Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Failed Project?

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 1:30 PM

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I am a big fan of charter schools. I like them because of the innovation they can bring to a classroom, because they give parents choices, they give teachers the freedom to teach and most importantly, when they don't work, they get closed down. Looking at the data at the Indianapolis Project School, I have a hard time seeing how this place is staying open.

To get you up to speed on this debate, the Project School, located at 22nd and College is a charter school that offers a "holistic" approach to education. According to its mission statement, "The vision of the Project School is to eliminate the predictive value of race, class, gender and special capacities on student success in our school and in our communities by working together with families and community to ensure each child's success." Noble goals, but unfortunately, while the spirit is willing, the flesh just might be too weak to do the job.

According to the latest round of ISTEP Test scores less than 29 percent of students passed both the English and Language Arts portion of the exam. Here is a breakdown by grade.

3rd Grade – 21.2 %.

4th Grade – 57.9 %

5th Grade – 29.2 %

6th Grade – 31.3 %.

7th Grade – 10.5 %.

8th Grade – 30%.

No one in their right mind could possibly think that 90% of a school's 7th graders failing English and math is a good thing.

I also wanted to check and make sure that the Project School just wasn't having a bad year and the poor test results weren't just a blip on the radar screen. So I went back and looked at ISTEP test results from previous years. Here's what I found.

2012 – 28.9% passed English & Math; 35.4% passed Math; 43.8 % passed English

2011 – 29.2% passed English & Math; 33.9% passed Math; 54.9% passed English

2010 – 21.1% passed English & Math; 26.7% passed Math; 46.7% passed English

2009 – 14.8% passed English & Math; 18% passed Math; 39.3% passed English

2008 – 29.8% passed English & Math; 38.8% passed Math; 40.3% passed English

And when you break the school down by racial demographics the results are even more tragic. While 72% of white students passed English and Math on ISTEP, only 16.3% of black students did. And while 72.4% of students not on free and reduced lunch passed the English and Math portion of ISTEP, only 13.5% of student on free and reduced lunch did. I also went and looked at past school years, the average pass rate at the Project School for Black students was 17% and for white students it was 49.3%. Free and reduced lunch students – 19.35%; and for non free and reduced lunch the pass rate was 40.25%.

I fully understand the Project School serves what I would likely label "difficult populations" but the fact over the past several years the test scores of black and poor students can barely crack the 20% mark tells me that something is not working and either the school needs to be shut down or new management needs to be brought in to run the place. Otherwise, the Project School may as well be an IPS School.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Figuring out food

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 4:30 PM

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I've never been one to diet. During my skinny days, when my teenage metabolism could take a beating without my body feeling it, I always said, "I'd rather eat whatever I want and exercise it away than diet myself stupid."

As it turns out, that is the outlook of a person in better physical condition than I am currently. As I've gotten older, the relationship I have with my own metabolism has spiraled downward, becoming almost abusive on my end. No longer can I help myself to a full plate of greasy, deliciousness and hit the gym to melt it away.

One lesson I've gleaned thus far from my cycling journey is that there is a direct correlation to what goes in my body and how productive my rides are. A night of brewskies with friends can easily derail a ride the following morning. That's obvious.

Waking up dehydrated in the middle of the night to gulp down my bedside water then falling back into slumberland only to have my bladder sound the alarm makes for a rough night's sleep. It's nearly impossible for me to get out of bed the next day, let alone train for my 50-mile ride.

But less obvious to me at the outset of my journey was the relationship between food and cycling. A rich meal, a frozen meal or even a fast-food meal sits in my stomach for quite awhile. Eating unhealthy derailed my progress a few times before I took notice.

In contrast, setting out for a sunrise ride can be challenging if I don't fuel myself properly. I've found myself fifteen miles up the Fall Creek Trail with no steam left after enjoying a simple bowl of Special K Vanilla Almond cereal. As my rides have gotten longer, I've discovered that two eggs will do the trick, keeping me fueled with good protein but not weighed down by greasy breakfast meat.

