Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Lanes, Shares, and the Little Guy.


BikeFest is coming to Washington, DC's EAster Market on June 13, 2014, from 8 to midnight.  It's a major fundraiser for WABA.  Be there.  Or at least buy a ticket.

Bike Share:

My friends, Emily and Crispin, had this brilliant idea.  Make a safe kids' seat to be added to bike share bikes.  Then people can transport their kids short distances, dock their bikes, and head to the office.  The seat a beautifully simple design that was stable, and gained even more stability with a child on it.  Crazy idea, huh?  And they wanted to send their profits to good works in Africa.  Now they have been told not to do sell any more of the seats they made from recycled bike parts.  The seat could not be more clever.
I love Capitol Bike Share, but this is a terrible turn of events.  If we can cap burning oil wells in the midst of wars, we should be able to find a way for Capitol Bike Share to allow this seat.


In our collective imagination, Portland has set the highest bar for all cities.  Right?  Portland's Master Plan calls for 25% of trips to be made by bike by the year 2030.  Protected bike lanes are seen as moving the city toward that goal.  Baseline premise.

A new study shows that bike lanes (generally, writ large, whatever) increase the numbers of riders from between  21 to 171 percent.  Easy to grasp.  They make people feel safer.

The L Street bike lanes in DC helped boost cycling by 65% according to the study.  So the prognostications appear to be right.  Lanes get people out of cars and on bikes.  Less congestion, better health, the standard obvious benefits.

Even Pentagon City now has green bike lanes.  You can ride your bike all the way to Nordstrom to get your Ferragamo pumps, which you can then wear cycling.

In Washington, the future of transportation includes lots more bike lanes.  So this is probably a good thing.

Elsewhere in the world,

In a typical response to the introduction of bike lanes, in the city of Cambridge, England's proposed lanes are being met with doomsday predictions: congestion, parking crisis, deaths and dismemberments.
But in 1945, bikes ruled the streets there.  Here is the Vimeo showing that more romantic time, while Cambridge may still be headed to a future romantic permanence.–-when-bicycles-ruled-roads

Mopeds in bike lanes are the latest issue in bike-friendly Rotterdam, Dutch News reports.  City Council members want mopeds (generally defined as motorized, two-wheeled vehicles with an engine of less than 50ccs) out of bike lanes and on the streets, and want moped riders to don helmets.

Policy and Advocacy:

Over 200,000 more people will be working in Washington, DC by 2040, and they will all need transportation.  MoveDC has the proposed master plan for transit available for review and comment.  Walking and bicycling will need to be sharply increased to accommodate the increase in people.  And to make people think twice before driving, tolls will be added to feeder roads.  Will the plan work?  The comment period is open.  Have at at cycling fans.  The proposal recommends additional miles of protected bike lanes.  Be your own best advocate, as they say.

The larger issue however is America's addiction/love affair with cars.  Are we addicted to fumes?  Are the doomsday predictions about bike lanes just white noise as we move toward the inevitable shift to less motorized transit?  What would the science fiction writers imagine about the effects of not making major changes to how we get around?

That car/America love affair may be souring after so many years.  Perhaps America will suddenly and inexplicably be turned off by cars, and feel randomly repulsed by the way cars eat . . . or guzzle.  Major corporations are banking on a cooling of this love affair, since they are moving back to cities and away from the Silicon Valley isolated campus model.  This shift in business could serve to motivate city leaders to get more bike lanes in as fast as possible.  Then cities could attract tax-paying, business-supporting companies.  As we know, these companies hire smart young people, who favor cities and bikes over sprawl and sedans.


A committee in the House of Representatives tells USDOT to reduce walking and cycling fatalities.  the words "performance measures" are contained in the statement.  The subtext is something like this:  Department of Transportation, reduce fatalities some kind of way, or we will take away your money.  Here's the statement:

Recognizing the increase in pedestrian and bicycle fatalities, the Secretary of Transportation should establish separate non-motorized safety performance measures for the purpose of carrying out HSIP requirements. The FHWA [Federal Highway Administration] should define these performance measures specifically to evaluate the number of fatalities and serious injuries for pedestrian and bicycle crashes. - See more at:

According to a new report, at least a hundred people are injured in crashes in New York City every day.  That's a lot.  Even for a metropolis.  Alcohol and rushing to and from work play a big role.  Though it isn't mentioned, cell phone usage probably also plays a big role.  The goal of reducing to none the numbers of automobile-caused fatalities is the plan of Vision Zero.  (You can download the city's plan through the links below.)  Cycling is part of the plan to restore the public health crisis caused by cars.

The Washington Post reports on the safety classes that help otherwise skilled cyclists learn new ways to stay safe in traffic.  Once again the Washington Area Bicyclists Association takes the lead in cycling education in the nation's capital.  This week I saw a number of cyclists crossing intersections when they had red lights.  This happened while opposing traffic had a left-turn green arrow.  So basically they could have been killed.  I think I will begin making nominations of people who should attend this WABA "refresher training."  Some days it's even me.

Urbanspacesandplaces blogs this week about Huffy's women's cycling campaign on YouTube, "How to learn to ride a bike (Again!!!)"  It's an artful little approach to enticing women back to cycling, without including a "free gift with purchase."  Unless you count good health, fitness and fun as free gifts.  Missing from the story is the important role of safety in women's decision to bike.  More lanes, more women.  Maybe this encourage women to buy a Huffy, if only as a starter bike.


Electric bikes are gaining more fans.  USA Today, that colorful newspaper that is emblematic of Middle America, reports that 158,000 e-bikes were imported into the US between 2012 and 2013.  Even though Federal tax incentive for e-bikes expired last year, the numbers are expected to go up this year.  Woot-woot.  Here's a sample from the article and a link:

"It has its limitations. It only goes so far" on a charge, says Ron Paci, a retired carpenter in Arlington, Va., who has owned an electric Zero Motorcycle for a year. Still, he's a huge fan. "it doesn't pollute. It doesn't make any noise so if you want to drive quietly along a country road, it's a new experience."


Don't you love the cycling snob NYC?  He tweets that "Most rich I people I see wearing expensive cycling clothes look like sausages."  Yoouch!  Very possibly true.

Bicycling Magazine features a review of some new helmets.  If you are among the helmet-wearing set, and have read all the articles about replacing helmets every two years, this might be a good place to start. I was disappointed that the article did not rate each helmet for its reduction of helmet hair.

Zap bike lock deters imagined, would-be thieves with a blast of electricity, after it gives a verbal warning.  This sounds like something out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon.  I can imagine a thief getting zapped so that you can see his skeleton through his skin, after which he is fine.  It's reminiscent of that 1980s car alarm called the Viper, the one that made a certain congressman from California rich.  It barked, "Step away from the vehicle."  Zap could say something like,  "Stay way from the Gary Fisher, butt-head."  I am pretty sure I would make a mistake and end up zapping myself.  I also think a good u-lock beats a smart-alec, zapping lock any day.

Looking for a bike coach and are a beginner?  If you are not in Washington and cannot attend a WABA class, here are some skills for newbies.


Florida Cops tackled a cyclist/participant in Critical Mass in Fort Lauderdale after he allegedly told them to drive move slowly past a group of cyclists.  Critical Mass is a powerful pro-bicycling, pro-bike infrastructure movement that relies on numbers of cyclists to convey its message.  Fort Lauderdale Police tell a different story than the cyclist/tacklee.   They say the tacklee pulled his bike in front of their patrol car, flipped them off, and was otherwise confrontational.  Generally, it is good not to antagonize the police when you are participating in something as positive as a Critical Mass movement.  It seems out of place to suddenly shout "Pigs!" at the police, like you are protesting some act of police brutality and not the hegemony of motorized transit.  Outrage at law enforcement officers who are just there because your protest is happening on their shift belongs somewhere else.  Maybe in another era.  Rather than attempting to spark a riot, bring a celebrity.  Lebron James (yes, he's sometimes a bit surly) showed up at Miami's Critical Mass.  Or perhaps Brad Pitt could be enticed to do the right thing for Critical Mass.

A few random notes:

Crowd fund a charity sending bikes to Africa, Bike for Humanity.

RIP Massimo Vignelli, simple practical urban designer, who said "If you do it right, it will last forever." A beautiful thought in a time when most design seems disposable.  He designed the NY subway map and more.  I would like to have seen him design the map of bike lanes in Washington, but maybe he can do that from afar.

So if I see you in the bike lanes, maybe on a Huffy, maybe on a bike share bike with a great detachable kids' seat, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

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