Hiroshima's Hotel Cycle

May 16th, 2014

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A room in Hiroshima's Cycle Hotel, part of Onomichi U2, "Cycle, Travel and Good Things."

From Spoon & Tamago [via GetHiroshima]: 

Calling itself the world’s first bicycle-friendly multi-purpose space, the Onomichi U2 is now open for business.  What makes the space special is not that it’s a hotel, café, bakery, restaurant and bike shop all in one, but that you can ride your bike through almost all the facilities. You can ride your bike up to the front desk to check-in, and then take your bike up to your hotel room, which is equipped with a bike rack. The café even has a “cycle-thru” lane so you can get your caffeine fix without ever getting off your bike.

Onomichi U2 is at the end of a 70km cycle path that sounds, logistics aside, marvelous.  Maybe I can Gerty to ride there this fall.

DU Bike Auction This Saturday

May 16th, 2014

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This Saturday, go buy a bike that University of Denver took without the owner's permission.

The University of Denver's annual sale of bikes that have been "impounded" from around campus is Saturday. At University of Denver, a bike can be impounded for not being locked or for being locked with a cable lock. DU insists that cyclists use a U-lock, despite having bike racks that make securely locking one's bike difficult. A U-lock only around one's front, quick release wheel is enough to satisfy Denver's moronic policy.

(DU has eschewed the city's standard inverted U for reasons that I have never been able to pry out of anyone. Depending on the day, the head of parking has blamed the University Architect, the former Chancellor, and/or Security.)

Someday We'll Have A Democrat In The White House

November 17th, 2012

I voted for Obama, and I got Romney's healthcare program, Bush's security state, Reagan's economic ideas, Bush/Reagan's defense spending, Bush/Reagan's approach to a Palestinian state, Grover Norquist's approach to social security, and Sarah Palin's energy policy.

On the other hand, Obama's a foreign-born, communist Muslim, so there is some good news.

Another Negative Showers Pass Touring Jacket Review

November 15th, 2012

Link: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/reviews/board/message/?o=1&thread_id=283087&page=1&nested=0&v=P

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Image by Wojtek Michniewicz from his review at crazyguyonabike. Captioned "Peeling laminate on SP touring jacket." More images there.

Another negative experience with the Showers Pass Touring Jacket.

I discussed my problems with the Touring Jacket, here and here. The thread also describes some positive experiences with Showers Pass and some design improvements to one model.

Sounds to me as if the Showers Pass Elite jacket may be made from different materials than the Touring and Transit jackets and that the Elite Jacket doesn't leak -- or at least doesn't leak as much.

The Showers Pass jackets, in my opinion, are pricey enough that they should perform well. The Touring jacket is $150. Even if the jacket performed as advertised, that's quite a bit of money.

If you have a Touring jacket, and are having problems, return it. If the vendor won't take it back, ask Showers Pass for a replacement. I think that may be the best way to reiterate to Showers Pass that (at least some of) these jackets have serious problems. And it will give Showers Pass a chance to "make it right." It seems like a good company that made a mistake with one product.

If you are shopping for raingear, consider whether the cost of a cycling-specific jacket is actually worth it. Gerty wears her regular, brightly-colored rain jacket and does just fine. (In fact, on our last rain-drenched tour she was much drier in her hiking jacket than I was in my Touring jacket.) I feel a bit dumb that I shelled out over $100 when I could just wear my hiking raingear -- particularly since I routinely rail about the evils of materialism.

If you really want cycling-specific gear, take a look at J&G Cyclewear's line. One commenter highly recommends them. I have no experience whatsoever with them. Their website, which is not nearly as slick as that of Showers Pass, says that they, too, are a small Oregon company.

Cyclist Safety: Bike Lanes Help; Parking Hurts; Multiuse Paths Will Be The Death of Me Yet

November 14th, 2012

Link: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2012.300762?journalCode=ajph&

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Data from Teschke et al., Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists, Table 4, descriptions modified, *P less than .05

The Atlantic's Cities blog has a decent summary of a recent paper aimed at determining the impact of various kinds of cycling infrastructure on injury rates. Among the study's conclusion is that bike lanes significantly reduce the rate at which cyclists are injured.

Terminology & Denver's Paths

At the outset, I should note that study's terminology doesn't match up well with how we in Denver refer to things. According to the study's definitions, the Cherry Creek and Platte Greenways are "multiuse" paths ("meant for nonmotorized use by pedestrians, cyclists, skaters and others, either alongside city streets or away from city streets") not "bike paths."

I'm not sure how the study would classify Denver's designated sidewalk/bike routes. Those monstrosities fit both the definitions of sidewalk ("paved path meant for pedestrian use, either alongside city streets or away from streets") and multiuse path. (As far as I know, we don't have any "bicycle-only paths" in Denver.)

Multi-Use Paths Are (Relatively) Unsafe

The study's results are interesting for several reasons. First, in terms of safety, multi-use paths are less safe than everything except sidewalks and major streets with parked cars and no bike infrastructure.

That probably surprises a lot of planners. Multi-use paths are assumed to be the safest place for cyclists to be.