Not to mention trail side snacks. Without one, making it home from the Canal Towpath is nearly impossible. I opt for more protein in this area, carrying a snack bag full of sea salt almonds to munch on at my half way points. And of course, water is a must morning, noon and night, particularly in this heat wave.

My biggest question still is in the recovery foods. After a hard ride, I come home feeling exhilarated. When I've stretched and showered, the hunger sets in as my body seeks to recover the nutrients it expended. I haven't figured this one out quite yet. Often, I want to treat myself to the foods of which I'm deprived, thinking: "I've earned this Papa Roux pulled-chicken Po'Boy." But, the energy I've derived from a healthy release of endorphins is zapped out of me when I give way to my stomach's petty cravings. I want something healthy, but satisfying, hearty but not heavy.

For now I'll keep experimenting, using my own body as a laboratory. But I wonder what other's are eating before, during and after a long periods of exercise? Share your healthy food tips below.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

An Uneventful Indiana Black Expo

Posted By on Tue, Jul 24, 2012 at 4:00 AM

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Normally when I sit down to write my weekly NUVO column, I have no trouble coming up with some topic of local interest to pontificate about, until now.I am sitting down at my laptop trying to come up with some kind of commentary on the second Saturday night of Indiana Black Expo and this well is dry.

I mean I'm used to my annual routine of dressing up in my black fitted T-shirt and slacks, working the door at Nicky Blaine's and then taking a walk between martinis and dodging bullets while watching foul-mouthed teenagers who decided clothing was optional run around and try to engage in the same feral breeding that brought them here.Not this year, I got nothing.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Indiana Black Expo and 10-Point Coalition all did a really great job making sure last Saturday night was safe and uneventful.By my last count there were less than a dozen arrests, what kind of Black Expo is that?The most drama I got to witness was some idiot who decided to put his gun in his lap while driving not thinking that IMPD has spotters in the parking garages with high-powered equipment that can see inside your vehicle if you have your windows down.That person was arrested, which they should have been based on stupidity alone.

But other than that, nothing, folks.The management at Circle Center Mall started clearing the kids out between 8 and 8:30 p.m.The cops kept the pedestrian traffic moving.They closed off streets to avoid some the cruising that takes places and helps instigate trouble.There was strict enforcement of curfew and I actually saw a lot more of two things that I normally don't see on that second Saturday, parents and white people; a clear sign that things were normal. According to IMPD, there were 14 arrests and 15 curfew violations.Last year on the same Saturday night there were 26 arrests and only five curfew violations.

It also might have had something to with the earlier measures law enforcement had taken to avoid problems caused by unsupervised youth such as approaching the homes of know gang members and "encouraging" them to stay home. Letters were also sent to the homes of public housing tenants warning them that if their kids get in trouble, they could lose their housing subsidy.

I guess if I did have a criticism of the event it's that a lot of my friends who are downtown business owners or restaurant managers took it on the chin financially, doing only about a quarter to half of the business that they normally do.There has got to be a way for Indiana Black Expo to do a better job with the downtown merchants by encouraging its thousands of attendees to patronize those establishments. At the very least they can help build up enough business during the week so that if business drops off on Saturday, it's not as detrimental.

But other than that, it was a pretty uneventful Saturday night and I had to struggle to write this column.However, when I think about what happened back in 2010, when an idiot with a gun decided to start shooting and injured more than a half a dozen people, I guess writing about nothing really isn't all that bad.Hopefully we can try this again next year.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Epic cycling fail

Posted By on Fri, Jul 20, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Every road to success is paved with a couple failures. And while the trails I ride are paved with concrete, I feel like my personal road to the 50-mile challenge has hit some snags. Boy, do I feel like a failure this week.

Let me start by admitting that I haven't really trained in the past six days. It's been a tough couple of weeks for me personally, and unfortunately it's effected my cycling. Searching for inspiration simply isn't cutting it anymore.

