Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NYC Let Your Voice Be Heard-Help Improve the New Bike-Share Program

You can see a timeline of workshops here. There's one tomorrow, January 31st, for Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and Clinton. The next one is on February 6th for the West Village, Tribeca and and SoHo, and so on. If you are in NYC, I encourage you to attend. This is what democracy is all about, and it'll make for a better and more successful bike-share program!

10,000 new bikes will appear in New York City next summer when the new bike-sharing program is launched. The bikes will be located in 600 stations sprinkled around Manhattan and Brooklyn, but the exact location of each station still needs to be determined. That's where citizens of NYC come in! The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) will be holding community planning workshops in various areas of the city to allow local citizens to help determine what the best spots are for stations, and what the "hell no" locations are.

Via NYC DOT, Streetsblog

Monday, January 30, 2012

Where People are Biking and Walking in the US in 2012

The Alliance for Biking and Walking just released its biannual benchmark report, and the results may surprise you. The state with the greatest percentage of cyclists and walkers? Alaska. Among cities, Boston takes the crown.

If those results seem a little bit off—Isn’t Portland the country’s biking mecca? Or, if you trust Bicycling Magazine, Minneapolis?—consider another figure from the Alliance’s report: Americans choose to walk for 10.5 percent of all their trips, and bike just 1 percent of the time. While Bostonians aren’t known for their bike culture, 13.9 percent of the city’s commuters walk to work.
walking biking “All those cities we have at the top of the list, they were all cities that were built around human beings first,” says Alliance president Jeffrey Miller. These cities have grids, or in the case of Boston, a web of streets designed for pedestrians that tend to make drivers crazy. “It’s easier to walk and bike in parts of these cities than to drive,” Miller says.

And Alaska? “We know that people will vote with their wallet,” he says. “Gasoline is like $10 a gallon there. It's expensive to drive.”

The Alliance’s benchmark report does confirm deeply held notions about America’s bike revolution. Of the country’s 50 largest cities (plus New Orleans), Portland is home to the greatest percentage of people commuting to work by bike. It’s also the only city listed in which more commuters choose to bike than choose to walk. But the report also shows that while bike culture might be booming, most people who choose to get around without cars still hoof it. Given the importance of walking to car-free living, the cities that best represent an alternative vision of the country’s transportation future may not be Portland or Boston, but Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Seattle—all of which rank highly for both biking and walking and which hold the number two, three, and four slots on the combined list.

There are several similarities that make those three cities successful: All three have "complete streets" policies; D.C.'s took effect in the past couple of years. They all fine drivers for not yielding to bikes and have bike-parking requirements in new buildings. D.C. and San Francisco also require bike parking in buildings or garages, while San Francisco requires it at public events. San Francisco has more miles of bike lanes, multi-use paths and signed bike routes per square mile than any other city in the country; Seattle and San Francisco have innovative bike infrastructure, like shared lane markings, home zones, colored bike lanes, bike boxes, contra flow bike lanes, and bike traffic lights. D.C. has some, but not all, of those features, plus cycle tracks, which are physically separated from car traffic but still on the road.

“What it seems we need is for communities to engage as many options as they can to encourage biking and walking,” Miller says.


Cities and states are doing something right: the Alliance found that Americans make 12 percent of all trips by foot or bike despite the fact that these transportation modes receive just 1.6 percent of federal transportation dollars. And cities across the country are moving toward ever-bigger infrastructure projects, particularly for biking: The list of planned bike facilities shows that Nashville will have more than 850 additional miles of bike infrastructure by 2027; Los Angeles will have added more than 1,600 miles by 2041; by 2032, New Orleans will have an additional 1,002 miles of bike facilities and New York an additional 1,800 miles.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Union for Bikes?

Beyond bikes, music, and home brewing, politics is my other big hobby. So like most political junkies, I was glued to my TV last night to see the President's State of the Union. When the president of the executive branch of the U.S. government talks about something, it gets on a lot of people's radar. It doesn't mean that things will immediately start happening, but it does give legitimacy to any issue. That's why my biggest wish for this speech was for bikes and bike infrastructure to be mentioned.

