Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Dove Bicycles of the Olympics!

I should have commented or posted something about this earlier right after the opening ceremonies I suppose.  But I didn't really see what to say until I read this quote justifying the reasoning behind why "bicycle doves" were "released" rather than real doves.
The releasing of doves became a traditional part of the Olympics opening ceremony after the end of the First World War.

But the spectacle has undergone some changes since the 1988 games in Seoul, when several birds were inadvertently burned alive in the Olympic flame.

Danny Boyle steered clear of any similar hazards by substituting the birds for 75 riders on “dove bikes” who performed a circuit of the stadium at Friday night’s ceremony.

According to the organisers, the “magical bike-bird hybrids” were inspired by the words of Louis Helle, an American naturalist: “Bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds.

"The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus; it gives him no wings of his own.”
I couldn't agree more with the statement that "bicycling is the nearest approximation to the flight of birds."   On a good day I certainly feel like I'm flying.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tour de Nez 2012 - A Gallery

A few photos and cinemagrams from yesterday's Tour de Nez:

Mens pro tour de nez

Created with cinemagr.am

Womens pro tour de nez bike race

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Fantastic Forage!

A few shots from last night's stellar event, Forage, which I posted about before.  The roaming celebration of art and science was pretty amazing and capped off by a selection of silent films accompanied by a live band.  There was something strangely and wonderfully psychedelic about the whole event.  I particularly liked that there was a nice range of ages amongst the hundreds that turned out.


Created with cinemagr.am

Forage at the discovery museum

Created with cinemagr.am


Waiting for the films to begin at the Nevada Museum of Art...standing room only by the time of the show!

Pre-eruption volcano (see video above)

Taking over the streets between sites.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Is Cardboard the New Carbon Fiber?

I have a mixed reaction to the notion of a cardboard bicycle that can be produced for $9.  On the one hand, cheaper workable bicycles for the masses is attractive.  On the other hand we live in a throwaway culture and does this idea of a cheaply produced bike just play into this throwaway mentality?  Regardless, it's an interesting idea from an engineering perspective.

They are made of recycled cardboard, can withstand water and humidity, cost nearly nothing – and might the concept of green vehicle. Izhar Gafni is a Kibbutz resident, who decided to prove to his fellow engineers that he could make a bicycle at nearly no cost.
Izhar Gafni, originally from Kibbutz Bror Hayil in the Negev, took the most popular and widely sold vehicle in the community and decided to turn it into an entirely green private venture.
Gafni’s bicycle redefines the idea of green transportation in every way, being environmentally friendly from early stages of production all the way through creation of the final product. The bicycles are made out of recycled and used cardboard.
More here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bicycles Go To The Movies - Part 2

This weekend is full of fun activities, many of them bike related, such as the Rush to Washoe ride down along the new freeway connection between Reno and Carson, the Tour de Nez of course, and the Forage Roaming Gallery.   Forage seems like a particularly fun event on Saturday.  Here's the full description of Forage:
Saturday July 28 from 4-10pm, The Holland Project will be taking you on an art-blow-out bike tour of midtown and downtown Reno. Beginning at 4pm at the Holland Project Gallery on 140 Vesta St., Forage kicks off with a group exhibit featuring Oakland artist Scott Greenwalt as well as solar theremins and a sound-scape. From there the roaming gallery will hit up Midtown, the McKinley Art Center, The Discovery Museum and the Nevada Museum of Art. It will showcase outdoor installations, a non-Newtonian pool, science fair extraordinaire, a confetti volcano and music by Spitting Image and a brass & steel band. The final event of the afternoon will be the screening of silent film paired with an original score by local musicians at the Nevada Museum of Art, topped off with the launching of hot air balloons at a rooftop after party. Forage, blowing Reno’s socks off since 2010.

Bicycles Go To The Movies - Part 1

 Two drastically different films are hitting theaters around the country that explore bicycling in the world.  Reveal the Path focuses on the almost spiritual nature of pushing ones limits on the bicycle while traversing the planet.  From the creators of Ride the Divide, which followed the race across the continental Divide, Reveal looks like it has some great cinematography.

