Tuesday, March 27, 2007


It is amazing what you see, smell, taste and feel when riding a bike. One of the things I've noticed on my commute is street paint. Because Eugene has a lot of bike lanes there are wide white strips of paint separating the traffic lane from the bike lane. There are also "BIke Lane" signs painted on the roadway. Over the years this paint gets repainted many times and it appears that this happens when there is still plenty of paint on the pavement. Paint begins to build up until the paint is noticeably bumpy when riding over it. "BIKE LANE" thumpity-thump-thump-thump. Maybe the city repaints it because the paint gets dirty, not because it is wearing off. I've also noticed paint that is chipping away from the 1/8" thick strips. At first I thought it was glass; but the small white chips were just chunks of paint.

One advantage to the street paint is it's mostly smooth surface. Often I'll ride right on the bike lane stripe as it is the smoothest part of the road. I'm careful to do this when there isn't any traffic in the car lane, however. The bike lanes this time of year tend to collect all the gravel and other debris that is kicked to the side of the road by car traffic. So riding on the strip helps me avoid this.

And then the smells: the bakery pumping out whiffs of freshly baked bread; the piles of bark-o-mulch and wood chips; the sewage treatment plant and sometimes the scent of fresh flowers. There are also the sounds of birds along the river, the roar of train engines under the overpass and tapping of rain on my helmet. Then there is the box of chocolate doughnuts spilled in the bike lane by a passing motorist who inadvertently left them on the car roof when buying coffee and doughnuts at the Speedi-Mart. No, I wasn't even tempted.

Thursday, March 8, 2007


Eugene has bike lanes on most city streets. That's the good news. The bad news is the amount of debris that clutters those bike lanes making a bike commute an obstacle course. Enter the city streetsweepers. As a bike commuter, I'm well aware when a streetsweeper has worked on my route. One day it is rocks, branches, glass, dead animals and the occasional soda can. The next morning it is smooth sailing. I called the supervisor of streetsweepers to compliment the great work they do.

The other day there was a large ceramic vase smashed to pieces right in the middle of the bike lane. Over a few days the pieces of pottery as well as the wiring got ground into smaller and smaller pieces. Still it was something I had to ride around by going into the traffic lane. And therein lies the problem. You can just plow through all the debris, but you risk both flat tires and losing your balance. More realistically you keep one eye on the bike lane ahead and the other in your rearview mirrow to be alert to following traffic in case you need to move into the traffic lane.

And what's the worst things to have in your path? Well, it isn't glass. Beside objects the size of a small safe, the worst things are blackberry vines. Those thorns can give you a flat almost instantly. And Oregon is the home for wild blackberries growing in every vacant lot and unmaintained roadside.

I wonder what the streetsweepers' schedules look like? Do they take requests? It would almost be worth knowing their schedule and then adjusting my commute to follow the cleanest lanes.