Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bike/Ped Projects Under Attack Again by KY Senator

When I first started blogging, I thought "How in the world can biking and walking be controversial?", but I soon found that there are adversaries everywhere. They are good exercise, fun to do and -- as an alternative to driving everywhere -- helps us save money and the environment. And even though both biking and walking are increasingly popular for transportation and recreation today (thanks in large part to a recent flowering of federally-funded trails, bikeways and pathways that make getting around on two wheels and two feet safer and more convenient) they are still under attack.

In these antagonistic political times, bikers and walkers are now being targeted by some members of Congress. In September Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn proposed stripping all designated federal funding for bike and pedestrian projects from the pending Transportation Bill. After an outpouring of opposition from citizens coast-to-coast, Coburn withdrew his amendment.

Now bicyclists and pedestrians are under attack again, this time in an amendment from my old home state, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. He wants to redirect every last penny of money dedicated to bicycling and walking to bridge repair instead. It is scheduled for a vote next Tuesday. (Here's how to contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives to save federal bike and pedestrian programs.)

Now we all agree that safe bridges are important. Look at the tragic bridge collapse four years ago in Minneapolis that took 17 lives. But safety for the millions of kids and adults that bike and walk every day is important, too. Since 2007, 2800 cyclists and 20,000 pedestrians have died on America's roads--many due to the lack of sidewalks, bike lanes and other safety measures that federal funds provide.


We shouldn't have to choose between safe bridges and safe streets. Here's why:
*First of all, Senator Paul's amendment will not even come close to fixing America's bridges. Biking, walking and the other so-called "transportation enhancements" that Paul wants to kill account for less than two percent of the total Transportation Bill. It would take 80 years using money saved from scrapping these programs to finance the backlog of current bridge repairs--not to mention future needs.

*States are not spending the money already allocated for bridge repairs. Last year, they returned $530 million to the federal government. That represents a big chunk of total bike and pedestrian projects.


*Federal money to make biking and walking safer and more convenient is a great investment in America's future that pays off in safer streets, reduced environmental damage, greater energy security, improved public health and more resilient, neighborly, pleasurable communities.

To get a picture of the importance of federal bike and pedestrian funding to local communities, take a look at Minneapolis, which last year was named the #1 Bike City in America by Bicycling magazine. Federal funds through a special federal pilot program to promote walking and biking for transportation is a major reason for this honor, which was met with shock by many around the country who could not believe that a place in the heartland, famous for its ferocious winters, could outperform cities on the coasts.

But that skepticism fades with a close look at the facts. Close to four percent of Minneapolis residents bike to work according to census data. That's an increase of almost 33 percent since 2007 when the federal Non-Motorized Transportation Program began, and 500 percent since 1980. At least one-third of those commuters ride at least some days during the winter, according to federally funded research conducted by Bike Walk Twin Cities (the local organization coordinating the $25 million Non-Motorized Transportation grant). Even on the coldest days about one-fifth are out on their bikes.

Minneapolis also launched the first large-scale bikesharing sytem in U.S.--called Nice Ride--and boasts arguably the nation's finest network of off-street bicycle trails. It's largest source of start-up capital came from the federal grant. "Biking has become a huge part of what we are," Mayor RT Rybak declared to a delegation of transportation leaders from Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, on a Minneapolis tour sponsored by the Bikes Belong Foundation this summer. "It's an economical way to get around town, and many times it's the fastest. I frequently take a bike from city hall across downtown to meetings."

This year the city is adding 57 new miles of bikeways to the 127 miles already built, again with a substantial share of the funding coming from Non-Motorized Transportation programs. An additional 183 miles are planned over the next twenty years. All of this in a city where bicyclists of all ages and backgrounds already ride recreational trails the goal is to encourage people to hop on their bikes for commuting or short trips.

