Monday, September 15, 2014

The Art of Screaming in Terror

Sometimes I think that I should practice the art of screaming in terror. You know, just to use while taking defensive maneuvers to avoid collision with an inattentive driver?

I think a blood curdling scream would be much more effective than shouting "WHOA!!" or "WATCH OUT" Don't you agree?

Because THEN it might convey to the other party that I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE BY YOUR CAR CRUSHING MY FRAGILE BODY BECAUSE YOU WERE CARELESS.

"OOPS" as an apology isn't going to cut it. AS IF I am sitting behind a steering wheel protected by a metal cage you buffoon!!
Screaming Cat, Yawning cat
Practicing the art of screaming in terror
Don't take me wrong.

I really ENJOY my daily bicycling route to work. It has bike lanes and really nice protected bike paths. And even where there are no bike lanes, I am riding on slow residential streets with posted speed limits between 15 m.p.h. to 25 m.p.h.

My route is relatively safe and stress-free. Most of the time.

Surprisingly, the segment where I use THE MOST CAUTION is while riding on a one-mile protected bike lane.

Yes, you heard that right. The protected path runs along Victorian Avenue to Nichols Boulevard.
Beautiful, protected bike lane in Sparks, NV
Drivers approaching from side streets should stop BEFORE the cross walk and well before the bike lane.  

But they don't always.

Sometimes they run the stop sign, go over the cross-walk and across the bike path to stop IN THE MIDDLE of the bike lane. Anticipating that, I look to the right as far down the street as I can see before I cross there. This is the most common conflict that I encounter every day.

There really needs to be a green bike lane like this but at the point of potential conflict--at each intersection and driveway. Especially in front of driveways where motorists pull up to make a right turn but they're only looking left. I have seen near collisions between motorists and bicyclists. I've had close calls myself because as cautious as I am when I approach the driveway, once in a while a car flies out of the chute like a bat out of hell and there would not have been anything I could have done if I were in its path!

At the same time, I listen for cars passing on the road to my left that might be making a right turn across the bike lane. And I look for oncoming cars that might be making a left turn across the bike lane. Those vehicles have the right of way so I listen, look and yield.
So long story short, I was riding on Victorian Avenue this morning. The posted speed limit is 20 m.p.h. There are no bike lanes but there is very little traffic. Also, traffic calming road bumps makes it a pretty safe street for everyone. So I take the lane until a vehicle approaches from behind and then I ride in the gutter to share the road and let the driver pass.

That was the scenario this morning. In this specific spot. My position is indicated by the purple box. A pickup truck with a trailer was slowly passing me in the blue position. Another vehicle came to a stop in the red position on a cross-street. Line of sight is clear, am I right?
I see the driver that is stopped. I make eye contact. She is looking my way. I have my front lights on and it is BLINKING. Like I always do.

The truck passes slowly to my left. After all I'm going about 15 m.p.h. The lady waiting to turn looks after the truck. Then turns her head and looks back my way. Like a good cautious driver would do.

Here is her perspective. Purple line is me. Blue line is the vehicle passing to my left. Red line is her intended path.

I'm thinking, yes she sees me and she is waiting.

I mean, HOW CAN SHE NOT SEE ME?? I'm side by side with the vehicle she MUST HAVE HAD to look at and yield to.

And then, at the last second, SHE PULLS OUT IN FRONT OF ME just as I was about to cross the intersection. Either she didn't want to wait or she didn't see me. I gave her the benefit of the doubt with the latter since it was morning and the sun was coming up from behind me.

My immediate, panic reaction was to say "WHOA!!!" And then I apologetically said "SORRY".

For what?!?! Why am "I" apologizing? For yelling at HER? So she wouldn't kill me?!? Perhaps apologizing for her? ARGH.

The driver gave me a look like she didn't see me and I think she mouth a simple, "Sorry." and drove off.

Yep, I think next time I am just going to scream BLOODY F*CKING MURDER. It's not cute. But I think it will get my point across much better.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Cuter Commuter Time at Interbike 2014

Interbike in Vegas was a lot of fun! There was so much to see and so much to do! Even though I was there all last week, there was not enough time to cover everything. Prior to this year, I had no interest in attending. Not even when we lived in Vegas. Aside from going to watch the criterium or cross-bike races, John had always gone alone to make connections with the 750+ companies there to represent over 1,200 brands in the cycling industry.

