Sunday, August 16, 2015

Psychic Benefits of Bicycling

Generally I try to write about scientific topics, or non-scientific topics in a quantitative way.  I'm having trouble finding articles that study the psychic benefits of riding a bicycle compared with other modes of transportation including driving a car, walking, or taking public transportation.  I'm surprised that some economist or ergonomics evaluator has not measured this.

I did find a good article called "Bicycle Blueprint" that articulates the benefits of bicycles:

  • does not operate on electricity or use a combustion engine, therefore it has a smaller (but not zero) carbon footprint, cyclists still have to eat!
  • is quiet and does not contribute to city noise pollution
  • fits neatly into the "door zone" of any street due to its small size, roadsharing is easy!
  • offers mechanical advantage, shoppers can carry goods in a basket or bags, and the weight can be borne by the bike
  • is "human-scale," not some giant metal box on wheels

The article also articulates the benefits of cycling:

  • control over the schedule, no waiting for a bus or train, but there are still stoplights and stop-signs to obey
  • offers some (but not too much) exercise
  • allows the rider to be more interactive with the environment: smells, sounds, sights
Psychic cost is "incurred directly due to emotions that a certain kind of activity engenders." As David Brooks wrote in a NY Times Op-Ed, "The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting." This is known as the commuter's paradox. People think that the time savings associated with driving will provide a greater psychic benefit, when in reality we forget that driving has a great deal of unpredictability and we are disappointed when it takes longer than it should.  Therefore driving has a greater psychic cost than cycling.

Many experiments, albiet some non-scientific ones, have shown that cycling beats driving.

I really liked the calculation in "Bicycle Blueprint" that showed for an equivalent number of calories (or Joules of energy) a cyclist can travel 10 miles, a pedestrian 3.5 miles, and an automobile 100 feet. Even without a quantitative metric for psychic cost/benefit, that's pretty powerful math.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer Goals

One of my goals this summer was to get to know Southern California's light rail system which consists of two subway lines (Red and Purple) and four light rail lines (Blue, Green, Gold and Expo).  At first, I thought it was confusing with all those colors going in all directions, but now that I have a better handle on the commuter rail system (Metrolink) consisting of seven lines (91, AV, IE-OC, OC, R'side, SB, and VC) I think I can handle branching out (pun intended).

The difference between Metro and Metrolink is confusing when you first hear about it.  Remember that Metro is the bus and light rail system while Metrolink is the commuter rail.  Amtrak is the interstate rail system.  If you have a Metrolink monthly pass, you can ride Metro (light) rail and buses for free any time.  You can also ride some Amtrak trains.  This is how we roll.

Our first ride on Metro rail was the subway between Union Station and Wilshire/Western on the Purple line.  We were going to the Grove, a big mall in Los Angeles, and we didn't want to be stuck in weeknight traffic.  It was awesome because we just tapped our monthly pass and rolled our bikes through the handicapped turnstile.  There were escalators and stairs, but we could have taken an elevator if we didn't want to lift our bikes.

The Metro was fast and trains appear often.  It was good we had our own bungee to tie the bikes to a hand-rail once we were on the train.  The abrupt starting and stopping made the bikes roll a bit so we stood there and held them.  We reached our destination so quickly that it was no big deal to stand for the trip.

I get motion-sickness and the underground rail was not so fun in that regard, but it was over fast.  I'm looking forward to taking some of the other above-ground lines.  When I first started taking Metrolink, I thought I might get sick every day, but as long as I keep my eyes on a window, I feel fine.  In fact, I feel so much better than being stuck in a car.

The next CicLAvia (Sunday, August 9, 2015) would be a great time to take the Metro Expo line, but I'll be out of town.  I hope lots of people take the opportunity to experience our light rail system.  There's also a suite of free concerts in Pasadena, which might be a great way to take the Metro Gold line (Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun) to Memorial Park.  Last but not least, I'd like to take the Blue line down to the Long Beach Aquarium.  We got some $5 off passes in our goodie bags from the LA River Ride and I think they expire August 31st.

I'm kind of inspired right now by an event going on this Friday, July 24th at LA Union Station called PUBLISH! Your Journey.  It's part of the #MetroRail25 event series.  The event is an interactive writing activity where people's journeys will be pinned on a map and later posted online to visualize a composite portrait of commuters’ personal narratives.  Maybe we'll see you there!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Freedom Ride ~ Report

This ride was designed to liberate participants from their cars, instead riding bicycles through Los Angeles and Orange Counties, returning via Metrolink train.  We accomplished this goal with a small group of riders, which was good since it was our first time planning and leading such a ride.

We prepared for the ride by, of course, riding.  We rode ~40 mile rides many weekends in May, and ~50-70 mile rides in June, to be ready for this ride.  We started discussing it in March and set the date about a month ahead of time with a few of the riders who were really dedicated to riding it.