This is not a far-fetched dream, since nationally half of all automobile trips are three miles or less--a distance easily covered on bike in twenty minutes.Mayor Rybak, who gained national prominence with his leadership during the 2007 bridge collapse and rapid rebuilding project, stressed that in these lean economic times, cities across the country need to be creative about how they spend transportation dollars. Big-ticket road engineering projects to move ever more cars must give way to more efficient projects that move people by a variety of means--including foot, bike, transit. "We need to get more use from all the streets we already have," Rybak said.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Changing Perceptions by Just Riding a Bike



Earlier this year Jack Lakey of the Toronto Star, AKA "The Fixer", went on a rant: Are cyclists alienating drivers by being selfish and rude?. He was complaining in particular about how cyclists "chronically break the law" , blow through stop signs and ride on sidewalks. James Schwartz responded with a video on his blog, the Urban Country.

After an exchange of emails with James, the two of them went for a bike ride together, so that "the Fixer", whose gig at the Star involves solving reader's problems, could learn about the problems cyclists face. The result was a surprise to both of them. Lakey writes:
The idea was to provide us with examples of the perils encountered while riding, and to show us the need for and advantages of infrastructure that makes cycling safer and more viable. But an unintended consequence of our journey was soon apparent: Cycling is an immensely enjoyable way to get around, especially on a fall day when moderate exertion results in minimal sweat.
The Fixer concludes:
By the time we were done, we'd seen so many examples of crumbled asphalt and sunken sewer grates near the curb that we had a new appreciation for cyclists' complaints about having to mix with traffic to get around them. It was a revealing experience for a guy who had thought of bikes as more of a toy than a real vehicle, one that should be tried by any driver guilty of making the same mistake.
Most cyclists also drive, and understand the frustrations that face drivers; that is probably why they got a bike in the first place. When I am in a car I know to check my right mirror before I turn, to look before I open my car door, to never, ever park in a bike lane. Perhaps if more drivers occasionally got on a bike, we would all get along a little better and would have fewer squished cyclists.
More in The Star and The Urban Country

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Mo" Bike Sharing Cobines Zipcar and Bike Share


Introducing mo from LUNAR Europe on Vimeo.
What do you get when you cross a Zipcar model of car sharing with a bike sharing system and a public transport pass on steroids? You get Mo. Mo better. Mo convenient. Mo mobility.
Mo Mobility System cargo bike photo

Developed by Munich-based design firm Lunar Europe, Green City e.V. and the University of Wuppertal, Mo is supposed to fulfill people's actual mobility needs.

Mo's creators studied Munich's inhabitants - noting that more than 50% of all trips are still taken by personal car (although 80% of citizens own a bike). Once they had the stats, Mo's makers tried to create more attractive mobility options than those cars. According to its designers:
"Mo provides alternatives: the appropriate means of transport is available for any occasion and in any situation, even spontaneously."


mo - mobility for tomorrow from LUNAR Europe on Vimeo.
Mo's smartphone app is the brains of the system, keeping an accounting of each member's use of public transport and of rentals or 'shares' - of a bicycle or cargo bikes, e-bikes, and cars. All of these options can be accessed through a single car, or also through a member's smart phone. The app also features train and bus timetables.

Mo tries to encourage users to take the most sustainable option by offering positive incentives. Depending on the transport option chosen, the Mo user might accrue miles for later use. Even if a user is using her own bicycle (fitted with a special RFID tag) he or she can earn award miles. Those miles can later be used, for example, to get car sharing, or to charge an e-bike. Accruing larger Mo mile balances reduce a user's membership and usage costs.


Mo's creators, who tested and piloted the concept in Munich, are hoping Mo will also function as a kind of social network by letting users stay connected via the software and announce rides and events. While Mo is definitely a step forward in car and bike sharing, it seems like a really effective system would also involve pedestrian activity in some way.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How the Dutch Got Their Cycle Paths

How did the Dutch get their cycling infrastructure? This question keeps coming back because it is of course relevant to people who want what the Dutch have.


Road building traditions go back a long way and they are influenced by many factors. But the way Dutch streets and roads are built today is largely the result of deliberate political decisions in the 1970s to turn away from the car centric policies of the prosperous post war era. Changed ideas about mobility, safer and more livable cities and about the environment led to a new type of streets in the Netherlands.

