Saturday, September 15, 2012

Capital Bikeshare Load Management

Riding in across the 14th Street Bridge, I pass this relatively new Capital Bikeshare station on the way to work, or if on a recreational ride. Here on a Thursday morning (relatively late for me, after 9 am) this station at the Jefferson Memorial has only one bike left - but still, there is one. I don't think I have ever since a station with no bikes other than right after the earthquake, when they were all grabbed up.

Capital Bikeshare station, Jefferson Memorial
Only one Bikeshare bike left

While it isn't clear how much ferrying of bikes around is required to keep the Stations equipped with the optimum number of bikes for that location, based upon typical use patterns, I do see a large CaBi truck from time to time that is used for this purpose. The fact that it is so rare to see a station without any bikes (or one completely full) indicates to me that the CaBi people are pretty good at this.

Washington DC Tidal Basin Bike Rental (1941)
1941 bike rental station for recreational riding at the Tidal Basin

Not far from the Jefferson Memorial (to the east rather than southwest), presumably where one can now rent paddle boats, there was this bike rental outlet years ago. Of course for the most part the users of CaBi bikes are a different profile than these sorts of bike renters. Today despite CaBi I still see riders in DC using other bike rental companies - they seem to be tourists rather than residents. The CaBi model and other bike rentals are different in that CaBi is really about point-to-point in less than 30 minutes, then you "check out" another bike to continue on. I have only once seen a CaBi bike locked up at a location without a rider. (For one thing, they don't come with locks.) Other rental bikes do come with locks and are more for all day cruising.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Travels with Willie: Adventure Cyclist (Book Review)

Travels with Willie: Adventure CyclistTravels with Willie: Adventure Cyclist by Willie Weir

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a compilation of columns Willie Weir wrote for Adventure Cyclist magazine. Weir's role in that magazine, it seems, is to provide an article each issue that serves to motivate its readers to further exploits in the activity known as "adventure cycling." Given that the readers of the magazine are all members of the Adventure Cycling Association, there is a certain "preaching to the choir" element to this, and Weir chooses to focus on a narrow part of the activity, the opportunity to meet, talk and even bond with people through travel by bicycle.

Weir's view is that world travel by bicycle is exceptional because one's bicycle serves as a way to present yourself to others that opens up conversations in ways that other travel does not. Almost all of the 42 chapters in this book serve as examples of how that has worked for him - from Turkey to Thailand to different parts of North America. So most of the detailed anecdotes are about the different people he met - how they met, how they spent time together, and so on.

Of course most "bicycle-travel" literature focuses heavily on the "human relations" aspect of the trip, but here there is rather little of anything else. One realizes eventually that he sometimes rides with his wife on a tandem and sometimes they take separate bikes, but there is perhaps one sentence about the implications of undertaking such trips with one's spouse - how they make it work. There is one anecdote about getting bicycles onto flights as checked baggage without paying a "bicycle fee" but there could be many such stories about having a bicycle during international travel that seem like missed opportunities (one guesses . . . ).

Presumably this monochromatic aspect is the result of a book that is compiled from short articles that each had roughly the same goal and weren't intended to serve as part of a long narrative. I'm not saying I didn't find it enjoyable to read - mostly I did - but it became clear after about 50 pages that this wasn't really going anywhere it hadn't been already except to swap in different locations.

Weir's style also became a little fatiguing over the length of a book. His average paragraph has (I'm estimating) two sentences, but there are quite a few paragraphs of one sentence. If you pause to consider what you know about writing it seems like he could have consolidated a lot of these little paragraphs into longer ones that flow better. What may work fine as an article doesn't necessarily work for extended reading.

The book has some black and white photographs - these serve to show the scenery occasionally mentioned as another benefit of adventure cycling. Some of the photos are quite good.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Trail Safety Enhancements

The newly configured transition from crosswalk to trail

As Mr. Lenin said, one step forward and two steps back. Or did he say two steps forward and one step back? I can't keep that straight.

This is at Walter Reed and Arlington Mill Road in Arlington (Virginia). The Country does occasional maintenance on the trails that sometimes is difficult to understand, although most of this effort seems OK.

Previously there were two steel bollard-type posts that sat in steel sleeves that were in the asphalt - the sleeves stuck out of the asphalt an inch or two and the steel post could be locked to the sleeve.

The previous hazard - helpfully marked by someone with yellow paint

A while ago one of the steel posts disappeared, leaving the sleeve as a hazard - you wouldn't want to ride your bike over this bit of metal poking out of the asphalt. Eventually someone (from the County? one assumes) came along and painted it yellow like this. It then stayed like this for a month or so.

How long will this piece of plastic last?

Finally the County came along and removed the remaining steel post and both the sleeves and installed this plastic thing. I guess a bicycle is an "authorized vehicle" (ha ha). Typically these plastic bollards (if that is what one calls them) don't stay in place very long, but the mounting thing that would remain if the plastic strip disappears wouldn't be the same kind of hazard for cyclists as the previous steel sleeve - but still, it won't be something you want to run into directly since it could cause a rider to lose control.

Often these developments feel like an evolution of compromises . . .

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Slaying the Badger (Book Review)

Slaying the Badger: Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, and the Greatest Tour de FranceSlaying the Badger: Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, and the Greatest Tour de France by Richard Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title doesn't mean much to people who aren't (relative to regular people) deep into road racing history and would know that "the badger" is Bernard Hinault, who won the Tour de France five times. The sub-title however makes the subject somewhat more clear: "Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault and the greatest Tour de France" - this book ponders what Hinault meant when he seemed to promise that after winning his fifth Tour in 1985, he would work in 1986 to help LeMond win his first. (A problem with Mr. Hinault is that his statements can often be understood in more than one way.) To do this, the author (who observed the 1985 and 1986 Tours firsthand) interviewed Hinault, LeMond, and others who might provide some insights. He then inserts material from these recent interviews into what is first a review of Hinault and LeMond's history in cycling followed by a day-by-day account of the 1986 Tour.

The overall result is a decent history of the Tour in 1985 and 1986 with some background that reads well, other than these occasional detours into further musing on what Hinault really was thinking. Motivation ("what was he thinking?") is interesting, but since Hinault is clearly not going to offer more insights than he has to date, the constant returning to this topic in this book eventually became a little tiresome - but that could be me.

The author notes in an afterword for the US edition that in the original UK edition, the sub-title was "the greatest ever Tour de France" - he took "ever" out of the sub-title to suggest that he is open to other suggestions on which was "the greatest ever." I'm not sure he has solved the problem - what I think he means is that this was the greatest duel between two riders in a Tour de France - but that would have made for a rather long sub-title.

An interesting point made several times in interviews in the book is that regardless of what he had in mind, Hinault effectively created a situation with his tactics that meant he was in a race with the rest of the field plus LeMond while LeMond was in a race with Hinault alone, and that this simplified things greatly for LeMond even as Hinault may have mercilessly messed with LeMond's mind.

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