Sunday, August 29, 2010

BikeDenver's Kidical Mass ride

A consortium of local advocacy groups led by BikeDenver hosted the first Kidical Mass ride from Washington Park to Bonnie Brae ice cream. It was great fun, with lots of kids, parents and friends making the trek.
Slow and steady
The flower gardens in the park were in their prime
Some of the many bikes parked near the ice cream shop
She rode a while with Camille, who only recently learned to ride and was doing great on her vintage bike with a little help from her Mom
After the ice cream, many of the peloton made their way back to the park for more fun. The water of the irrigation ditch was prime for entertainment during the heat of the day.
Mud pies don't make themselves
Julie debuted her Xtracycle for the ride
A family of family bikes
At the end of the day we stopped by our friends Debbi and Teri's great local coffee shop, Wash Perk, for some cold drinks.
"I made my bike pretty like a queen bug bike and I was pretty in front of the coffee shop."

End of the first full week of school

Her personal school bus ready for departure
Friday marked the end of the first full week of kindergarten. So far, so good. We're already looking forward to next week.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A two-wheeled conundrum

You are mistaken if you think this is the left side of this bike. It's not. It's the right side...
...and this is the far right side. There is no left side on a Dan Maes bike.
Consider this a challenge to everyone out there to try to explain the above photos, taken yesterday in front of Denver Health.

The recent comments made by Dan Maes, Republican candidate for governor of Colorado, didn't exactly endear him to the bicycling community, so it is a bit perplexing why someone would festoon their bike with a Maes campaign sticker, let alone two. Please note that the bike is red, the color attributed to evil socialists, and perhaps not coincidentally the Republican party. Thoughts?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Briefly in Boulder

I'm going to take a small detour from Big Dummy related activities to write about a short tour of bicycle supportive infrastructures found in Boulder, Colorado. I happened to be in Boulder for a meeting today and took a few shots of random bike facilities while I was there. A lot of things in that town are going very right for bike infrastructure.

First, I happened to ride past Casey Middle School and was impressed by the following scene:
Yessir, that's a large solar array acting as a shade for about 100 or so bikes. Every spot was filled, and then some.
Wouldn't it be amazing to see bike racks like this at every school, place of employment and center of commerce? However, someone in authority having decided to have a large number of racks installed is only part of what is impressive about this scene. Those bike racks didn't fill themselves; it requires a community commitment of broad social, cultural, policy and infrastructural support to encourage riding to school. Extra kudos to the school administration and engineers for the large solar array.

Continuing to my destination I noticed the intuitive and simple to follow directional signage for bikes at many intersections. These appear to be more easily identifiable and understandable than the D route signs presently used in Denver.
Clear signs eliminate some of the guesswork
Next was the innovative contraflow bike lane on 13th Street protected by a physical barrier from car traffic. The setup featured diagonal car parking and one lane of Northbound car traffic, along with one lane of Southbound bike traffic, all sharing the same street. Everything was neatly marked so that cars, bikes and pedestrians kept to the correct place and/or direction of travel.
From left: sidewalk, diagonal car parking, Northbound car lane, protective barrier, Southbound bike lane, sidewalk
Contraflow lane at an intersection
In an arched section of the contraflow lane, skirting a pedestrian courtyard
The off-street facilities are just as impressive. I took note of even more examples of clear and instructive directional signage on the trail system. 
Sign post at a major trail intersection in Central Park
Amsterdam and Copenhagen are great, but there's a lot to be learned in our own back yard. Variations on each of these items could easily be applied in Denver, and have already been tested and proven by our neighbors to the north. This brief recounting features just a few of the great bicycle-supportive elements observable in Boulder. I encourage anyone who hasn't done so to visit Boulder on a bike to get a firsthand glimpse of these and other bicycle facilities in action.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Western Welcome Week and rack mount mod