The recent video to introduce the Dutch Cycling Embassy explains this very briefly, but there is a lot more that can be said about it.


The Netherlands’ problems were and are not unique, their solutions shouldn’t be that either.

I think the Dutch could and should be copied. If you look at the key factors for the change in Dutch thinking, you see these are just as valid today. The world is still too dependent on fossil fuels and many cities in the world have congested streets. Streets and roads which are also very dangerous, especially for vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. And that is even more so when these road users are elderly or children.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Green Phase Bike Traffic Signal


No Longer Stuck in the Middle, Waiting for Left Turns
I've said it again and again: To increase cycling as a main form of transportation, our roads need to be modified to make it safer and more convenient for people on bikes to get where they're going. This means physically separated bike lanes, safe bike storage/parking, and more bike-friendly traffic signalling. A good example of the latter is the 'green phase' signal used in Groningen, in the Netherlands (see the video below).

Groningen: Green Phase for Cyclists from Streetfilms on Vimeo.
When the 'green phase' signal is on, cyclist from all junctions of the intersection can cross, in any direction, including diagonally. Of course, you probably don't need to put this on every intersection. But all along a main bike lane/bike boulevard, it can make a big difference in safety and reduce an important bottleneck in the flow of cyclists.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tack Strip In Portland Bike Lane



If this was done on purpose, I hope they catch whoever did this...
Jeremy Dunn, a Portland cyclist, found something strange on his path while he as riding westbound on the bike lane on NE Marine Drive. A piece of tar paper with thumb-tacks pushed through it so they are perpendicular to the ground, just about the width of the bike lane. He took the photos shown above and below and contacted BikePortland to report the incident.


While it's impossible to be 100% sure that this was done on purpose - it could be a piece of construction debris of just the right size that just happened to be set there - it appears very unlikely, especially since it's not the first time that this happens around that area. One commenter going by the name of "Lunchrider" wrote: "I got hit last week. At exactly that spot I didn't even notice the tar paper. Let me tell you double flats are no fun. I didn't even think of a hostile attack just put it up to bad luck, and had a friend from work pick me up, it was after all my luchrider. I ride this area 5 days a week and have NEVER had any problem's with any driver." So if people pick up the strips when they notice it, chances are that the one found this week wasn't the same one as last week, which means that someone is adding new ones...
Fortunately, Dunn and his riding mate didn't flat. "We had our heads up and avoided it because it looked like refuse," he said, "but we came across another rider about a mile down the road who had mysteriously double flatted." Marine Drive is a very popular bike route and it's also a high-speed arterial road with only one standard vehicle lane in each direction. It's not hard to imagine that some people simply don't like the presence of bikes out there. It's worth noting that this incident comes just about one month after well over 20 people flatted on tacks thrown on bike lanes in North Portland.
If you are in Portland and have seen anything like this, please let me know in the comment below. And if you've seen who did this, even better, let the local authorities know.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Antelope Takes Out Mountain Biker

mountain-bike-antelope-image.jpg

This video is going viral, and is one of the craziest things I have ever seen. Watch the video below.

According to the video description on YouTube, the rider is Evan van der Spuy of Team Jeep South Africa and this happened at "the Time Freight Express MTB race at Albert Falls Dam." Via: UrbanVelo.

Be careful out there. Wear your helmet and respect the locals!

Giant Responds to GM Add


Giant Bicycles has responded to GM’s anti-cycling advertisement by coming up with an ad of their own. It reads:
“Reality DOES Suck. Luckily bicycles don’t… In fact it’s the best thing you can do to save hundreds… even thousands of dollars a year. It doesn’t matter if you’re in college, young, or old. The only thing you have to lose is some weight.. and the burden of fuel prices”.
The ad compares the price of a Giant bike ($420) to a $27,300 Chevy truck as well as highlighting the annual fuel cost for the truck ($3,600).


