36 minutes of bliss

Source: foreveryoga.com

Source: forever-yoga.com

One definite advantage of my work place is that it is located directly adjacent to several hundred acres of park land. As a result, I can wander, relax, bike, read a book, or participate in other activities during my lunch hour. When it is sunny and warm (but not too hot), I particularly like to lay on the seat of a picnic table or on a park bench to soak up the rays, listen to the birds, and feel soft breezes drift across me. After such a brutal winter as we just completed, these noon time siestas are at the very top of my list.

As a result, I usually get about 36+/- minutes of bliss and solitude to relax and recharge my batteries during the noon hour, before I must return to the office to eat lunch. Those 36 minutes are like a touch of heaven on Earth. Needless to say, during Earth Day or Earth Week, I appreciate the blessed beauty, peace, and serenity of our lovely planet even more during these lunch siestas.

Happy Earth Day 2014 to all.

Two less cars!

0419141724aOne of my favorite bicycle advocacy catch phrases is “One less car!” In celebration of this worthy and sustainable effort, Kathy and I spent yesterday (Saturday) accomplishing all our errands on our bicycles. Between us, we totaled more than 27 miles of travel on our bicycles, riding to places like the florist, Kohl’s, the bank, my apartment, her house, Douglas J, the Trek store, and other businesses in the area.

Source: pioneerpress.com

Source: pioneerpress.com

All in all, it was a very rewarding experience that we intend to duplicate over and over again, thus removing our two cars from the local roadways on those days where we ride about town instead of driving. Combined with our regular bike commuting to/from work, we are hoping to eventually limit our car usage solely to longer trips, inclement weather (particularly in winter) or travel-related purposes.

Source: zazzle.com

Source: zazzle.com

Considering 50 percent of all trips are three miles or less in length, just imagine the positive impacts that could occur if each and every one of us dedicated just one day per week or one day per month to run all our errands by bicycle…or by transit…or by foot. Such an act would lower our individual and collective carbon footprint, improve our health, reduce congestion, demonstrate sustainability to others, and serve as a positive reminder that not all transportation must be done by the almighty automobile. Will you join us?

How about insurance incentives for bicycling?

Source: usastreetsblog.org

Source: usastreetsblog.org

Among my many ponderings about cycling and bike commuting, one topic that bugs me on a semi-annual basis is why I am not eligible to get a lower auto insurance rate for commuting to/from work so often by bicycle? In calendar year 2013, I bike commuted 73 times to work or 33% of the time, while in 2012 my bike commutes accounted for 40% (or 87) of my work commutes. Given the greatly reduced time, mileage, and wear/tear on the car as a result of bicycling to and from work, why don’t I qualify for some sort of discount from my auto insurer? Yes, I have asked them in the past.

The same holds true for health insurance. Shouldn’t those of us who practice a healthier lifestyle be rewarded with lower rates or some sort of discount? It would be one thing to only ride now and then to work, but when it equates to 20 percent or more of your total commutes, there should be an “x” factor built into the actuarial tables which rewards those who cycle to and fro. Granted, some type of substantive proof would be necessary, but a notarized document from an employer could suffice. The HR Department where I work certainly is aware of my bike commuting.

It seems to me, if there were a 5% or 10% discount on auto insurance rates for being a consistent bike commuter, overall ridership and safety produced from the corresponding increase in cyclists would be beneficial to all. Growth in ridership would also contribute to improved health and fitness in the community, which should drive down health care expenditures, which should (in a perfect world) lead to lower health insurance rates.

There may be some examples of discounts already being offered here and there around the country, but it is hardly universal and certainly is not marketed extensively like good driver, good student, multi-policy, and other available discounts. To me, it is long past time for the insurance industry to shift gears and start pedaling some innovative and new ideas for those of us in the cycling community. If it does not embrace such an approach, then perhaps state regulators should consider requiring such an option be made available.

