Sunday, November 15, 2015

Coffeeneuring #7, Just Getting Home

This was an odd trip, the shortest so far at 3.9 miles, and the only one of the seven that employed the use of my car. Also the cheapest trip at a paltry $3.50, and the only one where I did not have the luxury of a chair to sit in.

 My wife wanted me to drop her off at church, run an errand requiring the car, then either pick her up after the service or leave her the car so she could drive home. We employed the latter approach. I stopped at home following the errand, long enough to load the bike.

 Arriving at church, I unloaded the bike, strapped on my cameras, and biked home. It's just that out in the suburbs, there are not many places you _can_ find coffee on a Sunday afternoon between church and home in a sparsely populated residential area. My first stop was a Bruster's ice cream shop. No coffee; not even coffee ice cream. Or hot cocoa either. OK, with Plan A a failure, we move to Plan B. I suppose I could have inquired at the one of the two smoky bars along there, but I simply don't go in those places, ever. I'm not even sure they were open. I also did not figure the community college's snack bar would be open.

 I was too early for the public library to be open, and didn't feel like waiting outside for 45 minutes, so the only place left was a gas station about a mile from home. I got a simple 12-ounce cup plus a package of bread sticks with Nutella, then walked around the side of the place next to the air compressor, sat on the curb, and took this picture.

 Once back on the road, I was back in my own house in five minutes, and at that, my wife got home first. Hey, it would have been nice to work in a long ride on a fabulous 60-degree sunny afternoon, but I'll take what I can get. Seven rides in the books! Yay, 2015 Coffeeneuring Mission Accomplished!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Storytelling thoughts, 2 Nov 2015

I regularly participate in StorySwap, a monthly gathering of local storytellers at Northland Library, and have been attending regional events such as the Three Rivers Storytelling Festival for years. It's a wonderful art form, often overlooked in the daily deluge of electrons and photons vying for our attention. My whole family has been in on this, too, having told stories onstage or written material for others to perform. Many local tellers know us. All of this is good.

When I go to the monthly meetings, I often feel like a square peg in a round hole, though. There is a rhythm to the types of stories at these events, but there are other rhythms that can be played at a storytelling concert as well, just as there are many different styles of music you might hear at a musical concert. StorySwap is different from The Moth which are both different from TED talks which are all different from the type of story you might develop from the Toastmasters storytelling manual. You will hear a sax solo at a jazz or rock concert, less likely at a symphony concert. There's nothing wrong with sax solos or saxophones in general, nor with certain styles of oral storytelling.

My own style is to work from historical accuracy rather than a fictional or folk tale. Sometimes it's something I experienced myself, or an event that happened within my own memory. Sometimes I am working from an event long ago or far away, but typically holding to the facts. There's nothing wrong with this, or with doing the opposite. I would use my craft to guide others to interpret historical events differently, and to look at current events in a different light based on what may have been passed over in the past. Just one example: Most people have heard of Paul Revere's 1775 ride through the countryside, but fewer know about Sybil Ludington, who rode farther, and did a better job. Those stories need a teller, and I would be that teller, if I could.

A week or so ago, I had the idea for a story and started to write some notes outlining how to approach it. Last night, despite the absence of either rehearsal or polish, I told it. Rough as it was, it definitely had the effect I wanted, as the tone of conversation shifted along the lines of where I was going with the tale. I wanted to get people wistful. But it wasn't a fable, and while fables are what experienced StorySwap tellers do best, and what works best at such meetings, I am not a fable-teller. I have no plans to become one, any more than I want to become a jazz saxophonist.

I did get some good tips for how to structure a story better. That's really useful. I should take that, work with my prior notes, and develop a more cohesive tale. Toastmasters meetings also give me a great opportunity to practice in front of a live audience, with constructive feedback. I think I need both arenas. Fables are great, but it's the ability to craft a story that matters more than the ability to fit a style.

My goal is to get good enough at this to be invited onstage at one of these events and do well. I have the stories, and I think my aims for the audience are good, too. I just need to practice.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Coffeeneuring #6, Dio de los Muertos

November 1 in Mexican culture is the day to celebrate Day of the Dead, on which to commemorate those who have passed in the prior year. Today, "412 Flock", the unifying group for Pittsburgh cycling community, at the urging of Lucia, who was born in Mexico, held a Dio de Muertos Ride.

Sadly or ironically, all our rides now start directly across Forbes Avenue from the new memorial ghost bike for Susan Hicks, Ph.D., who lost her life just over a week ago through no fault of her own while waiting for a light to change at Forbes and Bellefield, mere feet away from Dippy the dinosaur.

I rode the 11 miles, almost identically to last Saturday's ride. This ride started on the west side of the same building Ms. Hicks's vigil was held at, only that was on its north side.

Our ride was fairly small, maybe 20 riders, but only 17 bikes. Ben brought all three daughters on his family train bike: a tandem plus a whateveryoucallit plus a trailer. His eldest now has enough size to her to be able to actually help.

The ride would have been seven miles but I peeled off before the end to stop for coffee. I splurged, getting a big piece of Black Widow cake, which seemed appropriate, plus a pumpkin latté. I like pumpkin everything, not just in autumn. The place was another Crazy Mocha, same chain as my first coffeeneuring adventure, but a different shop. This one is in the Bloomfield neighborhood, at Liberty Ave and Taylor Street.

My total miles today will likely be a bit over 20: 11 to get there, about five on the ride, three to get Downtown, then a mile and a half from the bus I will catch.

Being also now November, I am again going to try to write a blog post daily, for NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month. I have plenty I could write about, if I could just park my butt in a chair, write it and post it. That said, this is now mainly written -- in Notes on an iPhone, no less -- so I need to follow through and get it published.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Coffeeneuring #5: Death is a rotten reason for a bike ride

There is no point in pulling punches, sugar coating it, or vaguebooking about it. This ride was to a candelight vigil for a cyclist who got killed on a busy Pittsburgh street through no fault of her own, only 24 hours before. The gruesome details are available elsewhere, so I'll keep it brief. I rode the 11-ish miles from home to Oakland to join the 250 others who came out in a steady drizzle to honor this young woman. Following that and signing a memorial book for her, I joined another cyclist for a cup of coffee to consider what we can do to make the streets safer.

