Peeve cubed

I don’t plan to make a habit of this, but I would like to say that I think Language Log has thoroughly worn out its/their welcome on entries that solely constitute being peeved by people being peeved about (various things) about language.

It’s still moderately interesting when they explore the history and usage of the construction that the person is peeved about, but this entry of Pullum’s (don’t go read it, I link only for the record) is content-free except for complaining (sans data) that there is no reason to be peeved about these peeves. This is almost vacuous and is certainly obvious considering the list is so long and includes so many inoffensive words and phrases.

This will be the last time that I peeveblog about peeveblogging about peeves.

Saturday ride #8: Coastal ride

Due to exhaustion I am lacking in my usual verbosity. Therefore, mostly you get statistics, nouns, and adjectives.

DST: 50.5 mi (my computer reported 55 but that is not correct, and I don’t know why — I’m thinking a detector in Palo Alto)
AVS: 11.8 (…oy)
MXS: ~32 (84 descent)
Ride time: 4:36
Total elevation gain: 5450 ft (per Bikely)
Total time: ~8 hrs (yes, we spent almost half the time resting…see previous stat)

Preparation: Brisk
Sand Hill: Okay -> Bleargh.
Old La Honda: Very Difficult (1 hour climbing time = AVS 3 mph…oy)
Skyline: Reward!
CA-84 (descent): amazingly pleasant!
CA-84 (coast approach): scenic, windy
Stage Rd: Ridiculous
Hwy 1: Cliffs! Ocean! AWESOME!
Tunitas Creek: Nice -> Difficult -> Hellish -> Challenging
Kings Mountain: Frightening
Woodside and return: Pleasant, but hot and windy.

Company: Terrific (thanks J, C, and D)
Food eaten: 2.5 energy bars, several of D’s dates, a veggie sandwich, two spring rolls
Liquids drunk: 1 27-oz bottle Vitamin Water, 1.25 Camelbaks water
Most awesome products: C’s Enlyten electrolyte strips (weirdly yum), chamois cream (would not have lived through this without it)
Pain points: butt (climbing), thighs (climbing), hands (descending KM)
Spiffy breathing techniques learned: 1
Sections walked: 1
Breaks taken: Too numerous to count!
Sense of accomplishment: Powerful.

“Looming”/chase instinct as a cause of fear among cyclists?

I was riding to downtown Sunnyvale today and got passed by a couple cars while sharing a lane. Absolutely nothing notable about it from a traffic standpoint, except that for several of them I was checking my rearview mirror as they came up and I found that I had an instinctive fear as they approached, almost a startle reaction, in spite of the fact that I could see that all was well. This is unusual for me, in part because I know that strike-from-behind accidents are only around 4% of car-bike accidents (largely at night with unlit cyclists), much less than many other kinds, notably left-cross and right-hook accidents, and in part because my experience accords with that — risky passing is not uncommon, but it’s usually clear that the driver knows where I am, but just doesn’t know that they shouldn’t be that close to me in case I move for some reason.

Nevertheless, overtaking accidents are a disproportionately common fear among potential, new, or inexperienced traffic cyclists, to the extent that many people prefer separated paths in spite of the fact that statistics suggest that in urban environments they increase intersection conflict significantly while reducing only the infrequent overtaking collisions. People feel safer when there’s a barrier to overtaking. Why?

I speculate that it may be due to something inbuilt. Babies have an instinctive negative reaction to someone “looming” (a large object moving rapidly into their space, especially overhead). And we all also know that if someone is chasing you who means you ill, and they catch up to you, your goose is cooked. Cars overtaking both loom (they are large objects coming into the field of perception at a rapid rate) and chase.

In spite of knowing about the low frequency of overtaking collisions, I usually1 feel safer on bike-laned roads than on shared-lane roads where the lane is marginal for sharing (wide, unstriped shoulders feel the same to me as bike lanes — also interesting to note). It feels like I have my own space, into which the other person is not likely to move without a sign of some kind.2 So even I’m clearly subject to this fear, despite my experience and statistics telling me that it’s not proportional.

