Monthly Archives: June 2015

Fitness Friendly Cities?

For the last few years the League of American Bicyclists has been doing this Bicycle Friendly Community/State/Business program where they assess and study communities and grade them on their bicycle friendliness. Gee, that is great and all, but you know what? It is a load of bunk. What the League does with advocacy is a good thing, but ‘Bike Friendly’ is a mess. Worse, bike friendly is important to a relatively small segment of the population, but fitness friendly? Now we are talking.

Fitness is Important

Cycling is one way of getting and staying fit. It is not the most prevalent, nor is it the best for everyone. Bike lanes are great, but they serve a small population, and let’s be honest. We have roads already, we really don’t need bike lanes if people drive and ride with courtesy. What we do need are places for other fitness activities, and let’s face it, fewer car trips. What I want to know isn’t if a community is bicycle friendly, I want to know if it is fitness friendly.

What is Fitness Friendly?

A lot of things go into this, but ask yourself this. When you think of fitness activities, is your community conducive to them, and what fitness activities are we talking about. In many communities, in order to excercise, people have to get in a car to go someplace safe to do so. That is not fitness friendly. Fitness Friendly means that you can walk out your door and get to your workout without getting into a car to do so. If your children cannot go outside and play within walking distance of your home, you are not in a fitness friendly community, and that is what we need to be talking about.


Seems like the most basic item on the list. We actually use the act of walking to determine what is reasonable. “Walking Distance”. In most communities, we have roads. Roads built for transportation, but as cars have become the primary mode of transportation, any use of the roadway that isn’t a care has become increasingly dangerous. The solution in most communities has been to add sidewalks. Lovely. Can you hop on a sidewalk and walk to were you want to do your workout. Perhaps your workout is the walk. Can you go for a walk safely?


Running, jogging, speedwalking, or whatever has the same basic needs as walking. Do you have those facilities? What percentage of the roads in your community have the infrastructure to make this possible or reasonable. In your community, do you find runners in places that you deem unsafe due to a lack of infrastructure for them? Let us just ignore the runners that won’t run on the sidewalk because it is concrete and concrete is harder than asphalt (it is, but the difference is small enough that a decent pair of padded shoes will absorb the difference, and on that same note, if you are landing hard enough that it is an issue, you probably ought to see a coach about improving your run stride).


Oh lord, what a can of worms this is. What kind of cycling? Road cycling? that’s what roads are for. Mountain Bikes? off-road trails, Multi-Use Paths, and other options are all open question marks, but looking at a community and declaring it bicycle friendly is a huge thing when cycling itself encompasses so many different types of usage. This is my biggest issue with the League, they are too focused on too narrow a segment of cycling.


Do you have community accessible pools in walking distance? They don’t have to be owned and operated by the community, but need to be accessible. No they don’t have to be free to use either.


Are there trails for hiking, is the terrain even appropriate for these?


Are there rock faces, or artificial rock facilities in the area for use climbing?


You don’t want them on your sidewalks and near your place of business, then give them some place to go. Skate parks aren’t that complex or expensive.


Standard width sidewalks won’t satisfy this. You need full Multi-Use Pathways to support these in community, but that isn’t a bad thing. The wider widths work well to support other mixed mode usages, like jogging with strollers.


Does your community have facilities for organized, or even open air yoga and cardio classes?

Weight Lifting

Does your community have workout facilities that offer weight training equipment?

Bike Friendly != Fitness Friendly != Bike Friendly

This is the whole point, you can be one or the other and not be both. But let’s go a step further.

