Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Omaha Bike Summit - 2008

Bikeable Communities! and Activate Omaha are hosting the 2008 Omaha Bike Summit, Saturday, October 18, from 8:15 am to 2:15 pm at the riverfront in downtown Omaha.

The event will take place at the National Park Service Building, 601 Riverfront Drive, and will feature speakers on pedestrian and cycling issues in the five county metropolitan Omaha area.

The $15 registration might get you lunch (not sure if the scheduled lunch is bring-your-own-brown-bag or provided) and a one year membership to Bikeable Communities!.

Come on out and show your support for transforming Omaha into a bikeable community.

More information:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Omaha Bus Transit Authority - Bike Racks Operational Today

Today was MAT's first day of operation with the new Sportworks bus-mounted bicycle racks.

I rode my bike to work this morning, but in the afternoon, I put my bike on a rack and rode the bus. It felt weird riding my bike from my office to the bus stop in my business casual attire, with no helmet, but I wanted to test the whole urban bike/bus thing. Instead of getting off at the stop nearest my home, I got off at the neighborhood grocery store and picked up a few supplies before riding home. If I do this again, I will be sure to wear an elastic band to tie my pant leg.

I followed the instructions online from the MAT web site, placing my bike on the inside position, but as I was racking the bike, the driver knocked on the window and motioned me to put the bike on the outside position. He told me the reason was so that they could more easily see the end of the rack for judging distance.

In all, this was a great success. I will be curious to see how many people use the bike racks. The big advantage I can see is using the bus if weather turns foul, or if an errand to an out of the way place is needed.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge Linking Omaha and Council Bluffs Opens

Today was an historic occasion for both Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spans 3000 feet across the Missouri River carrying foot and bicycle traffic. This bridge is the only pedestrian bridge in the country linking two states. The bridge appears to be a focal point for current and planned riverfront development on both sides of the river.

I went down to the bridge this afternoon by bicycle. Since I was coming from the Omaha side, I wasn't able to participate in the opening ceremony, as that took place on the Council Bluffs side. I arrived around 2pm and found there were still many people on and around the bridge, making their way across to both sides.

The sky seemed a little hazy to me, but the sunshine, light wind, and warm temperatures were ideal for the bridge opening.

I had read in the news that the Omaha side would not be open until around 3pm to accommodate the large volume of people coming from the Council Bluffs side. However, before leaving, I checked the Pedestrian Bridge Web Cam and saw that it was open.

I brought my camera and took some photos to share here on the Redd-Shift blog. At first I was afraid I would be instructed by security to dismount my bike, but that didn't happen. I did stay in the saddle on the way over, but I had to ride as slow as people were walking, often putting my foot down when things went really slow.

On the Council Bluffs side the party was still going on. There were food vendors, games and activities for the kids, and live music.

I had never before seen or set foot on an Iowa trail, and I was pleased to see a large sign in Playland Park showing me which way to go for the various trails and attractions. I truly felt welcomed into Iowa. I can't wait to head over there early some day and explore the trails.

I think the Omaha side should have some signs or markings showing how to get to the Qwest Center and the Old Market. Honestly, the Omaha side of the bridge is a little confusing if you don't know for sure where to go.

Party on the Council Bluffs side at Playland Park

Rock climbing wall

A Dixieland Jazz band

What to do when you cross over to Iowa.
So many trails to explore, so little time.

A TV news crew interviewing bridge crossers.

Iowa's future riverfront development plans

This looks like a fun trail heading to the north

The entrance to the bridge on the Council Bluffs side.
Notice the gate to keep out the Omaha riff-raff.

The Omaha skyline through the trees and over the river

Each cable is secured using these giant bolts and nuts

The little biting flies were annoying

Another TV news crew looking for a story.

The Ron Paul guy welcoming people to Nebraska

A view of the river to the north

This guy apparently lost his belt in Iowa

The emergency call boxes are a good idea.
Too bad they don't work yet.

Another view of the tower

I think there is to be some sort of welcome center here.
The Omaha Riverfront Place condos are in the background.

The entrance to the bridge from the Omaha side.
Notice the gate to keep out the riff-raff from Council Bluffs.

Smile... you're on the Pedestrian Bridge Web Cam.

A Jetski parasailer passes under the bridge

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ralston Trail

View Larger Map

About an hour before sunset I went exploring to see where the Ralston Trail goes. With my GPS receiver on, I was able to make a good map of the trail, where I then imported into Google Maps, cleaned it up a little, and added some labels. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera, and I also forgot my camera phone, so I don't have any pictures to share.

Basically the Ralston Trail runs 1.3 miles from 84th and Madison, eastward toward 72nd and U. St. The eastern terminus of the Ralston Trail is about one-half mile from the junction of the Big Papio Trail and the Keystone Trail, making the Ralston Trail potentially an important connection for commuters looking to move east/west across Omaha.