Last weekend, I even went so far as to stand in the sun for five hours at the Indy Criterium. Yet, I've still failed to find motivation to ride this week. Even though watching professional cyclists speed through downtown streets was amazing, somehow afterward I remained discouraged. They're just so damn skinny. Their spandex suites don't buckle or bulge at all. They certainly put my own miserable attempt at 50 miles to shame.

For some reason, I just feel despondent and downtrodden at the thought of donning my bike shorts. Simply put, I've landed in some kind of cycling funk. And I'm not sure how to climb out of it.

It doesn't make sense to me. I met a big training goal during my last ride: 30 miles on the Monon, my target distance. You'd think, with a personal success like that, I'd be more motivated than ever to keep plugging away on those pedals. Instead, I feel like I've let myself off the hook.

For a long time, I've held the mantra: "True success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." And now I realize that in Winston Churchill's terms, true success really ain't easy. A big revelation, right? (Read: sarcasm.) But to put it into context, enthusiasm has always been something I've had in spades. An internal compass that's always lit my way. Now, I'm feeling a bit lost, particularly in light of a recent personal lack of enthusiasm for ... well, anything.

Just to be clear, I'm not quitting this journey. But I would feel dishonest if I didn't confess my real-life challenges. How to overcome them is the real question. But just how do I go about injecting ardor into this adventure? Perhaps a reward system? Maybe group rides? Or even a return to joyriding in exchange for the distance-oriented training trips?

For now, I'm mulling it over, with a simple message in mind: Failure is likely, but laying down in the face of failure is unforgivable. Right now I'm in a valley, waiting for a second wind that will push me up the mountain. And hopefully, by fessing up, I'll stumble out of this funk and onto my bike.

Tell me what you think. How do you motivate yourself? What kind of obstacles have you faced on a personal journey?

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Photos of Indianapolis Public Transit, 1890-1940

Posted By on Fri, Jul 20, 2012 at 11:39 AM

Thanks to the Indiana Historical Society and IndyGo for the following pictures. They give a glimpse of what downtown Indianapolis was like about 100 years ago.

This map, from 1907, shows that 43 independent lines, 18 steam and 25 interurbans entered the city. A belt railroad surrounded the city, as well. At this time, Indianapolis was a major steam railroad and interurban center. - INDIANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, THE COMMERCIAL CLUB
  • Indiana Historical Society, The Commercial Club
  • This map, from 1907, shows that 43 independent lines, 18 steam and 25 interurbans entered the city. A belt railroad surrounded the city, as well. At this time, Indianapolis was a major steam railroad and interurban center.
East Tenth electric bus no. 527 and East Tenth streetcar no. 472. - INDIANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, W.H. BASS PHOTO COMPANY
Streetcars at a bustling intersection of Washington St. in 1906. - INDIANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, W.H. BASS PHOTO COMPANY
Aerial view off a downtown street. Plenty of room for the streetcars, pedestrians and four lanes of traffic. - INDIANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, W.H. BASS PHOTO COMPANY
Indianapolis was a city in transition in 1905. Shown here with the varying modes of transportation, including horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, automobiles and interurbans all found on the same city block. This is the Traction Terminal, located on the corner of Market and Illinois streets. At the time, it was the largest interurban station in the world. - INDIANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, W.H. BASS PHOTO COMPANY
  • Indiana Historical Society, W.H. Bass Photo Company
  • Indianapolis was a city in transition in 1905. Shown here with the varying modes of transportation, including horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, automobiles and interurbans all found on the same city block. This is the Traction Terminal, located on the corner of Market and Illinois streets. At the time, it was the largest interurban station in the world.
The corner of Washington and Illinois streets in 1916. During this period, Indianapolis was not yet taken over by automobiles and streetcars were the choice mode of transportation. - INDIANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, W.H. BASS PHOTO COMPANY
This picture, from the late 1800s, shows a mule-drawn streetcar which provided public transportation downtown. - INDIANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, W.H. BASS PHOTO COMPANY
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Thursday, July 19, 2012

State leaders could use some humility

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 4:00 PM

The judge couldn't have been more scathing in his ruling regarding Indiana's failed attempt to privatize welfare services in partnership with IBM.

