Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Liquid Is the AirBNB of Bike Share

Want to rent a glow-in-the-dark fixie? Just $15 a day in Portland.
I've loved every chance I've gotten to ride a bike in a foreign city - though it isn't always easy. In Amsterdam, where bikes abound, there is a bike sharing program, as there is in Barcelona, Stockholm, Paris, and Berlin - more than 100 European cities. These bike sharing services are geared more toward city residents than tourists, and they can be easy to sign up for, moderately difficult, or downright impossible. Bike sharing is superior to regular bike rental for a couple of reasons - usually the first half-hour of the service is free (once you've purchased some type of nominal membership), and there are more locations for dropping off the bike and then, later on, picking up another one.
Bike sharing has definitely arrived on US shores - Denver has a great service, Washington DC's bike share has become extremely popular, and new programs are planned for cities across the nation, from New York to Portland and points in between.
If for any reason you are away from your hometown, however, and want to find a bike wherever you find yourself, there's a new service that's trying to be the AirBNB of the biking world. First formed in 2011 as Spinlister, the San Francisco-based bike "sharing" service now called Liquid aims to make renting out your bike as easy as renting out your extra room.
As Liquid puts it:
Bike owners still can earn incremental income while meeting people who share an interest (and often a passion) for bikes. Renters still get to rent a great bike at a reasonable price from a friendly local. We’re deeply committed to making this interaction as safe, easy, and downright fun as possible.
Of course, Liquid can't provide the multiple locations that a bike share can, nor does this service offer free short trips. In fact, the prices that people charge for lending you their precious bicycles vary pretty wildly, and aren't significantly cheaper than renting a bike from a storefront bike store.
On the other hand, let's say you are a small family and find yourself at the mercy of distant relatives in the Portland suburb of Hillsboro, and then find yourself further stranded without a car. If you know about Liquid, you can rent a beautiful bakfiets (one child an easy haul) for just 10 bucks a day, or a Surly longtail bike (two kids or a kid and a light adult, no problem) for $20 dollars a day, and easily, two-wheeled freedom is yours.

Aside from providing a great service, Liquid can be a good way to meet people in an unfamiliar city, or, even experience a number of different biking styles in your own backyard. Professional road bikes to fixies to folders are available at Liquid, and the service exists in many, though not all, major U.S. cities. In some places, you can even rent a unicycle.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bikescore Now Available From Walkscore

There are many great organization working on promoting alternatives to car-centric transportation in the U.S., and Walkscore is one of them. If knowledge is power, that's exactly what they provide: Knowledge about how walkable and bikeable various cities and neighborhoods are, empowering people make informed choices about where they want to live and, hopefully, helping policymakers improve infrastructure.

The great thing is, they keep improving their service! Last Spring they started ranking cities by how bike-friendly they are, and now they've already made that data more granular. You can now see bikeability info on an address-by-address basis for 25 cities in the U.S. and 11 in Canada.

So you can now type an address and get the bike score for that particular location, but you can also look at those cities' maps (full list here) and see overlaid 'heat maps' that show which areas are better than others, either for overall bike score or for things like bike lanes or topography. It's very cool!
They've also incorporated bike-sharing data:
Bonus: Walk Score Now Has Bike Shares
We have also mapped nearly 1,600 locations of bike shares across North America. Search for any address in these cities and find bike share locations listed as one of the main categories: Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Houston, Washington, D.C., Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Broward, Charlotte, Des Moines, Kailua, Kansas City, Madison, Nashville, Omaha, San Antonio and Spartanburg.
Keep up the good work, Walkscore!

Via Walkscore

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Open Streets Continue to Grow and be Successful!


H.G. Wells was quoted as saying that the sight of an adult on a bicycle gave him hope for the future of the human race. I feel the same about ciclovías, those wonderful big-city events in which streets usually packed with cars get cordoned off for all types of wheeling and walking citizens. Cyclovías originated in Bogotá, Columbia 35 years ago, part of an effort to make that city friendlier for pedestrians and cyclists and reduce the dominance of automobiles.

Bogotá’s sustainably-minded former mayor Enrique Peñalosa made ciclovías popular starting in the 1990s, and helped to stimulate the spread of ciclovías worldwide (though they are sometimes named something different, such as Portland's Sunday Parkways or LA's CicLAvia. One of the beautiful thing about the ciclovías in Bogotá and Lima, for example, is that they happen each week, and draw thousands upon thousands. In the U.S. the events are usually just a couple of times, during the summer.

In the video, the streets of Guadalajara, which has 64 kilometers of closed streets each Sunday, are featured. Filmed by Sheila of Sheila and Kai, a couple biking the world to live their dream, this nearly five minute video is a sweet treat because of the way Sheila captures the streets with people on bikes, skates, skateboards and on foot, occupying them. They form a contrast to the noisy, chaotic, and stress-filled streets that are generally filled with cars day and night in most big cities.
Luckily, the ciclovía movement is still expanding. Take a look at all the cities (and this list is by no means definitive).


2 cycle 2gether Around the World :: Guadalajara Via RecreActiva from 2cycle 2gether on Vimeo.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Biking Across NYC to Make a GPS Holiday Card

Erik Trinidad decided to do something different for his holiday card this year, so he strapped on his iPhone (which contains a GPS) with the Cyclemeter app and pedaled across Manhattan, back and forth, East and West, North and South... Until he had completed his merry task and spelled his wishes across the city! Above was his plan, and in the video below you can see the actual process and end result. It's a bit more curvy, but sometimes you can't ride in a straight line, and GPS reception can be spotty in a city with so many tall buildings, so it couldn't be avoided (in fact, I think the squiggly version looks cooler -- you see the effort that went into it).

