Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Investing in Cambodian Bicycle Repair

My daughter game me a give certificate to kiva.org, a microfinance operation. You can loan actual money to people in the third world, and if all goes well they will pay you back and you can loan some more.

I picked a bike and moto repair shop in Cambodia to invest in. Here's the link.

Supply and demand occurs here as well, and today (Christmas) there are more people loaning money than there are projects which have been vetted, and they are limiting investments to $25 per project.

This is a great idea. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Kids Prefer Cheese: Yes there are two Americas (and one of them eats real bad)

Kids Prefer Cheese: Yes there are two Americas (and one of them eats real bad)

Lots of reasons to criticize Huckabee. I'm not sure I would put liking TGIFridays and Olive Garden on the list.

For the record, my dearly departed mother loved Olive Garden. My niece has worked as a waitress at an Olive Garden for years.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Child first on this bike carrier

Brian Sobolak, a fellow member of the Bike Chicago e-mail list, posted a set of pictures from his trip to Amsterdam. This is a favorite one. A setup like this would have been perfect for my youngest child, who always insisted on being held facing forward so she could see everything.

The center of gravity would be pretty high, though.

If the picture doesn't show up above (sometimes it does, sometimes not), here's a direct link.

Brian also has a number of other pictures of bikes in Amsterdam.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Recumbent Video

Dick Ryan (man with a long history building recumbents) writes in r.b.m.:

"This is a promotional video I made about twenty years ago. Due to the fact that misinformation about recumbents is as common today as it ever was, I thought that maybe the old cliche about a picture being worth a thousand words might apply. About 40 seconds is missing from the tape that I hope to fix shortly, (shows the riders passing the upright bike on the downhill).

The rider in the downtown Boston part of the tape was myself. The riders in the suburbs were Harry Wallace on the bike with the camera, a bike racer from Fat City Cycles. The other rider was Steve Bussolari from M.I.T. who was one of the Daedalus project engineers."


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

TDF Champs Lose to Wife

A blogger called "Fat Cyclist" wrote a nice article about his wife -- who's
facing cancer AND hip replacement


Here's part of it. It's worth reading the rest, and there's an opportunity
to leave comments below the blog posting.

"So when will Susan's hip replacement be?

With this fairly big deal suddenly coming up, now seems like a good time to
have a Susan-centric post. I'd therefore like you to consider some rather
freaky parallels between Susan and the two most recent American Tour de
France champions, Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis.

Comparison 1: Cancer Battles

Both Lance Armstrong and Susan have battled cancer.

Armstrong fought it once, as a single man, with responsibilities to nobody
but himself.

Susan has fought it twice, with a husband and four children to take care of.

Advantage: Susan, by a mile.

Comparison 2: Cancer Awareness

Both Lance Armstrong and Susan have raised considerable quantities of money
toward cancer survivorship.

Armstrong founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which has directly
benefited thousands and thousands of cancer survivors and their families. He
has turned cancer research into a bona fide political issue for the 2008 US
presidential election.

Susan has raised more than $6000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and has
given a number of Fat Cyclist blog readers a reason to take up breast cancer
research as a cause worth fighting for.

Advantage: Armstrong. Sorry, Susan, but you've got some catching up to do on
this one.

Comparison 3: Hip Replacement

Floyd Landis had a hip replaced.

Susan's about to have a hip replaced.

Landis messed up his hip by falling off his bike and then letting the screws
holding his hip together get rusty. Or something like that.

Susan messed up her hip by doing too much kickboxing as a teenager, and also
because of that cancer thing.

Advantage: Susan. Unlike Floyd, Susan did everything she could to avoid the
hip replacement, including radiation and hobbling along on it in spite of
the fracture. Floyd, on the other hand, just let his old hip rot in its
socket. That's just gross, Floyd.

Oh, by the way, I may have made up that bit about kickboxing."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chicagoland Bicycle Federation 50% Communicates

The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation unveiled their 20 year vision for bicycling in the area, highlighted by a vision that 50% of something would be done in some way.

