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Category Archives: Everyday cycling

Valentine’s Day – OOPS wrong bike moment!

On Valentine’s Day 12 beautiful long stemmed roses were delivered to my office. After enjoying them through the week, it was time to take them home on Friday.

Thursday night though, I got a flat on my Schwinn Le Tour Sport. It was a nasty double gee which made my tyre hiss like an angry cat when it was removed. I didn’t fix it because I got distracted, so on Friday morning I grabbed the nearest bike – my Giant STP, to ride to work.

The STP is in mountain bike mode and doesn’t have a rack. I shoved my stuff into my Crumpler messenger bag and left. It wasn’t until I got to work I realised I would have to get my roses home somehow and I had ridden the wrong bike for the job. My only saving grace was that the sender of the roses knew I would be bringing them home by bicycle and selected the dozen roses that came in a massive box.

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I deliberately didn’t water them so that I wouldn’t have water running down my back whilst riding home. I put them back in the box, and the messenger bag straps were only just long enough to clip around it. Crumpler to the rescue!

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They made it home safe and sound.

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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in Commuting, Everyday cycling

 

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Route Planning: Google Maps Blowout!

Google cycling directions are still in beta for Perth, and this is what happened when we discovered a couple of bugs on our ride from Thornlie to Atwell which I wrote about in ‘Bike and Train: Half the Pain’.

It was a problem for me because I was not familiar at all with the area we would be cycling through, and because Google’s satellite images for Perth are so old that many don’t accurately represent the roads on the ground. If there isn’t a road on the satellite image, but the shadow of a road is there, it is usually safe to assume one has been built.

Well it wasn’t a safe bet this time!

gps track

Problem number 1 – a crucial part of Meriton Blvd has not been built yet, so we were forced to go back out to Nicholson Road.

Problem number 2 – Fraser Road stops when it gets to Jandakot Regional Park. There is a sandy track in it’s place, which is not really navigable for road bikes – it’s like a fire trail. We followed a track we thought was the right one, but it wasn’t. We ended up taking a rather large detour to get back on track.

I reported the bugs to Google and received an automated acknowledgement e-mail. The reporting process was pretty simple, you picked an option “ie the road was closed’ and pick the point at which this was a problem from a list.

The Meriton Boulevard problem was quickly resolved by Google, they send you an e-mail that says:

“Your Google Maps problem report has been reviewed, and you were right!”

Despite submitting the report at the beginning of December, I only just got confirmation that Google Maps have accepted my report regarding Fraser Road. I am not sure how they verified my report, but it seems that they have.

Google maps isn’t a great way to navigate even in the car sometimes, but I think the problems are amplified by the cycling directions because they try to route you through quiet roads. Turns out it would have been better to use more major roads as they have since been re-done and were two empty lanes with bike lanes along some of them as well.

The lesson here I guess is to use Google Maps with caution!

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Everyday cycling

 

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The Return of Spring

There are ducklings and baby coots almost everywhere you look at the moment. It’s been a good year for them.

The sweet cool breeze that dissipates the sun’s mild heat is a reminder that warmer days are coming. The sun will intensify until a morning ride will illicit twice the amount of sweat for the same amount of effort. As I make my way along the beautiful riverside bikeway, I begin to appreciate the headwinds for their cooling effect. I welcome the sound of the wind roaring past, whistling through the straps of my helmet.

It is time to hang my softshell in the closet for another year. If there is any rain in between now and next June I will rejoice in it, not cover my skin with water-repellent clothing. It is time to rummage through my drawers to unearth my lightweight, trendy Coolmax garments, whilst stocking up on sunscreen. Maybe this year I’ll even invest in one of those insulated water bottles, so that I can squirt some water into my mouth on a long ride without receiving third degree burns.

I will plan rides taking into account exposure to hot roads and walls, perhaps avoiding the freeway bike path for a month or two. I learned this lesson the hard way a few summers ago, being caught out in the middle of kilometres of black tar with the air temperature sitting on 40 degrees Celsius. The only other riders I saw that day were cowering in underpass tunnels, or making their way to the nearest train station for a ride home in air conditioned comfort. Being the stubborn type I struggled out to the coast and went for a much needed swim to cool off, then used the train as my sag wagon for the trip home.