Enjoy, and happy holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Forget the Bike Bell, Blow Your Horn!

BEEEEEEEEP! This Bike Sounds Like a Car Horn 
I can think of few things that would make a hothead driver go from zero to pissed, than a cyclist blowing a loud horn at him for 30 seconds straight, the maximum duration of the "Loud Bicycle" prototype. But if used sparingly, this strident horn could help prevent a few unnecessary injuries and deaths. That the angle that the device's inventors, Jonathan and Andrew Lansey, are playing up in their Kickstarter campaign to get "Loud Bicycle" off the ground.

Jonathan, a research engineer who commutes to Boston, was inspired to build "Loud Bicycle" after a friend got drilled by a car. She made it out of the hospital in one piece, but Jonathan began to think the crash wouldn't have happened if she just could've announced her presence in a trumpeting way. He couldn't find the equivalent of a car horn for a bicycle on the market, so he went to the worktable and banged out this acoustic assault weapon – unofficial motto, "I let cars share the road."

Bicycling in traffic "can be frightening, and sometimes dangerous," Jonathan explains on his website. "Drivers often feel like bikes come flying out of nowhere.... The fear of cars, a helpless feeling, it actually stops a lot of people from biking in their cities." The "Loud Bicycle" is meant to give cyclists an edge in hazardous streets by both stopping drivers on a dime and teaching them (as per the device's website) that "their driving habits can be dangerous for cyclists."

What's this hulked-up horn sound like? Much like the beeeep! of a compact car, with both high and low notes at a decibel level equivalent to a loud rock concert. Bikers can activate the 1.4-pound device by pressing a button on the handlebars, which is connected with a wire to "Loud Bicycle" mounted on the lower frame.

The Lanseys are hoping to raise $43,000 to fund their project by January. While it in fact is not the only car-sounding bike horn out there – one U.K. company sells an even-louder "Hornet," and another vends a honker that a satisfied customer says works "marvelously on stationary groups of chatting ladies with leashed dogs blocking the entire path" – it could possibly find a place in America, where bicycling fatalities are on the rise.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Separated Bike Lanes Hit Harlem

Elizabeth from Streetfilms has created a great video on how East Harlem had to fight to get the safe streets it deserves. In 2010, New York City's Department of Transportation originally had planned separated bike lanes that went all the way up to East Harlem only to later change its plans. But thanks to the local community putting pressure on elected officials, East Harlem has finally gotten 'complete streets' that are safer and more convenient for cyclists.

This is exactly the type of action that should take places in all cities and neighborhoods that aren't getting proper transportation infrastructure. Separated bike lanes are very much a "build it and they will come" type of proposition, and if city officials don't have the vision to go all the way, they should be reminded by citizens that this type of infrastructure is crucial to a healthy, green modern city.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How to Not Design Bike Infrastructure (From a Dutch POV)


I love this video prepared contributed to BicycleDutch and complaining about London bicycle infrastructure. On BicycleDutch the film-maker describes it:
It was really interesting to see cycling infrastructure where I’d least expected it and no infrastructure where in my opinion it was most needed. Something can also be said about the design of the infrastructure that was available. To a Dutch eye the tracks and lanes are narrow and it is hard to see where they actually are. Because there is not much difference from the footpath sometimes. There are also a lot of obstacles and the surface is not continuous and not smooth enough.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Vancouver Integrates Bikes with Buses, Trains, and Ferries


Metro Vancouver's TransLink is doing exactly the right thing by making it possible for commuters to go multi-modal and ride their bike and then hop with it on a bus, train, or ferry. Anything that gives people more flexibility, and increases convenience, will help drive up the number of people who move around the city via greener modes of transportation. We don't just need good buses, or good trains, or good bike infrastructure in isolation. We need an integrated transportation system that links all of those together!

Streetfilms have a great video that shows all that TransLink has been doing, and hopefully other cities are paying attention and will follow suit.


Via Streetfilms

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Have the Dutch Reached Critical Mass, for Bikes?!


When it comes to sustainable and fun travel alternatives, nothing beats a bicycle. But while cities across the world slowly begin to expand their cycle-friendly infrastructure in hopes of easing motor vehicle traffic, the Dutch are in the midst of an entirely different problem -- a few too many bikes.
While it may sound like a first-world problem of the highest degree, on par with having too much ice cream and not enough spoons, for folks living in the Netherlands, an overload of cyclists is becoming a serious issue.

In a country with a sprawling 20,000 mile network of world-class bike lanes and daily ridership of numbering in the millions, it's fair to say the the Dutch are the biggest cycle-lovers around. But with an average of 1.3 bicycles per resident, things have gotten crowded -- resulting in bike parking shortages, cycling traffic jams, and even fits of lane-rage.

"Bicycles are an integral mode of transport in our city," says the city council of Amsterdam, home to half a million riders daily. "[But] the busiest bicycle paths are too small for the growing stream of daily cyclists."