The second film is Premium Rush which I've seen a trailer of before but is set to hit theaters later in August.  It looks a bit like the Kevin Bacon film, Quicksilver crossed with Tami Hoag's pulp novel, Kill the Messenger.  If that seems like dubious company you would be right (although Quicksilver is something of a guilty pleasure).  The best that can be said of Rush is that it seems to have a solid budget/production values and some good actors (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reno Cycle Chic...and the Fascism of the Cycle Chic Movement

I like bicycles. I like photography. I like pretty girls. So you'd think that I'd be an easy mark for the so-called Cycle Chic movement which has grown from its Copenhagen origin to dozens of other cities throughout the planet. I've even mulled the idea of launching a separate Reno Cycle Chic website at one point.

Unfortunately, over recent years cycle chic has started to rub me the wrong way. For instance, they have the audacity of taking credit for the growing cycling movement all the while expressing disdain for the work of bicycle advocates who created the very urban infrastructure that the cycle chic subjects ride on daily. The fact that these advocates started working in Europe in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, to build a better urban space that provides a safe environment for cyclists years before they provided a back drop for Cycle Chic seems to go unnoticed.

Also troubling is that the socioeconomic status continually represented on the site. I get that the movement is about fashion and looking good on bicycles being used as a utilitarian tool. It is called cycling “chic” after all. But the emphasis does seem to grossly misrepresent the reality of bicycle use around the planet. The subjects represented are almost exclusively young, beautiful, women. Nice to look at but when Cycle Chic starts claiming that they have done more for cycling since the inception of their blog than all of the bicycling advocates than you have to question whether they believe that 95% of cyclists are beautiful 20 something women.

I suppose I could create a website called the Pragmatic Pedaler but that really is not nearly as sexy sounding. But it does more accurately reflect the reality of life on the streets for most urban cyclists. Not just in Reno, but around the world, where millions of people ride their bikes in clothes that look like they are going to work in a factory or in the fields, not in an advertisement for for some high tech industry.

More than that, if you look at their criteria for setting up a “cycle chic” blog for your own city you realize just how tight their vision is for urban cycling. No helmets are to be pictured, …. I'm not out to start a helmet war but it seems to me that if an individual rider decides they feel better wearing a helmet on their commute are they out of hand dismissed from possibly being chic?

It seems to me that adhering to this strict view of what is cycling and what is chic, all the while taking credit for the growing bicycle boom is extraordinarily arrogant. As it is, I'm content to occasionally post photos of cyclists in Reno who are practical and chic in their own ways.

Monday, July 23, 2012

University of Michigan Transportation Musical!

Kudos to Michigan for putting this video together for students entering the college system.  Clever and fun!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rattlesnake vs. King snake ... who wins?

My brother-in-law took these photos from the family farm (Rabbit and Raven Farm) this past weekend and I couldn't help but share them.  How often do you see two snakes going at it in a life or death struggle?

The King Snake wins and his reward is a nice juicy rattlesnake meal.

Bike content:  The land adjacent to Rabbit and Raven Farm is a little place known as Zion National Park.  There is a nice also trail called the Guacamole trail up above the farm that is pretty popular with the local mountain bike crowd.  Interestingly, Mitt Romney and some cohorts recently purchased some land just next to the park with some spectacular views.  Below is a video of the Guacamole trail and a picture of the Romney development "Gate."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The History of Mountain Biking

The San Francisco airport is hosting an exhibit on the history of mountain biking featuring some great examples of early off road machines.  I love looking at some of the early drop bar incarnations of mountain bikes with their beefy lugged steel frames.  I don't know the fellow who put together this slideshow of some 40+ photos but they are well worth the time to check out.  Since I have no plans to travel through SFO this is as good as it will probably get for me.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pedal Powered Film Festival

Some great films (not just great bike films) on the schedule for this distinctive cinematic event.  The flyer gives the particulars.  "2 Seconds" is a particularly fun film with a nice homage to Jaws in it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The "War on Cars"

I wonder how many bicycles could be "recycled" out of that mass of steel and rubber?