Graceful Danish bicycle bridges

Canal Bridges in Copenhagen - Source: copenhagenize.com

Canal Bridges in Copenhagen – Source: copenhagenize.com

Above and below are both photographs and/or artist’s renderings of some of the graceful and stylish bicycle bridges that can be found in Denmark. While these bridges may not have the dynamic boldness of those posted previously from the Netherlands, they are sleek, artistic, handsome, and functional in their own right. Particularly likable is the way these bridges fit aesthetically into their surroundings without being overpowering. Enjoy!

Brygge Bridge in Copenhagen - Source: kimbach.org

Brygge Bridge in Copenhagen – Source: kimbach.org

20110930_120352_Bro_over_Inderhaven_2_1200x695-1

Inderhavns (retractable) Bridge in Copenhagen – Source: dak.dk

Abuen Bridge in copenhagen - Source: demotix.com

Abuen Bridge in Copenhagen – Source: demotix.com

8946188908_94003882f3_z

Cable-stayed bridge under development in Odense – Source: cycling-embassy.dk

woven_bridge_copenhagen_m270312_1

Woven Bridge in Copenhagen – Source mlrp.dk

 

A cut above – Detroit’s Dequindre Cut

Source: smithgroupjjr.com

Source: smithgroupjjr.com

For those out there that think Detroit’s a lost cause, the magnificent Dequindre Cut Greenway is an example of why you are wrong. Constructed along an abandoned below-grade rail corridor, the 1.35 mile greenway links some of Detroit’s coolest features – including the scenic 2.5 mile long RiverWalk, the vibrant Eastern Market, and the trendy Villages. Combine those with a world-class greenway for cyclists and pedestrians and some seriously hip graffiti artwork and you have the recipe for a Midwestern version of New York City’s High Line or Atlanta’s Belt Line.

Source: streetsblog.org

Source: streetsblog.org

Kudos to all those individuals and organizations involved in making the Dequindre Cut a post-industrial success story that truly is “a cut above” most other nonmotorized trails.

Source: freep.com

Source: freep.com

 

 

Eleven planning lessons from Boston/Cambridge

Dowtown Boston

Downtown Boston from Cambridge

I had the opportunity to visit Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts in mid-March. Here is a list of eleven planning-related lessons I took away from visiting these two dynamic cities.

  • Preserve, protect and celebrate your community’s history.
  • A varied blend of historic structures and new edifices is visually intoxicating.
  • Savor and build upon the benefits derived from being home to institutions of higher education.
  • Cultural diversity and inclusiveness makes a community much more vibrant.
  • Accessible mass transit and bike sharing systems are wonderful things.
  • Denser urban development can be softened by rich and varied public spaces.
  • The removal of an ugly freeway can reawaken once forlorn areas.
  • The heart of the city can be a great place to raise a family.
  • Pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, and cars can successfully and safely coexist.
  • A thriving city requires thriving neighborhoods – you cannot have one without the other.
  • A compact and walkable urban core is far more preferable to a sprawling mess.

The poetry of a spring bike commute

Spring Morning Commute

By Rick Brown

 

Wheels spin round and round

Traversing the paved terrain

They roll in cadent unison

Along the paved bike lane

 

Fresh air breezes past me

As fragrances abound

Spring charms once dulled senses

As my wheels spin round and round

 

Songbirds serenade me

With their musical delights

A cavalcade of sweet tunes

To start the day off right

 

One pedal before the next

While shifting gears in time

In constant, subtle harmony

A soothing, recurrent rhyme

 

Away from the congestion

Through canopies of bliss

My wheels roll ever onward

Cloaked in the morning mist

 

Freed from harried schedules

As the wheels spin on and on

To enjoy keepsake moments

Amid the day-breaking dawn.

2014

The cycles of one’s life

Source: schwinncruisers.com/bikes/stingray/

Source: schwinncruisers.com/bikes/stingray/

The Golden Days

I will always remember when I got my three-speed, sky-blue Schwinn Sting-ray bicycle with its white, banana-shaped seat and removable plexiglas windshield for Christmas. I thought I was the coolest kid in the neighborhood riding that three-speed bike around. It wasn’t nearly as quick as the ten-speeds the older kids had, but it was seriously cool, stylish, and all mine.

Source:

Source: bikerodnkustom5.homestead.com

Many avid cyclists develop a deep fondness for our rides, perhaps even some name their bicycles. For me, a name never seemed appropriate, but they were my trusted steed all the same.

Sadly, I really cannot recall details about the tricycles and training bicycles I rode prior to the Sting-ray, other than at least one of them was red. The Sting-ray on the other hand was my pride and joy from about age 8 until I was a teenager.

At that point, I had grown too much for it to be a comfortable ride and I was getting tired of not winning the neighborhood bike races we held (and I organized) each May to coincide with the Indy 500. As kids growing up in Indianapolis, that’s what you did each May in the 1960s and 1970s – live,  eat, drink, and breath the Indy 500. Perhaps my family more so since my grandparents owned a trailer rental lot on Main Street in Speedway, Indiana.

Source:

Source: icollector.com

So, as a teenager, I was given a sporty, sierra brown Schwinn ten-speed street bike. It was a terrific bike, but I never grew as close to it as the Sting-ray. I still rue the fact that we gave away my Sting-ray, but the brown ten speed did make me more competitive in the bike races, though I do not recall ever winning in the awesome race we used to hold around the loop of Delaware Trails North or amid the cul-de-sacs of Somerset. Didn’t really matter, as we had great fun.

The Dark Days

As I began driving at age 16, the use of my brown ten-speed waned more and more. In fact, I didn’t even take it to college or later to grad school. I guess I became an arrogant car culture adherent who thought cycling was passe’. I rode every now and again, but for a good 16 years, cycling was largely off my radar screen. I regret that fact very much, as well as the lost riding opportunities.

Golden Days Return

As my sons grew and rode their bikes, my desire to ride more often also increased. Upon moving to Michigan in 1992, my love affair with the bicycle quickly returned. We lived on a mile-long dusty dirt road near Saline, which was perfect for riding back and forth, as well as through the adjoining subdivisions. As a result, I bought a black, Raleigh 21-speed bike that was a cross between a hybrid and a mountain bike, perfectly suited for the gravelly road conditions. I was back in cycling heaven (for some reason I cannot find a photo of this bike online).

The only problem with our location was, there was no safe way to ride into town without risking life and limb, especially if the kids wanted to join me. None of the nearby paved roads had any kind of shoulder, nor were there sidewalks and/or pathways. This was the first time that cycling advocacy became an important consideration. It seemed downright silly that children had no safe way ride to their schools, or parks, or playgrounds. Communities should not develop in such a manner where it is always necessary to drive a stupid car! It’s not healthy, not smart, not cost-effective, not environmentally sound, and not efficient.

As a result, when we moved to Greater Lansing, one of the principal criteria used was to find a home/neighborhood with access to bike paths and trails. Thankfully, the home we bought was in a subdivision abutting the community’s bicycle-pedestrian pathway system and 20-25 minute ride to/from work.

In the 2000s I started developing some minor numbness in the palms of my hands from the forward leaning riding position on my Raleigh. As more and more of my riding was now commuting to/from work,I decided to replace the Raleigh with a blue and silver (Detroit Lions’ colors) Diamondback Wildwood model that allowed me to sit up straighter. In the meantime my oldest son used the Raleigh while in college in Ann Arbor. After 20 years of use by our family, the Raleigh was sorely in need of major repairs and was sold to a fellow graduate student when his family moved to Massachusetts.

Source: bikereviews.com

Source: bikereviews.com

Eventually, as bike commuting became my passion, I added a headlight, storage rack on the back of the bike, as well as a pair of matching saddle bags to transport a change of clothes (when necessary), lunch, my notebook computer, etc. As I developed some back-related problems, the seating, weight, and wider tires of the Diamondback were not working for me.

Source: citizenbike.com

Source: citizenbike.com

After much research, in the fall of 2012 I purchased a dark-gray six-speed Citizen Miami folding bike online. I love this bike and have ridden it religiously for the past 18+ months (weather permitting), particularly for work and church commutes, but also for recreational distances as long as ten miles. It is light weight, easy to fold, easy to adjust, fun, and great in nearly all-weather conditions. The only downside trying to keep up with road bikes and hybrids on longer-distance rides and seat comfort after the ten-mile threshold.

Source: bicyclehabitat.com

Source: bicyclehabitat.com

Behold. Above is an image of the newest member of my riding stable – a 21-speed Trek Allant utilitarian bicycle. My plan is for it to fill my needs for longer distances while also maintaining my comfort level. I am looking forward to many years of riding fun on my new Allant.

An old friend

One other bicycle must be mentioned in this post. When my mother remarried in the mid 1990s, we presented the newlyweds with a 1970s yellow, five-speed Schwinn Twinn tandem bicycle. This bike has been kept at our family lake cottage for the past few years and every trip there requires a fun-filled ride on this vintage treasure. The tandem is the perfect bike for a lake cottage, as it can be ridden alone or Kathy and I can ride it together. It is also much easier to have it stabled there than to bring multiple bikes with us on the back of the car, though most of them have made at least one trip to the lake.

Source: ilikethebike.com

Source: ilikethebike.com

Conclusion

To this avid cyclist, my bikes have always meant more to me than my automobiles. There is something freeing about riding a bike that cannot be felt in a car. Perhaps it’s the fresh air without the accompanying road noise or exhaust fumes. Perhaps it’s the ability to ride off the beaten path. Perhaps its the health and fitness benefits. Perhaps it’s the numerous environmental benefits. Or, perhaps it is the ability to relive and revive your inner child. My guess is that it is some of all the above, but especially the youthful joy of riding a bicycle that leads the way.

 

Saying goodbye to a dear show

Source: collider.com

Source: collider.com

Tonight, the final episode of How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) will be broadcast on CBS. HIMYM is a wonderful series that explores the lives and loves of five close friends. It is centered around Ted Mosby and the tale of how he met the future mother of his children. While a comedy, HIMYM routinely touches your heart in ways that few shows can and do. M*A*S*H could. Cheers could. Friends could. Big Bang Theory sometimes does. Modern Family does. And Suburgatory does.

HIMYM is also one of those television shows that grows on you. For the first five seasons, I didn’t even watch it. It was the reruns on local channels that introduced me to the softer and special side of this series – the part never shown in the highlights – the part that not only touches your heart, but carries it away.

Another unique aspect about the show is its appeal to all ages. While enjoying a pizza lunch yesterday, Kathy and I, as well as four of our children ages 19-24 who were with us, agreed that HIMYM is a special show and that we look forward to watching the finale episode airing tonight.

Were there silly episodes? Of course. Were there dumb episodes? Of course. Were there episodes that hit it out of the ballpark? Absolutely! And those are the episodes that will be the ones that everyone remembers and talks about for years to come. This season, there have been numerous keepsake episodes that we will all remember – Thank you to the cast and crew of How I Met Your Mother for years of happy memories.

Your live in a tax haven when…

Source: ltjj.org

Source: ltjj.org

Late March/early April here in the States seemed like the perfect time of the year for this satirical post. Enjoy!

  • There are nonstop flights to Switzerland, Grand Cayman, Luxembourg, and Monaco, but no place else.
  • More Wall Street brokerage firms have offices there than on Wall Street itself.
  • Gordon Gekko is mayor.
  • There are statues honoring Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley.
  • Streets are paved with gold and silver bullion.
  • There is no need for accountants or tax lawyers.
  • 1040 is just a number.
  • Gangsters are replaced by banksters.
  • The whole darn place is duty-free.
  • There are more private jets and yachts per capita than anywhere else in the world.
  • Monopoly is the favorite board game.
  • Polo is more than a brand name.
  • Money bags exceed grocery bags.
  • The power plant is fueled with cash for there really is “money to burn.”
  • Pinkerton, Brinks, and Garda sell armored cars for personal use.
  • The high school team’s logo is the $.
  • Nobody ever needs deductions.
  • All cats are fat.
  • Money really does grow on trees.