Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Naked, Eccentric, Drunk, or Well-Dressed: This Week's Cycling News

This week's news for the cyclist who likes to smell the honeysuckle on the way to work and doesn't mind carrying the dry-cleaning on the way home.


Yes, it is almost June, that time when World Naked Bike Ride Day takes place all over the . . . well, world.  The purpose is to raise awareness about the problems created by motorized transit and other polluting things generally.  In Chicago, the ride is Saturday, June 14, 2014.
Just think through a few things before you participate.  First, do you have a Brook's leather saddle?  Would it be forever befouled if you rode it several miles in hot weather in the nude?  Do you own a bidet?  (I guess the first question should really be the second.)  Is there a time when bike share should shut down to avoid possible spread of disease?  Do you care what a future employer might think of you if they were to come across the image of you riding a Trek in the altogether?  Do naked bike rides help #normalizecycling, or do they simply reinforce the view of the car-driving set that cycling is the province of hobbyists?  What does being naked on a bike in midtown do to advance the goals of getting more cycling infrastructure?  Is it better than a die in? (No.)  And lastly, what would your mother think, assuming she is normal, not incarcerated or otherwise institutionalized, and not some eccentric from a Wes Anderson film?  If you still feel strongly that you must ride, do go ahead.  But remember, images on the Internet last forever.  Your enthusiasm for World Naked Bike Ride Day may not.

The Tour de Fat is coming to Washington, D.C.'s Yards Park on May 31, 2014.  To be clear, this is not some fringe alternative to Naked Ride Ride Day that will feature obese people in the buff.  It's a real beer and bike festival.  The event will kick off late morning.  There will be a fashion segment (but, of course!), a slow ride race, a puppet show, and Belgian beer.  There will not be naked bike riding unless it happens randomly after too much brew.

Bike lanes:

Washington is adding rubber curbs to separate bike lanes from traffic on some streets, including K Street, NE.  The idea is that drivers won't park in the bike lanes if they would have to drive over a rubber parking bubble.  This may deter some people with low-seated cars, but I doubt some of the box car driving offenders will change their ways.  It seems a pretty cheap alternative to cement curbs, but if it works, jolly good.

At the same time, DDOT's map of cycle tracks in Washington is starting to take on the look of a real network, as opposed to some sort of lightening bolt.

In Chicago, voters have come out against Rahm Emmanuel.  The issue that has them in a wad?  Bike lanes.  Or maybe not.  Apparently voters - especially the driving sort - don't like change.  Even if it might make things better long term.  (I know you are chanting "soma, soma" from Brave New World, and imaging columns of SUV drivers in an addicted-to-cars trance, unable to adapt to independent thoughts or modes of transit.)  It would really be pathetic if Kazakhstan moved ahead of Chicago on sustainable planning because a bunch of people in the Windy City are bent out of shape over bike lanes.  Sunny Kazakhstan consulted Dutch experts on sustainable transit.  Now the Kazakhs are installing bike lanes. By contrast, the Chicago mayor is having to defend against his smart choice to put them in.  I fear for the republic when I read such things.  And I don't mean the Republic of Kazakhstan.  Chicago cyclists, fear not.  Move to Kazakhstan.  You won't miss the Chicago machine's corruption.  They have plenty of it in the 'stan too.

Bike Sharing:

After the near collapse of Bixi, a quiet debate arose about who should pay for bike share systems and whether they benefit all taxpayers, not just those who use bike shares.  Transit Miami's blog suggests there are global benefits to citizen taxpayers of subsidizing bike share programs.  The system in Miami operates free to taxpayers and the docks have brought an additional $258,000 in parking revenue.  Some local politicians have been putting the negative spin on bike share in Florida.  The math seems pretty straightforward, but politicians are rarely in that line of work because they were good at math.

My favorite bicycle writer/blogger/raconteur, Eben Weiss, BikeSnobNYC, published an editorial explaining why governments' underwriting of bike share systems makes perfect sense.  His reasons are pretty basic.  Bike systems cause traffic calming which itself has all sorts of public safety and quality of life benefits.  Other modes of transit are subsidized and bikes share subsidies are minuscule when they are compared to those of other transit systems.  And most obvious, bike share is a transit system and should be thought of that way.  Remarkably, his piece was in the New York Times, which seems to cater to Manhattan's Thurston Howell III, bike hater types.  The super wealthies who love to be photographed by cyclist/photographer Bill Cunningham, while they bemoan Citibike docks on the Park without even the faintest sense of irony.

Baltimore's bike share program has been delayed again.  I was already envisioning characters from John Waters movies, heading down to Fells Point atop Charm City bike share bikes.  What can I say but, "giant crab cake bummer."

And after a winter of our collective cycling discontent we should smile to hear that Fairbanks, Alaska is getting a bike share program.  It will not be called Tundra Share, or Moose Bike Coop, but no one asked me to suggest name.

And in London, home to a number of competitive people, they are having a race of the Boris Bikes.  This I would like to see.

Advocacy and Policy:

Many people who live somewhat close to commuter rail lines are reluctant to ride their bikes because bike theft at transit stations worldwide is extremely high.  Boston has decided to meet this threat by putting out a cardboard police officer at MBTA stations, and it appears to be working.  This says something about the IQ (and probably the sobriety) of many bike thieves.  In Washington, D.C., the Metro Transit Police appear to be doing an insufficient job of responding to bike theft around the stations.  The argument has been that some of the areas where bikes park fall outside their jurisdiction, and they don't have the staff to cover all three jurisdictions, hundreds of bus stops, and dozens of rail stations.  I am skeptical.  You can have cardboard officers.  Thousands of them.  They don't eat donuts, demand overtime, or retire under a dubious disability claim only to resurface winning a rodeo on TV.  And they won't hit on your 16 year old daughter.

In Great Britain, Tour de France cyclist Chris Boardman is on the road again, this time to promote the transfer of public monies currently dedicated for other purposes to bike infrastructure.  Boardman wants to see cycling expanded in areas outside major cities, like London, Sheffield, and Manchester.  Unlike some of America's former Tour de France competitors, Boardman's legitimacy as an athlete remains intact.  This has helped his reputation as an honest broker on matters of sustainability and has made it easier for him to do good.  And he's not the only one.  Liam Phillips has made a good show of it too.  It would be great to see some of America's former Tour stars wading into the debate.  (Not ones with perjury convictions.)

In Sweden, if you promise to stop driving a car, the government will give you a bicycle.  We could try that here, but only if there were serious economic penalties for broken promises.  For example, we could tell people that if they gave up their Hummers forever, they could get a top of the line Trek.  If they slip back into the Hummer as a daily routine, we could fine them, say, a million dollars.  Reasonable?  I think so.  #normalizecycling

Gas stations are disappearing but it is not because of the increase in cycling.  At least not yet.  Right now, it is because real estate in cities is expensive and big gas companies are consolidating their pumps into large mega-stations.  Will this help deter driving?  That remains to be seen.

Journalists were treated to electric bike test rides at a resort in Hamburg, New Jersey.  Over 150,000 e-bikes have been purchased in the U.S. in 2013, and projections are that over 250,000 will be purchased in 2014.  Let's hope these journalists were impressed enough to write about the ease and practicality of e-bikes and not just glad to have a junket on a meager writer's salary.


The Bike League has published its report on cycling deaths.  Some 40% occur when a vehicle rear-ends a cyclist.  The greatest number of accidents take place on major arterial roads in urban or semi-urban areas, where car traffic is fast, and the road was designed to allow rapid flow of cars.  Most of the cyclists killed were wearing helmets.  Also this week, @helmetfreedom tweeted an image of different cycling scenarios and the same competitive cyclist, suggesting that helmets are needed in some situations but not in others.

In the U.K., a national conversation is beginning about whether cycling should be taught as part of the school curriculum.  Since football hooliganism is currently taught, perhaps cycling would make a nice counter-balance.

In New York City, the police department is cutting down on so-called scofflaws that ride on the sidewalks.  Yet one of the observed scofflaws explained he was only on the sidewalk because the road was too dangerous.  Ah, and so even the rags are unwittingly advocating for more dedicated bike lanes.

The best advice for urban cyclists may come from Bicycle Magazine, which has published an article on how to deal with angry, unsafe drivers.  Everyone needs a playbook when it comes to responding to the monsters some people become when they are behind the wheel.


A small but practical hook for bike storage in small spaces.  The Clug Bike Mount makes the Cycloc look clunky, it's so spare and lovely.

My all-time favorite fashion site has won me over again.  Polyvore has a date night outfit suggestion that includes a little leopard dress, a quilted purse, Jimmy Choo booties, and an electric bike.  And a Memorial Day weekend look that includes a Pashley Britania bike, weathered jeans, and oxford-style sunglasses.  Who needs a stylist when you have Polyvore?  #bikedatenight

Which gets to my complaint about the article in Bicyling magazine about women and bike fitting.  John Brown of Philadelphia's High Road cycles advises women to "leave the stilettos at home," when they come in for a fitting.  Instead, he says women should arrive at the bike shop for a fitting wearing what they would normally wear cycling.  Here's my gripe.  What if stilettos are what you normally wear?  What if Jimmy Choo booties and your Workcycle normally hang out together?  #normalizecycling  #wearwhatyouwanttoride
It you live in Washington, D.C., check out The Bike Rack for a proper fitting, and don't leave the stilettos at home.

Want an e-bike but don't want to drop thousands?  CNET reports that you can actually build your own at substantially less cost.  In Holland, 28% of the bikes sold are now e-bikes.

Or you can do what you did in college: Go to Ikea.  Yup the Ikea e-bike is ready for purchase, and possibly assembly, in Austria.  Don't forget to make sure you have all the little hex wrenches and dowels you need before you leave the store.  And remember, it will look very smart with your little leopard dress and booties.

Do you simply want to take care of the stuff you already have?  Try a bike maintenance clinic, like the one offers by The Bike Rack, Saturday June 7, 2014, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. and Bicycle Space DC June 3, 2014 at 7:15.  Or a fix a flat class at Bicycle Space DC on June 5, 2014 at 6:30 p.m.

Random Notes:

While gas stations in Manhattan are going away, emission-free bike deliveries of fresh food, DVDs, and OTC pharmaceuticals are increasing thanks to MaxDelivery.

In Philadelphia, you can now get your laundry picked up and delivered by a service that uses bicycles.  And if you need a summer job, the company is hiring.

So, if I see you in the bike lane, and you are not drunk and naked, but you are smartly turned out, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

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