Bagel Factory, Forbes Avenue at South Craig St, Oakland, Pittsburgh. Coffee and a pumpkin cookie. Followed by a three-mile trip back downtown and a bus ride most of the way home.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Coffeeneuring #4, Carnegie Science Center

As with last Saturday, I had a Toastmasters speech contest to go to. This was the Division D contest, which featured the winners from the five Area contests, each of which in turn featured the winners from each Area's clubs' contests. So, Div D's contest featured the best speakers of 20-some clubs in the city. Really, if you're looking for two hours of free entertainment where you might learn a thing or two, it's hard to beat a division level Toastmasters speech contest. The morning was chilly, with a near frost overnight. Officially the temp was 39°F at dawn, and by 10:30 when I left, it had not changed much. I donned a light coat and gloves for the 10-mile trip, and was glad I did.

The light coat, however, is a light tan in color, which obviated my trip down the trolley trail. On a chilly but nice Saturday morning during archery season, I am going to stick to roads, thankyouverymuch. Too many idiots who can't tell the difference between a buck and a bicycle. I'd rather duke it out with traffic.

Most of the trip was uneventful, though of course not without a few lowlights. Twice in the first 15 minutes, I was verbally harassed. The first was on the uphill climbing into Perrysville from Three Degree Road. Two forward lanes, but the left becomes a left-only lane in 200 yards. Most people figure out that a 25 mph car can get past a 7 mph bicycle in an empty left lane and somehow squeeze back in in the remaining 175 yards; note I said most.

The second occurred at the corner of Perry Highway and West View Park Drive, where I dismount at curbside to head up the staircase. I had the green signal, and a small truck was waiting to make a right-on-red. Note that about half the drivers here take that right-turn-allowed-after-full-stop at 10-15 mph, so having to wait for a cyclist with the legal right of way was apparently too much. Something about being a fucking idiot but I didn't catch the rest. Again, I had the green; he was stopped at the red.

That wasn't all. For the third consecutive trip, I got some grief on or just after the climb past the HOV/Park&Ride entrance. This time, like the last two, the left lane was wide open; hell, both northbound lanes were empty, too. Even so, one guy has to come up behind me, match my speed (about 8 on the climb, 12 as I get over the top) and yell at me for being there. Sheesh.

As to the coffee: Leaving the contest, I ran into another cycling buddy who'd biked 10 miles in from the suburbs, and we headed over the Fort Duquesne Bridge together. He was headed out the Chateau Trail, while I was headed to the Science Center. I knew their snack bar was a good spot to catch a bite. I also got a picture of their excellent bike rack, to accompany an earlier photo of a stupid rack at 1 Smithfield, inspired by a post about a similarly stupid rack at Home Depot.

The coffee was from a push-button machine. I pushed the cappuccino button and got something that resembled it, but was overly bitter. Nothing like the Starbucks brew last Sunday. Oh well, I still stayed somewhere near $5, even with the bowl of soup.

As I type this (so far), I'm still at CSC, so I have yet to see what pleasures await for the trip home.

[continued later]

The trip home was chill, except for the 911 call. I round a bend on Perrysville Avenue to find a couple of cars that had just tangled. Ten seconds sooner, maybe five, I would have witnessed the collision. I called 911 to report it and get police rolling thataway. As I did not actually see what happened and was not involved, I left shortly afterward.

To sum up, the ride in was 10 miles, the ride home would have been at least 10 more miles, plus another two or three to add the side trip to CSC. I'll call it 23 miles, and I hardly broke a sweat because it was so cool out. This is a great time of year to go for a long bike ride!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Coffeeneuring #3, while helping with the 3-2-1 Ride

I knew I would be pressed for time today, so didn't want to do too much exploring. After yesterday's (ahem) fun with the flat tire, followed by an unrelated family activity that had me up well past midnight, I still had a commitment to volunteer to help the Woiner Foundation with its annual 3-2-1 Ride to raise money for pancreatic cancer research. For that, I had to be on the road by 7:30. Short night.

For the event, I had to ride down to Heinz Field, well over nine miles. My assignment would be to man two difficult intersections during the ride. I had done both of these before. I also knew I had about 60 minutes between the last rider clearing the first and the first rider getting to the second. I was pretty sure I could travel from one to the other and still fit in my Coffeeneuring. I was right, but to minimize chance of letting people down, I chose the Starbucks that was right at the second corner, at Penn Avenue at Sixth Street, downtown Pittsburgh. It also had a restroom, so I could take care of that necessity in a modern facility.

Keeping things as simple and rapid as possible, but allowing myself a minor splurge, I got a real cappuccino and a small cookie. This ran just over $5, staying within budget.

Keeping an eye on both the bike, locked to a trash can outside, and my partner assisting with this corner, Joyce Wasser, who was already on site and looking for the first rider, I was able to both fulfill the trip requirements and relax just a little, before getting back to the duties at hand. Success on both counts. The first rider appeared about 10 minutes after I got to my post and we had agreed on how to divide our responsibilities.

This was the third time I helped with the 3-2-1 Ride, and I think only the third year they've had the ride. Here is my shirt collection from helping with each of them. 2013=orange, 2014=yellow, 2015=pink!

Coffeeneuring #2, in hospital with a sick bike

A week ago, I came out of work to discover a flat front tire. Two broken tire pumps later, I caught a bus and then pushed the bike home. When I pulled the tire apart, the tube held air, so I remounted it, and successfully made the two-way trip on Thursday. I don't know why I couldn't find a leak, as I even water tested the inflated tube.

Saturday (today), I didn't get the early start I'd hoped for, but did ride the eight miles to my Toastmasters speech contest, and figured I'd get the coffee ride in afterward. I did, but not the way I expected. Upon coming out of the Federal Street library on the North Side, the front tire was totally flat. Before I left the house, I'd checked both tires. The front tire was soft, maybe 35#, last topped up 48 hours earlier. No worries; I pumped it to 80 and was on my way. Nothing on the ride in indicated a problem. Yet there it was, two hours later, flat as a pancake.

I quickly checked with a few others who were leaving the same meeting, to see if anyone had a pump. No go, and further no go at the library's lending desk. My hopes there were high, as I'd seen a library worker push a bike right into the back room on his way into work. But nope.

The secondary problem was that I couldn't ride to a coffee shop; I was limited to the few choices in the short Federal Street business district. One choice was the Crazy Mocha on the corner, but I did that last week. Most of the rest were take-out joints for pizza and barbecue ribs, and it wasn't clear they even had coffee or anything close, nor anyplace to sit.

My next best hope was to go up into Allegheny General Hospital, two blocks away. At the very least I knew I could get coffee and lunch in the cafeteria, so that's what I did. Locked the bike to a sturdy railing, then walked in like I owned the place. Even better, I got out of there for under $5. Just a cuppa & a biscotti.