A couple of years ago, MapMyFitness had a page that ranked cities around the world on how many activities were logged, by quantity, against the population size of the cities. IT was an interesting ranking, because when you looked at it, there is a correlation between the Fitness Friendliness of a city and the number of activities logged, but there were also some outliers. I live in the Atlanta, GA area, so when I saw Atlanta on the list, I wondered about it. Atlanta didn’t have much fitness infrastructure, few bike lanes, few multi-use facilities, though it does have a few pretty good public park areas. Perhaps that is enough, but the real outlier for me was Cumming, GA in the small city category. Suburban Atlanta at it’s worst. Sprawling, virtually no walkable infrastructure, few public park facilities, and at the time, it was heavily focused on youth sports. In short, there were a lot of people working out, but they were driving to destinations to make it happen. So while Cumming, GA may be a fit city, it is not terribly fitness friendly.

Time for a Fitness Friendly Certficiation?

Maybe. I doubt I am the one with the knowledge to create such, but it sure would be nice to have for outsiders to find and have a resource as part of the perks a community offers.

Riding on the Road / Interacting with Traffic

Sharing the Road

I am a big fan of any method of educating drivers about how to interact with bikes on the road. Unfortunately, education is not only a two way street, it will never overcome the root of the problems that exist when cars and cyclists are sharing infrastructure that has become increasingly focused on moving cars through at the expense of every other legal road usage. Unlike many cyclists, I don’t really like this, but I understand it, and while I continue to lobby and advocate bike infrastructure, I am also in the camp that says to the cyclists, deal with it, respect the cars and get on with it. That is what this article is about, not about making the cars share the roads with us, but instead, it is how we as cyclists can responsibly share the road with the cars that surround us.

Keep in mind, what follows is purely opinion based upon years of cycling, not quite as many years driving and even fewer years motorcycling in and around the southeastern US. Take this with whatever amount of salt you need. That said, I have started and stopped this post probably a dozen times in the last two years, because I know just how contentious this subject can get. So, let’s get into this, and have some fun.

Playing with a Deck Stacked Against You

If you have been in the cycling community for any period of time, you have already seen the arguments amongst cyclists. There are the cyclists that believe that all cyclists should do everything in their power to make the cars comfortable and make it easy for the cars to deal with bikes on the roads. The polar opposite group lives by the rules that they have the right to the road and by god, they are going to take that right, possibly to their grave. There are various sub groups that sit in between these two extremes, but for the most part they gravitate towards an end of the spectrum, with not much in the middle.

At either end of the spectrum, and at the various points in between, there is a premise that how drivers react towards cyclists is in some way dictated by our actions towards them. That premise assumes that there is a rational and conscious thought about the behavior of a cyclist on the roads, and that may well be an invalid assumption. Consider a different assumption. Consider that the average driver will slow to a near stop and proceed with caution around a dog, deer, duck or turtle in the road, but when it comes to a cyclist, there is annoyance, and a different set of choices. Some drivers will slow to the bikes pace and wait for a safe pass, some will be terrified and refuse to pass, others will make a reckless pass, and still others will never even slow down, perhaps not even consciously registering the presence of the bike. This might lead you to think that many drivers view cyclists lives as having less value than a turtle. I do not think this is the case at all.

What might this behavior indicate? perhaps, it plays into the subconscious nature. Cyclists are seen as ‘intelligent creatures’ capable of making rational decisions. The choice to ride a bike on a road seems so stupid to many drivers that they rationalize away the value of that life because that cyclist is an idiot. Only at that point do our behaviors impact the thought process, with only the negative actions being retained in order to support the classification, and dehumanization of cyclists as ‘idiots’.

Looking at it objectively, for most drivers, a road is about a car or truck. Our culture reinforces this thought process. Suburban sprawl has simply dictated that for many people you cannot ‘go anywhere without a car’. It has reached such a deeply rooted idea that a car is now deemed a necessity for many people. They cannot fathom life without getting in the car to go anywhere. Our laws had been evolving towards that idea as well, but recent changes are supporting more alternative means of transportation.

That said, the deck remains stacked against alternative transportation options, and since cycling is still viewed as a primarily recreational activity, any cyclist on the roads wearing any type of cycling gear is automatically deemed to be doing for recreation. How stacked is that deck? Cyclists already know the answer, but it boils down to enforcement. Legally we have all sorts of rights on the roads, but without enforcement, those legal rights amount to nothing but lip service.