Nor could the state's leaders have been more childish in responding to the ruling.

"Neither party deserves to win this case. This story represents a perfect storm of misguided government policy and overzealous corporate ambition. Overall, both parties are to blame and Indiana's taxpayers are left as apparent losers," wrote Marion County Judge David Dreyer as he awarded IBM $52 million in taxpayer funds.

Dreyer blasted the state for deciding to "fix Indiana's poorly-performing welfare system by inserting an untested theoretical experiment" that he called an "error" responsible for the loss of taxpayer money and "personal suffering of needy Hoosiers." The judge also said that the basic competence of people working for the Daniels administration and IBM was in question.

All in all, it was not a ringing endorsement of having private companies assume public responsibilities.

Nor should it be, because this "experiment" with IBM was a disaster.

Convinced that the private sector and business people are infallible and could cure what ailed the state's troubled welfare system, the Daniels administration and other true believers who worship at the altar of privatization came up with a plan that replaced caseworkers with a computerized phone system. The new system never worked.

And as it failed, the state bled dollars and - much more important - inflicted needless additional hardship on the Hoosiers already hurting the most.

Finally, after three years and a lot of suffering, Daniels pulled the plug on the experiment and fired IBM. And that prompted the litigation that led to Dreyer's ruling.

One might think that a case history like that would prompt all involved to indulge in some honest reflection - and perhaps offer a mea culpa or two.

If one did think that, one would be wrong.

Right after the judge ruled, the governor released a statement that was long on bellicosity and short of acceptance of responsibility.

"Here's what matters: Indiana, which eight years ago had the nation's worst welfare system, now has its most timely, most accurate, most cost effective and fraud free system ever. That was always the goal, and changing vendors was essential to achieving it. We'll seek and expect a reversal, and either way, it's all been well worth it to solve the problem we set out to fix," Daniels said.

So much for modeling accountability. Would it have killed the governor to acknowledge that - possibly, just possibly - in their haste to solve a bad problem, the governor and his team made some mistakes for which they are sorry?

Then there's Indiana House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, who proved with his statement that he and the governor are skilled at bringing out the petulant toddler in each other.

"In their usual efforts to avoid responsibility for anything they have done wrong, the governor and his minions will claim that this ruling is beside the point. They will say their decision-making was right all along. But this is yet another example of an administration that continues to screw up at every conceivable opportunity in its final days in office," Bauer said.

Continues to screw up at every conceivable opportunity?

Really? Hasn't Bauer visited a license branch recently and found that, thanks to Daniels, visits that used to take hours now take minutes? And would it have hurt Bauer to acknowledge that - maybe, just maybe - the state's welfare system was in bad enough shape to require serious reform?

For some reason, when Daniels and Bauer start jawing at each other, I'm reminded of Talleyrand's famous dismissal of both Voltaire and Robespierre:

"Whenever I think of one, I prefer the other."

The saddest thing about this sorry episode is what the judge noted in one of his ruling's more somber passages - that there is no way to "fix" the damage done to the lives of poor and struggling Hoosiers who needed help and couldn't get it while this experiment was going on.

It would have been nice for one of the state's leaders to take a minute away from chest-thumping to acknowledge that.

And, maybe, just maybe, hang their heads a little bit.

John Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism, host of "No Limits" WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis and executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Haiku News

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 4:00 AM

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when Mitt Romney left
biz may become the bane of
his candidacy

even GOP
governors want Romney to
unveil his bounty

FDA spying
on its own scientists like
Foolish Dumb Asses

report alleges
Penn State officials just horsed
around with the truth

disaster declared
for largest region ever -
Jethro-sized dustbowl

duration of drought:
the weather has forgotten
how to make it rain

theft of hundreds of
thousands of Yahoo passwords
nothing to cheer 'bout

new study: local
asteroids brought the water
to a thirsty planet

drill baby drill in
western Indiana 'cause
coal needs a sitter

Hoosier dad shot and
killed by three year old - safety
is not guaranteed

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Thumbs down: Failure to yield

