Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tulsa Tough: Law Enforcement

I've been told that due to the large number of complaints from area residents during the 2007 Tulsa Tough tours, there will be greater law enforcement presence on area roads this year.

In other words, if you run red lights and stop signs, expect to be ticketed.

Most of the tour riders have nothing to worry about, of course, but the sub-five hour pack riders will have to exercise caution.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tulsa Tough Kid's Challenge

Skills and Drills Clinic

Sunday, 19MAY2008

This was the final skills and drills clinic for the Tulsa Tough Kids Challenge. The instructors were: Brian Potter, Ren Barger, Richard Hall, and myself. We had numerous volunteers assisting with registration, helmet and bike fitting, and even police officers from the Tulsa Police Department and the Tulsa County Sheriffs Office.

Jordan went along for this one too, and it's a good thing he did. Some of the kids in my group had ill-fitting helmets or bikes with minor mechanical problems that required immediate attention. Jordan stepped in for me and kept the drills rolling while I took care of the problems. He's easily approachable. Kids like him. He's a fine assistant to any instructor. And there's no denying he worked hard because he dehydrated badly like I did last week. Just know that I'm proud of him for helping so much on Sunday.

One mother asked if I had an operator's manual for teenage boys. It didn't dawn on me until Monday – when I began writing this – that she was commenting on my son! I had to say that if I could write something like that, I'd have a yacht or an island of my own. Apparently, Mary and I did something right as far as parenting is concerned, but for the life of me, I don't know what it was. “As the twig is bent...” A friend said that by the time they're 16 or 17, we're just along for the ride.

Would it be possible to invite some kids from this year's group to attend next year's 'classroom' events? Perhaps we could solicit teachers to have a writing contest or something similar in order to select the most persuasive kids to assist with our pitch. At their age, peer pressure can work to our advantage.

To that end, we need to keep an idea file for next year. I set a reminder in MS calendar.

We need some people to perform an effective gatekeeper function. Brian said to trust the registrars, but they were perhaps too lenient in allowing some to attend. We had one family show up with their daughter who'd been registered, along with her two younger brothers who most likely were not, but I had no way to verify this. I think they were no older than six and they were a pain-in-the-ass to deal with because they simply would not listen until I bellowed at them. Next year – turn away these very young kids outside our targeted age group. We need to turn away kids who are not dressed appropriately, re-scheduling them for a later session. I had one kid wearing flip-flops. There may have been more. That may be a PITA for the gatekeeper, but it makes our job easier. No one wants to be the bad guy, the one who says 'no' to anxious parents and kids, but it's a necessary function.

I think that we should plan out the classes differently, allowing more time between sessions although that would stretch out the day. The kids need to be rested and fed before class, so maybe schedule two classes at mid-day. Give the staff an hour break over dinner, and have an evening session.

The kids seemed more anxious, hyper, and whiny this time perhaps because it was later in the day. The warehouse was hot and I had a few who wanted to take breaks for water every few minutes. “How many minutes left?” one asked repeatedly. That last group probably hadn't had dinner either and that's sure to make kids cranky. It makes me cranky!

And finally, Ren said she had a temper tantrum due to being so irritated by some of the kids. That didn't really qualify as a temper tantrum. I use Conan the Barbarian as a model. "Kill your enemies! See them run before you! Hear the lamentations of their women!" Now, that's a tantrum! I really need to wear more furs. Where can I get a battle axe?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gotta love this!

I've ridden to work every day this week and tomorrow is our local Bike To Work event. But I won't be there because I'll be working!

One of the true joys of regular commuting is that I get to see the same cars and drivers every day. They come to expect a cyclist somewhere on the road, just another guy making the daily grind.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

From the American Bicyclist

From the American Bicyclist Update dated 12MAY2008, an email newsletter from the
League of American Bicyclists, followed by a response from Gary Parker, Tulsa bicycling
advocate and League Cycling Instructor:

Matsui Introduces House Complete Streets Bill

Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) took an important step last Thursday,
May 1, for safer, better designed streets by introducing the Safe and
Complete Streets Act of 2008 into the U.S. House (HR 5951). The bill
would make sure that roads built and improved with federal funds safely
serve everyone using the roadway, including pedestrians, bicyclists, bus
riders, as well as people with disabilities.

On the Senate side, Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) signed on this week
as first Republican co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, S2686,
the Complete Streets Act of 2008, introduced a few weeks ago by Senators
Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Thomas Carper (D-DE). This is the first time that
comprehensive complete streets bills have been introduced in the
House and Senate.

Visit the League’s on-line advocacy center and ask your Members
of Congress to support this legislation.

For more information on complete streets, please visit Click here to
read Congresswoman Matsui’s press

Gary's comments follow. The link he refers to is the first page at Complete Streets and it shows a cyclist riding in a door zone bike lane. I couldn't capture the image because it's part of an animation sequence.....Ed

At this link a bike lane is shown going directly adjacent to the door zone of parked automobiles. Below is my response.

