Friday, March 30, 2012

I've gone Cycle Chic, too

A few days ago I was riding behind this cyclist who didn't want to get her leather(?) shoes wet. So she did the Cycle Chic Thing, lifted her feet up to avoid the splashes. Lifting the feet doubles the chic-ness! :-D

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pictures from week 12/2012

The first two are from a few days back. In the first pic, the slosh has been plowed to the sides on the bikeway, making it a good ride.
Not so on the streets.

These are from today. Now you can find benches to sit on the river side trail, they're not buried in snow any more. On the north side of the river, there's no shadow except a few trees, so the snow will melt here fast. Note the muddy patch ahead and how all tracks go around to avoid it. The ground is still frozen and will not let water through. So when the snow melts, the soil get sun too and will melt for a few inches. And water plus soil plus people moving on it means it'll be muddy.

The path is on the right side of the river on this photo. For some reason there's no ice on the right, maybe because the curve of the river causes faster or more turbulent currents. A few days ago there was an article in the newspaper telling people to not go on the ice here...
There's so much gritting sand in places it's almost like a sandy path. Now one has to be careful in curves and while turning, this time it's because of the sand instead of the ice.
This was on the south side of the river. Where the path was shadowed by high buildings there was ice, otherwise the path was rapidly losing the ice. Behind one of the trees was a speed display. I don't often ride this path (or drive the street), at least in this direction so I don't know if it's been there long. I think the street has 50km/h limit.

What's really fun is that it gives speeds for cyclists too. I'm not sure if it has loops on the ground or if it has laser or something, but it didn't give speed to a pedestrian walking by. Maybe she was too slow. It worked for the cyclists even though I was standing in front of it with a camera.
It's not a good spot to make speed records, as there's an intersection ahead and several paths from the park on the right merging with this one. But if you want to check your speedometer, this can be handy.

Holes on the bikeway

Now this is a rare sight on a bikeway: a traffic sign warning that there's a narrow point ahead due to work being done. In the first picture, you can see the headlights of a lorry parked in the underpass. That's quite unusual, too.

From the other side of the road you'll see they've put fences around these two huge holes in the ground. And in the hole is the district heating pipes, maybe 40cm in diameter. It looked like the the workers were replacing some of the pipes, because there was one man with a welder, and two looking at him work, as usual :-) It seemed they were pumping hot water into the sewers, so I guess there was a leak.

If I recall correctly, they had shut down one part of the district heating plant for maintenance that day, so fixing the pipes when there's no pressure on them makes sense.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sunday ride to the beach

I uploaded a bunch of videos of my Sunday ride to youtube. I went to the campground to roast some sausages on a stick. On the way back, I took a detour and went to see the sightseeing tower.

First, I noticed that the top layer of the snow has been heated enough by the sun to make the snow wet. Then during the night the wet snow froze, creating a hard layer on top of the snow. This time, it was strong enough to keep me and the bike on top. Except on a few spots where it wasn't and I crashed through.

I rode on after the first clip, but I kept sinking more frequently, as the snow got weaker. So I decided trying to get closer to the wind mills and the ships was not going to work. I turned around and spotted something interesting on the horizon.

The darn kite keeps going further and further. So I had to wait until he changed direction and came back for a closer look. The kite seemed larger than I had thought they would be. Would that be 10 square meters? But then the wind was pretty weak, so maybe he chose his biggest kite to get most of it.

You might recognize the tower from my midsummer videos. The beach, you wouldn't. They had dug up the whole beach. They're dredging the sea to make it better for swimming, and it seemed like they had piled up the sand too.

So on the way home I couldn't ride on the paths on the beach, as it was closed. I rode a street before turning to a bikeway.

It isn't all sun and roses on the bikeways either. The gritting sand is dark and the sun will warm it up. The warm sand will then sink in to the ice. That's not a big problem as such, as there will be tiny holes on the ice which give traction. But when the water freezes again, the ice will be smooth again.

Edit: added a photo of the kite.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sloshy video uploaded

I took some clips and put together a video. The clips might not be in chronological order, but it's only a few days difference. You'll see what the biking conditions were on the sunny days this week. Pretty good on the bikeways, streets not so good. Annoyingly, youtube's annotations buttons are not working, again. So I'll keep trying for a week or two before the buttons suddenly work.

Even more annoyingly, the camera kept shutting down. The built-in battery has 230mAh and extra batteries (old cell phone batteries) at least 1500mAh. They can give 300mA for the led light with no problems, but 50mA for the camera seems to be too much. Even with a fully loaded extra battery set it wouldn't record more than 20 minutes in one go. Restart and again it'd record for a while. Very tiny leds show whether the camera is on or not, and they're almost invisible in the daylight. Indoors it'll record fine. Is it too cold outside or what gives? Whine whine. :-)

And because the camera kept shutting down, I didn't get a nasty close pass on video. You might spot the location on the video. I'm riding on a bikeway until the street merges from the right. It's on a hill, downhill to the left and uphill to the right. I wanted to go left, but there's railway tracks so I had to ride on the street until the next underpass 400m away. I could've turned right and rode on a bikeway next to the road there, but who wants to ride uphill when it's not necessary.