Yesterday was the parade for Western Welcome Week, the big annual community event of our little suburb. Our girl is a big fan of parades, and as it turns out this parade was a big fan of hers. Many parade participants complimented her on her coordinated outfit including matching cowgirl hat and boots.
Howdy pardner
When the parade was finished, we toured the sites and the food booths. Somehow she ended up simultaneously consuming a Tootsie pop and a root beer float courtesy of our fine and honorable State Representative Joe Rice. This just after a snow cone. Needless to say, she had plenty of energy on the ride home.
Contemplating what is sweeter: the good themselves or getting away with such an obvious overindulgence of sugar?
She calls her bike "Rosie" and refers to it as her horse
When we got home, I decided to pare off the excess length of roof tray from my kid bike carrier project. First a little miter saw action...
A little more urbane than a hacksaw
Then a little time with the drill press...
Off camera is a peach daiquiri. Remember to practice power tool safety.
Followed by a little finishing work to make the new end have the same fitting holes as the old end...
Old end (left), new end (right)
And voila! No more extra rack tray sticking out for someone to trip on. Nice and tidy.
Just the right length now
The whole rig rides like a champ
A final addition to the Big Dummy was a new sticker courtesy of the Vote Hick for Gov float in the parade.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Piggybacking on the Big Dummy

Ever since she started riding her own bike, she's been constantly improving and building endurance. She often logs two or three miles daily with trips to the library, the park and now school. Even so, on many rides there are places where it's necessary for her to be a passenger instead of a rider. The difficulty with this is that I want to protect her, but I also don't want her to miss out honing her skills through the fun of riding her own bike. Therefore, it is desirable to be able to bring her bike along, whether she's riding it or not.

Initially, I carried her smaller 12.5 inch wheeled bike in one of the Big Dummy's cavernous Freeloader panniers. Her current bike, a 16 inch wheeled Electra, is big enough that it won't fit in a Freeloader, so I've been towing it with its front wheel in the Freeloader and rear wheel on the ground. This has worked mostly well enough, but recently the Electra has exhibited a tendency to squirm around enough to loosen itself every mile or so. I'd been thinking of a better solution, and this evening finally got around to putting it together.
The product of a wideloader, some old roof rack parts and about 45 minutes of tinkering
Continue reading to find out how it all came together.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Our girl on a fixed gear bicycle

This title won't necessarily lead to a story quite along the lines about what you might be thinking, especially you Fixed gal, but it does indeed feature our girl on a fixie.

Last evening, after our adventures with kindergarten we went to the Littleton Historical Museum, which was celebrating its 40th anniversary. The museum is always an interesting place, as it is a working farm depicting agrarian life in the settings of the 1860s and the 1890s. Because of the celebration the museum brought out some items and exhibits I'd not previously seen. Something that immediately caught my attention was a vintage safety bicycle ridden by a woman in period costume.
Early bicycles and bloomers were an escape from the tyranny of corsets
Of course we quickly sought out the bike for a closer inspection. She bubbled right up to the woman who was riding it and made a friend. As promised, this is where we get to the her on a fixed gear bicycle part of the story:
She'll be able to reach the pedals in in a year or two
According to the head badge the bike was a Romona, built in Indianapolis in 1897. It featured wooden rims, a skirt guard and coasting pegs on the fork crown. The bike apparently came from the large collection of Victorian era bicycles at Golden Oldy Cyclery.
It's too bad head badges aren't still a central fixture of a bike
Looking over the bike up close I began to ponder, with exception to some materials and manufacturing techniques, how little in bicycle design has really changed with the passage of 113 years. Since the time this bike was built, subsequent bikes have been tweaked for lower weight or higher speed, but have never really been fundamentally altered. Right now with the reemergence in popularity of utility bikes and fixies, this bike wouldn't look out of place parked in front of any coffee shop in 2010.