We planned a good amount of water/bathroom stops and regroup points, even adding one at 301 East Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92660 (Chevron/Subway) which had a very clean restroom and a great soda fountain with water/ice.

We cut the trip short of the routeslip by catching the train at Tustin instead of Irvine, but it worked out perfectly.  We learned that there's a Jack-In-The-Box and Subway/CircleK/76 to get snacks for the train.  We were only about 10 minutes early, but the train was a little late.

We met some new "bike people," other folks who enjoy freedom on two wheels as we do.  Altogether, the trip was inexpensive ($10 day pass for the train) especially since many of us brought our own snacks.  We got someone riding Metrolink that had never done it before.

Friday, July 3, 2015

LA River Ride ~ Report

The LA River Ride this year was hot, literally.  Of everything I could say about the day, the heat is the most noteworthy.  According to the Weather Underground, the temperature was 97 degrees.  Although at some points on the roads, a cycling computer read well into the triple digits.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) did a fantastic job of providing water stops.  Hollenbeck Park had restrooms and large water reservoirs (and music!).  Maywood and Dills Parks were also great!  There were small Clif bars, peanut-butter pretzels, water, electrolytes, and trail mix with nuts and rice crackers.

Hollenbeck Park
Maywood Park
Dills Park
Aquarium of the Pacific
I am extremely grateful to all the volunteers who made these rest stops possible.  I am also grateful to Wayne "Ridetime" Howard for taking us on the Metrolink Metric Century the weekend before the LA River Ride.  Riding in the heat for the majority of the day helped us prepare to successfully complete this ride without incident.

We completed 70 miles in about 7 hours, for some segments we were going 16-18 mph.  I will caution riders that the segment of the river trail around Firestone has some really nasty underpasses.  The trail zig-zags around some large curbs after going over a kind of bump and there is no visibility for riders coming under the roadway.  I'm not complaining, it's always great to have an underpass, but these ones are gnarly and we had a rider from our group collide with another rider in a head-on collision.  It's unclear who (if either of them) violated the centerline rule, and I'm not saying the trail should be removed or redesigned, but I am urging all cyclists to ride safely in this part of the course.  Riders that passed us, walking their bikes, mentioned that someone always "goes down" in this part of the ride, every year.

Friday, June 26, 2015

If the shoe fits...

I retired a flight of shoes this week.  It's hard because we've been through so much together.  I rely on my shoes to protect and cushion my feet.  I've been having pain in my feet, which may or may not be related to the wear and tear on the shoes.  A friend recently asked me why I would wear shoes with holes in them when I have plenty of money to buy new shoes.  

So let me tell a few stories about these retired shoes, to honor them before they are donated to reuse-a-shoe, Nike's recycling program to turn old shoes into new materials like flooring and jacket zippers.  If you want to recycle a few pairs of your old shoes, a few nearby recycling centers are:

Nike Running Pasadena
37 West Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91105

Fleet Feet Sports Burbank
1516 West Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91506

From Left to Right: The Asics TK61E was an impulse buy at Big 5 sporting goods in Claremont (or Montclair) on a day when I had to teach lab and I didn't have closed-toed shoes.  I used them for walking, running, cycling, commuting, and teaching.  I logged 139 miles of fitness on MapMyRide, and now they are retired.  

The Nike ZOOM NUCLEUS MC+ was a shoe that I researched and was fitted for at Running Center in Redlands.  I logged 282 miles of fitness on MapMyRide, these shoes ran probably 13 races and many training runs.  

The Nike DUAL FUSION RUN was an impulse buy on my way to participate in the Color Run in San Diego.  I loved that they were hot pink and I ran/walked only 70 miles with them, but wore them on many bike rides and for teaching.  

The Old Navy MESH SNEAKERS were on sale for probably $10.  I bought them because I loved the tennis-ball fluorescent yellow color.  Turns out they were like barefoot shoes and I wore them for many bike rides and for teaching.  

Last but not least, the red PUMA.  I bought those in Switzerland.  They may have been on sale.  I wanted something to remember my trip there, something that could not be found in the US.  I wore them for 10 years, they are shredded in the heel and have a hole in the toe.  The little gold puma details are falling off.  When I wear them it hurts, so it's safe to say these are cleared for retirement. 

Here's the new lineup (from left to right): New Balance 730 (W730RB2) is an ultra-lightweight running shoe. ACTEVA™ LITE midsole provides optimal resistance to compression set.  ACTEVA LITE is 24% lighter than standard foam because it is a blend of Elvaloy® and ENGAGE™ to increase flexibility, toughness, long-term outdoor exposure, and soft touch. I liked the color scheme and the way it felt like wearing a nice pair of slippers.