Lots of confusion about 50%.

Brian, for example, wrote: "I support the vision they are selling and am strongly behind the goals they've set out to achieve: full access to public transit for bikes, 50% of trips by walking or biking, fewer crashes, etc. All very nice."

Except that I didn't think that was what they said. I heard two different things at various points in th meeting.

So, I checked the vision. In terms of what "50%" means, it's much more modest. "We envision a region where 50% of the population IS EASILY ABLE TO CHOOSE walking, bicycling, and utilizing mass transit." (emphasis added).

Some questions:

1. No baseline is provided. What's it now?

2. I personally would argue that about 99% of the population is currently ABLE to choose walking, bicycling, and utilizing mass transit. In fact, in the course of a year I would guess that over 50% of the population currently MAKES at least one trip by one of these methods.

3. So what does this 50% actually mean? CBF may have an explicit baseline and definition somewhere else. This might be a good thing to clarify in future communications.

The CBF vision.

Update: Rob Sadowsky, CBF executive director, replied: "We indeed mean that the actual mode share is 50% not just the choice. Sorry for the confusion."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Paris Velib bike rental program takes off. Chicago next?


Notable is this: " installed around the city by J. C. Decaux, an outdoor
advertising company". Chicago is awash in bus shelters controlled by
Decaux. Mayor Daley is impressed with the program and has indicated interest
in exploring it here. Would this take newspaper writers attention off the
gigantic tax increases being proposed in Chicago and Cook County currently?
The desire to have front page stories on something else other than these
huge tax increases might be one of the main reasons this program gets off
the ground in Chicago.

Also notable is this view by the skeptics: "I asked an American friend
living in Paris about the bareheaded cyclists. "Just wait," he said, "until
the first reports of accidents come out. In the fall when it's cold and
slippery and business traffic really picks up, it's going to be a disaster.
It will be the Waterloo of the Vélibs." "

Yes, winter will be a good testing ground for this social experiment. I
wouldn't phrase it in terms of helmet use, but rather bike use. Will the
bikes get heavy use in the Parisian winter?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Odd Bikes

Jeff Napier has a web site devoted to odd bikes. It's worth a look.


He doesn't have the Hula Bike (from bicycle forest) up there yet, though.

That bike has no crank or chain. The rear wheel is eccentric, and the rider propels forward by bouncing up and down. They've got instructions up on the website.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Chicago Marathon Cancelled

Today's Chicago Marathon was cancelled halfway through due to the heat. One runner died.

This decision can be second-guessed, but in the heat of the moment (literally) the marathon organizers did do something reasonable in hopes of saving lives.

What isn't excusable is they were out of water!!! As I commented on Eric Zorn's blog:

"Not enough WATER? This is an embarrassment to the city. It's stupid to even think about the Olympics if we can't get enough water on a marathon route -- with hot temperatures forecast for days, and with the marathon having been run for years.

This is even worse than the stupidity at the finish line (where the winner slipped and fell on the slick finish mat). Is this event being run by competent people?"

Zorn replied:

"If the International Olympic Committee comprises thinking people they'll know that the organizers and sponsors of the marathon are NOT the people who are doing the Olympics; that an Olympic marathon race has, what?, 100 entrants maybe as opposed to 40,000."


Zorn's right as far as he goes. Still if Chicagoans -- after years of practice and variable midwestern weather -- can't stock rest stops with water, we have no business trying anything as complicated as hosting the Olympics.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mississippi River Trail trip

My daughter Beth and I just completed a short tour along the Mississippi River Trail, from St. Charles Mo to Quincy, IL.

The trip writeup is on the crazy guy site,

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Is jogging right-wing?