Maybe ten seconds (or even less) after the camera shut down on that street, a car came down the hill and honked at me. I started to move to the side to let him pass. But before I even completed my move, he passed me pretty fast with less than half a meter clearance. On a sloshy street where one might fall at any moment! On the other hand, there's no record of my colorful comments to his driving skills.

But, it's a dead end street and I know what the car looks like. The Easter Witch might visit a little early... >:-)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Playing In the Snow with Sherlock Holmes

The snow can both hide things and give clues.

The first picture shows a taxi on the sidewalk.  I thought it'd make a nice pic for my "naughty drivers" collection. Ok, taxis stop everywhere when they stop to pick or drop someone. Usually it's only temporary. But was that the case here?

What clues does this picture give? Two very obvious ones: no tyre marks in the snow means the snow came later, and huge snow free blot where the taxi was parked. Both mean that the taxi was here for a while. And because there was some snow on the roof but the windows were clean, the heat (and the engine) must have been on while the car was parked there. If there's no heat, the snow will freeze on the windows. So, parking in the sidewalk and idling the engine for who knows how long.

Well, Watson, what can we see in the picture below?

First, the snow banks on the sides are only knee high. That's because they've been pushed further away, under the trees. Looks like they've done it on both sides of the street, but it's more obvious on the left. We consider that as proof that the bikeway maintenance crew expects the snow melt this year, too.

Unfortunately I left my kneepads home, so I didn't examine the tyre tracks on the snow more closely. Therefore I can't tell you that ten minutes earlier a man weighing so-and-so many kilos rode south and returned  six minutes later after dropping of a letter at the post office. Why, there are sixteen new snowflakes on the tyre tracks, which gives the time difference. Also the tyre marks were 0,1 millimeter narrower on the back, so it's obvious he delivered something lightweight, under 50 grams, and the post office is in that direction.  Elementary, Watson!

Here the bikeway looks pretty smooth, and for the most part it is. There are just a little annoying things hidden under the snow. Old tyre marks left in the softened ice yesterday, and now they've frozen. The grooves here weren't very deep. Maybe an inch in the worst places. When they're up to four five inches in intersections where the snow plows fail to do the work properly, that's practically nothing.
Still, the grooves made the ride feel wobbly. It made me think I should go see if the studded tyres are on an end of icy season sale? Too early for that, yet. Maybe in June. Although the supermarkets have already started stocking their bike displays.

Part of the reason I felt so wobbly was very high pressure in the tyres. I have pumped them up to make the bike roll better. High pressure means smaller part of the tyres touch the ground, or ice in this case. The tyres aren't so elastic and will stay round, which means that they'll be more likely to get caught in the grooves instead of rolling over them. No, the tyre will actually seek the grooves.

So I decided to try if it would be better if I lowered the pressure. Here's a 'before' picture of the front wheel with approximately the right weight on the wheel. Leaning forward to take the picture changed the balance a bit but there's hardly any give in the tyre.
Watson, tell me what is that? --------^
There isn't an after picture, because after I deflated the tyres a little I had to re-inflate them again to stop the wall of the tyres touching the ground. Then I started riding, thinking I'd take the after picture if the pressure was right. Well, by the time I arrived at my destination I had forgotten about it. Sorry.

I wasn't so wobbly. It worked.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Urbanization is not a solution to climate change

The local newspaper had an article about a thesis by Jukka Heinonen from Aalto University. The English name is "A carbon consumption comparison of rural and urban lifestyles". He compared the metropolitan area and villages and towns of different sizes.

His study found that people in Helsinki metropolitan area have nearly 30% bigger carbon footprint than people living in the rural areas. In rural areas the carbon foot print is less than 9 tons of CO2, vs. almost 13 tons in the metropolitan area. So based on the C02 footprint, urging people to move into more densely built cities to combat climate change is wrong.

Obviously people in rural areas have long distances to travel and their transportation produces 1,96 tons of CO2. The difference to the citizens of the capital is not big, as they produce 1,6 tons. This shows that people in the cities are using their car a lot for commuting and other daily trips. Helsinki does have a small metro and obviously there are buses. But car seems to be the king.

Interestingly, the diagram in the article shows that public transport causes more CO2 (a bigger share of the pie) in rural areas than in towns and cities. How can that be? Did they also count the kids? In many villages the bus only comes twice a day: in the morning to take kids to school and in the afternoon to bring them back? Well, maybe they also count taxi trips to the hospitals and such. Those could bring the averages up a bit.

All the computers and tv's and other gadgets use electricity, and it's also used for heating. Not so much for air conditioning. :-P A third of the footprint is caused by heating and electricity. That's not a big surprise, as there's a long cold and dark season called winter. Using Incandescent light bulbs would make sense in those conditions, but they're phasing out. Might I note that some energy saving light bulbs do not work well in cold.