Not surprisingly, it didn't happen. But I believe it deserved a mention, if only to increase visibility for the issue. Politicians always talk about how the roads are crumbling, bridges are almost falling down and rail needs big bucks, but in many places, bike lanes don't even get to be in disrepair because they don't exist yet. That seems like the lowest-hanging fruit out there. I think it would show great vision for the president to link bike infrastructure with other things like rail, bridges, roads, etc, and mention them together in the future.
I understand that protected bike lanes, bike boulevards, bike parkings, etc, are more of a city issue. But the federal government can still play a big role (Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has taken many steps in the right direction), both in setting a national agenda and by creating broad incentives that will encourage cities and states to do more and do it faster.
So how about it, Mr. President? Are you looking for a relatively cheap way to improve the U.S. infrastructure base? To improve public health, quality of life in cities, reduce air pollution and oil imports? Save money by reducing wear & tear on roads and reducing lost productivity due to congestion?

Sounds like a good deal to me.

You can read the text of the SOTU speech here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

On-Street Bike Parking is a Win-Win

Making Streets Safer With On-Street Bike Parking from Streetfilms on Vimeo.
The number of cyclists is growing rapidly in many cities - NYC's bike count is up 289% since 2001, for example - but in many places, including NYC, the number of accessible bike parkings is not keeping up. If this problem is not solved, it could slow down bike ridership rates. But how should the problem be solved? Should we just add a bunch of bike racks all over sidewalks? There might be a better way: on-street bike parking near intersections provide more parking spaces for cyclists, they don't clutter up the sidewalks, and they improves visibility for drivers, making everybody safer. The video above by Streetfilms shows exactly how they work and why they are so good.

Richmond Gets 80 Miles of Sharrows

In mid November, the city of Richmond, VA began installing the first of approximately 80 lane miles of bike sharrows that will be placed along specific corridors in the city. The pilot corridors where the sharrows are being installed include Meadow Street from Broad Street to Cary Street and Harrison Street from Broad Street to Idlewood, representing about three lanes miles of bike sharrows thus far.

Sharrows consist of a large chevron and bicycle symbol. From start to finish the project will cost about $775,000, with most of the funds coming from the Federal Government grant for “congestion mitigation air quality” projects.

Shared lane pavement markings (or “sharrows”) are bicycle symbols carefully placed to guide bicyclists to the best place to ride on the road, avoid car doors and remind drivers to share the road with cyclists. Unlike bicycle lanes, sharrows do not designate a particular part of the street for the exclusive use of bicyclists.

They are simply a marking to guide bicyclists to the best place to ride and help motorists expect to see and share the lane with bicyclists.

Motorists: Expect to see bicyclists on the street. Remember to give bicyclists three feet of space when passing  Follow the rules of the road as if there were no sharrows.

Bicyclists: Use the sharrow to guide where you ride within the lane. Remember not to ride too close to parked cars. Follow the rules of the road as if there were no sharrows.

Purpose of sharrows:
  • To indicate a cyclist’s right to the lane. (It does not confer the right, it just informs road users to it.)
  • Reduce bicycling on sidewalks
  • Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in a shared lane with on-street parallel parking in order to reduce the chance of a bicyclist’s impacting the open door of a parked vehicle
  • Encourage safe passing of bicyclists by motorists
  • Reduce the incidence of wrong-way bicycling

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bike Sharing is Becoming a gateway Drug to Urban Cycling

Washington D.C.'s Capitol Bikeshare started small in 2010, and with little fanfare. It wasn't as large as Paris' Vélib bike share system, or as immediately popular as Barcelona's Bici. It didn't have especially bells-and-whistles bikes like Denver's B-cycle program, nor was it as comprehensive as the Chinese city of Hangzhou's bike sharing scheme.

Never mind. Capital Bikeshare has become copy editor Bill Walsh's (and a lot of other DC commuters') gateway cycling drug of choice anyway. Walsh, who lives and works in the nation's capitol, has over the last eight months become a dedicated cycle commuter, using Capitol Bikeshare for more than 90% of his commutes - causing him to christen the service a "gateway" transportation drug. In other words, once you use it, you are hooked on city cycling.

And that's good for cities. Bike sharing systems are an investment, and frequently one that is hard to find the money for in cash-strapped cities (such as Portland, Oregon), but bike sharing is far cheaper than building subways, paving new freeways, or adding bus services, and it pays off not only in reducing car traffic but also in making citizens just a bit more conditioned.

