The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Three in a row

I set a few Fitbit personal records yesterday.

First: it was the first time I've gotten 20,000+ steps three days in a row. Second: it was the fourth-best stepping day since I got a Fitbit (see below). Third: my 7-day total, 147,941, completely blew away the old record of 135,785 set on April 18th last year.

Here are my top-5 stepping days:

2016 Jun 16 40,748
2016 Oct 23 36,105
2017 May 27 33,241
2018 Feb 27 32,747
2016 Sep 25 32,354


On the other hand, Chicago didn't set a weather record, and wasn't in any danger of doing so, despite what I said. I misread the chart: Chicago's record high for February 27th was 23.8°C set in 1975, not 16.7°C, which is the record high for February 28th—and we're in no danger of breaking that one, either. That said, it was, in fact, 16.7°C yesterday.

Today is the last day of meteorological winter, and a cold front is sneaking in from the north. Tomorrow promises to be everything yesterday was not: windy, rainy, and snowy in the evening. I can't wait.

Even better weather

We're now on the third day of spring weather even though spring doesn't technically begin (for climatologists, anyway) until Thursday. Yesterday we got up to 12°C, even more spring-like than Sunday's 10°C. (Those high temperatures are normal for March 31st and 23rd, respectively.)

Today's forecast high is 17°C—normal for April 24th and, if it actually happens, a new record for February 27th. (Note that the current record, 16.7°C, was set in 2016.)

Two things to note: first, weather ≠ climate, though you would be forgiven for freaking out at the Washington Post's latest news on the topic.

Second, this has given me a great opportunity to get steps in.

For the first time ever, I've gotten back-to-back 25,000-step days: 28,828 on Sunday and 28,293 yesterday. This included a lunchtime hike from my office to the end of the 606 Trail and back:

I've hit 25,000 steps only 15 times out of the 1,223 days I've had a Fitbit. That's 1.22%. For comparison, I've hit 20,000 steps only 66 times (5.56%), and 30,000 steps only 6 times (0.49%). I last hit 30,000 on May 27th (33,241), and last hit 25,000 (before Sunday) on August 29th (26,914).

So here's the question: can I do 30k today? Yes. But I'm not entirely sure how yet. Stay tuned.

Another spring day

Yesterday I did, in fact, hit 25,000 steps. I ended the day with 28,828. I considered going for one more 15-minute walk to hit 30,000, but decided I'd had enough for the day, and went to bed—and got 7½ hours of sleep.

This morning it was once again clear and crisp (but above freezing), so I walked to work, just over 6 km and one hour of walking, and about 7,000 steps. So at 11am, I've already got 9,200. With a forecast 11°C and an Apollo Chorus rehearsal 5 km away, I might hit 20,000 again today.

Tomorrow's forecast looks even better for walking. Wednesday looks OK, too. And then it will rain all day Thursday. Still, I'm confident of making a pretty good showing in a Fitbit challenge going on this week.

And as we have just a two more days of meteorological winter, I'm also ever more confident that January 1st will remain the coldest day of 2018. (We'll see what happens in late December.)

And with that, I'm off to Starbucks, and probably 10,000 steps before noon.

First normal commute in weeks

Between my company's work-from-home week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, and the excruciatingly cold weather the week after, this morning was the first time since December 21st.

It turned out that commuting by public transit took exactly the same amount of time as driving to work, but gained me 2,500 additional steps. That's helpful, because in the last 20 days I've missed my step goal 10 times.

Here's to warmer weather and better exercise habits.

Divvy income falls as rides and service area increase

Chicago's take of Divvy bike-share income was 31% lower in 2016 than in 2014 and 2015 as the city expanded the program into the South and West sides:

Divvy income fell from $2.86 million in 2014 and $2.84 million in 2015 to $1.97 million in 2016, a 31 percent drop, according to the city Department of Transportation figures. The city said it is improving its outreach to get more people to try Divvy and expects its income for the program to be about as high this year as in 2015.

Transportation officials said the expansion to black and Latino neighborhoods on the South and West sides was an attempt to increase diversity in a program that was launched four years ago in mainly white, affluent neighborhoods. But the South and West sides pose challenges to Divvy because they tend to be less affluent and have more impediments to biking, such as fewer bike lanes, cycling advocates say.

The city makes the bulk of its Divvy income from station advertising and Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s sponsorship. In three of the past four years, it lost money on bike rental operations. After a small profit of $45,859 on 2015 operations, it lost $752,011 on operations in 2016 — its share of a total operational loss of $1,756,420 shared with Motivate and the biggest loss in the program’s history.