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 4:00 AM

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Thumbs down: Failure to yield

Sometimes the difference between life and death may just be a second look. The 59-year-old woman heading west on Washington Street, for example, might have thought twice before barreling into a left-hand turn and into 22-year-old Tanner Pike driving his motorcycle east on Washington - and ending his life - if she had looked twice or otherwise increased her driving awareness. Pike's father, Bill, a deputy with the Marion County Sheriff's Office is leading an awareness ride from Indianapolis through Brown County to Story, Ind. Riders can expect a couple stops, including for ice cream. They'll begin to gather at the Indiana Statehouse at noon July 21 and depart at 1:30 p.m. Pike hopes to raise enough money through donations and sponsorships to fund a local billboard reminding drivers to keep their eyes peeled for their two-wheeled brethren.

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Thumbs down: Struggling harvests

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 4:00 AM

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Thumbs down: Struggling harvests

A weak mint harvest underway in northern Indiana is just one of the latest examples of the deepening drought pressure on the state's crops and livestock. USDA Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Undersecretary Michael Scuse will wander Indiana this Wednesday and Thursday with farm visits planned in Allen, White and Johnson counties. The weekly crop progress report from the Indiana Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service chronicles the exceptional damage: Cattle farmers are selling off cattle because of forage shortages and livestock producers in 22 counties may seek permission to graze CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) land as 80 percent of Indiana is now considered in "severe-to-exceptional drought" and 36 counties are declared natural disaster areas. Just 8 percent of the corn crop is rated good-to-excellent; that figure was 58 percent last year.

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Thumbs up: Green spots on horizon

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 4:00 AM

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Thumbs up: Green spots on horizon

A bounty of farmers' markets across the city and state offer Hoosiers an opportunity to step up and appreciate what heat-stressed farmers are able of coaxing from their land and livestock. Among the newest spots for fresh food in Indy is the Crooked Creek Farmers Market, held from 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. on Sundays at 7003B Michigan Rd. This particular market receives bonus points because it represents an ongoing effort by the nonprofit Crooked Creek Community Development Corp. to enliven the concrete jungle along the Michigan Road corridor. People on food assistance can use their benefit cards at the market, which also accepts credit cards. The Food Coalition of Central Indiana website hosts an interactive map listing nearly two dozen farmers' markets and other places to buy locally-produced food and to help supply the state's rain-starved farmers a nice stream of cold, hard cash to help make ends meet during this brutal summer.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Abdul's Halftime Council Report

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2012 at 11:00 AM

I am not a big sports person, but I can appreciate half-time reports because they give me a pretty good synopsis of what I've missed and they also let me know what to pay attention to for the rest of the game.So if you don't mind me taking a page out of the NFL playbook, I'd like to give you a half-time report of what's been going on with your city-county government.

What They've Done

- Smoking Ban – Although I am not a big fan of smoking bans from a philosophical perspective, the Mayor and Council got this passed.

What They're Doing

TIF District - The Council is looking at restructuring the way the city does TIF districts. For you non-government geeks a TIF district is a tax-increment financing district. The districts use money from the increased assessed value in property within the district to pay for economic development projects. Debate continues about how long TIFs should be allowed to exist and how they should be created. The Council has put together a recommendation, but the Mayor's office is not crazy about it.

Same-sex domestic partner benefits - The Council is putting together a proposal that would give city benefits to same-sex and unmarried couples. The problem is verification and safeguarding against two people who are roommates trying to scam the city versus two people who are true domestic partners. The other catch is a number of councilors are skeptical about giving benefits to unmarried opposite sex couples because they have the option of getting married.

What They Didn't Do

- Redistricting — The Democrat's efforts to redo the Mayor's redistricting proposal fell flat. They failed to override a mayoral veto of the new maps. There is talk of legal challenge; the problem is finding a law firm to do it and the money to finance the litigation.