Before leaving, I looked for a pump. I asked at the Directions desk, who referred me to Parking, who referred me to Security. All were helpful, but none came through.

If I learned anything in this exercise, it's that there are very few tire pumps that are publicly accessible in this part of town. More on that below.

Ultimately, I pushed the bike to the Cedar Ave & East North bus stop, where a 12 McKnight whisked me to Northway Mall quickly enough, allowing me to push it the mile-and-a-half-ish home.

Follow-up: One thing that may come of this is to put some tire pumps at various public libraries in and around the city. It seems so reasonable a thing to do: Bike to a library, show your library card, and borrow a good floor pump for a few minutes. At $50 apiece for a good pump, even $500 would get 10 pumps to libraries where there is not already a decent nearby bike shop. Like North Side.

I said I would kick in some seed money to get this idea started.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Whodathunkit? Removing cars from streets reduces pollution

November 2012, I mounted one of GASP's (Group Against Smog and Pollution) smoke monitors and rode it 40 miles around metro Pittsburgh. They are still in use, and made an appearance during Open Streets this summer. Here is GASP's story about that.

What I find notable is that the story very nearly quotes the title of this blog, "anything but cars".

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Coffeeneuring 2015, week #1: Lawrenceville via McKnight Road

For those unfamiliar with the concept, coffeeneuring is a neologism of randonneuring, the hobby or practice or obsession with going on long bike rides just because. The coffeeneuring variant is a game of sorts, the taking of a non-trivial bike ride (at least two miles) to get a cup of coffee. The rules are simple: Once a week, on what amounts to your weekend, go someplace on your bicycle and get a cup of coffee. Might be a coffee shop in a nearby town, might be a friend's house, might be a church service with fellowship afterwards, you can even bring your own thermos and sit along a trail somewhere and imbibe. The point is, get off your butt on a weekend you might just sit around the house, and actually go somewhere, via bicycle. Do this for seven weeks running, to a different place each time, and you've completed the challenge, i.e., you've "won".

For week #1, I had a series of unfortunate events on Saturday, but Sunday's weather was better anyway, a nice crisp early autumn day, so I decided to make a small shopping trip. The house's two portable phones were both becoming difficult to use because of dying batteries, so I popped one of them in my shirt pocket and headed for McKnight Road. I also brought along a pen and notepad (I feel more naked without them in hand than I feel when actually naked, OK sorry, too much information), as well as the cell phone. One additional coffeeneuring detail is that you have to tweet your travel, preferably with a photo of your beverage. Pumped up the tires, oiled the chain, fixed the mispositioned headlight, and headed off down the road.

McKnight Road, also known as Truck 19, Business 19, McKnightmare Road, Neon Boulevard, and a few things we won't repeat here, is a six-lane suburban arterial with ambient traffic speeds well above the posted 40 mph, as well as a plethora of curb cuts for strip malls, restaurants, gas stations, car dealers, and the like. Easily a dozen traffic lights in a four-mile stretch. Not exactly a serene spot to take a bike ride. I have no fear riding McKnight, though. I place myself in the left of center in the lane, and cede it to nobody. Dressed visibly, usually nobody gives me any trouble, only the occasional honk from an ignorant motorist who can't understand the concept of using a bicycle as transportation.

I got to the store at opening time. Actually a little before. The employee was dropped off just after I got there. When I got inside, made my selections and was checking out, I mentioned that I got there by bike. I don't think I won any converts, though.

Getting out of the place proved difficult. By car, you can only make a right and go north. I was going south, and didn't feel like dashing across three to five lanes of 45 mph traffic. Thus I was reduced to jumping partitions between parking lots down to the next intersection. It wasn't all that difficult, but I did need to think outside the box a bit, as there are no sidewalks, and adjacent properties were not necessarily at the same elevation. Once I got to an actual side street, though, I got the green, peeled onto Babcock Blvd, and had a pleasant ride into Millvale.

My plan was to have my caffeinated beverage at one of the two diners in town. However, both are cash only, I only had $6 (so figure five and a tip), which wouldn't go far. I walked around looking for other options. There really weren't any, so over the 40th Street Bridge I went into the city.

PennDOT in its infinite wisdom last year added a bike climbing lane from Millvale up to the bridge. This is actually pretty handy, but the top of the lane is difficult. The bike lane is on the left of moving traffic, but cyclists need to get to the right as they turn onto the bridge. There is a green "bike box", but this is both universally ignored by motorists, and almost useless to cyclists anyway. Using it would force cyclists out in front of a pack of motorists, and half the time it is only one lane inbound across the bridge, causing cyclists to either take the lane like a sheep running from an angry pack of wolves, or forced to the right edge of that lane and forced to endure repeated close passes until the pack has passed. To make matters worse, the first 150 yards of the bridge southbound is uphill, so even a strong cyclist is not going to be moving very quickly. For myself, I have found it better to wait in the uphill bike lane until most of the traffic has passed, then work my way over (one or two lanes) to the outside turning lane, thereby having to deal with only a couple of cars rather than perhaps a dozen.

That done, I make the left onto Butler, and a block later appears the Lawrenceville Crazy Mocha. Here, for me, cash is not a problem, as I keep a store card loaded with a few dollars in advance. The flavor of the day is "Jamaican me crazy", so I go with that and one of their giant cookies. This will also have to serve as lunch. I sit down, arrange my gear on a nearby table, and tweet this photo.

A few scribbles in my notebook later, along with a tweet and cross-post to Facebook, I pack up and head back home. I again take the 40th St Bridge, but use the right traffic lane, as it is two lanes northbound. Usually I take the sidewalk but today I felt brave and daring. Despite that, I still got one unnecessarily close pass. And that was the bulk of the issues on the eight-mile return trip. No, one more incident. Just as Babcock splits at the corner with Three Degree Road, a white pickup lays on the horn, apparently upset that I didn't accelerate to 35 through the intersection, which involves a sharp left turn, and I was also following another car. As if I had any choice in where to go? There is only one lane approaching the corner. Once around it, he could easily have passed me, which he did, and my non-jackrabbit start possibly slowed him three seconds, poor baby.

From there to home was only a mile and a half. No further issues. Once home, I installed my batteries, got my shower, and chalked up Week #1 coffeeneuring to the history books.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Why you should join Toastmasters

Today's Dawn Patrol Toastmasters meeting was one for the ages! Near record attendance, first-time speeches from two new people, and multiple people spoke about how attending Toastmasters meetings had improved their quality of life: better work habits, better communication with spouses and significant others, keeping calm in tough situations, and overcoming obstacles (the theme of the meeting).

