Max the steer has passed away

If you have a small child and live in Durham, at some point you’ve likely met Max the steer, who up until this weekend lived at the Museum of Life + Science.

Max has been at the museum since he was three months old, back in 2007. He passed away of unknown causes. My daughter is definitely going to miss him.

Note, and this is very important: Max was a steer, not a cow. Please be aware that milk does not come from steers. Try explaining this to a four year old, though; my daughter still attempts to “milk” the highly anatomically correct Major the Bull in disturbing ways.

Google Fiber is (still) coming

You may have heard that Google Fiber is beginning honest to god construction now.

What does that mean for you? Not a whole lot – yet. The first homes will probably start coming online within a year or so, but it will most likely take several years for the rollout to complete.

If you haven’t already, you can put your address into this web page (as if Google doesn’t already have your address somewhere…..) and they’ll let you know when you can buy this thing.

Durham launches Open Durham (no relation to Open Durham)

Well, now there are two things named Open Durham.

The new kid on the block is a web site which houses all sorts of data about the city. You data nerds out there go have fun with this, I’m sure that you can find all kinds of interesting trends. Like, check out this crime map for example. It seems like it could be a pretty useful tool.

A lot of you probably already know of the original Open Durham, created by Gary Kueber as a followup to Endagered Durham as a facility to document the history of the city’s architecture.

The city better get on that SEO to optimize its brand and avoid consumer confusion. Gary’s site pre-dates the new service by several years, so he’s got quite a head start. I guess there’s room in the world for multiple open Durhams, just be careful in your googling to make sure you find the one you actually want.

New Belgium’s “Tour de Fat” hits Durham this weekend

Tour de Fat is another weird one. Not, like, Beaver Queen Pageant weird, but it’s up there.

New Belgium (which is a brewery that is mostly in the business of making beer) operates a travelling show which is about bicycles (and also, of course, about New Belgium beer). The event is located in and around the DBAP, with various activities for all ages thereabouts.

The show itself is free, but if you’re so inclined you can cough up some cash to help support local non-profits.

The Business 15-501 Road Diet has been approved

And it passed by a whopping 7-0 margin. Kevin’s got more details about the council meeting (which also included approval of the condos around Central Park; more on that later).

The opponents of the road diet did not present data to support their opposition, and their arguments mostly boiled down to the appeal to tradition fallacy or the Nirvana fallacy (or, in some cases, outright incorrect information).

My big takeaway from all of this is that there’s a lot of pent up demand for improving Durham’s streets. It’s easy to imagine a world where the concerns of a few business owners might have killed this entire project, but the sheer volume of community support was impossible to ignore. This was in no small part due to the efforts of Bike Durham, which organized the petition (which received over 1000 signatures), and as always thanks to the efforts of the BPAC.

Mayor Bell seemed a bit miffed by the outcome, and he grumped that “phase 2” (sidewalks and further upgrades) wouldn’t happen in his lifetime, but that didn’t stop him from voting yes anyway to make this unanimous. I suspect that this vote is an indicator that well considered streetscape improvements will be approved by the Council in the future.

Well, assuming that they’re free, of course. If the city has to actually pay for them, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game.

Bull City Rising is back

Kevin of the Bull City Rising blog has started posting again.

I liked Kevin’s blog a lot and I doubt I would ever have made had he continued it, so that leaves this site with an uncertain future. I’ve had a lot of fun here, but Kevin has more time (or at least more dedication) than I’ve been able to muster.

For the time being I expect to keep publishing this blog without any changes, but if there ends up being a lot of overlap with BCR I may post a bit less and focus more specifically on subjects of particular interest to me.

The Beaver Queen Pageant is tomorrow (June 6)

The Beaver Queen Pageant is… well… I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s a strange festival that supports the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association in its efforts to protect the creek.

The main event is essentially a talent show that revolves heavily around puns, but that description doesn’t do it any kind of justice. If you’ve never been, you should go at least once (especially if you have kids).

Saturday, June 6, Duke Park. The “pre-show” starts at 4, and the pageant itself starts at 5.

I want to eat at Foster’s more often. Please help me.

I like Foster’s. I like it a whole lot. But I don’t go there very often.

Why? Well, when I take my daughter with me, I normally use this:

But this is between me and Foster’s:

Screenshot from 2015-06-04 10-16-31

There’s a plan in place to add bike lanes to this road, but it’s being held up because several businesses are opposed to it. They want to keep it like it is.

Now, I’ll ride on crummy roads like this when I’m all by myself, but if I’m towing 60+ pounds behind me (40 of which are in the form of a child who I kind of like) the equation changes. I go more slowly. And I have even more interest in not getting hit, so I try to avoid roads that look like the above.

This road is insanely overbuilt. It’s never close to needing five lanes. And people drive way over the speed limit here, because that’s what people do on overbuilt roads.

I don’t mean to be picking on Foster’s, by the way. I don’t know that they’ve expressed a stance on this issue either way. I only mention them by name because I really, seriously, honestly love Foster’s. And I really, seriously, honestly would go there with my family more often if this road had bike lanes.

I understand that business owners need to be conservative when their livlihoods are on the line, and it makes sense that some of them might oppose a change. But I believe this will be a good change for everybody, and I’ve placed one data point out there for you: I promise I will spend more money in this corridor if there are bike lanes here. And if I go to Foster’s more often, there’s a good chance I’ll visit some of the neighboring establishments more often too, and everybody wins.

So, what do you say, business owners? Do you want my business? It’s waiting for you.

If any of my readers would like to be able to bike to these businesses more easily, you should make your voices heard now, because the council must make a decision in the next few weeks or no bike lanes will be added. Talk to the business owners, if you know them. Explain to them how difficult it is to patronize their establishments presently. And if you don’t know any business owners here, you can still speak up; Bike Durham has created a petition at to gather support for these bike lanes.

Council delays vote on Business 15-501 reconfiguration

The N&O is reporting that the plan, which had appeared to be heading for approval, has been sidetracked by opposition from some local businesses. The owners of Hair by Design, Classic Treasures, and the Refectory Cafe all expressed their concerns.

To be clear, the DOT’s traffic analysis shows that a reduction in travel lanes will not reduce throughput of the road and the road will continue to meet the corridor’s needs for the forseeable future. The road is essentially overbuilt now.

Adding bike lanes in general is not shown to have negative impacts on businesses. In fact, to the contrary; even in situations where street parking is sacrificed for bike lanes, adding the bike lanes has positive effects on many types of businesses (including restaurants).

The opposition is especially perplexing to me because the change will actually add parking spaces, not remove them. I’d like to understand what data these businesses have that suggests a reconfiguration would harm them, most especially a restaurant with outdoor seating. I’d expect that fewer cars exceeding the speed limit, and a larger buffer between the road and the restaurant, would be an obvious win.

If you’re going to second guess the DOT’s projections for the road’s capacity and oppose the people who live in and have to actually navigate the area, I hope you’ve thought through your assumptions. From the information I have it just looks like opposing change out of irrational fear.

If your business is so tenuous that you legitimately think that adding bike lanes will cause people to avoid patronizing your establishment, you may have more fundamental concerns you need to address first.