Sunday, November 29, 2015

Designer Bike Share Grocery Totes and Quaxing in the City

The urban dilemma of how to carry it all on your bike rears its head this time of year.  In the holiday season some of us cook for friends and family in a constant, rolling effort.  How can you carry groceries and gifts on a bike share bike?  You can buy a new designer tote for the front holder of bike shares rides.  These totes a cool and expensive - gratuitously so.  Or, you can use a large backpack and stuff it full of non smash-able groceries. That means that you cannot stuff the bananas at the bottom of your bag, or push the lettuce down and sit on it, like you are packing a truck for months long trip aboard a steamer.  Solutions require some planning, but it is not like planning to cross the Sierras in a covered wagon with your kin.

Youtube has several videos to help you see exactly what the right quax kit would look like for your needs.  (In case you find yourself too busy to conjure your otherwise great imagination.)

Small, medium and large loads require different equipment and planning.  These two posts from Bike Arlington and Bike East Bay describe what you should consider if you are carrying a single baguette or a couple of banquet tables.

The last and most obvious solution:
Buy less (the thought seems un-American) and shop more often.  Simplicity can be glorious.

If you decide to bring your Christmas Tree home on a bicycle, post it!

So, if I see you in the bike lane hauling a refrigerator or a deck of cards, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ride With DC Police Through the Nation's Capital or Suffer the Bloat - Your Choice

At Thanksgiving, Americans love to eat too much food.  Afterwards we need to exercise - a lot.  The Sunday after Thanksgiving, if you are not sitting in some terrible airport, staring at the Sbarro and Starbucks, and still recovering from the tryptophan hangover you got from eating too much bearded poultry, you could be riding your bicycle across Washington with DC Police.  MPD are hosting a cycling event.  Wow.  Good cops.  No donuts.  Be there.  The ride starts at Headquarters.  Do not be deterred by the Arno Breker-inspired exterior of the building.  It looked pretty haute in about 1948.  You may find yourself humming the Flight of the Valkyries, but make no mistake, MPD is a diverse and serious force.  Mostly anyway.  They have many bicycle officers, about 75 of whom just got rockin' new bikes.  And a hundred years ago, DC police had officers on bicycles.  Fixies, as it turns out.  And they wore silly hats, if you care to know.  Photos below.  See you on the 29th.

By the way, if you have had your bicycle stolen in DC, use this link to try to identify it from a photo of MPD's recovered stolen and abandoned bikes. They post fairly regularly, so you may eventually see that awful Huffy you consider a loss.

Are cyclists and cycling advocates grandiose?  Momentum Magazine has a piece this month that posits that cycling can save the world.  So can nuclear fusion, effective drought farming, and an abandonment of extreme ideology and ethnic hatred.  But those things will take time.  So in the meantime, as you place your canned food in the charity boxes at Piggly Wiggly and Whole Foods, think about how cycling can play an important role in cutting transportation emissions in half by 2050, as Climate Central opines not unreasonably.  In addition to that tin can of no-salt white beans you accidentally purchased last year and are now inflicting on the needy, think about how to help the world's most desperate by driving far less and riding your bike far more.  Grandiose?  Not in the least bit.

So, if I see you in the bike lane, dressed as pilgrim, or wearing a police uniform, and you are on a bike you lawfully own, let's be smug.

Elisa P.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Will Bike Lanes Destroy Church Communities? Seriously?

Millennials in Boston care a lot about public transit and bike share.  This is to the exclusion of cars.  They are riding the crest of a wave of common sense.  Their views are having an impact on city planning and residential development.  They are the future.  They are the young, often white residents who took to the streets in support of the idea that Black Lives Matter.  But are they tone-deaf to how those outside of their particular culture see bike lanes and cycling generally?  Could that have a bad impact of the expansion of cycling infrastructure? The extending of canoe share to existing bike share members would seem to be focused on people whose parents taught them how to canoe because they knew how to canoe themselves.  This too looks like a smart, forward leaning partnership.  But into every future, there arrives a past.  Sometimes it's a past that no longer serves a purpose.

