I’ve moved all of the bicycle commuting entries to a new blogspace. Check out redd-shift.blogspot.com for future updates.
August 24, 2008
August 23, 2008
This is old news. However, in looking for resources on cycling in Omaha I came across this multi-contributer blog devoted to bicycle commuting in and around Omaha. This particular entry consists of citizen video and photo reporting at its best, made back in May 2008 when the Mayor kicked off the Bike To Work Week and the Activate Omaha Bicycle Commuter Challenge.
Check out the videos here.
August 22, 2008
The local Omaha news outlets reported some time back that the bus authority, Metro Area Transit would be installing bicycle racks on all city buses sometime this Summer or Fall.
A visit to the MAT web site showed a menu icon that read “Bike & Ride.” Clicking on this link a few weeks ago I found a very spartan page simply saying that they were coming and to check back for an update. Being the inquisitive type, I fired off a note to MAT using a form on their “About Us” page.
My note read:
Do you have a timeline or estimated timeline of when bicycle racks will be
available on the city’s buses? Will there be an extra charge for racking a
bike? In the event that the racks are full or malfunctioning, would one be
allowed to bring the bike on the bus?
Within a half-hour, I had my reply!
The bike racks are in route to MAT.
Timeline will be completed later this week.
No charge to use bike racks. Every bike rack can hold two bikes. Passenger
responsible for loading and unloading their bike on the rack.
No bikes on inside the buses.
Bike information to be posted at www.metroareatransit.com
[phone number masked]
Coincidentally, this was the same day that I met with the city’s Traffic Engineer, Mr. Todd Pfitzer, and he told me that during the 2008 National Veterans Wheelchair Games, MAT had to remove the seats from about a dozen buses to provide transportation for the participants. Mr. Pfitzer said that he thought the racks were in, but that MAT’s timeline might have been delayed due to the reconfiguration of the seats.
Today I revisited the MAT web site “Bike & Ride” page and saw an update.
Installation of the bike racks has begun. At this time, the bike racks are not operational.
Please do not try to use them. Coming Soon; Bike Rack operating procedures.
Please check back for more information!
In summary, it looks like the racks will be visible very soon, and available for use sometime after that. It won’t cost any additional money to use them, but with only two slots per bus, be prepared to be at the stop early if you think the rack might be full, wait for the next bus, or just ride on to your destination on your bike.
August 21, 2008
A few weeks ago I, along with my friend, Jeff, had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Todd Pfitzer, Traffic Engineer for the City of Omaha. He filled me in about the future of bike lanes in Omaha, and the news is good. Mr. Pfitzer is a cyclist and a motorcyclist, himself, and thus, well versed in all aspects of traffic management in the city.
Mr. Pfitzer has been working with Marty Shukert, a planner with the design firm of RDG Crose, Gardner, Shukert Inc., on obtaining money for and planing the development of bike transportation in Omaha. I left with information prepared by Mr. Shukert on proposed bike lanes, bicycle boulevards, and some interconnecting multi-use trails. I’ve taken the information and plotted it, to the best of my interpretation of the written descriptions, on a Google Map.
Omaha Bikeway - The Map
This map may be augmented in the future to show all existing bike trails in the Omaha area.
How to Read the Map
The blue lines represent future bike lanes. A bike lane is an extra lane with on-street painted markings showing the lane.
The red lines represent future bicycle boulevards. A bicycle boulevard is a route selected especially for bicycle travel due to gentle grades, wide lanes, and potentially reduced traffic. A bicycle boulevard will not have a marked bike lane, but may feature signage to reminde cyclists and motorists to “share the road.” A bicycle boulevard may also have drainage grates removed to reduce rist to cyclists riding the route.
The green lines represent existing multi-use trails that may connect with bike lanes and bicycle boulevards. The multi-use trails are integrated with sidewalks in some areas and often intersect with roads.
The pink lines represent proposed bike lanes that for whatever reasons, have been rejected.
I’ve also added points of interest to the map that augment the use of the Omaha Bikeway. These include future in-town developments such as Midtown Crossing (near Mutual of Omaha), Aksarben Village (at the site of the old Aksarben fairgrounds), and bike shops.
I will post updates to this blog as new information on the Omaha Bikeway becomes available.
Please note that this information is all very unofficial. Don’t hold me, the city of Omaha, or any of the above mentioned persons responsible for the accuracy of the maps or for the status of the projects. The information was shared with me as a courtesy and not in any official capacity.