9 hour wait at the airport in Reno
This year we flew to Vegas. I landed on Sunday. John arrived later in the week since he had just gotten home from a 15+ hour round trip drive from Ogden, UT. He had been there the week prior to compete in the USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships and didn't feel like turning around and driving another 7.5 hours to Vegas. I don't blame him!
Beautiful morning in Boulder City, NV
The next morning was beautiful (and unusually humid) in Boulder City. There were plenty of clouds in the sky with 50% chance of precipitation.
But that didn't stop me and my mom-in-law from driving a few miles up the street to Bootleg Canyon for the Interbike Outdoor Demo.
Interbike kicked off with two days of OutDoor Demo (on Monday and Tuesday). You can hit the trail or ride 26-miles of non-motorized paved path which makes up the River Mountains Loop Trail. I used to ride along part of that path all the way to Lake Mead from our home near the I-15 when we used to live in Vegas.
Test ride on the Yuba Boda Boda utility bicycle
Some people wondered why Interbike is held in Vegas but where you could have tents and tents of bike stuff galore and check out all of the latest and greatest?!? And demo e-bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, cross-bikes (you name it!) in car-free facilities surrounded by beautiful desert? And then be in the mecca of entertainment where you can eat and dine at several of the best restaurants in the world? People who have never lived in Vegas don't realize there's a lot Vegas has to offer on the Strip and off the Strip. And yes, there are great places to ride also. Mt. Charleston, Red Rock, Lake Mead all the way to Valley of Fire to name a few places! Of course you wouldn't ride on the Strip near Mandalay Bay. The Strip is where you party, which is what 90% of the attendees who were predominantly male probably did.

The weather is typically ideal this time of the year. But this year there were storms earlier in the week. It was threatening on Monday at Interbike Outdoor Demo. A few drops started coming down so my mom-in-law decided to head into downtown Boulder City for lunch.
Sipping margaritas with hot wings and salad
Then we laid by the pool with freshly made mojitos until the rain came.

 There were still clouds in the sky by Tuesday morning. I could have ridden the Yuba Boda Boda from Mandalay Bay back to Bootleg Canyon as part of the Ride 2 Recovery event but since I was staying in Boulder City, it was too early and too much to ask my in-laws (who were very willing) to drive me into town.
We drove to the airport to pick up John. I've always liked the Vegas skyline. But when we lived in Vegas, I was usually I'm suffering to pedal up the hill to the left of the freeway to notice. Now I think nothing of the hill. Boy what I would do to fly up it on my commuter to see how fast I am now!
 Anyway, we had lunch with John's parents on the patio of Jack's Cafe in Boulder City.
 It looks like someone was touring on their bike. I was glad to see a bike rack that wasn't there before.
 Then John and I went to Dirt Demo (again) on Tuesday.
I took a Liv Giant cross-bike for a test ride. It was definitely fun to go off-road and onto the trails I had ridden by so many times while on my road bike!!
Later that evening we met up with friends for dinner at Lucille's BBQ at the Green Valley District.
For the next couple of days John and I was at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center visiting exhibitors indoors. The venue was SO LARGE that the aisles had street names and there were way-finding signs to direct retail buyers.
One of my favorite booths is coming out with a super stylish clothing line for bicycle commuters!! I tried on a few pieces and somehow ended up in the group shot. Not only did they have well-made apparel like reversible jackets and zip-up a-line skirts, but they had super cute rompers!! EVERYTHING I would wear to ride my bike to work!
 As you can imagine, there were many, many bikes on display.
I met the uber-cool owner of Lazer Helmets and was thrilled to talk about the new technology integrated into their helmet systems. A time trial helmet that lets you know when your head is not in an aero position! A combination helmet lock for your straps (I think it was called the 'cafe lock') so you can use your helmet as a lock. It currently works with only the Lazer buckle system but it's possible they'll expand.
Trying on the urban line of helmets
Some of the exhibitor booths were amazing!! It looked like something out of a Better Block design. Others brought in real sod to put underneath a camper VW Bug.
Clif Bar booth provided a place for people to sit and collaborate
Met Ben King. He autographed a poster for me. Several times Iron Man Champion Chris Lieto was also there.
Clever water feature!
One of the nights we went to Cross Vegas. Because we drive a Subaru, we feasted on tacos and free beer at the Subara VIP tent while watching the race.




