Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bike Friendly Office Parks, Helmets Deter Cycling, and Vision Zero Needs Some Help.

DC has rolled out Vision Zero.  I am in favor of this.  #VisionZero is the plan conceived in Sweden which attempts to eliminate traffic-related deaths.  I assume this is possible by slowing traffic and creating segregated bike lanes.  But how can it be achieved unless the city is fitted with a dumb-o-meter at its borders?  Something like a magnetometer that would detect half-wits and make them turn around before they enter the streets.  Or perhaps a technology that caused cellular phones to zap the people texting on them?

When I think of Tyson's Corner, Virginia, that slice of cement between Vienna and McLean, I think of shopping in predictable stores for overpriced goods made mostly in China.  I think of terrible traffic and aggressive drivers.   Sometimes I think of . . . no, I shudder at the thought of the occasional kitchen worker on a Huffy clinging to the shoulder of Route 123, just hoping his extended family in El Union will be fine if he gets creamed by the pinched-looking gal in the Mercedes.  My opinion changed a little when I saw the Silver Line flying above Route 7.  But bike lanes?  In Tyson's Corner?  That's like spotting a flying saucer landing on the lawn of the White House.  And yet, #bikelanes are planned for Tyson's.

When I think of H Street, I think of a lot of things.  Creative food.  Street robberies.  And, yes, #bikes.  Now developers are applying for a proposed condo building to be exempt from DC's parking requirements.  Developers will have to pitch some alternative transit modes.  The streetcars would be such an alternative, if the project can ever get going.  Walking three blocks to Union Station would be another.  #Cycling would clearly be a great mode that might set a precedent for other developers.  Could this signal a change in thinking?

The latest bikes and accessories were featured this week in Copenhagen.  And again the focus is increasingly on the less serious cyclist.  Need a bike equipped to carry wine?  One with a sidecar for you mother-in-law?  One for the wine you may want after your sidecar ride with your mother-in-law?  How about a $4 shopping bag in chartreuse to attached to your rear rack?  The show featured cycles for people who live in the city, don't race, and don't think the racers are being candid when they claim they don't juice.  In fact, the numbers of people who buy transit bikes and accessories are growing and business is reacting.

#BicycleHelmets.  Could they contribute to people cycling less?  Well a study in Sweden concludes they result in few children cycling.  Bad news since that is when most people learn to ride and love a bike.  And the mandating of helmets may not help Vision Zero, unless it does so by reducing the number of people using a bike.  Less people on the roads might result in less deaths.  But that wasn't how it was supposed to work.

So, if I see you in the bike lane, even if that bike lane is in Tyson's Corner, of all improbable places, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Drivers Rant, Children Warned, and Insanity Ensues.

Is #peer-to-peer bike sharing the wave of the future?  We all probably have list serves where we can borrow a cooler, or a lawn mower, or an electric mixer.  But what if the same thing happened with bikes?  Could a sharing system based on only trust ever replace bike share as we know it?  If #bikeshare fails, peer-to-peer may become the only way.

It is never a good idea to pop a wheely on your bike and crash it down on a bike being ridden by two other people.  On this point, I think we can all agree, whether Democrat or Republican or Whig or Tory or Zoroastrian.

That said, it still amazes me when when drivers get irate at cyclists and decide to go berserk, as occurred in San Francisco not long ago.  A #cyclist was cut off by a driver who saw a parking spot and turned into it without regard for the cyclist.  Predictably, the cyclist crashed into the car.  The driver had a small vocabulary and poor conflict and stress management skills, which were on full display during his rant and attack on the cyclist.  The video reminds one how important shame is to societal relations.  The image of the driver also hints that #phrenology, that long discredited view that criminal behavior can be predicted by the shape of one's head, might indeed have been an exact science.  There is something about the driver's head . . .

Are we on a clear path to devolution when police officers caution a four-year-old girl for riding her bike not the sidewalk?  Is humanity doomed to succumb to its own witlessness?  I fear cyclists must wrest society from the grip of insanity.

So if I see you in the bike lane, even if you are just four years of age, but not if you have a certain squash-shaped head, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Women's Bicycling History Month

We have have a group called "chicks on bikes," but once upon a time, there was the ultimate chick on a bike.  Back over a hundred years ago.  Susan B. Anthony, famous leader of the suffragette movement, said of cycling: "I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.  It gives women a sense of freedom and self-reliance."  Here here.  Talk about "leaning in."  I know she said this before women were given the right to vote, which is arguably more emancipating.  But it is still a rocking quote.

The International Cargo Bike Festival is set for next month.  If you want to learn how to use bike delivery for your business, you should attend the workshop by #OutspokenDelivery on April 18.  Almost anything can be delivered by #bicycle in cities.  Flowers, pizza, groceries, piping, siding, massage treatments, ideas, singing telegrams, and dry-cleaning.  You would need the right caravan for the latter.  Something like Anthony Quinn had in Fellini's La Strada, without the motorcycle and pathos.

B-Line Sustainable Delivery or Portland, Oregon

Many Americans who own bikes do not use them out of fear of getting hurt in traffic.  This is a rational fear that can be addressed by better infrastructure, many more cyclists, and public health education campaigns.  Threats might also work.  They sometimes do for people.  Oh, that would be wrong though.  Right?

