I have a new bicycle seat. It’s a snazzy half-seat style. First impressions: the seat loses some stability, though not too much. I wouldn’t want to try riding with no hands, but then again, I’m not very good at that with a full seat… It also seems to slow me down a little bit. But after I’m done riding, I don’t feel the slightest bit numb, and while riding it’s comfortable. I am happy with it so far.
July 18, 2011
June 27, 2010
My rear tire has caused me several problems this year. Over the past two months, I’ve gone through three new tubes. The latest one burst just yesterday, on my way to SQL Saturday. I was able to get it replaced today, and figured that I would get a new tire as well, to see if that would help. I upgraded to a full mountain bike tire in the hopes that it would help me avoid additional sidewalk-related catastrophe. Well, that and better bunny hops.
April 16, 2010
This was the first full week of cycling this year for me. I was concerned that Friday would be rainy, but fortunately, I was able to leave work early enough that I did not get caught in it. So naturally, the first thing I do after this is take a three-hour nap…
March 9, 2010
When Henry Miller wrote that “chaos is the score upon which reality is written,” he must have had Chinese traffic in mind. I linked to a description of driving in China yesterday, with the note that it is absolutely correct:
…Chinese drivers haven’t grasped the subtleties of headlight use. Most people keep their lights off until it’s pitch-dark, and then they flip on the brights. Almost nobody uses headlights in rain, fog, snow, or twilight conditions — in fact, this is one of the few acts guaranteed to annoy a Chinese driver. They don’t mind if you tailgate, or pass on the right, or drive on the sidewalk. You can back down a highway entrance ramp without anybody batting an eyelash. But if you switch on your lights during a rainstorm, approaching drivers will invariably flash their brights in annoyance.
In addition to that, I would like to re-post a few pictures (up on my galleries) to show the insanity of driving in China.
That’s actually a pretty normal occurrence. People decide that they want to drive in other lanes, drive between lanes, swerve around cars going in the opposite direction, cut people off, and do all kinds of nasty things.
Part of the problem is that there are streets that are constantly busy, so the only way you can ever get out onto the road is to force your way in. Half the time, drivers will try to swerve around you, and the other half of the time, they’ll stop and honk their horns at you until you are out of their way.
Don’t think that street lights mean much, though. Buses, you know, those things carrying lots of people, will ignore lights altogether and drive out into the middle of the road. In addition, drivers will see that the left turn lane is full, so they will go into a straight-ahead lane and swoop around to the front of the left turn line. Sometimes, they won’t even bother stopping, and make their way through the drivers (who have the right of way because it’s a green light).
There are very few traffic rules people follow. Certainly, “driving in the correct direction” is not one of them. That doesn’t even come to the pedestrians and bicyclists. The problem is that there are relatively few pedestrian lights, and often enough, when there is a pedestrian light, it is tied to a green light for traffic. Because cars won’t stop for pedestrians, you get partially out into the road but have to stop to wait for traffic to let up momentarily. By the time you get halfway across the road, the light’s turning so you have to hurry. The best time to cross the road in China is during the left turn signal. You have to hurry across one side, but will have relatively unimpeded access to the other side. Unless, of course, somebody decides to keep driving straight ahead on a red light, which happens frustratingly often.
So what do pedestrians do? Well, they look for a break in traffic and just walk out into the middle of the street. People honk their horns and swerve around them, but those people slowly make their way across. Jialin and I did not want to do that, valuing our livelihoods more than this, so we were a lot slower than normal pedestrians. This is the opposite of the New York style of crossing the road, where people (presumably) wait until there is a pedestrian signal, and then own the road while they cross the street, yelling at cars. A couple of times, I slipped into that mode. In particular, there was one street where I was sick of waiting and just walked out, giving my “I’m walking here!” nasty look to drivers. They slowed down and waited for me as I crossed at a normal gait, none daring to honk. Sometimes, being a crazy white guy has its advantages…
And that doesn’t even include bicycles. They swarm out at the most opportune times. Sometimes there are dedicated bicycle lanes, but often times, they simply have to ride through the middle of the road, especially on left turns. So the light will change and you’ll see a few bicycles trying to make their way across the road, fouling things up further.