 Forgot my cowbells!! Argh! Next time.
The second day at Interbike, our backs and legs we were pretty tired from walking around so we took a break poolside on a daybed at Palms Place. It is nice that we still have friends in the industry.
Then I royally screwed up John's flight plan home so he ended up staying in Vegas for a couple more days until Sunday. At least it gave him a chance to spend more quality time with his parents.

Meanwhile I hung out at home with our kitties!! Boy did I miss them!
Hush and be still Kitty-son!!
 These two sisters. They just LOVE each other!!
 Havi, the calico usually wins any kind of scuffle that Elgy, the black and white cat instigated.
Help - I've fallen and I can't get up!
And I SO MISSED riding my bike!! Even though I had the car and a scooter sitting in the garage, I still rode my bike to the post office and then later that day to the grocery store and to pick up dinner.
I am looking forward to riding my bike to work again. And wearing cute skirts because that's half the fun!!




Friday, September 5, 2014

If Life Was a Living Daydream

When I daydream about bicycling, it is very much like what I experienced yesterday afternoon. The sun was low in the sky, giving way to a perfectly warm summer evening. The song "As I Lay Me Down" by Sophie B. Hawkins might as well have been playing. In fact, you can play it while you read :-)

In the south part of downtown Reno, people started to arrive on bicycles at the corner of the Sundance Books and Music store. There was a good range of ages, both male and female. A young man and his father who is a visiting scholar at our University. Two college students who didn't know anyone else. And even a Yorkshire Terrier who loves to go for rides on a bicycle!! Hey don't laugh...this doesn't happen every day in Reno (but we're trying to get there) so it is a big deal to me.

Sundance Books and Music
Sundance Books and Music
The founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works, Grant Peterson was also there. He recently authored a book called, "Just Ride". I had heard a few things about Mr. Peterson from reviews on the web of his book and during casual conversations. I heard that he is not shy about his opinions. And that he ruffles a lot of feathers in the cycling community and I started to think he was very "anti-spandex". But I have never met the man so I decided to attend the "Lug Nuts" fundraiser for the Reno Bike Project's (RBP) Major Taylor Program where Mr. Peterson was scheduled to speak so I could see what he's really like in-person. And also because I am on the RBPs Board of Directors so of course I wanted to support the fundraiser.
Those who showed up at 5 p.m. went on a group ride, myself included. We rode through the neighborhoods and chatted. I had the chance to meet folks I've only known through social media. And made new friends. We couldn't stop talking!! There just wasn't enough time to say all we wanted to say and share our passion for bicycling. I mean, it was the stuff that dreams were made of because I LOVE, LOVE casual group rides for the social aspect of it!!
I felt like there was a real and genuine COMMUNITY!! That I belonged. It's not that I feel like an outcast anywhere else but in THIS community, I feel like like I am not alone on my bike.


I think others felt this too. It wasn't a training ride. You didn't need a specific bike like a road bike. Any bike was just fine. You didn't need kit (jersey and shorts, also referred to as "spandex") or bike specific shoes which clipped into specific pedals. As you can see in these photos, each person rode what worked for them. And each person wore what was comfortable for them.
Mango Lime with Chile and Lime Seasoning
The ride looped back to the Sundance bookstore where the Still Rollin' food truck served eggrolls with a twist. And Bibo Coffee had gelato! You bet I was ALL OVER THAT!!

Reno Bike Project co-founder and Executive Director, Noah Silverman spoke to the attendees about the Major Taylor Ride Club. Something I support and believe in. If you agree and have room in your charity budget, please donate through the Reno Bike Project's website. Since the Reno Bike Project is a non-profit, the programs and events like these are possible through donations.

I really wanted to stay for the entire time to hear Grant Peterson speak. But since my husband was out of town, there were three hungry kitties waiting for me to get home.
Fortunately, I could read about what I missed through local blogger reports from the Reno Rambler "About Last Night" and Riding in Reno "An Evening with Grant Peterson". And although I haven't met the author of the book in person, it sounds like he is a humble and generous man (his company would donate $15 for every "Just Ride" book purchased from the Sundance bookstore yesterday evening). I am glad I got a signed copy (thanks A, you are a lifesaver!).