I would suggest that whether or not it’s true that this fear has some deeply-rooted basis, this might be a useful way to approach the people who fear this. Rather than dismissing their concerns blithely with “not backed up by statistics”, say “I understand that this situation feels really threatening to you. I even agree that it can feel that way. However…”

Both actual safety and the perception of safety are important. Without the perception of safety, people will not engage in desired behavior (like walking and cycling). But perceived safety shouldn’t conflict with actual safety (ideally at all, but in practice, excessively). Given city setup and cycling practice in the US, sidepaths are generally a terrible idea even if they ‘feel’ safer.

1There are exceptions, mainly bike lanes that are partly in the door zone. The stretch of Old County/Pacific in San Mateo County that feels least safe to me is the section with bike lanes, because I feel that the possibility for conflict is greater if I choose to ride out of the bike lane (as I often do). Ditto Lytton Ave in Palo Alto (feels less safe than University) and Middlefield Rd in the block right before Montrose heading toward San Antonio.

2LAB teachers and religious VCs will here say “You’re clearly too far to the right then, because with proper lane positioning you communicate to drivers that this is your lane.” This may be true in some cases, but I would also note that you can only communicate with people who are receptive to your communication. My observed experience is that my lane position can help or hurt, but that overall people behave more inconsistently around narrow shared lanes, especially those with varying or marginally wide width. And inconsistency is scarier than predictability — which is the whole of the VC mindset!

And as far as passing in adjacent lanes feeling safe or not, it’s rare for cars to be passed consistently, repeatedly, with high speed differential in the adjacent lane because car speeds are normally roughly comparable. When the speeds are not comparable, such as on a freeway at rush hour when the HOV lane is running 65 and the regular lanes are running 25-35, sit in the leftmost travel lane trying to merge and try telling me you don’t feel threatened by the looming, chasing cars.

On any given day, where would you rather be?

The radio was on this morning in the shuttle, playing various things, including a traffic report. It was almost like it was calculated: 101-S is a complete mess in two different places, as is 237. Aren’t you glad you’ve been on the train?

But of course, on any given day, you might rather be on the road if there’s a Caltrain snafu. Still, just thinking of all the nightmarish traffic I regularly miss was a reminder of why I prefer a cycling/transit commute.

On the other hand, I find Caltrain just mind-boggling sometimes. Recently, they decided to change the shuttle schedule for the shuttle I take. I discovered the shuttle back some months ago and was thrilled to find that I could not bike and still take the fast trains. It used to connect to the limited train in the mornings and I would arrive at work around either 8:30 or 9:30, which was great because the bullet trains + bike got me to work at either 8:00 or 9:00, and the local train + walking around 9:15, so I could pretty much arrive at any time I chose, with intervals of 15-30 minutes. That’s about all I expect or need as far as tolerances. There was even a late shuttle run that would get me to work around 10 on the unusual occasion I can’t get in any earlier. In the evenings, it picked up at 5:15 or 6:15 and connected to the bullet and limited trains that got me home around 6 or 7 (usually the latter). Perfect.

Well, nothing is perfect for everyone (the bullet people used to wait quite a while for the shuttle to leave, for example), but the change was just stunningly bad. Suddenly the shuttle only connected to the morning (crowded, slow) local train, despite the fact that the bullet comes in only a few minutes later. (Which, additionally, would push more people onto the bullets’ crowded bike cars, since they no longer had the shuttle option.) In the evenings, the convenient pickup times had changed to inconvenient 5:45 and 6:45, the latter completely killing the time advantage for the last shuttle in the evening, and only connected to local trains also.

They’ve now retooled the schedule again — to their credit, they have fixed the morning and it makes complete sense now. It meets the local and bullet trains, albeit not the limited, and most people who take it get to work around 9. Cool. This is awesome. (Why not do this in the first place?!)

But the afternoon schedule is still bizarre and, to my view, stupid. The pickup times have moved ten minutes earlier so that allegedly the shuttle meets the limited trains, at least. However, the leeway is one minute. You need at least five minutes of leeway in case the shuttle is late, and/or to cross the platform, buy or validate a ticket, etc. Plus, they are now claiming to meet the bullet trains, even though they really are not doing so, because you would have to wait almost an hour for a northbound bullet. (Most people who take these shuttles are going northbound in the evenings, in my experience. It looks like the schedule does serve the southbound trains a bit better, but considering a southbound bullet saves you a ten minutes, compared to a northbound one which saves you about twice that, and serves fewer people, I can’t see that this is a huge benefit.)