One feature of this trail is a hilly section that runs through the wilderness of Wildewood Park. The leaves were just starting to fall and cover the concrete path, and with the scent of Autumn in the air, the short ride through the park was a welcome change over the normal daily street ride commuting that I do. Another interesting point along the trail is a short tunnel where the trail passes underneath a rail bridge. I don't know why the tunnel was needed, unless engineers felt the old bridge overhead might come crashing down on the trail someday, or perhaps drop debris on the trail.

Ralston has a pretty little downtown commercial district, but unfortunately, this trail won't help you get there. It seems to run, somewhat isolated, along an old rail bed, or at least alongside a creek (a few parts of the trail are more hilly than what I'd expect for an old rail line), but has very little access to meaningful streets. To the south is a creek and to the north are people's back yards or industrial fences. I can't help but wonder if there are future plans for this trail that might make it connect more directly with the Keystone and Big Papio, or possibly continue further out west.

According to the ActivateOmaha bike map, there is a north-south sidepath that connects the eastern terminus with the Big Papio Trail near L St., but I didn't know that while I was out.

The Highgear Bike and Outdoor Store of Omaha is about 1.5 miles to the south near 84th and Brentwood, making that a potential destination for riders on the Keystone/Big Papio trails.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Foggy Wednesday

I didn't ride today or yesterday as a result of having to take my son to school. Maybe it's best I didn't ride today. I am not sure that my rear facing Planet Bike Super Flash would have been enough to cut through the fog on the busy stretch of my commute.

There were some spots near downtown where it felt like I could see only a few car lengths ahead of me. Drivers are distracted enough as it is, and I bet the frustration of the morning commute is aggravated when they can't see through the fog.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Vanity plate for your bike

For only about three dollars you can have your own custom license plate. Source: K-Mart

Monday, September 15, 2008

Photos and Information From The MAT Open House

Tammie Dodge from ActivateOmaha and Linda Barritt, Marketing Director for Metro Area Transit were on hand today at the MAT headquarters to demonstrate the new bike racks. I didn't do a headcount, but I'd estimate between 15 and 20 people showed up for the demonstration and to ask questions. Many came with or on their bikes. Everyone had a chance to mount and dismount their bikes on the rack. I found that once I got the hang of it, the process only takes a few seconds.

The official usage instructions are here on the MAT web site. The racks will be available for use in two weeks on Monday, September 29. Ms. Barritt confirmed that all buses, even the shorter van style units will be outfitted with the racks by that date.

If you wanted to try out the racks but missed the open house, MAT plans to have some buses available at the September 28 Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge opening ceremony.

The rack in the folded up position.

The rider must bring the rack into the ready position.

The first bike will be placed nearest the bus.

The second bike will go on the side farthest from the bus.

Ms. Barritt describes the process and what to expect when using the racks.

That's my bike on the outside position. Note that only the front wheel is tied down to the rack. Despite that, the rack and the securing arm seemed very secure and should safely hold the bike while in transit.

Some usage tips:
  • Remove all bottles, panniers, pumps, etc. before the bus arrives at the stop
  • Once on board the bus, sit as close to the front door as you can
  • If you need to use the near position because the outside position is occupied, you can still load or unload the bike from the side, rather than trying to lift your bike over the other
  • If the rack is full, you will not be permitted to board the bus with the bike, even at the back door as some some cities allow
  • If you suspect your route may be full, survey the other users and try to work out a schedule to stagger your commutes
  • Consider a cable lock to run through your wheel and frame to prevent a would be thief from riding off on your bike. Just be sure to have the lock on before the bus arrives. You don't want the driver to think you are locking your bike to the rack
  • Have some ID mark on your bike, or log your serial number in case your bike gets lost in some manner. MAT is considering a 30 day holding policy before turning a lost bike over to charity.
  • Some policies are still be worked out, such as minimum rider age and rack availability during winter months. Don't be shy about contacting Ms. Barritt through the MAT website to share your thoughts.
In my opinion, adding bike racks to the city's buses is an amazing step forward in making our city a bikeable community. As others have said, this is "virtual" east-west path across the city and may help to get more folks using both bicycle and public transportation.

Omaha Bus Transit Authority Posts "How To" On Using Bike Racks

Omaha's Metro Area Tranist (MAT) has just posted a how-to guide on using the new bus mounted bike racks.

The instructions are written in clear, simple language and features a photograph illustrating each step.

My favorite line from the how to: "Your bike rides for free!"

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Can You See Me Now?

Or, Fun With Reflector Tape

I got of this "conpsicuity tape" from my local O'Reilly Auto Parts store so that I could add a reflective strip to my rear fender.

Having quite a bit of it left over, I decided to trick out my helmet a little. I tried not to go overboard, but I wanted to add a fair amount of reflective material to the back and sides of my helmet using the red and white in a manner that would be eye catching and somewhat representative of my direction of travel. For example, red on the front and sides might confuse motorists.

Using scissors and a hobby knife, I trimmed pieces of the strip to match the shapes around my vents in the back and sides of my helmet. I tried to put white on the sides and red in the back.

