An Afternoon of Boulder Streetscapes

I spent the afternoon wandering around downtown, reading, sipping coffee, and taking pictures.  I was surprised to see that Boulder had apparently been invaded (in the best possible way) by stylish olive skinned women wearing high heels, until I got to the Tea House, and remembered it was Persian New Year (also known as the Vernal Equinox).  The music and dancing was just winding down, but the outdoor space was still filled with people, and social buzz.

Happy Nowruz

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Wrenching at Dan’s

The Boulder Bike Commuter Meetup group got together at Dan’s (now former) house, to play with his tools and hang out.  It was nice to have a during-the-day event that lasted a little longer.

Kathy fixed a slow leak in her rear tire.  First patch ever?  Hopefully it held!

Kathy fixing a slow leak

Kerry wasn’t feeling mechanically inspired (she’s been playing with her own tools), and just wandered around snacking and heckling.  And napping.  And cooking kielbasas.   Ann did a practice run of DIY fender (and pannier) making for the workshop she’s teaching at Community Cycles next weekend.

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Getting a first taste of bicycle touring

I don’t even remember how I got the idea in my head that one could go bike touring.  I must have heard of other people doing it, but growing up in Sanger, California I certainly didn’t know any of them.  By the time I left home for college, I’d decided I wanted to go on a bike tour the following summer.  I saved money I earned by working as an usher during my freshman year.  I hadn’t been prepared academically for Caltech by my rural high school.  I’d never had to study before.  By the spring I was frazzled and depressed.  I’d had mononucleosis, and had almost failed out entirely.  But I had a bike.

At the time I was afraid of riding alone in the US and ended up buying a cheap ticket to the UK at the last minute, intending to spend the summer riding around the British Isles.  I ended up meeting other bicycle tourists, and riding all the way to Turkey, via a newly open eastern Europe.  I didn’t make it home until December, after five months of riding gravel roads through the Champagne vineyards of France, drinking cheap wine and eating baguettes and cheese before napping in the shade in the mid-afternoon.

sleeping in the vineyard

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Imperative Flats

Getting a flat tire is never fun, but all flats are not created equal. My black bike has had a slow leak for months.  I have to pump it up every few days.  Surely I’ve spent more time and effort inflating the tire by now than would have been required to patch the hole or replace the tube.  This is my least favorite kind of flat.  It’s a long term drain that’s never quite inconvenient enough to demand fixing.  Sometimes they linger until a second puncture forces you to remove the tire anyway.

In contrast, when you run over a big piece of glass as you’re rushing home with drinks for people who are supposed to be showing up any minute, there’s no ambiguity — you just sit down and patch it, right there, right then.  If it’s obvious where the hole is, you don’t even have to take the wheel off the bike, and it turns out not to be such a pain in the butt after all.

Late and Flat

(Especially if you remember to unseat the bead of the tire all the way around before trying to lever it off the rim… D’oh!)

Human Language in the Palm of My Hand

One of the Rosetta discs was recently bequeathed to the University of Colorado libraries, and the Long Now put out a request for pictures of it in its new home.  I eagerly responded by heading to the special collections in Norlin yesterday.  It didn’t seem to be on display anywhere, so when the librarian made eye contact, I said I was here to see the Rosetta disc, and she sent someone off to get it.  And they took it out of its Pelican case, and set it on the table in front of me (after I’d filled out a reader card and agreed only to take notes in pencil… or by digital means — no pens are allowed near the old books)  At first I was hesitant to touch it, and asked if it was okay, and she said “Oh it doesn’t look like the kind of thing that requires any special handling.”  So I picked it up.

Humanity's Languages in the Palm of my Hand

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48 Minutes and 75 Bikes on the Boulder Creek Path

I spent some time this afternoon sitting alongside the Boulder Creek Path out east of where it joins up with the Goose Creek Path, heading toward the ocean of office parks that employ a significant chunk of Boulder, a 7 minute ride from my house at 21st and Walnut.  As the sun headed for the continental divide, I took a picture of (almost) every bike that went by.  Over 48 minutes, I saw 75 bikes. 

