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.

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