The kicker was, five minutes from the end, Karen Rossi, manager of the Smithfield St library, popped in unexpectedly to say goodbye, as she is retiring. She joined Dawn Patrol when I did in 2008, and said it really helped her with her job performance and speaking with the upper management of the Carnegie Library system.

Myself, I gave a "pocket speech", an extemporaneous speech I thought of while walking to the bus this morning (as opposed to one I researched, prepared and practiced). I used the example of President Obama's speech last night about the Oregon story to show how he applied each of the 10 speech projects in the Toastmasters CC manual. (CC=Competent Communicator, the first level.) Never mind what the president said or whether you agree with him or even like him. Watch how he talks, watch how he keeps calm though he is clearly angry, yet he expresses that anger through facial expressions and body language. And how that makes for a powerful speech and a call to action. All of those are straight out of the CC book.

Dawn Patrol is only one of a couple dozen Toastmasters clubs downtown and nearby. What makes us different is that we meet in the early morning (hence the name), 7:15 on Fridays (1st, 3rd, 5th Fridays of each month). If you cannot make any other Toastmasters club because of conflicts, join Dawn Patrol. We also have a good mix of veteran, new-ish (a year maybe two), and brand-new members, so you can see the distinct manner of progress in how well people speak. We're all still learning.

Club website:

Put us on your calendar. The doors are open at 7, but be sure to be in the room by 7:15 as the library itself isn't open until 8:30. We will have you on your way by then to continue the rest of your day. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Labor History Sites bike ride, Year #1

What started with a Facebook post in 2012, and three years of tossing the idea around on the Bike-Pgh message board, took form at long last: a bike ride to visit some of Pittsburgh's labor history sites.

While this was taking place, some 70,000 gathered to march in Pittsburgh's Labor Day parade, one of the nation's largest, including Vice President Joe Biden. Parades are important, marching is important, but IMHO, it's also valuable to know what we evolved from.

Attending: me, Joyce, Jonathon, Paul, Jon; later joined by Yale, Ray, Geoffrey, Rich; Colleen intended to join us en route, and actually got to one of the sites before we did, but had to leave.

The weather was sunny and hot, more typical of July 4 than September 7, into the 90s by noon. For this reason alone, I might move next year's start time back to 9 instead of 10. It got hot after a couple of hours.

The plan was to start in McKees Rocks, then hit a couple of sites on the North Side, loop downtown, then visit some sites in the Strip District and Lawrenceville. From there, we could go in several directions. As it turned out, the still running parade kept us away from Downtown, and the heat and elapsed time cut the plan short at Lawrenceville.

The short version is that there is too much to see in a single ride. I don't think you can properly do it in two, even three. At Lawrenceville, we could have continue to East Liberty, or up to the Hill District, or out to Homestead and McKeesport. We didn't even consider anything south of the Mon. And as it turned out, we missed all of downtown anyway.

What we did see:
* Presston Pressed Steel Car strike site of 1909
* Discussed the 2007 Pepsi bottling works almost-strike
* Thomas Armstrong statue in West Park by the Aviary
* Cotton mill marker on the North Shore by 7th St Bridge, notable for women striking and near-rioting in the 1840s.
* Various sites commemorating the 1877 railroad strike, notably markers erected by the Howling Mob Society

For each of these sites, it is useful to know:
* What conditions led to them occurring, both immediately before and in months and years leading up to it
* What happened during the incidents, both the death/injury/destruction aspect, and the management/police/governmental handling and mishandling
* What was gained, what was lost, lasting effects good and bad
Expect that several minutes will be spent at each site, explaining the significance of the site.

People would be interested in this, if promoted some. Some effort to research access, parking, hill climbs, and availability of water, food and restrooms, would be helpful. If held on Labor Day next year, expect that the buses are running a Sunday schedule, significant if trying to get back to where a car is parked, in a reasonable amount of time, effort, and bus fare.

Ensure that the cue sheet makes sense and can be ridden by a non-expert rider. Pre-riding it with such a rider would have helped considerably.

The route we did take:
* Started at Ohio Street, Presston (Stowe, McKees Rocks Bottoms)

* Past the 1909 strike marker

* McKees Rocks Bridge upstream sidewalk
* Crossed PA65, then we split, a couple of us using the Davis Ave steps, the others riding the brick street up to the corner of California and Termon.
* California, Orchlee, Fleming, Antrim, McClure, Eckert, Beaver, Westhall, to the trail
* Three Rivers Heritage Trail to past the casino; we did not try to go past the Science Center on the trail because of large crowds for a water exhibit.
* Rode the street to past PNC Park, but in doing this, we made a wrong straight. We should have turned under the Fort Duquesne Bridge and used Scotland and Merchant Streets to get up to West Park. As it was, we were able to use sidewalks on Federal Street and South and West Commons to backtrack to West Ohio Street.
* Thomas Armstrong statue in West Park

* Arch, North, Federal, Montgomery, sidewalk by school, to CIO marker

* Through park to the corner of Cedar and East Ohio; then Cedar, Canal, Anderson, Isabella (sidewalk), ramps to trail (caution: staircase!)
* Cotton mill marker

* Up to 6th/Federal, 6th St Bridge, Penn, 13th, to former Howling Mob Society (HMS) marker by Heinz History Center
* Smallman to 21st, by site of one HMS marker, and near another at Penn Ave
*  Behind Terminal Building to 22nd, to Railroad Street, to 23rd St, by existing HMS marker
* Railroad to 26th to Spring; existing HMS marker for the roundhouse riot and fire
* Spring, 28th, across Liberty to large lot; past existing marker for 1877 strike; near site of former HMS marker
* Back to Spring, to 31st, Penn, past former site of HMS marker at Doughboy Square
* Butler to 39th, up 39th to Penn, existing HMS marker

The ride ended here, as we were all hot, tired, hungry, and in need of restrooms.

Just missed seeing the 1862 Allegheny Arsenal site. (As I wrote this text, I was sitting in a coffee shop only a block away, so stopped by for a mini-tour by myself once I left.)
One last thing: One little giggle we got while looking at the 23rd and Railroad sign was watching the tow trucks show up for the cars that parked on the live train tracks.

You sometimes have to wonder why people do such stupid things.