From the AFP:
Proposed solutions were remarkably similar to those previously used to deal with car congestion, ranging from building multi-storey underground "mega" bicycle sheds to impounding badly-parked bikes. Municipal workers in The Hague alone have impounded 2,400 illegally parked bicycles since August. And Amsterdam this week announced a mega 120-million-euro ($154 million) investment plan to provide 38,000 new bicycle parking spots and 15 extra kilometres of red bicycle path in the city.
While the problems plaguing the Dutch might be used as some misguided argument against other cities adopting infrastructure for cyclists, all that bike riding is actually saving a tremendous amount of space compared to other locales where car usage rates are showing similar increases. And sure, the stresses of a busy commute, in whatever form, can lead to folks getting a bit hot under the collar -- but at least cyclists in the Netherlands are doing their part to not pass that heat on to the planet.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bike Share in Barcelona Has Become "Too Successful"



Those that frequently use Barcelona’s public bike sharing Bicing should get their own bike, says Catalonia’s current government. To enforce this idea and with the current crisis as an excuse, the city’s mobility council plans to raise Bicing’s yearly fee by 116% next year, allowing users unlimited service. Since 2007, Bicing managed to turn many Barcelonians into everyday cyclists and changed the city for the better. Now, its users are worried about what will happen to it if it becomes too expensive to use.

Never before (since the arrival of the car) have there been so many cyclists in Barcelona. However, raising its annual fee from 45€ to 97,5€ might put many of the current 150,000 Bicing members off and destroy a system which "serves some 60,000 daily uses", according to La Vanguardia.
The city council wants to reduce the cost of Bicing and hence argues that if you use the system a lot, you should buy your own bicycle. If you plan on using the service less than 50 times a year, you can get a basic membership for 42€, which is still well above the current fee.


In an interview with Pablo León, Joan Vals from the Catalan Bicycle Club (BACC) says that this is a bit like having to get a private car if you use the bus or taxis too often. Apart from BACC, many other organisations and unions reject the fee increase and are worried that Bicing, and many other cyclists with it, will vanish. The new prices would make Bicing the most expensive public bike sharing service in Europe.

Like León explains in El País, there are many other ways to decrease the administration’s cost for public transport (think congestion charge, car parking fees, ad space, etc.), and it seems that paralysing a perfectly well functioning bike sharing system that inspired many other cities to get their own, is not the correct one. In his article León further explains where this is all coming from.
Investments into the Barcelona transport budget are being cut by 45% until 2020. The yearly 18 million euros of maintenance necessary for maintaining Bicing are too much, even if the city’s metro swallows over a billion euros each year. In the same article BACC points out that “public bicycles make ​​an average of 40.000 daily trips and the cost of 1 kilometer is 0,33 cents, slightly less than that of the bus”.

Getting one’s own bicycle is nice but many people in Barcelona prefer not having to deal with maintenance and most of all, theft. If the city worked towards eliminating bicycle theft, maybe more people would get their own bike. Until then, I hope our government realises that bike sharing saves lives and cuts carbon emissions. In an effort to save Bicing, BACC has launched the #SalvemElBicing (let's save Bicing) campaign; join in if you care!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Get Ready for Winter Riding


1. Keep Waterproof Gear on You, Always.

Road cyclists like to travel very light, and they don't mind mud. City cyclists, on the other hand, usually want to arrive to work — or any other destination — looking dry and somewhat put together. That makes it advisable to carry waterproof gear - rain pants, rain jacket, and if possible rain boots. Good buys: Eddie Bauer's unstylish rain suit, Water Off A Duck's Back stylish Livia rain coat; and for breathability, REI's Taku Pants. In a pinch, even having a folded-up rain poncho will help when unexpected rain hits.

2. Adjust Brakes, Learn Wet Braking Technique, Get Disc Brakes.

On slippery-slidey winter days, you'll want the best braking ability possible. Learning to do your own brake adjustments is not particularly hard or greasy work, but if you don't fancy doing it yourself, have it done as winter approaches. Check periodically to keep leaves, mud, and other crud off of your brake pads during winter riding. In addition, figure out how to handle winter bike path hazards like wet leaves. Susi at Velojoy has a straightforward post on riding on leaves. Also, it's possible you may want to consider a bike with disc brakes if you are going to be riding a lot in winter. Disc brakes are more complex and expensive than regular rim brakes, but provide more braking power.For really lousy and extended snowy weather conditions, you might also want to consider studded bike tires. Or, you can just take snowy streets slowly and carefully!

3. Light Up The Night.

If you are a fair-weather cyclist extending your riding reach, you might be surprised to notice that a lot of cyclists who ride in all weather situations continue to be cavalier about proper lighting. They also ignore the little bits of extra reflective gear that keep us visible to others in low light, bad weather, and dark nighttime riding conditions. Since there are now myriad new solutions for lighting and fun reflective gear, it doesn't make sense not to find lighting that reflects you! If you have sufficient lighting and good gear with reflective elements, you feel safer in winter conditions, and you probably will be. Good choices: Chicago-based Po Campo is offering a winter riding kit for any purchase of $100 or more for a short time with a cool reflecitve bandana! VespertineNYC has wonderful and stylish and upscale reflective gear for women.

4. Do Not Forget Extremities.

In cold, inclement weather, covering the extremities will, practically speaking, make you happier than a toasty jacket. Once you've been riding for awhile, your body will heat up, so layering with merino wool and other breathable underwear is good. Then top with a shell, a totally waterproof one if there's rain in the forecast. In addition, don't forget gloves, an under-the-helmet beanie, Buff, or cycling cap, and good socks. Good choices: Merino wool Buff tube, reflective Lflect scarves or helmet covers, the Novara Thermal cap recommended by Bike Hugger, or Bike Hugger's own Merino/lycra beanie. The Clymb is also a great site for good values in bike-ready winter accessories.