As a regular bicycle commuter and LCI bike educator I know the real need for complete streets is equality of access to the right travel lane for bicycle drivers. Eliminate all language relative to "as far to the right as . . ." This separate but equal language is no better for bicycles than it was for African-American.

The legal language should provide that "Bicyclists have legal access to the entire right hand travel lane." Further specific language directing "Vehicles passing slower moving or stopped vehicles shall use the adjacent lane to the lane of travel." There is always an adjacent lane.

This equality of access eliminates the need for wasteful increased consumption of private land for increase right of way width for dangerous and always non-functional bike lanes. Even in the picture of the bike lane on your website the lane runs adjacent to and in the door zone of parked cars. Bike lanes do not operate in accordance with standard vehicle rules of the road.

You will have mine and other vehicular bicyclists and knowledgeable commuting bicyclist attention when you begin moving for Equality of access for bicycles to the right hand travel lane.

Gary Parker

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tulsa Tough Kids Challenge

This is from Gary Parker, one of the local LCIs and an ardent bicycling advocate. Gary taught at yesterday's Tough Kids event. He's a retired teacher, and in all honesty, he's probably forgotten more about teaching than I've ever learned. Both Gary and Ren Barger have that special touch that allows them to connect with kids. I always watch carefully when they're speaking to a group, hoping that I can learn more. My post follows Gary's.....Ed

Dear TaoBIKE Team,

Thank you for your wonderful effort on behalf of the kids participating in today's Tulsa Tough Kids Skills and Drills.

Brian Potter took the lead. The agenda arrived at earlier was very efficient. Four groups of about 20-plus kids moved through the activities quite efficiently. This was due in great part to teacher/coaches Richard Hall, Ren Barger, and Ed Wagner.

Ed's son Jordan participated providing examples of the skills assignments. Several of the Tulsa Bike Patrol were also on hand. Adam was there from the outset with some shop mechanics.

The sequence of events went very smoothly with greater skill for delivery of services being acquired with each successive group.

A special shout-out "Thank you!" to Brian joining me for my bike ride back to the River's Edge at 21st and Riverside.

From the three sessions of helmet fitting through riding in a straight line, stopping-starting and turn signaling, and a big finish with two by two riding of the entire group around the warehouse as they monitored their spacing and speed.

What a great day for Tulsa kids and Tulsa bicycling.

My appreciation to all of the folks that made today's Tulsa Tough Kids bike event such a wonderful happening.

Gary Parker

Jordan and I left early on Saturday morning for the Skills and Drills Clinic. The Tulsa Tough is giving away 300 Trek bicycles to local kids this year. We helped to assemble them and we participated in the classroom portions at several local schools. Jordan was especially valuable because as a teenager, he's closer to the elementary kids ages, and he's more approachable than an adult. I think he enjoyed the attention too.

The LCI cadre did an amalgam of Kids 1 and 2. We held the clinic in a warehouse this year, the same warehouse that we'd used for bike assembly. It offered some advantages since we didn't have to be concerned about the weather. But the floor was smooth finished concrete, so we had to adapt the drills for the reduced traction. Instant turns were out, as well as the rock dodge. That proved to be a good call because some of the kids showed poor bike handling skills on the serpentine course, and naturally, some were overly aggressive. Fortunately, no one fell and we didn't have any collisions.

The first group was a the largest with about 75 kids. It was important to stay on message and keep track of time. Brian had allotted 15 minutes for each section, along with a 5 minute break at the mid-point. It was a challenge to keep the kids focused and get all of them through each drill several times so they could develop some proficiency. I talked with one parent and described it as “trying to herd cats.” For the most part, the kids were focused and attentive.

The Tulsa Police Department sent 5 officers from their bike patrol unit. These folks were wonderful! They helped with helmet fittings, stopping drills, and even acted as pedestrians at one point. I'm not sure if the kids paid more attention to the instructors or the guys in uniform, but there's no doubt in my mind that the police officers were very effective in a bicycling education role. (We talked briefly about the IPMBA and LAB's Road1, but that's a subject for another time.)

There were some heartbreakers too. One boy was worried because his mother wasn't there. “She never comes to anything with me,” he said. I could hear the hurt in his voice. One girl had broken her arm the previous weekend and was in a hand-to-shoulder cast. She very gamely wanted to participate, but we were worried that she wouldn't be able to control her bike and she could fall, re-injuring the arm. I had to tell her she was excused from the class. She had tears welling up in her eyes. At least she has a new bike even if she can't ride it yet.

We had a few kids with learning problems. They required more one-on-one instruction, and we worked with them as we could. But we had two kids who didn't know how to ride a bike at all. The parents were told at the classroom sessions that we did not have the time or staffing to teach beginners, yet they signed up to get that free bike anyway. Some parents gamed the system too. They arrived at the warehouse, received their helmets and bikes, and then disappeared as soon as possible. Perhaps they saw little value in the instruction, but in a perverse way it benefited the kids who stayed because we could spend more time with them individually.