Being Right Does Not Trump Injured or Dead

I see a lot of cyclists out on the road, riding with a chip on the shoulder about what rights they have under the law. In most of the US, cyclists have a lot of rights on the roads. We have the right to the lane, we have the right to ride two abreast, we have the right to 3 feet of space from any vehicle passing us. As far as the law is concerned, we are vehicles and that confers every right of the road to us that a car has, in addition the ones above that are specifically granted to us as cyclists. There are some other rights that we specifically lose, like riding on the sidewalks (a bad idea anyways), but so be it. We have these rights, which is great, but in the spirit of sharing the road, sometimes we need to shelve our rights in favor of sharing. Just because you can ride two abreast doesn’t mean you should do it anytime it strikes your fancy. Just because you have the right to the lane doesn’t mean that you can’t share the road and let cars pass when there is space, and a safe. When cyclists fail to share the road, it is often argued that we escalate the issue. We expect the cars to share with us, we need to return the favor.

At least that is one version. You will hear it from both cyclists and drivers, and it resonates with both at a rational level. The question is, does it translate out on the road. The flip-side argument is that if you are NOT sharing the road, you make it far more difficult to be passed in a dangerous manner, far more difficult for most of the common bicycle/vehicle interactions to take place.

This is a very complex issue. One that warrants a deeper discussion, and presentation. It is easy to speak in generalities, but a graphic illustration of the issues may offer more insight.

In this image, you see an intersection that is a fairly common layout. We have travel lanes, two in each direction. We have turn lanes for both right and left turns in both directions. We have no bike specific infrastructure in place. Why are we looking at this intersection? because it provides us with an excellent opportunity to examine the realities of our rights, versus our safety and perhaps form a better understanding for what constitutes a best practice.

Where do you want to be?

Where do you want to be?

In the picture, you see a yellow circle that represents the most commonly advocated position for a bicycle. It fits the “As Far Right As Possible” positioning. It is out of the flow of traffic, and is the epitome of sharing the road from the car perspective. In this position, you are out of the way, and pose the least immediate risk to the car. In the picture, you will also see a red circle that represents the opposition positioning. This positioning places you not only in the lane, but directly in the line of sight for a driver. Some refer to this as Vehicular Cycling, and believe it represents the safest place to be. Due some vague wording in bicycle law in most states, there is a case for this being within the letter of the law, however, not many law enforcement agencies will support this opinion. The orange circle in the picture represents the compromise location, as it sits to the right, but remains in the lane of travel. So, let us look at each individual position and understand the pro and con of each.

Vehicular Cycling Position ( Red Circle )

The obvious pro is visibility. The other big benefit of this location is that it discourages another vehicle from passing the cyclist in the same lane. The biggest drawback is that it places the rider truly in traffic and of all the places to be on the road, it is the one that irritates drivers the most, and is best practiced on roads where there is an additional lane for passing as is shown here.

FRAP Cycling Position ( Yellow Circle )

Well out of the way, this is most often presented as the safest place to be. Clearly out of the flow of traffic, and out of the lane itself, this positioning creates a sense of safety. The unfortunate con here is that the sense of safety for both driver and cyclist is probably a false sense of safety. There are a couple of reasons. The cyclist is now in a section of pavement that is usually littered with hazards. Gravel, glass, nails, sand, and any other bit of detritus that finds its way onto the road surface and then blown to the edge by the passage of the cars. Then there is the out of sight, out of mind phenonmena.

Compromise Position ( Orange Circle )

While still in the lane, the cyclist is far enough right that a driver can pass with prudence, while still having room to escape left or right. Visisbility is not as good as the Vehicular Cycling placement, the overall location provides many benefits.


Look again at the picture, and consider what happens in the coming 100 feet of road. Presume that the cyclist is travelling straight through the intersection. A car is approaching the intersection in conjunction with the cyclist, and consider how the two vehicles will interact.

