Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Bus Mounted Bike Racks Are TOO Convenient

The new bike racks installed on Omaha's MAT buses are convenient for multi-modal trips, or for bike in/ride out (or the inverse) commutes.

Too convenient. At least twice this week I've chosen the bus trip home over a bike trip. Both days were probably some of the best cycling weather we've had all year.

  • Cycled in to work with the temperature in the mid to upper 20s. Awesome ride. Learning how to ride in cold weather, at least for my short 5 mile trips.
  • Felt tired in the afternoon, caught a bus home.
  • Cycled in to work with the temperature in the low to mid 30s. Awesome ride.
  • Parent/Student/Teacher conference for my daughter, didn't want to have to rush and to have clean up before the conference, caught a bus home.
  • Each Thursday I leave work a little early to fetch daughter from home, drive her to a drama class downtown, and then return to work until class is over.
  • I usually catch the bus home to avoid the cleanup.
Without fail, whenever I mount my bike on the bus and go inside, I hear comments and conversations spurred by the bike.
  • Overheard woman to driver: "The first time I saw a bike on a bus, I thought it was the driver's."
  • Other bus rider to me: "Whoa! Did you just put your bike on the bus? How did you did you do that? How does that work?" As if the racks has previously been invisible.
  • And then lots of other chatter from commuters who have ridden public transit it other cities.
So in summary, I think the bike racks are awesome. They have really come in handy, and combining bus and bike trips has probably gotten me to ride each more frequently. However, the danger is that for a lazy cyclist like me, I need to ensure that I don't choose the bus over the bike without a compelling reason.

Gosh, I'm feeling tired again. :) At least I've got my weekly Thursday excuse today.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Omaha Unveils Latest Part of Trail System - Omaha World Herald

Omaha unveils latest part of trail system

Although cold, blustery weather rarely inspires bikers and joggers, Omaha on Monday morning unveiled the latest part of its trail system.

Mayor Mike Fahey officially opened the Turner Boulevard Trail during a brief ceremony at Dewey Park.

The trail mostly follows Turner Boulevard south from Harney Street before turning west to 36th and Pacific Streets. Users can then follow city sidewalks to connect with the Field Club Trail.

The northernmost portion of the trail, linking Turner Boulevard with Dodge Street, will not be finished until 2009 because of the ongoing Midtown Crossing development.

The concrete trail is 1.2 miles long and 8 feet wide. The project cost $593,000, with about $474,000 coming from the Nebraska Roads Department and $59,300 each from the city and the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District.

"It (the trail) makes it even more enjoyable to live here in midtown," said NRD board chairman Jim Thompson.

Thompson said the Turner Boulevard Trail is the second of the city's new urban trails. The first was the Happy Hollow Trail, which opened a few years ago.

Thompson was joined by City Councilman Jim Vokal and neighborhood leaders at the trail's opening.

Carol Haas of the Leavenworth Neighborhood Association said it's important to link the city's green spaces.

"We couldn't be more excited," she said.

• Contact the writer: 444-1149,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dang, It's Hot Outside! Am I Fibbing?


I admit it. I am affected. I am afflicted. I am addicted to evaluating, and too often, buying biking gear. Back in July I decided to start cycling to work each day as long as I and the elements could get along. The idea was to simplify my life, slow down a little, get some exercise, walk my talk with respect to sustainable living, and to save some money on parking and gas.

As Fall weather has descended upon us, I find that I have to make adjustments to my gear and on-street attire to deal with what Ma Nature is throwing at me.

Back in the Summer, it was stay-dry technical fabric shirts to replace my cotton t-shirts. Then gloves to maintain a tight grip on the sweaty handlebars while helping to prevent my hands from numbing. Then the rains came and I had to get a rain jacket. When the cooler temps hit, I learned about technical baselayer (high-tech long-johns) and layering with extra shirts. I saw the magic of SmartWool socks that can be worn for days before needing a wash. (Yeah, I didn't believe it either until I tried it)

Seeing and soliciting advice from other cyclists, I convinced myself to get a convertible Vagabond cycling vest/jacket to break the wind (ahem) and keep the Autumn rains off my core.

This past week saw me wearing AmFIB tights. This strange and wonderful article of clothing is designed to keep a cyclist's legs both warm and dry in cold and rainy weather. The AmFIB tights worked great last week during some of the cool rainy mornings, but between the tights and layering underneath the Vagabond jacket, I found myself getting toasty by the time I neared work. The heat retention was very noticeable in my afternoon rides and while riding some during the late morning on Saturday and Sunday.