The next wave in bike sharing is to make systems friendlier - making it easier for users (tourists and city dwellers) to get on other forms of public transport when they are done cycling. In Berlin and Paris, passes can be used for different transport, and in the case of Berlin, for car parking and taxis, too. In another experiment in Munich, Mo! combines car sharing and bike sharing in a single system.

In Denver, B-Cycle is making its system accessible to members of Boulder's B-Cycle and vice versa.
And Wuhan, China (with the largest bike sharing system in the world, according to the Bike Sharing Blog), plans to open its system to users of the Haikou city system hundreds of miles south.

Over 450 bike sharing systems exist or in the planning stages around the world, clustered most intensively in southern Asia, Europe, and the United States. Wouldn't it be nice if one card and one membership would give you access to any city around the globe? Now that would boost the concept of a global community of city cyclists tremendously.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sweden Is Getting the Next Bike Superhighway

If you want to find an unassuming place where bicycling is a way of life and nobody makes a big deal about it, head south. The south of Sweden, that is, where the small university town of Lund has a big bicycle habit. They just don't advertise it.

In Lund, 60% of the populace bikes or takes public transport to go about their daily tasks. And then there's Malmö, Sweden's third largest city - only 20 miles southwest of Lund. Malmö also doesn't have a reputation for fantastic biking. But some say it is the country's best biking city - ahead of both Stockholm, the capital; Gothenburg, the second largest Swedish metropolitan area, and a host of smaller bike-friendly burgs.

Just across the Øresund sound from Copenhagen, Malmö has always lived a bit in the shadow of the Danish capital. But in the last few years it has done a lot to take a place among the great biking cities of Northern Europe, mostly by its investment in infrastructure and pure commitment to get people on their bikes. That has paid off - cycling has increased 30% each year for the last four years, while car trips under five kilometers have dropped.

Now Malmö is upping the stakes by putting up 30 million Swedish crowns (about US$4.1 million) toward the building of a four-lane super cycling highway between it and its bike-happy northern neighbor city Lund.

The Swedish Traffic Authority (Trafikverket) has already studied the feasibility of building the bicycle superhighway between the two cities. What remains is for the central government (and Lund and the smaller towns between the two areas) to put their money down. Trafikverket has planned a route for the superhighway running roughly parallel to railway tracks, which makes it easier and less expensive to build, as right of ways are already in place.

The proposed bicycle superhighway would, in addition to four lanes (2 in each direction) have exits but no intersections, two types of wind protection (low bushes as well as solid fencing) periodic bicycle service stations, and would take eight years to complete. Total cost of the superhighway is estimated to be about 50 million Swedish crowns (US$ 7.1 million).

We already know that building bicycle infrastructure is magnitudes cheaper than building new car roads, and better for our health and our air quality. So, what will the first U.S. cities be to build this type ofsystem?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Flexible Bike Rack Makes Locking Up Easy

I'm not sure how many times I've been frustrated trying to lock up my bike, making the lock fit through the frame, the front wheel and the rack itself, but it's a high number. The Tulip Fun Fun is a bike rack created to alleviate that problem. The work of Margus Triibmann of Estonian design firm KEHA3, it bends to fit bikes of different sizes and shapes, so you lock your bike however you want.

The rack is made from metal cable surrounded by rubber, attached to a hot galvanized metal plate that is bolted to the ground. It's simple and smart, and I'd love the see it wherever I ride.

KEHA3 has a couple of other interesting bike rack designs, notably the Grazz, with stalk-like metal cables with looped ends, and the eye-catching Typo.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Top 10 Bike Books for the New Year

I just got a new Kindle for Christmas and have started a new e-reading list that I thought I would share. It's never too late to start transportation cycling, so if the depths of winter generate some legitimate excuses not to start or refine your cycling career right this minute, this is a great time to get inspired. Here are some of the stellar bike books published in 2011 (and a few from 2010), in order to start out or build up your biking bookshelves.
eban weiss bike snob book coverIf Bike Snob author Eban Weiss didn't invent snark, he certainly perfected it -- first in his BikeSnob NYC blog, and later in this best-selling book. Weiss is super-snarky, dead-on observant, and sometimes very, very funny. He stereotypes the bike world to within an inch of its bike pedals, and it makes for an amusing and informative read.