One of the biggest things that bothers me about how this has occurred, which is completely typical for Caltrain, is that they don’t seem to have actually thought the changes through from the perspective of the users, or communicated to the users aside from announcing the new schedule, or asked for feedback, or anything. (I think a lot of people have called or written them to complain, though. I certainly did.) The complete illogic isn’t necessarily typical, but the fact that they’ve now gone through three schedules (one proposed, which I guess was so bad they just abandoned it and delayed the change by a week, and two actual) and the schedule still seems somewhat stupid, doesn’t really give me a lot of confidence that they thought about it, not just from a user perspective, but honestly, at all. It’s been so bad that even the drivers noticed it and started surveying people and collecting comments. I mean, really. Good for them, but what went wrong here that this was, and is, so messed up?

Wednesday brisk ride: Foothill commute

Back when I was planning my mileage for training, I decided that for some of the weekday rides with higher mileage, I would try doing my commute on Foothill rather than Bryant. It increases the hilliness and the mileage substantially. I went for that option this morning and was pleasantly surprised by it. After you pass Stanford, it’s really no more crowded than Bryant, and except for a few tricky intersections, not much more challenging either, except for spending more time on Mary (where the right lane is exactly that annoying width that means you need to take the lane if there are parked cars, and cars are exactly infrequent enough that people are annoyed by you taking the lane).

AVS: 15.3 mph (!)
DST: 16.3 mi (a bit more than I thought)
MXS: 27.3 (downslope after Page Mill)
Ride time: 1:03
Total time: 1:20 (real AVS 12.2)

I did get a few typical annoyances: getting buzzed a few times — by both cyclists and motorists, people trying to turn right at stupid times, etc. There was a particular pair of cyclists on JS/Foothill that annoyed me greatly. One of them buzzed me, and then they failed to actually go much faster than I did until nearly Arastradero, because they were stopped by lights. And after the intersection of Page Mill where the bike lane narrows, they were still riding two abreast where there was really no room, resulting in a truck honking loudly and sustainedly right next to me. I don’t think the honking was appropriate, but neither is riding two abreast for no reason except your own pleasure on a road with a 45-mph speed limit in the travel lanes.

I do wish that more drivers knew that passing cyclists isn’t their God-given right though. I feel like the lives of most cyclists in the state or nation would improve greatly if every driver’s ed course and driving test asked two basic questions and required them to be answered correctly: do cyclists have a right to ride on the road (yes), and what should you do when you find a cyclist in your lane (slow down, be patient, and pass when safe, leaving a margin for error).

There’s a stretch of Foothill where I think the road must be uphill, but it looks really flat. But every time I’m on that stretch I’m going 13-14mph thinking “Why does this feel so hard?” And then once I pass it I start going 20mph, so I think it’s an invisible uphill/downhill thing.

The weirdest intersection is the one for Foothill/Fremont/Miramonte/Loyola. I had forgotten how awful it is to navigate (you can see from the map why, because there are all those roads coming together and you have to exit, turn left, turn right, and turn left in order to turn left), and waited there a long time, but people were courteous and I got through without incident.

I always find the South Bay a bit mind-bending because I imagine Mary and Mathilda as E-W but they actually are very much N-S, so I kept thinking, “Wait, I got off on Fremont and I’m going east because Foothill is N-S, so how am I going to turn onto Mary and still end up going east?” forgetting that Mary is only logically E-W (in that it’s perpendicular to the train tracks/Central, which go “south” to San Jose) and is actually N-S.

I’m feeling pretty good this morning, and thinking I might do this commute again in the future, and not just for training — it’s more fun than Bryant and Middlefield.

Tour de San Mateo

Much unlike the Tour de Menlo, today’s Tour de San Mateo was a ride thrown around as a concept by another member of SVBC a while back: just a small tour of the interesting bits of San Mateo. I was instantly in, since I used to live in San Mateo and am quite fond of it.