Incidentally, I wore the tights into the Hy-Vee off the Keystone today for some grocery shopping. I got either strange looks, or admiring glances. I'll go with admiring glances. :)

Looking at the weather forecast for the next couple of days, I see the 7am temperatures are predicted to be mid to low 20s. With that, I pedaled myself once more to the Trek store today and got some new Gavia gloves, also made with AmFIB material. I don't know if I need any thick, lobster-claw style gloves just yet, so the salesman's advice on the Gavia gloves was enough for me, at least for riding in the 20s.

Now recall that cycling to work and on errands is supposed to be a money saving venture. Why is it that I need/want more gear? In my mind, I justify it by knowing that if a purchase keeps me on the bike for one more month, getting exercise and promoting self-sufficiency, then it's money well spent. But why do I ride past the K-Mart, the Sports Authority, and end up at the Trek store, or virtually at buying Pearl Izumi products? Is there a hint of (dare I say) fashion consciousness or brand snobbery? Am I vain when I try on the PI AmFIB Gavia jacket or Insulatour jacket and think about how great it looks and how awesome it would be to ride the cold days with it on?

I don't think so. I am careful with my purchases. I ask advice from the local cycling community on what very specific products work with specific riding conditions. Often the answers are specific brand or products: "SmartWool," "AmFIB," "wear baselayer," "get a cycling vest." So far I've found that the recommended specific technical products are superior to making do with department store clothing.

I also understand that these technical products should last for a while. I expect my AmFIB tights to last at least a few seasons, perhaps more. I expect all of the gear should be reasonably durable. If I do need to replace worn out gear, then I can compare the cost with gas for my truck, oil changes, tires, and other consumables. In the end, I (at least in my own mind) can justify the cost of cycling gear.

Am I fibbing myself, or does this make sense to the rest of you cyclists? What's your story?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Changes on way to ease Omaha's bike traffic - Omaha World Herald

Changes on way to ease Omaha's bike traffic

Omaha turns crabby when it comes to its treatment of bicyclists, the chairman of the city's bicycle advisory committee said Saturday.

Marty Shukert told the 2008 Omaha Bike Summit that this should begin to change with the addition of bicycle lanes and signs on certain streets next year.

The Omaha Bike Summit, organized by Bikeable Communities and Activate Omaha, was held at the National Park Service headquarters on the riverfront. About 40 people attended the morning sessions.

Shukert, chairman of the bicycle advisory committee created this year by Mayor Mike Fahey, said in an interview that Omaha currently rates poorly in its treatment of bicyclists.

Although the city has a good trail system, it has no lanes or designated bike routes, has poor bike racks and minimal bike parking.

Many motorists exhibit bad etiquette toward bicyclists, and some bicyclists have bad etiquette toward motorists, he said.

Shukert told the group that his consulting firm, along with Activate Omaha, has established a 20-mile bicycle system for east-west travel through the city. The map of the system is available in limited numbers at bicycle shops, Shukert said.

The advisory committee will recommend bicycle lanes and stripes, street signs, bicycle symbols painted on streets and other strategies to improve conditions for bicyclists. Shukert said two foundations have contributed a total of $600,000 for those items.

One is the Peter Kiewit Foundation, and the other asked to go unnamed, Shukert said.

Joe Gudenrath, a spokesman for the mayor, said several City of Omaha representatives are on the advisory committee.

The mayor wants the city to be more bicycle-friendly, so the proposals will receive serious consideration, Gudenrath said. Further, the $600,000 in private money will make it easier to implement those recommendations, he said.

"This is something that the mayor has taken an interest in for a number of years," Gudenrath said.

Shukert said he hopes to see paint on streets next spring.

• Contact the writer: 444-1123,

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

ActivateOmaha! Website Offline

Ack! I noticed yesterday that the website for ActivateOmaha!, was offline. It appears that the domain name service provided by Network Solutions has expired. Hopefully some domain name snatcher doesn't snap it up and hold it for ransom.

