I recently commented on some graffiti that appeared on my commuter route and reader Beth sent along this piece she spotted on Humboldt Ave in Milwaukee, WI.
No excuses? Really? What irks me is the lack of attention to the behavior of drivers. The government tells cyclists to wear helmets, but in 2014 there were over 600,000 vehicle crashes in Massachusetts, resulting in 1,600+ deaths and over 16,000 incapacitating injuries. It seems like not a news hour here passes (or in any other city in America for that matter) where there is a 30 second blurb or more on a motor vehicle crash with fatalities or incapacitating injuries - daily.
What is sad is that we as a society just seem to accept this, and companies do not take it seriously. When is the last time you saw a car commercial that focused on the fact that hundreds of thousands of lives are changed each year by irresponsible driving. Back in the day there were a few Volvo commercials that touched on this and there were some crash dummy spots that ran for a time, but the majority of car commercials have no content related to safety and responsible driving.
This Sunday the Super Bowl will take place and there are sure to be many car company commercials. Many people place bets on different aspects of the game, but I bet not a single car commercial will even hint at the fact that cars are involved in the death and injury of millions of people around the globe each year. Yes it is the people behind the wheel that are responsible, not the cars, but it makes me sick that car companies show cars with a professional driver on a closed course zooming dangerously around streets with smoke pouring from tires screeching across the pavement in many of their ads. Either that or they will try "cute" marketing by featuring animals or making jokes.
It's okay to market cars to the hilt with no hint at safety and yet cyclists are scolded for not wearing helmets? Sounds like priorities might be out of order here.
Okay, rant over. Do remember that the header of this site says "Culture, Links, News, and Rants."
Over the now seven years of running this blog, I have noticed a couple of topics which generate controversy or raise the dander of readers - helmets and listening to some sort of audio while riding. In this post I mix the two of them together!
Over the years of blogging I have noted that while commuting I always ride with a helmet and I always listen to podcasts. I have made it clear that I ride with just one earbud in, leaving one ear free to listen to what is going on around me. I should also note that podcasts are generally not that loud and intense, like say a rocking song such as Panama, and even when I put two earbuds in when at the gym to listen to a podcast, I can still hear the crappy music played over the gym speakers and lots of dudes grunting.
I wear a helmet because I think it decreases my chances of a head injury if I fall. Many readers of this blog disagree that helmets increase the safety of riders, but after seeing a friend skid over a cliff many years ago, strike his head against a rock and break his helmet and live, I prefer to wear one. For those helmet critics who postulate that when those piloting motor vehicles see a person in a helmet they are more likely to drive in a dangerous fashion, there were no cars around when my friend went off the cliff.
Some readers who are strong proponents of helmets are also vocifierous in their belief that you should not attach anything to a helmet or wear something underneath one. The thought is that whatever is on your helmet or on your head will travel at lightening speed through your skull if your helmet ever does impact the ground.
Anyway . . . helmet proponents and detractors can have it out in the comments.
Finally getting the point here, the folks over at 1 Voice sent me one of their Bluetooth headbands to test out. You get a headband, a little Bluetooth unit that fits into a pouch in the headband, some headphones with a short cord, and a USB charger.
The headband is pretty minimal and 1 Voice made the wise choice not to recruit me as a model for their website:
I had never used a Bluetooth product to date and it could not have been any easier. I turned on the power to the 1 Voice unit, flipped the Bluetooth setting on my phone to "On" and there was this beeping noise signifying the handshake between the two and I was ready to go. I put the headband on first, then I put a hat on because it is cold in these parts this time of year, and then I put my helmet on. The small unit in the headband sits right below the rear adjustment doohickey on my helmet so it does not interfere at all. I put one earbud in and tucked the other one under my hat.
In the 1 Voice video you get a visual of the product, along with a soundtrack. I don't think you need a video of me to get the idea, but I would recommend that when you watch their video you turn the volume of that video off and crank this video in a separate tab to 10. Mine will get you a bit more pumped up.
My observations are as follows:
The headband is not the only product in the 1 Voice line up, they have some hats and ear warmers as well. Until I use the thing for a long time I will not be able to comment on the overall battery life of the unit. I am also not sure if the battery can be replaced. All in all I can say it is a decent product that works as advertised and you don't have to deal with a long cord flapping all over the place.
The downside of course is if the battery life runs out on you in the middle of something, but even then you could just keep a traditional pair earbuds into your pocket and plug them in as needed - it is not like a pair of earbuds takes up a lot of space. You could also pony up for another product we reviewed in the past, One Good Earbud.
If others have comments on helmets, sound and such, feel free to debate/promote/pontificate in comments.
I wanted to post this in case readers missed it. We recently ran a post on bike inspired home decoration hacks and reader monogodo commented with a link to the picture below:
A couple of friends made TP roll holder for me when I moved into a loft with a really inconvenient location for the wall-mounted roll holder. Every part of it is a bike part.
As I dressed for my commute today a new definition for the Dictionary of Bike Commuter Slang came to mind. Here is what I saw on my phone as I groggily made my coffee this morning -
So I thought of a definition, but not an actual term. The circumstance/definition is:
When you layer up for a cold ride and start to sweat profusely while still indoors.
When I used to live in a fourth floor walk up, by the time I carried my bike down all of the steps and got outside I was practically soaking wet. This morning I was layered up and spent a bit too much time inside, and by the time I stepped outside I felt like I was in the tropics, despite the -21 windchill.
So readers, feel free to suggest terms to fit the definition.
If you commute by bike and follow the same route every day, I think it is possible to be both observant and oblivious at the same time. Why both things which are completely the opposite? Well when it comes to being observant, after following the same route almost every day for three years, I can pretty much tell you where every crack, pothole, bump, and tree root eager to see the light of day resides. I can tell where a puddle will form if it rains, and what size it will be based upon the rainfall. Heck, I have named every squirrel on my route and am almost to the point where they will high five me on my way by. When it comes to being oblivious, I think many brains like mine kind of tune out the surroundings you pass each day.
For example, for almost a full year I never noticed a small park I passed every day until one day a podcast ran out and I stopped to get another one going on my phone (don't worry, I only keep one ear bud in). I looked across the street and was stunned to see something that I had never noticed before - a little park which was in my peripheral vision every day but my brain never catalogued.
One thing I have been fascinated with most of my life is graffiti. I am torn because I find graffiti really interesting and I like it (and take pictures of it all the time), but then again I have never had someone spray paint, tile, stencil, sticker, or place adhesive paper on property of mine. I probably would not think it was so cool if some "artist" came along and spray painted the front of the building my condo is located in.
One thing that did wake my brain up on my commute when I lived in NYC was graffiti. When new stuff would crop up, my brain would notice. For example, this was one of my favorites during my time in NYC and I thought having the cheerleader cheer my bike would make a great photo.
Graffiti is not as prominent in Boston, but I was woken up recently when I passed this piece.
I am not familiar with this artist or the characters, so my question to you readers out there is, what was in the speech bubble that is missing from the character on the left? Feel free to comment. For graffiti aficionados, I can tell you this is not Invader like in the sense that the art/vandalism (you choose) is paper, not tile.
If you find certain things fascinating on your commutes, feel free to comment or to contact us with your own stories and pictures.
Reader Doug passed along a bike story that, ironically, ran on the Autos section on the BBC website. The Bicycled project is a twist on upcycling where old cars are turned into one of a kind bicycles. The only "downside" is that demand is sure to outstrip supply due to the time involved in making a single bike. Who knows though, if the popularity is there, mass production might follow.
If you have upcycled a car part or parts for use in a bike hack, please contact us so we can share it with the entire reading audience.
To me bikes are most beautiful when in motion, however it is great to see bikes and bike parts used in other ways as well. Reader Jared contacted us and shared about a sculpture his Dad's company created. Isn't it great when fathers and sons get along? =)
Pictures and a video are below, and for more goodness you can visit the Creative Stained Glass Studio website. Makes me want some bike art for my place. The text below is from their website, thanks Jared!
* * * * * * * * * * *
Titled Tour de Verre (Tour of Glass), the sculpture celebrates the joy of an active lifestyle, and bicycling in particular. In this piece we utilized bike wheels and other pieces of hardware that had reached the end of their practical lives in order to show that it is never too late to embrace a more physical life. The colorful mouth blown glass illustrates the vitality that is the reward. The wheels follow a 38 foot long steel ribbon which represents the “Tour” of life and all its tumultuous challenges.
The following comes from an NPR story:
In the Dutch town of Eindhoven, artist Daan Roosegaarde has paid homage to its most famous resident, Vincent Van Gogh, by creating a glowing bike path that relies on solar-powered LED lights and interprets his classic painting Starry Night.
I think it is completely appropriate to say the Dutch are an enlightened people . . .
Reader Peter from Brussles sent along a couple of handlebar hacks, both very similar in nature to two listings in our 10 Strange Bike Handlebar Set Ups post. The first, a dowel used between bar ends, is similar to #6 on our list.
And the second, some animal themed aerobars, are somewhat similar to #8 on our list.