Tag Archives: bicycling

Incentivize Me

IMAG0594I did our tax return yesterday, via TurboTax online. If you haven’t used TurboTax before, it leads you, step by step, through various types of income, deductions and credits you might be eligible for. One of the items I passed by was tax credits for purchasing electric or alternative-fuel vehicles.

I have an alternative-fuel vehicle. It’s my human-powered bicycle. But it doesn’t count for credits on our tax return. Those tax credits are for people who buy relatively expensive motor vehicles.

The tax credits are supposed to encourage people to buy these vehicles. They are slowly becoming more common.   I am still not going to buy one. They are still too expensive for us. We also prefer to have a larger family vehicle, due to the number and type of activities we are involved in (including Girl Scouts), and we do not want to buy a second vehicle just for my commute and the occasional instances when we could use a second car.

There IS a program that benefits bicycle commuters, if your employer chooses to participate.  Employers who provide free or discounted transit passes for employees can deduct those expenses on their tax returns (more info here). These employers can also provide a $20 per month cash benefit for bicycle commuters, to defray the costs of bicycle commuting (and the employer then deducts that expense as well).  The League of American Bicyclists has details (if you don’t see anything, scroll down).

The other option for employers is to allow employees to purchase transit passes using pre-tax dollars, which then decreases the employee’s taxable income. This option doesn’t have a bicycle component.

My employer does not participate in either option, but hey, it’s a public school district. There’s no tax benefit to them. They already give us good health and retirement benefits. They could participate in the pre-tax transit option (many school districts do, including Portland Public), but honestly, in our area it’s relatively difficult to get to the schools by public transit.

So I’m out of luck for tax credits and commuter benefits. And really, there’s plenty of benefit to my bike commute anyway. I get exercise, and we save money by not owning a second car. But wouldn’t it be nice if there were more ways to encourage people to choose alternatives? The United States famously pays farmers not to grow crops.  In light of the most recent climate report, are there more ways we could pay people not to drive?

 

Bonking It Out

So, you’ve probably heard the term “hitting the wall.” Cyclists seem to mostly call it “bonking.” I’ve always figured it meant something like “I’m super-tired and I feel like I can’t go any further but I’m gonna push through and do it anyway.”

It’s not always surmountable, though. Saturday I bonked hard enough that I couldn’t keep going. I was near the end of a 30-mile ride, but it had taken a little longer than I expected (had to stop for a repair and also got a little lost), and I hadn’t brought enough snacks. I should have just stopped to get something (I had opportunities), but I wanted to push for home and get it done, dammit! I was a little worried about one steep climb getting there, but hey, I’d done it before!

But when I stopped at a park about two miles before home (and a little bit before the overpass climb) for a water break, I suddenly felt nauseated and then light-headed. I called home for a ride and lay down on the grass, and when my husband came to get me I honestly couldn’t do much of anything to help load my bike into the van.

I’m sure it didn’t help that it was already 90 degrees and climbing by that point, either. I’d drunk plenty of water, but still.

I’m not discouraged, though. I’m certain I can do this if I just manage my food intake better. And it was a beautiful ride. I rode four different multi-use (bike/pedestrian/etc.) paths in the Portland area: the I-84 path, the Gresham-Fairview Trail, the Springwater Trail all the way from Gresham and through Sellwood, and the East Bank Esplanade along the Willamette River. After that, I had to climb through the neighborhoods back to East Portland, which was the hardest part (and where I bonked out).

Now to research energy bars! Or something.

Training Update, Week, Um.

I have no idea what week number this is for my bike training. I’m still at it, but I’ve adjusted my goal to doing the 40-mile Lancette Memorial Ride, rather than the 60.

Why? Well, that’s what seems most achievable at this point. I’ve been riding every week, but I missed a long ride one weekend because my bike was in the shop and another because we were on vacation. Then I worked for two weeks, and I did bike commute during that time, but I was utterly exhausted. Last weekend I did a 26-mile ride, and this weekend I did 30 (more on that later). This week I’m going to California to visit my grandmother, and may or may not get to ride at all (got a bike, Aunt Susan?), and next weekend we have a big Girl Scout event.

So, life happens. I can work with that. I’m feeling good about my progress — I feel stronger and am getting faster.

20 Miles And Counting

I’m in training again.

Last year I trained for the Providence Bridge Pedal and did the 13-mile family ride with no problem. It was much easier than I expected!

This year, I’m not planning to do the Bridge Pedal (it’s the day after a major Girl Scout event), and I want to really challenge myself.

On Friday I looked up “how to train for a century” (a 100-mile ride), and came up with this 10-week plan. It looks mostly reasonable (although it has you jumping from 50 miles to 100 miles in one fell swoop), but the idea of doing a whole century is still a bit daunting for me. Some people do a metric century instead, which is 100 kilometers or 62 miles, or a half-century for 50 miles.