In light of the recent dust ups locally regarding "road diets" and traffic calming in the Reno area this story from NPR is quite timely.  The interesting thing for me is the lack of historical perspective that most of us have regarding how incredibly dominant the automobile has been on practically everything in the design of our infrastructure over the course of the last 6 or 7 decades.  We often don't even see it.

The problem of course is that 6 or 7 decades ago the cost of oil was so much less that at least economically most households could sustain the expense (never mind the environmental impact).  I was recently watching a documentary (Sprawling From Grace...available to stream on Netflix) on oil and urban planning and one of the talking heads made a statement that struck me.  I'm paraphrasing but he said essentially that our society has been built around energy, oil, that is $20 or $30 a barrel.  Not $80 or $100.  For anyone paying attention we know that the days of super cheap energy are long gone.

The oft forgotten factor is that people think a new technology such as electric cars will save us forgetting that electric cars still need power from somewhere AND the costs of producing and reinventing our society (beyond transportation energy needs) takes an extraordinary amount of energy in and of itself.  In effect, is it better environmentally to just use your old gas guzzler less or buy a brand new car with all of the energy costs that went in to manufacturing it?

Here is a portion of the text from the story but the full audio is worth listening to:
Back in Washington, D.C., Harriet Tregoning, the director of the city's Office of Planning, says the nation's capital is shifting away from decades of car-focused transportation planning. 
"We've begun more than a decade-long effort to rebalance our transportation system, in part because we just don't have the capacity in the city to accommodate everyone who wants to be here to work or to live if everyone was always in an automobile for every trip," Tregoning says. 
According to Sam Zimbabwe, associate director for policy, planning and sustainability at the city's Department of Transportation, automated tickets are about safety. He says the city raised raising parking meter rates to encourage more turnover in street parking spaces.
Overall, city officials say, they're trying things out — experimenting, innovating. 
Washington's bus lanes are supposed to create space on the street to move lots of people. But they don't work perfectly, Zimbabwe says, and they may be removed. Bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue were restriped three times before the city settled on the current plan. 
Those bike lanes, and an anticipated new streetcar line, give people more choices. And choices, Tregoning says, enhance the vitality of street life for city residents, not just suburban commuters. As for a war on cars, she says she knows of no such war. 
"People are using these other transportation modes, and it's making it possible for restaurants and other businesses to open in all kinds of neighborhoods throughout the city," Tregoning says. While she loves cars and owns one herself, she adds, "It's also great to get out of them every once in a while." 
It's difficult to measure whether commuters are actually getting out of their cars in the Washington region, one of the most congested areas in America. But Tregoning points out the city's population has grown by tens of thousands in the past several years. At the same time, there are 3,000 fewer registered vehicles, and the number of cyclists in the city is up. Capital Bikeshare, a bike rental program that began two years ago, just celebrated its 2 millionth ride. 
Right now, the city estimates half of the trips made in the nation's capital are made without a car. The mayor's sustainability goal is for 75 percent of trips to be made without one by the year 2030.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An Open Letter to the Reno City Council

