Tuesday, November 26, 2013

People driving cars hating people riding bikes

On my (driving) commute home today I witnessed two related incidents that illustrate some of the feelings that people who drive cars have about people who ride bicycles.  I am purposely avoiding "drivers" and "cyclists" since both are people, right?

The first one: I was driving down Shepard Street, which is one way in the direction I was traveling, from Mass Ave to Garden Street in Cambridge.  It was long after sunset.  There was a tight squeeze with a car (the one in front of me) before Avon Street and it was tighter in part because there was a person (often called a ninja in this circumstance) on a bicycle riding the wrong way.  He was unlit and had no apparent reflectors and was wearing all very dark clothing, which is why I might refer to him as a ninja, as some people commonly do.  There were words exchanged as the person riding the bike passed the car.  I heard something like "shove it" from this person riding the bike without lights.  If someone was at fault, it was certainly the person on the bike but no damage was caused to the car and both could have safely passed without pause if the person driving the car would have chosen to do so.  I was annoyed at the person riding the bike, if only because his actions seem to cause many people driving cars to be annoyed at all people riding bikes, assuming, incorrectly, that none of us follow rules.

The second one: the same car is involved, of course.  This occurred on Garden Street before the Huron Avenue intersection, still in Cambridge and less than 1/2 mile from the first incident.  The person driving that car saw a person riding a bicycle in his* rear view mirror.  The person riding the bike had decent lights (and reflectors) so she was obvious to him if he was paying any attention to his surroundings.  Once he saw the person riding the bike, he moved to the right, eventually keeping her from passing the stopped cars, starting with his own, on the right, with less than a foot between his car and the curb, leaving a lot of room on his left.  This happened over a couple of blocks and I was still right behind the car in question so I could have shouted to the person in the car, if his window was open.  I talked briefly with the person riding the bike, who had no appetite for confrontation, which is about where I would be in a similar situation.  She did say that she heard "get out of my way" far too many times when she was riding in bike lanes in Cambridge.  I haven't heard that myself but I can believe it, even before seeing the way the person driving the car was behaving.  I turned off in the next couple of blocks so I didn't see what happened after this but I suspect the person on the bike had a very slow commute home today.

So, there is this person driving a car out there being purposefully mean to a person on a bike because he saw someone misbehaving while riding a bike (and worthy of a ticket, which he would have earned if any police happened to be there).  The second person riding the bike, who was behaving in a way that couldn't be considered unlawful by any stretch of imagination was the victim of minor road rage.  Perhaps hate is too strong a word.  Perhaps minor road rage is too strong.  But it certainly wasn't nice and was intentional.  Should I have reported this?

* I believe it was a man driving the car, based on what I could see in the driver's side and review mirrors, but I can't be sure.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Making a coffeeneuring map

So how did we make that coffeeneuring map?

It was simple - we used Google Fusion Tables.  These tables are geographically enabled by default and can be shared easily.  I made a table with specified columns (this one is for the cities map):

and then configured how the data would be displayed on the map.  Locations that can be displayed in a Fusion Table are the same as those that can be found in Google Maps.  For instance, try searching Google Maps for "Harvard Yard" or "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC" or "Boulder, CO".  Something like "the starbucks in Lexington, MA" works but only if there is sufficient information and a single point is returned (there are two Starbucks in Lexington) and the location exists in Google's files - which are a nearly comprehensive set of businesses that Google's vendor supplies to them. These can be considered as complete addresses and are stored in a single field in the fusion table, with one or more Coffeeneurs' blogs associated with the location.  In our case we are only using cities (city+state+country or city+country) as the locations.

Then I added the maps to a blog post with code that Google Fusion Tables generates for you automatically (this example is also for the cities map):

I changed the symbology for the states map, so you can distinguish between states with few and many coffeeneurs:

Then I shared the editing rights to the two tables to MG, the person running the challenge.  She enters the data, which is added to the already published map.

The entire process was very quick.  I changed the schema (which columns we used) in the cities map in mid stream but that took less than half an hour, including copying a lot of data.  The original work may have taken an hour at most.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Coffeeneuring failure

First, I must thank Mary from chasingmailboxes.com for running this challenge.  It was a lot of fun, even if I didn't make it to the finals - but I was close.  We all need extra encouragement to ride at this time of the year and I need extra encouragement to get on my bike to do the errands that I can do without a car.  Second, I appreciate Mary's trust in me to get the digital version of the Coffeeneuring map online and run the regional office.  We have never met or talked on the phone but managed to get a map that I set up, am hosting on my blog, but having data that is maintained by Mary.  This is one of the ways that the net makes things happen that otherwise couldn't happen and it is fun to be a part of it.