* * *

Having done this once, I think there is value in it, though making it more accessible, more entertaining and informative, and do-able in two hours, would be a primary goal. I am also looking for more content to include. As one example, there was an October 1915 sweatshop fire in a Sandusky Street building that killed 13 workers; the building still stands today. There must be many other examples.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A gigawatt of solar panels

To become fully self-sufficient in our energy production, we need to more than ramp up our use of solar energy. Double isn't good enough, nor is 10x. Maybe not even 100x. No, we need to start thinking in terms of gigawatts. The capacity of commercial power plants, be they nuclear or fossil fuel or hydroelectric dams, is measured in GW.

I am not here to argue climate change or the relative pros and cons of various generating mechanisms, concern over low sun angles in the winter, or the rather obvious problem of the sun not in the sky half of the day. Rather, how big an array would you really need to start thinking in terms of GW, in a metro area the size of Pittsburgh?

Start with a real product, a solar panel made by Sharp, model ND-F4Q300. Each panel can put out 300 watts. It's about 1x2 meters in size and weighs 50 pounds. I won't discuss price, as any major generating plant would cost in the billions of dollars to design and construct. If we end up spending a billion here, too, that's reasonable, but irrelevant for the current question. At least not yet.
My initial idea was to construct a large roof over an interstate highway, and mount the panels on that. Ignoring the problems inherent in building a shed of that size, assume it's possible. I am trying to visualize the scale of a structure big enough to generate 1GW of power. It does not need to be a roof over a highway, but that is the model I will use here.

Start small, let's say a kilowatt. At 300 watts a panel, that would require four panels -- 1200 watts total, building in some buffer to account for clouds and low sun angles. For purposes of estimation, this is close enough. A panel array 4m wide and 2m high would thus give us a kW. Single house residential roof installations usually consist of a few of these, some multiple of 1kW, depending on the size of the roof and the depth of the homeowner's pocket. We should have 10,000 of these, but in addition to, not in place of, the GW-scale installations, as there will certainly be tens of thousands of homes and businesses without their own installations. The power they use has to come from somewhere.

Back to our highway roof idea. A typical interstate highway is two 12-foot lanes and a 12-foot shoulder, both directions, with a 36-foot median, and 50 feet of "clear recovery zone" on either side -- space free of trees, light poles, large road signs, and supports for big solar roof structures, so you won't get killed if you fall asleep at the wheel and drift off the road. Total, 208 feet of space between roof supports. Again, not that we would actually build this thing, but how much space does that give us to mount some solar panels? 208 feet is about 63 meters. Assuming a simple trapezoidal cross section, let's say that would give us about 40 meters horizontal space on the roof to work with. Rearrange our array to be 1m wide and 40m long, that's 20 panels. So, 1m of expressway distance would let us generate (300 watts x 20 panels) 6,000 watts, or 6kW, about what's needed to power one house.

Now let's play with numbers. Ten meters of expressway distance, 40m across, is 60kW. That's roughly the size of a gas station or small suburban strip mall parking lot, or the building's roof. We have lots of those around. That's a perfectly manageable size. A city the size of Pittsburgh probably has 1,000 such locations, be they roofs of existing structures, or adjacent parking lots that could accommodate a 10x40m panel array. Do the math; that's now 60 megawatts. Together with the previously mentioned private residences, we are now only one order of magnitude removed from that GW.

Meanwhile, back at the interstate, let's lengthen that roof to 100 meters. Imagine now an airport hangar, not that you would put a solar array on one, but a building big enough to house a full-size jet is going to be on the scale of 40x100m. That size of an array would generate 600kW. That's enough juice to support a small neighborhood's summertime air conditioners, typically 3kW apiece, and changing that sunshine to go juice exactly when those 200 A/C units are running. This is roughly the size of a school building or small industrial building in a suburban office park, or its adjoining parking lot. Pittsburgh has hundreds of these types of spaces.

Not big enough yet, though. Make the array a full 1km long and 40m wide. Six megawatts. That can power a small town. If it was square, it would be 200 meters on a side. In terms of scale, think of shopping mall, hospital, or stadium parking lots. We have dozens of these in Pittsburgh. Building a solar roof over them is a lot easier to manage than building one over an interstate highway.

Let's change the multiplier here. How big an array to get to 10MW of generating capacity? At 40m wide, you would need 1,550 meters of highway roof, or a square 380m on a side, still in the scale of a stadium or regional shopping mall. A human can still stand in one spot and see it all, and moreover, nothing below it needs to change. Ross Park Mall's parking lot would do exactly what it does now, sit 80% empty 95% of the time, but require a lot less wintertime snow removal, and shoppers would not have to worry about being caught in a summer thunderstorm on their way into or out of the mall.

The next order of magnitude gets more difficult to envision. To generate 100 megawatts, our interstate would be covered for 15.5 km of its distance. For Pittsburgh, that would be as if I-279 was covered from Allegheny General Hospital all the way up to Camp Horne Road, or the Parkway East from the Squirrel Hill Tunnels to the Turnpike at Monroeville. A square would be 780 meters on a side. The Mall at Robinson takes up about that much real estate, considering both building and parking lot.

To get to that GW, though, we go up one more order of magniude. The highway roof idea is now 155 km, or roughly I-79 from Cranberry to Erie. A square is 2.5 km on a side, covering an entire village the size of Crafton. Even to me, that sounds challenging beyond comprehension.
But we don't have to do that. Add up all those other things I mentioned:
* 10,000 residential rooftops at 5kW each
* 1,000 gas stations at 50kW each
* 100 schools and office parks at 500kW each
* 50 big parking lots at malls, stadiums, hospitals at 1MW each
* 10 entire malls or similar huge, coverable structures at 10MW each

Each of them is generating a piece of the puzzle: 60 MW here, 100 MW there, it adds up. Rough numbers, the above is at about 300 MW, not quite 1GW but getting closer in magnitude. We could be building them all, bit by bit, but at orders of magnitude greater speed. We're not. What we're doing is incremental, at best, and at worst, we are making it difficult for ourselves. That residential solar tax credit expires 31 Oct 2015.

Here is where things get interesting, though. We've been here before, three times, at least. About 1830, enough little demonstration projects for steam locomotives and railroad trackage had been constructed to allow some visionaries to dream, and put those dreams into action. Hardly a generation later, we had built railroads to connect every city, and were well on our way to connect oceans. A generation after that, that was where all the money was -- railroads, and the steelmaking to support it all. The second and third biggies happened at once -- automobiles and electric power, both just after 1900. The amount of infrastructure to be built, and the support industries that grew up to feed them, and be fed by them, drove our economy like gangbusters for 100 years. Can we please learn from our own past success?