The ride was a relaxed meader through neighborhoods, parks, trails, and bridges. It was a thoughtfully-designed route and very enjoyable. The best parts were the neighborhoods in the southwest where I hadn’t been, which were classic, pretty San Mateo neighborhoods of the kind that I loved walking through when I lived there, and touring what I call “Secret San Mateo” because you can only get there from either Fashion Island or a freeway exit that exists in only one direction (Kehoe Ave on US-101 N). It was nice to see that they’ve been repaving some of the worst streets since I lived there, though there’s plenty left to do.

The lowlight was, sadly, the Monte Diablo bike/ped bridge. There are no pavement cutouts to access it (not just bad for us — what about wheelchairs?!) and it’s incredibly narrow and twisty on the approaches. I don’t know if you’re supposed to walk your bike or what, but it was also full of glass and clearly being used as a camping spot by homeless people, meaning I’d never take it during questionable times of day even if I could get over the totally stupid design. This is really a pity because it’s by far the simplest route over the freeway in the northern area of the city. I don’t know how they managed to screw this up so badly (the bridge was only just completed earlier this year).

I took the North-South Route up and back, since I was supposed to be doing my long mileage day today. Old County has just turned into a washboard since the last time I was on it (for the N-S Route Ride about a year and a half ago). It’s in desperate need of a paving job. San Carlos, Belmont — I will contribute if you need to pass the collection plate to get this darn road fixed up.

Exhaustion caught up to me at the end and I terminated as I reached home, around 37 miles, shaky after hitting a bad bump on Middlefield and just totally worn out despite an average speed of only 11 mph. I just woke up from a nap forced on me by sheer exhaustion, so I’m still a bit wibbly. This is one of those “can’t complete mileage because too exhausted” days, which I haven’t had in a while.

So if I haven’t called/emailed you lately, it’s not because I don’t like you, it’s just because I’m running very low on reserves.

Climbing and the ethics of posting ride routes

I entered the route for Tour de Menlo 2008 into my Bikely routes, but I haven’t published it as public because I’m not sure whether that’s polite. The route creators presumably put some work into creating the route (and they did a good job), and maybe don’t want other rides to borrow it wholesale.

Update: A few days later, it occurs to me that the ride route is given as a PDF on their site. That being the case, I think publishing it really can’t do any harm. It’s now linked above.

On the other hand, I would like to be able to show it, because it’s an interesting route to look at and for other people to use individually, and I did a good amount of hard work just now creating the cue sheet correctly (which in Bikely means notating all the turns with the direction and street name) — which the Tour did not do.

The total climb for that ride is about 3600 ft, so it’s roughly analogous to W2W Day 2, being only 7 miles shorter and having the same listed amount of climbing. That’s actually about the amount of climbing I estimated it had, because it felt like doing my hard 34-mile ride (1800 ft climbing) and then doing it again, which it pretty much is. I may do this route again (with a couple of modifications because I think some of their decisions were weird, and also I might rather reverse it and try to climb Montebello first, and then the rest of it — though I don’t know how that might work with the rest of the route) as a training ride, maybe on the last Saturday before W2W.

Only three weeks til the ride! My goodness. I’m glad though, since I’m getting close to being ready to take a break from having cycling be the #3 thing in my life after work and functioning.

Ride report: Berkeley! Grizzly Peak!

This morning I went up to Berkeley to ride with my friends/team members up there, J & C (you guys let me know if you want full names or initials on the blog). We had planned to do a 38-mile route up Grizzly Peak that I found on Bikely (Downtown Berkeley – Grizzly Peak – Skyline – Pinehurst). The full route has 5000ish feet of climbing, so I figured if we could do that, we could do W2W (which it turns out likely has closer to 5500 and 3200 ft of climbing rather than the 8000/5000 listed on the topo map due to topo overestimation). So it would be a useful test, and an interesting challenge.

But in the end, we took a wrong turn on Skyline (possibly due to the cue sheet being left, with my book, back at their apartment) and did a 24-mile ride up Grizzly Peak and Skyline and down Tunnel, then out to the Marina for a quick lunch/snack (1700 ft climbing, instead of the 5000ish given for the full route) and back to their apartment.

