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.



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