Green Lanes and the Right Hook in Seattle

greensign.gif The Seattle Times had a big article on bike safety and infrastructure yesterday. The focus was mostly on the danger cyclists face from traffic turning right at intersections – see collisions #3, #4, and #5 at for drawings. This is the danger that killed Bryce Lewis in September last year. It looks like the city’s taking a few experimental steps to deal with these types of issues, including some Green Lanes, known as Blue Lanes in other civilized portions of the world, at a few intersections. Great news says I, but why so slow?

According to the Times we’ll be getting 4 Green Lanes to go with the dotted line bike lane markers on Stone Way:

The sites are southbound Dexter at Denny Way, both ends of the Fremont Bridge, and North 145th Street where Shoreline’s new Interurban Trail meets the city limits.

Presumably the city will be monitoring these intersections to see how much of an improvement (if any) the new lanes are. The article notes that Portland, which has been using blue lanes for more than 15 years, noted that the lanes have changed motorist and cyclist behaviour but not always for the better.

City officials videotaped traffic and found that motorists yielded far more often to bikes in marked blue lanes – and that cyclists glanced at cars less often, a problem. Still, drivers and cyclists said the streets seemed safer.

I’ll be interested to see the results of the investigation, and it sounds like the Eastlake and Furhman intersection is next on the list for improvements.

It’s great to see that the City’s taking action here, however embarrassing it is that we’re more than a decade behind our sister city to the south on this front. The optimist in me wants to believe this is the first of many improvements from the Bicycle Master Plan, and that things will move along quickly. But for the pessimist in me, the word that stood out most strongly in the times article is ‘gingerly’. I can appreciate a a prudent approach, especially where one risks making things worse through change. I’m not sure Seattle runs that risk.

Off the bike

The Bike Hugger, outside his natural habitat …

Note that Pam called me pussy foot and I said, “the rocks were rough” and to “shut up.” And, “ya know I can go like 50 mph+ down a hill, on my bike, eating a bar with one hand and removing my arm warmers with the other.”

Sheldon Brown Stories

A reader just tipped us that Sheldon Brown has died. Very sad news and I paused before writing a post, thinking that someone who’s been in this industry longer than me should post … or maybe best to just share some stories.


I know Sheldon only from his website and reading things like a complete compendium of internally-geared hubs.

How do you remember Sheldon?

From the bikesphere

And the notice from Harris Cyclery.


Test: Nokon brake and shifter housing

nokon%2002.jpg Nokon segmented aluminium cable housing has been on the market for a number of years; I’ve used it myself for at least 4 yrs. It’s available in a number of anodized colors, weighs less and costs several times what you’d pay for perfectly good lined cable housing from Shimano or Jagwire. Why would you want it?

Nokon’s housing consists of short segments of aluminium with alternating convex/concave ends, allowing the housing to articulate, plus a fibreglass-reinforced Teflon liner that runs the length of the cable, sealing the system between split stops. While it does weigh less than standard housing, it’s time-consuming to install, adding or subtracting segments like beads on a string to get the perfect lengths.

However, the stuff works well, at least for brakes. The Nokon segments have virtually no compression once the pads hit the rim (or rotor), so more hand power is translated to stopping force. Many people talk about cables stretching to make the brakes feel mushy, but it’s as much or more housing compression than cable stretch.

Nokon also works well for really tight bends in housing. I originally got Nokon for myself because my mtb’s rear V-brake was so close to the seatpost that the housing run was all effed up and the inflexible standard housing prevented reasonable centering of the brake arms. The Nokon system for V-brakes replaced the “noodle” with extra-short segments that did not overpower the spring adjustment on the brake arms; as a bonus, the system is sealed so water and grit did not foul the rear section of housing anymore.

On my road bikes, I have a really tight run from the handlebar to the front brake caliper because my bikes are small and I run my bars somewhat low. Nokon’s extra “flexy”-ness with low friction really helps. I bought one set of Nokon roadbike brake housing and split it on the front brakes of two different bikes. It works great.

I also use it on my Sycip travel bike. Since I have to stuff the bike in an S&S case, I like the Nokon because it won’t kink no matter how roughly I pack the bike.

Where Nokon doesn’t work so well is shifters. Standard shifter housing is generally coaxially reinforced, so Nokon doesn’t have much that it can improve upon (standard brake housing has the more compressible spiral-wound reinforcement, probably so it will not collapse from high cable tension like coaxial can). Nokon always has a little bit of slack in the system before you add tension, then it goes firm. This plays havoc with tuning out a shifter/derailleur system, especially if the indexing is for short cable travel. In other words, it affects 10sp shifters more than 9sp because the 10sp shifters pull less cable per shift. Also, SRAM shifters are less affected than Shimano since SRAM pulls more cable per shift.

I rode my Sycip across Japan last summer with the Nokon system that allows you to route the shifter cable of an Shimano STI under the bar tape, like Erik Zabel famously did when his team switched from Campag to Shimano in 2004. I did this not for aesthetics; rather I had a handlebar bag sitting right in the natural path of the shifter cable. Shifting would have been unacceptable for race conditions, but I learned to live with it. On a touring bike, you don’t need hair-trigger shifting performance. But as soon as I got home and removed the bag, I re-rigged my shifters. So did Zabel.

Verdict: Nokon looks cool, is somewhat lighter, works great for tortured housing runs, makes brakes feel better, subpar for shifters.

What? Segmented metal housing is too plebeian for you? Hold tight, Nokon has segmented carbon housing available now too…it will melt your credit card.

Speedplay’s Pedal Museum—130 years of pedals

I’ve been looking for some new pedals recently and stumbled across Speedplay’s Platform/Quill Pedal museum. They’ve got some amazing specimens, including the Ramsey Swing and the Phil Wood ‘CHP’ pedal (yes, as in CHiPs). The earliest is from 1860, and would look right at home at a lamp or two we have at our place. No trace of the Wellgo’s I’m trying to replace, maybe they’re still accepting donations? They’ve also got timelines for road and mountain clipless pedals, and toe clips and straps. Looks like the site’s been around for a while, but it’s new to me and blew me away.

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