Bike Snob is a great way for new cyclists to understand the politics of what goes on in the bike lane, and maybe, just maybe, have a little compassion for the different types of cyclists that pedal there. Maybe.
If you want more of the mercilessness, Weiss continues on with the BikeSnob NYC blog. Or, if your snark bones are tired, read David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries instead.
tillie the terrible swedeDespite being a children's book, Tillie the Terrible Swede: How One Woman, A Sewing Needle, and A Bicycle Change History will give all cyclists a wonderful taste of cycling back during Biking 1.0.

Tillie Anderson, the book's heroine, was a real-life amazing athlete who broke numerous records and won scores of bicycle races during her short career in the mid to late 1890s. Anderson was part of a group of women cyclists who flaunted Victorian social constraints and moral codes in order to race their bicycles.
Author Sue Stauffacher became entranced with Anderson's story back in 2005, and succeeds in telling a sweet tale of Tillie's rise to short-lived fame -- from Swedish immigrant seamstress, to world-class athlete, to contented housewife.

cover art from book On BicyclesThe 50 individual essays in On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life make sure to cover all aspects of Biking 2.0, including sex, safety, bike shops, and sharing the road. Chapters from famous bicycling advocates such as Jeff Mapes, John Pucher, and Elly Blue help enliven this 'Whole Earth Catalog' of bicycle culture.

Edited by Amy Walker, co-founder of Momentum Magazine, On Bicycles definitely has something for everyone, and yields up its bounty without being overly preachy. Especially welcome to the non-technical transportation cyclist are chapters such as "The Case for Internally Geared Bicycle Hubs" by Aaron Goss, and "Ergonomic Evolution: The Advantages of Riding Reclined" by Vincent Tourdonnet.
cover art from book wheels of changeSue Macy's book Wheels of Change: How Women rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) is supposed to be a young adult title, but readers of almost any age will find lots to love in this history of how women used the bicycle to gain new-found freedom. Macy details the history of the cycling innovations that helped women throw off the cumbersome skirts of the Victorian era and get on two-wheeled "safety' cycles and out into the world.

She includes some of the historical cycling heroines, from Tillie Anderson to Louise Armaindo, and she sprinkles historical narrative with features -- cycling slang, for instance, and the rich vein of cycling songs that came out at the height of the bicycle boom in the late 1890's. Wheels of Change is fun, and the archival photos alone will keep you absorbed for hours.
the lost cyclist book about frank lenzDavid L. Herlihy is well-known as one of American cycling's historians. While researching his classic Bicycle: The History, Herlihy time and again came upon old clippings referring to Frank Lenz, a reporter and touring cyclist who disappeared in 1894 while attempting to bike around the world. Intrigued, Herlihy further delved into Lenz's fascinating story, and eventually wrote a book specifically about his journey, disappearance, and fellow cyclist William Sachtleben's quest to find him, called The Lost Cyclist.

Rich in period detail, The Lost Cyclist is an enjoyable, if sometimes slightly plodding read. It is those few slow moments when the gallery of vintage photos of Lenz during various stages of his short and semi-famous life help tide the reader over. Though Herlihy does a painstaking job of trying to clear up the mystery of Lenz's disappearance, readers might remain somewhat unsatisfied. There are plenty of clues as to who killed Lenz, but the exact reasons why are never completely established.
cover art from a simple machine, like the leverEvan P. Schneider's novel A Simple Machine, Like the Lever, is an ongoing stream-of-consciousness journal detailing the joys of cycling in a complex, sometimes heartbreaking world. Schneider, through his alter ego Nick, manages to find some universal cycling truths -- not just the big ones, but the ongoing day-to-day ones.

Nick is trying to come of age in a very complicated society, and though his struggle is by no means unusual, the sweet observations of why we are cyclists keep you reading. Schneider, the founding editor of Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac, gives a lovely portrait of the simplicity and joys of cycling.
urban cyclists survival guide bookA new sub-genre of books has sprung up with tips and techniques for the urban cyclist, and this Urban Cyclist's Survival Guide by James Rubin and Scott Rowan covers many of the basics. The approach is safety and survival oriented, and advocates defensive cycling. If you are a style-over-speed cyclist, you might grow alarmed at how many times "survival" pops up in this book, and at how the tone is one of competition, speed, and natural selection rather than cooperation and community.

