Posted March 31, 2008, 3:26 pm. Permalink
This is the short version:
Yesterday I crashed my bicycle while riding back downhill towards Chico from Paradise. My injuries would likely have been much worse had I not been wearing my helmet. I was given a ride to Enloe Medical Center where X-rays revealed I had fractured my left patella (kneecap). Luckily, the orthopedic surgeon doesn’t think my knee will require surgery, but I will have to wear a full-leg cast for the next 8-12 weeks. I have a positive outlook and know that things could have gone much worse.
This is the long version:
Yesterday started off great. I woke up a little later than I wanted to but was able to fry up some eggs and a grilled cheese before riding out the door. Met up with a crew of eight other riders outside a coffee shop near the edge of town, and took off into the hills by about nine thirty. There are a few routes from Chico through the foothills and up and out of the valley. Honey Run road is a popular climb, with no shortage of narrow blind corners, sharp switchbacks, and off-camber curves. Normally one would suffer up this relatively steep 1500’ climb to Paradise, and then ride back down to Chico on Honey Run Road’s gentler, longer, and smoother cousin Neal road. This Sunday we attempted the reverse.
The climb up Neal road was certainly kinder than it would have been going up Honey Run. Riding in a larger group than normal was nice, and we soon broke up into a few sets riding at different paces. At one point I stopped with Quinn who was taking off some layers, and we both dropped to the back of the field. Being the only rider on a single-speed, it was satisfying to be able to leap-frog my way from rider to rider and ultimately get to the top of the hill first. Blah blah I’m a hardbody fool.
After the full group converged in Paradise, about half of the riders turned around to roll back down Neal road, while the rest of us continued up the relatively mellow bike trail through Paradise. Finding the trail none too exciting, we began to descend back towards the valley. While the bike trail wasn’t too steep, it was smooth enough to build up some speed if you tucked in, zipping past joggers with freewheels buzzing like angry bees.
I was originally opposed to riding down Honey Run road, since the last time I did involved a few too many close calls with motorists coming up and around blind corners. Staying in the right hand lane (as if there were room for two lanes) on the way down means frequently riding but a few feet away from a steep drop-off into the canyon. I rationalized though, last time I had been riding with only one brake on my bike while I now had too, and I had become much more confident descending at speed since then. If things started to feel sketchy, I’d simply cool-off my speed a bit and take it easy.
So the five of us began our descent. The uppermost portion of Honey Run is deceptively well paved and offers longer-than-usual sight lines around corners. I allowed myself to push my luck a bit in a few of the early curves, and the thrill of leaning hard through the apex of a curve with confident rubber kissing the pavement is undeniable. The road started to deteriorate pretty rapidly and the turns started coming a bit quicker, and I failed to adjust my strategy.
About three quarters of a mile from the top of the hill, things got sketchy and I crashed. I had whipped around one corner and found myself going too fast for the next. Had I let myself lean a little bit further into the curve my tires most likely would have held, but instead my brain took over. Coming into a curve too hot, the brain incorrectly says “sit up! hit the brakes!”. That’s what I did, and it took me right into a ditch, over the handlebars, and into an outcropping of volcanic rock, dirt, and grass.
I felt my helmet smack into the earth and my lower body bounce off the dark stone. I fell back and to the side, and was laying sideways on the pavement with my feet dipping into some cold water that was running through the ditch alongside the road. I don’t know who came upon me first, but the three riders behind me took the corner a lot slower and were able to safely come to a stop upon the sight of me laying in a ditch with my bike flipped ass-over-elbows.
Ryan instantly took control of the situation, calling upon his Wilderness First Responder training. He checked my head, my neck, my shoulders, my ribs wait and hips, and worked his way down my legs. My left knee was screaming out in that vividly bright kind of pain that comes with stubbed toes or crushed funny bone ganglia. Ryan pulled me up onto the shoulder of the road and straightened me out, telling me not to move. I didn’t feel that bad though, and was able to stand up for a little while, putting a bit of weight onto my gimp leg, but as soon as I tried to bend it at the knee things started to really hurt.
