades payment of the fare of a public transportation vehicle, Section 2917.41 ORC. This card remains the property of the Central Ohio Transit Authority."
 I will not be using it until at least March when my 31-day passes will be kaput. I'll let you know then if anything weird happens with the 2-trip ticket.

Cool link of the day:

January 23, 2012

Bonus I-70/71 Split Post

Last week when I was protesting the protest of SOPA, I attempted to investigate the source of the widely publicized $1.5 billion cost of the I-70/I-71 Split Fix project. The first 5 Phases of the project was projected at $816.1 million. Hidden in the Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) project delay was a 6th Phase of the Split Fix for the 315/70/71interchange for a cost of $836 million. Here's the scope of work:
Source: Slides from January 19, 2012, Public Meeting
So in other words, the estimated cost of the "Split Fix" is $1.652 billion dollars. (Source: TRAC List)

Project ID
Description
Cost ($ Million)
Previous Start
New Start
Franklin I-670/I71
Phase 1
$200.0
(Construction ends in 2014)
n/a
Franklin I-70/I-71
Phase 2 East Interchange
$261.7
2014
2025
Franklin I-70/I-71
Phase 3 East Trench
$109.7
2015
2028
Franklin I-70/I-71
Phase 4 South Trench
$158.2
2016
2032
Franklin I-70/I-71
Phase 5 East Freeway
$86.5
2016
2033
315/70/71 Reconstruction
Modify I-71/I-70/SR 315 interchange
$836.0
n/a
n/a
Total Cost
$1,652.1

That's a lot of smackers.

Bikes and the I-70/I-71 Split

Because I live, breathe, and eat this blog, I went to the I-70/71 ODOT public meeting on Thursday. As regular readers know, Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the "Split Fix" have been delayed from 2014 to 2025 and 2015 to 2028, respectively, so this meeting was a bit premature. Today I will focus on the plans and how it will relate to biking and urban living.

My impression is that the first priority for the re-model was traffic flow. The main focus are the feeder/ on-off ramps. For the streets parallel to I-71, they are creating a new "urban avenue"called Elijah Pierce Boulevard on the east side and an expanded and extended Lester Drive on the west side. For the streets parallel to I-70/I-71, Mound Street and Fulton Street. All of the streets are one-way.

First, it's interesting that ODOT considers "urban avenues" to be one-way streets. I prefer not talking in euphemisms, so I prefer them to be called "enhanced feeder systems." I say enhanced because they interestingly incorporated bike lanes in all of them and most roads have on-street parking incorporated as well.


They actually look kind of nice but I do have a couple of comments. First, the bicycle lane is directly adjacent to the parking spots. This would place bicyclists in danger of being "doored" which is a term used when someone opens a car door which a bicyclist runs into. Second, I don't like that a pedestrian crossing I-71 would have to cross a feeder street, I-71, and then another feeder street before getting to any buildings to work/live/eat/commerce. Sure, it's only ~300 ft of walking, but crossing two intersections and waiting for the pedestrian crossing right-of-way is not an ideal way of urban living.

Link of the day:

(Don't bike where this asshat was, but go here for more of the story.

January 20, 2012

One more ODOT bash

Having started this blog in late October 2011, I had little idea about what was happening in Columbus's transportation world. I've attempted to catch up with the I-70/71 "Split Fix" information out there and I found this survey at the meeting on August 9, 2011: 







That's what ODOT surveyed for? A few aesthetics? Pardonnez-moi, but I don't give a merde about those things. Instead, I would have preferred full, High Street styled caps along Spring Street or Long Street and taken whatever for the aesthetics.

Also, you can see a biker riding on a sidewalk in the renderings above. ODOT, it's illegal for bicyclists to ride on sidewalks in Columbus. As the Department of Transportation, you should be aware of these things.

Next, I have a beef with renderings of places with a lot of pedestrian activity. I am doubly frustrated when an organization, which specializes in models that predict how many cars are estimated to be on roadways, to willy nillily put pedestrians all over sidewalks in predicted images. Do I think the "Cultural Walls" which will be found on Spring and Long Streets will have this much pedestrian interaction?

Source: ODOT 
No.

Cool link of the day:


January 19, 2012

Racism

This blog doesn't usually go into social issues, but during the long Martin Luther Kind Day weekend I decided to research Rosa Parks. I was always familiar with the overall story: A black woman was sitting on the bus. A white passenger got onto the bus later and black woman was asked to stand in order to make room for the white passenger. Black woman refused and was arrested for civil disobedience. Obviously, Wikipedia is the source for what follows.

That's all true but it's more dastardly than that. Montgomery, Alabama, home of the event in 1955, had seat segregation where a certain amount of seats were reserved for whites at all times and there was a sign labeled "Colored" to indicate where black people could sit. The de facto practice was for bus drivers to move said sign back when there were not enough seats for white people.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks sat in the "Colored" section but the white people section filled up. When additional whites boarded the bus, the bus driver moved the "Colored" sign behind where Ms. Parks was sitting and he waved her to move from the seat. She refused and was ultimately arrested.

For those of you unaware, black people use COTA with some frequency. I, on the other hand, am color blind but people tell me that I'm white because I bike on the right side of the road. Regardless, I have thought about that scenario on the bus this week and I am at a lost to explain what Americans were thinking just 57 years ago.

