Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Bike Lanes - A One-Stop Bike News Summary for the Unambitious Cyclist


His sleigh looked a lot like a Capital Bikeshare van.  He was wearing red clothes, and was a bit thinner than I had been told, but now I know why.  He rides a bike, of course.  He was bringing bike share bikes to their docks in front of the Labor Department where all the good little girls and boys, and marginal adults, can ride them and be happy.  He did not say hohohoho.  But he did say "okay" when I asked to take his picture.



Merry Christmas cyclists.  Here is the news for biking for the week.  Links are mostly at the end.


So it's Christmas, and the bike news has been a little like Santa's criteria for gift eligibility - naughty, nice, duh, and random.  Wait, were duh and random in there?


Bike thieves get nothing, not even a lump of coal.  High end theft rings are popping up all over in Washington.  A recently convicted bike thief got eight years in prison and probably some sort of damnation as well.  These bad guys tend to steal bikes at Metro (read Underground) stops.  They know a Brompton from a Citizen.  But, like the Grinch, they are finding that some bike owners fight back.  One spunky owner arranged a sting and put it up on YouTube.  Some owners are simply stealing their bikes back.  Lesson: Use a U-lock, register your bike, photograph it and all its little features, and keep its serial number handy.


Looking for a last minute way to redeem yourself with Santa?   Why not help fund a traffic garden for kids where they can learn how to ride bikes?  The Washington Area Bicycling Association is asking for donors to get this reasonably priced public work off the ground.  If you feel you left tainted karma out there from driving too much, eating too much, watching Duck Dynasty for more than 90 seconds when you knew where the remote control was located, or betraying your loved one, cat, or promise to yourself to finish those classic works of fiction you never really read in college, this may be your chance to make good with society and the universe.
http://www.waba.org/blog/?p=13433  (Dear Brits, the patriarch of Duck Dynasty is what would happen if Rasputin, either of the ZZ-Top guys, and a hedgehog produced offspring.  He has a reality show and has managed to offend anyone with an IQ in the triple digits.  He does not ride a bike.)

In the U.K., cyclistsinthecity reports that newly appointed Home Office Minister Norman Baker is being told he cannot bike to work.  Instead he must go in a car with a security detail.    This comes at a time when Britain is trying to cut the costs of driving its political servants around.  I think Santa might issue a judgment here.  I doubt whoever is forcing Mr. Baker into a motor vehicle will be getting an electric train set wrapped in peppermint twigs.

At the same time, yet another life was lost in London to a lorry.  Santa does not like what is happening here.  The deaths this past year have been overwhelming and the need to address them urgent.  I think Santa would appreciate it if the whole of government in the U.K. would wake up to the realities of our current society.  Increased car usage and oil consumption is just not sustainable - politics aside.  It's time to increase bike infrastructure.  It seems London has an east/west problem, and not of the sort that inspired those great films in the 1990s.  Perhaps the proposed 60 miles of new quiet bike lanes will help get Santa out of his present state of rage.  However, the U.K. government's bike safety guide for tourists - written in sober prose without any obvious ironic subtext - could tip Santa back over the edge and send him screaming towards the over-cognac-ed nog.  The link to the proposed London bike grid is below.  Santa will be looking at this very carefully to see if the grid is an adequate first step.

I like Canada's approach where they made six videos on bike safety using Lego pieces.  Very amusingly colonial, and probably a heck of a lot more effective.  (Sadly, Lego themselves, despite being a Danish company, has not really added bikes to its product line according to @copenhagenize.)

In Washington, the transit prognosticators say that future of commuting looks bleak.  We are building more lanes for cars, more trains, and more streetcars.  But we will never keep up with capacity.  How dreary.  Insanity is widening roads over and over again and expecting a different result.  If we don't encourage more biking, the future sounds dystopian.  Like one big traffic jam that lasts so long, you forget where you were going.  (Write the script.)  Santa will think twice about rewarding people who focus only on cars without thinking of how to get more people on a bike.

