Ridin’ with the Gizmo

This summer I signed up for a Portland State University study to track bicyclist behavior. The study is in two parts: a phone survey that happened earlier this year, and now a second phase that uses Global Positioning System units to study the actual routes that riders take. I’ve had one of the GPS systems for a week.


The gizmo is the thing strapped to the bike rack, and it’s the size of a Palm. It lives in a zip lock bag. That’s not my bike, by the way. Mine is much dingier.

I thought I’d share some of my experiences, starting with the day I received it. Instead of going home that evening, I had to go to a committee meeting that was in Forest Heights at 5 pm. So I did this super-cool ride, up the McCall Waterfont Park, then a portage over the train tracks at Union Station, then across the Pearl and NW up to my friend’s house on NW Raleigh, where I parked my bike. And, of course, since it was my first ride with the gizmo, I did something wrong and when I got to his house, the device was off. It probably didn’t log my ride. D’oh!

Then I got the hang of it, and figured out how to log trips the way the kindly grad student showed me. Since then, the only wrinkles have been that it’s a bit more equipment to take with me and manage. And I’ve had to acquire satellites.

When you first flip up the antenna, the screen says “Acquiring satellites.” Because I’m slightly compulsive about getting things to work right after my maiden voyage, I now wait for the screen to change to “Logging Data,” even though I don’t have to.

Which makes for some interesting situations, such as today at lunch, when I had my burrito in my pannier, and had set up the trip, and was all set to go—as soon as I got me a satellite. Let’s paint the picture. I was dressed in business casual attire, except for my grotty commuter-shoes, my pant cuff tucked into my sock, and my bike helmet. And I was standing on a busy sidewalk downtown, holding an electronic device that wasn’t a cell phone or a camera, and I was trying to act natural.

And in fairness, I should mention that I didn’t have to get a burrito today. I could have eaten my clump o’ leftovers instead. But it was a nice day, a burrito sounded good, and all things being equal, I thought I’d show bicyclists’ behavior includes dining out, albeit with odd electronic devices.


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