Is car ownership up in the Netherlands?  Could it be the myth of an ethical #bicyclingsociety is just that - a myth?  It seems that maybe a lot of Dutch do not own cars simply because of the cost.  Or are they smart enough not to want the hassle?  Hmmmm.  Those Dutch.  Hard to figure them out some days.

Speaking of cost, it seems #CapitalBikeshare is about to raise prices.   But they can't make it cost as much as a car, or even 1/10th as much as a car.  It's still a great investment.  Whereas a depreciating asset that requires constant feeding and maintenance is never a good investment, particularly where other choices are available.  It's like investing in Bernie Madoff's firm after you learned of his conviction.  Madness.  Unless you live and work where you have no other choice.  And then it's just unfair.

ThingWorx, a French company, has developed a new IoT system for #bikeshare that it hopes will become the industry standard.  Great.  But it needs to be tight as drum in terms of the code.  It needs to be easily adaptable and low cost to maintain.  Many a software system has been the near downfall bike share systems.  A fix is needed.  Not a patch afterwards.  (Get it?  Patch.  Bike and code humor.  Bad, but . . .)  And I can get the "Oh but the French made it" thing out of my head if it really does the job.  Few things are more irritating than an out of whack bike share system that doesn't know which docks are empty and which are full.  Okay maybe famine is worst.  Or pestilence.  Or some other biblical-level plague.  But it does feel rotten to arrive at work 15 minutes before a meeting only to discover every supposedly available dock for blocks is filled to capacity.  Perhaps the French have moved past their somewhat accommodating role in the two world wars and I should give them another go round.®-Internet-IoT-Platform-Connected#.VPzuLEsbQpE

After bikeshare employees voted to unionize in 2014, local bike mechanics working at private shops formed a union in solidarity with their counterparts.  No idea where this may lead, but let's hope not to a bail out of the industry and complaints of abuse of the retirement system.  So far, no sign of that.

So, if I see you in the bike lane, even if you are a fish, or a French coder, or bike mechanic, or someone who has benefitted from the skills of a fish, a French coder, or a bike mechanic, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

May Bike Share Live Long and Prosper, and May the Elderly and Female Join In.

In Copenhagen, it seems that #bikeshare has been relegated to a tourist attraction, and it is dying.  Does this mean the death of cycling in #CyclingMecca?  No.  It means the system had an unsustainable cost structure, and pretty much everyone bikes and uses their own.  May bike share live long and prosper, as #LeonardNimoy said.  But if it comes to the end of a long good run and it must go, let cycling live on.  I would give this shocking twist of fate a Spock analysis, but logical characterizations of municipal failings would have baffled Spock.

While bike share in Copenhagen limps along, cycling in general must be increasing.  #Voxwomen is the new Youtube channel for women's cycling.  Hard to believe that while most bike commuters are men there is a channel that features women's cycling.  This is a little bird of hope.  Or maybe a California Condor of hope.  It's something that merits a general yippee.  #chicksonbikes

Can sites like Voxwomen bring more women to cycling?  What about older people, who have not embraced cycling despite the evidence it is therapeutic, and can even treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease?  Not yet.  If you want to reach older people, you are going to have to go their media, network television, that thing we all used to watch.  Right now the images of the elderly on television are frozen.  Medicine ads run back-to-back on network news - which is still watched by older people at the scheduled time.  No older person appears to be cycling unless they are dong so slowly and only after receiving some advertised drug.  Ads featuring cycling and its benefits it could help to change this image and maybe reduce the need for all that medicine that is aggressively advertised.  Right now, if an outer space creature chanced upon television ads and tried to figure out American culture from what he/she/it saw - ads for prescription medicines for E.D., various auto-immune diseases, and smoking cessation - he/she/it would certainly imagine we could be easily plundered and overcome.  Calling all billionaires!  Please sponsor pro-cycling ads featuring women and older people.  Take back America's sense of well-being, and restore its image in the eyes of extra-terrestrial creatures.–-growing-levels-cycling-have-not-brought

The unsteal-able bike has shown up in another round of videos, this time on the Washington Post's online section.  Great, if there were not bike chop shops, whose "contributors" dismantle bikes.  They do not steal and ride them away.  If you don't believe me, just ask any runny-nosed meth addict with bolt cutters you chance upon.  A bike is to them nothing more than the sum of its parts.  No bike is unsteal-able.

So if I see you in the bike lane, and you are on an unsteal-able bike that has not yet been stolen, and you are Medicare eligible, or assisted-living avoiding, or you happen to be a woman, or not, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

It's Award Season - For Cycling.

