Kevin's Insight on Products, Service and Information – Analytical & Reflective Thinking – Sifting through the News, Business Propaganda & Rhetoric – What's Really Happening

How’s The Economy Doing?

How’s The Economy Doing?

I’m no economist nor do I pretend to be. Being somewhat introverted, I love to watch activity and things going around me as drive, visit new or old places or when interacting with people. Therefore, I’d like to include some of my recent observations on…

Why Didn’t I Listen To My Wife?

Why Didn’t I Listen To My Wife?

My wife wanted to hire a contractor to refinish our stairs, the gateway between our 1st and 2nd floor. The job was going to cost about $1,500. There was old, white carpeting dividing the stained wooden stairs from left to right. We peeked under the car…

How To Avoid Getting Killed On A Bicycle

How To Avoid Getting Killed On A Bicycle

indexRecently, the NYTimes.com published an article on a young woman who lost her life bicycling in Seattle. Being a cycling advocate, that quickly piqued my interest – according to the article, 726 cyclists lost their lives in the States in 2012. That article also stated that flying was much safer than cycling. In fact, there were no commercial airplane accidents in the U.S. in 2012.  

That got me thinking, if my nephew or niece asked me about my 40 years of bicycling experience or how I would protect myself, what would I say? Would suggestions or insight might I provide them that may help protect them as they bicycle either in the urban jungle or on rural roads. Is it possible that my experience as a cyclist may actually help improve their safety as younger riders? To that end, I decided to list some key things that may not only improve bicycling safety but overall improve transportation.

 

My advice to those who bicycle is as follows:

1. Assume that you are basically invisible to motorists and you need to always be aware of the environment around you.

2. When cars pass you, assume you have disappeared in their mind. This means, anticipate those motorists who immediately turn in front of you once they’ve passed you. Your speed can determine whether or not you can stop in time. 

3. Never wear head phones or do any audio listening as your ears are a key sensory protection while on the bike. 

4. Always wear yellow, it is the brightest color and makes you more visible.

5. Look around a lot, pay attention to motorists and pedestrians as they may not be paying attention to you. Additionally, that movement, especially in dark conditions makes you more visible.

6. Equip your bicycle with front and blinking lights. Blinking lights make you more visible, the blinking makes it clear that you are a bicycle. For your safety, equip the bike with a strong headlight to help you see the road and its surroundings.  

7. Look for people in parked cars (as they are not looking for you) to avoid being doored (especially on a busy street).  

8. Be courteous and a defensive cyclist at all times. Don’t make this political if you are wronged. You’ll never win a battle against a heavy steel contraption barreling down the road.  

9. Don’t get competitive about “beating your best time” home. Safety is always more important than competitive games you may conjure up in your mind to get home quickly. 

10. Don’t put your guard down when using bike lanes in the city. You still need to watch for trucks, cars and pedestrians.  

11. Respect traffic lights as much (if not more) than motorists. Ignoring stop signs or traffic lights is a dangerous precedent and sets a poor example for cycling.  

12. Learn your roads so you can watch out for potholes, park cars (where drivers frequently come and go), knowing where pedestrians typically cross. Become more familiar with your environment helps you anticipate potential issues.

13. Use hand signals on a bicycle, regardless of what motorists do or don’t do with their directionals. You’re setting a good example and also conveying to motorists that you are a confident and competent cyclist.  

14. Never daydream while cycling. Focus on transporting yourself safely from Point A to Point B.

15. Wear a reflective helmet and reflective clothing whenever possible.  

16. Be careful about toeclips or click-on bike shoes. Yes, they improve the amount of energy being transferred from each pedal revolution to the distance traveled but you can’t “tie yourself up,” especially during urban cycling which can potentially cause you to lose control of your bike. 

17. Making eye contact with motorists conveys you notice them and are paying attention to their moves.  

18. Regularly test your brakes to ensure they are functioning correctly. This safeguard can certainly make a difference in city traffic or on wet roads.  

19. Regardless of all these tips and safeguards, you’ll still need good luck and fortune while traversing the urban jungle and rural roads. Safe traveling indeed!

