Friday, July 29, 2011

It's Funny Because It's True

I'm not just posting this cuz it has cycling in it.  I think there is an element of truth in the social media generation gap expressed here.  Of course, I don't want to overstate anything.  The best social media "entities/personalities" that I follow are interesting because they are DOING real things with their time and then sharing them via social media.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Carmageddon...the Aftermath!

I love this write up from last Sunday's New York Times, not so much because of its emphasis on the role of bicycling during "carmageddon." (I wrote about LA's 405 shutdown in a previous post).   But because it illustrates an ever so slight change that may have occurred (for maybe only 36 hours) in the minds of people as they enjoyed their city in ways that many had never enjoyed it before.
It demonstrates that the issue really is about quality of life.  I've been saying this for too long, but our constant bowing down to the car culture monster we have created feels like we are in some sort of trance unable to step back and see what we are doing to ourselves.  What's the quote?  "I have seen the enemy and he is us."   Here a a few choice excerpts:
Lo, the weekend came and went, and a miracle was proclaimed — “a historic moment” in traffic history, as Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky called it. The 405 freeway opened 17 hours ahead of schedule. Pollution and smog levels dropped. A trio of pedestrians even dined on linen in the middle of the empty road. Ya-a-a-ay for L.A.!

“They loved it,” said Yaroslavsky in an interview. “It was Carmaheaven. My e-mails and Facebook comments have been not just 95 percent positive, but effusive. People who live near the freeway heard birds chirping for the first time. They heard the sound of kids playing.”
As a nonevent, Carmageddon ranks with Y2K, the much feared global computer collapse at the millennium’s dawn. But as an urban epiphany, the weekend when Los Angeles became a small town was no small thing. It disproved some of the most worn-out clich├ęs about the city, while offering students of urban behavior some tantalizing glimpses of a better future...
No, the big lessons of Carmageddon are not about transportation. They are about something else, something less easily quantified. They are about the small salves in life that make a day easier, or even memorable. When millions of Angelenos decided to hold a block party, or go to the park, or ride a bike, or play soccer, or spend half a day at the farmers market, or take advantage of free admission at some museums, they found a city far removed from that awful commuter stress index. 
“Overwhelmingly, people told me they had a positive experience,” said Yaroslavsky. “They said things like, ‘How do we keep this going?’ And ‘Let’s do it again.’” Yaroslavsky, one of the favorites if he runs for mayor in 2013, wasn’t the only politician to hear such a thing. Yes, businesses at the beaches suffered, because people feared making the trip. But for many, maybe even the majority, the holiday from routine proved to be a delight. 
In the same way that people used to say that crime would never come down in a city of “Blade Runner” chaos (the murder rate is now the lowest in four decades), the horror predictions for life without a major car lane proved absurd. With Carmageddon, Los Angeles finally had the moment Rodney King asked for — everyone got along. And all it took was closing a freeway.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tour de Nez 2011 is Almost Here!

It has been two years since I've been around for the Tour de Nez because of bicycle excursions of my own so I'm pumped to be around this year as the Nez returns to a Reno focused event and is on the NRC!   Here is the full schedule of events.  Be downtown Sunday for loads of fun!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Has Copenhagen Cycle Chic Jumped the Shark?

I've been a long-time fan of Copenhagen Cycle Chic even passing along some of their more noteworthy posts on occasion.  But this recent diatribe about the "value of cycle chic" rubs me the wrong way.  I get that bicycle advocacy has had its hits and misses over the years but the CCC post is extraordinarily reductionist.  Plus it takes an extraordinary egotism to make statements like:
In late 2006, the bicycle didn't exist in the wider public consciousness anywhere in the world. It had largely been forgotten in vast swathes of the planet. In many cases an entire generation had forgotten the simple imagery of Citizen Cyclists riding bicycles in their regular clothes. As transport, not some hobbyist weekend activity. This blog changed all that. This is where Cycle Chic was founded. Where the phrase was coined. 
[Cycle Chic] is working more effectively in four short years than the past four decades of 'avid cyclists' promoting cycling. 
In the end these kinds of statements are just plain divisive.  The strength of the bicycling cultures that exist around the world lie in the amazing amount of diversity.  That doesn't mean you have to like all of these subcultures.  I for one don't really "get" the whole black label bicycle gang thing but that doesn't mean it isn't interesting.

More than that, the reductionist thinking behind this piece is troubling because it doesn't seem to address that people who ride bikes may ride them at different times for different reasons.  I may be quite capable of hopping on my "urban bike" and riding in "chic" street clothes to the coffee shop or store.  I'm just as likely to put on cycling gear to commute to work because I find it more suited to the mileage and terrain. Or, I could put on specially designed bicycle clothing for a recreational ride because it is ideally suited to that kind of riding.   Or, I could opt for cyclotouristy types of clothing when I'm on a loaded tour because they work well for that type of long day in the saddle.

