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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Reality Bite!

Riding my bike all the time keeps the news about the gas prices and shortage strictly as an academic concern. But I unfortunately can't keep out of it forever. This past week I needed to make a trip to Atlanta. My gas tank was full as I had filled it up before this whole shortage thing and hadn't used my car since.

I was able to make it to and back Atlanta. But once I was in Atlanta, the lane of traffic I was in stopped. The left hand lane seemed to be making progress so I peered up the road as far as I could to see what was holding everything up. I could see a car stopped. Was it broken down? Was there an obstacle that necessitated a stop and lane change? I couldn't tell. But the other cars behind it didn't seem to be in a hurry to get around it.

I made the lane change and when I came alongside the stopped car I could tell what was happening. All these cars were in line for gas! Wow! Out of the gas station parking lot into the street. What a hark back to the seventies. I hadn't realized it was that bad.

As I drove Atlanta streets I could see that gas station after gas station had no gas. When the occasional one did, I saw lines, lines, lines! Apparently there wasn't much movement in the lines because I saw people out of the cars, socializing, smoking, cell phone calling or otherwise killing time.

Boy, I was grateful to get back home to my bike! Which makes me wonder why more people aren't riding their bikes in this gas shortage/price situation. Why aren't people doing it?

All right now! I can already hear the reasons being given for not riding bikes. Believe me, I hear it all the time. And there are many, many challenges that makes riding difficult. So let's just consider the group that most of these challenges don't apply to. So that would be everyone that live within 5 miles of their work, their work doesn't require them to travel from place to place, there are no kids to drop off and pick up, doesn't have carry much, and there are no physical disabilities ( being overweight and unfit doesn't count.) I am not saying everyone should, I am just wondering, as a response to the gas crisis, that more people don't think about it. It should would save many headaches and worries!

Personally, I think is as a lack of imagination. It is hard to imagine doing it if a person has never done it. But the more people do it, the more people start firing up the imagination. And people ARE doing it more. I guess I am looking for a grand rush as people get tired of being jerked around by this gas thing. But it is coming. In the mean time, I will be grateful that I don't have to stand in line to get gas

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Recently I was riding through UTC on the closed street reserved for pedistrians and cyclists. On that day a Coke truck and trailor was parked on the street, right at the place where there are islands in the middle of the street, leaving about three feet for me to pass by. I slowed down to work my around this hulk of metal in my way, which turned out to be a very good thing.

I was coming up to the driver's door when bam! I found myself on my butt! Doored! Considering how slow I was going, the force that threw me to the ground was surprisily powerful. And it hurt! I wasn't actually hurt, didn't even break skin, but the impact shook me up enough to bring a bit a daze and a need for an inventory of all body parts.

The driver jumped out, crisp in his Coca-cola uniform, in a mild panic. He was apoligizing profusly, picking up the bike, straightening the saddle (ever noticed that even the mildest mishap with the bike the saddle takes that opportunity to do a little spin?) and trying to make sure I was ok. I am sure he was seeing a huge ugly blemish going on his driving record.

But after a minute or two, I was ok and didn't see a need to make a bigger deal about it. But I did give him a minuture lecture. I reminded him that he WAS parking in a bike/pedistrian zone so he needed to be expecting us. Always look before opening doors!

Generally I try never to ride in door zones. It is just too dangerous. I was going very slowly that day. It doesn't take much imagination to see how with a little bit more speed that incident could have been very bad, deadly even. .

That means, on narrow streets, if I am four feet away from a parked car, I will be in the middle of the lane An example of this is on McCallie Ave from Georgia Ave to Central. There are two lanes and parking on both sides of the street. There is no second lane for a car to pull into to pass and so many times cars must just stay behind me until there is a safe time to pass. Its never more then a block or so, so its not long.

But many drivers don't understand that. They act asthough I am expected to risk my life for their convenience. Sorry, I set my priorities different!

Someone might ask, why do I ride on that road if it is so bad and dangerous. I don't normally. Going up Oak Street that runs parrelell to McCallie is a much nicer road to ride on and it takes me more directly on my home/work route. (although that is where I was doored) But sometimes where I am going is right on that stretch of McCallie. I take it because I need to.

