Thursday, May 31, 2012

Living in Bicycle Times

I'd be remiss to not mention that I have a little essay in the latest issue (#17) of Bicycle Times Magazine.   Especially since I've had several people email me about it.  It's a little piece about a run in I had with an appliance.  It's not on their official site but only in print (hence I got paid) which is pretty cool.

BT has quietly become one of the better bicycling magazines out there for those interested in riding as part of their lifestyle, as opposed to riding to race, etc.  It's not really an either/or thing but their emphasis is on more practical bikes for the urban environment with some adventure, touring, stuff thrown in for good measure.  I like that they are willing to look at some smaller builders when it comes to reviewing bikes.  There is a nice review on Black Mountain Bicycle's "monster cross" bike in the latest issue that is pretty intriguing.  I've been wanting to get over to Port Reyes to check out the Black Mountain shop for awhile and this just might provide the extra motivation to do it.

Anyway, check out the magazine if you haven't already.  Not because of my piece in the issue but because it's a quality magazine and there are too few of those in the world.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Nice park the bike lane, spilling into traffic, with a "Bike Lane, No Parking" sign right right next to the vehicle.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

It's a Bicycle Boulevard because the city painted "bike blvd" on the street...see?!

Reno came in 42nd on the Bicycling Magazine's list of America's Best Bike Cities.  The magazine touted our recent bicycle master plan and 50 miles of bike lanes added to the city over the past couple of years but noted the challenges such as the "in-name-only Riverside Drive Bicycle Boulevard, which contains little traffic-calming, bike prioritizing infrastructure."

Recently in my Urban Landscape Analysis class I was asked to address what I thought was the single most important issue facing cities.  It was a question on the final exam and while I think there are so many different dimensions to the problems facing cities the single area I spoke to was the issue of transportation policy in this country and the far-reaching effects it has had after decades of "autocentricity."  The problems that transportation is at least a partial solution to engulf everything from poverty, environmental justice, public health, global warming, and just plain any particular measure of "quality of life" you'd care to talk about.

I don't believe in silver bullets when it comes to the many problems of our urban landscape (in much the same way I don't believe in the simplistic "solutions" thrown around by so-called education "reformers").  However, it does seem to me that challenging the status quo transportation policy really is a mark of a city's understanding that our past model of transportation is no longer a viable one.  In fact, I would say it points to an utter lack of vision by some politicians and planners when they are not willing to look at the old car centric paradigm and see it is not sustainable.

I was reminded of this in the last week while attending the open house held by the Regional Transportation Commission for the proposed changes to Plumas and Urban Streets in Reno where a safer, "complete streets" approach had been presented.  I overheard Sharon Zadra, City Council Representative for Ward 2, display her lack of vision in a conversation with several residents of the Plumas corridor.  It was typical old-school "we can't do anything that might slow down cars" thinking.  Meanwhile I was quietly writing down my comments to be submitted to the RTC pointing out that all modes of travel on this one-mile stretch of road are unpleasant at best, and dangerous at worst.

I've ridden my bicycle, walked, and run along Plumas.   But I've driven this stretch of road far more than any other type of transport and it is so clearly unsafe, particularly when close to 80% of the traffic breaks the speed limit in these areas that intersect a neighborhood with two nearby schools, single family homes, parks and retirement communities.  To say nothing of the lack of ADA approved infrastructure.

I heard another couple of gentlemen talk about how "if the police just enforced the speed limit" the road would be safer.   Unfortunately, this just doesn't hold up.  Enforcement works for a day or a week but infrastructure design is what really modifies behavior.   And do you really want to park a cop on a road with radar gun and call that a solution to speeding?