5. Move to the Netherlands.

In many ways, the Dutch are the world's luckiest cyclists. Though the weather in this low-lying country is pretty yucky for a good part of the year, the Dutch don't stop bike riding, and they don't seem to get miserable about it, at all. Perhaps that's because the have enough of a bike culture for innovation to be happening continually, and enough of a budget to pay for implementing some of the innovation. That's sure good news for cyclists. In Utrecht, there's a plan to geothermally heat bike lanes, to help melt snow far ahead of the arrival of snow plows; there's also consideration of glow-in-the-dark smart highways that charge your electric car. Now, the next step is glow-in-the-dark, geothermally heated bike lanes that charge your bike lights. We can dream, can't we?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bikes are the First Thing Back After a Natural Disaster


James Thomas of Bicycle Design likens bikes to cockroaches, not in the sense that most drivers would like to squish them but in the sense that in a time of natural disaster they just keep going.
People on bicycles really can adapt very quickly to unforeseen disruptions that cripple other forms of transportation. Gas lines may be miles long, subways aren’t running everywhere, and infrastructure is damaged in places, but a person with a bike can get anywhere they need to in the city.
Streetsblog is saying much the same thing:
The city’s new bike infrastructure is really proving its worth today. If people have to cover significant distances and want to skirt gridlock or lengthy transfers entirely, biking is the way to go. The safer bikeways that NYC DOT has built in the past five years — especially the segments that link directly to the East River bridges — are helping New Yorkers get back to work.
And of course, the New York Times IS ON IT!
In post-storm New York, the bike is having a moment of sorts. With subways still not running under the East River or between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, traffic snarled in many places and lines for buses stretching for blocks, many people in Brooklyn took to bicycles on Thursday to get where they had to go.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Extreme Mountain Uni-Cycling

Bikes are awesome as a clean and healthy way to get around, no question about it. But they're also a great source of entertainment, as these extreme unicyclists prove!

The video is in german, which I can't understand, but the images tell the story. These mountains are quite beautiful! Nice setting to break your bones, I guess...
That guy came this close to such a bad fall 30 seconds into it... Eek.

Here's an interview with a unicyclist with some nice off-road footage and cool urban tricks:


The video quality is terrible in this one, but the uni-cycling is crazy and takes place in all kinds of terrain. Look at that cliff!

54 years old Terry Peterson riding his uni in Simi Valley:
 
Here's Alexis Blanc doing some freestyle unicycle tricks. It's not in the mountains, but there's some cool stuff. If you like the music, it's by Bonobo.
And finally, for those who can't get enough, here's some unis riding over various rough terrains and ramps. Not always the most visually impressive, but the level of difficulty must still be very high!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bikes Hitting the Fashion Runway

Clarence from Streetfilms attended a fashion show where the model weren't walking up and down the runway, they were biking (or sometimes walking next to a bike)! That's a pretty cool concept, and takes further the idea behind Cycle Chic. The show was called “Cycle Chic: Past, Present & Future…A Celebration of Dressing for the Destination”, and it featured fall fashion, in Long Beach, California.

More info here and here.
Via Streetfilms


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Reasons to Start Riding a Bike to Work

bike, biking, gen y
Though U.S. has seen 40 percent growth in bicycle commuters since 2000, their numbers have yet to surpass 1 million. In contrast, there are 204 million personal vehicles on the road on a given day. Not only does biking to work have the potential to improve individuals' health, wealth and standard of living, but the combination of more cyclists and fewer cars on the road could give the entire country a much-needed boost. Here's why:

It is vastly cheaper than driving. Due to rising fuel costs and tire upkeep, the cost of owning a car increased nearly 2 percent in 2012 to $8,946, according to AAA. It costs just $308 per year to keep bikes in shape––nearly 30 times less than cars, according to the Sierra Club: "If American drivers were to make just one four-mile round trip each week with a bicycle instead of a car, they would save nearly 2 billion gallons of gas. At $4 per gallon, total savings would be $7.3 billion a year."

It's a free gym on wheels. Unlike taking an extra two hours per day (and a chunk of your paycheck) to hit the gym, cycling can be a seamless way to weave a workout into your daily routine. On average, bicycle commuters lose 13 pounds in their first year of cycling alone.
"[Bike commuting] can be a very effective cardiovascular benefit," says Lisa Callahan, MD, of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.  "If you're overweight and start an exercise program, sometimes it's harder on your joints because you are overweight ... so something like swimming or biking that's not pounding on the joints can be a good thing." 
You won't miss morning traffic jams. Americans spend more than 25 minutes driving to work each day, according to the latest U.S. Census data, and trips can take nearly twice as long in populous cities like New York and Atlanta.  Cycling could help you get there faster. 
"Half of the working population in the U.S. commutes five miles or less to work, with bike trips of three to five miles taking less time or the same amount of time as commuting by car," writes Kiplinger editor Amanda Lilly.

You don't even have to own a bike. There's been a wave of new bike share programs in major cities like Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago and Miami, which typically allow riders 30 to 45 minutes of free transportation for a small annual fee. When New York City's bike share launches in Spring 2013, annual memberships will cost $95 –– about $10 less than subway commuters spend per month.

We could save hundreds of millions on healthcare expenses. "The most important socio-economic impact of cycling lies in the area of health care," says Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. Nowhere is that more clear than in Portland, Ore. A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that "during the next 30 years, Portland’s residents could save as much as $594 million in health care costs because of an investment into biking culture" and "fuel savings of $143 to $218 million."

Businesses will save millions in lost productivity. A recent study by Dutch economic think tank TNO found people who commuted to work by bike were less likely to call in sick.  "Commuting to work by bicycle by just 1 percent could save [Denmark’s] employers approximately $34 million in lost productivity from absenteeism," Oregon state rep. Earl Blumenhauer writes in American Bicyclist.  "That’s assuming a workforce of 7.1 million people. The U.S. has more than 154 million people in its workforce."