I think driving big suvs on such narrow lanes with parking and university pedistrians with a strong proclivity for jaywalking would be scarier! For everyone!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Davis California

While out west, Quint and I took in a trip to Davis, California. Davis has the highest bike tranportation rate of the nation (25%). We had to check it out. We weren't disappointed.

They had everything needed to encourage people to bike. They had picturesque bike paths:

Where there were highways they built overpaths: and under paths:

Some intersections were so busy the count could be as much as 1000 bicycles PER HOUR! To faciltate all that bike traffic they got creative. Here is a bike roundabout:

And special bike lights:

Bike parking lots were full:

Not detail was over looked. Scattered around town were bike air stations.

It was totally amazing. We went to Sacramento from Davis, riding on a bikeway alongside the interstate the whole way. Living there, it might be possible to never get in a car.
Which makes me wonder why the biking rate isn't higher then 25%. It is very flat out there, almost always sunny weather, doesn't get too cold in winter, and as the Bike director told us, most people live within four miles of town. It is easy to ride bikes to surrounding towns,(Sacramento was only 11 miles away on totaly flat bikeway) and there are trains for furthur commute.
With all the encouragement with facilities and perfect terrain, I would think bike ridership would be up to 75%. I would love to talk to a car driver there and ask why the car? Almost all the reasons that people here give are not valid out there.
Even though the ridership is not as high as the conditions seggest they could be, it was still good to see bike numbers totally unimagined here. I would love to see a 25% ridership here!


Friday, August 15, 2008

Hills of San Francisco

I tried to prepare for the hills of San Fancisco. For those who saw me riding around with big jugs of water in my panniers, I wasn't being crazy. I was trying to get in shape. I would load my bike down and go home by way of Missionary Ridge. Surely there couldn't be anything steeper then Oak Street going up the side of the ridge.

So what did my training get me? This is me on the first hill I came to in San Francisco:

Yep, that is me pushing up the hill. I got into the city, having been met by Quint who had biked down from Portland, Oregon and we had to get something to eat first. We found a wonderful place called the Stinking Rose, where they serve a little bit of food with garlic. I thought it was impossible to eat too much garlic.

But hitting the hill immediately after garlic gouging, I found out different. At this point, I am starting to wonder if I was going to throw up. I didn't. And that was the only hill I pushed up. But that queasy feeling from climbing a hill immediately after eating was repeated frequently through out our stay in San Francisco.

Good food, steep hills and stomach turnover- the three together will always say San Francisco to me!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Watch out!

I am going to tell on Jim Farmer.

I was going to work the other day going down Tremont, when a car, pulling out of a parking lot, pulled out right in front of me. I had to hit my brakes to keep from hitting it. Luckily, I wasn't going too fast.
I caught up with the car in the traffic stop ahead and looked inside. Who should it be? Jim Farmer, his biker self! And he was even coming out of the bike shop parking lot1

I knocked on his window and he rolled it down "Hey, Colleen, how are you doing?"

"Well, I'm fine, considering you pulled out right in front of me."

"Hey, I didn't see you!"

"Yeah, that's the point."

Jim got a look of horror on his face. "You mean I really did pull out in front of you?"

I took that look as an apology. Jim was horrified that he had pulled out in front of a cyclist. But it was a reminder. Even the best intentioned of us can get into our little world and not pay attention. As we go through this high cycling season, watch out for bicycles!

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Bike2Work continues Friday, June 6th7:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at the Walnut Street Square, south end of the Walnut Street Bridge at the First Street Steps and Holmberg Bridge. Join us for breakfast from Out of the Blue Cafe and Greenlife Grocery, and special prizes courtesy of Owen Cyclery.

Bike2Work is the best deal around! And it is free! Just show up on your bike! Have a great time while you get a little exercise and save some gas money. Why wouldn't you want to come?