The ad doesn’t even need to mention the insurance costs, parking costs, depreciation, repairs, registration, or maintenance. Or the fact that Americans work 2.9 hours each day just to pay for their cars.
“Stop driving.. start pedaling.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bike Lock That Looks Like a Water Bottle



bottle lock image
I've seen a lot of clever bike lock designs, but the Küat Racks Bottle Lock is definitely unique. This is a great gadget for cyclists -- a bike lock that stores as the same size and shape as a bottle of water so it fits right in your water bottle rack.
bottle lock image
bottle lock imageBike theft is a real problem, but that doesn't mean ugly bike locks have to be an unfortunate side effect of bicycling around town. Most locks look rather ugly when they aren't in use. Usually they just sort of hang from your seat, haphazardly wrapped up and waiting to be looped around a lamp post.

The Küat Racks Bottle Lock has a 5-foot long cable of 7.5mm braided steel that rolls up to store in the bottle-shaped case. It includes two keys and a lock, which can also be stored inside the "bottle", and weighs just 14 ounces. It would have an expected sale price of $34, if it makes it onto store shelves. That's really not so bad for a stylishly-hidden lock for your bike.


The only problem, of course, is where does your water go?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Apartment Bike Storage Solutions



Sure, bicycling is a fun and earth-friendly way to get around. But if you have to store your bike inside your apartment for one reason or another, they can begin to take over your place if your home is challenged in the size department. Below are some great products and solutions that will help organize all your rides.

Bike shelf systems can easily be found on Etsy.com. They can range from sleek to crafty to rustic. All play on the idea of the shelf and are a great solution if you have ample horizontal wall space.

If your space is a bit smaller, a vertical solution might be a better bet. The Cycloc lets you hang your bike along any wall, and gives you a small storage space for riding accessories.

A bigger challenge comes when you're sharing a space with another biker or are a bike enthusiast with more than one bike. If you've got multiple bikes, try this system.
10-23-08ikea5.jpg
Taken from IkeaHacker, you can construct this bike rack using just a few simple pieces of hardware from Ikea: a Stolmen post, a couple of brackets, and four hooks.
10-23-08ikea2.jpg
Building the rack works as follows:
10-23-08ikea3.jpg1. Cut two pieces of the square pipe; choose the length depending on the design of your bike frame.
2. Drill 3 holes into the pieces of square pipes.
3. Screw a hook on each end of the pipe; screw the pipe to the bracket.
4. Now you can mount the stolmen post and adjust the two brackets on it.
5. Finally glue some of the rubber foam to the hooks to not scratch the bike frame.
Total cost? Just over $40, and should just take ½ an hour to construct.

You could store it on the ceiling. It looks great; the challenge will be getting it down. This might be a better idea for longer term storage.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Portland Bike Commuters Ride Over 1 Million Miles Last Month




Roll On, Oregon from Bicycle Transportation Alliance on Vimeo.
Twelve thousands cyclists in Portland - two thousand of them new cycling commuters - logged 1.3 million commuting miles in September's cycling commute challenge sponsored by local advocacy organization the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. That's a corresponding savings of 1.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted by the cars those commuters otherwise might have driven. But what motivates Portland cyclists to brave the city's famous endless drizzle in order to get to work in an eco-friendly fashion?


Perhaps it's the caloric savings. Portlanders are famous for loving their craft beers, and this year's commuters burned 67 million calories in their bike-based commutes. As Bike Portland noted, that's the caloric equivalent of more than 95,000 Big Macs.

Portland Cyclists On Cycle Track photoOr, it might be the sheer competition. This year, Oregon Health & Science University had the biggest number of new bike commuters to sign up to do the commuting challenge (and simultaneously received the League of American Bicyclists "Gold" designation as a bike-friendly business). Local Reed College had the highest percentage of participants for an organization of more than 500 people (10% participation rate), while tiny Cast Iron Coding, and Grapheon Design both with under 25 employees, had 100% participation.