I gave my boss Steve O’Bryan a call and he sped over in his monstrous Chevrolet. Soon enough we were cruising back towards civilization, while Ian, Steve’s ten-year old son, fed me chips one at a time from shotgun. I first thought I should go to the Student Health Center, to get some ice, painkillers, and an x-ray “just in case”. When it turned out they were closed along with the rest of the buildings on campus for César Chávez Day, Steve recommended Enloe, the nearest hospital.
It was climbing out of the car and into a wheelchair outside the Enloe ER that I bent my knee more than a few degrees. I’ve heard that the way we remember pain is peculiar in that our brains are unable to “playback” the pain when we recall it, as it does with other sensations. All I can remember about bending my leg is light and heat and cursing and not wanting to do it ever again. I remember it hurting worse than anything else I’ve ever done to myself.
They called me into the examination room after about an hour wait in the lobby. Some poking, prodding, and a few x-rays later, they told me I did a great job crashing. The collision had fractured my kneecap in about three different ways, without actually cracking it into separate pieces. If the bone had broken apart, the tendons in my thigh and shin would have pulled it apart causing some nasty tissue damage in the process. As the doctor described this avoided injury I visualized the two tendons snapping back like spring-rolled window blinds. Luckily, the rest of the joint was unscathed.
After consulting with an orthopedic surgeon and a few more radiologists, they determined that I would most likely need to have the kneecap wrapped in wires to prevent it from fracturing more and pulling apart. At this point my knee had swollen from internal bleeding to the point where all definition and shape of the kneecap through the skin had disappeared.
They dosed me with some heavy strength Vicodin, and warned it might make me feel a bit “loopy”. I’d never taken anything with hydrocodone in it before, so I started suspecting every slight variation in my perception. Is that me going loopy, is this? Only when they tried to move me from the examination table to a wheelchair did it really hit me. Balance and vision were lost pretty quickly and replaced with a dry and empty nausea. They flipped me back into the bed and promptly put a drop or dissolving tablet of something under my tongue. Within seconds it was like they had snapped their chemist fingers and my head instantly cleared up. Miracle anti-hydrocodone elixir?
With my knee wrapped in ace bandages and my leg held straight in a velcro immobilizer, they sent me home with an appointment to see the orthopedic surgeon first thing this morning, most likely for surgery. After picking up some more Vicodin at the pharmacy (and almost passing out again) Steve took me back to his house for the night. A little bit of reading, a little bit of lasagna, no shortage of care or concern from the O’Bryans, and plenty more Vicodin put me to sleep rather easily.
Monday morning I met again with the orthopedic surgeon to discuss methods for mending, and I was very relieved to hear that he didn’t think any surgery would be necessary. Apparently my kneecap has too many fractures running through it, and placing pins into it or wrapping it with wire could cause it to deform. He referred to the current state of the bone as “mush”, and instead recommended that I let the bone continue to heal on its own, just within a cast.
The casting technician began by taking off the ace bandages and immbilzer that I had been wearing for about twenty hours prior. Binding my leg in a few layers of various cottons, he topped it off with a wrap of wet fiberglass that set within a few minutes. From my ankle to about six inches below my hip is one solid cast at this point, keeping my leg very straight.
Steve’s wife Katy drove me home with my new club of a leg, about twenty-four hours after I crashed. Not a bad turn-around time if you ask me.
Posted March 29, 2008, 8:42 pm. Permalink
Upgraded Wordpress to v2.5 tonight, can you smell the freshness? Cheers to frequent improvements on free software. I think I migrated the site over properly, but let me know if anything looks screwy.
Posted March 29, 2008, 8:26 pm. Permalink
Every day of class in my Science and Human Values class, a group of students informally presents a topic pulled from current events that is supposed to be relevant to the course. So far, of the dozen or so groups that have presented, almost half of them have been on the subject of alternative energy, specifically alternative fuels. Last thursday I heard this gem:
Biodiesel is great because, um, you get more energy from the fuel than you put into growing it, and it takes less energy to make than it takes to make oil.