Lastly in naughty, @bicyclesonly tweeted that traffic apologists continue to justify the thousands of deaths from traffic accidents.  Why?  If this were some disease, celebrities would be holding concerts and wearing annoying t-shirts to protest the devastation.  


More than nice.  Outstanding is the story that commuter trains in Maryland may get bike cars.  I feel certain this will prompt Santa to open his sack to the people behind this movement - a Maryland bike advocacy group that blogs under the wonderful name onelesscar.org.

In Vancouver Canada, the government has added a little fun, like ramps and other features, to its bike lanes.  This is nice, but I would rather have ordinary dedicated bike lanes than ones with little water features and flags.  It's transportation to me, not mini golf.

Now I am a decidedly slow and relaxed cyclist who never tries to beat the crowd or draft the gal with the ten-speed.  This week I find myself completely impressed by the winner of the Velo Award, Mariane Vos.  The Dutch cyclist is the Woman of the Year.  Threatening Vos' place as most impressive female cyclist is Maria Leijerstam, who is riding a tricycle across the North Pole.  I am dazzled by them both.  In celebration, I plan to put on some nice high heels and ride slowly over to the espresso shop and contemplate their superiority from my comfortable perch atop my Pashley cruiser with a latte and a smartphone holder.  (Gosh, I hope Darwin was wrong about natural selection or my genes are gone from the pool.)

Good news for cyclists in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where 37 cities have now qualified as bike friendly.  Santa is watching carefully.

Nice to hear that bike share may be headed to Cinncinnati, Ohio, which has Santa's elves buzzing about the production for next year already.  They may unionize or demand more pension input if this nice news continues.

In California, the four missing mountain bikers were found unharmed - if embarrassed - in the San Gabriel Mountains, not far from Pasadena.  This could have ended in grim press coverage with unpleasant references to coyotes and dental records.

In Brooklyn, a composer brought cyclists together to make music with their bells in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.  This creative work was intended to celebrate the winter solstice, which was unusually warm this week.  The composer, Merche Blasco, gave cyclists bells to ring at certain times.  Not sure how the music sounded, but the experience must have been pure magic, shrinking polar icecaps notwithstanding.  To me the sound of bike bells is symphonic.

Nohangingaround.com's blogger, Derek, is riding his bike across Africa.  Heroic.  Epic.  This week he entered Botswana in the rainy season.  If you are whimpering about your slightly damp ride right now, think of Derek and feel immediately smaller and whiny.

Yet another clever soul has invented a foldable bike helmet for commuters.  I hope Santa gives me one in a fetching color.


The Economist reports that cycling thrives in some cities and not others.  Not in London.  Not yet.  In cities where more than 50% of the population does not cycle, it is in part because many people who would bike feel it is not safe.  Most people who presently bike are young middle class men.  They cannot sustain biking culture alone.  The solution is obvious, and yet alarmingly trite.  If you build it (the dedicated bike lanes, that is) they will come.  Women and older men, that is.  You need them.  If it's safe, they will come.  So build it.


Yes, we need a lot of bikes and bike infrastructure.  But do we really need a bike ski?  Yes, somebody invented one and it is up on Youtube.


Serious Product recall:
Some SRAM hydraulic disc brakes have been recalled.  See the slink below for what to do next if you have these.

If I see you in the bike lanes, let's be smug.
Elisa P.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ho Ho, Ho, Get Out of the Bike Lane! Thanks

Some random news from the Washington region, Canada and Europe.
Here's the latest local news:
Phoenix Bikes, a non-profit youth program, wants to build a bike training headquarter next to the bike trail in Arlington.  Neighbors have responded by claiming the group's building will attract drunks and parking problems - meaning cars.  I can see these complaints if Phoenix Bikes were a bar with $2.00 taps, but seriously.

The DC Bike Advisory Council is asking for more dedicated bike lanes, but without enforcement against drivers, the lanes will have to be protected.

Meanwhile in Alexandria, @kevinposey tweets that the transportation committee has endorsed bike lanes after public hearings in which bike opponents irrationally and vociferously expressed the view that they were being targeted for genocide by cyclists.