Fila Turbo Fuel Energized running shoe has a memory foam insole for extra comfort and CoolMax® technology for ventilation.  I really liked the color.  I don't know how they will feel to run in, but I will wear them for teaching and possibly also for Zumba.

New Balance 580 (W580SG3) is a classic running shoe with ABZORB® technology for cushioning made of Dupont ENGAGE™ elastomeric polymer, and a sole of Isoprene rubber for durability.  I realize these shoes are made from petroleum, and I wonder if there are shoes that are made of primarily renewable materials.

Specialized Cadet cycling shoes that have a simple black exterior and all kinds of hidden goodies.  First, the shoes have a Lollipop™ inner plate to enhance pedaling efficiency while EVA midsole stabilizes and cushions off the bike. Second, there is a Lacelock™ elastic mechanism to securely stow shoelaces so they won't catch in your chainring. Third, the shoe is decorated with reflective elements for enhanced visibility.  So far I love these.

Nike Flex TR5 has an EVA midsole. The bottom of the shoe has a rubber traction outsole with pods at high wear areas.  I liked the way it felt also like a slipper when I put it on.  The shoe weighs 7 ounces, putting it in the lightweight category.  I guess stability shoes can weigh anywhere from 10-13 ounces which is probably why it feels so weird that this would be a running shoe.

Of all these new shoes: I hope to find something good for walking, something good for standing (teaching), something good for running, something good for cycling, and something good for dancing!  I doubt I will find the perfect all-around shoe, but I hope each of these shoes eventually proves that they have a specialty.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer Lovin'

I had a flashback yesterday jumping in my car.  It's hot and humid here in Southern California and I felt like I was 17 years old again.  I felt a rush of excitement when I realized that I could just drive straight to the beach and enjoy the waves all day.  Then I realized that I'm a grown woman and I should instead go to the store and return home to analyze some data.

It was interesting to entertain the idea for a moment and to contrast what was going on in my head 17 years ago with what is going on in my head now.  I just realized in the process of writing this that I had a flashback to half my life ago.  I used to absolutely LOVE summer.  I used to love waking up early and going to work at a telemarketing job (indoors) then heading to the pool to "lay out."  To me that was the epitome of summer.

Now I think about SPF 50, large hats, and polarized lenses before what bikini to wear.
I guess some things don't change, I still like my frames to have a cat-eye and tortise-shell.  I still like the color blue.  I still like to prevent chapped lips.  But instead of trying to get bronzer, I'm worried about sun spots.  Instead of laying around listening to the FM radio, I'd rather run in the sea and sand and try to tone up my tush.

We're biking from Anaheim to San Juan Capistrano this weekend with a large group.  The event is called the Metrolink Metric Century.  I've done enough biking events that I will not wear a sexy little tank top.  Instead I will wear something sensible (with sleeves) and my arm coolers (providing SPF 50).  I guess that's the difference between 17 and 34.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Jewel City Ride ~ Report

The 3rd annual Jewel City Ride (Glendale, CA) was a fantastic success!  We had 3 bike rides: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.  Having done some of the climbing for the advanced ride, I know for sure that it was a challenge.  My husband and I marshalled the intermediate ride.

In total there were about 130 riders.  The majority of cyclists chose the Fun & Fitness ride.  The feedback we heard from those riders towards the middle or back of the pack were that they didn't expect that many hills.  Even though the bigger hills from the 2nd annual event (last year) were moved to the Gear Grinder, some felt that there were still too many hills.  But the person who was saying that had only one gear on their bike.  There were very few complaints actually!  We had great weather and the cars we encountered were well-behaved.

The feedback we got from the Gear Grinder riders is that they got "dizzy" in the switchbacks leading up to North Glendale.  I'm glad it wasn't just me.  I wish I had taken some pictures of the event, but I was pretty focused on keeping everyone on our ride safe that I didn't want any other jobs.  There were professional photographers for the event, so it wasn't necessary to take pictures.  The other comment from Gear Grinder riders is that they would have liked to see an elevation profile.

The event got some good media coverage from Mr. CiclaValley and Streetsblog LA.  Some people on the ride indicated that they really weren't comfortable riding in traffic.  It may be a good idea to check out Bicycle Safety Classes throughout June, July, August, and September.  They will be held at a variety of locations including Claremont, Culver City, Downtown LA, North Hills, Long Beach, Pacoima, Reseda, and Santa Monica.  These classes are FREE of charge, thanks to Metro and a grant from the CA Office of Traffic Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

BIG THANKS to the Glendale Rotary Noon for helping secure funding for this event and for providing support at the water stops (and for all the other things you all did that I'm not aware of).  It made a great community event to have the picnic cooked up by Rounds Burgers.  Some wondered why many of the sign-ups happened during the last few days leading up to the event, but from what we heard, many participants found about the event through word of mouth.