In the end I could wear "cycle chic" style clothing to do any of these types of riding but riding in slacks, wingtips, and dress shirts and ties would really inhibit my enjoyment of a bike tour, or a fast recreational ride, or my commute.  I just like to ride my bikes in different ways and for different purposes and want my clothing to help, not hinder, that enjoyment.

Making Reno Bicycle Friendly!

I've been thinking a lot about the state of cycling in Reno lately.  Partly due to the Bicycle Friendly Application that is being submitted on behalf of the city to obtain Bicycle Friendly Status through the League of American Bicyclists.  And partly because I've weathered a few too many complaints and whining about the problems of bicycling in the Truckee Meadows of late.  As one commenter put it, "Participation and education are far more important than any bike lane striping. Participation is likely not to increase even if every road locally had a bike lane, not until gas goes above $4.50/g and doesn't drop anymore."

He has a point.  Gas prices a couple years ago shot up and we immediately saw a lot more interest in cycling from community members and the media.   Definitely more cyclists on the road due to the price increase.  A couple of months ago when gas jumped again to near the $4 mark the media stories were less about "alternatives" to the car and more about the outrage that drivers were feeling because they couldn't afford to drive (solo mind you) in their cars.

The thing is, I'd love to be able to wave a magic wand and make gas prices what they should be in this country.  It's pretty clear that we should be seeing prices more in line with what Europeans pay for gas if you take into account the real costs of our car culture.  But I don't have magic powers.  What I do have the power to do as far as making Reno a bicycle friendly community is work towards creating better infrastructure through my involvement with the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee so that people feel that much more comfortable getting on bicycles when they make that choice.  I can continue to lobby legislators to create laws that protect and help cyclists.  I can continue to volunteer for group rides and events in the community.  I can continue to educate and ride with my students in the bicycling at the school I work at.  I can continue to write and share the travails and joys of cycling through this blog (a modest "place blog" about cycling has surprised me with the number of visitors it has had over the years).   And, most importantly, I can continue to ride my bicycle nearly every day, demonstrating that it is a viable and preferable option for getting around our city for commuting, shopping, recreation, etc.   

Could I do more?  Could the city do more?  Of course, there is always more that needs to be done.  Especially given that we are trying to impose a greater degree of bicycle facilities over a transportation infrastructure that has been dominated by car culture for the last 70, 80, 90 years (never mind that the first roads were paved for cyclists in this country).

Anybody who steps back and considers where this city has come over the last dozen or so years in terms of the creation of a bicycling culture and real community here should be astounded by the improvements we've seen.  I'm simply not willing to look at these changes and see the glass as "half empty."  That's a slap in the face to all of the amazing work that has been going on and the thousands of hours put in to improve the cycling community in the Biggest Little City.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Legislating Common Decency!

Between reviewing the latest round of positive legislation that was passed to help and protect cyclist (see previous post here) and the brand new Bicycle Harassment that was passed in Los Angeles (the new law makes it a crime for drivers to threaten cyclists verbally or physically) and can't help but feel like it is a sad state of affairs when you have to pass a law to remind people to be nice to each other and share our transportation infrastructure.  Yeah, I understand why the laws are there and human nature being what it is I appreciate that they give some teeth to the legal protections for less protected users such as myself.  Here is a good write up on the LA law (note, I love that the city convened a training for officers to better acquaint them with bicyclist related laws.  Recently, I was told of a cyclist riding along Reno's Bicycle Boulevard who had a cop drive by and tell him to "get on the sidewalk"):


The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday passed a pioneering new law intended to protect bicyclists from harassment by motorists.
The ordinance, which backers described as the toughest of its kind in the nation, makes it a crime for drivers to threaten cyclists verbally or physically, and allows victims of harassment to sue in civil court without waiting for the city to press criminal charges.
Its passage comes one day after a 63-year-old bicyclist was struck and killed by a car on a downtown street — an incident that bicycle advocates say underscores the dangers cyclists face.
The new law is the latest bicycle-friendly measure to hit L.A., where an increasingly vocal community of activists has been calling for more protections.
Several of them showed up at City Hall on Wednesday to share stories of harassment; they described motorists who threw objects, shouted insults and tried to run them off the road.
As the number of cyclists on L.A. streets has swelled — local census data from 2008 show that about 13,000 commute to work on bikes, a 48% increase over the last eight years — so too have conflicts between motorists and bicyclists. Some motorists have accused cyclists of flouting traffic laws, while cyclists have complained that they are treated like second-class citizens.
The new law allows cyclists to sue in civil court and collect up to three times their damages, plus attorney's fees. Ross Hirsch, a lawyer who helped craft the law, said the potential for high compensation will make attorneys more likely to take on cyclists as clients.
Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, said no other city offers bicyclists an equivalent civil recourse. "It's a groundbreaking move," he said.
L.A. lawmakers have garnered national attention with several bike-friendly measures in the last two years.
In 2011, the Los Angeles Police Department convened a bicycle task force and launched new training that acquaints officers with laws that protect cyclists, including traffic codes that relate to bicycle lanes and rights of way. And earlier this year, the city passed an ambitious new bicycle master plan that calls for the paving of more than 200 miles of new bicycle routes every five years.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who championed that plan and wrote the new anti-harassment law, said, "It's about time cyclists have rights."