Looking at the photos after the fact, I did some counting and found some things out about cyclists in Boulder.

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Human Powered Comments on the Boulder County Transportation Master Plan

Reserved Parking

I went to one of the inaugural Boulder County Transportation Master Planning meetings… on January 13th.  I took notes, but never wrote them up (bad blogger!).  The process will probably take most of the year, and it’s looking out 25 years or so into the future, so really 6 weeks isn’t too big a deal, right?  If you haven’t already, please do take the Boulder County TMP survey.

Before the meeting there was a mingling session with a bunch of poster board presentations (available here as PDFs), mostly maps showing a bunch of different current and projected data.  Where people are, where jobs are, where trips go, both today and our imagining of 2035.  I talked briefly to George Gerstle (whose bicycle parking spot is pictured above) about the current and projected population centers in the region.

Boulder Population and Job Density 2010

Boulder County 2010: Blue=Households, Red=Jobs

The expectation is that there will be a lot of sprawling, suburban, car dependent development just beyond the southeast corner of Boulder County around Broomfield, in Jeffco, and also in the southwest corner of Weld County (which does not participate in RTD).  Also, growth is projected along the I-25 corridor, and along US 36.  By and large, what happens beyond the county’s borders is out of our control.  There’s a little bit of open space out there that we own, and we can control what kind of infrastructure exists within the county, but barring sudden and sustained increases in gas prices, it seems unlikely that these communities are going to embrace transit oriented development and compact urban design.  We’ve got sprawl at the gates, and we have to decide what to do about it.  These bodies politic are apparently not interested in planning around the possibility of significantly higher fuel costs in the future.

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Better Bicycle Marketing in Boulder a la Cycle Chic

I’ve been talking to friends and co-conspirators about how best to do bicycle propaganda marketing.  There’s a tendency in Boulder — as well as more broadly in the US — to market transportation cycling on the basis of its environmental, health, economic, and even political benefits.  These benefits are significant, and are part of why I and many others who already ride, do so.  However, I don’t think that means they’re the right way to reach the other 99% of the US population (or even to the other 90% of the Boulder population).  To use this rational, functional framing is to use the marketing techniques of the 19th century, which often assumed consumers to be rational beings, making their purchases on the basis of the relative functional merits of the products on offer.  Some people behave rationally, in some purchases, but since the mid 20th century most corporations (and many governments) have realized that this is not actually the best way to move product.  Ever since Edward Bernays, marketing and public relations has largely been about evoking an emotional response and associating your product with the aspirations of the consumer, regardless of whether those aspirations are attainable or pure fantasy.  Most people with an analytical background are irritated by the idea that logical rhetoric and rational argument are not the best ways to convince people of something.  I’ve seen this issue come up repeatedly with public science communication, especially in the context of climate change.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mindcaster-ezzolicious/4126008476/

Irritating or not, this seems to be the way most people work, most of the time.  If we want cycling to become something everyone does, we have to work with people as they are, not as we wish they were.  The benefits of the bicycle will be realized if lots of people decide to ride, regardless of whether they’ve made that decision rationally.

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Bicycle infrastructure progress along Goose Creek

I’ve been biking along the Goose Creek bike path a lot over the last few months.  Boulder Aikikai is out there, and so is Community Cycles, and I’ll go for a short triangular on the Boulder Creek path, 13th St. and Goose Creek when I just need to get out in the sun for a little while.  Throughout the summer I was repeatedly reminded that there’s no good way to get from the path up to the east side of 30th St, and crossing 30th kind of sucks, especially when there’s any traffic.  A couple of times I went so far as to go under it and the nearby railroad tracks, and then up into the parking lot, and back over the railroad tracks and through another parking lot.  I’m sure this involved trespassing.  And I wasn’t the only one doing it either, there was a trail worn in the grass and the gravel.

So I was stoked to hear that a ramp connecting Goose Creek to the east side of 30th was in the works, and this fall the heavy equipment came out and started making it a reality.  I’ve been taking pictures as it progresses:

Goose Creek Path and 30th Street Progress

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