With the ongoing struggle to educate people on the benefits of "road diets" for the safety of all users, i felt compelled to write a letter to the city council (and specifically to Sharon Zadra who has been less than supportive of the change on a one-mile stretch of Plumas street).   I'm sharing the full letter here but an abbreviated version is in the Reno Gazette Journal as well.
I’m writing to you to express my concern over the various proposals put forth by the RTC in regards to Plumas street between Plumb and Moana.  I live about 5 blocks north of this stretch of road and travel along it regularly.   
The sad truth is that this one mile stretch of Plumas is unpleasant whether you are a pedestrian, bicyclist, or driving a car.  Practically every time I drive south towards Moana I am faced with an unsafe situation as cars trying to turn right off of Urban street invariably creep too far into the traffic lane forcing the drivers already heading south on Moana to adjust in their lanes becoming precariously close to each other.  
Additionally, I learned just recently that the vast majority of traffic along that one mile stretch travels at above the speed limit.  The figures are staggering...over 75% of the auto traffic is breaking the speed limit.   I’m no urban planner but I do know from my college courses that the way to modify behavior in our transportation corridors is through the design of the infrastructure.  Not, by assigning police officers to occasionally set up speed traps.  That’s simply not a good use of resources. 
More troubling is that close proximity to this high speed zone is an elementary school, a retirement community, and many residential homes with children.   After surveying the various options it is clear that the best and safest option along this stretch of road is to reduce the car traffic lanes, continue the bike lanes that are already present on south Plumas, and create actual sidewalks that pedestrians and people in wheelchairs can use.   I myself walk and run down this stretch of road and it is not a pleasant place to do either. 
I understand that there is resistance to this change.  However, this is a one mile stretch that is out of sync with the rest of Plumas street with its single lanes of car traffic.  Frankly, people who are against redesigning Plumas so that it is safer for all users are failing to see the larger picture. 
If this redesign does not happen. If the auto traffic continues to push the speed limit.  One day I’m afraid we are all going to wake up to a headline in the newspaper about a pedestrian, perhaps a kid trying to walk home from school, who has been killed by a speeding driver.   We, who live in close proximity to this road and use it so often, will have to face the guilt of having been able to improve the safety for all users on Plumas, yet we will have failed.   
It is for the safety of the community that I urge you to consider which side of this issue you ultimately want to be identified with.  The side that improves safety on our streets, or the side that holds a few seconds of travel time for drivers as more precious (which may be a moot point with the properly timed lights at either end of this corridor).   
Thank you for your ongoing consideration of the safety of your constituents.

Urban Planning with Vision!

"The cycle superhighway, which opened in April, is the first of 26 routes scheduled to be built to encourage more people to commute to and from Copenhagen by bicycle. More bike path than the Interstate its name suggests, it is the brainchild of city planners who were looking for ways to increase bicycle use in a place where half of the residents already bike to work or to school every day. 
“We are very good, but we want to be better,” said Brian Hansen, the head of Copenhagen’s traffic planning section."
This is excerpted from today's NY Times article on the Danish bicycling superhighway.  How striking it is after last night's open house on the proposed change on Plumas Street hosted by the RTC.  It appears from last night's meeting that the planners at the RTC had done more of their homework and were better prepared to defend the reasoning behind the "road diet."   Ultimately, the best reason for the change is the safety of all users of the urban space.  This was a sentiment echoed over and over again by non-cyclists in attendance which was heartening.

Yet there were still a small but vocal minority of people against the road diet and it became increasingly clear that despite all manner of reasons presented for why the plan is good for the community, they are unwilling to listen.  When you have people cursing in a public forum and crying out that "this isn't Europe" you know that it's time to focus on the majority of people who are at least willing to try a new option that provides a safer route for cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

2012 and the New Bicycle Boom

When Forbes magazine, that bastion of liberal environmental reporting, starts trumpeting cities that are anticipating a new bicycle boom, it's time to take note.  Indeed, the story was picked up by other major media outlets like USA Today.   I would argue that the boom has already started.  Not in terms of sales of bicycles necessarily, but the increased of use of bikes for transport, whether new or not is pretty clear around the country.

The article points out that more and more cities are expecting and planning for an increase in cycling and are trying to capitalize on the benefits that go along with a greater percentage of cyclists.  Time will only tell if Reno, which sits on the cusp of being a forward thinking multi-modal in terms of support from the political powers that be in the city.  More on that some other time...

Here is an excerpt from the Forbes article:

A 19th century technology – the bicycle – will sweep American cities thanks in part to 21st Century applications that enable bicycle sharing, transportation officials from two American cities said in Chicago Friday.