It would make cycling safer for everyone. Much unlike cars, the more bicycles on the road, the safer it becomes for cyclists, research shows. "It's a virtuous cycle," Dr. Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from UNSW, says. "The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle."

You're way more likely to get sick taking the bus. Fresh air does a body good. A recent study by the University of Nottingham found public transit riders were "six times more likely to suffer from acute respiratory infections," the New York Daily News reports. Supposedly, occasional riders were even more at risk. Another study found a host of illness-causing viruses lurking in passenger vehicles, including  E. coli, salmonella, and campylobacter, according to Safetyissues.com.

Uncle Sam will pay you to bike. Since January 2012, cyclist commuters have been entitled to a $20 per month tax-free reimbursement for bike-related expenses.  This applies to workers who bike at least three days per week to the office. Qualifying expenses include bike repairs and storage expenses, according to the National Center for Transit Research.

Women could use the extra bone support. As women age, they become increasingly susceptible to bone deterioration through osteoporosis.  A team of researchers from a Swedish university found middle-aged women were less likely to sustain wrist fractures if they commuted by bike or participated in other physical activities like walking.

You inhale more harmful exhaust in your car than on a bike.  While fuel emissions are bad news for any set of lungs, drivers are actually more susceptible to harmful air than bicyclists. "Studies show you get the biggest hit of the nasties when you’re inside a car," notes the Grist's Umbra Frisk. "Sure, a personal Mobile Emissions Source [ie: cars] appears hermetic, but it’s an illusion: MES occupants are very close to sucking on the tailpipe of the MES just ahead of them. In a bus, riders’ lungs are a bit above these sources. And bikers and pedestrians are on the outskirts."

You'll never have to worry about a parking spot again. Hundreds of major companies have entered the American League of Bicyclists' "Bicycle Friendly Business"  program and cities like New York require commercial office buildings by law to offer some sort of bike storage. Otherwise, invest in a sturdy bike lock and all you need is a spare bike rack or street sign to park your ride. Folding bikes are another useful option, as they can be packed into a bag and stashed easily under a desk or a closet.

Our economy could use a boost. Cyclists in cities like Copenhagen have become the poster children for the benefits of cycling, both at the micro- and macroeconomic level.  In its 2012 Bicycle Account, the city says bike commuters generated savings ($0.42 for each mile biked) in just about every way imaginable: lowered transportation costs, security, branding/tourism, traffic infrastructure and public health.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Good Proof That Bike Lanes and Separated Bike Lanes are Safer


Finally there is real evidence, from a study done in Vancouver and Toronto, that bike lanes reduce the chance of injury by 50%. Separated bike lanes reduce it by 90%. Emily Badger at the Atlantic Cities reviews the study, Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists: A Case-Crossover Study and notes:
The research will provide weighty evidence for advocates of dedicated bike infrastructure precisely because transportation engineers have long believed the exact opposite to be true. For years, they’ve counter-intuitively argued that you’re actually better off learning to ride alongside cars than having your own bike lane.
It has also been assumed that cyclists, particularly experienced riders prefer to ride on major streets. Fortunately, study author Key Teschke had earlier research on rider preferences, and cross-referenced the two studies. She tells Badger:
We were told in advance that young males and people who are experienced riders would tell you they’d rather ride on major streets without bike infrastructure," she recalls. "It turned out not to be true. Everyone had the same order or preferences.

So not only is there conclusive proof now that bike lanes significantly reduce injuries, but if you build them, they will come. More in the Atlantic Cities

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Canadian Study Finds That Riding Without Helmets Could Kill You


A newly published study shows that cyclists who don't wear helmets are three times as likely to die of a head injury than those that do wear helmets. The lead researcher is quoted in the Globe and Mail:
“Helmets save lives,” said Dr. Nav Persaud, a family physician and researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, who led the study. "There are about 70 cycling deaths in Canada every year,” Persaud said. “And based on our study, we estimate we could prevent about 20 of them with helmets.”

He does get that there is more to the problem than helmets.
"Helmets only prevent injuries after a collision takes place,” he said. “It would be better to prevent the collision from taking place at all. And infrastructure changes like building separated cycle lanes prevent collisions from taking place
There are a lot of others who note that helmet promotion creates a climate of fear, telling people that cycling is dangerous, and that mandatory helmet rules would take cyclists off the road, and that this would lead to worse overall health outcomes. Even helmet supporters note that all the responsibility should not fall entirely on the heads of the cyclists.
If I were going to wave my magic wand and make biking safer, I wouldn’t pick helmet legislation as the No. 1 thing to do,” [Alison] Macpherson [of York University] said. “I think it can be a part of a comprehensive approach to safe cycling that promotes cycling."
Indeed, this study shows that 77% of those deaths occurred because of interactions with automobiles. Another Canadian study shows that cyclists are responsible for only 10% of the bike-car accidents. No doubt there will be yet another call for mandatory helmet use, while at the same time the idea of reducing speed limits for cars is rejected. 

Not wearing a helmet might increase the risk of death in an accident; that's why I wear one. But surely the best way to reduce deaths is by preventing those accidents in the first place, instead of once again blaming the victim.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Toronto Can't Even Do a Separated Bike Lane Right


The City of Toronto is finally getting a separated bike lane. It's on Sherbourne Street, but the separation is a rounded bump that is too big for a cyclist to cross easily and safely, but not too big for a UPS truck. So now, when they park in the "Delivery Lane", cyclists will have to dismount and go around them.
According to Jack Lakey in the Star, they didn't have any choice.
Dan Egan, Toronto’s manager of cycling infrastructure, said the curbs had to be designed to allow police vehicles, ambulances and fire trucks to pull over them in emergencies. “It’s not an ideal situation,” said Egan. ‘If we had a lot wider street, it would have been a much simpler design. “This is the challenge of trying to do a separated bike lane on such a narrow two-way street.”

They should implement something like the image above, or like in New York. The image above is from Montreal, where hundreds of people riding their own and Bixi bikes on Maisonneuve in the separated bike lanes. The delivery vehicle is forced to block a car lane, something that is unheard of in Toronto.

I recognize that things are different in Montreal and New York, where there are extensive networks of one way streets, it makes it much easier to take out a lane and do it right, but sometimes I think transportation engineers don't even try.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

World's First Chainless Folding Electric Bike


The Footloose by Mando is doubtless going to make you want to test ride it. Asserting that it is the world's first chainless hybrid electric folding bike, Korean auto suppliers Mando Corp and Meister Inc have collaborated to bring us this beautiful design.

Designboom states it can go up to 18.6 miles with the motor alone, and farther with pedaling by the rider. "By directly transforming electricity via an alternator connected to the crank, power is generated directly from the user. The energy stored in a lithium-ion battery, which is then used to actuate the engine. Using an electronic control unit (ECU), the 'footloose' works with sensors and an automatic gear changer to monitor terrain and adjust the motor's output as necessary. It monitors the system for problems, which it displays via a handlebar-mounted human machine interface (HMI)."
As Gizmodo puts it, "It's like the bicycle equivalent of the Chevy Volt."

And as we mentioned, there is no chain so added to the extra perk of being able to fold it is it's ability to fold to a very small size:

It will apparently be available in the European markets starting next year. Here is a video illustrating the bike a bit more:

$1555 Ticket for Blowing Lights in NYC


Here is a mail truck in a bike lane in New York. I wonder if he got a ticket.
Aaron @Naparstek tweets that "the NYPD has completely lost its mind." You have to think he's right, when they slapped a cyclist with $1,555 in fines in one stop. The cyclist was caught going through three red lights while wearing headphones; New York has tough new fines that increase with each offense.

The fines are $190 for the first offense, $375 for the second, $940 for the third, the same as for a transport truck. The cyclist told Gothamist:
I was guilty for sure of going through the lights and wearing headphones so naively I pleaded guilty and sent in the tickets. A few weeks later I got a letter in the mail, it contained my 4 tickets stapled to a piece of paper that indicated I owed $1555. It didn't itemize the cost of each ticket so I have no idea what each one is worth.
The real question is, what is the point of having an increasing fine? To stop serial offenders. Stopping a cyclist once after going through three lights is not really three separate offences. As a lawyer told Gothamist:
The point [of the increase in fines] is to harshly punish recidivists," attorney Steve Vaccaro says. "But a person who goes through three reds in a row is not really a recidivist.
Neither running red lights or wearing headphones while cycling are smart moves, and there are stiff fines for both in New York. But is $ 1,555 in fines reasonable for what is really a first offense? I was stopped once back in college for blowing a stop sign. I too paid my fine, but it wasn't as stiff as this one. Sounds like abuse to me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Italians Bought More Bikes Than Cars Last Year


Italy isn't exactly known for having safe roads, but that apparently isn't stopping more and more italians from turning to bikes for transportation and recreation. The CSM writes: "For the first time since the end of World War II, the number of bicycles sold in Italy has overtaken the number of cars, according to new figures from Confindustria, a manufacturers’ association. Italy may be home to legendary brands such as Fiat, Ferrari, and Lamborghini, but 1,750,000 bikes were bought last year, compared to 1,748,000 motor vehicles." And this isn't because italians aren't car people; Italy has one of the highest car ownership levels in the world, with about 6 per 10 people.

Part of the reason for this bike revival no doubt has to do with Europe's economic problems and gasoline hitting the equivalent of $9.50/gallon. "As bike sales boom, the car industry is going through its worst crisis for decades – in September, sales of new automobiles were down 25 percent compared with the same period in 2011, according to figures for the industry released by Fiat." And the new bike sales only tell part of the story. Many old bikes are also getting more use than they did in past years, as people dust off the old bike...

Via CSM, ABG

Thursday, October 4, 2012

5-Year Old Mountain Bike Ride

Sure, cycling is often cited as the most energy-efficient means of transportation and a healthy, eco-friendly alternative to getting around in gas guzzling motor vehicles. But all that goodness aside, bikes offer one more noteworthy bonus: they're a joy to ride.

In case you forgot, just check out this video.

Recently, a very cool 5-year-old named Malcolm, along with his equally cool dad, experienced the first-time thrill of bombing down Hellion bike trail in Highland Park, New Hampshire -- and thanks to a camera mounted to his helmet, we get to tag along for every life-affirming moment.

"I'm doing it! I did it dad!" shouts the pint-sized pedaler as he races down the trail. "I loved it! I loved it, Dad!"

It's hard not to smile following along with Malcolm's first off-road biking expedition, especially with his adorably enthusiastic real-time commentary. And to think, many kids nowadays spend their free time playing video games that could never replicate an exciting outdoor adventure like this.
Thanks for letting us tag along, and happy riding!