These little things were the part of traffic I hated most. This is a san lun che (pedicab). They are scooters with tricycle axles and seating generally for four people. Their drivers think they own the road, so despite the fact that they top out at about 15 MPH, they will swerve in and out of traffic, driving the wrong way (as shown in this image), and doing everything else to mess up traffic. They’ll honk like crazy at bicyclists and pedestrians and try to squeeze in between lanes at red lights. Considering that a strong gust could knock one of these things over, their drivers are the most aggressive I’ve seen outside of demolition derby.
So, given all of this, you would expect there to be wrecks everywhere. Yet in all of our travels, the only time I saw a collision was when a san lun che (which we happened to be sitting in) tried to squeeze between an old man with two buckets and another san lun che on a two-”lane” dirt road in Pingyao. The san lun che hit one of the buckets and spilled the water, and our driver just kept going as the old man yelled at him.
How is it possible that there were so few wrecks? Here’s my theory: speeds and differentials are so low, and expectations match. Contra our impressively intelligent Transportation Secretary’s claims, you’re less likely to wreck if you are driving slowly, and if your speed is not significantly different from others around you. The fastest you can drive in cities is about 15-18 MPH. Maybe you can reach 25 on some of the side roads or at good times, but there is simply too much traffic to drive quickly. Given that, you don’t have one person driving 30 MPH faster than another, so there is more time to react to stupid things (or to do stupid things). People did not drive significantly faster than many bicycles (though they certainly tried; the problem was more that they got stuck behind the bicycles…) and could see people walking out into the road, so they had time to avoid those people. Furthermore, everybody expects everybody else to drive like maniacs, so people can remain more alert. In the US, if you see a guy driving _between_ two lanes, then switching over into the opposite lane to pass somebody, you’re likely about to witness an accident. We do not expect this sort of behavior (and unlike China, you’re likely to get pulled over doing this), and it causes mismatches in the great traffic coordination game. The trick to understanding a coordination game is that there are multiple equilibria possible. I don’t like the one that they have settled upon, but it works well enough for them.
December 29, 2009
I decided to try to get into cycling shape a bit early by purchasing an exercise cycle. It’s roughly the same price as a fluid trainer plus a mat to hold my bike, so I was fine with that. Apparently, though, I am entirely incapable of anything with “some assembly required.” It would help if I put the things right-side-up before screwing them in, but at least I had a second pair of hands to hold things and mock me when I do it wrong. Fortunately, it’s 98% complete. Unfortunately, I need an adjustable wrench to complete it. Seeing as how I just bought one of those for my dad, you’d think I would have one for myself. You’d think wrong…
May 12, 2009
Pat‘s wife is a better cyclist than he. The three of us ended up doing a 20-mile route. For the first half of it, she was keeping pace (with the rest of our group) while Pat and I jumped ahead. On the return route, she was setting the pace at the beginning, as I was staying with Pat. Later on, I rode up with her and we kept waiting for Pat to catch up. To his credit, he did make it the full 20 miles.
April 23, 2009
Today, Pat and I took advantage of incredibly nice weather and went a bit further than we figured we could. We started downtown and made it up the Olentangy Trail a bit past Antrim Park, and then back downtown. We took a break our first ride through and walked a lap around the lake at Antrim. It’s a very nice little park and I think I’ll go up that way more often. It looks like we had roughly 3 more miles to go before the bike trail ended, but we weren’t going to try to push it this time and instead turned back. By the time we got back downtown and to Pat’s place of employment, our trip totaled roughly 22 miles, according to my bike’s odometer. By that time, I was still feeling great, but my knees told me that I’d had enough. About two hours after getting back, I’m feeling the ride effects kick in and that explains why you get this rather than my normal snark and pessimism…