If the results apply to Denver, Denver has built (and designated) a lot of infrastructure that is less safe to use than simply riding on a major street that doesn't have parking. In particular, where Denver has designated sidewalks as bikeways it has created conditions that are about as unsafe as they can be for cycling.

Parking Poses Problems

Another interesting thing is just how much difference street parking makes. Eliminating parking makes even major streets safer than adding a bike lane or sharrows would. (The risk for major streets with no parking and no infrastructure are not statistically significant.)

If cyclist safety is an issue, planners should consider removing parking before considering adding cycling infrastructure. (Anyone who has worked on these issues in Denver knows that's wishful thinking. A bike planner once told me -- sarcastically -- that City Council, given a choice between a few dead cyclists and the calls triggered by eliminating a few parking places, would choose dead cyclists every time. He might have been sarcastic, but I think he was right.)

What's Hurting Us

Finally, how cyclists were injured surprised me. Only about a third of cyclist injuries were caused by collisions with motor vehicles. About a quarter were caused by collisions with things like train tracks, potholes, or rocks. Collisions with animals, other cyclists, and pedestrians accounted for only about 7% of the injuries. Looks as if keeping streets maintained on bike routes would help a great deal. Drivers would appreciate it, too.

Full story »

Bogeymen Only Eat The Poor

November 14th, 2012

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Image by Kurren. Some rights reserved.

Ten days ago, the deficit had to be cut immediately or the bogeymen would attack. Today, we can't cut the deficit or the bogeymen will attack.

This sounds as if our policymakers are stupid until you realize that one thing is constant: whether the crisis is the deficit or cutting the deficit, the crisis will be used as an excuse to screw poorer people. Cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security was the solution ten days ago and remains the solution today.

Bogeymen don't eat rich people.

A Simple "Fix" For Social Security

November 14th, 2012

Since Social Security is not "bankrupt" and cannot add to the deficit, I cannot understand why Social Security has been snared by the deficit talks. Apparently Obama has offered to cut Social Security and may agree to raise the retirement age, though Social Security is more critical to more people now than ever before.

But since Social Security is mired in that mess, here is a very simple way to make Social Security solvent: remove the cap on income that is subject to SS tax.

Currently income is subject to a flat 12.4% Social Security tax but only up to about $110,000. After $110,000, income isn't subject to SS taxes. (When I was making big bucks, my checks at the end of the year were larger than usual because my income had by that point exceeded the cap and my check no longer had Social Security tax deducted.)

The Congressional Research Service (http://aging.senate.gov/crs/ss9.pdf) looked at what removing the cap would do to SS's finances. Here is what it said:

If the earnings base was completely eliminated for both employers and employees so that all earnings were taxed, 95% of the projected financial shortfall in the Social Security program would be eliminated. To achieve solvency for the full 75-year projection period under this option, the total payroll tax rate would have to be raised by an additional 0.1 percentage points (from 12.4% to 12.5%) or other policy changes would have to be made to cover the shortfall.

So eliminating the tax cap would come very close to eliminating the shortfall. Increasing the Social Security tax by 0.1 percent ($100 per $100,000 in income) would entirely fix the problem. This seems like a simple, rational fix to me.

Another option would be to adjust slightly how benefits are calculated for high income individuals. Right now, benefits are based on what one pays in to Social Security. So, the more you make, the greater your benefits are (up to the tax cap.) If the cap is removed, the high end earners would pay more tax and therefore be entitled to greater benefits.

The Report looked at the option of removing the cap and capping benefits at the $110,000 level. So, high earners would pay taxes on income over $110,000 but their benefits would be calculated as if they only made $110,000. Under that option, Social Security collects quite a bit more than it pays out. The could be lowered from 12.4% to 12.12% or benefits could be increased.

Although people at the high end need Social Security less than those at the lower end, so that makes this option plausible, I don't think it's a good idea to cap benefits. Part of the program's support is that it is an insurance program not a welfare program. But adjusting the formula for benefits on a graduated scale, could make the program solvent without even a .001% tax increase. One could do the same thing by taxing Social Security income but only for those over $110,000. This revenue could be dedicated to Social Security. Again, we could then lower the Social Security tax or increase benefits.

I prefer either of those options to increasing the retirement age. The idea is that increased life expectancy justifies increasing the retirement age. The trouble is that most life expectancy gains have been among the higher income groups -- the people that rely less, if at all, on SS. Those whose life expectancy gain is relatively small, would be the people hurt. I think that is illogical and repugnant.

Why We Should Increase Social Security Benefits

November 10th, 2012

Link: http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2012/11/net-wealth-shock-in-us-by-net-worth-percentile.html

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Image from Economist's View.

Social Security may be more important today than at any time in its existence. We have a population without pensions. Older people cannot rely on their families for support -- family relationships have changed and family members are much more likely to far from one another.

Then the Great Recession clobbered the savings of those most dependent on Social Security. The chart above shows the impact on savings of the Great Recession -- the collapse of house values, effects of unemployment, and the tanking of the stock market. For poor and middle income people, twenty years of savings disappeared.

What exactly do we expect those just retired and nearing retirement to do? Why do we think they should bear the sins of the regulators, bankers, and politicians that destroyed their savings? And why do we think the wealthy deserve tax cuts paid for by cutting Social Security?

We should be considering how much to increase Social Security benefits not how to cut them.