Friday, July 22, 2011

NV Legislation Effecting Cyclists

Here is a nice quick overview from the Reno Transportation Commission of new laws that effect cyclists:

SB248 – 3 ft passing law – effective October 1, 2011;  requires that vehicles must only pass a bicycle if they can provide 3 ft or more of space.  Also requires that, on multi-lane roadways, vehicles move out of the right hand lane to an inside lane, if safe to do so, when passing a bicycle.
AB328 – Vulnerable User Law – effective October 1, 2011;  mandates that if a vehicle is the proximate cause of an accident with a bicycle, pedestrian or transit stop user, the violation becomes reckless driving under the law.  Penalties as spelled out by the reckless driving statutes would apply.
SB475 – Consolidation of the State’s Bicycle programs – effective July 1, 2011;  Consolidates the bicycle/pedestrian programs at the dept of public safety with the Bike/Ped programs under NDOT.  Also increases the scope of the Nevada Bicycle Advisory Board to include pedestrian issues/facilities and changes their name to the Nevada Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Board.
And take note that SB248 is inspiring a special event/ride this October.  I'll post more details about that soon.  Also worth noting that the new cell phone law could be helpful in making roads safer for all users.

And I Thought My Grocery Bike Was Awesome!

Now why didn't I think of this?  And, it has suspension!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bicycling to the Fountain of Youth

This past weekend I was at a family gathering and talking to several brothers in law and the topic of expanding waist lines post marriage came up.  The topic was spurred because my nephew is getting married and we were watching an old wedding video.  My BiLs both commented on going up two pant sizes in 6 months after getting married and the other said the video was 45 pounds ago for him.   Now, I don't want to get all self-righteous about this but I haven't changed pant sizes in almost 20 years and it's obviously because I tend to eat (mostly) healthily and, duh, have ridden my bicycles thousands of miles over the past two decades.

I hadn't really thought about bicycling and its benefits in quite this way.  Obviously I know that the exercise is good for me and that as a culture we'd be better off cycling rather than hopping in our cars without thinking about the choice of transportation.  Still, it also made me think that this is not necessarily going to end well.  I'll be turning 45 this autumn and as young as I feel, I know that someday, I'll have to give up cycling.  Hopefully that won't be for another 30 or 40 years but still.  The party has to end at some point.  What then?

It also reminded me of this study from a few years ago talking about how the environmental benefits of cycling are overrated.  The crux of the study was that because cyclists are healthy and are likely to live longer, the overall use of resources from this increased longevity makes the overall benefit to the planet a wash.  Of course, cycling is all about quality of life NOW not to mention that I'm less likely to be an additional drain on the healthcare system which is basically broken in this country.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Peter Gabriel

This may actually be the single coolest use of a Segway ever!  Otherwise there aren't really an cool uses for Segways.  Maybe as something to lock my bicycle to I suppose.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jesus Returns...on a Bicycle!

This is just some silliness but I couldn't help but post it.  The fact that Matt Whitehurst (the rider) supposedly did this for charity just makes the Jesus reference complete:
Whitehurst, 16, insists the pictures are real but won't reveal how he managed to perch his bicycle atop the waters of England's Lake Buttermere. He performed the stunt to promote an upcoming cycling event that will raise money to build bridges destroyed in 2009 flooding.
Full story here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Carmageddon" is (already) Here!

With all of the hysteria recently about "carmageddon" in the news I couldn't help but follow the challenge posited by a journalist who suggested that a reasonably fit bicyclist could beat the Jet Blue flight from Burbank to Long Beach.  In case you weren't aware, this all started because the Jet Blue flight was supposed to help Los Angeles residents beat the chaos resulting from the closure of the 405 freeway.  Someone had the logical question, is a 40 mile flight really necessary?  Can't other forms of transportation do a better job than a special flight?

Apparently a whole battery of options are better than this ill-conceived idea from Jet Blue.  If this article is to be believed, the contest wasn't even close with the cyclists beating the plane by about an hour.  

All of this begs us to ask a whole bunch of questions about our basic assumption about how we get around in our urban environments.  Indeed, even in our car dominated infrastructure, aren't there better ways to get from point A to point B?  Often there are but we are too programmed as a society from birth to expect that we should be able to hop in a 3000 pound vehicle and drive to the door of the store, our place of employment, etc.  Regardless of whether it is 3 blocks away or 3 miles away.  