Finally, a word about the volunteers. The LCI group didn't do this alone. The Tulsa Tough operates with a network of volunteers, people who donated their time to unload trucks, assemble bikes, handle administrative chores, and even take out the trash. It truly is a team effort because none of us could accomplish our tasks without the others. A well deserved thank you goes to St. Francis Hospital, the Tulsa Crime Commission, Adam Vanderburg (owner of Lee's Bicycles), and the hundreds of people who worked together to bring this event to area kids.

And we get to do it again next week!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Local television news has a story about filling car tires with 100% nitrogen. Allegedly, nitrogen doesn't leak down as quickly so tires stay at a higher pressure for a longer period of time. This increases gas mileage. There's also a claim that nitrogen extends the life of the tire, but I suspect that if they're properly inflated – regardless of the gases inside them – they'll last longer too.

For a fleet operation, filling tires with nitrogen probably makes sense. If the claimed 3% increase in gas mileage is true, it translates into large cash savings. But the local business offering this service charges $39.95 to fill four tires. From where I sit, that may not be a cost-effective savings for consumers.

There's a solution, of course. I use a cheaper mixture that contains only 80% nitrogen in both car tires and bicycle tires. The only drawback is that I have to check the pressure regularly. That means using a pressure gauge on the car tires about once a week. But for a bicycle, the pressure has to be checked before every ride.

That brings us to the ABC Quick check. (You didn't think I'd skip a BikeEd moment, did you?) A is for air. Check your tire pressure before every ride. Yes, it reduces rolling resistance, but it also reduces the chance of a pinch flat. Spin you wheels and look for tire cuts or a rim wobble that could indicate a loose or broken spoke. B is for brakes. Squeeze the brake lever and ensure that there's a fingers width of space between the lever and the handlebar. C is for the crank and chain. Try to move the crank arms in and out, feeling for any looseness. Feel for a loose pedal, and see that the chain is in place. Q is for quick releases. Get in the habit of putting them in the same position all the time so you can tell at a glance if they've been moved. Returning to C a moment, when you first start out pedal gently to ensure that the chain is in place properly and no one has tampered with your derailleur levers, particularly if the bike was parked outside in a public place.

There are some costs associated with ignoring the ABC Quick check. Once, someone who looks remarkably like me fixed a flat tire, then pushed off down a hill. hadn't closed the brake release lever, so the caliper barely touched the rim. Naturally, the lever went all the way to the handlebar and he discovered the brake was pitifully ineffective. Doing the ABC Quick check would have prevented this mishap.

Another time, this same rider had a rear quick release partly open. The wheel was installed in an old frame with horizontal frame ends. When he stood to power away from a stop light, the wheel popped out and tacoed. While it's possible to straighten a wheel by supporting it on a curb and forcing the rim back into alignment, it's not a practice I recommend. Some of the neighborhood kids learned a wide variety of new and exciting words that day.

(Snark alert)

Here's a fitness idea that would also save money for big fleet operators, like cities that have a large number of police cars – get cops to check their air pressure at the beginning of each shift, and give them a bicycle pump for inflation. It's a win-win situation! Proper tire inflation leads to improved gas mileage and increased tire life. And as a side benefit, we get physically fit police officers with fewer health problems. (Except for TCSO who would need extensive training in how to use a bicycle pump in the first place.) As a taxpayer, I'm 100% behind this idea!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

We need a new tool...

(Image from Richard Drdul)

We know that 'fear from the rear' is irrational and it drives much of the facilities advocacy. But today I'm not addressing the institutional problems of dealing with traffic engineers, bureaucrats, and planners. Instead, I'm looking at the reduction of irrational fear on an individual basis.

Most of us with long experience seldom fear riding in traffic, and when we meet someone wholly consumed by that irrational fear we may have difficulty understanding it. I know I do at times. Our first response is to say that the fear is unfounded or greatly exaggerated, but this does nothing to reduce it. We can offer facts and statistics, yet they're all ignored. That's the definition of 'irrational' - something that defies reason and logic.

Think of watching a horror movie in a theater, for example. Objectively, we know that it's nothing more than sound and flashing lights in a darkened room. Yet the fear it induces is real - at least until the house lights come up.

My industry used to offer Fear of Flying classes for potential customers. Again, we know that flying is a very safe means of transportation, but simply telling a fearful person that isn't sufficient. The company offered classes that gradually habituated these customers through a succession of experiences that eventually led to taking a flight. It worked on two levels, the rational and the emotional.

That emotional approach is one we should discuss. Our opposition has met with considerable success by using fear as a tool. Is there an equally powerful one we could use? (Of the seven deadly sins, I could only remember gluttony, sloth, and avarice, and they're not really suitable, though I'm well acquainted with the first two.) Demonstrating vehicular cycling techniques is a real eye-opener but it works best one-on-one. We need something with the emotional impact of 'fear from the rear' that will let us reach a broader audience. I suspect that if we can influence large groups of individual cyclists, the institutional problems offered by traffic engineers, bureaucrats, and planners will simply go away.