“Our preliminary analysis has shown us that bicycling will have the greatest growth, because it’s such a great opportunity for the lowest cost in the shortest time frame,” said Timothy Papandreou, deputy director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Likewise in Chicago:

“I think we can accomplish three times to five times bike loadshare easily,” said Gabe Klein, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, meaning bicycles can carry three to five times as many Chicagoans as they now do.

That will occur thanks in part to an ambitious plan for bike sharing that will be unveiled in Chicago’s forthcoming Bike 2020 Plan.

“The mayor has called for 100 miles of protected bike lanes, and the Bike 2020 plan, which we’re almost done with, calls for over 600 miles of bicycle facilities by 2020,” Klein said. “And I think by 2020 we’ll probably have more than 10,000 bike-share bikes in a thousand stations.”

Both cities plan to integrate bicycle sharing with other forms of public transit through what Klein called “the digital public way.” They hope to bring various modes of transportation together through mobile applications that people can access on smart phones.

“Our goal is to have an integrated app, which puts the pressure on us to generate the data, collect the data and push the data out to the community,” Papandreou said, ”so that at any given time you’ll be able to say, I’m here, I want to go there, here are my options, here’s how much they cost, here’s how I pay for them.”

In Chicago, Klein expects apps to bridge the gap in those locations where different modes of transportation are a few blocks away—”so when they’re heading down the street, and they’re about to get off the bus, they can see how many rideshare bikes are available at the closest station.”

Monday, July 16, 2012

Historic Bicycle Touring

Now this is an ultralight touring setup.  But if those mountains are any indication, it's precisely the type of rig you'd want to have.  Except, of course, that each of those bikes probably weighs close to 40 pounds without a load.  I'm trying to imagine descending on one of these with those rather spotty brakes the only thing between you and careening off a cliff.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

NY to SF by Bicycle

Just passing this great photo along.  I love the detail in these old glass negative images.  This is from 1913.  Check out how wide those tires are and the bicycling garb.  Love the cycling shoes!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Perils of Bicycling in the Facebook Age

Yeah, that's me.  On my Gunnar Crosshairs descending with some friends yesterday on what we've been calling our multi-surface rides this summer.  Yesterday we went out early to beat the heat and were about 20 miles into the ride when I went down pretty hard.   I felt a pop but wasn't sure exactly where it came from on my body.  If you've gone down hard before there is always that few seconds when you are laid out trying to assess the physical damage before you move too much.  There are some usual superficial scrapes and bruises but more troubling is that I've tweaked my right hip.  The fact that I still managed to mostly ride the 10 miles home from Cow Canyon tells me that it's not too serious.  But then, I've only able to walk at a snails pace from room to room at home and even then I'm in a great deal of pain.   It's raised leg, ice, and ibuprofen until I can get a better sense of how serious it is.  No biking miles in my immediate future.

And the pictures....being a not great descender I usually let friends go ahead and we regroup every so often on a ride.  Of course, that gives them just enough time to pull their phones out and play photographer as I come down the trail.   Lucky me...because of course it's posted and tagged on Facebook almost immediately.  I'm not complaining (I'm blogging about it after all).  Still, maybe I should be going first down some of those trails so I get a chance to play photographer.  And maybe observe some better technique on loose rocky descents.

Looked pretty good before the crash....
Pre-crash heading up to Somerset from Mogul on the super secret sorta connected trail.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bicycle Lasers!

This ad for a bicycle laser safety system might have some of the oddest verbiage I've ever come across.