Via Reddit

Monday, October 1, 2012

Vancouver Getting More Bike-Friendly

Vancouver has been investing into bike infrastructure for a little while, and thanks to passionate activists both inside and outside local government, a lot of progress has been made. Streetfilms went to the West Coast city for the Velo-City Global 2012 Conference, where international cycling planners, professionals and advocates from all around the world met, and the video below shows what they found. It's a great overview, and makes me truly excited about the potential of Vancouver to someday become a top biking city recognized around the world (we're not quite there yet, though).
Via Streetfilms

Bike Helmet Debate Bubbles Up Again


New York City is getting a bike sharing system soon, and the bicycle helmet debate raises its ugly head again. Bike share systems and helmets don't play well together; Nobody is going to share helmets, but nobody is going to carry one around all the time either. Elisabeth Rosenthal of the New York Times writes about the problem in To Encourage Biking, Cities Lose the Helmets. she interviews the experts:
“Pushing helmets really kills cycling and bike-sharing in particular because it promotes a sense of danger that just isn’t justified — in fact, cycling has many health benefits,” says Piet de Jong, a professor in the department of applied finance and actuarial studies at Macquarie University in Sydney. He studied the issue with mathematical modeling, and concludes that the benefits may outweigh the risks by 20 to 1. He adds: “Statistically, if we wear helmets for cycling, maybe we should wear helmets when we climb ladders or get into a bath, because there are lots more injuries during those activities.”
Rosenthal also writes "Before you hit the comment button and tell me that you know someone whose life was probably saved by a bike helmet, I know someone, too." That didn't stop hundreds of people hitting the comment button to call her crazy and irresponsible. But the fact is, it is hard to share helmets, and you are just not going to see people on shared bikes wearing them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

London's Bike Share Usage Animation


Since it was introduced in 2010, the London bike share program has facilitated more than five million two-wheeled journeys throughout the city. It's amazing what can be accomplished with 8,000 bikes and 570 stations!

Not every station is used equally, however. At least, that's the implication of a new analysis of rider data, performed by Jo Wood, a professor of visual analytics at the City University of London. The video, shows five million trips made using the program's share bikes, mapped across time. As the visualization moves forward, less popular routes begin to fade and more popular ones—like those around Hyde Park and to and from King's Cross Street—become more dense, brighter, and more active.
Of course, it's something that must be seen to be understood. That's just the point: Visualizations such as this help city planners make better informed decisions about the program, eventually leading to a more robust, more efficient, service for cycling citizens.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Elevated Bikeways Another Tool In The Toolbox?


First Chris Hardwicke proposed VeloCity for Toronto; then Sam Martin proposed Skycyle for London. Now Chris points to another another bicycle superhighway in the sky, the Veloway, in Melbourne, Australia. It is cleverly hung off the side of an existing elevated, separated rail corridor. Estimated to cost $20 million, Grant O'Donnell of Melbourne Lifeform Development claims it would take a lot of load off the trains. He is quoted in Bicycle Network Victoria:
We believe this proposal will propel Melbourne forward as a leader in providing technically advanced but practical bike infrastructure. It will provide net state benefits through improved cycle safety, reduced CBD congestion, an easing of pressure on the public transport system as well as being an appealing amenity for tourists and ride to work commuters
Alan Davies in Crikey is not impressed.
While I don’t expect one or two smallish glamour projects would be a problem, any demand for a wider network of veloways, or similar, could be problematic. If it were to promote the idea that ‘freeways’ are necessary in order for cycling to be taken seriously as a form of transport, then it would be a backward step. Cycling will only be viable in the foreseeable future if it creates a dense network of safe cycle routes. The only way that could realistically be achieved is by converting road space to cycling.

This argument was raised in London; I disagreed with it there and will here. Every experience with highways for cars in every country in the world has demonstrated that building them doesn't take cars off the road, it adds more of them. If you build infrastructure like this it moves more bikes more conveniently, and more use it. They then get off and have an even greater need for a local infrastructure of safe bicycle routes.

Davies continues:
I’m not even sure the idea of freeways, if interpreted too literally, translates that sensibly to cycling. Freeways are a separate system that enables trucks, buses and cars to cover long distances at high speed by limiting access and eliminating intersections. Cyclists don’t cover such long distances and easy, direct access to main routes is extraordinarily important – limiting access would have a significant negative effect.
I disagree. if you want people to commute by bike instead of car, perhaps they should have a hierarchy of routes, from local slow complete street to faster dedicated lane to bike superhighway where they can move at high speed and not have to stop at every traffic light and stop sign. I think bike highways make perfect sense. We need more of them.

What do you think?

People Hate Driving, but How Do We Break Their Addiction?



Earlier this summer, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) used a bi-partisan polling team to pose questions about transportation to 800 Americans. Those polled seemed to agree that our current transportation system needs change. According to NRDC, of those 800 polled:
59 percent feel the transportation system is “outdated, unreliable and inefficient”
55 percent prefer to drive less, but 74 percent say they have no choice
58 percent would like to use public transportation more often, but it is not convenient or available from their home or work
68 percent support more local investment in improvements to public transportation (including 63 percent of those who do not use transit), with 39 percent supporting it “strongly”
And, amazingly:
59 percent would like more transportation options so they have the freedom to travel other than by driving.