Here are some pictures from last month's Bike2Work:

The Martians are coming!
This group has been some of our most faithful and long term supporters

Kenny and kids
Developing good habits

Jimmy enjoying the great
breakfast from Out of the Blue

Ben hanging up his bike. What a lot of bikes!

Our neighborhood bike policeman, Officer Keith. Even the police are are bicycles!

Linda Bennet, city council member. She has been a long time supporter of Bike2Work. We need more like her!

Friday, May 30, 2008

For Whom the Bell Tolls

The bells start ringing and I am only on Georgia Ave. If I don't hurry I will be late. In my morning bike ride I go through the UTC campus and if my timing is right, I am serenaded by a recording of bells ringing out the alma mater. If I am hitting the chained barrier (it still has not been changed, see Yellow Tape Wars or My Small Act of Civil Disobedience post) at the start of this music accompaniment, I know I will arrive on time to work. But being on Georgia Avenue when it starts or even worse, too late to catch it at all, I know I am going to be late. Great time to see how I can fly on the bike!

For Whom the Bell tolls,? It tolls for me telling me I better get a move on to work!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Thar' She Blows!

Anyone outside last Sunday was treated to a wind here in Chattanooga that is rarely felt, at least not without a horrendous storm accompanying it. What a day for kite flying! And what a day for bike riding!

All was manageable until I was crossing Market Street Bridge and suddenly if found myself in a wrestling match. A large, invisible hand was pushing me, pushing me right into the curb. I was refusing to go! Back and forth, the wresting match continued. At times it seemed I would win but many times I knew I was going into the curb and tripping onto the sidewalk. At times it was strong enough I envisioned myself being taken right over the side railing and into the river.

But suddenly, at times during this match, that malevolent hand turned benevolent and ceased its attempt in pushing me over the side and instead pushed me ahead. Wheee! What a feeling! I know if biking always felt that way people would be paying for a chance to do it.

But before I could take that wonderful ride for granted, that hand would turn malevolent again. Wrestling time again! There I was alternately wrestling the wind and riding the wind all across the bridge.

What an adventure!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Early Morning Ride

Once a week I have to be at work at 6:00 in the morning and it is on these mornings that are my favorite ride in. Its very peaceful leaving my house at 5:30, Its dark, its quiet, its traffic free! I encounter few cars.

People complain to me. sometimes to my face and sometimes by the rude honking they do as they pass me, that they feel greatly inconvenienced by the couple of seconds that it takes to pass me safely. Heads up, people! It's cars that slow you down. Think how often you have to stop for traffic. Even I, going less then 20 miles an hour on my bike have to slow down and wait on cars. These mornings I ride in early my commute time is 20% shorter.

Not only is it faster to get around without cars getting in the way, it is much quieter. During the morning ride in I am accompanied the whole way by the songs of those early birds. It is music to my ears. It is a joy in life that everybody should have on a regular basis. But how do you convince people to get out and out'tem early but not in a car?

Imagine the ride-dark(of course you would have many lights on your bikes), sounds muted, few other souls out, and only an occasional car. Because of the light traffic, you are hitting stoplights in your favor. It is possible to get completely across town without taking your foot off the pedal. Its too early to have many formed thoughts, so your mind is still, just taking in information from all your senses. Ah, the smell of honeysuckles! The moon is a striking sliver crescent this morning. And accompanying you the whole way are the joyous sound of the birds greeting the morning.

There can't be a better way of starting the day!

This morning is Bike2Work. I hope to see you there! I will post pictures next week.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dogwood Heaven

I was slowly making my way of a hill yesterday when a gentle breeze stirred through the trees. Suddenly I was in a swirl of dancing white petals from the dogwood tree on the side of the road. For a moment I was in the clouds! Seeing all white with touches of pink. It was beautiful! It was transcendent! It was...aargh... gagg..hack, hack! It was a petal blowing in my mouth and getting caught in my throat! By the time I got that cleared away the moment was over. But, I have that moment in my memory.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

War Is Over!