TRIP ADVISOR CITY GUIDES – MONTREAL

TRIP ADVISOR CITY GUIDES – MONTREAL

rdTopLaurel_L_TMBefore I begin, my wife suggested that I give this software a trial – I was initially resistant although I did realize our week long trip to Montreal was days away and didn’t have any other mobile alternatives.
It took some effort and trial and error work, however, I was overall pleased with the software after getting out of my comfort zone and giving it a try. There are a number of significant cities, or perhaps the largest, where you can download the City Guide. Categories include Europe, North America, Central and South America, Asia, Australia, Middle East and Africa. Europe has the most significant cities with 31 although North America (which includes Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto in Canada and Playa del Carmen in Mexico) and U.S. cities closely follow with 26.
After downloading the software, I added my destination (Montreal) to help me prepare for the trip. Once you settle in, you can search the target city by restaurants, hotels, attractions, nightlife, shopping and tours (tickets). Once you choose any of those items, the app is smart enough to ask you if your search should include the entire city or a given neighborhood. When I select the neighborhood of Old Montreal, a list of these restaurants appear to include overall rankings from Montreal even though just the neighborhood results appeared. The price range was included along with comments and rankings and the link provides additional information, if necessary. Two invaluable features includes the distance from my current location and the option, ‘Point Me There,’ which displays a large arrow on the screen to the correct direction. As a pedestrian, the ‘Point Me There’ feature is critical when my destination was within 1 kilometer or so. Another feature worth mentioning is the map — this supports the other directional features and by providing street names and intersections, give visitors another option to help get around the city.
After doing some basic searches on a hotel or restaurant, you can filter Montreal (the city) or Old Montreal (neighborhood) by price, either $, $$, $$$, or $$$$. If you’re price conscious and want a specific cuisine, you can also add another variable of ‘Search by Cuisine’ so while on the go, you drill down to get a pretty good idea what you’re searching for.
Being in a foreign country and even though the beautiful country of Canada is just to our north, I was unsure how our mobile data plan was going to cost. Therefore, my wife and I were quite careful with the amount of data we used. Much to my surprise, I learned most of these TripAdvisor features, including, Point Me There, or the distance from my destination did not use data. Again, a very pleasant surprise.
This app helped me gain quick feedback regarding a hotel, tourist attraction, shopping or restaurant. This may be more useful when travelers are on “the go” and need information fast. If you have more time to plan and acquire information, reading comments can supplement a rating. In my opinion, seeing 30 or so comments on a museum, shopping, or a restaurant, it typically will provide enough sampling information to acquire a good idea behind the product or service.
Regarding Montreal’s metro, TripAdvisor listed all the stations throughout the core of the urban area. To locate a given metro station, you could click on the nearest metro station and be pointed in that direction. It gave specific directions – whether there were more than one station nearby. Invaluable feature when weary or in a hurry to get from one point of the city to another without having to rely on a taxi.
TripAdvisor maps are designed to be used before or during travel although some mobile users may have some challenges clearly seeing the screen. For example, using an iPhone 5, that screen didn’t quite provide the amount of real estate in which to view the map. Regardless of how much one will “zoom in” on the map, some mobile users might see it a challenge to solely rely on that feature when maneuvering the city. As a working solution, I picked up a detailed map of Montreal to supplement the TripAdvisor map display. Having both of these tools was a “win-win” in my book – a mix of the old and new school and allowed me to alternative back and forth to leverage the most effective tool at the time to get the job done.
I can’t say the TripAdvisor tool was completely intuitive or the easiest tool to use. It takes some time to get the feel of how it’s designed so I became somewhat familiar with it prior to my trip. By using it in Montreal, I was exposed to some if not all the features – the tool will definitely be used again and I would definitely say, customer centric. Spending any more than a few days in a new city, learning the basics of this app would be time well spent. In fact, with our trip planned to Columbus, Ohio, in October, I’m reviewing some of the key tourist sites according to the past visitors who took the time to rate and possibly comment.
Airline Drama – To Recline or Not to Recline?

Airline Drama – To Recline or Not to Recline?

According to the NY Times article, there was a recent disturbance on a flight from Newark to Denver where a woman was unable to recline her seat. Another flier who sat directly behind her had installed the Knee Defender, a $21.95 device on her seat preventing her from reclining. After a heated argument and the inability for her to recline, she threw water on this individual. Both were escorted off the plane in Chicago.

This NY Times article, written by Josh Barro, argues in favor of reclining. His premise, by purchasing a flight ticket, you are not only paying for your seat, you’re paying for a certain amount of space and part of that space is having the ability to recline your seat, regardless of the size or height of the person who sits behind you. The author also suggests, in lieu of any potential confrontation about this matter, a key option is to explain the situation to the flight attendant and possibly get one of those parties to move. Of course, with many flights running at capacity of near capacity, having someone move is not always an option.

The author also suggests that women are less likely to recline which should indicate men are more likely to do so. Ironically, this situation involved a woman wanting to recline. For what it’s worth, my last two flights involved two women reclining their seat in front of me without asking if that would be OK.

From my perspective, I will never recline my seat if someone is sitting behind me. That’s just me – perhaps my empathy kicks in and as my close friends know, when this occurs to me, I’m not smiling so it’s not something I’d subject others too.

In today’s world, as anyone would have noticed if they’ve flown recently, the incredible thing about coach is you barely have enough legroom. It’s just manageable and with those travelers who do recline their seats when they can, those impacted can be quite inconvenienced. Forget about trying to do any work on a computer or effectively manage a newspaper. Perhaps carry on magazines which may be all you can do.

So who’s at fault? Both parties were escorted off the airplane for disorderly conduct. I thought that was a bit over the top although that’s getting off topic. Where should the focus lie? On the airlines? Years ago, reclining your seat was less of an issue when you had more legroom. To maximize profits, airlines are continuing to search for every manageable way to make money on each flight – sometimes these methods may border on the unmanageable. With less legroom than ever, many airlines have never adjusted or changed their seat reclining policy.

Instead of turning your anger towards the airlines, where I believe the blame should lie, customers may eventually argue with one another about this controversial habit. I know, I know, the airlines will be glad to sit on the sidelines and let both sides of this issue hack it out through social media. Haven’t the airlines created this pressure cooker? If those Knee Defenders are becoming more common, even though they are forbidden on most, if not all airlines, should not the presences of these devices indicate to the airlines the need to be more proactive in mitigating future issues? Is not the solution to create more legroom for all passengers to mitigate the inconvenience? Or, if no legroom is available, prevent the seats from reclining?

Will something serious have to occur before these airlines will make significant space improvements while flying?