Now maybe I didn’t quote my pensive peer perfectly, but a lot of what I hear is along the lines of 1) biofuels will cost less at the pump, 2) the storage and transportation issues that keep the sale of biofuels restricted to the agricultural heartland will quickly be dispensed with upon the arrival of Technology, 3) biofuels will somehow avoid the pitfall of being a resource that will (at best) increase in availability arithmetically, while demand for energy continues to grow geometrically, and 4) what we run our cars on will make or break global warming.
In comparing the efficiency of biofuel sources like palm-oil or switchgrass to petroleum, it’s often overlooked that oil (and coal for that matter) aren’t actually sources of energy, but rather stores of it. Ancient biomass is heated and compressed under the Earth’s surface, and over period of geological time it forms fossil fuels. The energy in this original biomass came from the sun, and the energy made available by biofuels comes from the sun too. Unlike fossil fuels, plants convert sunlight to chemical energy on demand with energy costs that give us a positive return, while the formative process of fossil fuels is completely obscured by history.
As good as this makes biofuels sound, they’re not going to satisfy the increasingly savage addiction we have to fossil fuels. In general biofuels aren’t as energy-dense as fossil fuels, and it seems they may require much more effort on our part to refine and process. But we must remember, both of these fuels are merely stores of solar energy, not sources.
Andrew C. Revkin, of the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog recently posted on the topic of solar energy as the best and last answer to energy demands, quoting Daniel G. Nocera, chemist and professor of energy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“All scientists ultimately believe solar has to be the answer,” he said. On Thursday, he laid out his “big idea” as a formula: “If you take sunlight plus water, that equals oil plus coal plus methane.”
One of the most interesting parts of Nocera’s presentation at the Aspen Environmental Forum was his predictions for energy consumption over the next half-century.
Dr. Nocera said human activities, in energy terms, right now are essentially a “12.8 trillion watt light bulb.” Our energy thirst will probably be 30 trillion watts, or 30 terrawatts, by 2050 with the human population heading toward 9 billion.
Finding other options is a huge challenge, he added. To illustrate, he provided one hypothetical (and impossible) menu for getting those 18 additional terawatts without emissions from coal and oil:
- Cut down every plant on Earth and make it into a fuel. You get 7 terawatts, but you need 30. And you don’t eat.
- Build nuclear plants. Around 8 terawatts could be gotten from nuclear power if you built a new billion-watt plant every 1.6 days until 2050.
- Take all the wind energy available close to Earth’s surface and you get 2 terawatts.
- You get 1 more terawatt if you dam every other river on the planet and reach 30.
As he summed up, “So no more eating, nuclear power plants all over, dead birds everywhere, and I dam every other river and I just eke out what you’ll need in 40 years.”
Then he turned to the sun, his research focus, which bathes the planet in 800 terawatts of energy continually. “We only need 18 of those terawatts,” he said. But the current level of investment in pursuing that energy, he said, isn’t even close to sufficient.
Check out the rest of the post here.
While I think Nocera may have overlooked the capacity for satisfying our needs with less energy through higher efficiency, ie Negawatts, I agree with his long-view approach to energy demands. Ultimately, yes, the sun is the root of almost all energy on our planet. If our energy demands continue to grow unabatedly, we will exceed the relatively quick-fix provided by fossil-fuels. Other options like wind, biofuels, geothermal, tidal, and nuclear power generation will surely help, but they too are limited in their capacity. For the demanding class 1 civilization solar really is the grandaddy of energy sources.
Instead of a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage, I want solar on every roof and bikes in every bungalow. Either that or a Dysonsphere.
Posted March 26, 2008, 2:23 am. Permalink
Tried to get to bed before 2am, recorded this cover of a Stars song instead. Your Ex-Lover Is Dead.
Posted March 25, 2008, 11:43 pm. Permalink
As little as I draw, I really like pens. I am pretentiously preferential in my pen predilections. I often excuse my inability to draw regularly on having very specific tastes in pens. In the same way I am growing enamored with typography without doing any printing (or even that much writing!).