The answer to the problems facing Plumas isn't the bicycle.   This is not a bicycle vs. car issue as many in attendance seemed to feel.    It is a quality of life issue and it is clear that such an important north/south corridor in Reno needs more forward thinking solutions that include the needs of all users whether on foot, bicycle, transit, or car.  Emphasizing the needs of single drivers in cars over all others is so clearly a step backwards that it left me shaking my head in consternation.   I encourage people to email Zadra, the RTC, and other city officials to express your support for the new design proposed by the RTC that supports all users who travel along this route no matter what mode of transportation they use.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Morning Music - David Bowie

This essay really hit home as a long-time fan of Hunky Dory.  Not sure that Bowie ever did anything better than this album even though his 5 decade career is peppered with some pretty impressive work.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Newsflash: You Can Save Money By Biking!

While this news recently reported in Forbes isn't exactly groundbreaking, the fact that they chose to publish it is.  Actually, the extent of the money saved, $4.6 Billion a year according to the study, is pretty breathtaking.  I'll still always argue that the number one reason to ride a bike is because it is a hell of a lot more fun than being in a car, but I'm in an economic position where I can make the choice.  Clearly bicycling for transportation and the economic benefits can't be ignored.


New data highlight that bicyclists in the United States save at least $4.6 billion a year by riding instead of driving...

The average annual operating cost of a bicycle is $308, compared to $8,220 for the average car, and ifAmerican drivers replaced just one four-mile car trip with a bike each week for the entire year, it would save more than two billion gallons of gas, for a total savings of $7.3 billion a year, based on $4 a gallon for gas.

The findings were announced by the League of American Bicyclists, Sierra Club, and the National Council of La Raza, an advocacy organization for the Hispanic community, to reflect the strong economic and health benefits of bicycling, and its importance as a safe and efficient mode of transportation.

“There are so many reasons more people are riding, from improving their health to protecting the environment,” Andy Clarke, the League’s president, said in a statement. “But, especially in tough economic times, bicycling can also be an economic catalyst, keeping billions of dollars in the pockets of American families.”

More Americans are choosing to bicycle for everyday transportation. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of bicycle commuters grew 40 percent nationwide, and was even greater — 77 percent — in the some cities, according to the report. Yet “government funding of safe bicycling projects is not keeping up. Though biking and walking account for 12 percent of all trips in theU.S., these transportation modes receive only 1.6 percent of federal transportation spending.”

The average American household spends more— 16 percent of its budget—on transportation than on food or healthcare. Low-income families spend as much as 55 percent of their household budgets on transportation, the report noted.

Making it easier and safer for people to walk or bicycle “is a matter of fairness,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote on his blog Fast Lane on Friday. “Many Americans cannot afford a car or are physically unable to drive. According to a recent Brookings Institute report, more than 10 percent of Americans not only don’t own a car, but don’t even have access to a car. In our cities, that number is even higher.”

LaHood noted that walking and bicycling are options people want, citing a national poll released by Princeton Survey Research Associates Internationalin March that indicated that “more than 80 percent of Americans support maintaining or increasing federal funding for biking and walking.” “The benefits of bicycling are real, and there’s no arguing with the impressive ridership data,” LaHood said. “Bicycling is an important part of the 21st century transportation mix.”

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bike to Work, School, and Fun - Wrap Up

Catching some air!

We had about 60 kids take part in the Bike to School event at the middle school where I work this past Friday and a part of me thinks it may have been the most important thing I've been a part of in my three year tenure at the school.  The kids were so excited to be out riding, no matter what kind of bike they were on, that we couldn't help but grin the whole time.  The kids were super stoked to have a police escort for parts of the ride to help ensure their safety with such a large group in the sections where we were crossing intersections.

The kids ended up being broken into three groups depending on their expertise and bikes.  I ended up taking the dirt group who wanted to go climb up into the old Northgate golf course and do some jumps.  Not what I had planned considering I had opted to ride my Rivendell Allrounder with slick 1.5 inch tires and mustache bars. But not surprisingly, the bike handled everything and I even surprised myself with my bike handling skills in a few sections.

Last week's events included bike videos about different aspects of bike culture (fashion, Tour de Nez, bike humor) a raffle to give away 6 bikes, and the big ride on Friday with the Safe Routes to Schools Coordinator, police escort, and faculty and parent support riders!

Me on the Rivendell with last year's Bike to Work shirt.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Just Ride...

Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bicycle Works fame has recently published his book Just Ride and I've been reading it all the while planning to do a mini review at some point.  I find myself agreeing with parts of the book and disagreeing with others but that's all good as far as I'm concerned.  I'm a proud owner of a Rivendell Allrounder and it's a great riding and looking bike.  I've written before about what I consider to be Petersen's great influence on the bicycle industry so I don't need to rehash any of that.  I will say on a personal side that years ago when I ordered my Riv I had the nicest time chatting with him about the frame choices and parts spec.  He was good humored and patient making sure the bike was exactly how I envisioned it.

Anyway, maybe that full review will come one of these days (I'd at least say that it is worth reading) but until then NPR's Morning Edition is running a piece on the new book with some clips from Grant.

Go here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bicycle Amenities Needed!

The Huffington Post has a nice piece in honor of Bike to Work week go on around the country.  I've been lucky to have many of these amenities in my own workplaces over the years but certainly others are not so lucky.   Safe parking, lockers, showers...and safe infrastructure, what else?

What makes a bike commute easier? Certainly the condition of the roads and the layout of a city or town make a world of difference. But how an office supports cyclists may be just as important. In fact, according to at least one New York City bicycle survey, conducted by the Department of City Planning, a lack of adequate resources for bike commuters was the number one reason why respondents didn't regularly bike to work. 
Not only is biking to work an environmentally friendly alternative to driving and taking public transport, it's a great cardiovascular and cross-training workout. And research shows that communities with a relatively high rate of bike commuters are wealthier, more diverse, more educated and -- believe it or not -- happier.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

You Don't Need a Bicycle Superhighway

No surprise that Denmark has bicycle superhighways opening.  But depending on where you live and work (and perhaps the choices you make about each!) riding a bike to work can be just as fast as driving and loads more fun healthful.

This was regularly the case when I worked at the University.  I would ride the two miles and walk my bike right into the building.  It was much slower to drive, find parking, and then have to walk to my office. 

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Plans for the Bicycle Superhighways started in 2009 with 13 routes in mind. At this time, the plans have increased to 300 km (186.4 miles) on 26 routes.

Much of the infrastructure was actually created in the ’60s. However, the present work to integrate, organize, and finally manifest this project is immense.

Copenhagen is a city of 550,000 people. The urban area extends out with many different municipalities surrounding the core. Imagine the town meetings necessary to get all of these different communites to clear and make way for this! It took some time and hard work, but the project is underway.

Source: Planetsave

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bicycle Hysteria!

It's not really about the bicycle...quite the contrary actually.  But the production design certainly caught my eye for the new film, Hysteria.  I've always been fascinated by the era and I remember being in my 9th grade history class looking through one of the historical trivia books on the teacher's shelf that included a reference to the bicycle boom of the 1880s and an unusual form of racing and gambling engaged in by gentlemen as they cheered on the female bicycle riders.   I don't think I need to spell it out any further....if you read the synopsis from the film's website you will likely get the gist.

Monday, May 14, 2012

It's Bike to Work and School Week!

I don't think Coppi is riding TO work here...just for work.  Love the image though.

In addition to making sure I'm riding every day this week I'm helping to organize a student ride at my school, introducing videos on "bicycling culture" during school announcements, and hopefully inspiring a few other faculty members to enjoy the extraordinary looking weather we are likely to have this week.  It's been a few years since we've had truly nice spring weather for Bike to Work week.

To celebrate the first day of BTW week here is a nice essay detailing the benefits of riding from MrMoneyMoustache.  Here is a quick excerpt but the full essay is a fun read:

A bike is actually an automatic life balancing machine, passively creating harmony in your life better than even the bossiest life coach could hope to do. You’re automatically forced every day to venture just a tiny bit out of your Comfort and Wussiness Zone. Suddenly you are blessed with the opportunity to use your mind and actually strategize just a bit each time you venture out… “How will I dress for the weather?”… “what will I be carrying with me?”.. “what food and drink will I require for this journey?”....
The challenge of biking also automatically limits the amount of time you spend uselessly circling the retail establishments of your town: “Do I really need to go out to the store to pick up that bottle of shampoo today? It’s a pretty long ride, and I’m going to need to go tomorrow to get bananas anyway. I’d better put it on tomorrow’s list. And I’d love to check out the shoe store someday, because I love just browsing through the shoes.. but that’s way on the other side of town. Surely there is something else I could do closer to home that is more valuable.”