By the time I was close to home, it was dark. And if you've ever ran in the dark it is eerie and awesome at the same time. All is quiet and it feels like having the entire road to yourself. I was all smiles the entire way home, remembering the yesterday. The day my daydream came true!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Living Car Free

My husband is in Ogden, Utah to compete in the USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships which takes place this week. Since we only have one car in our household and he left this morning with it loaded up, it means I will be living car free until his return. 

I don't say this for pats on the back because I know of people who live car free as a lifestyle like Bekka, author and illustrator of Bikeyface, and those featured on Carfree American. These are people who are not temporarily carless as in...a few days. They made a decision to BE carfree. And there's not that many in this town that I know of. There's not that many bicycle commuters either. About less than 200 in Reno and Sparks.

I say all this because it is kind of scary not having a car on stand-by (although I could have arranged for one) should I need it. And although I have not needed a car to drive except for once a month, the thought of not having the security blanket of my husband who is now 7+ hours away, with the nearest relative 5 hours way in case something should happen to me makes me kind of nervous. But it's not like we haven't been here before.


Me leaving for work.
We have been a single car household for over two years. After we moved to Reno we realized that having more than one vehicle for just the two of us was overkill. Our second vehicle was only being driven during the work week, to get me to and from the office. It seemed like a waste. After all we were paying for the loan, insurance, registration fees, fuel, maintenance and parking at my work site. So we made a decision to live with just one car. Initially my husband, John didn't think we could do it. It was understandable because he would go through cars like a revolving door; switching vehicles as quickly as 6 mos. The longest we've stayed in the same vehicle was 3 years. So I reassured him that we can always get a second car if we really needed to. But at least we can try to live with one less car. And that we did. So now we pay ourselves about an extra $8,600 a year instead of the funds becoming a sunken cost for transportation.

And I don't miss it having a second vehicle one bit. Now I ride my bike everywhere I need to go: to work, to run errands, to meet friends, to medical appointments and even take our pets to the vet. 


If I am not riding my bike then I am carpooling with my husband and on occasions with my colleagues. Other times I will ride somewhere and he will meet me for dinner or an event and then we load up my bike to go home. Once a month I drive to the Regional Transportation Commission Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting. When we both need to be somewhere, we work out our transportation logistics but those times rare.

This coming week will keep me busy as usual. I am going to my dermatologist appointment and to an after-work board meeting for the Reno Bike Project and to a fundraiser for the said community bike shop for Rivendell Bicycle Works' founder Grant Peterson's reading at the Sundance Bookstore in Reno (more info on Riding in Reno and Reno Rambler). I hope to fit in an appointment with my stylist and some clothes shopping before the Interbike convention in Vegas next week!! Meh, I don't really need a car do I? ;-)

What a Focker

Back in the days when I was in high school and still living at home, I would call my little brother names like, "asshole". Then one afternoon I used that foul language again while my Dad was eating in the kitchen. He was kneading a clump of sticky rice in his hand like a stress ball. And then he stopped, and asked me what "asshole" meant since (he must've observed that) I called my brother by this name a lot.

My Dad is pretty fluent in English considering it was a second language he had learned in his early thirties. In fact, he knew how to speak, read and write it before any of us in the family did. By that day, my knowledge of English had surpassed my Dad's but he was no dummy. "Does it mean sabu?", he asked me while pointing to his belly button. And then he bit off a piece of the sticky rice ball in his hand and chewed it. The whole time his inquisitive eyes never broke contact with mine.

Oh shit, I thought. Then replied, "...No...". And then I explained to my Dad the meaning of the bad word I had been using. My Dad didn't have to tell me it was not an appropriate term of endearment for my brother. I knew it was wrong and so I stopped calling my brother names after that. And I pretty much stopped swearing. Except for times when I get so angry, it is the only think I can think of in a split second to express how I feel. Like this morning.

I left home earlier than usual this morning. The sun was still young and rising in the horizon. I turned on the front and rear lights of my bike, like I always do (except for when I am riding in a group). I also realize that when the sun is behind me, it makes it difficult for people looking my way to see me.

