Type 2 Diabetic. Bike tour guide. #NextBurgh Flâneur.   Coffeeneur.    Errandoneur
A bike / map geek with a gadget obsession and a high-viz fetish. by Vannevar Bush       about       /       murals       /       Pgh-DC bike maps new

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Great People, Drone Trains, Bike Lanes

11/12/11 #235 27m 55F

Three weeks ago I lost my Planet Bike Alias HID headlight on a long ride and I had no idea where I'd lost it. This week I saw a post about a found headlight on the BikePgh web forum, and it turns out that B. had found my light and was searching for the owner, how extremely cool is that?

Started off the bike day rendezvousing with B. & M. at Southside REI. They arrived on their tandem to deliver my lost (and found) headlight. It was very nice of them to make the effort to find me. They're very interesting people, they've ridden across America once, and ride a very interesting bicycle - a Santana tandem with S&S couplers for shipping the bike. Their rear wheel had the largest disc brake I've ever seen, which I guess makes sense for a tandem.

I rode from the Waterfront to Boston, PA's Green BoxCar and back for 27 miles in 55F. A very nice ride in excellent conditions, I found I was overdressed as the temperatures neared 60F and it was much better when I removed some layers.

On the way back, I encountered a very colorful, high-viz locomotive that was shuttling traincars back and forth, coupling them together to form a.... well, a train. I'm a sucker for high-viz vehicles.

Although the locomotive was moving, there didn't seem to be anybody on board. Then I read the sign ( closeup photo at right): Caution Remote Control Locomotive. Apparently all the drones aren't in Iraq; they're running drone trains in McKeesport.

On the one hand, how cool a job is that, operating a remote control locomotive? That's the dream job of every kid that ever had a model train. OTOH, I looked around and there wasn't any evident Train Control Room in the vicinity; I wonder if it's done via some sort of long-distance VPN. I'm figuring (hoping) the dead-man-switch has been replaced by a lost-network-connection-switch.

And then I considered the safety program slogan painted on the outside of the engine.

What puzzled me is they're using a remote control locomotive so they don't have to pay a highly trained worker to sit in the cab, because sometimes trains sit idle and it would cause the Corporation to explode if a skilled person got a few minutes of non-productive time. So they've got a roomfull of Drone Pilots Engineers at an undisclosed location, and they've dumbed-down the required skillset (and payscale) of the people that do have to be on the site (physically, n'at).

So they paint safety slogans for the physical meatspace workers on the side of the unmanned Drone Locomotive. There's a very deep disconnect in that.

As I rode north I encountered a cyclist who had fallen along the trail on a high-end road bike. I think he broke his collarbone, and there was a lot of cuts and bleeding. He hit his helmet on the pavement, and a section of the helmet foam had broken under the impact. One of the carbon fiber spokes on the front wheel had failed, I don't know if that was secondary to the crash or the cause of the crash.

The injured bicyclist (the second I've seen this year along that section of the trail) reinforces my notion that we need Wayfinding signage along the local bike trails, identifying the location, the number to call for assistance, and the direction and distance to the nearest trailhead.

Finally, this was my first opportunity to see the new bike lanes around the Marcegaglia plant at the Waterfront. These are very nicely done, and they're probably the best bike lanes (in terms of marking, signage, segregation) in the region.

Week 42
this week:
146 miles
  [4th quarter: 765 miles]    
2011: 4031 miles

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