In New York, things are getting ugly.
Michael Goodwin, who writes for the New York Post, not the New York Times, calls Mayor Bloomberg's big ideas "bike lane bad."  And then, perhaps sensing that the population is turning away from the little ideas, the Post quotes others who think bike share is the best thing ever.  As this insanity has unfolded, @brooklynspoke has tweeted it all.

In the U.K. the cycling deaths continue to mount even as a second "mass die-in" is planned in Vauxhall on Thursday.  If you are there and you read this, show up, wear the fake blood, and otherwise make your point.
Meanwhile a study out of Bath - the town not the tub - finds that reflective bike gear does not seem to change motorists behavior when it comes to cyclists, and motorists are possessed with a desire to overtake bikes.  No really?  Shocker.  Take the smallest most ineffective person in the world.  Seat them behind the wheel of a Range Rover the size of a Sherman tank and you've got a homicidal maniac.
At the same time, a London cyclist has invented a foldable helmet you can buy from a vending machine and keep in your briefcase.  Here, here.

In Greece, they are having "mass die-ins" to protest the lack of cycling infrastructure, and holding rides against racism.  Yes, that Greece, where the economy has struggled and cutbacks have been ruthless.  Long live the Greek bike advocacy corps.

In Toronto, Canada, @Terichu protests the fact that removed snow has been dumped in the bike lane.  I agree that it is bad, but see below for something worse.

While we are all experiencing irritation, in the Netherlands they have installed an elevated bike lane that is breathtaking.  I am jealous to the point of being almost bitter.  But I digress.

There were sad passings this week, like that of Peter O'Toole, who said of exercising, "I get exercise going to the funerals of friends who exercised."  And then there were the epic, biblical sort of tragedies, like the 96 people who died in car accidents every minute in Europe and U.S. over the past week.  I don't remember these statistics being discussed in my driver's education class, but no one was listening, not even me. Aren't bikes a reasonable alternative to this public health crisis?

This week I witnessed a woman on a 10-speed riding along in the bike lanes.  A taxi made a u-turn over the bike lanes and hit her.  Had there been some sort of barriers up to protect the bike lane, his u-turn would have been harder or impossible.  As I stood there, a Brinks armored truck and a small white sedan also made u-turns over the bike lanes in the same place, oblivious to the police cars and gasping onlookers.

In the past six months I have seen many things that do not belong in the bike lane:  a myopic driver apparently thinking it was a left-turn lane, at least three dozen u-turning vehicles, an upturned hubcap, and at least four smoldering piles of horse poop.

To fix this, perhaps we start by administering an IQ and anger management test to drivers.  Or maybe those red light cameras that are used to mete out tickets to motorists who run traffic lights could be trained on the bike lanes for a month.  But the real solution is one that manages human behavior.  If you have watched any reality show or 15 minutes of Congress on CSPAN, you know human behavior can be pretty bad.  Assume the worst.  Put up barriers to protect cyclists.  I'm not a holder of a PhD in urban planning.  Nevertheless I believe that in a culture that watches TV game shows where the contestants try to walk across a rubber bridge while someone hits them with a water canon, we must assume the worst.

If I see you in the bike lane, and you are not a taxi, hubcap or pile of horse poop, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

And for the usual laugh, bike geek does it again.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

No More Bike Share?

The week is biking news has been frightening, good, and weird.

Does the end of Barclay's sponsorship of London's bike share portend something terrible for the future of bikes? The mere thought is frightening.  London cyclists tell me that the mere 25 million Pound Sterling given by Barclays is a fraction of the cost of London's bike share program.  Or does the Barclay's pull out just mean that a financial power house, reeling from the Libor scandal, has had its original contract with the city examined a little more closely?  By 2015, Barclay's is out of the bike sponsoring business.  Just as well since Londoners have informed me the whole program is named Boris bikes for London's seemingly eccentric mayor.  But who will underwrite a biking system in a city plagued by cyclists' deaths in 2013?  I would like to nominate Cadbury, the chocolate and convenience food conglomerate famous for its Milk Tray and seductive purple wrapper.  After all, Cadbury has sponsored bikes for Africa in the past.  Why not London?  Or how about steady and reliable Marks and Spencers, with their cashmere cardigans, Twiggy clothing line, and predictable food halls?  They seem like a safe bet for sponsorship.  M&S seems as sturdy and English as Barbara Woodhouse, or James Herriot.  Maybe Prince Charles, sustainability advocate and heir-to-be-skipped-I'd-wager, should re-purpose his . . . salary (?) to bike share sponsorship.  It would be better than establishing those little organic vegetable growing manors that make it seem like he is secretly wishing for a return to feudalism.  A new feudalism, though, with Lords who know more about modern art's merit-lessness and the ills of fast food, where Lords can impose their will on toiling serfs.  But if the monarch in a real monarchy backed biking, would that be so terrible?  Not at first.  Not unless he became crazed and declared "off with their heads."  It would certainly help Prince Charles' image to be the backer of bikes.  And it would go a long way to answering the question, "What the hell does that guy do all day anyway?"

If the Barclay's "loss" weren't enough for Londoners, the Metropolitan Police were apparently ticketing cyclists in dark foggy weather who were riding without lights this week.  Wait.  Given the numbers of fatalities this year is that a bad thing?

Here in the former colonies, the news for bike share is all good.  Bike share programs are extremely successful state side.  Despite the troubles with Bixi in Montreal and fears in San Francisco, in Chicago and Washington, D.C., bike share programs are only growing.  I  have almost had to engage in in unpleasantries when too many people have converged on the docks.

The Burrough of Brooklyn is facing some anti-bike weirdness by contrast.  Bike lane haters have used lies, damn lies and statistics, as Mark Twain said, to try to get the city to remove dedicated bike lanes.  The data the haters have been citing, an increase in the number of accidents, does not actually support that idea that the bike lanes were the cause.  In fact, those accidents were overwhelmingly car-on-car.  These pesky facts have not slowed the anti-bike movement one bit.  But with triple the number of cyclists from four years ago in Brooklyn, I would say the numbers - the statistics if you will - are in the favor of the lanes.  The odds are not with those looking for one more piece of evidence that the demise of Western civilization at the hands of hipsters riding bikes and sipping pour-over coffee.  If the disgruntleds would simply ride a bike, they would be less likely to have dementia, according to a new medical study.  Then they would be less likely to spend their days railing against bicycle infrastructure, or they would come up with better facts.  Perhaps Brooklyn cyclists can start a "Give a Grump a Bike" program as a sort of long-term investment in the future of cycling infrastructure.

With the threatened demise of bike shares, and the constant assaults on bike lanes, we must ask ourselves, how can we brainwash . . . uh, er, I mean influence the young to appreciate the value of cycling and want to ride?  Take that handy baby stroller, usually the size of a lunar landing craft, and turn it into a bicycle for kids.  At least one company has designed a stroller-to-tricycle that can also cut down on the piles and heaps of junk people are accumulating in their homes.  The images in the Youtube video are beautiful.

If you are really into efficiency, reducing, reusing and cycling, this week's news continues to be good.  You can now get a bike that performs photosynthesis while you ride to clean the air.  I am wondering what impact something like this would have on the climate, and my guess is not much.  I would rather see people giving up their cars than bikes doing double duty for the climate.

Lastly, a little note in this week's blog about the death of another famous cyclists.  Bad news indeed.  This time it was Milton Olin, the former Napster exec, who was hit by a police car while he was riding in SoCal.  The reporting on this strongly suggests that the driving deputy might have been looking as his mobile digital transporter or texting.  Nothing could have been so important on either of those devices that it cost a good cyclist his life.

Oh, and it's almost Christmas.  Support your local bike store, buy your loved one a custom-made-in-America bike.  Help keep cycling a growing part of the U.S. culture.
Shout outs to The Daily Rider, Bicycle Space, The Bike Rack, City Bikes, and Capitol Hill Bikes.

So if I see you in the bike lane, or on a bike share bike anywhere in the world, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mass Die Ins, MIT Designed Electric Assists, and Other Bike Wonders

In my fantasy life I would win an award.  Not Miss America because I would not be gorgeous enough, my IQ would exceed the maximum allowable under the rules, and I could not tolerate Donald Trump whom I find unpleasant in the extreme.  Not the lottery because I read that everyone who wins is cursed, and, even though I would find a great financial advisor, the financial system would exclude me from all the meaningful IPOs that would make me richer.  But I would want to win the Dyson award or the Nobel Peace Prize.  Yes, Dyson, the Brit who designed the vacuum and sleeps nine hours a night.  Winning the Dyson award would be a validation of my intelligence and societal usefulness.  So imagine my delight at reading that the winners of the Dyson award were MIT students who designed a wheel that can be attached to a bike to give it an electric assist.  The wheel looks like something Dyson would design.  It is not the orthopedic shoe of bike elements.  It is not the gray, lint-covered-Hoover-that-scares-your-dog of cycle parts.
You will need to win the lottery to pay for it, but if you are awash in cash and love to cycle, maybe you should get it.  Think of the money you will save in dry cleaning if you use the wheel to avoid getting over-heated on your way to important meetings.


Thanks to my guys on Twitter, I discovered a beautiful little documentary on how Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, worked to build a bicycling culture.  If you have a half an hour, it is a great reminder of why cycling improves business, attracts families, and creates a more sustainable community.  Interestingly, Arlington has the highest education level of any city in the country.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Arlington has reduced car trips in its jurisdiction by 45,000 per day through its planning.  Brilliant since Arlington expects to grow by at least 50,000 residents in the next decade.

By contrast, in the UK, bike advocates are bemoaning Parliament's anti-bike troglodytes.  At least one UK bike blogger would like to see a bike-friendly dictatorship rather than suffer its elected members and their total lack of understanding about cycling.  Sounds dreadful, especially since that accent tends to convey a degree of intelligence and authority that is not there in the case of these dreadful MPs.

But there is an amazingly bright spot in the UK, and has to do with bodies strewn all over the streets.  Last week, thousands of cyclists shut down major mid-city streets in London by laying down in the street and pretending to have been killed by motorists.  And, yes, protesting cyclists from the country that brought you the musical "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street" added a bit of Limey gore to the event.  Some cyclists smeared their faces with fake blood.  They don't officially have Halloween in the UK and have to amuse themselves when they can.  In the 1970s, identical protests in the Netherlands helped force the Dutch government to build dedicated bike lanes.  To the mix, the Dutch added car free Sundays to curb fuel consumption in 1973.  After the carnage in the UK this past six months I hope the mass die-in works, doddering parliamentarians not withstanding.  Stay tuned for follow up on the efficacy of this protest.  I cannot see the Brits also having car free Sundays, but then again I never thought I would see London Mayor Boris Johnson tooling up the High Street on a bike share bike or Nigella Lawson admitting to cocaine use.  So what do I know about modern England?  On the issue of bikes, rule Brittainia, Brittania rules the lanes!


Yes, there was bad news this week.
The Washington Post covered harassment of female cyclists, an appalling practice by persons with lower IQs and cruel streaks.
There was an incredible claim by London taxi drivers who made an anti bike film that they are not actually anti bike.  As we say stateside, whatever.
There was news from the National Institutes of Health that more cyclists are being killed by motorists in the United States.
There was a horrifying story about the death of a cyclist from distracted driving.  I am not sure if this driver was eating cereal like the driver last week.  I think in the moment of ultimate judgment, it won't really matter whether it was cereal, a text message, or a weak bass beat on the stereo that caused the death of a cyclist.  The damnation will be the same.

If these stories leave you feeling down, watch a guy driving a cargo bike loaded with a beer keg over some pretty amazing surfaces.  Or watch a dog riding a bicycle.

So, if I see you in the bike lanes, let's be smug.  If I see you with a Copenhagen Wheel from the MIT group, let's be smugger.
Elisa P.