Later in my route, I had a close call when a man driving a white, commercial van made a left turn at the last second instead of waiting for me to pass the intersection. It was a two-way street with a turning lane in the middle. It was a complete street where the lanes are straight with a clear line of site.

I saw it happening. Like a movie playing in slow motion when the white van started to turn in front of me. There was nothing I could do except squeeze the brakes to avoid kissing the front grill of the van or making a pancake out of my body like play dough thrown against a wall. I yielded because it didn't matter if I had the right of way.

In that moment, many things went through my mind in an attempt to give the driver the benefit of the doubt. The sun could have been in his eyes. His line of sight may have been blocked by a vehicle that passed me seconds before. He may not have seen me riding in the bike lane. Or he saw me and didn't care. THAT'S what I concluded. Because it's a slow street (25 m.ph.) with very little traffic. Because there was a second or two after the other vehicle passed me on the left cleared the intersection. It was enough time for the driver yielding to see me and my blinking L.E.D. light. I had a hunch that the man in the white van saw me but didn't want to wait for two more seconds. Some people who drive tend to forget that when making a left turn from a dead stop, it takes a while for the vehicle to get up to speed. They forget that it takes more time to turn than they might think. That the approaching traffic is moving faster than they think. They forget that people traveling on bicycles are vulnerable road users. People on bicycles do not have a metal cages and  air bags to protect their bodies during a collision.

It wasn't a big deal and usually I just let it go without a word. After all I did not get hit by the van. That instant scared me for a moment but then I knew I would be okay. And I don't get angry that often. But this morning anger formed inside my belly, and it came rushing out of my mouth. It roared and didn't sound like me. "You FUCKER!!!" I yelled at him. But the driver had already made the turn and didn't look back.

I used strong language because I wanted him to KNOW how I felt about his decision to cut me off. I didn't care if I was in a dress and wearing heels. I didn't care if my yelling profanity wasn't lady like. He didn't want to wait and decided to turn knowing I would have to yield to his van or risk getting injured. HE was the real asshole for putting my life at risk and I am fortunate I am still alive. So I said it for the other women who were not as fortunate while riding their bikes to work.

Amelie Le Moullac, 24 years young public relations professional was killed by a delivery truck making a right turn. She was riding her bike to work on that fateful morning. What's worse was that she was blamed for the accident until the SFBC found a surveillance video showing the driver of the truck was at fault.
Amelie Le Moullac was killed while riding her bicycle on Folsom Street.
Amelie Le Moullac, 24 years young (kqed.org)
Joy Covey, former Amazon CEO was killed at 50 years young when a mail delivery van turned in front of her. She left behind an 8-year old son and was riding her bike towards home so she could pick him up from school. In the articles I've read since the tragedy, the driver of the van didn't see her even though he had a clear line of sight. He didn't take just two seconds to LOOK for her and because of his decision, he cut her life short and forever altered her family's.

Joy Covey, 50 years young and mother (fortune.com)

Very recently Sherry Kung, 31 years young lawyer was killed by a left-turning truck. She recently adopted a young seven-month toddler. Her daughter will never get to know her. She will never ride a bicycle on her own side-by-side with her Mom. Sherry was also riding her bike to work.
Sherry Kung was killed while riding her bicycle
Sherry Kung, 31 years young and mother (seattlebikeblog.com)

These women's lives were cut short because the people who were driving did not care to yield to them. If the people who were driving took just two extra seconds to observe their surrounding and look for other users of the road--not just people in cars then maybe they would not have hit and killed these women.

As a cyclist myself and someone who rides her bike to work I try my best to ride defensively. Because no matter what I do, when someone who is driving makes a rash decision to turn the wheels without regard for me, it can cost me my life. But sometimes no matter HOW defensively we ride, there is NOTHING we can do to protect ourselves when we are up against careless people behind motor vehicles. Like these women, who paid for the mistakes of other people's with their lives.

I felt bad about calling my little brother names when we were kids. He didn't deserve it. But I don't feel bad about yelling the profanity that I did this morning. Was my language excessive? Maybe. But I don't regret it. This time, I just felt that I had to. And I don't think my Dad would give me the look of disapproval either. Because the next mistake that driver makes, may cost someone their life.
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