The differences between neighborhoods are stark. In the low-income West Side neighborhood of Austin, for example, there are 14 Divvy stations that saw a total of 1,339 trips from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. Affluent lake-bordering Lincoln Park, by contrast, has 36 stations that saw 452,727 trips during that time period.

The DePaul study said high unemployment rates reduce ridership because the system’s main function is to serve work commuters. It also noted that areas with more kids and seniors also see less Divvy ridership. Divvy is not for children under age 16.

The program remains exceptionally popular near me. One of my friends, who lives near Wrigley field, has taken almost 365 Divvy rides this year. But as the you get farther from the Loop, the bike share looks less attractive. (Ever try to ride one of those behemoths 15 kilometers in less than 30 minutes?)

I'm glad the city and Federal government are subsidizing the program as a mass-transit program. Mayor Rahm Emanuel famously said that "Divvy is a bigger threat to cabs than Uber," and he's probably not wrong (depending on how you measure things).

Teenagers and Fitbits

A recent study found that activity trackers can actually de-motivate teenagers:

The problem with the monitors seemed to be that they had left the teenagers feeling pressure and with little control over their activities, as well as self-conscious about their physical abilities, said Charlotte Kerner, a lecturer in youth sport and physical education at Brunel University London, who led the study. The result was frustration, self-reproach — and less, not more, movement.

“You can’t just give a child a Fitbit for Christmas and expect them to be active,” Kerner said. “They will need educating on how best to negotiate the features.” Nudge them to set realistic step counts and other fitness goals, she says, and to consider whether they want to share their results with friends. For many young people, fitness may be better achieved in private.

I would be interested in why this happens, and how prevalent it is in adults. For some adults, like me, having an activity tracker is really motivating. I've arranged my life in part to make sure I get lots of steps, often more than 4,500 by the time I've gotten to work in the morning (or 9,000 if I walk the whole way).

Teenagers, though, really resent being told what to do. I wonder how this study could be altered to reduce that part of adolescent psychology.

Update: I just discovered that, when I hit 10,611 steps today, I'll have 15 million lifetime steps on Fitbit. Cool.

Athletic activity heat maps

Via CityLab's new newsletter "MapLab:"

Vision Zero” supporters are tapping into big data in other ways. This month, Strava, the app that tracks users’ athletic activity, re-released a “Global Heatmap” tracing more than 1 billion jogs, hikes, and bike rides by millions of members around the world. (The running scene in London, in striking orange and black, is shown above.) Already, some public agencies are making use of the data to support and protect all that sweat. CityLab’s Benjamin Schneider recently wrote about how Utah’s DOT is changing road and intersection designs to be safer for cyclists, based on the map. “It’s replacing anecdote with data,” one local planner told him.

Here's the run map for Chicago's north lakefront:

This is total Daily Parker bait. But I actually have work to do today.

Three years of stepping

Just a quick note. I've had a Fitbit for three years as of today, and so far, I've logged 14.4 million steps. My mean over 1,097 days is 13,170 steps per day, though my median is 12,616, reflecting the fact that I have a number of very-high-step days against almost none when I failed to hit 5,000. I've hit 10,000 on 949 days, 87% of the time.

And now I'm going to ratchet up another 4,000 on my way home.

Thoughts on a day that seemed cooler earlier

Walking to work is an easy way to hit my step goal before lunch. It's 6.75 km and 8,500 steps. At just over an hour, it takes only about 20 minutes longer than the bus or 30 minutes longer than the train.

The problem is the dewpoint. When I left my house, the temperature was a delightful 19°C...and the dewpoint was a sticky 17°C. By the time I'd gone ten blocks I was already uncomfortable.

Note to self: bring a fresh shirt when you walk to work, no matter what the weather looks like.

The perils of travel

It's not really that perilous to travel from the US to the UK, unless you're in a step challenge.

This past week, I was traveling for almost 40 hours—including 14 yesterday thanks to ordinary aviation delays. When you're on a plane, it's pretty hard to get steps. Fortunately the time change from the UK back to the US is in my favor, so I got 6 extra hours in which to walk, and I also got Parker back. Still, I barely squeaked in with 10,689 for the day and an unusually low 81,638 for the week (helped immensely by Wednesday's 18,319).

The nadir, of course, was last Sunday, when I flew to London. The lost 6 hours occurred right in the middle of the day, so not only did I get the fewest steps (7,407) since June 11th (7,044), but also this happened:

Sheesh.

So naturally, I walked to work today. I'm already at 9,770 and heading towards 20k (assuming I walk home, too).