This could be a story of woe but it is not.  Instead, it is a story of triumph, and fun.  The goal was simple - 7 trips for coffee by bicycle  with what some would consider arcane rules put in there to remind us that this challenge was rooted in the world of randonneuring, which is chock full of arcane rules, if you ask me.  But you aren't asking me so I'll be quiet now.

The failure culminated in one day, the last day of the challenge.  I had one last trip to do and I couldn't do it.  The day started out with a challenge of a different sort - raking the yard yet again.  I packed a full 20 bags of leaves last week yet the yard was looking like I had neglected it all fall.  I raked while my wife planted a hundred bulbs for us to enjoy in the spring.  The boys kept her busy except for a brief time when the older boy jumped in the huge pile of leaves I was making.  Next came the gutters, my least favorite task ever.  But they really needed cleaning before the winter.

Doesn't this look appealing?

After cleaning the gutters, I had a very quick snack before taking my oldest son for an impromptu play date with one his buddies from preschool who he doesn't get to see often now that they are in different schools.  I like the friend's parents and, in particular his dad, Art.  It was entertaining and I did get to use the Coffeeneuring completion map as an example of how the Art might show the reach of his business.

Later I thought of an evening ride but I really needed a shower and it was pretty foggy out there and the roads were wet and more rain was coming so I thought about a beer instead.  That might be covered in the rules but, again, I'm not going out on my bike so it doesn't count.

But enough of this story of woe, here are the successes.  Previous blog posts are used when I wrote one up, tweets otherwise, except for the most recent trip.

Coffeeneuring #6

This was yesterday, the second to last day of the challenge.  I had to drop off the extraordinary recycling, something that happens a couple of times a year.  We had electronic junk and styrofoam to discard and I used my bike to haul it.  Just the electronic junk remains here, the styrofoam filled the back seat to the brim before I dropped it off.


I decided that I should head over to Kickstand Cafe, the new coffee shop that replaced Jammin' Java, that replaced Carrberrys.  This was the second day of their existence and they were busy - I was halfway through the line at this point:

I ordered a single expresso shot and the delivery was quick so I actually had a few minutes to enjoy it.  And I could see my bike from the window:

Coffeeneuring #5

This made it as a blog post.  It was my only trip that I managed to do with someone.  That's the state of my life right now.


I really intended for this to be a coffeeneuring trip but I let my son convince me to try to meet my wife in Concord and check out the farm that we order some meat from.  We did meet my wife, made it to the farm, and saw a four point buck (the first deer my son has seen) so it was a success even if I didn't get a cup of coffee out of it.

Coffeeneuring #4

An errand combined with a stop for coffee.  Can't beat this.


Sometimes things are harder than you can imagine.  We managed to get out of the house on bicycles, the four of us, on a pretty cold day to meet friends to watch the Head of the Charles Regatta.  That is fun in itself, as was seeing our friends.  We talked about stopping for coffee but getting two boys on and off of the bike more than twice (we also stopped at an open studios) is daunting.  Maybe I should have looked for coffee at the open studios. They did have great food, including a veggie chili from Flora that was yummy if nearly too spicy for me.

Coffeeneuring #3

This ride almost didn't happen.  The fog didn't hit until I was 3 miles into the ride and it didn't lift until I was off the bike path, which was around the time the sun rose, although it didn't show its sleepy face then.  I did make it to Ride Studio Cafe, which is always a worthwhile destination.

Coffeeneuring #2

This trip is part of my too early rides.  I missed Ride Studio Cafe on the way out of town (in the dark - no surprise there) and even on the way back into town.  But I found coffee.  This post was written in the form of a guest post on chasingmailboxes.com, accelerating a trend.

Coffeeneuring #1

This was covered in three tweets:

And a post with a rant on how bicyclists are perceived.

Coffeeneuring training

Yes, you can train for coffeeneuring.  This was my longest coffeeneuring ride and also the hardest. But it was fun going off road and riding in the dark.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Number of coffeeneurs who finished the challenge

A map of coffeeneurs in the US.  Numbers are updated by MG.

The numbers should read 0-0, 1-1, 3-4 etc.

Cities where there was at least one coffeeneur.  Click on a point to see the city.  If there are links to blogs, you can click on them to see the blogs.

How the maps were made.

Maybe one more map is on the way - map by participating country.