Either one of those sounds like a more reasonable first goal for me.

So here’s the plan. I’m going to do the Lancette Memorial Ride on August 25. I’ll train toward doing the 60-miler, but if I feel like things aren’t going that well, I might sign up for the 40-miler instead (I have a few weeks to decide).

Today was a test. The training plan I linked above “assumes you are in shape at the start to be able to ride 20 miles comfortably.” So today I set a goal to ride 20 miles, and I was indeed able to do that, although I was  a bit sluggish toward the end.

Besides my own physical ability, the only thing I’m worried about is whether I can do this on the Radish. I don’t have a smaller/faster bike. I do know, however, that other people take cargo bikes on long rides, so it can be done.

And after the Lancette? Well, September will be busy, and it sounds like organized rides start to die down for the season after that. But I’d like to work up to that full century. And then the Seattle to Portland ride. 2 days, 204 miles (you’d better start training too, Wendy!).

 

Did you Bike to Work?

Yesterday was the official National Bike to Work day, part of National Bike Month.

I don’t really observe this day, since I bike to work almost every day. Also, I’ve been focusing on getting kids to walk and bike to schoo this month – I’m the walk and bike coordinator at my school.

Two of my co-workers bike to work fairly regularly, and I know of at least a couple who walk. I’ve wondered what we could do to encourage more adults to walk and bike. I know at least one issue is getting kids to and from school, child care, sports, etc., and that’s a hard one to overcome.

Did you observe Bike to Work Day this year? If not, what would motivate you do it, at least for that one day?

A Week’s Biking In Pictures

I’m currently coordinating Walk and Bike to School Challenge Month at my school. Our bike rack is small, but mighty. We also have a lot of walkers!

Meanwhile, in interesting loads for the Xtracycle, I biked a fully loaded crockpot to work for a potluck.

And on Friday I biked both of my younger girls to their school, where we had an early meeting with a teacher. I really wanted to get an action shot of our shadow, but I didn’t quite dare try.

Tomorrow, we’re going to give Sunday Parkways a whirl — this is an event in Portland where they close off a number of streets to auto traffic and let the rest of us play! That’s my Mother’s Day treat.

Bridge Pedal Reflections

Sunday, August 14 was the Providence Bridge Pedal, and yes, I did ride! I did the six-bridge ride, which was 13 miles. This one is billed as the family ride, so there were lots of small children on bikes, as well as family rigs with Xtracycles, bakfietsen, tag-along bikes, tandems, trailers, etc. But there were plenty of people riding solo, too.

The ride was easier than I’d feared, so either my training paid off or it was just…easier than I thought it would be! The route was well-planned, so that most of the climbing was gradual. I just took it slowly, and used my lower gears as often as I needed to. I did stop a few times, both for pictures and for a break (and for the traffic back-up at the Fremont Bridge), but I didn’t have to walk my bike up any hills, and I never got completely out of breath.

One thing I discovered is that curves on freeways are much more sloped than you realize in a car! They’re still ride-able, though. Riding on freeways was fun, but overall, I highly recommend the experience of riding on streets with no cars. If your city has any such events, where streets are closed to motorized traffic, I definitely recommend taking part.

Now I just need a new challenge of some sort. I’m looking at organized rides coming up this fall, but haven’t found the right one yet. Meanwhile, though, I’ll be getting back to my daily commuting routine in less than a week, when I go back to my regular job!

Bicycle Licensing

Every few months…or maybe weeks…the issue of bicycle licensing comes up. Some people think bicyclists should have licenses, and that they should have to pay a fee to license their bikes just like auto drivers do. Here’s one line of reasoning that I read today, in an opinion post on the OregonLive website:

Not all cyclists violate the rules, of course, but even cyclists know that their comrades are out there and they are not operating their bikes in a safe manner. We have all seen you, and you know who you are. Portland — bicycle center that it is — knows this; pedestrians know it; motorists know it.

Supposedly, licensing would help stop this lawlessness. However, I could easily make the same statement this way:

Not all drivers violate the rules, of course, but even drivers know that their comrades are out there and they are not operating their motor vehicles in a safe manner. We have all seen you, and you know who you are. Portland knows this, pedestrians know it, cyclists know it.

And drivers ARE required to be licensed and insured. I don’t think the argument holds up.

The other argument is that cyclists should pay their way like everyone else. The truth is that we already do. Many of us also drive, so we pay license fees and gas taxes. We also pay property taxes (either as property owners or through our rent payments) and income taxes, and portions of those taxes also feed into transportation funding. Meanwhile, we’re creating LESS impact on both roads and air by riding our bikes (see this article on Grist by Elly Blue for a fuller explanation).

While I support education about and enforcement of traffic laws, I don’t think additional licensing and/or fees for bicyclists are good solutions. Instead, let’s get more people educated and riding!

Photo by oedipusphinx — — — — theJWDban on Flickr, used via CC BY 2.0 license.