But more likely than not, the reason for Portland's strong percentage of new and ongoing bicycle commuters is probably due to simple, basic and important bicycle infrastructure. Portland isn't even in the same league as European cities such as Groningen, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, etc. And in terms of raw numbers, 12,000 cyclists is a puny statistic - New York City probably beats that by a magnitude of 10 every weekday morning. In most of the U.S., however, Portland's bike culture and its bike infrastructure still reign supreme.


And while you can't say they are zealous revolutionaries, Portland's transportation officials aren't resting on their laurels, either. Recently, the Portland Bureau of Transportation received permission to regulate speeds on residential roads, which allows the Bureau to drop speed limits on "neighborhood greenways" to 20 miles per hour and hope painted sharrows encourage motorists and bicyclists to peacefully coexist. In addition, another project called the "50s bikeway" - 4.3 miles of north to south "safety" corridor that will encourage cyclists and try to better protect pedestrians, too, received approval from the City Council and will likely be implemented within a year.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

University of Virginia Bike Repair Station

bike-repair-station-university-virginia-photo
I stumbled on this image randomly, so I don't have too much information about it except for what I can see. Based on the stickers, it's a bike maintenance/repair station at the University of Virginia, and the station was put there by the sustainability program of the university (any reader going to the UV can confirm?). It's an elegant design: Everything you need is easily accessible, including an air pump and all kinds of tools, and the anti-theft metal wires probably make it more trouble than its worth for vandals to try to steal a few tools. Not only does it help cyclists keep their bikes in good working order, but it also advertises cycling to all students who see it. Great idea, I'd love to see more of those everywhere. Check out Sustainability UVA.

50 No Hand Bike Moves

50 bike tricks martin brooks ninan doff

There are lots of great reasons to ride a bike- it's good for your health and for the environment, and it's economical. But if you're not having fun on your bike, what's the point? To help you out, here's a video from director Ninian Doff called "A Professional Display of No Handed Bike Moves," which is just what it sounds like.

Performed to "Golden Tree" by Martin Brooks, the tricks include the "approaching squid," the "Def Leopard drummer" and the "sobriety test."

And for those of you thinking of something derogatory to say about this post, why not get on your bike and practice the "nasty internet commenter?"
50-bike-tricks-martin-brooks-ninan-doff-1.jpg

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Minneapolis Midtown Greenway Video


Minneapolis' Midtown Greenway: Good for Biz, Good for Bikes. from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Minneapolis is a strong contender for 'top city for cyclists in the USA'. Part of what makes it so great is the 5.7 mile long Midtown Greenway, which is the highlight in a network of 100 miles of bike paths. It goes from east to west and provides the best way to go through the city at rush hour. It was built over an abandoned railway corridor, showing other cities how their old industrial infrastructure can be up-cycled. Check it out in the great video above from Streetfilms

Capital Bike Share Is Expanding to Alexandria

Capital Bikeshare
The shiny red bikes that are now so common on the streets of the District of Columbia could be coming to Alexandria as soon as 2013. Alexandria City Council members this week discussed a plan to join the growing Capital Bikeshare system.

The popular bike sharing program just celebrated its one-year anniversary, and its one-millionth ride. There are now 1,100 bikes, and over 110 bike stations, spread around the District of Columbia and Arlington, with that number set to grow with an expansion planned in those jurisdictions and for parts of Montgomery County. The program is beloved by bike enthusiasts; not always so beloved by drivers and budget-cutting Republicans.

Alexandria's proposal pilot program would provide for a handful of bike sharing stations in highly-trafficked parts of the city like Old Town, Del Ray and Carlyle. The one-year pilot would be paid for in its first year with federal money. Alexandria's city council may formally consider the bike sharing plan in October.
It's good timing. Bike rentals could become even more appealing to Alexandrians quite soon. VéloCity Bicycle Cooperative, a nonprofit that teaches and provides space for do-it-yourself bike repair, has to move out of its Old Town space by the end of January, and may have to leave Alexandria.