Bloc 11, Coffeeneuring #5

Coffeeneuring #5

Apparently these are the  questions you should ask any coffeeneur, if you get the chance and he or she is the talkative type:

1) Where do you live?

2) How did you decide to coffeeneur?

3) What bike are you using as your coffeeneuring bike?

4) Where did you choose to coffeeneur for your nth coffeeneuring trip?

5) Is the Coffee Shop beautiful.

6) What other types of riding do you do besides coffeeneuring?

7) What else did I forget to ask you that you want to share?

Questions 1-3 and 6 are not related to this specific trip and have been answered in a previous post so that leaves just 3 questions to answer here:

4) Where did you choose to coffeeneur for your fifth coffeeneuring trip?

Sunday we went to Bloc 11, in Union Square, Somerville.  I actually rode alone but met Paul at the coffee shop.

What, you went with someone this time?  Yes, I did.  I had a reasonable amount of time to ride but figured that since I never see Paul, I ought to call him and see if he was available on short notice and he was, and company is always better than just putting on miles.  Paul came from a couple of miles away, in a different direction that I was riding from, but we had coffee together.  He had a double expresso and I had a pour over in a pint glass, which might be considered too big a cup, or glass, of coffee.  Since Paul lives in the city and rides a lot, he had his basic single speed, locked with what I understand to be the original Kryptonite lock:

I rode my Surly Cross Check.  The ride was about 12 miles.

5) Is the Coffee Shop beautiful?

Sure, in a vaguely hipster way - but remember that I'm nowhere close to being a hipster and might be making assumptions here.  The shop is in an old bank.  There are cool rooms in the back, including old safes, which seem private, more or less. I once came here with a two year old and he loved checking out all of the spaces - but it was empty on a rainy winter morning, unlike the full house we experienced. The coffee is great - I sometimes stop there on my commute if I am driving.  And there are many bikes parked in front, including in one of those bike racks that occupy an on street parking stall.  We saw this nifty porteur in front:

It had a Novatech generator hub with a Schmidt headlight, a Sturmey Archer internal gear hub in the back, and, obviously, a nice porteur rack.  The wiring for the lighting was hidden the frame and the fenders.  I couldn't tell if it was a new bike or if the wiring ports were added recently.

7) What else did I forget to ask you that you want to share?

What was the rest of your ride and weekend like?  Well, on Saturday there were five loads of laundry and I packed twenty bags of leaves (and we aren't finished yet).  It's not like we have a lot of trees but our neighbors do.  We brought in some plants for the winter, including this elephant ear, which must be 6 or 7 years old now:

That leaves Monday, Veterans Day, which was a holiday for me but my wife had to work.  I tried to get the boys to ride and had the bike trailer out and the child seat attached to the rack but at 45 degrees it didn't seem like a good day for coffeeneuring with young children.  But it was a good day for a playground.

Oh, and the ride back home.  I really enjoyed riding through the city on a warm fall day.  Rain was coming so I eventually packed away my wool sweater and pulled out a soft shell jacket when the first drops started coming down.  But not until after I checked out the new boardwalks off the Fitchburg Cutoff Path:

A sign said this was in the Mystic River Watershed.  Unfortunately it soon joins a brook that gets sewage overflow and it is surrounded by office parks on both sides but it still feels like a nice corner of the world:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Saturday with the five year old

Every trip out of the house when the sun is out is worth it these days.  With winter weather and early winter sunsets coming our way, seeing the sun and colorful leaves, even if thinned out some at this point in the year, is a pleasure.  So last Saturday I rode out to Bedford with my oldest son, the five year old.  The initial intention was to ride to Davis Square for coffee then a playground but mom and little brother were somewhere out in the world and he decided that we should see them in Concord, where they were headed.  I should have been firmer and tried to convince him otherwise but we headed west, not east.  Riding was slow.  The five year old packed the snacks so he knew what he could eat and drink.  We had three snack stops in the first five miles.  At 7 miles into the ride we heard from mom, who was 2 miles away, near a bike path crossing in Bedford.  We headed there and called it a day.  The best part of the ride was seeing a 4 point buck, just shy of the bike path.  My son hadn't seen a deer before so this was a great sighting for him.  It was fun watching the buck leap away, seemingly jumping brush as tall as he was.  After we met up with the rest of the family we headed to our favorite farm and picked up some meat and eggs and then checked out the horses.  All in all it was a great fall day.

No pictures - my 4 year old smart phone is acting its age - more software glitches and the power button works only infrequently.  Otherwise I would have had a chance of a decent picture of the deer before it bounded away.

Total miles: 9, miles for the year: 2750.