Getting to GW-scale power generation will not be easy. Putting roofs over entire shopping malls will require lots of everything -- engineering, construction, manufacturing, legal. But we can do this. Every major metropolitan area in the country will face a similar need for the same reason. Pittsburgh will need its own GW generator, so will St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Pensacola, etc. It might be easier to generate farther south, but it's also warmer, so more constant draw from A/C systems, too.

However, I have understated the need. Since the sun doesn't shine at night, we really need to double what I stated above. We need the first GW to run the A/C in the daytime and a second GW to run a set of pumps to refill the reservoirs to run the turbines to generate the juice to run the lights at night. It's all a mere matter of how many GW capacity can we build, and how soon?

We will need lots more electricity than we do now, as car fuel moves from fossil to electric. Recharging your Tesla while you are at work is a great idea, but the juice has to come from somewhere. May as well be solar.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Rescue angel

[retooled a bit from the original Facebook post]

The short version: I decided to bus home after the Critical Mass ride. A charity race had Liberty Ave & every cross street closed, so every bus route is detoured. Of course I missed my 12, but so did two young women who were already confused without the detour. Rather than wait 59 minutes for the next 12, I arranged with my wife to pick us all up in WView, and drive them to their car, six miles away.


So this is really a story about how I gained the trust of two 20ish women to get on a strange bus with a strange man who called his wife to come rescue them. If you were in their shoes, would you have done the same? But they did so without any pressure from me. Perhaps it was the interchange of "When is the next bus?" "Um, 59 minutes from now." Possibly it was because, with a helmet and a mirror on, pushing a bicycle, with a laptop strapped over my shoulder, I didn't fit the profile of the flesh-eating monster.

What actually happened was, I pushed the bike across Liberty, and saw that there was no queue of would-be bus riders at the stop. The two women, who were dressed very very nicely, as if they'd gone to a symphony concert or some such, were staring at the detour sign zip-tied to the post on the corner of Liberty and 7th Street. I poked my head around the side of the sign, gave it about two seconds' glance, murmured something about "Oh, they're doing that, OK", and started off to the detour stop. 

But I heard one of them say something about the 12A, a bus route that has not existed since 2011, so took a look over my shoulder as I walked away. They were still staring at the sign. This told me that they were well and truly lost. So I turned around, walked back the 15 feet, and asked, "Where are you trying to get to?" "Showcase Cinema." [Note: That park & ride lot hasn't been called that in about two years, and for that matter, the cinema itself is now closed.] This meant they were trying to catch the same bus I was, so needed to go to the same detour bus stop as me, so I told them that, and they willingly followed. Their fundamental problem was that they didn't know which direction to walk to to get to 7th Street and Ft Duquesne Blvd from that spot, and I did. It's only about two blocks away, but with sidewalk cafés blocking foot traffic and streets partially closed (people and cars coming out of a parking garage were competing for space on 7th), it was confusing even beyond trying to navigate the distance. 

Turns out, we should have figured out all the details about 30 seconds sooner, as I saw the bus turn off of Ft Duq Blvd onto the 7th St Bridge just as we approached the other side of the street, too far away to run or even wave it down. That close. They didn't realize the fix they and I were now in, so I had to explain it. My mind was also trying to figure out multiple Plans B, not only for myself but for them. I wasn't really stuck; I could have biked home, if push came to shove. But they couldn't, and I wasn't going to leave them hanging. They had two options: Wait an hour for a bus in high heels and 85-degree heat, or possibly I could call my wife to pick us all up in West View, which is six miles from the P&R. I explained the plan, and that the 8 Perrysville would be along in only about five minutes, so they went with it.

They didn't know fares, they didn't know when to pay, they really had very little information, but were trying to use the system. 

I rather enjoy being the rescue angel. Actually, Spouse Taxi Service was the rescue, I was just the booking agent, and I needed the service myself.  

Moral of the story, it doesn't take too much work to be a nice person. It really does help when you go out of your way to help other people, and the way to do that is to have information, know what the options are, and have all the resources readily available: phone, spouse, car, time. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Old, nationalistic grudges

One day in 1985, I took my Toyota in for some routine work. While waiting at the counter, another customer, retirement age, said "Toyota, huh? Damned Japs. I won't own one! I blew more Nips out of the sky than you could shake a stick at. Didn't get them all, though. One got my brother on Okinawa in '45. Lost a good friend on the Arizona in Pearl Harbor, too. Never forget Pearl Harbor!"

I don't remember what, if anything, I said in response. It doesn't matter. But I thought later, wow, to be still carrying all that anger, 40 years later. It left a mark on me. Remember Pearl Harbor. Remember the Maine. Remember the Pueblo. The Alamo. The Lusitania. All of them got us into or carried us through one war or another.

And now, remember 9/11/2001. Remember it how? Remember it why? And increasingly, "Remember it? I wasn't even born yet!" Think about it. It's 2015. Unless you are already in your mid-20s, it was already history. Anyone not already in college will have little to no recollection, let alone understanding, of what happened that day, and instead have only experienced its after-effects. Continuous war. Threats of terror attacks. Constant security theater. And increasingly, demonization of an entire religion and an entire region of the globe.

Is this right? Why are we raising a generation to hate and fear Islam, and everyone and everything in the Middle East?

We can and should have a separate discussion about what spurred the 20 terrorists on 9/11, but that is not relevant here. Just, do we need to be like that Jap-hater from 30 years ago? I say no.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Unfinished, working title: Grousing again about motorcycle parking

This started off as a Facebook post, preceded a few days by a series of tweets on a field trip, but I will transmogrify it into a semi-intelligible blog post.

Topic: It's still difficult to park a motorcycle downtown after 7:45 a.m. on a nice day. I posted about this last year, but nothing has changed, and it's not on anybody's radar, and needs to be.

I've already said I want to see these dozen metered car spaces on Fifth Ave by the free motorcycle parking become metered motorcycle-only parking, while also keeping the 50 free m/c spots under the bridge. I'd like to see that happen in 2015. The next thing I want to see happen is to take that lot across Fifth, currently Somebody's Fenced-In Gated Lot, evict them, take it over, and make _that_ motorcycle-only parking, probably free. Also with a lane across it so cycles can get to outbound Forbes easier.

Just so we're clear on the area we're talking about, here is a Google Maps link to the area in question.