I know what you’re thinking. “Bicycle commuting is for nuts.” Sadly, this is the common thought about cycling is the US, especially here in Omaha, Nebraska. If you ride a bicycle in some parts of the US, you’re typically assumed to fit into one of the following groups:
- a bicycle nerd
- a child
- homeless, or too poor to own a car
- being punished for DUI
I’m here to prove otherwise. I’ve got a regular office job. My family owns three cars. I’m not athletic. I’m just a normal guy.
About five weeks ago I decided to invest in my first “grown up” bike, hit the pavement and get active, while saving money on gas and parking, reducing my ecological footprint, and generally having a great time challenging myself to get to and from work under my own power.
Previous to my purchase of a new Trek 7300, I had only ridden K-Mart bikes. Whenever I had tried to ride those bikes, I was always uncomfortable, slow, and terribly inefficient. My ill-fitting discount store bike made me tired and after a while I totally gave up on trying to ride it. I suppose I was too naive to understand that buying a quality bike and getting selection, sizing and fitting help from a knowledgeable salesperson made all the difference in the world. My new bike is almost effortless to ride.
Now I’m riding about 50 miles a week commuting to my office in downtown Omaha. In gas alone, I am saving about $10 a week. If you figure daily parking at a $3/day lot, then I’m saving about $25 a week. Consider, though, that this is during the Summer months when weather is beautiful and dry. I’ll have to take each day at a time as Fall and Winter set in.
There are countless websites on bicycle commuting (see links below to some of my favorite), so you can learn much more for searching the web, but I’ll just list out what seems to be working for me.
Get a Good Bike Designed for Commuting
Avoid the “big box” retailers. Go to a local bike shop (often abbreviated “LBS” on bike related web sites) and leverage the staff’s expertise. Expect to spend $250 or more for a good hybrid bicycle (part mountain bike, part road bike). What makes high end bikes more costly are things like lighter frame, bigger wheels, quality components like shifters, brakes, suspension, tires, etc..
Don’t allow the salesperson to limit your fit to whatever is in stock. Have them explain the differences between their bikes. Ask to take the bike for a spin in the parking lot or nearby street or trail and get a feel for its shifters and brakes.
Customize and Accessorize
Don’t like backpacks? Get a back rack and panniers (think saddlebags). Panniers are great for carrying your work clothes or for trips to the store. They also make your bike look wider to traffic behind you (put the pannier on the left side). You can also use bungie cords or a bungee net to tie down other kinds of cargo.
Install a FRED (railroad slang for a flashing rear-end device) and a headlamp. New high-output LED technology allows for relatively small and extremely visible lights that help drivers see you when you ride on the road. I would also recommend a white, forward facing headlight. I use one (day and night) that can blink a couple of high-output LEDs, and have observed motorists notice my lights and do a double take. I’ll take two looks over one any day.
If you think you’ll be riding in the rain or on wet pavement, you can get fenders installed at your LBS for about $35. These will keep you and your bike clean and dry when riding in wet conditions.
Plan A Route
Use Google Maps, Google Earth, or MapMyRide.com to scope out a route to and from work. Also try driving your proposed route in your car and take note of lane width, grade, traffic volume, etc.. Be open to changing your route slightly until you find one you like.
If you live in Omaha, stop in the library or a bike shop for the ActivateOmaha bike map. You can view it online at http://activateomaha.org/. This map shows not only bike trails, but also city streets suitable for bike travel.
Allow Yourself Time
It’s not a race. You don’t have to qualify. Just ride at your own pace to arrive at work or home without being totally exhausted. Over time, you will find your pace and endurance picking up and your commute times shrinking.
If you’re lucky enough to have a friend heading in the same direction, ride together for as long as you can. There is safety in numbers.
At first I was afraid I would have to wear all the spandex and lycra to ride a bike. Trust me, you don’t want to see me in spandex and lycra. So then I rode a couple of times in a cotton t-shirt and found it didn’t work well when things got hot and sweaty. After a trip to the sporting goods store, I discovered various brands of “stay dry” materials that wick away sweat without leaving wet spots on the material. Under Armour is an example of one such brand, but other (cheaper) brands are available in the sporting goods stores and stores like Target and K-Mart. Get bright yellow or orange shirts if you can find them.
For shorts, try some that have a compression shorts style liner clad inside a looser basketball short style outer. Also, I’ve heard you can wear tight fitting bike shorts underneath looser fitting shorts. In either case, the tighter fitting inner shorts help prevent chaffing.