No place is the focus on the past more acute than in Washington, DC right now, where bike lanes have become synonymous with white gentrification, as mostly older African American residents want to prevent the placement of bike lanes in front of a church they use perhaps twice a week, and to which they mostly drive from the suburbs.  This was not the first such meeting.  The conversation has become a stream of subtext and nonsense, where older folks balk at the suggestion they ride public transit in lieu of parking and driving.  In the minds of these older Washingtonians, mass transit is for those who have not achieved a place in society where they can afford to drive.  And this crowd was not the most able-bodied to be fair.  Perhaps in about 1975 the idea that Metro was somehow a lesser transit mode would've been true.  To take a Metro bus then meant you could not get there in your own car.  The bus system was the transit medium of kitchen staff, not educated city government workers.  So somehow, through a process of illogic, bike lanes are opposed under the erroneous belief that they will cause church goers to have to park further from church or relegate worshippers to mass transit.  This opposition sadly comes from a community that is disproportionately impacted by Type 2 diabetes and other diseases related to poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.  The community leaders who could help to educate those opposing bike lanes have instead largely tried to pander to this opposition.  The terrible and longterm result may be no or fewer bike lanes in neighborhoods that need them.  Once again, whole swathes of this city will be left behind on important transportation progress, just as they were when the Metrorail system was built.  Kaboom, flash.  We are back 30 years ago or more, having conversations about things that will hurt the next generation.  Where is a hero when you need one?

In rooting around for a hero, someone who could come in and change the tone of the conversation about cycling, I happened to find one in the person of #LisaNutter, graduate of the Wharton School, cycling advocate, African American woman, and wife of Philadelphia's mayor.  She is a competitive cyclist who has tried to bring safe cycling to all neighborhoods.  Her particular platform involves - pause - expanding bike lanes, including into underserved neighborhoods.  She has not ever talked of how these lanes would hurt African American neighborhoods as far as I know.  Quite the opposite.  I cannot imagine exactly how she would have handled the meeting with the hostile, fearful church group, but I bet she would have been a powerful influence in favor of bike lanes.   Read this short but sweet piece on Lisa Nutter in Bicycling Magazine this week.

Failing to build sustainable cycling infrastructure will not address our continued national obesity.  Most of those opposing the bike lanes were women.  And obesity is still terribly high in the United States.  Would it surprise you to learn that women are the most obese?
So, if you see you in the bike lane, and you are African American, Armenian American, or Asian American, or not, and you know that your presence is not taking anything from anyone at all, let's be smug,
Elisa P.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

UK Writer Tells Cyclists to Get Off Road and Go To Gym and Chicago Becomes a Car Free Possibility

Yvette Castor
Yvette Castor, a writer in the UK, has offered the opinion, in writing, that cyclists should get off the road and go to the gym instead.  Brilliant.  Reasoning with people like this could draw you into their insanity.  She is clearly provocative in a time when any writer has to attract attention to survive.  But I would venture a suggestion that Yvette try a little exercise herself.  Perhaps on a bike. She would probably find herself less appalling. And dinging the way cyclists look will not deter them.  The idea that all cyclists look absurd as she suggests is simply ludicrous.  Her photo is shown above.  Choose your own caption.  A mere day or so after Yvette's blather, the same UK paper published another editorial about how cyclists were making traffic lighter, and all persons, driving, cycling or walking, should treat each other with respect.  This time the author was Luke McLaughlin featured below.  So I took a look at the related stories links to see how the cycling debate is playing out in the UK and whether it looks like the debate in the US.  The same paper published the bit about mandating licenses for cycling and the bit about how cycling could save your life and make you healthier.  The answer seems to be a split in logic and lifestyle.   If you prefer the comforts of your car, or you have no choice due to where you live, cycling may seem like a menace.  So I pause for one quick anecdote.  While riding my bike in Washington, DC, I noticed a wheelchair-bound man at 12th and G Streets who thanked me for allowing him to clear the intersection after the light had turned in my favor, something he said other cyclists had not done the day before.  As I rode on in the lanes in front of Veterans' Affairs building, an elderly woman who had placed her toe in the crosswalk thanked me for stopping as several other cyclists rode around me almost hitting her and ignoring her rights in that crosswalk.  I am not a menace.  I will try to never be a menace.  And I will be healthier than people who lose an hour a day of exercise to sit idle in the comforts of their cars as the planet warms.

