Looking for the right route

August 8, 2008

Brian Arner caught a CBS Sunday Morning report on how there’s a renewed interest in bicycling because of gas price increases. He noted how progressive one city has been for making its streets safe for cycling, which has increased cycling there tremendously.

As a cyclist who rides in a city that essentially has no bike lanes, it’s fascinating to see what Portland, OR, has done in establishing a 300-mile bike network. I wonder what kind of cultural changes we could experience in Knoxville if we had a similar commitment from community leaders?

As Brian does, I wish our area would follow Portland’s lead. Sadly, I don’t that expect to happen soon.

It’s true there are many bike paths here, when just 10 years ago there were almost none. But bike paths aren’t practical for bicyclists who wish to go fast or go cross town.

Lately I’ve been studying maps and driving new routes home from my office to scout a possible way for me to ride my bike to work. By car, the route I normally take is just over 20 miles one way, a very doable distance if I went instead by bike. But the route would not be safe on a bike. It includes four-lane roads and narrow two-lane roads without so much as a shoulder.

And that’s typical for East Tennessee. The roads are either busy, narrow, twisty, hilly, or more commonly, all of the above.

Still, I’m intent on trying to find a ridable route, even if East Tennessee never becomes another Portland.

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Your mileage may vary

August 6, 2008

Apparently it was released a week or two ago, but I just came across a new Google Maps feature: walking directions.

It works like Google’s driving directions, except it maps out a more direct route using as many two-lane roads as possible.

Walking on roads isn’t my idea of a good hike, but the mapping feature is an interesting idea. It might have some good cycling applications, too, though I think Bikely.com is better suited for that kind of mapping.

Interestingly, as I investigated more about this feature I came across an article at PopSci.com, which said some people are expressing privacy concerns about it. But reading on, I discovered the writer is somehow mixing the StreetView feature with the walking directions feature.

It seems any new Google Maps add-on causes a slight stir with Internet users who are concerned about privacy. The Street View feature, which lets you see a 360-degree photo of the location you intend to visit and then view a succession of images as you travel the virtual route online, is well within legal limits, says privacy expert Mike Spinney from the Ponemon Institute, a think tank that studies privacy issues.

That confusion aside, I doubt there’s any legal grounds for this. I’m by no means a lawyer, but I know you can’t have the same assumption of privacy on your street curb that you have in your home.

A bigger concern should be a concern for Google’s lack of reasonable expectations for walkers and hikers.

I mapped a walking trip from my hometown to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where my younger son will start college in a couple weeks.

Walking directions to Ann Arbor, MI
543 mi – about 7 days 11 hours

Sure, that comes with a disclaimer.

Walking directions are in beta.
Use caution when walking in unfamiliar areas.

That doesn’t come close to warning you that hiking at this pace will kill you! Do the math. To walk 543 miles in 7 1/2 days you’d average just over 3 miles an hour — without stopping to rest, sleep, or eat.

I guess that qualifies for “unfamiliar areas.”


I’m alive!

August 2, 2008
Tor Johnson as Inspector Daniel Clay in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959).

No, that's not me. That's Tor Johnson in Plan 9 from Outer Space. But I have sometimes felt like the walking undead.

It’s been several months since I’ve written anything here. That’s mostly because I’ve been too busy at work and too busy with a substantial remodeling project at home.

But now I’m getting the blogging urge again.

Stay tuned.