Friday, May 11, 2012

How a Bicycle is Set Up

My last post was a nifty video on the making of a bike frame but this one is more about the matching of a bike's set up in terms of parts with its intended use.  Critical to enjoying riding more in the urban environment.  While it is a glorified commercial for Clever Cycles it's still a nice reminder that form should match the function that you want your bike to have in your life.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How a Bicycle is Made

There's no voodoo here.  Just a great, fun, documentary from the 1950s on the production of bicycles.  My favorite part is about 5 minutes in...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Meet the Flintstones...

This might actually be moderately cool if you could put your feet down on the ground through the floor to propel yourself or the energy was being tapped by the car so that it burned less fuel.  As it's just stupid and lame.  More here from GIZMODO of course.

This particular ride is a Cadillac Escalade ESV created by Becker Automotive Design. And besides the usual luxury accents, one of the seats features added hand grips and exercise pedals for getting a real workout on your way to or from work. We guess the company assumes that wherever your going has shower facilities, as we don't see its engineers finding a way to squeeze that amenity into an SUV. And maybe it's because we're not a part of the one percent, but we can't help but wonder why you just wouldn't ride a bike instead?

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Quiet Ride

A couple of shots from the ride home today...quiet and peaceful.  The perfect way to differentiate the headspace between work and home.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Making Cycling Safer in the UK

Some really nicely designed posters using art and well-known cycling celebs to promote an integrated transportation policy for peds and cyclists.  More examples here.

Graeme Obree in Battle Mountain?

I think I may need to take a trip to Battle Mountain in September to check out Graeme Obree's attempt to break the land speed record by pedal power.  Of course he is using odd parts to do it.

I just recently rewatched The Flying Scotsman (streaming on Netflix) which is quite a good movie in spite of a couple of little silly bits towards the end.  More here on his attempt from the Telegraph:

It was dreamt up in the bath, designed on the back of a scrap of wallpaper, constructed in part from an old saucepan and put together on the kitchen table, but this is the bicycle its inventor hopes will reach the improbable speed of 100mph.

Graeme Obree, the former world champion cyclist, is building a new machine on which to mount an assault on the land speed record for pedal power.

The 46 year-old is due to make his attempt in September, on a long stretch of flat road, just outside the town of Battle Mountain, in Nevada.

After building up speed, he will be timed over a distance of 200 metres (656ft), in an attempt to be monitored by the International Human Powered Vehicle Association.

If he reaches his target of 100mph, he will not just break but smash the current record of 82.8mph, set at the same site, in 2009 by Sam Whittingham, a Canadian cyclist.