"Do you really need cycling clothes?" asks the London Cyclist.  If you are not cycling far, what is the point?  Unless you are one of those folks who dresses in a matchy-matchy track suit to walk the dog imaging that is "exercise," in which case, maybe you do need special clothes.  If your commute is terribly short, not only are cycling clothes unnecessary, but they could tip you over into silly.  I ride home some nights along with a kitchen helper from a nearby Pret.  He goes all the way to Maryland from Washington, DC wearing black jeans, a black shirt and jacket, and a baseball cap.  I have never seen him get his pants caught in the chain.  I have never seen him threaten to kill a cab driver who cut him off.  And, I have never seen him fall behind anyone wearing a perfect spandex get-up.  His zen comes from the inside, not from his clothes.

Ah, the helmet debate.  It will not go away.  Like chewing coconut, it lingers.  Another study . . . another study . . . published in Road CC finds no link between mandating helmets and prevention of injuries.   I suppose if you found yourself nearly under the tire of a car that was about to snap your head into pieces like, well, a coconut, a helmet might help you.  But my guess is that no helmet could withstand a three ton car.  Which begs the question of why so many people think a helmet law will prevent head injuries from cycling.  Last we visited this issue, data showed that helmets would be more likely to prevent head injuries to drivers in cars.  If we enact a helmet law, I think it should apply across the board to drivers of any moving vehicle.  That bill would die in committee after spontaneous gaiety of the sort not seen in 50 years.
Chicago is becoming a place where you can live car free.  Perhaps recognizing that cycling may present a challenge in winter there, Divvy bikes has teamed up with Zipcar to offer discounts to members.  There is no shame in taking the train or a Zipcar on those days when you do not want to arrive at a stoplight, let alone the office, with a snot-cicle that will be only thing people ever say about you afterwards.  ("Who is Fred? . . . Oh, the guy that had that awful snot-cicle last year in the elevator.  Right."  Never:"Fred is a great lawyer who wrote that steller brief in the Kolinsky case last year.")
Go Chicago!
Debbie-Downer edit:  The ex-COO of Divvy is accused of breaching the terms of employment with Divvy by seeking employment with Divvy's parent company's rival.  Bike share.  It's a cold calculating business, dog-eat-dog.  Nah.  Not really.

So if I see you in the bike lane, and you are dressed like yourself, or have chosen a matching spandex get-up that looks as uncomfortable as support pantyhose on a big girl, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Selecting a Good Cycling Handyman & Bike Share Invades the Deep South

#Ethicalcyclist If you have a choice between two skilled laborers,  and they are equal in terms of the quality of their work, and one rides his #cargobike to work with his ladder on the back, and the other drives a truck which could easily hold several dead bodies, and you are not related to the second non-bike one through marriage, which one would you choose?  Presenting our handyman, Jim.  This is not why we chose him, but it is a serious benefit.  Jim Zinn Fix-it Guy.

Birmingham, Alabama columnist, #CodyOwens is hilarious and insightful as an anti-hipster, who knew the world was ending when Piggly-Wiggly starting carrying Quinoa.  He was a #bikeshare skeptic who noticed that, like kale on wheels, white people can't get enough of bike share.  However, find out whether he was converted to the pro-bike share side in this delightful piece that should launch his journalistic career in other markets - if he is willing to go places more infested with cycling hipsters than Birmingham.
I think Owens may have a point about how bike share may be excluding certain groups.  Take a look at the CityLab piece that more soberly discusses this point.

If you live in the outer suburbs of Washington, DC, there may be some good news for you.  Bike share is expanding to Fairfax and Reston, previous bike deserts.  Drink of the joy my suburban friends, trapped as you are by strip malls and residential developments that look like well-ordered Legos from the air.  Enjoy.

This video shows the flow of Capital Bike Share in animation.  And it reminds me of a great nebula.  It is also a powerful message about how, if you build it, they will come.

And some more bike share notes:
Want more bike lanes in Arlington?  The transit authorities there want to hear from you.
Seattle failed to score a converted TIGER grant to expand its bike share.  Other municipalities should figure out what went wrong here and learn.

Want a folding electric bike that is intended to be cooler than a hover board?  There is yet another one this week that you can crowd fund if you want.

Nissan's new concept car watches out for cyclists and pedestrians.  Seriously?  Oh my!  This might actually be awesome when so much about cars is not.

I hope I am also still cycling at 90.  Let's form a social networking pact to strive for this as a connected group.  This former octogenarian is inspirational and beautiful. Read Bicycling Magazine's nice piece to get more info on this elegant woman.  It is a delight. Give these great folks at Bicycling Mag some clicks.  Subscribe if you can.

So, if I see you in the bike lane, and you are 90, or older or younger, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Malta, Europe's Fattest Country Laughs at Bike Share. A Municipal Lesson in Metaphor.

Malta has the dubious distinction of being Europe's fattest country.   Yes, that island country, where Queen Elizabeth II took her honeymoon.  That densely populated little island where Brits and Germans vacation, and where the population partakes of a so-called Mediterranean diet.  Well, that island still has miserable traffic jams, and terrible bus service.  The same nation that promotes is splendor for #cycling tourists has taken a stand - or a teehee - at the notion of bike lanes for its own people.  Apparently in Malta, driving a car has come to symbolize success.  Hmmm.  How very 1973 of the Maltese.  Parliamentarians there laughed and scoffed at the idea of bike lanes on the island.  Enjoy your rising healthcare costs Maltese leaders.  Please feel free to visit my country where Type-2 diabetes - often caused by obesity and a sedentary lifestyle - has created healthcare spending unprecedented.  Hahahahahahhaha.    Then pause, and think again about bike lanes.  Besides which, had I not been on a bike cruising through the plaza in front of the White House this week, I would not have heard an utterly beautiful version of Nessun Dorna being performed on the street right next to the bike lanes.  If you want to experience less joy, Maltese, stay the course.

Of all the things in the world for local politicians to decry as outlandish, a proposal for cyclists to roll through stop signs under safe circumstances would not strike me as municipal insanity.  If there are no cars coming, and you and your bike weigh not nearly enough to hurt a person, and it is night, and say you are a woman trying to get home safely, and maybe it has started to rain, or hail, or snow, and you elect to slowly ride your bike through a stop light/sign, you have not committed the moving violation equivalent of shooting up a housing project filled with toddlers with your AK-47.  San Francisco has proposed a law to allow cyclist to yield rather than stop in some instances.  Some politicians have reacted with outrage over the proposed law.  Go figure.

Did you ever wonder how Washington, D.C. made it all work with bike share?  Gabe Klein was the Director of the Department of Transportation when Capital Bike Share had its imperfect start.  This piece in GGW is worth a read if you want bike share to come to your city.  It may surprise some to learn that Cap Bike Share was not D.C.'s first share program.  But it was the first to shake off weak corporate sponsors, team with other jurisdictions, and use renewable solar power on docks and reduce the projected longterm capital expenditures of the program.

Mark Twain said that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.  We were reminded of that again this week when incorrect data was used to claim that a bike share station on Chicago's Southside was essentially never used.  Many have claimed that bike share is used by and built for wealthy whites.  Hmmmm.  It may presently be used more by whites, or the pigment challenged as I sometimes think of us, but as bike share crops up in other neighborhoods, it is being used, rather more than some folks let on.  So to those on Chicago's Southside, ride on.  Enjoy.  Ignore nonsense.  Bike share is for everyone. Pigment or none.