Once the adventure with the yellow tape at UTC's Oak Street Walkway was over(see April 1, Yellow Tape Wars entry ), I started to really think about the issue of the blockage of pedestrian and bike traffic. Something seriously had to be done. So I decided to go straight to the top-I wrote an e-mail to Chancellor Roger Brown.
Today I got a reply. Judged by the e-mail path that was shown on this e-mail, my e-mail was forwarded to the appropriate department head, a meeting was held, and a solution was decided upon. The e-mail informed me of the impending implementation of the solution and I was asked for my feed back when it was completed.
WOW! I should write more often about things that bother me. No telling what problems can be solved! I am looking forward to the fixing of this problem. And I have to commend UTC for their responsiveness.
Though I still have to wonder why they were not able to see the problem until it was pointed out.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Left-hook, Right-hook

This morning an incident happened that I think is an indication that motorists in Chattanooga are trying to become more considerate but sometimes just totally don't get it.
I was coming down McCallie Avenue as usual, riding in the bike safe and legally allowed place of about 4 feet from the curb. As I was on a slight down hill, I was moving at a pretty good clip. But it wasn't fast enough for the driver of the white minivan behind me, who impatiently left hooked into the other lane to gun past me. Nothing unusual in that. There are always the drivers that act insulted that they have to make an adjustment for bicycles.
But this driver did a sudden right hook back into the lane for a right turn. Again this happens sometimes. This maneuver is dreaded by all cyclists and is probably the number one cause of bicycle/car accidents. Its the reason the Quick Right Turn defense move is taught in cycling safety classes. And the reason for bike placement of away from the curb.
But the driver suddenly turned polite and considerate to me. She slams on the brakes to stop in the middle of her right hook and then patiently waits for me to go by,blocking traffic in both lanes. Of course, by this time I was very wary of her. She had me trapped into forcing me to pass her on the right side, setting myself up to be creamed if she decided to change her mind. Not a very comforting situation! So I slowed down to allow response time to any more moves on her part as I passed her in the narrow passage she allowed me.
As I passed her, I wagged my finger at her to let her know that what she did was a no-no, Noticed I said I wagged my finger at her, I didn't give her the finger. I try to always be civil in my dealings with drivers. And I have to say she was being quite civil in her rudeness to me.
Which probably made my admonishment confusing. She probably thought I was telling her it was wrong to politely wait on me. I hope she was aware enough to know the left-hook, right-hook maneuver was the one I was telling her no to. What do you think?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

High Heeled Cycling!

Cake Lady of the Deliman and Cake Lady is turning 50! To celebrate a party benefiting the Chattanooga Humane Society was thrown. It wasn't a dressy affair but sometimes a girl likes to dress up and PARTY!
As the ones who have seen me riding around can verify, I am not usually any kind of fashion standard bearer. When the first priority is to keep warm, I probably could get top award for shlubiness. And I go places like that! I would say its to the great embarrassment of my children, but they have long ago given up being embarrassed by me. It was turning into a full time job so they had to give it up.
But when spring comes and a party event is scheduled, it makes me feel like kicking up my heels a little. I keep just a pair of shoes for such occasions, red ankle boots with pointy toes and higher heels then anybody who cares about their feet should wear!. I don't bring them out very often but when the mood strikes they are there.
My kids were at the party and they didn't bat an eye at the idea of me riding in heels. Other people did wonder though.
So, how does it feel to ride a bicycle in spiky high heels? A lot better then actually walking in them!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Parking at the Tivoli