If anyone has an email address for Tammie Dodge or Julie Harris that does not end with, or you if have their telephone numbers, please try to get into contact with them and let them know (if they don't know already, which I suspect they would).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Omaha Bikeway Progress Report - Marty Shukert

Marty Shukert, a planner with the design firm of RDG Crose, Gardner, Shukert Inc., presented an update to the City of Omaha's plan to develop bike lanes and bicycle boulevards at the recent 2008 Omaha Bike Summit. Mr. Shukert was kind enough to give me permission to record and post his presentation on the Redd-Shift blog so that others may also enjoy it.

For a quick summary and an answer to the burning question of "When?", I will say that Mr. Shukert said we may see painted lanes and signage beginning in the Spring of 2009.

For more detailed information, please watch the video below.

For those of you who take your media on the go, download this for your portable media player (iPod format).

I apologize for the poor video quality. This is an amateur recording and did not faithfully capture the professional quality of the presentation. However, it is my hope that the information will be of use to the Omaha cycling community.

Special thanks for Activate Omaha and Bikeable Communities for organizing and sponsoring the 2008 Omaha Bike Summit, and to the National Park Services for the use of their meeting facilities at the Riverfront.

Monday, October 13, 2008

How Dry I Am (Not!)

Today was my first ride to work in a real rain. I'd always managed to dodge the showers and ride in a drizzle, or just on wet pavements, but not today. This morning it was about 50 degrees with a steady, but relatively light rain.

I took it slow since I didn't wear my glasses, had a tiny hint of a headache, and wanted to allow more time for my brakes to work. I also figured folks in cars were having a hard enough time without having to worry about hitting me, so I wanted be extra careful. In all, it was a great ride, and I was quite comfortable.

My PI convertible cycling jacket/vest kept my core warm and dry (and conspicuous with its high-viz yellow color), and my baselayer tights kept my legs warm, though they were wet. My gloves were soaked and my head wet, too, but mostly I noticed that my shoes were flooded. I've been wearing SmartWool socks, and they are great. I did get to experience that whole "wool is warm when wet" thing, but I could feel the water welling up in my sneakers, especially when I hit puddles. I imagine I will need to get some kind of wet weather bootie for my feet.

Now the big question for you bicycle commuters. How do you, or do you, dry your gear when you get to the office so that you aren't putting on cold, damp clothing for the ride home?

I've got my gloves on an air vent at my cube, and I put my shoes on air vents in a seldom used lab/conference room. I draped my shorts over my PC. I also put my baselayer top and bottom on hangers and put them inside a server rack in the lab. In all, I think I'm being somewhat inconspicuous and respectful to my coworkers, but I'd love to hear your stories and ideas.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Actually, I Would Have Preferred A FAT Tire

Six-thirty in the morning isn't the best time for a Fat Tire, but it seemed to be the right time for a flat tire on Wednesday.

This morning as I was nearing my point where I emerge from slow paced neighborhood streets onto busy Leavenworth Street at Turner Boulevard, I felt a kink in my drivetrain. I figured it was just a missed gear or something. However, then I heard a rubbing noise on my tire that worsened when I applied my rear brake. I pulled over and gave a quick look, but didn't see anything.

The rubbing noise continued, and I just attributed it to something stuck in my fender and decided to look for it later. I continued the remaining two miles in to work, and under the generous lights above the bike parking, I was able to inspect the wheel a little more closely. Spinning the wheel, I still heard the rhythmic rubbing sound, but still saw nothing for a couple of minutes.

Finally, I saw what looked like a little pebble sticking out of the tread. Plucking at it with my fingernail, I saw it was no pebble, but the head of a nail. Moving my focus of attention back a few inches, I saw that I had an entire one inch nail entering, and exiting my tire. Amazingly, the tire appeared to have suffered no loss in pressure.

My theory is that my front tire kicked up the nail, throwing it into my drivetrain. Then it went through my chain and somehow got thrown into the right spot for entering my rear tire. Maybe that's a wild theory, but it works for me.

"This is my lucky day!", I thought. Perhaps the nail entered the tire and exited the sidewall without encountering the tube. The nail was too tight to pull out with my fingers, so I used the can opener blade on my multi-tool to pry out the nail. The immediate sound of hissing told me that the tube was punctured. It's amazing to me that the nail sealed the hole for the remaining (and quickest and most dangerous) part of my ride to work.

Well, this was the event I was prepared for. In my saddle bag I had a CO2 canister and tire levers. I carry a spare tube in my commuter bag. So at the bike racks, I removed my wheel and changed a flat for the first time in 15-20 years. The quick release wheel made it easy to get the wheel off, but I had some trouble getting everything lined up to go back on.