The 1700 ft of climbing was mostly in the first 6 miles, with the next four being variably up and down, then down for the last part. Spruce was somewhat brutal and I was dripping sweat and had stopped to rest twice (briefly, just so my heart wouldn’t beat out of my chest) by the time we got to Grizzly Peak Blvd. But the rest of the climbing was relatively gentle, though I stopped to rest once more later on. The lower gears on my touring bike helped, though toting a rack pack probably didn’t. Descending was a challenge, but my brakes stood up to it, and I felt that on the long downhill I was practicing good technique in when I decelerated and when I coasted, so that was very useful.

We all remarked afterward that we didn’t feel too terrible and thought both that we could have gone on (though none of us wanted to climb back up in order to do so…so…who knows!) and that despite being cut short, it was a good prep ride because so much climbing is compacted into so little mileage. It turned out well in many ways, giving me time to meet someone for coffee afterward and J time to get to the airport. I also saw Berkeley Bowl for the first time (finally, you are all saying). What a great place, wow! I wish I lived near there. It’s like every grocery store I’ve ever been to, plus a farmer’s market, rolled into one, all on steroids. We saw Mt. Tam cheese there, which I’ve been led to believe is amazing. C and I joked about how expensive it was and said that it would be a treat for after Waves to Wine, rather than for today.

The picnic table we found at the Marina was just sheltered enough to be pleasant without being hot. To get there, we inadvertently missed the turn onto Addison down to the bike/ped bridge, and illegally crossed on University instead. People were surprisingly patient given the total silliness of our presence on that overpass. It must happen reasonably often since the sign that warns you away is small and placed just after you get on. (City of Berkeley, please note.) On the way back we enjoyed the peace on the bike/ped bridge.

I noticed that most drivers up on the hill, in contrast, were not at all patient and would pass too close and at awkward times. Another cyclist we saw reported he had a guy come up behind him rapidly and skim by so close he touched him (and on the downhill too). Augh! I wonder why the distinction in behavior.

My total mileage for today was around 28 miles (counting all the incidental mileage I did), so I’m just going to re-divide the weekend mileage and do around 50 tomorrow so it should equal out, more or less. Despite the intensity of the climbing, I am feeling restless and eager to do more tomorrow. I think I have reached the point of needing a certain amount of intense physical exercise to feel good — which at this point in training I think is a very good place to be!

Two things that are fantastic

I’ve had kind of a crazy week — maybe kind of a crazy month, really — and two things this week were particularly fantastic:

Dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes from Ella Bella Farm

These tomatoes are expensive compared to most of the heirlooms and organic tomatoes at the Menlo Park Farmer’s Market — they cost I think $3 or $3.50 a pound. But they are SO WORTH IT. OMG. They are fantastic and amazing and so flavorful and with great structure and they are great alone or in tomato-basil-mozzarella sandwiches and they pep up anything they are in, making a salad into a fun hunt-the-tomatoes experience.

XKCD Store‘s customer service

A while back I ordered the Regular Expressions shirt from the XKCD store and I got it when I got back from Portland, but I hadn’t worn it until this week (everyone at work loves it, incidentally). When I did I found a small hole in the shirt. I wrote to the XKCD store person saying, hey, I found this hole, I don’t think I made it but I can’t be sure, and they said, basically, “No worries! We’ll send you a new shirt right away! Feel free to keep the old one!” How awesome is that? Love.

Wall-E should probably make this list too, because it is really sweet and funny and I liked it a lot, but foodie geek that I am, the other two things actually make me happier. Tomatoes and XKCD FTW.

Do they even know it’s uphill?

As I have recorded here before, I am a poor climber. Even in the lowest gear of my triple-crank road bike, I find nearby hills like Edgewood and Arastradero challenging to climb, and have to use my leg strength (such as it is), rather than cadence, to ascend the hill.

I have been trying not to use this space to discuss my annoyance with other people, but I would hereby like to register annoyance with every cyclist who thinks it’s cute to tell me that I should 1) use a higher cadence because it’s bad to go anaerobic, or 2) go climb La Honda/Kings Mountain/whatever road they think I should be able to climb.

I am pretty bad at climbing. I cannot shoot up Edgewood at 12mph like the guys who passed us on the Tour de Menlo, about whom my riding partner eloquently expressed our collective thoughts: “Do they even know this is uphill?”

Please, all you people who can do that: for the love of Pete, just shut up, and don’t tell me what I should climb and how I should climb it.