Whilst I am not looking forward to the inevitable run of 40 degree days, I will enjoy the here and now. I know that in a few short months I will be baking cookies for the dogs on the dashboard of my car.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Everyday cycling, Reasons to Ride

 

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Everyday Cycling: Lunch in Claisebrook Cove

Yesterday we went for a nice little ride into town, hired a tandem, rode the bridges, and then stopped for lunch at a lovely little spot called Claisebrook Cove.

The tandem experience is for another blog entry, but I thought I would share this photo because it’s pretty.

Claisebrook cove is really like a mini canal, dug out of the banks of the Swan River in East Perth.

I quite like Claisebrook Cove and it’s alfresco dining, because of unlike a lot of alfresco areas in Perth, you don’t have to put up with an endless stream of cars flashing past. All of a sudden there are a lot of bikes around as well.

It is not a cheap place to eat, by any means, but the atmosphere is great! The only thing missing was a visit from the Swan River dolphins.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Everyday cycling

 

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User Review: Bike Route Planning – Google Maps & Ride the City

One of the main challenges of using a bicycle for transport in a city with limited bicycle infrastructure is route planning. These are the tools which are meant to help. Being a low-density city Perth has the advantage of having a good network of quiet backstreets. The problem with backstreets are that you have to zigzag often to go where you need to while cars get to drive straight to their destinations. If you are making a transition from driving to cycling, it may take a bit of getting used to, as you might take driving down Whatever Highway for granted.

I will have to admit, I was a little bit excited when I saw that Google has activated their bicycle direction function. It is still in beta mode though, so I expected some hiccups. I also discovered ‘Ride the City’ from someone who commented on my ‘About’ page on this blog, and I’ve used it a couple of times, with mixed results.

So for the purposes of this review I decided to issue a challenge to both websites – to get me from my neighbourhood, Bayswater, to a bar in Leederville to meet my friends for an after work dinner and drink (Kitsch Bar, which is on Oxford Street).

The challenge is that the area is filled with some fairly major roads that I didn’t want to use, as it was a wet evening and as I was heading out there would have still been a bit of traffic heading home from work.

Google Maps

The first thing I did was enter the from and to addresses and hope for a miracle when I pressed the little bike button.

This was Google’s suggestion.

Google as usual offered 3 alternative options. The best, and closest to the route I used was the third and most direction option, which Google had measured at 8.3 kilometres, and estimated it would take 35 minutes which was remarkably accurate.

I took some different streets around Walcott Street to avoid riding down it for any length but really the google route was very close to what I actually did.

Ride the City

I had problems with Ride the City this afternoon. It has a handy ‘print’ option but it kept hanging and wouldn’t print. It was also stalling when I wanted to zoom in. To be fair this could be because I have an outdated browser at work, but Google worked, so it wins in the reliability stakes.

Ride the City offers ‘Safe’, ‘Safer’ and ‘Direct Route’ options.

The ‘Direct Route’ was pretty much identical to google’s route. The ‘Safe’ and ‘Safer’ routes were remarkably similar, and were 11.1 km instead of 8.3 km as they stuck to the principle shared path network and took you right in to the city and out of the city again to Leederville. I think the Safe/Safer options are far too conservative when the route that Google chose was really quite pleasant to ride along and very quiet. They might even put people off riding when they are a few kilometres longer.


What I did

Here is the route I actually took on Bikely.

Chelmsford Ave has crazy double parking almost the entire length of the street, I guess the houses there don’t have enough parking spaces. It makes it a little narrow for cars to squeeze through, effectively making a two way road into a one way road. This is OK on a bike because cars go slowly and it’s pretty easy to duck out of the way if there happens to be an oncoming car.

The crossings over the main roads are a bit of a problem though as there are no pedestrian refuges, I am not sure I would be able to get across if it was busy. Fortunately it was not as busy as I expected on the way out, and on the way back at 9:40pm on a weeknight there was barely any traffic!

Also, Oxford Street Leederville has great bike parking, there are U-rails bolted into the sidewalks everywhere, so I got to park directly outside of Kitsch. Big props to Leedy!

Conclusion

Both Google Maps and Ride the City – Perth are really useful tools for plotting routes. I probably wouldn’t bother with the ‘safe’ options on Ride the City though.

Ride the City seems less reliable than Google, but that is to be expected, but I think I will always visit RtC first just to support the new guy.

 

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The Avon Descent 2012

Western Australia is home to a race which has been going on for 40 years. The Avon Descent is a 124 km race over two days in which a variety of paddlecraft and powerboats compete. A bit of last minute rain saved the race from record low water levels, but 2006 and 2010 were also low years. In 2010 most of the powerboat competitors didn’t make it to the end because of low water levels.

I figure that if I want to do this race, I need to do it soon. Poor rainfall is more and more likely as WA gets drier (and hotter). I think that the Avon Descent is something that almost every active WA resident has considered doing, and while I’m not an experienced paddler, it is something I enjoy getting out and doing.

We drove out to Toodyay for day one, and cheered on most of the paddlers though we were too late to see the powerboats go through.

The dogs watching the paddlers in Toodyay

It looked like a hard slog, even though there was a little bit of water flow where we were, then the paddlers had to navigate through the remains of an old bridge, we think it was for the miniature railway that was in the area. We cheered and clapped and a lot of the competitors smiled at the dogs looking over at them.

The second day finishes at Riverside Gardens in Bayswater. Rather than contributing to the traffic issues in the general area, we decided to ride. We used a temporary fence as a convenient bike stand, and sat nearby.

Unintentionally provided bike parking, put a couple of bikes in a temporary fence and it looks like a bike rack!

We didn’t quite catch the first powerboat coming in but we did see most of them cross the line. They were covering the race with these little camera-drone helicopters. I thought it was awesome, though they did still have the loud, fuel-burning helicopters flying overhead.

The little drone helicopters were being rotated, I know they had at least 3 of them. I am not sure how much fly time they had but they did appear to swap them around quite a bit, perhaps to charge the batteries.

 

Remote controlled video helicopter

We saw the paddlers making their sprints for the line, ate icecream in the sun and generally had a great afternoon. It got busier as time went on but all the late arrivals missed the winners by a long way. I think a few of them were waiting for people they knew.

When I had enough of sitting in the sun, and was feeling a little sleepy, we just got on our bikes and left, no traffic hassles. It was a really nice afternoon and I loved cheering the paddlers home after a gruelling race.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2012 in Bike Parking, Everyday cycling

 

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Perth Cycling Infrastructure: Bike Parking, St John of God Hospital Subiaco

I recently had reason to visit the St John of God Hospital in Subiaco. It is conveniently located near a bike path, so I assumed that there was going to be bike parking. Just in case, I took my biggest U-lock which would fit comfortably around the light poles I saw last time I was there.

Bike racks near the front entrance of SJOG Subiaco

It turns out there are bike racks right at the entrance. There are 3 U-rails which are connected to a common base plate. Unfortunately they are not bolted down, so susceptible to someone rocking up with a ute, chucking the whole thing in the back, and driving off. Don’t laugh, this happened at Murdoch University in the early 2000s – in an area where vehicle access was much more difficult than it is here!

While I didn’t hesitate to leave the Surly there for the hour or so I would be inside, I would not want to lock an expensive bike there, or even a moderately priced bike on a regular basis, just in case someone scoped it out and then came back for it later.

There were bikes chained to other poles in the immediate vicinity, so I guess I was not the only one concerned about the portability of the bike rack.

SJOG Subiaco actually has publicly available information on the measures it takes to encourage it’s staff to use ‘green’ transport, including public transport, walking and cycling, so I am going to send them an email and ask them to consider securing the bike rack properly.

All in all, SJOG has at least tried to provide bike parking for visitors. There’s always room for improvement though!

 

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