The Blog

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Back to School

High Tech structure.  The fence supports the high side "posts" and header while repurposed cement parking lot bumpers support the lower posts and header. School parking lot is in the background.
(Notice the 18 foot header, on the ground next to the posts, fabricated out of 2 - 10' 2X6's and 2 - 8' 2X6's.  I stagger the seams and use 1/2" plywood scraps  in between the two 2X6's.  Lots of glue and lots of nails make for a very strong, straight beam. From a sustainability point of view, using smaller lumber to build larger lumber requires the use of smaller trees and is therefore more sustainable.  Manufactured beams, called 'Glulams' are stronger than the equivalent solid lumber beam.) 

Bicycle shed in the foreground where tools and parts are stored.  There's also a workbench inside for rainy days.  The corrugated tin on the fence will be painted as a mural announcing the garden and bicycle project.  Behind the fence and up the hill is the garden and chickens.  I would love to be a high school student here!!

I spent every afternoon last week at the High School working on the storage structure for donated bikes and parts.  It has been a lot of fun getting to know the students and giving them jobs that help get the project done.  We should be finished by the end of next week and then I can start focusing on building an electric bicycle or two. ( I still haven't figured out the permission needed to post photos of the students. It gets complicated when the school is involved.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Electric Riders Project (ERP) accelerates and detours

Suddenly, my involvement with Woodside's Green Academy and the Electric Bicycle Project is in full swing.   But not as I had envisioned.
Last Thursday I attended a meeting with some of the interested parties.  One gentleman is excited about creating a Bike Swap once a month on campus.  This would attract bikers interested in a flea market focused on bicycles.  The booth fees would go to the Green Academy's bicycle club.
Another gentleman is a retired teacher and loves to build very nice bikes.  He wants to teach bike mechanics.
A former Woodside student is helping design the bike club by working with the students until he goes back to college in Sonoma next week.
A couple of students showed up because they are interested in bicycles and want to participate.

One of the shortcomings of the infrastructure is that there is no storage for donated bikes.  The poor beasts have been sitting out in the nasty weather getting less and less attractive.  I volunteered to build a storage unit and now I find that my interest in electric bikes has me building a shed!  (It brings me back to my happy days of theater set building on my college campuses. University of Oregon, UC Santa Cruz and Dominican College in San Rafael.)

So yesterday, I rode my bike to Home Depot and loaded up the materials needed for the shed.  Mac, the college student, helped me and as we finished, Josh Rubin showed up with the school van and a couple of students to drive the materials back to Woodside.  He left a little bit before I did and I got to campus with about 2 minutes of his arrival time.  They had only unloaded 1 board when I arrived!  Point being that the electric bike, for relatively short trips in town is just as fast as driving. (But not as good at hauling a ton of building materials.)  I was very happy to be able to demonstrate the speed and efficiency of electric bike travel.

What the heck?  Denver, CO -  June 2010

I apologize for not posting pictures.  I am working out issues around permission for the students pictures to be posted on this blog.  It shouldn't be a problem but I do need to respect their privacy.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Woodside High School Electric Rider Project (ERP) - Day 1

The cold snap ended the first day I rode down to Woodside High to start working with the students. Unfortunately, the roads were still wet and my bike got very messy.  On the bright side, I was able to test the water resistance of my electrical system.  I also added an inexpensive (about $30.00) gauge that tells me how much electricity I'm using real time and keeps track of the amp hours that I use over the distance of my trip.  The $120 Cycle Analyst that we had on our cross country bikes gives a lot more information but it is more information than I understand and too expensive for the population that I am trying to get onto electric bikes.
I arrived on campus and saw a group of students hovering around the bicycle shed.  Only one female student was there and she was labeling and organizing tools.  The "guys" were more random and were delighted with my offer to try out my bike.  Even though they couldn't reach the pedals since my frame is so big, they got a great thrill getting pulled around by the front wheel hub motor.  It's not difficult getting them to appreciate the fun factor.  (The woman student didn't want to ride the bike.  She doesn't like bicycles after she had an accident as a child that split her chin open.  She likes to work with her hands and that's why she's involved with the bicycle club.)
After a while, we all headed to teacher Marin Aldrich's classroom.  Different groups of students were working on different components related to making the bicycle club work.  The idea is to build bikes out of  old bikes and sell them.  So students were talking about everything from getting old bikes donated, to soliciting bike shop support for parts, to researching Craigslist as a marketing tool, etc.
I spoke for about ten minutes about my vision for adding electric bikes to the program.  What I remember about my words was that I kept switching back and forth between talking about the micro details of putting together electric bicycles and the big picture of global sustainability.  The point being that repurposing existing bikes with or without motors is a very good way to reduce our carbon intensive impact on the planet.
Minimal new materials. (Maybe new tires, brake pads and seats.)
If the bicycle replaces a car trip, the impact becomes measurable.
Taking advantage of resources in the community fosters local engagement which is vital to building healthier communities.
Learning to build a bike encourages self sufficiency which is an important part of growing up as well as a  necessity in the carbon constrained world that awaits our children.

I finished off my visit with a conversation with one of the students about building storage for donated bikes and an outdoor work bench attached to the shed.  Vital and simple projects that need to be done soon.

The following day, I met my sister Catherine at Oracle headquarters which was about a 25 mile round trip bike ride.  With my new gauge, I observed that I used less than 7 amp hours to cover the distance.  When I compared that to a car that gets about 25 miles per gallon, my electricity cost was under 10 cents whereas the cost of gas for the trip would have been over $3.00.  Another fun feature was that I got to my destination in the same or slightly less time than it would have taken in a car.  I rode during rush hours and by using back roads and riding alongside cars at intersections, I was able to keep a good average speed that got me to Oracle quite fast.
The bad news was that on the way home, Catherine was cut off by a car driver who turned right in front of her. She crashed into the car, fell off her bike and the driver didn't even stop.
It's dangerous out there so be careful!!!