My inclination for inking implements is heavily (if not entirely) influenced by comic artists I like. Dorothy Gambrell of Donation Derby and Cat & Girl internet fame is certainly at the top of the list of artists-I-would-steal-the-hands-of, but I can’t discount George Herriman of Krazy Kat or Lucy Knisley. They all have a line quality and style I’ve decided I will emulate as much as possible. Sue me.
The last time I saw my brother he gave me a pen. He’d been playing around with felt tipped pens and water-based ink, and recommended to me the Paper Mate Flare. I pulled the unassuming pen from my desk cup today to jot down a quick note, and quickly found myself really enjoying it. I remember he mentioned that he would dilute the ink by dipping the felt tip in water, and then draw outward spirals as the ink slowly darkened again.
I don’t like how long it takes the ink to dry to the point of being un-smearable, even when it hasn’t been watered down, but I’m a big boy and I can keep my meaty hands off of fresh lines if I try. The line weight is only the slightest bit heavier than that of a Pilot G-2 07, and the stroke is a bit more consistent with not as much ink blotted when the pen is lifted from the paper (unless of course you’ve been dipping the Flare in water, but that’s to be expected).
I do like the softer feeling of the Flare’s felt tip as opposed to the G-2’s ball point, and the ability to easily play around with gray tones is appealing as all get out.
So here’s me pretending to be a pen snob, and here’s me actually being someone who should try to draw more.
Posted March 24, 2008, 10:58 pm. Permalink
I just finished watching Sigur Rós’s film Heima. Part rockumentary, part surrealist Icelandic travelogue, part music video; it’s a beautiful thing.
In 2006, having toured the world over, Sigur Rós returned home to play a series of free, unannounced concerts in Iceland. Heima is a unique record of that tour filmed in 16 locations across the island, taking in the biggest and smallest shows of the band’s career. ‘Heima’ is a 97 minute documentary feature film including songs from all four Sigur Rós albums alongside previously unreleased material.
Sigur Rós’s undeniably atmospheric “slow motion rock music” gives elegance and poise to the simple, the mundane, and the unadorned. Heima applies the same romance of the common to the chronicle of a band playing small shows in small towns to small crowds.
Get it, watch it, and do what you will to support people who make the world a more breathtaking place.
Posted March 23, 2008, 9:07 pm. Permalink
This morning I took a taxi from North-East Portland to the Greyhound station in the North-West downtown area. My boxed bike fit snugly into the trunk and the bearded leather jacket and bowler hat wearing driver sang in french for the whole ten minute ride. I spent the next thirteen hours on a bus Southbound to Chico. My boss Steve called when I was about half an hour away and offered me a ride home from the bus station, his kids giving me easter candies when they arrived in his sun-bleached pickup. Today was a sunday well traveled.
When I unlock my apartment door for the first time in almost a week, nobody is there except for a cat. Not the cat belonging to one of my roommates, but a new one almost identical in markings save for her massive yellow eyes. Should I name her?
Chairmen Meow sits in my window and focuses her twin eye-beams on any who would challenge her.
I think Chico is a great town for me, for now. I’ve got a job I really enjoy, working with people I respect and genuinely enjoy the company of. I’m taking classes in a field I find interesting and am set to take more advanced courses at a university held in high-regard for its achievements and efforts in sustainability. I’ve made friends with some very kind, intelligent, endearing, admirable, and exciting people.
But in nine weeks I’ll be half-way towards graduating with a BA in Philosophy. Two more years and I’ll be a graduate of California State University, Chico. I’m sure by then my roots will have sunk even deeper into the rich brown soil of the central valley, but from where I stand now I don’t think I’ll want to stick around.
I made a list of pros and cons for moving to Portland, and it’s hardly balanced.
Posted March 17, 2008, 12:30 am. Permalink
I was playing around with Tumblr tonight, it’s a pretty cute little app. For shits and giggles I set up an account to try it out, and the result can be found here.
Tumblr is pretty appealing for a few reasons.
First off, it’s DEAD simple to use. I feel like I could offer it up with the most minimal guidance to someone who wanted to blog but didn’t care for mucking around in the guts of the internet. I’d say it’s even easier to use than the Blogger platform, just because of the minimal design and super simple/friendly UI.
Speaking of design, the backend experience is quite well polished. The ‘dashboard’, what you see when you want to post something new to your Tumblr page, is layed out clearly with a central focus on your previous posts, and big clear buttons lead to other features.
Tumblr offers a few methods of posting, which I’ve sampled below. There’s basic text posts like this one, photo, quote, link, chat, audio, and video posts. These different varieties of posts determine which fields you fill out when posting something new, and they make it really easy to present a wide range of content.
When designing my own blog this kind of partioning of content felt like on of the larger aesthetic hurtles. I’m still not completely satisfied with my Sights, Sounds, and Et Cetera categories, but it works for most of what I publish. Tumblr’s solution is great if you don’t want to spend too much time introspecting your own format of postings. Tumblr also offers tagging for posts, but it’s within the ‘advanced options’ field at the bottom of each post-authoring page.
One of Tumblr’s features that really interests me is the ability to easily create group blogs. I’m a member of a few mailing lists, and I think some of them could benefit from Tumblr’s simple this-is-something-cool-I-found template. It wouldn’t be very hard at all to get together a couple of people with common interests and internet connections to create something akin to BoingBoing, but with any manner of subject matter.
I think Tumblr has a lot of potential to reach potential-bloggers, thanks to it’s balance between simplicity and capabilites. Cheers to free and well-designed web services that make sharing easier.
Posted March 14, 2008, 7:06 am. Permalink
Found a nice post tonight on Yelling About Music, talking about the constant presence of music in a world of inexpensive audio and the value of silence to someone who loves music. Harry writes:
The temptation to cocoon yourself in a musical world of your own moulding is very great. But when music becomes a soundtrack to life, when it becomes just a way to fill in the gaps, it’s diminished. I love music. I adore it. I can’t imagine my life without it. In times of sadness it keeps me company, and in times of joy it celebrates with me. But sometimes I need time by myself. I’m not as good at taking that time as I should be. I don’t think anyone is. Even when we’re trying to take time out, chances are we’ve still got a song in our head, or we’re humming to ourself, or tapping out a rhythm on our desk. We program our mobile phones to ring with our favourite tunes. But how much do we actually value music?
Could it be that this ubiquity of music is why I feel little to no remorse for downloading music made by artists I deeply admire and respect? Are we approaching a musical singularity when I can read about an as yet unreleased Mountain Goats record, search the aggregate of a dozen p2p sites in a few keystrokes, and have the album downloaded to my computer in less than half an hour?
Ponder THAT this Pi Day.
Posted March 10, 2008, 11:34 pm. Permalink
Tragedy, Three Riders Struck in Cupertino
Sheriff’s deputy hits cyclists, killing 2
A rookie Santa Clara County deputy sheriff patrolling a winding Cupertino road Sunday morning veered into the opposite lane of traffic and struck three bicyclists, killing two, including a rising star in the Bay Area cycling community, authorities said.
Be careful out there.
(via Chico Cyclist)
Posted March 10, 2008, 10:39 pm. Permalink
Site Sprucing, Songs.
I’m trying out a new stylesheet, the old one felt too dark/slow. Yay or nay?
Also, feeling a big nostalgic maybe, I’ve updated the Music page to better reflect my audio endeavors. Chewing through old albums and uploading them to the internets is a great way to take mental stock of the past 7 years or so. Also take note, there’s 10 demo tracks from Year Two available, including such never-before-heard melodies as Yuri, Song For Brother, and Out of Water.
I’m thinking I’d really like to start a band again, but I’d like to skip the entire “search for band-mates” process. Maybe I should make an extra-dumb flyer and hang it all around town.
ME: single, male, guitarrorist, looking for folk/punk adventures and discordia.
YOU: not a jerk, more talented than me, looking for a quick kill.
Posted March 7, 2008, 12:12 am. Permalink
I finally got around to watching Once the other night, after the weight of recommendations from from friends and many awards finally crushed my laziness. I remember first seeing a trailer for it and thinking “that movie is going to play my heart like a harp”, and it certainly did.
I’ve been inhaling all the related music I can get my grubby mitts on. The soundtrack to Once is great, and so is the album The Swell Season by Glen Hansard Markéta Irglová. Glen Hansard’s Irish rock band The Frames is pretty good and their live album Set List does me right.
As a result of my exposure to such awesome songwriting, I’ve picked up my acoustic guitar again. It’s been about three months since I’ve felt really motivated to play my own music, and I’m glad the sensation is back in that part of my brain. New strings, springtime, it’s the makings of inspiration.
Tonight I worked out an idea for an album, let’s call it Year Two. Stitched together out of some songs that have been kicking around unpolished for too long and some I’m writing now, I think it just might have some cohesion. I wrote one tonight about Yuri Gagarin and it is all kinds of good. Stay tuned.
Posted March 5, 2008, 7:16 pm. Permalink
There’s a post on Belgium Knee Warmers about riding your bike, getting sick, and riding your bike. If you’re into bikes you might like it, if you’re not into getting sick you might like it, otherwise you might not. Take the risk anyway!
I’ve been getting over a cold/the flu/a virus/germs!? for about a month straight. It’s regularly refreshed by room mates. I’m sick of being sick, and that joke has itself worn familiar and thin. There’s a persistent light cough that I haven’t been able to shake just yet, but I’m sure (as I have been for a few weeks) that the end is near. I just hope it’s the end of the cold and not the end of me.
As evidence that I’m doing well despite a little bronchial obstruction, here’s an account of why today was a fanfuckingtastic day.
My 8am class was canceled so I took off on my bike around 7am. Rolling through endless almond orchards, the trees exploding with blossoms and innumerable pollinators. I’ve been riding my bike for about an hour every other morning or so for a few weeks, and this past week or so I’ve stepped it up to about 2-3 hours. I feel like I’m getting into really good shape on my bike, it makes me happy, I go fast.
Got home around 9:30, cleaned up the kitchen and did some dishes, read the internet for a bit, and got ready to go to work. I stopped across the street first, at a little coffee/donut shop. I pop in there maybe once a week or so when I get back from a morning ride and get myself a donut or two. I have recently come to understand my insatiable (but easily ignored) sweet tooth. The woman who runs the shop has started sticking extra little donuts into the bag for me, a perk of my being polite I guess. Today though, it was a toasted cream cheese bagel and a tiny hot cocoa, tasty.
Work went well today, I felt tired but not exhausted by the time we closed, and I felt like I had gotten a lot done. I really like my job, and if that makes me feel like I’m cheating at life, then I don’t want to play fair.
After work I went to the co-op across the street from the bike shop and got mad veggies and pasta and some naan and some marmalade and the most delicious apples I have ever tasted. Cameo apples I think, they blow my mind. There’s a girl who works there names JJ, or maybe it’s J&J, I’m not sure. But she’s weird, and we talk about things like health insurance, and why’s it gotta be so ‘spensive all the time huh?
On my way home from the co-op I ran into one of my professors from last semester, professor Dizard. He taught a really sweet anthropology class and is, to-date, my favorite professor. At the end of the semester last year though, he had a heart attack and had to leave teaching before we finished the class, a big let down. I haven’t seen him since, but I did see his bike for sale on Craigslist, which kind of bummed me out.
So anywho, I see him riding across the street on a sweet new touring bike looking all cool decked in a helmet and riding knickers and with big old racks and bags on the bike. I called out, “Dizard!” and we met up at the curb. Turns out he’s been kicking ass ever since his first heart attack. It also turns out he had another one (well, not a full on heart attack but some kind of heart trouble scary thing) and rode his bike to the emergency room! He is the bad ass.