Are bike sales a good gauge of cycling interest?  In the U.K., in 2010, bike sales were in the billions of Pound Sterling.  Then in 2013, the market crashed.  A sort of mortgage meltdown without the confusing derivatives.  But now sales of bicycles are creeping back up again.  At some point, the market will be saturated and we should stop caring about bike sales.  Instead we will think only that people have and are using bikes.   Which brings us back the math lesson enthusiasts all know.  Remember, the number of bikes you can own is N +1, where N is the number of bikes you already known.  Once people figure this out, sales may increase.
What are your thoughts on whether we should pay attention to bike sales when evaluating interest in cycling?

Finally, I happened to be in Des Moines this past weekend.  I saw bike share and bike lanes.  Little use, but it was all there.  Cycling infrastructure and the Farm Report on the morning news.  If you happen to live in Des Moines and ride your bike, my hat is off to you, as they say.  You are a great American doing what must seem like a little thing.  You may help to change minds.

So, if I see you in the bike lanes, singing Nessun Dorna (just one of the best songs ever!) and you are here from Malta, or Des Moines,  let's be smug.

Elisa P.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Cycling Revolution Has Begun

A new Dutch study that concluded that cycling extends your lifespan.  This week a second study shows that training on a bicycle can help lower your risk for cancer.  I believe this, but I would add a few other things that lower your risk: abstaining from smoking . . . anything, not drinking nail polish remover, and having a good attitude and assuming the best of others, unless they are behind the wheel of an S.U.V. in urban environs where the need for an S.U.V. is, well, dubious at best.  Dutch cyclists live longer.  That's something to consider.

It's fall and the time when we ride in jeans more than shorts, if you are an urban cyclist who rides everywhere except to Ikea once a year.  So what are the best cycling jeans?  Jolt Jeans and Levis commuters make the top of my list, with Jolt having a lower price point and perhaps the feel of low price point jeans.  Momentum Magazine has a few other suggestions if you want to get around and look better.  For cycling to work, I am in favor of wearing whatever you wear to work, even if that means sliding on a pair of biking shorts underneath that dress until you get there.

We appear to be in the midst of a cycling revolution not foisted upon us by a despotic leader who will send us on a death march . . . or ride, whatever.  This is outstanding.  The Cycling Minister of Great Britain insists, however, that the British Empire must redouble its efforts to deliver a cycling revolution.  Redouble.  Make more intense.  Not double twice.  Which would mean, I guess, that they need to try four times harder.  London Mayor Boris Johnson waded into the cycling fray yet again by complaining about Eurostar's policy of letting very few bikes on its trains.  In any event, I wish we had a Minister of Cycling in the United States, though given our history of "Red Scares" I would caution that Minister against referring to any effort to increase cycling as a "revolution."  The next thing you know, he or she could find themselves sitting before the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations trying to explain the language selected for the pro-cycling campaign. Unless you could somehow liken it to the industrial revolution and thereby explain cycling's link to progress.

The most popular bike share route in Washington is from Union Station down the H Street corridor to D.C.'s Atlas District, where the food and bars are more interesting and diverse, the streetcars will soon go, and the robbery rate is high.  This makes you wonder what any city would look like if were designed with an emphasis on cycling.  Fast Company has some ideas in an interesting piece this week.  As it turns out, one thing you can expect in a cycling city is corporate sponsorship of bike share.  In Santa Monica, Hulu, a video streaming and entertainment company, is behind the share program.  Not antithetical to cycling, you say, but it raises questions about what limits should be placed on corporate sponsorship of shares as more cities add them.  Are liquor or tobacco companies okay sponsors?  Arms manufacturers?   What about automotive companies associated with the manufacture of especially large S.U.V.s?  Marijuana pharmacies?  Colombian drug cartels?  It bears thinking about.  These may be the policy concerns of tomorrow's municipal cycling czar.  I could write that policy.

So, if I see you in the bike lane, whether you appear aware you are part of revolution, or you are simply aware of what jeans work best for cycling, let's be smug.
Elisa P.