There's a kindasorta sidewalk from Fifth to Diamond now, but then you have to go the wrong way on Diamond for 100 feet to get to Shingiss St, which gets you to Forbes without having to deal with the fustercluck of 6Av/Diamond/Forbes/Liberty Bridge. A nice simple path across that lot from the m/c area on 5Av would solve all that.

What we really want to get to is parking for 500 m/c and scooters in that area under Crosstown Blvd. I don't care whose lot it is. Take it over by eminent domain, if necessary. There can't be more than 100 cars in all that space right now.

At the absolute very least, can we please have someone from the city inventory the amount of space, and estimate how many m/c and scooters would fit in this space, with an egress to Forbes as described above?

Problem is, there is parking at the end of that sidewalk I mentioned above, so you really can't get a m/c down that sidewalk, never mind the 100 feet the wrong way on Diamond to get to Shingiss. The day I did it, I had to negotiate getting my m/c around a pickup truck. Had the truck owner been there, he would have had a fit, I was so close to it. As in, leaning the m/c sideways to fit under his mirror. That kind of close.  

Earlier tweets:
* By my est, 40-50 motorcycles could fit comfortably in the curbside parking on 5Av by where m/c's park now. Only 10 cars now. @billpeduto
* Could fit another 10-15 m/c's in the dead spots of that fenced lot across 5Av wo removing a single car space.

This parking lot holds about 30 cars. Think it could hold 200 motorcycles?

And across Diamond, between it and Forbes, is another badly underutilized space, storing maybe 20 cars where we could easily fit another 75 to 100 motos.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A month of HealthyRide bikes

Back in May, I assisted with the city's bicycle-pedestrian count, and for that, I got to try out the new HealthyRide bike rental system free of charge for a month. It went reasonably well, and I recommend the system to anyone. Here is my quick review of the first month.

When it first went online, during the May 31 OpenStreets celebration, only about 1/4 of the stations and bikes were up and running. It took most of that first month to bring all the stations online. The last I checked, 49 of 50 were up.

For short, one-way trips, the $2-for-30-minute rental works quite well. An Oakland-to-downtown trip, or downtown-to-Northside, can actually be done cheaper and faster by bike than by bus, particularly if you have to wait even a few minutes for the bus.

The bikes work pretty well. Each is equipped with head- and taillights, though they shut off when you come to a stop. I wish they had a small battery system that kept the lights running after coming to a stop. If I'm riding after dark and waiting at a traffic light, I at least need to be seen by other drivers, if not also scope out the area I am about to traverse.

Gearing is OK, but could be better. They are equipped with a seven-speed IGH (internal geared hub), so there are no external gears to grease up your pant cuffs. The range seemed geared too high for my tastes. While I did not take it up any steep hills, I did climb Shady from Fifth to Wilkins on one, and that was tougher than I expected. Note that I regularly climb Federal Street, so am no stranger to hills. 

Then there was the slippage. Not one of the bikes stayed reliably in all seven gears all the time, though some were worse than others. Worst seemed to be the mid-range 4th and 5th gears. The situation did improve during the month. I suspect that problem bikes were identified and adjusted, and I hope that this will continue to improve.

They were comfortable to ride, smooth and cushy, unlike my own bikes which are built for road travel, and so give a rough ride. These have step-through frames, so no need to throw a leg over to get on. Each has a small basket, but if you have to carry something, I recommend bringing a tote bag to contain it and a bungee to hold it in place better.

Station spacing could be better, but I think this was as much my own learning curve as anything. One station is right outside the office building where I work, but I did not figure out where the best places to turn in were on the other end, at least not without some practice. At that, I found I could sometimes make the return trip faster on foot. For anyone else, just be sure where you are going before you take out the bike.

I did mount the bike on a Port Authority bus rack once. They're heavy bikes, 38 pounds (? check that) -- not so heavy that they strain the rack's weight capacity, but heavy enough that a small or non-athletic rider might have trouble lifting it onto and off the rack.

Renting the bikes was simple. I just made sure the phone app was started as I came down the elevator, then a quick beep as I scanned the QR code, gave it a yank and was on my way. After over a dozen rentals, I never did get the knack of returning the bike quickly, though I got better with practice. In theory I should be able to roll up to a station rack, shove it into place, get a beep and a blink, and walk away. But I learned to look at the phone app and make sure the system acknowledged that the bike was returned properly. Again, practice. Worst case scenario, I could not get it to work, so had to call the Customer Service number and let them know where the bike was (e.g., locked to a nearby fence). Problem was, that one time I was a little tight on time and so missed the bus I was trying to catch. 

Some have reported trouble with the built-in lock. The couple times I used it, I had no trouble at all. As with anything, YMMV.

I fear that learning these will be like learning the transit system for the first time. It took a bunch of tries to get the hang of making it work smoothly and knowing where to go. Similar to seeking out the best parking garage to drive to instead of having an ocean of asphalt outside every destination, as in the suburbs, there is some inherent human tuning that some people will figure out and some people will not.

Totally separate is the issue of knowing how to ride in traffic. Myself, I am quite comfortable taking a full lane of traffic, whether on a multi-lane street (Grant, Forbes, 7th or 16th St Bridges) or a one-lane-each-way street (Butler, East Carson, Wilkins). I saw plenty of edge-huggers, "salmon" (wrong-way) and sidewalk riders. The safest place is in the street and in the lane, but getting people to do that is not HealthyRide's job -- though I would hope they would say that themselves.

One mild surprise was dealing with Customer Service. Operators are bi-lingual, and their second language is English --their first being German. Expect that, and use the first couple of exchanges with the person to get your language bearings established. I had no trouble understanding them, nor they me, but German accents are not what most of us expect when calling a service number.

Last thing: Keep your 6-digit PIN number where you can access it in a hurry. Better yet, memorize it.

I recommend everyone get the app and use the system a few times, so that you can rely on it in a hurry if you have to. Going forward, I will likely use it on an as-needed basis, since I almost always have a bike in town already. The alternative is a choice of subscription plans, which I won't try to detail here. But $2 for a half-hour rental, then $2 for each half-hour beyond, is not that unreasonable, though some personal tuning might be in order. Taking one out for an afternoon could run into some money that way. I didn't investigate, as that is not a usage I needed nor anticipate needing.

All told, the system works, and is getting better as it settles in. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Just to recap, some of the irons in my fire

Just to recap...

My goal in life is to make it possible *not* to drive. To that end, I am involved with all of the following: 

1) I regularly commute 11 miles each direction by bicycle, 12 months a year, in a four-season climate, anytime conditions warrant. I do this to show others that it can be done, then I share my experiences on social media. Learn from my experience and try it yourself.