In the past as now, bikes are the perfect way to enjoy a summer evening following a hot day. We took advantage of the cooler air with a slightly extended ride home. 
Aglow in the twilight

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

First day of K: afternoon ride

"I love kindergarten 'cause it's so fun."
This afternoon when the school bell rang, Julie and I were waiting at school to meet our girl. She had a great day and was excited to see us.
School is out
There were several other kids who rode bikes, mostly from older grade levels. She was easily the youngest kid on the smallest bike at the school. It's encouraging to see that some other kids ride bikes, and we'll do our part to help those numbers grow.
She doesn't get her talent for color coordination from me
The afternoon trip to school coincided with another milestone, as the Big Dummy hit the 1,000 mile mark since I installed the cycle computer sometime in the middle of last year. I ordinarily don't keep track of the miles on my bikes, in fact the Big Dummy is one of only a couple with a cycle computer. However, I was curious to see how many miles it accumulated, since its primary purpose is to replace car trips. To date, I'd say that conservatively, about 75% of the miles on the bike directly replaced miles that would otherwise have been driven.
Thanks for the 1,000 miles, BD. Here's to thousands more.
We had a nice ride home, tracing in reverse the path that we took in the morning. We had some snacks and drinks along the way, and in general took it easy because of the mid-ninety degree weather. We are already looking forward to tomorrow's ride.
Homeward bound

First day of K: morning ride

Traditional front porch on the first day of school portrait
The big day has finally arrived. Kindergarten: the grand entryway to the big kids club. Our girl met the challenge head on, busily completing her morning routine and chores. We said goodbye to Heidi and got on our bikes.
Ready to roll
The ride to the path went well, and we even caught the green light at the big intersection. She knew the waypoints for our route, telling me where I should stop to unhitch her bike from the Big Dummy.
Ready to disembark
The weather couldn't have been more perfect. We had a very pleasant ride on the path, taking lots of photos along the way. She hummed and sang as she usually does when she's riding.
Feigning seriousness
Be-bopping along
Electra parked at school
The morning trip took 14:18, door to door. Not bad. She played for a bit then the bell rang to line up to go into school.
On her way
I'm sure she's having a great time. We'll go to pick her up in a little while, and I look forward to another terrific ride home.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Give a little, get a little

Big Dummy loaded down with books, boxes and an apple-munching, timeless classic-reading co-pilot
Every so often, it's time to redistribute the stuff that tends to collect around the house. Today's objective was to reduce some of the excess of books, clothing and other goods. Many of the books were those that she had outgrown, so she suggested that kids at her old preschool would enjoy them. We loaded up the Dummy and hit the town with three stops to make along some familiar routes.
We paused to say hello to our ovine neighbors
Things were going as planned until we ventured down an alley and discovered a perfectly good wagon and bouncing ball next to someone's trash. When she saw these items, our girl, who is a robust yet surprisingly sensitive kid said, "It breaks my heart that people throw good things away. They should give them to somebody else if they don't want them."

I've learned to be cautious of my own inclinations to pick up random but useful things that I find, a habit that is not always welcomed at home. But I challenge anyone to hear such an observation from a little girl, so earnest and profound for her age, and not end with the same result as I did. Needless to say, we now have a new (to us) wagon and bouncing ball. Both items will no doubt eventually leave our house, but it's a good bet that their exit trajectory won't be through the trash.
Rescuing free stuff can be its own reward

Sunday, August 15, 2010

First actual ride to school, sort of

Although the first day of school hasn't yet arrived, on Friday there was a getting acquainted event, so this was our first opportunity to ride to school with an actual school-related purpose. We rode as we've done in the practice runs, modified only with the addition of Mommy joining the pack.

Ducks in a row
All went well with the ride and the event, although it's astonishing to see the quantity and size of vehicles that tend to cluster around a school when it's in use. It looks as though I have a job ahead of me, as there might have to be something done about the bike racks at the school. The racks are of an archaic wheel-bender design and seemingly mostly disused, having been sequestered far out of the way behind the school. We ended up locking to a pole at the front of the building.

The ride home was nice. I'm well aware of the shortcomings and implications of suburban land use, but it's hard not to appreciate a shaded and well-groomed path in a bucolic setting. Followed up by cold beer and tasty pizza, and you've got the makings of a great way to spend a Friday evening.
Streamers streaming
It's difficult to keep ahead of her sometimes

Gratuitous beer and pizza photo