The Right Hook

One of the most common interactions between bike and car is the dreaded right hook. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it is when a car passes a cyclist on the left, only to immediately turn right in front of the cyclist. It is a lethal combination, because the driver typically underestimates the velocity of the bicycle, overestimates the speed they will take the turn, and because they are now blind to the impact, all to often the cyclist ends up under the rear wheels. In the yellow FRAP position, this is an impossible to avoid likelyhood. Drivers simply aren’t conditioned to check the right side of the vehicle when turning right, and by not being in the travel lane, the driver did not have to move out to go around, further reducing the awareness of that cyclist being there in the blind spot. In the red Vehicular Cycling position the driver has had to go around the cyclist on the left, and because of the need to fully change lanes, most drivers will avoid that. The danger here is the undertake on the right, which is probably safer than the alternative. The orange Compromise position still allows for the right hook, but forces the driver to move around the cyclist increasing awareness, and reducing the likelihood. It still happens, but less often.

The Left Cross

The other common interaction here is the Left Cross. When an oncoming vehicle makes a left turn in front of a cyclist at a cross road. In this instance, at the signal. If a cyclists maintains the aforementioned road positions, the yellow FRAP position is quite simply not in the area of the road that driver expects to see a traffic threat, and is easily overlooked. At least with the other two positions, the cyclists is in an expected lane of travel and has a reasonable expectation of being seen. People may still misjudge speed, or fail to actually see what they look at, but that is the same threat these drivers present to other cars too.

The Overtake

This one happens when cars pass from behind, and I think the lane positions speak for themselves as to the pros and cons of each in this interaction.

Other interactions

What about the other cases though? When a cyclist need to turn left at the light, how do lane positions impact that? What is the safest manner to procceed? These are a deeper discussion still. One that can be discussed in another post.

What is the best lane position?

So this is the big crux and question, where should you ride on the road. The answer is, where you feel the most comfortable and safest, because in the end, where you are positioned is a distant second in terms of safety on the roads. The most important aspect of riding safely on the roads has every thing to do with How you ride on the roads. The key is to ride predictably, and your choice of positioning may be dictated by that. It is hard to be predictable when riding in the edges of the road where shoulders and debris make a consistant line impossible, so that may dictate road placement. Moving in and out of the lane can have some of the same impact.

Let me go on a tangent. Predictability is about communication. Since we cannot talk or shout our intentions, we have to telegraph our intent through body and hand signals. While hand signals are common, they are also not understood very well by those who don’t use them. Perhaps when we are making a move we want a car to see, we exaggerate it. I will commonly sit up, and flip the bike dramatically out of the lane to signal to a driver that I want them to pass me, so that I can the safely reenter the lane when it is safe to do so.

Is there a consensus best practice? no. Cyclists have been, and will continue to argue this forever. Legally, there is not a clear answer, so it is on us to choose a position. My argument, is that the safest place to be is in the compromise position, and to ride predictably there. Popping in and out of the lane often may give the drivers the illusion that you are giving them safe spaces to pass, but all you are doing is making them hope they can predict your movements. Vehicular cycling puts you too far away from your escape vectors when someone just can’t figure it out. That means, in order to meet the goals of being visible, predictable and escapable, we have to find a predictable line in the right hand third of the lane without hugging the shoulder and fighting with the hazards that exist there, so in the above picture, where would I ride? Orange circle every single time.

Other Thoughts

Being aware of the traffic around you is to your benefit, and mirrors may help you. I don’t use them, I prefer to turn my head as it is more obvious to a driver that I am looking and aware of them. That also means headphones and on the road cycling are a serious non starter. Our ears are our second best tools for road awareness. Plugging them with music dramatically reduces our ability to hear what is coming from behind us. That presumes we are listening though. Cameras, however are great items, less for times during the ride, but all about the close calls. You can use that video evidence to report them, or you can simply publicly shame them on Youtube. Your choice. I generally choose to do neither unless it is a case of exceptional stupidity.