What They Still Have to Do

- The budget — Indianapolis is looking at closing a $47 million budget shortfall. Note: That number was north of $70 million before the recent discovery of the state's accounting error that shortchanged local governments. That revenue correction dropped the budget squeeze by a few million bucks. The big problem weighing on expenditures involves public safety. The sheriff has been complaining about having to eat the costs of inmate health care and wants to be able to bill that amount back to the arresting agencies. He also suggests that his lower-paid staff could handle traffic patrol more cost effectively than higher-paid IMPD officers. The city is cool to that idea.

One other item of note:

- The council has cancelled scores of committee meetings this year resulting in a backlog of proposals on the councilors' plates.A recent study showed the following

- January - 5 meetings cancelled 11 were scheduled (45.46%)
February - 2 meetings cancelled 13 scheduled. (15.39%)
March - 2 meetings cancelled 11 scheduled. (18.19%)
April - 1 cancelled - 11 scheduled. (9.09%)
May - 3 cancelled - 8 scheduled. (37.5%)
June - 9 cancelled - 11 scheduled. (81.82%)

Don't get me wrong, I am not a big fan of unnecessary government meetings, but this seems a little on the high side.Of course, as the old saying goes, government that governs least tends to govern best.I guess we'll know at the end of the year.



Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney, the editor of IndyPolitics.Org and a frequent political analyst for RTV 6.
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Friday, July 13, 2012

Heatwave burnin' in my heart

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2012 at 7:00 AM

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Fireworks have been canceled; water is limited across the state; lawns are as crunchy as the dreadlock-wearing hippies we see on the rainbow bridge in Broad Ripple. The heat is here to stay, and unfortunately many are pointing to rising greenhouse gas emissions. While riding two wheels can help combat this drastic environmental change, record highs seem to give us one more reason to just buckle-up and drive.

In an attempt to psych myself (and all of you) up for an afternoon of hot asphalt, here are some reasons why two wheels will always be better than four, regardless of the temp:

Commuting to work by bicycle can qualify you for tax credits

That's right! In 2009, the IRS added the Bicycle Commuter Benefit to the tax code. Though, there is a snag. The Bike Commuter Benefit is an employer benefit that your employer must elect to offer. If they do, you can receive a tax-free bonus of up to $20/month for each month that you commute primarily by bike. Talk to your employer; gang up with fellow cyclists/co-workers and demand your hard work be recognized! Hey, it never hurts to ask. For more information.

Biking is more efficient that driving

This one takes some math, so get your abacus, calculator or whatever out. If you look at a calorie chart, it shows a ratio of roughly 1:2 between your weight and the amount of calories burned while cycling at about 10 miles per hour. If a 175-pound person cycles for one hour, they burn about 350 calories during an hour. A gallon of gasoline contains 31,000 calories. If a person could drink gasoline and burn that fuel like a car, they could bike 885.7 miles.Now that's efficient! Too bad your car can only go around 30 miles per gallon. (Note: Yes, this is a hypothetical scenario. No, people should not drink gasoline. Yes, cars weigh more than bikes. No, I don't care if you disagree with my math.)

Bikes are cheaper

It's way easier to finance and maintain a new bike than it is a car. These days it's nearly impossible to get any kind of loan. But for the price of one car payment, you can own a brand new bike. Consider the money you pay for gasoline, insurance and repairs. For a fraction of that, you can trick-out a bike (or even a Pedego) and ride in real style. Not to mention, most bike repairs are DIY and can be made with a few simple tools and affordable parts.

People who bike are cool, even when it's 100+ degrees outside

Okay so this one is a bit of an opinion, a corny one at that. But, if you have the balls to bike back and forth to work each day... To stick to your environmentally friendly "guns..." To refuse to let the heat sway you from your mission to make the world better one pedal at a time... My love for you, well to quote Martha and the Vandellas, "it's like a heatwave burning in my heart." And I hope that keeps you cool.

How are you dealing with bicycling in the heat? Share your stories! And remember to drink lots of water. Plus, here are some helpful tips on how to keep cool while riding this Summer.

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