Here is an excerpt:
Industrial designer Leonardo Manavella has come up with an ingenious product that could make bikes the safest and greenest way to commute. Known as the “Laser,” the system increases the size of a common bicycle with an elliptical beam of light and gives it a size similar to a car. The principal aim is that the bicyclists start to respect the same rights and restrictions as a car owner does and the car owners are tempted to respect the bicyclists.
"Car owners are tempted to respect the bicyclists"?!?!?  I'm not sure it is really "pro" bicycle safety or just meant to shame cyclists into riding in what the inventor feels is a "correct" way to ride.  The problem of course is that bicycles and bicyclists are using roads in different ways because of the freedoms and limitations that a bicycle has.   Without getting into the whole "bicyclists must adhere to all the same rules as cars" debate (even though those rules were set up based on driving a 3000 pound combustion vehicle vs. a 20 pound human-powered one) I'd say that while I like the idea of a lighting system, this one with its horns that go off when you don't ride safely strikes me as rather odd.

I much prefer this option for nighttime riding.  Creating your own bike lane while riding at night seems a much better way to keep automobiles from crowding you.

The video gives a better feel for how it might (or might not) work.  I'd kind of like one so I could pretend I was in the movie, TRON.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Vive Le Tour!

Waiting for the race.

Life Magazine has a nice gallery of images from the 1953 Tour de France celebrating the amazing history of the event on it's 99th running of the race.  Having been to France and followed the tour it's funny how little has really changed in terms of the spectators enjoying the race along the side of the road.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Bicycle "Onesie"

 This may be the ultimate in rain gear.  I'm wondering just how well it actually breathes since that is the ultimate issue with a rain suit like this.  Does it just turn into a full body sauna?   Comes from England which is one of those places where it might actually be worth having.  It also makes me thankful I live in Reno and rarely need any real rain gear.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The "Pleasures" of Rural Bicycle Riding

click on the pic to get a better view
For the most part riding in rural areas is one of the great pleasures of exploring on a bike.  But then you always run into some of this type of stuff and you think you have landed in an episode of the Twilight Zone or something.  Those that make the common ride out to Verdi, Nevada, know exactly what this picture is of.  There is a little stretch of road near the California border where you feel like you have gone to crazy town with the right wing, anti-Obama, crowd.  It's fine if you aren't supportive of this President.  But if you start reading the text of some of these signs you realize you are in the midst of some serious delusional paranoia.   Best to speed up and ride a little quicker in this area.  I'm always wondering if I'm just imagining the strains of "dueling banjos" in the air.

That PBR sign is from before the ironic hipster cool of drinking Pabst came back into fashion.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Bicycling is Artown!

Of course it is...but maybe not for everyone.  Which no art should be really.  Making skid marks is one of the great pleasures you can get when riding and it's one of those things we all did as kids.  Nowadays, I'm far to interested in preserving tire life to skid unless my life depends on it.  Good rubber just keeps getting more and more expensive.

More here about the exhibit in London:
Christian Grillitsch stumbled upon his artistic language when, after skidding and swerving to miss a pedestrian, he observed the texture and shape of his rubber on pavement creation. His works are a product of sharply honed bike skills and organic instinct and, hopefully, communicate to the world what we cyclists already know, bikes are aesthetic.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Tristen Show Delights

Tristen closing her set with a couple of solo songs.
I'd been looking forward to seeing Tristen play live for what seemed like ages.  Or at least since the last time she was in the area.  Her last stop in Sacramento I had planned a drive over but we happened to get hit with a winter storm in the Sierras and there was no hope of getting over the hill.

Saturday night's show in Davis was worth the wait though since not only did she perform a handful of stellar versions from last year's amazing album, "Charlatans at the Garden Gate," but she unveiled some new material.  If there were any doubts that gifts she has for melody and pop hooks displayed on "Charlatans" were a fluke they were quickly dispelled by the new material which sounded like a mix of early 60s girl group fun and 80s pop.  Perhaps because of the increased emphasis on keyboard and the drum machine providing the rhythm.

Backed by a two-piece, guitarist and bassist combo, that helped drive her catchy songs, Tristen, dove into a loose set that included some of the best "older" tracks like Eager for Your Love, and Save Raina, and included new songs like Bourgeois Bouquet and the ridiculously catchy, "No One's Gonna Know."

By the end of the set all I knew was that I was ready to buy the rumored new album.  When will it be out?