That's right, WABA's Bicycle Choice Awards noted a few local figures and businesses as being #bikefriendly.  Councilman #davidgrosso won, along with #districttaco and #REI.  I have to wonder about the award to the #MStreetcycletrack.  It is still a work in progress, or a loading zone, depending on your view.  I have encountered a number of motor vehicles in the M Street lanes, including a #supershuttle van whose driver was yelling at someone on a cell phone while he stood on the sidewalk ignoring scowls and fist shakes from a number of cyclists.  Surely he did not come to receive the award on behalf of the cycle track.
I want to see the equivalent of the Rotten Tomato Awards for bicycling.  Like something for the police who let their horses befoul the bike lane.  A golden shovel perhaps.  An award to the driver captured making an illegal u-turn on camera on Pennsylvania Avenue the most number of times in a year.  I'm thinking of something festive.  Like deportation or banishment if they still do that.

Cities, including Washington, are moving to #VisionZero, a plan to eliminate deaths as the result of traffic accidents.  The biggest factor in traffic deaths remains speed - whether the accident is car on car, car on pedestrian, or car on bike.  So in Ireland, there is a move to reduce speeds.  The bill is named for Jake, a boy who was killed by a speeding motorist while riding his bike.  This would obviously help limit deaths in the U.S. too.  #duh

#Cargobikes could be the next big thing, so say Chris and Melissa Bruntlett in Grist.  Why?  Most things that get delivered can be delivered by a cargo bike, and five other reasons make this post very compelling.

In the category of super optimistic inventions, here's an app that aims to prevent cars from hitting bikes.  It sounds like a great idea, if it were mandatory for motorists.  The cyclist and the motorist both must have the app for it to work.  Once downloaded, it warns drivers about the presence of a cyclist.  Nice, but the last thing I want is a driver looking at his cell phone to see what it chirped as he whizzes toward a cyclist.

And we could all learn how to cycle in style by looking at the images of Hollywood's Golden Era.  Lana Turner knew how cool it looked to roll your pant leg up and go ride.

So, if I see you in the bike lane, and you are carrying an award trophy in an obvious effort to attract attention, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Could Presidents and Afghan Women One Day Ride in Subway Tunnels?

If the presidency is all about politics, and politics is about the economy, I celebrate #PresidentsDay and the expansion of the #cyclingeconomy in the U.S. and Europe.  #RepublicBike, the company that designs bikes for businesses, like the custom fleet for Google, is still growing.  The cycling industry advocacy "Club" in Europe is benefitting from urban connectivity.  In a week of grim reports of violence, this is great news for decent people on at least two continents, which is better than just one.
Reminds of the wonderful book #EllyBlue wrote over a year ago.  #bikonomics  In the parlance of our time, it's all good.

Thinking about freezing as you ride?  Deterred by a few feet of snow?  What if abandoned subway tunnels could be used as #bikelanes?  Sounds great, with adequate lighting and security.  A little creepy without.  #subwaytunnelbikelane

In Belfast they have decided that training the public on how to use bike share might get more people cycling.  Brilliant.

If you cannot get out the elements by going subterranean, should you cycle when you have a runny nose, fever, and a case of the adult whinies?  As with all things, the answer is "in moderation."

Like the whole #cyclingculture thing and want to see which businesses and people support cycling so that you can pick where you offer your support and money?  The Washington Area Bicyclist's Choice Awards are February 20.  You can celebrate the people and places that make cycling special and fun in the city.

Elsewhere in the world, and in improbable circumstances, Afghan women cyclists keep riding and keep getting shout-outs from the media.  #afghanwomencyclists

If I see you in the bike lane, even if you are sick, and even if you are the President, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Cyclists Compared to ISIL, Though #Cycling Keeps You Younger.


When a radio station like WTOP, that survives because its listeners are stuck in traffic, reports the increase in bike culture, and the loss of interest in cars, I consider that a sign that the world is righting itself.

In Denmark they are starting the indoctrination early, establishing playgrounds for cycling kids to enjoy.  We have BMX parks, but people drive to get there, kind of like they drive to spin class.  Makes sense, right?

Does #cycling keep you younger?  Indeed, but then again you knew that.

The #Bikesvscars debate continues even after the launch of a film aptly named, Bikes vs. Cars, which looks at the unnecessary death of a cyclist at the hands of a motorist and issues about our transportation policies that hurt society in general and cyclists in particular.

In London, the plan for a #bicyclesuperhighway is going forward.  Amidst this progress, the taxi union leader appears to have become unglued.  Or perhaps he was a madman in the first place.  In opposing the bicycle superhighway -which will cause a headache for taxi drivers and a loss of income from fares - he has compared cyclists to ISIL.  ISIL is a group that uses torture and terror to recruit.  Cyclists considerably less so.
Credibility is apparently not his strong suit.  On the other hand, some people do have a way of wearing that balaclava that suggests something dark and menacing.

In D.C., the #Bicyclespace pop-up appeared in a location that was a Burger King, home to deep fryers and junk food marketed to the young and poor.  Is that a Bird of Hope?  Yup.

Meanwhile in Africa:
Did you know that a woman in Nigeria is turning trash into treasure in part by using bicycle carts to  move the stuff around?  She conceived of her company, #Wecyclers, while she was earning her MBA at MIT.  Feel inferior right now?  Me too.

And the World Bank reports that over 50% of the world's population knows how to ride a bike.  This is a good thing.

So, if you are in that 50% that knows how to ride a bike, and I see you in the bike lane, let's be smug.
Elisa P.