City dwellers also have higher room temperatures in their apartments than their rural cousins. Often the heating energy bill is part of the rent or maintenance charge, and if it's not measured and billed for each apartment separately, there's no incentive to save energy. In a high-rise, the controls are behind locked doors in the maintenance rooms, and people are not to touch anything. Where as in the country, each homeowner sees the energy bills and can fiddle with the controls as much as he likes to save energy. And almost all houses in the country can be heated by renewable energy from firewood.

The biggest cause for the difference is money. The greedy big-city slickers :-) earn "big bucks" and they also spend the money. They travel abroad, drive around the city to buy things and to see ballet and opera and concerts and eat at fancy restaurants, where they throw a lot of food away. All that driving around on free time and consuming makes a lot of CO2. Apparently Australians have noticed the same thing in their studies.

Where as the income level in the countryside is lower. All those fancy big city things are so far that it takes a whole day to go there so country people don't go see them often even if they had the money. If there's no way to consume, there will be no CO2 either. The footprint of food is similar everywhere, but I can't be sure if they considered gardens people might have in the country side, or meat they got by hunting. Bullets and guns have a high footprint so maybe it evens out. :-)

The study finds that living in a densely built urban city does not automatically mean it's a more ecological than living in a rural area. It's the choices that make the difference.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Snow and puddles

Two days ago: snowed a little. The previous sunny days are just a memory and streets and bikeways have ice and snow everywhere, like they used to just a few days ago. Nice tyre tracks on the crossing!

Yesterday: what fresh snow? The sun has melted it all. And the melt waters make ice softer and easier to melt.
I guess warm weather gets under the bridge and makes the snow melt faster. And there's no shadows, either. Almost ice free already.

Just wait until this freezes again!
Look, what a great job: she gets to play in the puddles and gets paid for it. Sounds like a dream job. If you ignore that the water is near freezing, that is.
On the right: nice, icy, slippery bikeway.

Oh, see how the puddle is almost to the center line? Well, a car driver decided he didn't want to go all the way to the oncoming lane. The results were just what you expect, she got splashed. I think it was lucky the car went out of her reach. If the look she gave was any clue, she would have happily used the iron bar on the car. So maybe it isn't so great job after all.

In some places it's going to be a while before the ice melts. Here it hasn't even started yet.
Ah, what a nice mirror smooth patch of ice that will be. Meltwater dripping/ running down to an underpass.

Late last nigh it snowed again, but not a lot. The conditions on the bikeways vary a lot. Some are melting, some not. I even had the video camera on the bike today, but for some reason the camera has started vibrating on the bracket again and the footage is no good. But as the days are sunny, I'll have plenty of chances to try again. I'm sure someday I'll get the camera attached properly.

A bikeway next to an arterial on the far right.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Winter holiday week brings the sunshine

After getting attacked by hungry reindeers I've been in so much pain and shock that I couldn't lift my fingers to blog anything. Of course, I was able to ride around and get some pictures.

Hmm, let's see. Two weeks ago it used to snow a lot. I think it snowed nearly every day. It was cold, fluffy snow so it made some impressive snow drifts where the wind dropped it.

Snow plow men were happy, as they were money by the bucket. (The thing in front of the front loader is a bucket, right? So I guess that was a pun!) The piles were getting higher and higher. Here's one big pile blocking the view on the intersection. It''s as high as the traffic signs, so you'll have to be almost in the intersection to see if anyone is coming on the big street.

It's not so bad in this intersection. I should have taken a photo of a really nasty intersection for cyclists. Cars have only a 60 degree turn instead of an usual 90, and even the curve radius isn't tight enough so they'll be going too fast when they turn off the road (which has 60 km/h limit). When there's a snow pile so high that only my head might be visible to drivers and my lights are not, I'm not taking any risks on trusting them to yield like they should.

Although today a lorry driver did yield. :-)

It doesn't snow a lot here in Very Northern Florida. Usually it's an inch or three at a time. But it does add up. All kinds of park furniture, like benches and trashcans...

and street furniture like bollards will be buried in snow. For obvious reasons there aren't too many bollards around. Small metal boxes for electric or phone networks will be lost too. They sometimes have a stick painted in yellow and black on the roof so the maintenance crews will find them when they get buried in the snow, and the snowplow men will not plow them away.

Then, last week the snowy cloudy days stopped. It rained water! Just a little, but it should be against the law anyway. I makes me wet! Sun shone brightly, and warmly enough to melt some snow off the railing. Is this the first sign of the spring?
This week is the Winter Holiday week for elementary schools and high schools in the region. Southern parts of Finland had the holiday earlier, before all the snow melts away there. Not quite that warm here. Skiing conditions are great.

Today I got jealous. The cars have ice free streets, and what do I get? Icy bikeways, with run off water making them slippery! With two inch deep tyre tracks, when the slush freezes!

A look in the other direction shows that it'll be a long while before the bikeways will be ice free. The trees cast a little shadow on the path and there's no sign of the ice melting. Add in a few weeks of possible fresh snow, and the fact that a lot of the bikeways go through woods, and we'll be talking about April.
Except this sunny slope the bikeways were in good shape, and on the other hand the streets weren't totally ice free, either. There are shadows on the streets too. In fact, at the moment the gritted bikeways are better than the ungritted streets.