I think the result is satisfactory in that the helmet doesn't look too goofy during the day, but really throws back the light at night. Now what remains to be seen is how well the strong glue on the tape will hold to the Styrofoam on the helmet.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Omaha Bus Tranist Authority Open House - Learn to Rack You Bike on a Bus

Gosh darn it. I had hoped the be the first to blog about MAT's announcements on using the bus racks, but two other Omaha cycling blogs beat me to it.

Hats off to MTB Omaha and Omaha-Commute for being on top of this.

Anyway, click here to read the official announcement. I'll be at MAT headquarters at 5pm for sure. Be sure to RSVP at the web site.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bob Is A Good Friend

This morning I attached my grocery pannier to my rack so I could pick up some groceries on my ride out of downtown. This is yet one more way I can avoid a trip in a car.

While waiting for fellow afternoon "bikepool" rider, Jeff, I saw someone ride up to the market on a road style bike with a guitar strapped to his back and pulling a trailer with a cooler on it. He introduced himself as Henry, and we talked for a moment about the trailer and compared notes about carrying stuff.

I can carry about 50 pounds of stuff on my rack, assuming I could fit it all in panniers or bungee it to the rack. Henry said his "Bob" trailer can carry about 75 pounds of stuff on it, and shaped like a low, flat sled, has ample room for carrying large loads. Henry seemed to be using the cooler as a large waterproof trunk, holding lots of stuff inside. Presumably he could get a week's worth of groceries in there, as well.

So if you see Henry with his guitar and drawing a blue cooler behind him, be sure to give him a friendly wave. He is probably carrying more stuff in there than most motorists have in their cars.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Shame, Shame, Go Away ...

I'll Try Again Some Other Day

Shame on me... I could have cycled to work today, but I didn't. When I woke up early this morning, it was raining. It was more than a gentle rain, but not a deluge. By the time I showered and dressed, the rain had stopped. I did ride the bus, at least, so I still didn't have to worry about the drive and parking. When my bus got downtown, the rain had picked back up again, so I probably would have gotten wet had I cycled in.

"I don't mind getting wet in the rain," is what I've always told myself. But normally when I have that thought, I'm imagining June or July. This unseasonably cool September chill would have been very cold in the rain.

Being a new bike commuter, I'm still working out all these issues. I'll need to figure out what kind of rain gear works best for me.

Here's a list of what I think I need:
  • Rain jacket, cape, poncho, etc. What works best for cycling?
  • Rain pants. Again, any ideas on the best for cycling?
  • Neoprene booties to keep shoes and feet dry
  • Neoprene gloves
  • Something for my head
    • Rain jacket with hood?
    • Shower cap over helmet?
    • Forgo the helmet and wear a rain cap, in the style of the trustworthy Gordon's Fisherman?
  • Make or buy a rain cover for my pannier, as I'm not sure if it's waterproof.
If any of you hardcore commuters or touring cyclists happen across this post, please comment with your rainy weather riding tips and help me avoid bearing the shame of squandering another perfectly good commuter day.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

How To Build a Bracket to Put Seat Post Lights on Your Rack

I've ordered a Planet Bike Super Flash rear light based on its good reviews. However, reviewers seem to say that it can't be mounted on a rear rack.

This weekend I built a bracket that will allow me to attach seat post mounted lights and reflectors to my rack.

As part of the construction process, I photographed and documented the steps so that it could be posted to the Instructables web site.

Check out the how-to article here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In praise of the 'green' commute - Omaha World Herald

In praise of the 'green' commute

Dozens of Omaha and Lincoln readers responded to a World-Herald invitation to share their experiences walking or riding bicycles or motorcycles to work. However, bicyclists were in the majority.

Although some were motivated by gas prices that occasionally hovered around $4 a gallon this summer, others said they have cycled to work for years, or were motivated by health factors.

Mark W. Fuller of Omaha, who works for Perot Systems Corp., said he got rid of his car in June and now bicycles everywhere, including to work, the supermarket and the Old Market.

Read the full story here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

There Ain't No Good Chain Gang (But What is the Best Chain Lube?)

The can says:

Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant
  • Penetrates and Protects
  • Formulated with P.T.F.E.

So, is this stuff any good?

I've just finished out my first full and complete month of bicycle commuting, logging 374 miles ridden, 261 being commuter miles in August. I've logged about 590 miles total this summer on the new bike.

While I think this is fantastic, my bike has some issues. The chain, in particular, has been telling me that it needs some attention. Chattering and squeaking are the words my chain has been giving me over the past week or so.

I called up my local bike shop (Re-Cycle Bike Shop) and asked if they sold chain lube. They do not. I asked for a recommendation and was told that they use Liquid Wrench Silicone Spray and that I could get it at Ace Hardware. Unfortunately, my local Ace didn't have that particular spray, so I got the Tri-Flow instead.

I lubed up my chain, wiped it down, and took the bike for a ride up and down my street and my chain is now silent.

I googled Tri-Flow and found that they do sell a bike chain product, but I wouldn't be surprised if the bike chain product is the same as the hardware store product.

Do any of you readers have any experience with Tri-Flow, or any other easily available hardware store products? Aside from WD-40, are there any other products that should be avoided?