I'd never really thought of particular athletic activities as being
left-wing or right-wing, but here's a British MP commenting on a French
president to set me straight:

"The President of France goes jogging! Choc horreur! ..., the very act of le
jogging - or le running as it is now more fashionable to call it - is a
cultural humiliation. It is, in the first place, an offence to national
honour, they say, that the President of the Republic should totter back into
the Elysée Palace looking like a sweat-drenched miniature version of
Sylvester Stallone.
"But as you would expect of French philosophers, they make a deeper point.
Jogging, they say, waving their Gitanes angrily at the camera, is a
Right-wing activity. It is all about the management of the body; it is about
performance, and individualism, and the triumph of the will....

"...I am not deterred by such jibes, nor by the accusation that jogging is
Right-wing. Of course it is Right-wing, in the sense that the facts of life
are generally Right-wing. The very act of forcing yourself to go for a run,
every morning, is a highly conservative business."

The author, Boris Johnson, is MP for Henley



American presidents

In terms of American presidents, it's hard to say jogging is associated with either side. GW Bush jogs. Clinton jogged. The whole presidential-fitness emphasis began with Eisenhower, the most centrist of modern American presidents. After his heart attack(s), Dr. Paul Dudley White, his physician, got a bully pulpit to emphasize the health value of exercise.

Well, let me amend that. The public association of presidents with exercise began with Eisenhower, but Truman was famous for his brisk walks. These walks continued long after his presidency ended.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Free Repair Information on the Road?

Mobile Search For Emergency Repair?

You are on the road and one spoke breaks. Then another. Your wheel rubs against the brakes, even with the brakes open wide. Your cell phone can be helpful to call someone to bail you out, but it can also be helpful in another way. New free search services could help you locate a nearby bicycle shop. If it’s near enough, you might be able to get a repair/replacement right away and never have to suffer the indignity of having to be picked up in a (gasp) …car.
I tried 3 such free, voice recognition search services to see how well they worked. First, I assumed I needed help from my office location in downtown Chicago.


This is Microsoft’s entry, and covers not only businesses, but also stocks, news, sports, travel and other categories. Let’s look at approximately what I was asked, my answers, and how good the search was.
1. Listened to a brief commercial for the service.
2. Listened to available categories. I answered “Business Search”
3. City and state: “Chicago, Illinois”
4. Business type: “Bicycle”
5. Neighborhood: “Loop”
6. The top 5 search results were given, without any addresses. These were Bicycle Station (in Millenium Park), the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation (wonder if they fix flats?) and 2 bike shops: Appreciated, and Performance. Performance, at 2720 N. Halstead, is much farther from the Loop than a number of other shops, so hearing it was a surprise.
7. When I repeated the search, it asked for the city and state again, but didn’t re-ask the neighborhood. After Bicycle Station, it listed a shop I was unfamiliar with that turned out to be at 2271 E. 71st St, much too far away to be of interest. It was also hard to understand the pronunciation of the shop names.
Net: not too bad, but was strangely missing closer options.


This is Google’s entry. It didn’t start with a commercial
1. City and state: “Chicago, Illinois” – note it didn’t ask for a neighborhood.
2. Type of business: “Bicycle”
3. The top search results were: Village on N. Wells, Rapid Transit on North, Performance on Halstead, Johnny Sprockets, an entry I missed, and the two Kozy shops in/near the Loop.
Net: Good results, and I liked the fact that a partial address was given with the listing, but since they hadn’t asked for any neighborhood information it would apparently give the same results if you were in a Chicago neighborhood such as Rogers Park, Pullman, Hyde Park or Beverly. These would not be good results for those locations.


This is run by Jingle Networks. I was waiting for a catchy advertising jingle, but there wasn’t one.
1. City and state: “Chicago, Illinois”
2. Type: “Business” (they also have government residential listings)
3. Search by category or name of business: “Category”
4. Category: “Bicycle”
5. Neighborhood or landmark: “Loop”
6. The top search results: On the Route Bicycles on Lincoln Avenue (4 miles away), Army Navy Surplus on Lincoln Avenue, Underwater Safari Chicago on Lincoln Avenue, Home Stretch Pilot, Advantage Tennis, Golfsmith. Notable in these results is that it seemed to have mapped “Loop” to “Lincoln Avenue” and “Bicycle” into the more general category of “Sporting Goods”. Neither was helpful.
Net: Weakest of the 3 services on this search.

All of these services were substantially worse than using my laptop to make a Google Maps search for “Bicycle” near my office location. This shows the closest bike shops are Mission Bay (never mentioned by any of the 3 services), two Kozy’s locations, Appreciated, Bike Chicago (never mentioned) and Upgrade (never mentioned), all within 1.1 miles.

Second try

For the second try, I decided to assume I was actually on the road in Palmyra, Wisconsin, near Kettle Moraine’s south unit. I wanted to see which services would give me Backyard Bikes / LaGrange Country Store in LaGrange, about 5 miles south.

TELL gave me two shops, one on Main St. in Whitewater and the other in Douzman. They missed Backyard Bikes, but the two shops are reasonable -- I’ve had an emergency repair done in Douzman when I lost two spokes, and it’s a nice combination bike and coffee shop.

GOOG gave me 3 Whitewater shops, 1 Douzman, 1 in Mudwango (I must have heard that wrong). One of these was the LaGrange shop, the actual address of which is W 6098 US Highway 12 in Whitewater, since LaGrange is too small for its own post office. But if I was on the road, I wouldn’t know that.

FREE listed five shops, but listed only the street address without the city. So, the first two were on Main St, but it didn’t tell me what city they were in. This would be important, since I was asking for Palmyra and these shops were actually in Whitewater! This is a minor irritation, since if you asked for more information on the listing, you would get the city. More irritating is that, once again, although TELL said that it was searching for bicycle dealers, it included a “Marine” shop and a “Bait and Tackle” shop in its listings.

So, once again GOOG is the best, TELL is useful, and FREE is weak. None of the three would have given me the best answer in a way I would have recognized it if I was unfamiliar with the area.

None can yet match asking the old guy in the local hardware store.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Illinois' "Don't Bike" Map

IDOT’S Don’t Bicycle Map
by Mike Kruger
At the last evanston bike club meeting, I picked up a copy of IDOT’s official bicycle map for Northeastern Illinois. The 2006 edition is an update of earlier editions which I found useless and never used. Within this in mind, I thought I’d see if the new edition was an improvement, and see how it compares to the Chicagoland Bicycle Map, which covers roughly the same area.

CBF: $7
IDOT: free
Advantage: IDOT

IDOT: yes, at http://wrc.dot.il.gov/bikemaps The maps didn’t seem to zoom in well the day I tried.
Advantage: IDOT

Logic of map
CBF: This map is based on street information, traffic count information, and local volunteers reviewing particular sections. The emphasis is on finding through routes from point A to point B.
IDOT: This map has all the hallmarks of a map made up quickly and sloppily using statistical formulas to evaluate relatively short stretches of road. There is no apparent attempt to create through routes at all. As a result, it’s hard to use this map to get anywhere.

CBF wants you to bike and shows trails, major bike lanes, through routes and some shortcuts. Most routes are on through routes, but some shortcuts through neighborhoods are shown when appropriate.
IDOT prints the off-road trails twice as wide as anything else. It only shows roads IDOT has information on, and so it doesn’t show any connections through neighborhoods. The vast majority of the roads shown are shown in “red” – not recommended for biking.