Dammit David, this is all your fault!

Dammit David, this is all your fault!

One year ago, this is the race that started this crazy thing we call triathlon. It really is all the fault of the big guy above. David knew I cycled, and knew I had started running. He convinced me that a triathlon would be fun. So it was that in early June of 2014, I signed up for this race. He was going to race it with me until a crash and an injury sidelined him for the race.

So it was that I got to race it without his support. As a matter of fact, I had a couple of people I knew racing, but none that I knew well. There was more than a little bit of terror going on. Want proof? This pre-race photo tells it all. There may be a smile on the face, but it is forced. Look at the body language. The shoulder set, the nervous tilt of the head and hips.

It all boils down to “Shit what have I gotten into”.

The smile is a lie, see that body language? there is some terror in that body

The smile is a lie, see that body language? there is some terror in that body

However, the post race photo tells the other side of the story. See the relaxed set of the whole body? This my friends is where addiction sets in. This is why we do this. That feeling that comes with finishing the race.

Finished the First Triathlon. See that smile? Addictions start this way.

Finished the First Triathlon. See that smile? Addictions start this way.

And here we go again. Same race a year later, and I am beyond excited. So much has changed in a year. Last year, I was worried about swimming 500 meters, then hopping on the bike for 16 miles and still having the gas to run a 5k. This year, I am going into the race having already done an Olympic and half Ironman distance race, and a few weeks into the build for a full distance Ironman. Looking at the Training Plan, and realizing that this is not even a full ‘training day’ in terms of distances is a novelty. Don’t be confused though, I have no chance at a podium finish, but I am not going out there to finish. Sunday is all about how fast can I do this. It is a personal challenge and dammit, I am excited to hit it as hard and fast as I can.

How fast is that? I have an internal time goal, and it is lofty for me. Swim? 9 minutes, bike? 41 minutes, run? 25 minutes, 2 minutes in transitions, for a goal time of 77 minutes. This is a massive stretch, and may not be doable at my fitness level. It is going to hurt, and I am going to love every minute of it.

And it is still, all David’s damned fault!

PT Solutions Allatoona Sprint Triathlon

OGRE Dru suffering from a cramp in the run at IM Choo 70.3

OGRE Dru suffering from a cramp in the run at IM Choo 70.3

Just one look at the above, and you can understand why nutrition matters. This is what happens when you do not fuel your body on the bike and hit the run without enough fuel to keep the body from cramping up. Once you get to this point, you can’t recover while still racing. This is why we work on nutrition plans during training days too.

The story behind this, and the tale of woe that I hope you can learn from my mistake. You see, I had trained my nutrition plan. Thought I had it wired. Infinit Go Far in one bottle. Nuun in the other. Gu Gel at 45 minutes on the bike, Bonk Breaker bar at 90 minutes on the bike, Gu Gel at 135 minutes on the bike, another Bonk Breaker before run transition, then Gu Roctane Gels on the run, with water and gatorade provided on course. All of this augmented with electrolyte capsules at a rate of 1 per hour.

In training, this went great. Race day however did not play well. You see, it rained on the bike course. Lesson to take away, Bonk Breakers are messy and difficult to consume in the rain, so I didn’t consume them as planned. I think you see where this is going already don’t you? Yeah, me too. I didn’t eat the solid nutrition, and the gels just aren’t enough to keep this engine going, so when I hit mile 6 of the run, and the quad started cramping to the point of locking up the knee, I knew that my 2 hour run was now an impossible goal. I could finish, but the last half of the run was going to be a long cycle of run slow, cramp, walk it out, repeat to the finish line. It took almost twice as long to cover the last 7 miles as it took to cover the first 6. Crossing the finish line, I had already had a while to stew on what I did wrong.

The hammer that drove it home? After a good meal, and a couple hours of walking around the city as a tourist post race, the cramping was gone, and there was no soreness or weakness in the area. Lesson learned. Eat, and more importantly, prepare for the conditions. What I would do differently is to portion my Bonk Breakers into bite sized portions that are easier to consume in inclement conditions. I won’t repeat that mistake again. Instead, I am sure I will find entirely new mistakes to make.


Written by a cyclist in Vermont. I agree with most of what he has to say. The only thing I would add, is that we continue to struggle with the basic concept of how to we educate drivers? Share the Road is not a sufficient message, and it is not getting through. Just look at the number of them still texting and driving failing to share the road with other drivers.

Sharing The Road – What hasn’t been said

Reposted from my personal Facebook Account

I don’t generally like to crosspost like this. I don’t generally like to call out individual drivers, but this guy deserves special mention, because he is going to get someone killed with his behavior.

White Ford F-250 with the license plate BLUEJOHN wins todays Most Selfish Driver award. This dipstick doesn’t seem to think anyone else on the road is worth his respect. Normally, I wouldn’t bother commenting, I mean I’m just a bicyclist, and I’m use to being passed by dipsticks that don’t respect bike space, but this guy takes it to a whole new level. First it was me on Francis Rd. Then it was into the oncoming lane to go around 4 cars so he could push up in the left turn lane. Then going north on Hwy 9, he whips into the right turn lane to pass three cars at the red light before cutting back into the traffic lane.

If you happen to know who this fine specimen of human being is, feel free to share this to him. Too bad I didn’t turn the GoPro on this morning for the commute. It would have been quality video.


Wednesday may be ‘Hump Day’, but for me this is one of the highlights of my week. I look forward to my group ride on Wednesday. So much so, that I do this ride despite the fact that it doesn’t actually fall on a ‘ride’ day in my training plan. Over the last year, this ride has grown from 4 people to a point where last night we had over 50 total riders split into 4 groups, on 2 different routes. IT was with great pleasure that I got to lead the group that is dearest to my heart. The B2’s, because these are my people, and I love them all. This is a group of riders that have gotten strong enough that they want to go a little faster, they want a little more challenge, but they still retain the joy of the group. It is not about who can go the fastest, or attacking or any of the ego stuff that goes on with the A’s and the B1’s, but still about the group. I admit, I personally work harder when I lead this group than any other group I lead, but that is only because I like to work with every rider in the group, see how they are feeling and get to know them. That means a lot of floating from front to back and back to front, but oh, it is so worth it.

Too Much Lifting

Too much lifting and furniture moving yesterday. This morning, all that work is kitting the hips and lower back pretty hard. Looks like time for a little bit of chair time this morning at the office before heading out for a ride & swim this evening.

Ride should be nice, just 23 miles tonight. From there it’ll be into the pool for an hour of laps. This probably sounds terrible to most people, but to me it sounds wonderful. It’s like a rest day that I still work out on :).

Some days are better than others

So Monday’s training got derailed by life, so I only got in about 40 minutes in the pool, and had to settle for 28 minutes of core work using an old ab workout from the original Insanity training videos. I figured I’d get back on track Tuesday. Yeah, not so much. Helped my brother move out of his house from 7:30AM until about 5:15PM, followed by a quick swim to rinse off, a change of clothes and my weekly group run. Planned on ~6 miles, ended up doing just 4. Heart rate went nuts, and the body said simply “not tonight”.

So be it. IF there is one lesson that I have had hammered home to me in my training it is this: “trust your body, and know the difference between discomfort and pain”. This was not discomfort, and so I stopped. I’ll feel better for it tomorrow, and I won’t miss training because I didn’t push through pain into an injury.

Strava Run… Not Pretty

Ironman 70.3 Hangover

Well, it has taken nearly a month to shake off the hangover from IM 70.3 Chattanooga. Last week was the first week really back to the routine of training. This week I finally get back to posting the schedule moving forward. On deck for Monday? 60 minutes in the pool, 6 miles on foot, and perhaps 9 holes of golf depending upon how I feel. Who is ready to join me?