It reminds me of the questions I used to get when I worked at UNR and commuted a little over 2 miles from my house.  People always asked about how long it took me and it was usually about 15 minutes.  Often, the people driving felt smug when they could say that's how long it took them to drive.  Of course, then I'd ask them how long it took to find a place to park and walk to their office.  

Anway, the article goes on to examine some of our assumptions about bicycling and cars as a form of transportation.  I'll let the article speak for itself:

But the moment of folly seemed to provide an aperture for new thinking. In the face of this fanciful idea (a traffic-busting flight!) it became possible to demonstrate that cycling, often taken as a non-serious or marginal or even annoying (to some drivers) form of transportation in the United States, could seem eminently reasonable: not only the cheapest form of transportation, not merely the one with the smallest carbon footprint, not only the one most beneficial to the health of its user, but the fastest.
We can quibble over the details. These were fit cyclists (averaging, by @sumnums' calculations, 24.4 mph) riding in formation, largely on bike paths without traffic signals. What if it were a single rider on a clunkier bike? (Actually, given the margin of victory, it's likely many cyclists could have bested Team Jet Blue.) But the real point here is not to demonstrate the feasibility of traveling from airport to airport, but to make a case for the bike for all kinds of trips, even those trips that we write off in our heads as implausible by anything but car. I'm thinking not just of those less-than-one-mile trips around town that we know people tend to make by car. The bike is also a possibility for more adventurous trips; say, to the airport itself—plenty of people do it.
It's true, of course, that for years American cities have had atrocious infrastructure for things like cycling, and are built with more sprawling development patterns than European cities, but the reasons people give for not cycling in America are often as much failures of the imagination, or a priori rationalization, as anything else. To take one common complaint, the idea of showering at work after a cycle ride is somehow seen as prohibitive, but the idea of showering after running on an indoor treadmill in a gym that one has driven to is seen, rather frighteningly, as normal.

Sunday Morning Music - Tune Yards

Visually one of the more interesting videos I've seen in awhile.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Celebrating the Tour de France

On the first rest day of the Tour it seems like a good time to look back at some tours of the past.  These images of the riders and the countryside demonstrate what makes the race so special and make it transcend being just another sports event.  Having travelled around France during July following this extraordinary event you can see how the race captures the attention of nearly all of the country.  Highlights for me were riding the 21 switchbacks of Alpe d'Huez, watching Lance Armstrong climb the rest of the way up Luz Ardiden after crashing and winning the stage in 2003, and riding the loop around Paris on the final day with 11,000 other cyclists before the peloton arrived on the final trip on the Champs Elysees.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Road Respect!

I noticed this billboard and a couple of others from the same Road Respect campaign when I was recently in Utah.  Pretty interesting given that Nevada just passed a 3 Foot Passing Rule for cars when they come up on bicyclists on the road.  The Utah billboards focus on their own 3 foot law as well as pointing out that cyclists need to ride single file so that autos can get by them.  From the website:
It's one of those lessons we all learned early on in life, like sharing is good. When you give respect, you get respect. And nowhere is that more true than on Utah's roads, where drivers and cyclists meet in potentially life-threatening situations thousands of times a day. The Road Respect program is dedicated to the idea of teaching both drivers and cyclists the rules of the road so that everyone respects everyone's space and everyone gets home safely.

When the Nevada 3 Feet law goes into effect in early October there will be a campaign to get as many cyclists on the road wearing jerseys or shirts to increase awareness.

I Think Therefore I Shift!

I had to double check the date on this article on R and D going on for a bike that you shift gears by thinking about shifting.  Surely it was an April Fools Joke?!   But no, it's true.  It is a Toyota Prius Project bike and as the verbiage reads:
Deeplocal’s designers decided to add a set of neuron transmitters to a helmet and reprogrammed the PXP to communicate with them, which essentially means that in theory, you could be shifting gears on your bicycle just by thinking about it.
The funny thing is I already use this newfangled thinking method for shifting.  I think about shifting using my brain...


...which in turn tells my finger ... push the lever on my handlebars.  Apparently I'm a retrogrouch now.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Red Rock Riding

One of the highlights of traveling to southern Utah to see family this past weekend was getting out to ride in some beautiful scenery.  Everybody knows about the mountain biking but many people ignore just how stellar the road riding is.

In Veyo...PIE!

Look at that tarmac!

Kinda pretty...

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Neko Case at the Knitting Factory Tonight!

Ms. Case is one of those artists that makes me feel lucky to be alive to see her perform.  The fact that I get to see her for a second time tonight is just icing.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Bike Photo of the Day

I went so fast on this ride that there was a rip in the space/time continuum and my spokes started bending!