The IDOT map shows much of the popular Sheridan Road route as “not recommended for biking”. Ironically, this does not include the part of Sheridan north of Tower Rd. where Winnetka has banned bikes. That section is marked OK.
On the other hand, it shows Waukegan Rd through Glenview in the middle category “caution advised”. Given that practically nothing in Cook County is rated as “most suitable for biking”, this is close to an endorsement. But Waukegan is a terrible choice – in the bike/ped planning process currently under way in Glenview, not a single person has proposed Waukegan as a biking corridor now, or as a road which could be sufficiently improved to be a biking corridor.
Glenview Rd shows up as “white”. Taken literally, this would mean biking is. This is probably a typo.
The bike trails are not only indicated in a very wide line, but with the type of interrupted line that usually means “under construction”. As a result, it’s hard to see where the path actually connects with any precision. There’s a bike path shown beginning at the corner of Glenview Rd. and Milwaukee Avenue, heading southwest to Central. The map makes it appear this is parallel to Dearlove Rd. In reality, this path is a quarter mile farther north, on the other side of the railroad tracks, and is blocked off from Central Rd. by two large fences. The path just goes around some athletic fields.
Even the popular North Branch Trail is inaccurately shown running on the east side of Harms Rd, not the west side, and the “Y” intersection just south of Dundee Rd. is shown on the north side of Dundee Rd. At least two miles of the Skokie Valley Trail are shown on the wrong side of Skokie Highway. The Skokie Valley Trail is shown running all the way up to 176, when it ends a mile south at Laurel Avenue.
All streets in downtown Chicago are marked as “not recommended for bicycling”, even those with bike lanes such as Roosevelt, Clinton, Canal, and Wells.
The principal diagonals northwest from downtown – Elston and Milwaukee Avenues – are mostly marked as “not recommended for biking”, even though the map also correctly indicates that Elston has bike lanes along its entire length. The portions of Damen Avenue with bike lanes are similarly marked both as having a bike lane and as being “not recommended for biking”.
This listing of errors is not the result of painstaking research. I’m sure there are many more curiosities in the remainder of the map.
Overall, the impression given by this map is that there is almost no way to do any bicycling in the Chicago area.

When I made similar comments on the last edition, I found a few defenders who said that while the Chicago area map might have limitations, the maps were good for the other 8 regions in the state. Considering that two-thirds of the people in Illinois live in this region, that’s not much of an excuse.

Why would a cyclist want to carry this map? I have no idea. If you need a map, spend $7 on the CBF map.
As to why IDOT would prepare the map: there were some provisions in some of the federal funding requirements that initially led to the state bicycle maps. Some states (for example, Wisconsin) did an excellent job. Other states, such as Illinois, seem to have done it out of either obligation or a desire to convince cyclists that their only place is on bike paths through parks.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Natural Organic Pet Food, Economically Priced

Newsgroups: rec.humor.funny
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 9:30 PM
Subject: A matter of taste

In response to the current problems with contaminated cat food,
Mother Nature, Inc., would like to remind you of her traditional
line of 100% all-natural cat foods. No pouches, no bags, no cans.
No mysterious "meat byproducts." No harmful chemicals. And they
may be bought at little or no cost. Each meal comes complete with
its own live-action play toy, guaranteed to amuse any cat for hours.
Available in three time-tested flavors: mouse, sparrow and cricket.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Complaints set to music

The blog "Your Daily Awesome" has a video of a choral piece in which common Finnish complaints are set to music. (Yes, there are subtitles!)


It's amusing, if not quite up to "Gilbert and Sullivan" standards.
Warning: the last minute of the video is empty.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Commuting to Work

Here's my photoessay about my bicycle commute:


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Floyd Landis: Brush with fame

Floyd Landis, the 2006 Tour de France winner (accused of using banned substances to help) sought me out for help the other night.

Out of curiosity, I went to an event to raise money for the Floyd Fairness Fund, which is raising money for his legal defense. While I was contemplating the snack table, Floyd touched me on the shoulder and said "Excuse me, can I squeeze by". I said "sure" and moved out of the way. Floyd said "Thanks". Floyd passed me like he passed all those domestiques going up the Alps, and headed off, probably to the washroom -- probably a result of having one of the Three Floyds beers that were available.

Not much of a brush with fame, but it's all I've got today.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Glenview Cyclists wanted: April 14th Village Ride

Glenview, Illinois, is now in the process of planning for pedestrian and bicycle facilities.

There's a bike ride April 14th to demonstrate conditions in the area. This would be a good opportunity to influence the long-term planning process, meet some neighbors, and possibly see a few things about the village you weren't aware of. Come on out!!

More information is at the village site: