A companion site (THE PRACTICAL CYCLIST) is home to
genuinely practical information about using bikes for transportation.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bob Dylan Broke My Heart

Bicycle Calendars, 2009

This being the last day of 2008, you'll need a new calendar, starting tomorrow. There are a bunch of interesting bike-theme calendars available, in addition to the usual not-all-that-interesting bike-theme calendars produced by mainstream publishers.

If you know of more interesting bike-theme calendars, let me know.

La Suprema Bicicletta

I thought this image was too good not to pass on, so here it is. Make sure to look at it full size too. From La Suprema Handcrafted Steel, in Tucson, Arizona, and online at www.edsbikes.us.

One for the children

This is the Smart Cycle, made by Fisher-Price, purveyor of fine plastic to children around the world. While riding a real bike outside is leaps and bounds better than riding just about anything inside while staring at a video screen, this thing deserves at least a nod. Ideally, the first thing a kid would learn would be the "rules of the road," but how likely is that? Not very: the Smart Cycle appears to have applications for learning the standard "three Rs," but none geared toward traffic safety. What an oversight! Also, I could do without the Dora, Diego, SpongeBob, Barbie, et al. tie-ins. I guess I'll have to start coding myself...

This reminds me of a question I've had for a while: Wii cycling?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Make a Penny Stove...

Here's a great site with instructions for making an alcohol "Penny" stove:
 
Photo: Forbes Conrad

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Esta una bicicletta Groovy


IMG_2358.JPG, originally uploaded by YiPsan bicycles.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Big Sale at Kogswell HQ

KOGSWELL products on sale!  Wish I had some money...

Last month's sale was a huge success for everyone. And so we're going
to try it again.

Starting tomorrow and running through Monday we have sale prices on ALL
in-stock items:

P/R 650B frame/fork combos: $449 (all sizes in stock!)
P/R 650B fender sets ($29 when purchased with a frame/fork)

P/R 64cm x 700C SL frame/fork combos: $169 (all sizes in stock!)
(remember: if you don't like the frame we'll subtract your purchase
prices on the sale of a replacement 64 when they arrive)

Kalloy SP-375 (BIG offset) setposts ($15 when purchased with a frame/fork)

Kogswell 9/8" headsets (black): $5

Tektro R556 brake calipers (front and rear): $34
[http://kogswell.com/images/scalipers.jpg]

Kogswell Kompact Krankset (includes matching bottom bracket)
170mm - 50x24 - 110BCD - Black ED finish - $29
[http://kogswell.com/images/scranks.jpg]

Kogswell 9-speed (Shimano) 135mm, 36 hole, high flange,
disc brake hubset with quick releases and 7-speed cassette: $12
[http://kogswell.com/images/shubs.jpg]

Shimano Dura Ace 16 tooth, 3/32" track cogs: $15 (qtys limited)

Purchases can made via credit card by calling: 952-288-6165

Thanks for your continued support and patronage.

Happy Holidays,

Matthew



Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

On Monday the Montgomery County Gazette wrote about a study indicating chronic time and cost overruns on major Montgomery County (Maryland) road projects. Gee wiz, we have a culture of slack. Now, I'm no stranger to slack, but I'm haven't sought responsibility for civic infrastructure. Hey-Zeus!

The first line suggests that the study itself is behind schedule. It would be funny if it wasn't sad.

County Committee Tunnels Into Roads Report: Looking into why cost and completion projections are inaccurate
by C. Benjamin Ford, staff writer

Montgomery County has moved slowly on a study that showed county road projects often cost more and take years longer to complete than their initial estimates.

The County Council's Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee followed up Monday on a Feb. 5 report from the county's Office of Legislative Oversight that studied 14 county road projects. The report showed that studies before the projects were undertaken often proved too optimistic on costs and how long the projects would take to complete.

"People want to protect their turf, they want to make sure their project is not elbowed out," said committee chairwoman Nancy M. Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park.

The February study of 14 county road projects showed that the average cost was 54 percent higher than initial estimates.

In addition, the initial estimates predicted an average of 4.7 years to complete the project — from initial study, design, land acquisition and permitting. Instead, the projects took on average 7.5 years to complete.

The county is continuing to look at why projects take longer and cost more than the initial estimates, said Aron Trombka, senior legislative analyst with the Office of Legislative Oversight, but significant changes in the capital improvement project process have not been made yet.

No single factor explains why the costs rise or delays occur, Trombka said. Costs increased, in part, due to inflation and variables in market conditions, as well as the unknowns involved when land has to be acquired or utilities have to be relocated, he said.

The county's Department of Transportation bases project estimates on the costs of materials such as asphalt and concrete over the past one to three years and then projects how much the materials will cost about halfway through the project, he said.

The project estimates also are based on similar past projects, using the best available information, Trombka said.

Floreen asked why penalties were not assessed contractors for cost overruns and project delays.

When they are their fault, contractors are issued penalties of $50 to $1,000 per day for delays under some construction contracts, said Department of Transportation division chief Bruce Johnston.

The county is looking at adding incentives for earlier completion of construction projects, he said, adding that incentives have been used at times to minimize road closings, but can carry their own risks.

"The bridge that collapsed in Minnesota had an incentive contract," Johnston said.

The county's performance in projecting costs and the completion schedule is "pretty typical" for counties nationwide, he said.

"Most of our projects come in within 5 to 10 percent of the estimated costs," Johnston said.

But not the projects in the study, apparently. And the bridge didn't collapse because it was built under an incentive contract. The Gazette Story is here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Transit, HO!

Okay Obama, nicely done. You're on the right track and we're behind you. But don't forget to be smart. Americans love to say, "We're number one!" Well, news flash: America's transit programs are THE WORST IN THE DEVELOPED WORLD, and many so-called "developing nations" have bus and rail programs that put us to shame (and the only SUV's on the road are olive drab, if you know what I mean). Bust a move, my friend:

Hey, and while we're investing in infrastructure, let invest in our human capital too:

REBUILD SCHOOLS

BUILD NEW SMALLER SCHOOLS

INSTITUTE FULL-YEAR SCHOOLING NATIONWIDE

TREAT TEACHERS AS THE PROFESSIONALS THEY ARE

And since we're talking about improving education, and family life, and creating jobs, here's a novel idea:

Reduce the length of the work week

Increase mandatory vacation

These aren't allcaps because I don't really know about these issues. They seem like good ideas though. Let's get a move on!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

STOP, you're freakin' me out!

The Overhead Wire has a nice post linked back to this bit on the Heritage Foundation's website. I couldn't say anything other than, "Holy mackerel, this guy is nuts." Then for a few minutes I got really scared that people would believe this stuff; then I noticed TOW's dismissal of this as fearful ranting. To paraphrase:
Breath easy, they're so far off on a starboard tack and no one's with them - we've got the tiller now, and we're on a broad reach to BRT and lightrail!
But really, shouldn't we still be afraid? The guy who wrote this has a PhD, for goodness sake - people are going to believe him. Remember:
There's no such thing as "global warming," our scientists deserve equal time...
I admit, I'm afraid of junk science. I'm afraid that our populus will be misled and screwed over, again. Why am I afraid? Rob Reich hit it on the head last night:

...the future competitiveness and standard of living of America depend on our peoples' skills, their capacities to communicate and solve problems, and innovate -- not their ability to borrow money.

It's our human capital that's in short supply. And without adequate public funding, the supply will shrink further. I'm not saying funding is everything, but without it we can't attract talented people into teaching, keep classrooms small and give our kids a well-rounded curriculum, and ensure that every qualified young person can go to college.

So why are we bailing out Wall Street and not our nation's public schools and colleges? Partly because the crisis in financial capital is immediate while our human capital crisis is unfolding gradually. But maybe it's also because we don't have a central banker for America's human capital -- someone who warns us as loudly as Ben Bernanke did a few months ago of dire consequences if we don't come up with the dough.

I assume someone is doing the math on this. We should be able to calulate the future earning potential of Americans, and the value of human capital and human capital investment, based on census and immigration fugures, life expectency, and educational and workplace data. How much economic engine-cranking ability will we have in 2010, and in 2020? Who is doing this research? How can I help? Shoot, how much do we have now? So our strategy amounts to asking folks who are down on their luck to spend more money? When was the last time you tried pulling yourself up by your bootstraps? How did it go?
AND
The same math should work for transportation planning and investment. Not perfectly, but well enough. If we're going to recapitalize, lets put the money where it will be most effective.

Bike there, with directions: