This era in history may be remembered as the "Peak Age", a brief time when nearly all materials used to power and create our society reach the maximum extraction and production potential. Past this point, all of these resources become increasingly difficult to extract until they are no longer economically viable resources to be using. There are hundreds of examples of resources, currently embedded in our industrial society, which have reached their peak in the 50 years surrounding 2010, but the one which will most impact our society is petroleum.

The goal of living for 100 days without oil is to understand the extent of our dependance on oil in American society today. Specifically, how it will affect my life, as a 25 year-oil living in Minneapolis, MN. By using myself as a metric I can take a close and conscious look at where oil dependance occurs in all aspects of our daily lives : How we transport ourselves from one place to another, what we eat, how much waste we create, how water is cleaned and transported, where oil is used as; an energy resource, in conventional medicine and for hygiene and how oil affects how we entertain ourselves and communicate with others. By demonstrating how someone would be forced to live without using any oil resources, outlining both what the sacrifices will be as well as the benefits, we can can identify the many systems which will have to be re-designed in a world without cheap oil, and explore a new way of living in which we live in an energy balance.

(At the bottom of this page is a link to my version of a flow diagram of 'Where Petroleum Exists in Our Daily Lives' (using information from the Energy Information Administration-Annual Energy Review 2008 fig 5.0 Petroleum flow) click and zoom to enlarge)

Friday, October 15, 2010


11 October 2010

The typical street is full of people trying to get places; pedestrians, bikes, cars, buses, trucks...Our society has a mentality of needing to get places fast, no matter where they are going, or if they are even in a hurry.  In a totally unscientific argument, I have observed that the need to go fast ironically goes up the faster mode of transportation you are in.  When walking we are typically not in too much of hurry.  In a car, however, our #1 objective is to get where we are trying to go in the fastest way possible.  Biking is somewhat of a middle ground.  Bicycle commuting is obviously a way to GET places (as is walking), but people often bike in a more relaxed manner than they drive (again,, unscientific observation).  The different attitudes of people contributes to quite a bit of conflict on the road.  

I'd like to spend a moment stereotyping first:

(click to enlarge)

Jokes aside, the reality is that each of these different people are in different states of mind, with one common goal to GET places. 
I think it is difficult for drivers who have never commuted by bike to understand what it is like to get around this way.  How fast I am biking and my mood are just about directly related to how cold it is outside.  Sometimes biking around isn't a real pleasant thing, but if its the only way to get somewhere, so be it.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, when I'm CRAWLING up the Cleveland Ave hill in 40 degree weather, getting rained on, after having biked for 8 miles to get there, that is the FASTEST I CAN GO.  Promise.  If I had a bike lane to get into to get out of your way, I would use it so don't yell at me. :)

In the film "No Impact Man", a film about a couple in New York and their baby girl living as "no impact" as possible, the wife describes the feelings she had about bikers in a very interesting way.  She describes feeling like the BIKERS were the ones making roads unsafe for CARS because they are hard to see and cars are constantly having to get out of the way.  While this might seem ridiculous, it is really interesting to hear very honestly what it is that goes through people's minds to react the way they do as drivers of cars (and on bikes).  Everyone has a reason to think the way they do, and the only way to resolve these issues is to take a meaningful look into another person's life and try to understand where their opinions are coming from

I actually wrote this entire post, and then deleted it because it had such an "angry biker" tone that wasn't addressing the real obstacles of getting around by bicycle.   Whether this one has any better tone, I'm not sure.  What I do understand, is that although our safety on the road as bicyclists is very personal, ranting about the "asshole bus driver that cut me off" and the "cars" who "don't care about us" (whether they do or not) is just  an expression of bitterness and fear and would not be getting to the core of the issues-which are SO important. 

The stories of bicycle dealths on the road are very sobering, as seen on websites such as  A handful of bikers are killed each year in Minneapolis and 1000+ more are injured in some way. 

The language we use to describe accidents is very telling of the way we view these incidents: We say, "that CAR hit me" or "that BIKE cut me off".  We aren't recognizing the PEOPLE in those cars and on those bikes.  We aren't recognizing each other as humans.


10 October 2010

As my only way to get around these days is biking, I spend some quality time each day on the road trying not to die.  The other day biking between campuses with a friend I realized that we have the SAME conversation about near-misses on bikes almost every time we ride together.  We both always seem to have new stories about a car, truck or bus that cut us off, pedestrian we had to slam our brakes on for, or taxi cab that pushed the limits on how close they could get without hitting us.  Almost everyone who bikes knows somebody who has been seriously injured by a collision on the road.  There are many factors contributing to the ridiculous lack of safety commuting by bike, some of which is the bikers doing.  Most of the accidents, however likely stem from the same few problems.The fact that getting around by bike is not safe is one of the biggest barriers to change for people who want to bike by are still commuting by car.  

This post is dedicated to first of these barriers to change for bicycle commuting as I see it-understanding the laws for both bikes and cars:

PART 1: We all went to driving school, but none of us went to bicycling school.

A link to the Minnesota Bicycling Laws can be found on the City of Minneapolis website:
or directly here:

Allow me to summarize in my own words:

Subdivision 1:
Every person operating a bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any vehicle except where bicycles are prohibited

Subdivision 2:
No more people riding on bikes than the bike is designed to carry (except babies)

Subdivision 3:
No hanging on to vehicles (which makes life difficult for tall bikes)

Subdivision 4:
_Bicycles shall ride "as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of roadway except" ...when passing a vehicle, when preparing for a left turn, when necessary to avoid fixed or moving objects, vehicles, animals, pedestrians
_Must ride in the direction of traffic
_"Cannot ride more than two abreast and shall not impeded the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, remaining inside a single lane"
_When biking on the sidewalk bikes must yield to pedestrians (bicycles are prohibited on sidewalks in business districts, map of zones is found here:
_When biking on the sidewalk in legal zones, bikes have all of the same right-of-way rights as pedestrians

Subdivision 5:
When carrying articles you must keep at least one hand on the handle bars and be able to use your brakes.

Subdivision 6:
Cannot ride bikes at night without :
_a lamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of 500 ft on the front
_a red reflector visible from 100-600 feet on the rear (red flashing signal light recommended)
_no operating without a brake
_"No person shall operate upon a highway any bicycle  equipped with handlebars so raised that the operator must  elevate the hands above the level of the shoulders in order to  grasp the normal steering grip area.
_"No person shall operate upon a highway any bicycle  which is of such a size as to prevent the operator from stopping  the bicycle, supporting it with at least one foot on the highway  surface and restarting in a safe manner." (again tall bikes)

Subdivision 7: 
Cannot sell new bicycles without being equipped with reflectors and equipment required by Subd. 6

Subdivision 8:
Must signal with arms continuously for 100 feet before turning (unless you lose control)

Subdivision 9:
(according to parking laws Bikes can park temporarily only in bike racks, but not street signs, parking meters or lamp posts :/

Subdivision 10:
No bike racing, events or parades without city approval

Subdivision 11:
Peace officers are exempts from all these rules

Laws in the Minnesota Driving Law that apply to bikes:
Subdivision 3: Passing:
"(3) the operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle or  individual proceeding in the same direction on the roadway shall  leave a safe distance, but in no case less than three feet clearance, when passing the bicycle or individual and shall  maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual. "

Subdivision 7: Laned Highway:
"(d) Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a  roadway, any person operating a motor vehicle on such roadway  shall not drive in the bicycle lane except to park where parking  is permitted, to enter or leave the highway, or to prepare for a  turn as provided in section 169.19, subdivision 1."

I believe the biggest misunderstanding that cars drivers have of bicyclists is that bikes don't have the same rights to the road as cars do.  This is the first law of the Bicycle Laws, but isn't included anywhere in the Driving Laws.  So, as a bike, we are aware we have a right to be on the road, but nobody ever told the cars.......?

As you can see, many of these laws are a bit muddy.  What happens when you are biking down Hennepin Ave (really busy street in Uptown), traffic in both lanes, parked cars on each side, and are forced to bike in the lane and, consequently, slow traffic?  Well, the reality is you nearly get hit by a bus or two.

As bikers and drivers we need to understand the laws of each and obey them!  I feel a bit hypocritical saying this because I'm not exactly an angel on a bike and have tendency to bend and break the rules quite a bit  (not stopping at all way stops, forgetting to signal...).  Communicating with drivers, and being predictable are good ways to start, however we need to make cars aware of our rights on the road, and this begins with educating people about the laws....