They say once you learn to change a bike tire, you never forget. They do say something like that, don't they? Anyway, the actual tube replacement process went pretty well. I racked the bike on a bus to get closer to the Trek store where I bought a couple of new tubes, plus a mini pump before riding home on the changed tire.

Here's a list of lessons learned that might make this easier next time:

  • Carry a pump. I only get one shot with the CO2
  • Pack a small pair of pliers, or get a multi-tool with pliers
  • Make sure CO2 canister nozzle is upright when using it. Otherwise it spits CO2 ice
  • Pack a pair of disposable latex or vinyl gloves. My hands were filthy after changing the dirty tire and handling the chain
  • Take more time inspecting the tire. I should have found the problem more quickly.
  • Don't remove a nail until I'm ready to change the flat. I lucked out that I was able to continue riding. Had I pulled the nail on the road, I would have been forced to change the tire on the spot or grab a bus for the remainder of the commute.
Look at the bicycle tire behind mine in the top photo. I just noticed that the tire is flat. I assumed that the owner of that Giant bike beat me in to work each morning and stayed late each day. He/she seemed to me to be very hard core, due to his/her commitment to ride the bike even on the nastiest weather days. Now I think it's obvious that the bike doesn't move. I suppose it's possible that the bike doesn't even belong to an employee at my place of business and has been abandoned. I wonder what its story is.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Map of the Keystone Trail

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Certainly all walkers, runners, and cyclists in and around Omaha know the Keystone Trail. A map of it on this blog is certainly not news. However, I'm a map geek and felt compelled to draft my own map with notations on where to get water and use the restroom. It's part of my plan to draw individual Google maps for all trails around Omaha as an online resource for myself and anyone else who cares to use it.

Running about 25 miles roughly north/south across the city, the Keystone Trail is one of the core bile trails in the city. With connections to the West Papio Tail, the Big Papio Trail, and eventually to the Field Club Trail, and running through many neighborhoods and the commercially dense 72nd and Dodge area, chances are high you can use the Keystone to get somewhere on your bike.

I've ridden from my house in central Omaha to the north end at Democracy Park several times (16 mile round trip), and finally this weekend I had the opportunity to ride from my house to the south end at Hayworth Park (42 mile round trip). Having seen the entire trail, I thought it was a good time to map it.

This sculpture shown below stands at the trail head at Hayworth Park in Bellevue. This sculpture is, in my opinion a monument to the prairie settlers' use of the ever present Nebraska wind, and also an illustration to what you can do with a sack full of zip ties. The inverted bike swivels to stay pointed into the wind. I'm sure the wheel spins 90% of the time.

I didn't see any Treks or Cannondales in the sculpture. Just a bunch of old department store bikes. I also didn't see a plaque of dedication or attribution. Does anyone know more about this?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Map of the Pedestrian Bridge

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I surveyed the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian bridge this afternoon using my GPSr. These devices are not terribly accurate for this sort of thing, but by doing it twice and eyeball-averaging the two routes, I think it's probably not too far off.

I also updated the Omaha Bikeway map to include the bridge data.

I'll enjoy seeing the aerial/satellite photos show up on Google Maps and see how well or poorly I did. I had no idea that the Nebraska/Iowa border is almost on the eastern shore of the river when crossing the bridge. I had just assumed it was near the middle of the bridge over the water.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Opening Day for the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge - TV News Report

This September 28, 2008 TV news report from KETV highlights the opening day of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, linking Omaha, Nebraska with Council Bluffs, Iowa, by providing a path for foot and bicycle traffic across the Missouri River.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Updates to the Turner Boulevard Trail

The finishing of the Turner Boulevard Trail is coming along nicely. The grass seed planted along the banks of the trail is growing well, and yesterday I noticed new signage had been posted.

The signs identify the trail at a couple of points, and other signs show upcoming curves and remind users that only non-motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail.

I believe that the only thing that remains is to finish the sidewalk path along the north side of Pacific Street from the Field Club Trail to Turner Boulevard.

View Larger Map

Read my previous blog entry on the Turner Boulevard Trail.

I read in the news that a 100 year old tree near 34th Street and Turner Boulevard had to be removed for safety reasons. I noticed a tree stump today near that intersection, but I'm not sure if it's the same tree. My guess is that we are going to see some landscaping in this half-block area just north of Leavenworth.