Type 2 Diabetic. Cyclist Flâneur.   Coffeeneur.    Errandoneur
A bike / map geek with a gadget obsession and a high-viz fetish.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Hazardous Air Quality along the GAP Trail (Great Allegheny Passage)

This is a story of today, the story of 2019, the story of the 1948 Donora Smog, the story of Big Money vs Public Health that's been going on for a very long time. And to be honest, it's a story about privilege and It's All About Me.

In today's Post-Gazette, Chris Briem describes the economies of the Mon Valley. It's a brilliant article. Instead of "why did we lose steel", the writer starts with "why did we have steel?" and then moves into the economics of the loss.

Don't just take my word for it. Ashleigh Deemer, co-Director at Penn Environment, tweeted:

2019

In the winter of 2018-2019, US Steel's Clairton plants had a fire which knocked out several polution-control devices at the Clairton plant. The Allegheny County, PA Public Health Department published several alerts warning of high emissions of sulfur dioxide and other contaminents.

One problem is there's a multitude of tiny municipalities in the warning area, and people don't always have a good sense of the geography and the implications when warnings are provided in words and text, without imagery.

On Jan 18, 2019, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette published this graphic of the areas with air quality concerns affected by US Steel's Clairton plant:

The first thing I'd offer is that the graphic is sort of a geographic Venn diagram - the areas of air quality concerns are all in Allegheny County, and none are in Pittsburgh, PA. So this is an Allegheny County problem and quite obviously not a Pittsburgh problem. To bring it into accountability and individuals, this is an Allegheny County Executive problem and not a Pittsburgh Mayor problem.

The second thing that jumps off the graphic to me is a statement of my own privilege: I look at that map and say, Hey my fave bike trails are in this area where they're telling people to avoid being outside? Why aren't I hearing more about this from the Trails people?

It's my own privilege to focus on the Trails implications of the ongoing Clairton air quality issue. There are old people who will die early, young people who will develop respiratory issues, and middle-aged people who will see their real estate values stay constant because of this pollution. But if it's All About Me, I want to talk about Trails.

This shows the Montour Trail and GAP Trail (Great Allegheny Passage) and the Clairton pollution footprint.

2021

But back to today and my own privilege. Allegheny County actively persuades people to ride the Montour and GAP trails as a matter of economic policy. If you fly into the County-run PIT airport, intending to ride to DC, the baggage claim area offers a workstation for you to re-assemble your bike, and they've built a wonderful airport connector route that takes you to the Montour Trail and thence the Great Allegheny Passage. You can fly in and ride out, straight into the Clairton air pollution zone.

On some days, a different branch of Allegheny County government advertises that people should avoid exertion and avoid being outside in the exact same area. This is a Venn diagram of complete overlap. There's a complete dissonance in the County's activities.

A related anecdote: Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh used to advertise the Pittsburgh Triathalon, which includes a swim in the Allegheny River. On certain days, the County Sewer Authority (ALCOSAN) would flush untreated sewage into the river and advertise that swimming, fishing, boating were unhealthy in the exact same area where the County-City Triathlon was sending people swimming. At least one particvipant was hospitalized.

Fortunately, and in my perspective due to the work of S. Quesen PhD, the river quality is now evaluated daily before Triathalon swimming events.

If the County (appropriately)encourages people to engage in an activity, then the County has an obligation to provide real-time info to participants.

If the County Health Department publishes Air Quality Warnings affecting the Montour Trail and the GAP Trail, the County has an obligation to inform trail users. Signs saying, "air quality warning", or "avoid strenuous activities" would be a great start.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Bike Towing Boat, Alden 18 foot scull

I tried to build a bike towing arrangement to move my recently obtained Alden 18foot ocean scull from my house to the lake about a mile away.

For the back of the trailer assembly, I used a two-wheel cradle that's actually a boat dolly used to move the scull around a dockyard. I thought it would do well to carry the bike at low speeds.

For the front of the towing assembly, I used a Bob Trailer I already have, and cut up a box that looked a lot like a postal carton to cradle the bow. The Bob Trailer connects normally to my Surly ECR.

There were two problems. One, when the rear wheels catch any kind of friction or resistance, they tend to just slide off the stern. Not desirable.

Problem Two: the one-wheel bob trailer banks right-left as the bike turns. This induces a rolling force to the boat hull. The back of the hull is strapped into a two-wheeled trailer that follows the surface of the road. This flexy in the front, rigid in the back outcome is not conducive to keeping the hull in the trailer.

It completely failed the road test. But it looked good.

The next plan is to use a two-wheel kids trailer, that's independent of the bike frame banking, on the bow of the boat. Also I'll use some small railings to keep the straps from sliding off the boat.

Parts on order. We'll see.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Coffeeneuring 2020 Complete!

See my 2020 Coffeeneuring Report for documentation of the rides. Thanks to MG for conceiving of the challenge and administering the process every year for ten years!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Coffeeneuring Time of Year

It's that time of year again: Coffeeneuring! It's fun! It's painless! It makes sense during an insane time.

The back story, from many years ago and passed down orally, is that there's a bike activity called randoneuring. Randoneuring is riding bikes for distances, self-supported, within a set of rules. Trust me, it's big in France.

Coffeeneuring is an attempt to

  • expose people to the randoneuring concept
  • keep people riding at a time when some put their bikes 'away'
  • support local coffee shops
  • demonstrate the importance of bicycle shoppers
and these are all good causes.

Just like most cults, Coffeeneuring has evolved over the years. Now there's merchandise - patches for those who complete the challenge, even the occasional order or coffeeneur-themed sock! At one time the rules were complex, and then very complex, and now they've gotten way simpler with a new emphasis on the Spirit of Coffeeneuring. Draw any parallels you will.

Coffeeneuring is apolitical. It is neight rural or urban. It is international. It is gender inclusive. Here's a link to details.

I hope you enjoy Coffeeneuring in 2020!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Rivnuts - where have they been my whole life?

I have a rear rack on a bike. Eventually, one of the bolts that connect the rack support to the seat tube fell away. When I looked at the whole, expecting to see threading for a bolt, there was just a hole, a bit bigger than I expected.

I took it to a guru who said, Yep you need a RivNut. Click here for Park's view. A RivNut is a rivet that you put into a hole on a bike frame, and when you tighten and deform the rivet, you end up with a smaller threaded hole you can put a bike bolt into.

Absolutely genius.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Coffeeneuring 2019-7, Empire Blvd to Sit & Wonder, Washington Ave and St. Mark's Place

We were unexpectedly out of town, but Brooklyn NYC has bike share so we completed the challenge on a nice day. We checked out two NYC bikeshare bikes, and they were sturdy utilitarian tanks.



All the drivers played nice, and in fact it was a copacetic ride. We each had cold green teas. Total mileage a little over 2 miles.

2019 Coffeeneuring Challenge Complete!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Coffeeneuring 2019-6, Fort Cherry to Walden's in Burgettstown

Coffeeneur 2019-6, week3, w/ Karen Quig along with RC & DC on Panhandle Trail from Ft Cherry to Burgettstown at Walden's at 1709 Main Restaurant. We both had coffee, I had pie and ice cream, she had an omelette. Excellent place, ample bike parking, very friendly.
16 miles.