To a dedicated bicycle activist like me, these poll results are only a surprise in that a majority of Americans want (like me), to drive less. And it seems, they are willing to pay for improvements needed in the public transport system in order to do so.
"Many believe Americans are in love with their cars, but most are frustrated with the lack of options for adequate, reliable public transit service," said Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, the largest labor organization representing transit workers in North America. "This poll clearly shows that taxpayers are willing to put their money where their mouth is – backing increased spending to make better public transportation a reality."
Interestingly, NRDC's poll didn't include attitudes on using biking to help fill in the gaps of public transportation. And, if the percentage of people using a bicycle for daily commuting (less than one percent) is any indication, it doesn't seem like many believe bikes are their ticket to less driving.
But bike activists (including myself) know that, as far as most cities are concerned, not only can biking be faster, more fun, and healthier than driving or transport, it's also a lot cheaper.

Obviously, lack of infrastructure is one big reason people don't switch to biking. But I'd say there's more to it than that. It's also lack of support. Biking, back in 1890, was what the cool people did. These days, if you tell people you bike to work, and enjoy it, skepticism is high.

The gender divide is also a big biking issue. In 2009, according to the League of American Bicyclists (which started life as the League of American Wheelmen), women took just 24 percent of bicycle trips in the United States. In communities across the nation, LAB says, women are underrepresented in all aspects of the bicycle movement — from retail to politics, from advocacy to engineering.
It’s time, LAB maintains, to encourage, engage, and elevate more women bicyclists in the United States. LAB plants to undertake the following actions in its new 'Women Bike' initiative:
* Women Bike will bring together women cyclists at key meetings like the National Bike Summit and Interbike.
* Women Bike will encourage, educate and demonstrate how women can take leadership roles in bicycle advocacy.
* Women Bike will help women become bicycle educators and thought leaders in their communities.

Within the space of about a dozen years, LAB said it hopes American women will "ride their bikes at the same rates as American men for transportation, recreation and fitness". That's a tall order and probably needs a bit of magic to fulfill. Unfortunately LAB hasn't suggested how to get non-bikers to understand the fun factor in biking, nor how to make cycling cool.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mexico City's Bike Share is Growing!

Mexico City's Ecobici bike sharing program is set to get bigger. Much bigger! The plan is to increase the number of bikes from the current 1,000 to around 4,000 over the next few weeks. The target numbers are:

Stations: From 90 to 275
Bikes: From 1,000 to 4,000
Annual Subscribers: From 30,000 to 73,000

"Membership is limited to annual subscribers, so tourists cannot use it. On top of that, the system has a member limit, which until now was 30,000 (sold out). The new member limit will be 73,000, eventually increasing to 100,000."

It would be great if they opened it up to tourists too, but it's a very good step forward.

Via Streetsblog

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bike Share How to Guide

The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) has done something really cool, and released a kind of 'how to' guide for cities who are considering setting up a bike-sharing program. It's a fantastic idea and I must give kudos to all those involved! The best way for bike-sharing to succeed and spread is for the best practices of existing programs to be transmitted to new entrants. Otherwise, if every new bike-share has to reinvent the wheel, progress will be slow and we'll see many failures. But if they can benefit from the collective wisdom and experience of others, we're well on our way.

Here's the guide: Bike Sharing in the United States: State of the Practice and Guide to Implementation (pdf)

If you have any interest in bike-sharing, or if you are a policymaker, I highly recommend that you check it out.

In the words of the authors, the objectives of this guide are to:
• Define bike sharing and provide an overview of the concept.
• Describe the steps a jurisdiction should take to plan, implement, and sustain a bike share program.
• Document existing models of provision, infrastructure considerations, and funding options for successfully implementing a bike sharing program.
• Describe metrics for monitoring and evaluating program success.
• Provide a baseline documentation of existing bike share programs in the United States in 2012.

Via FHA (pdf), Streetsblog

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Raptor Bike Anyone?!


A coworker and i laughed at this guy for a few minutes and tried to imagine how this would feel to ride and practicality of it. While it's not the most practical bike-variation I've seen, it has the benefit of actually working, unlike some other prototypes. I doubt it'll catch on because, unlike on a bike, you have no gearing, but it's still an interesting idea.

Google Maps Gets Voice Guided Cycling Navigation


For the last few years, the digital wisdom and guidance of Google Maps has helped cyclists throughout the U.S. and Canada arrive to their destinations safely and efficiently. But now that remarkable tool has hit a major milestone, and is getting a major upgrade.

According to Google, not only are such handy bike-route maps available for desktop and mobile users, cyclists using Google Maps Navigation (beta) can now mount their Android phones to their handlebars to receive turn-by-turn directions and navigation, as well as voice-guided directions.
This comes on the heels of Google Map's recent expansion of its cycling route maps to an additional 10 countries -- Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

"We know there are lots of ways to get from here to there, which is why in 2010, we added biking directions to Google Maps in the U.S. and Canada, and continue to work to bring more biking features to more places," writes Google's Larry Powelson, in a blog post. "Today, there are more than 330,000 miles (equal to more than 530,000 kilometers, or half a gigameter) of green biking lines in Google Maps."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Abandoned Bike Project in NYC


Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project out of WNYC, asked its listeners and readers to send in photos of orphaned bicycles around the city. More than 500 people responded with their shots of lost souls. Originally, Transportation Nation mapped their locations in an attempt to get the wrecks removed by the city. There were too many for that to ever happen, but the resulting exhibition, Abandoned Bike Project, is a fascinating display.

Noted in cool hunting, the orphaned frames have a hypnotic beauty that rises to the level of art.

As they explain:
These castoff cycles from around the city — each left to rot, chained to public property — become a captivating catalog of civic nuisance, a collection of the detritus of urban mobility in a busy city.

This one rests amongst the gathering autumn leaves.

Kissing cousins, left by the roadside.

You can only imagine why or how they got left where they are.