So anyway, he’s got this awesome new passion for life (which I wouldn’t have said he was lacking last year, by no means), he’s become a vegetarian/vegan (his whole family has too!), he’s riding his new bike way more, he’s getting into shape, things are looking up in all directions. As he put it in regards to how he’s liking his new vegetarian diet, “I’d eat sawdust if that’s what it took to wake up every day with my wife, to see my kids grow up, or to at least pay off my mortgage!”
While Dizard and I were catching up a few people I knew rode by on their bikes and yelled out all sorts things, “Go home!” “Potluck Tonight!”. We high-fived and rode off on our separate paths and made plans to meet up in his office or mine (my office has wrenches hanging on the walls).
Now I’m home, the groceries have been packed, and I’m trying to think of something I can cook up real quick to share. I’ve also decided I’m going to lend one of my vegetarian cookbooks to Dizard (it’s the least I can do after he got me to read so many good books last year).
And that’s why I am feeling so happy and full of life and in love with living.
Posted March 1, 2008, 11:09 pm. Permalink
"Bike There", Bike Aware
There’s a petition making it way about the net, mostly on bike relates sites and mailing lists, calling for Google to add a cycling-specific “Bike There” feature to Maps.
We would like a ‘Bike There’ feature added to Google Maps - to go with the current ‘Drive There’ and ‘Take Public Transit’ options.
The feature would take into account actual bicycle lanes from the locality being mapped, and it would automatically plan a route for a bicyclist, possibly even providing the cyclist options for either the most direct route, or the most bicycle-friendly (safest) route. The Google Maps-based third party site, byCycle.org (http://byCycle.org/), provides these features for two metro areas - Portland, Oregon and Madison, Wisconsin, and there are countless other mapping initiatives around the world aimed at accomplishing the same goal. We hope that Google will consider building this feature into the core Google Maps service.
Though I signed the petition, I’m not so certain of its success. It’s not that I feel as though Google would be unwilling to provide such a service, I just worry about some problems that Google won’t be able to just algorithm away using their immense internet powers. Or maybe they can?
Most cycling-specific map data available doesn’t conform to any sort of GIS standard, the way the road data on Google Maps does, because there is no standardized format for bike routes. To make matters worse, there exists a variety of ways to integrate cars and bikes in a road system, with options ranging from barrier-separated bike lanes to bicycle boulevards and mixed-use paths. These different amenities are offered and applied in many different ways by different local governments. In addition, when bike routes are constructed, the mapping data for them is usually owned by the local government which may charge a high fee for access to it.
The Practical Pedal blog has what I consider a very reasonable take on the situation. Here’s a quote from the post:
Don’t get me wrong. I love bike paths, but I think of them as recreational infrastructure. If I want to get to the store, I’m riding practically, and I won’t go out of my way to get there on a bike path. I will, however, go out of my way to avoid roads that will cause me to create long lines of backed-up automobile traffic behind me.
So I suggest that in our desire to have practical cycling tools, we keep the specification for such a tool simple and useful (like a bike), so that it has a chance of being implemented.
Google has a habit of listening to vocal users, and their beta Transit service indicates their partiality to alternative means of transportation. One way we can make it easier for Google to integrate bike routes, is to let our local and regional government know that we want them to make bike route data available in an open and affordable format.
Asking for the adoption of a standardized delineation of bicycle services also encourages cooperation between neighboring districts. Not only does this increase the likeliehood of seeing things like a “Bike There” feature, but it send a clear message to local and national governments that bikes are a valid and valued form of transportation.
In related news, Jonathan Maus of BikePortland.org wrote recently of Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s introduction of the “National Bike Bill”. (Check his full coverage here)
In an issue paper distributed by the League [of American Bicyclists] in advance of the [National Bike] Summit they write that the resolution, “calls on the United States Congress to adopt a national bicycling strategy to fully realize the incredible benefits of getting more people bicycling, more safely, more often,” and it urges lawmakers to ensure “wise use of the considerable Federal investment in transportation infrastructure, and that expanded funding for bicycling and walking programs is desirable and important.”
You can read the full “National Bike Bill” (aka House Congressional Resolution 305) here, and find and contact your federal, state, and local officials here.
Telling Google that bikes matter to you is good, but telling your representatives is better.