Wear a Helmet and Gloves
The helmet is a must. The gloves are optional, but help out greatly with grip when things get wet or sweaty.
Educate Yourself about Bicycle Commuting
Read as much as you can on bike commuting. Here are some sites I find useful:
Bike commuting isn’t all about saving money and going green. It’s also a great way to get a workout in time that you would otherwise be sitting in a car. Riding a bike is fun and is about the closest you can get to flying without leaving the ground.
October 14, 2007
The folks over at Zinju.com have created a really nifty website for people that love their gadgets and tech news.Â Zinju combines your standard product reviews, product comparisons with syndicated news from cool news sites like Engadget, Gizmodo, CrunchGear, etc..
One thing that makes Zinju stand apart from other product review sites are the additionÂ of video reviews.Â Instead of just reading about features and comparisons of products, you can watch them.Â Zinju uses YouTube hosted clips for this feature, so you know the videos will work.
I know the next time I’m looking for a new digital recorder, media player, etc., I’ll be checking them out.
May 9, 2007
The Hueytown High School, Hueytown, AL, class of 1987 will be holding its 20 year class reunion August 25, 2007.
Please contact Melinda Brooks through http://hueytown.alumniclass.com/ for more information.
April 15, 2007
The mysterious glyph pictured below appeared in late winter, 2007, at the northeast corner of 15th Street and Jones Street in downtown Omaha.
Is this a construction marking? Graffiti? Hobo markings? Warchalking markings? Communication from the netherworld? We’ll probably never know.
June 2, 2006
The other morning in Omaha while walking to my office downtown, I heard an amazingly loud sound that drowned out my headphones. It sounded like a helicopter, but assuming that there was nowhere for a helicopter to land, I dismissed it as yet another construction sound from one of the many downtown construction projects.
When I arrived at my fifth floor office, I looked out the window and saw something very strange. An old military style helicopter was hovering over the Brandeis building, in between Omaha’s three largest buildings; the First National Bank tower, the Woodman tower, and the old ConAgra towers. What nerves it must take to fly a helicopter among buildings in a windy city during morning rush hour, lifting heavy objects at the end of a cable.
Fortunately, I had my camera with me and I snapped a few photos through the window. I present a few below at a reduced resolution. If you’d like the full size photos, please contact me.
Now if I’d only had my microphone with me, I would have captured quite an interesting sound.
February 26, 2006
Beginning in the fall of 2005 I began to notice two strange trucks driving around slowly in downtown Omaha (please see pictures below). These trucks have giant dual yagi antennae mounted on a pole running through the cab of the truck. The driver of the each truck would drive around the downtown area rotating the antenna back and forth by manipulating the shaft that ran through the cab of the truck.
Then one day I noticed a man wearing large headphones and walking around the fire station waving a hanldheld dual yagi antenna as if searching for a signal or listening for something.
So, of course, I begin thinking thoughts like:
- mind control operatives
- people trying an alternative to Omaha’s sometimes poor radio scene
Then, as coincidence would have it, within a couple of days I came across a news article about a plan by the USDA to control bird population and another truck with radio antennae on the top with a giant wood and wire bird cage on the back.
It wasn’t hard to then put it all together. I presume that these trucks with their antennae arrays and the operators of the trucks are listening for specially tagged starlings bearing radio transmitters. The truck with the giant cage on the back must have been one where they would transport trapped starlings for later release.
I’m doubtful that the systems of detering starlings from the downtown Omaha area will work in the long run. Birds are just like people. Adaptable, resourceful, and persistent.
The systems used so far, along are:
- lethal poisoning: probably won’t work, new birds come back to take place of old, dead birds. It’s also inhumane and distasteful to poison birds, leaving their bodies to rot along the city streets, sidewalks, and even the flower garden outside of the public library.
- shooting of flares near roosting spots: birds can habituate to new environment
- soundings of foghorns near roosting spots: same as the flares
The best course of action is to design structures that deny access to birds. Compare the First National Bank building with the Union Pacific Center. Both are new buildings built at approximately the same time. However, birds simply avoid the Union Pacific Center because there are no roosting or perching spots.
The focus of this blog is to capture and share sounds. Perhaps someday I’ll take my microphone downtown and capture the sounds of the flares and foghorns.
Below are the pictures of the radio tracking trucks: