Saturday, October 31, 2015

Selecting a Good Cycling Handyman & Bike Share Invades the Deep South

#Ethicalcyclist If you have a choice between two skilled laborers,  and they are equal in terms of the quality of their work, and one rides his #cargobike to work with his ladder on the back, and the other drives a truck which could easily hold several dead bodies, and you are not related to the second non-bike one through marriage, which one would you choose?  Presenting our handyman, Jim.  This is not why we chose him, but it is a serious benefit.  Jim Zinn Fix-it Guy.

Birmingham, Alabama columnist, #CodyOwens is hilarious and insightful as an anti-hipster, who knew the world was ending when Piggly-Wiggly starting carrying Quinoa.  He was a #bikeshare skeptic who noticed that, like kale on wheels, white people can't get enough of bike share.  However, find out whether he was converted to the pro-bike share side in this delightful piece that should launch his journalistic career in other markets - if he is willing to go places more infested with cycling hipsters than Birmingham.
I think Owens may have a point about how bike share may be excluding certain groups.  Take a look at the CityLab piece that more soberly discusses this point.

If you live in the outer suburbs of Washington, DC, there may be some good news for you.  Bike share is expanding to Fairfax and Reston, previous bike deserts.  Drink of the joy my suburban friends, trapped as you are by strip malls and residential developments that look like well-ordered Legos from the air.  Enjoy.

This video shows the flow of Capital Bike Share in animation.  And it reminds me of a great nebula.  It is also a powerful message about how, if you build it, they will come.

And some more bike share notes:
Want more bike lanes in Arlington?  The transit authorities there want to hear from you.
Seattle failed to score a converted TIGER grant to expand its bike share.  Other municipalities should figure out what went wrong here and learn.

Want a folding electric bike that is intended to be cooler than a hover board?  There is yet another one this week that you can crowd fund if you want.

Nissan's new concept car watches out for cyclists and pedestrians.  Seriously?  Oh my!  This might actually be awesome when so much about cars is not.

I hope I am also still cycling at 90.  Let's form a social networking pact to strive for this as a connected group.  This former octogenarian is inspirational and beautiful. Read Bicycling Magazine's nice piece to get more info on this elegant woman.  It is a delight. Give these great folks at Bicycling Mag some clicks.  Subscribe if you can.

So, if I see you in the bike lane, and you are 90, or older or younger, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Malta, Europe's Fattest Country Laughs at Bike Share. A Municipal Lesson in Metaphor.

Malta has the dubious distinction of being Europe's fattest country.   Yes, that island country, where Queen Elizabeth II took her honeymoon.  That densely populated little island where Brits and Germans vacation, and where the population partakes of a so-called Mediterranean diet.  Well, that island still has miserable traffic jams, and terrible bus service.  The same nation that promotes is splendor for #cycling tourists has taken a stand - or a teehee - at the notion of bike lanes for its own people.  Apparently in Malta, driving a car has come to symbolize success.  Hmmm.  How very 1973 of the Maltese.  Parliamentarians there laughed and scoffed at the idea of bike lanes on the island.  Enjoy your rising healthcare costs Maltese leaders.  Please feel free to visit my country where Type-2 diabetes - often caused by obesity and a sedentary lifestyle - has created healthcare spending unprecedented.  Hahahahahahhaha.    Then pause, and think again about bike lanes.  Besides which, had I not been on a bike cruising through the plaza in front of the White House this week, I would not have heard an utterly beautiful version of Nessun Dorna being performed on the street right next to the bike lanes.  If you want to experience less joy, Maltese, stay the course.

Of all the things in the world for local politicians to decry as outlandish, a proposal for cyclists to roll through stop signs under safe circumstances would not strike me as municipal insanity.  If there are no cars coming, and you and your bike weigh not nearly enough to hurt a person, and it is night, and say you are a woman trying to get home safely, and maybe it has started to rain, or hail, or snow, and you elect to slowly ride your bike through a stop light/sign, you have not committed the moving violation equivalent of shooting up a housing project filled with toddlers with your AK-47.  San Francisco has proposed a law to allow cyclist to yield rather than stop in some instances.  Some politicians have reacted with outrage over the proposed law.  Go figure.

Did you ever wonder how Washington, D.C. made it all work with bike share?  Gabe Klein was the Director of the Department of Transportation when Capital Bike Share had its imperfect start.  This piece in GGW is worth a read if you want bike share to come to your city.  It may surprise some to learn that Cap Bike Share was not D.C.'s first share program.  But it was the first to shake off weak corporate sponsors, team with other jurisdictions, and use renewable solar power on docks and reduce the projected longterm capital expenditures of the program.

Mark Twain said that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.  We were reminded of that again this week when incorrect data was used to claim that a bike share station on Chicago's Southside was essentially never used.  Many have claimed that bike share is used by and built for wealthy whites.  Hmmmm.  It may presently be used more by whites, or the pigment challenged as I sometimes think of us, but as bike share crops up in other neighborhoods, it is being used, rather more than some folks let on.  So to those on Chicago's Southside, ride on.  Enjoy.  Ignore nonsense.  Bike share is for everyone. Pigment or none.

Are bike sales a good gauge of cycling interest?  In the U.K., in 2010, bike sales were in the billions of Pound Sterling.  Then in 2013, the market crashed.  A sort of mortgage meltdown without the confusing derivatives.  But now sales of bicycles are creeping back up again.  At some point, the market will be saturated and we should stop caring about bike sales.  Instead we will think only that people have and are using bikes.   Which brings us back the math lesson enthusiasts all know.  Remember, the number of bikes you can own is N +1, where N is the number of bikes you already known.  Once people figure this out, sales may increase.
What are your thoughts on whether we should pay attention to bike sales when evaluating interest in cycling?

Finally, I happened to be in Des Moines this past weekend.  I saw bike share and bike lanes.  Little use, but it was all there.  Cycling infrastructure and the Farm Report on the morning news.  If you happen to live in Des Moines and ride your bike, my hat is off to you, as they say.  You are a great American doing what must seem like a little thing.  You may help to change minds.

So, if I see you in the bike lanes, singing Nessun Dorna (just one of the best songs ever!) and you are here from Malta, or Des Moines,  let's be smug.

Elisa P.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Cycling Revolution Has Begun

A new Dutch study that concluded that cycling extends your lifespan.  This week a second study shows that training on a bicycle can help lower your risk for cancer.  I believe this, but I would add a few other things that lower your risk: abstaining from smoking . . . anything, not drinking nail polish remover, and having a good attitude and assuming the best of others, unless they are behind the wheel of an S.U.V. in urban environs where the need for an S.U.V. is, well, dubious at best.  Dutch cyclists live longer.  That's something to consider.

It's fall and the time when we ride in jeans more than shorts, if you are an urban cyclist who rides everywhere except to Ikea once a year.  So what are the best cycling jeans?  Jolt Jeans and Levis commuters make the top of my list, with Jolt having a lower price point and perhaps the feel of low price point jeans.  Momentum Magazine has a few other suggestions if you want to get around and look better.  For cycling to work, I am in favor of wearing whatever you wear to work, even if that means sliding on a pair of biking shorts underneath that dress until you get there.

We appear to be in the midst of a cycling revolution not foisted upon us by a despotic leader who will send us on a death march . . . or ride, whatever.  This is outstanding.  The Cycling Minister of Great Britain insists, however, that the British Empire must redouble its efforts to deliver a cycling revolution.  Redouble.  Make more intense.  Not double twice.  Which would mean, I guess, that they need to try four times harder.  London Mayor Boris Johnson waded into the cycling fray yet again by complaining about Eurostar's policy of letting very few bikes on its trains.  In any event, I wish we had a Minister of Cycling in the United States, though given our history of "Red Scares" I would caution that Minister against referring to any effort to increase cycling as a "revolution."  The next thing you know, he or she could find themselves sitting before the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations trying to explain the language selected for the pro-cycling campaign. Unless you could somehow liken it to the industrial revolution and thereby explain cycling's link to progress.

The most popular bike share route in Washington is from Union Station down the H Street corridor to D.C.'s Atlas District, where the food and bars are more interesting and diverse, the streetcars will soon go, and the robbery rate is high.  This makes you wonder what any city would look like if were designed with an emphasis on cycling.  Fast Company has some ideas in an interesting piece this week.  As it turns out, one thing you can expect in a cycling city is corporate sponsorship of bike share.  In Santa Monica, Hulu, a video streaming and entertainment company, is behind the share program.  Not antithetical to cycling, you say, but it raises questions about what limits should be placed on corporate sponsorship of shares as more cities add them.  Are liquor or tobacco companies okay sponsors?  Arms manufacturers?   What about automotive companies associated with the manufacture of especially large S.U.V.s?  Marijuana pharmacies?  Colombian drug cartels?  It bears thinking about.  These may be the policy concerns of tomorrow's municipal cycling czar.  I could write that policy.

So, if I see you in the bike lane, whether you appear aware you are part of revolution, or you are simply aware of what jeans work best for cycling, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

People Are Taking Bike Share Instead of the Subway

Washington's Metro subway system appears to be in a death spiral.  First, Metro suffered a decade of broken escalators and elevators, doubling the commute time of anyone who was disabled or elderly.   (They were forced to take shuttle buses between stations.) Three jurisdictions (Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia) had oversight of Metro, and none of the three would adequately own Metro.  I am not sure which genius decided to build escalators exposed to the elements (rain and snow in particular).  But now, people have other options - they have Capital Bike Share.  And they are ditching Metro in droves to ride bikes.  Not a bad thing.  Perhaps Congress, which can get almost nothing done these days, could consider funding the mass transit system of the major economy in world.  Whacky, I know, for a developed nation to have a functioning mass transit system.  I am just sayin'.  In the meantime, if you want to leave Metro and join the cyclists, welcome.  You may smell the occasional dumpster, but you will not have to avert your gaze from the nearby nose-picker. And even if you do, you will care a lot less that when you are not sharing the same mid-train car support beam with said picker.

On the fence about whether to bike?  Fear your helmet hair, lacquered with Final-Net might suffer, or your support pantyhose run?  Ditch Metro/that-car-that-is-ruining-you for a bike, and ditch the lacquer and support hose too.  Ride often enough and you won't care about the first, and you won't need the second. The good news is that 99 more bike share stations are coming to Washington.  Whoot!  Whoot!

So what is the right way to ride a bike, you wonder, having given up heavy, constraining foundational garments and hair shellac?  Well, Claude Hillel, an avid cyclist and healing arts professional has this to say to you:

Atlanta has a new bike czar, and she is a czar-ess, hopefully not of the same ilk as Catherine the Great/Weird.  Meet the woman who will lead Atlanta away from its car-clogged self to a streamlined, slender new southern capital. Pecan anyone?  Yankees in Atlanta?  Oh, my!

Winter cycling.  Are you ready for it?  Cars pretending not to see you in the early dark, despite the mini-strobe light armband you are sporting, and the pulsating headlight.  Snot-cicles, frozen hands, ruddy cheeks.  Bike lanes are the most useful to protect cyclists in winter notes

Insurance company Worry and Peace steps into the cycling market in the U.K.  Will U.S. Companies follow?

And in products this week, Bontrager introduces a tire they say won't be punctured by a nail, Britain's famed Royal Mail cycles are being re-built (and, God they are glorious) and re-purposed for good in Africa, and a new titanium lock might be the right light-weight option for you.

So, if I see you in the bike lane, and you are atop a Royal Mail bike, without heavy hairspray and a near-crippling girdle that makes you look like a character in an old Jon Waters film, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Cities Favor Cyclists Over Motorists As Policymakers Grasp Reality

The Economist reports that cities are starting to put pedestrians and cyclists ahead of motorists.  I am trying to feel bad about this trend, but a smile continues to creep across my face.  There are times when The Economist reveals it is slow to adapt to reality, and this is one of those times.  The reports a counterpoint, that transportation policies favoring motorists are unsustainable.  The inevitability of this shift has been recognized by Salt Lake City, where protected bike lane intersections are being added.  Not saloons or taverns, but protected boxes.  This Economist piece conjures images of a bloated old man wearing a tweed suit that was once lovely, but is now riddled with moth holes and smells like stale tobacco.

In NYC, #Citibike is beginning to climb out of the red after years of teetering on the brink of possible failure.  Nothing could damage urban cycling more than the failure of a major share system.  Bixi nearly established that horrible precedent last year before being rescued by a discount sofa magnate.  Citibike's solvency is crucial to continued forward momentum on the development of cycling infrastructure.  So if you are interested in becoming NYC's bike czar, now is the time to apply for that job.  Qualifications: Must be prepared to push back against bloated old men in poorly maintained tweed and/or the Dorothy Rabinowitz nay-sayer types with good humor.  Must stay awake during city counsel meetings or be able to sleep with eyes open and a placid smile, and wake up the second someone asks, "So what do you think?"

This week in products: Bikeradar's article on the best new helmets, GM's launch of electric bikes, and another e-bike fold-up campaign on #Kickstarter.  All are worth a read.  Query, what does it say about America that all American automative companies are jumping into the e-bike market.  That people can no longer live by car alone?

Labor union group AFLCIO reports on bikeshare worker Dolly Winter, the Norma Rae of Citibike, without the death threats and sweaty factory scene.  Nice from the AFLCIO, which has supported the automotive industry.  And yup, that's exactly how they posted her image - sideways.

It's that time of year again, when otherwise serious adults use the excuse of Halloween to don tights and ride around town.  Generally, this sort of action should be encouraged, or at least not scorned.  After all, it can briefly district a child headed toward a tantrum, and make cynical adults smile before they resume their perpetual frown.

#Pashleybicycles are works of art made in Stratford-Upon-Avon, where they have been made for many years.  What is not to like?  Solid steel bikes with every detail considered.  This is a nice profile of some of Pashley's staff.  Or as I call them, the lovely little angels of cycling.

So, if I see you in the bike lane, or fixing or moving bike share bikes, or wearing any super hero suit, let's be smug.
Elisa P.