Last night I went to the Alvin Ailey Dance Performance at the Tivoli. Wow! What a show! This is a dance performance for anyone, no need to be a dance lover to appreciate the athleticism and talent.
As I pulled up on my bike to the Tivoli before the show, I found the only acceptable pole to lock a bike up to already taken by two bicycles. It always gives me great cheer to see other people using their bikes even for a night out at the Tivoli. But it did present a problem about my bike. Parking meters don't count as bike lock ups and there were no other acceptable locking places in sight.
So I did what seemed to be the only choice-I brought my bike in to the entrance of the Tivoli. I found if you just act as though you have every right to what you are doing nobody questions you. Recently I parked my bike at my bank inside the doorway. I do this every time I go to the bank, but this time the security guard came to tell me to take it out. I just looked at him and said "I was told I could park here." He immediately backed off. (I had actually been told I could bring my bike into the lobby during a discussion of whether I could use the drive thru, but that is a different story).
If a bike rack is provided, I generally will use that. I recognize that if there comes to be the number of cyclists as I hope in the future, we all cannot park right in the doorway. So getting in the habit of bike racks seems like a reasonable thing to do.
But the number of bike racks,while growing, are still few and far between. I will look for a good pole but sometimes, none are available. So my bike has been spotted inside different public buildings-like the Tivoli and the Trade and Convention Center and a nearby drug store and other places. Some businesses in town even invite me to bring my bike in.
When the performance was over my bike was waiting for me right at the doorway and I was able to get far down the road long before most people could get to their cars. Ah, the convenience of riding the bike!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Yellow Tape Wars or my small act of civil disobedience

Oak Street through the UTC campus has been closed to cars for years and made into strictly a pedestrian and bike way. There were a set of posts on the west entrance that, while blocking cars, allowed easy access by walkers, bikers and the school's utility golf carts. Seemed to work fine.
But one day as I was riding to work, workmen were busy with those posts on some project. I didn't think too much about it, so imagine my surprise on my way home, I found myself jerking to a stop to save myself from running my bike into a chain barely visible in the dark. Inspecting it, I discovered that this chain was stretched between two posts practically the whole width of the street. There was left some clearance on the sides for passage-two feet on one side and just one foot clearance on the other side. The powers-in-charge of UTC deemed that was all that was needed for all traffic on the 25 foot wide street to get through. Talk about a bottle neck. Two pedestrians cannot walk side by side. A bicycle has to carefully maneuver through that tiny opening. Sometimes the whole street width is filled with traffic which then has to be squeezed into that tiny funnel.
Why would the powers-in-charge do this? Besides teaching cycling maneuver skills, there didn't seem to have any advantage over the old system. Then it dawned on me; it was for the CARS! The series of posts had no way to allow vehicles through! There was another entrance on the other side of Oak Street that allowed vehicle entry, but that must have been too inconvenient for someone. So instead, a system was devised that made it difficult for every legitimate user so a driver of a car would just have to undo a chain to get through. Don't tell me this isn't a car-centric society.
It appears that I wasn't the only user of that passageway put off by the insult of this new gateway. A month or so after construction, I rode through and found the bolt that held the chain to the post had been ripped out. The wall had been torn down! (OK, it wasn't exactly a wall, but it felt like one)
But the powers-in-charge of UTC weren't giving up so quickly. Riding back through, a yellow tape had been stretched out between the posts. A day later, the tape had been torn down. The tape went up, the tape went down. The tape went back up.
My heart pounded with glee everythime I saw that tape go down. There were others like me! I wasn't alone in thinking that that blockage was asinine, insulting and even dangerous. So when, coming home a few days ago, I found the tape up again,this time threaded through several barricades, I knew what I had to do. I couldn't leave it to others to fight this battle. It was time for me to do my share. Without slowing down, I ran that bike though the tape. I pulled down the barricades, setting up quite a racket before the tape broke. FREE AGAIN! Boy, that was a good feeling.
If those authorities read this I guess they can send their cops after me. (Hey, Greg, you going to arrest me? Being a cyclist mounted cop, surely you understand)
I don't know where this is going to end. I guess there will be an attempt to fix the chain bolt. I hope if it succeeds, it will be ripped out again. It sends out the wrong message. I see groups of potential students and their parents taken on tours just at that spot. As the student leaders funnels the up to 30 people though the one foot wide passage way, are they telling them how pedestrian and bike friendly the campus is?
UTC needs to get it together. Don't close down a street to make a wonderful multiuse path and make it pedestrian and biker unfriendly. What's the sense of that? Hopefully the protest of that blockage will continue. I promise to do my part!