First, I could not fathom a bus driver demanding the "coloreds" to give up their seat for me. Secondly, I would feel morally wrong if I allowed the bus driver to make such a demand. In the years prior to the end of segregation (1965), I don't know how people could treat each others with such disrespect.

Finally, it's not like this happened in the distant past - it was only 50-60 years ago which is in living memory. Segregation is more of a tarnish on United States history than most people give credit for.

Cool link of the day (the black crows were nice to dumbo!)

January 18, 2012

SOPA or not, here I am

So while the rest of internet took the day off, I am posting twice. What what what?!

Recently I've been critiquing ODOT but one thing I wanted to research was the price tag of the I-70/I-71 "Split Fix." Earlier today, I identified 5 phases of construction with an estimated cost of $800 million. However, the number I'm familiar with is $1.5 billion for the fix. What's the deal?

This is what I found out at first:

Jimmy Wales, say it ain't so!
Thankfully Google still allowed searches and that's where I found the source of the problem:

I was the source!
After a little bit more digging at Columbus Underground, I found that an Editorial made by the Dispatch that proves that I didn't make up the number:
"The desire of Near East Side residents for "caps" on the bridges over the highway that will be rebuilt with the I-70/71 interchange is understandable.
But so is the plan by the Ohio Department of Transportation to build only one cap for now, while designing other bridges so that caps could be added later, if funding and economic development for them arise.
The cap on N. High Street over I-670, site of a Hyde Park restaurant and other shops, is a huge improvement over the chain-link fence that preceded it and has been a boon to the Short North area.
Leaders of the Near East Side would like to see the same for the many freeway crossings in their neighborhood. No other part of Columbus was hit as hard by the dislocations caused by building the interstate highway system in the 1950s and 60s. Freeways created impassable gulfs that broke up neighborhoods.
But caps for all 12 of the bridges in the I-70/71 project would unacceptably inflate the cost of rebuilding the split, already north of $1.5 billion, and making the tangle of crash-prone roadway safer has to be the first priority."
Thanks, Dispatch, for not fully supporting High Street like caps, but I'm still curious about where this number comes from.

Cool link of the day:

ODOT To Everyone: FOFF

ODOT had a press release yesterday and delayed most large road construction projects a number of years. Here's a quote:
"After a year of discussing the looming transportation financial crisis facing Ohio, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) today released funding projections that could result in pushing back by decades some of the state’s largest construction projects.
ODOT staff made the recommendations during a presentation to the Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC), a bi-partisan group responsible for approving funding for the State’s largest transportation projects. 
The TRAC is wrapping up a year-long process of receiving and reviewing applications for transportation funding projects throughout the state. The TRAC received 72 applications in 2011 for new transportation projects totaling nearly $10 billion. Planning, design and construction of various phases of additional projects totaling $2 billion is already underway. However, ODOT only has roughly $100 million per year to spend on new construction.
ODOT is funded completely with state and federal motor fuel tax and has seen that revenue shrink over the past several years. As vehicles become more fuel efficient and fuel consumption decreases, so does the amount of revenue generated to pay for Ohio’s infrastructure and create jobs."
What does this mean for Columbus? Phase 2 of the I-70/I-71 "Split Fix" has been delayed from 2014 to 2025, Phase 3 of the "Split Fix" has been delayed from 2015 to 2028, Phase 4 from 2016 to 2032, Phase 5 from 2016 to 2033. Additionally, there were a few other projects delayed such as an additional lane of High Street near Lazelle Road which was delayed from 2014 to 2019. For comparison, Phase 1 of the "Split Fix" started in 2011 and is planned for completion in 2014.

First of all, who had any idea that there were 5 phases planned for the "Split Fix"? Second, the last 4 phases are an estimated total of $616.1 million while Phase 1 is $200 million. That's a lot of smackers. Especially since the rush hours only affects 6% of the year assuming 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evening.

Overall, I question of how necessary Phase 1 was if the remaining phases were so easily delayed. Have you seen the scope of work that will be modified by Phase 1?

Source: ODOT and here's another picture
That's a pretty small area for $200 million. Plus it's one bottleneck among 4 within the Inner-belt. If we can wait an additional 11 years for Phase 2 I would argue we could wait indefinitely for any of the fix.

Cool link of the day (if only traffic planning was like Sim City):


January 17, 2012

Split Fix

I had a 3-day weekend to research what the deal was with Martin Luther King Jr. Apparently, he founded Lutheranism after posting 95 theses on some door. Then, some 400+ years later in 1968, he was assassinated for having a dream. I do the research so that you don't have to.

But overall, I've done a poor job of preparing a post for today and I don't have much to say. But the Dispatch had a recent article discussing the I-70/I-71 split:
"Future phases of Downtown highway reconstruction likely will be pushed back when the Ohio Department of Transportation updates its priorities list next week.
On Tuesday, ODOT plans to convene a nine-member panel that since 1997 has helped set the state’s road-building priorities.
Since taking office last year, Director Jerry Wray has said that Ohio’s plans are far too big for its budget."
As an occasional driver of the "Split," I can attest that it does become busy and that everyone who drives it will complain about it. One thing that would have been interesting to try would have been to attempt shift switching/flex time so that workers would have the option to arrive downtown between 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM. The highway has a peak demand problem and as such it seems like we were too quick to move on to spend $1.5 billion dollars to fix a problem that affects us 1/12 of the day.

That's just me though.

Cool link of the day:
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