2) I regularly commute by public transit, and document my experiences and ideas for others to use. I've been doing this for 25 years, saving me tens of thousands of dollars in the process. Learn from the information I share, so that you can, too.

3) I video my bike rides, using front and rear cameras. This shows other cyclists how to ride in mixed traffic, and documents the ways inconsiderate motorists make cycling difficult or dangerous. Learn from what I share, and do not be one of those people.

4) I lead bike rides, and participate in others, which demonstrate how to ride in traffic legally and safely. Some of these rides, in turn, help raise money for or awareness of worthy causes. As Elbert Hubbard wrote, if you would make people better, set an example.

5) My participation on the Ross Township bike-ped committee helps identify ways to make it easier to get around on foot or bike in neighboring Ross. (Though I live in McCandless, most of my daily journey is in Ross.)

6) As president of the Allegheny County Transit Council, I enhance citizen input to the staff, management, and board of directors of Pittsburgh's metro transit system. If you ride transit and wish to help, please talk to me.

7) My participation on the Amtrak Bicycle Task Force will make it possible for cyclists to take their bikes on passenger trains across the U.S. without having to take them apart first. The first such routes will be available in July. It all started by me asking Amtrak if it was possible, and was told no. Twice. But I kept asking.

8) I actively participate on the Bike-Pgh message board, sharing information about improving the riding experience for anyone cycling in Pittsburgh. Everything I learn about biking, I share there.

9) Since I also regularly ride a motorcycle, I am keenly aware of the same safety and visibility issues as faced by pedalcyclists, as well as difficulties parking as a commuter. If m/c parking was more plentiful, there would be less need for car parking, and less traffic congestion.

10) Through my participation in Toastmasters, I am practicing how to be a better speaker, leader, and communicator so that I can do all of the above more effectively.

11) Finally, since I do drive occasionally, I understand the needs drivers have of avoiding congestion, finding easy parking, and encountering cyclists on the road.

Because I use all of these travel modes and maintain all these vehicles, I am keenly aware of the comparative costs to getting around by car, bike, bus, motorcycle and on foot. No form of travel is without expense. Whether money, time, comfort, safety, luggage, or the nature of what has to be carried, I experience it all, and can speak with an informed voice about it.

I am convinced that people drive because they don't know how to do anything else, or are afraid to try. Many times, those fears are founded, and it is here that I do the most work. Taken as a whole, I am focused on removing barriers to alternatives to driving, wherever and whenever possible.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Not caring I didn't make 500 miles

As of 7:30 p.m. on May 31, I have ridden 463 miles this month. I have no plans to ride anywhere in the next couple hours, let alone 37 miles. That's not what I do. That's not why I ride.

I do not ride to go touring. I rarely ride for charity, except to marshal rides so others can. I do not ride in the woods, other than on a trail that happens to be along where I planned to travel anyway. I often enough ride for social reasons, but really all that is is a transportation ride that just happens to be where several (hundred) others are going, too. No, I am first and foremost a commuter, a utility rider. If there's somewhere I need to go, and it makes sense to do it by bike, I will.

Ages ago, it seems, I grew disaffected with cars. I've mentioned many times before, around 1990 I had four cars on the road, and often all four cars moved in a single day, certainly in the space of a week. Keeping all this rolling stock in acceptable mechanical repair was costing me a fortune. Two died in two years and were not replaced. A third was taken out in a wreck, but I consciously chose not to replace it, as I discovered public transit was a viable, if difficult option. But from 1995 on, we were a one-car household.

Simply put, the money saved in maintaining one car instead of four allowed me to get a Masters degree, pay off the house eight years early, and put away a sizable amount for our kids' college. But that was transit savings. Bikes were not in the picture yet.

Enter a long period of unemployment. Every dollar got argued over. Every nickel was squeezed until the buffalo howled. I carefully tracked every expense that wasn't a utility bill. Quickly I realized gasoline was the most controllable expense. The bus was a simple, annual expense already built into the budget, but fuel was not. A $25 fill-up was inevitable, but every 10 days or every 15? Could I stretch it to 17? 20? I could if I began replacing non-commute trips with a bike. (She worked, I didn't, and it simply was not possible to make her trip by bus.)

The more I tried it, the more I realized it was possible to get around by bike. I shared what I knew on the Bike-Pgh message board with other kindred souls, and learned from them in return. When job possibilities did materialize, I found that the trip to and from could actually be done, many in not much more time than it took for the bus to get me there. By 2009-2010, I was trying a bike commute in the winter, and on the occasional weekend shift when the bus just wouldn't work.

By 2012, I was tracking mileage, and was thus able to see my mileage build up over time. That year, I racked up 1,900 miles. My downtown job made bike commuting as desirable as the 2011 transit service cuts made it necessary. Access to changing facilities, as in the 2009 job, made it easy to clean up after a sweaty trip in. In 2013 I rode 2,554 miles. An analysis of my bus riding habits, as tracked by Twitter, showed I would only have used $1,200 in fare, but I paid in $1,600.

By 2014, I'd learned much more about cyclists' road rights, and exercised them. This opened things up ever so much more. With a clear move away from transit, I now regularly racked up 300-mile months, with occasionally 400-mile months. By year's end, I had over 3,500 miles under me. But 500 miles a month seemed unreachable.

Come May 2015, I was commuting by bike as a matter of course, the weather was amenable to riding both ways, and of course, very few trips by bus. Every day I could bike both ways was $7.50 I didn't spend, and those savings add up. As of today, I only used $30 in bus fare all month, as compared to the $146/month the bus pass would have cost me.

The point is, transit is still very much an option. I do ride when the weather is crappy, and also when I need to work on something, usually a reading or writing project. Practice for speeches is often done on my walk to or from the bus, which makes it worth the trip.

Yet 500 is itself not a goal. It's a barometer, not a milestone. I don't "need" to "reach" a 500-mile level. If I do, it's because my riding has reached a level where that's now what I do, not the other way around, to want to hit 500 so I ride more.

Maybe next month. Maybe there will be one more group ride. (I didn't do the 15-mile Critical Mass ride trip on Friday.) Maybe there won't be a missing work day (Memorial Day). Maybe I'll go somewhere on a Saturday, when I rarely go more than a half mile from the house. Maybe I'll pick up some evening meetings to attend, which usually add a few miles to the daily tally.

In any event, 463 is still a personal best, eclipsing the previous PB by a couple dozen miles. I'll take it, and have no regrets.