UPDATE!!! April 5
The chain has been fixed, once again all traffic is crowded in almost impossible to sqeeze through openings. The dirt path that the utilty golf carts take around the chain looks like it is becoming a fixed feature. The landscaping has taken a last gasp and has been throughly beaten down. Rather nice for an entrance to our local university. I'm sure it makes for a nice impressions on those potential students that I see frequently being taken around.
I can just hope the Chain Wars are not over.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cruel March

April is said to be the cruelest month, but I would argue, around here, it is March. March gives the promise of spring, the taste of warm weather, a sense of coming out of the dark and dreary time of winter, and then what does it do? Snow??!!?
During the winter months, I know it will be cold and I prepare for it, cladding myself in warm clothes, both mentally and physcally. The cold weather doesn't thrill me but I can handle it. But the morning when I wake up expecting to feel that wonderful warmth of the day before and discover it is 29 degrees, finds me in a bit of a funk. I wonder if I can endure it another day. I knash at the unfairness of it, yes, the cruelty of it.
Then I get on my bike anyways.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Went Grocery shopping last night

I did plan ahead and remembered to empty out my panniers and bring my grocery bag. But as it warmed up considerably from the morning, I filled up the panniers with my unneeded bulky outwear. I didn't shop carefully and ended up with an additional bag of groceries that I had to somehow fit on my bike. Luckily,I can pack a bike like a seasoned traveler can pack a suitcase. I took off for home overburdened, off balanced and rear heavy with bunches of kale hanging off the back like a green pompom. Nothing to it really…except, I swear, those hills of Hill City were trying to act like mountains last night!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Grocery shopping

Grocery shopping on the bike takes preplanning. I do have my bike set up with grocery bag panniers. These are open panniers that a grocery bag can slide right into. The problem is I treat these as the back seat of a car. I easily throw things back in there and then forget to take it out. I am usually carrying around quite a bit of totally unnecessary weight.
So the first thing I have to think about is to clean out my panniers. I need to have all the carrying ability possible. Then I make sure I have my cloth grocery bag with me. And I have to think to do this all in the morning before I leave the house when I won’t be going to the store until after work. Thinking so far in advance is always problematic for me.
Greenlife is my store of choice. The organic and sometimes local food source is something I am happy to pay extra for. I would go out of my way to shop here, but as it is, it is the most convenient store for me to ride my bike. I love it that at their new store parking places for bikes are provided. And I love pulling up and finding those racks almost full. Just by putting those racks out there have planted the motivation for more and more people to ride their bikes. Haaayyy!
Being on the bike means I have to shop carefully. I cannot buy more then my carrying space and weight plays a factor also. Carrying home a watermelon, a couple of cantaloupes, half a gallon of milk in addition to all my other purchases on day last summer turned into quite a challenge. Though the old Greenlife was only a half mile from my house, that half mile is mostly up hill. But by putting it in the highest gear and going slowly I was able to make it up.
I have to be even more careful now since the new store is further from my home. And in addition to the original hill, I have to climb Tremont. Load your bike with 40 pounds of groceries and discover how long that hill is!
Grocery shopping on the bike then requires:
• Thinking ahead• Roomy panniers• Careful shopping Not so difficult really!

Monday, March 17, 2008


That isn’t much of a major proclamation. More and more people are doing it. Everyday there seems to be an increase of the number of bicycles on the road. It just makes more and more sense to use the bicycle as a mode of transportation in this part of the world. It always made sense in much of the rest of the world. The bicycle is used by more people as transportation then any other method of getting around with the exception of walking.
But in spite of the fact that it is increasing in popularity here in Chattanooga, it still is considered out of the norm. The reaction of people when they hear or see me on my bike ranges to thinking I am crazy, brave, glutton for punishment, some kind of super woman or just plain stupid. I am none of those things (well, maybe the crazy part!) Cycling is a very practical response to the need of transportation. It’s cheap, good exercises, fun and, done properly, safe.
This blog is to tell the real story of transporting by bicycle in Chattanooga. Stories of the good and the bad, the real dangers AND the imagined dangers, the joys and pains, conveniences and inconveniences.. Every day it is different out there.
Maybe by telling these tales a reader might be inspired to try biking. If you are one of those readers, I would love to hear from you. Tell me your tales of Biking in Chattanooga.