Obree's new machine is being assembled at his one-bedroom flat in Saltcoats, North Ayrshire, in the kitchen which doubles as his workshop. He has already scavenged parts for the machine's shoulder rests from an old saucepan. 
"It is like choreographing and dancing to your own music," he said. "To me it is a form of artistic expression. This will be everything I have to offer in terms of being a builder and rider. It's a holistic approach. I'm using old stuff – recycling a bit of bike, reusing a bit of old chairing. It's like Scrapheap Challenge [the television series] in a way."
He said that designing the bike was largely done "conceptually" as he lay in the bath. Later, designs were sketched on the back of a large piece of torn-off wallpaper. 
In line with this homespun approach, rather than assemble a vast support team for the project, Obree has just enlisted the help of his 18-year-old son, Jamie, to assist in building the bike. 
They are also assembling a backup vehicle, which can be ridden by Obree if the main bike develops a problem. Otherwise, it will be used by his son. The only other team member is a manager, who is still trying to drum up support from sponsors for the bid, just four months away. 
Obree's belief that his design can potentially travel at 100mph is based on calculations that he describes as "back of the envelope physics". 
To reach that speed, he will be pedalling in a gear, which is around three times bigger than the top gear on a road racing bike. The pedals turn a chain which drives one set of gears, which then transfer the power to the rear wheel through a second chain, doubling the pedal power of a conventional bike. 
A single turn of the gear will propel his bike around 30ft – compared with around 10ft achieved by a road racer's top gear. 
"You just roll it and go up through the gears. If you get into the top gear you are already doing 80mph," he said. 
The wheels are home-made but are the same size as those used on BMX bicycles, and the gears are from a conventional bike. 
While he is confident that "the engine remains in decent nick", the bid will be as much a test of engineering as physical strength. 
His riding position, which will have him lying horizontally on his front, pedalling head first just a few inches from the road, is completely unlike the design used by Whittingham to set the existing record. The Canadian, like other speed cyclists, rides in a reclining position, with his head at the back of the bike, and his legs turning pedals at the front. 
To maximise aerodynamics, Obree will also be surrounded by what he calls "the skin", a carbon shell that is reinforced with bullet-proof Kevlar so that it does not disintegrate if he crashes. "It's basically a torpedo – a land based missile," he said. 
One obvious problem is testing his new bike in advance of the record attempt. "We'll just have to take it out onto the A78 and try it there – I'll get a mate to drive behind me while I'm doing it," he said. 
If it was anyone else, there would be a temptation to dismiss the bid as complete fantasy. Obree, though, was the man who revolutionised cycling not once but twice.
In 1993, he broke the record for the distance travelled in one hour on a self-made bike that, amongst other used parts, contained the bearings of an old washing machine. 
That design, which allowed Obree to ride in a similar position to a downhill skier, was subsequently banned by cycling's governing body.
Rather than be cowed by the apparent injustice, Obree simply designed a new riding style, which became known as the 'Superman' position. 
In 1995, he returned to win a second world individual pursuit championship. Yet this riding innovation, which was copied by his great rival Chris Boardman and just about every leading cyclist, was also outlawed. 
His cycling career, as well as his long battle with depression, was dramatised in the 2006 film, The Flying Scotsman. 
His described the motivation for his latest challenge. "I was thinking those medals in a drawer or what I have actually done are worthless unless I use it to inspire somebody.
"Before, I thought, 'I have to get that hour record or I will feel terrible and I can't bear to live with myself if I'm a failure'. Now I find myself in a win, win situation. In a lot of ways, my message would be more powerful if I don't get this record because it's OK to have a vision and just go for it. A lot of people don't do things for the fear of 'what if I don't manage it'. 
"My biggest fear is not crashing on a bike and losing some skin. It's sitting in a chair at 90 and saying, 'I wish I had done more'. I don't know if I will break the record but I will give it the best punt I can. 
"I'm inspired by the possibility of things, I'm inspired by the fact that we are dying, I'm inspired by my mortality. 
"And, in any case," he added, "having my nose to the wheel, going 80, 90 or maybe even 100mph across a road in America – that's pretty exciting."

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Candid Bike Camera!

 I've been thinking about getting one of those GoPro HD cameras for action footage of biking and any other adventures I may decide to go on in the future.  Then I saw this video of a hit and run of a cyclist in Berkeley (sent to me by my sister) and that pretty well clinched it.  More of the story is here but the video tells the real story.  As my sister put it, "that driver is screwed!"  We'll see, but I'm sure glad the cyclist following had a video.
Police arrested an Oakland man Friday in connection with a hit-and-run crash in Berkeley in which a bicyclist’s mounted camera filmed the car that knocked him to the asphalt. 
Michael Patrick Medaglia, 42, who is on probation for possession of a switchblade, allegedly ran down two bicyclists Wednesday on Tunnel Road. One of the cyclists, “Bruno,” filmed the crash and uploaded a video showing a black sedan drifting into the bike lane, clipping the cyclists and driving off.