Never mind, just take from this guide the tips that will help you, wherever you are in your cycling journey. For even more cycling urban cycling philosophy, follow up this book with The Art of Cycling by Robert Hurst.
pile of zines on a schwinnMuch of the interesting commentary on urban cycling is to be found not in so-called mainstream publishing but in the blogging world, so it's hardly surprising that some of the best recent titles on biking aren't mainstream books at all, but e-zines.

Our Bodies, Our Bikes is the latest in a series of 'zines by Grist blogger Elly Blue. Blue likes to write about bike policy, bike politics, and bike economics, and Our Bodies, Our Bikes mixes those together. Blue mostly plays editor on this compilation of essays, though she does a turn with Caroline Paquette on the essay "Your Vulva."

There's no bike porn in Our Bodies, however. Instead, there's a lot of practical advice mixed with a healthy dash of feminist encouragement. After all, men outnumber women in the bike lanes by at least 2 to 1.
Blue has a number of great e-zines, including a great long essay on bike economics -- all available at takingthelane.com.

Also check out both Boneshaker e-zines, the UK and the US versions.
robert penns dream bike and bookRobert Penn's paean to bicycles, It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels, is another title looking for the essence of why humans love bikes. Luckily, Penn's book is easy to read, and full of the quirky bike history that the cycle-obsessed just love to know. He's also bike obsessed, and dreams of a perfect bike, then describes it in full detail. It also includes some great background on the bike business and its development, plus lots of personal anecdotes.

Mostly, the book is good because Penn is a fluid, graceful writer. That's important as sometimes the going gets technical. The book will also teach you to know your bike intricately.
bike bookshelf helen pidd bookHelen Pidd, a journalist for The Guardian, released Bicycle -- Love Your Bike: The Complete Guide to Everyday Cycling in 2010, and it really is a complete guide. Packed with facts and written in a sassy, smart style, Bicycle is a great guide for both new and experienced urban cyclists.

Though the layout is cheerful and the illustrations of bike parts and procedures are welcome, the book does suffer from a bit of an overstuffed, overdesigned lack of readability -- the small orange san serif text on a black background can lead to a headache. Still, Pidd does the bike world a great service in tackling many of the issues facing urban cyclists every day, as well as providing the type of basics every cyclist needs, at one point or another, to know. It deserves a solid space on the bike bookshelf.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cycling Fines In Copenhagen Are Increased to Help Discourage Breaking Traffic Laws

Some of the biggest dangers to cyclists occur when they are riding improperly or breaking traffic laws. On any given day, it is difficult to not come accross a rider that is riding against flow of traffic, jumping curbs, and running stop lights/signs. If the US would adopt some of the new fines being implemented in Copenhagen, maybe it would start to detour these dangerous actions, make the streets safer for riders, and create a better perseption of riders from motorists. Mind you that I have converted the fines to US dollars, and that these infractions would be occurring on Copenhagen's protected bike paths.

Beginning in the new year, riding no-handed, cycling through a red light, or forgetting to signal a turn will cost bicyclists dearly in Copenhagen. The traffic law changes will result in fines for a variety of bicycling infractions jumping from $85-$100, and in some cases to $175. It is the first increase in biking fines in 12 years.

Cycling on the pavement, riding without lights, and cycling through a pedestrian crossing are among the acts that will net a $100+ fine, while cycling against the traffic, running a red light and using a mobile phone will result in a $175 fine.

According to a Konservative MP, Tom Behnke, the fine increases are meant to discourage cyclists from breaking traffic laws.

“A $175 fine will hurt more, so that most people will think: ‘Oh, that sucked,'” Behnke told Politiken newspaper.

But a 100 percent jump in the cost of cycling infractions overshoots the mark, argued the cyclists’ union, Cyklistforbundet.

“Parliament is using a bazooka to shoot a butterfly in this case,” the union’s head, Jens Loft Rasmussen, said in a statement. “It cannot be right that it should cost [the equivalent of] one fourth of the cost of a bicycle to talk on a mobile phone while on a deserted bicycle path.”
Rasmussen, however, was not against the notion of fining cyclists.

“We don’t think cyclists should have free rein,” he told Politiken. “But we know that it is primarily motorists who cause the serious accidents - it’s not cyclists who kill others. Cyclists can be irritating, but I believe that smaller fines would be more appropriate.”
A Copenhagen Police spokesperson, John Sckaletz, told Politiken that while he hoped the fines would help to decrease traffic chaos, he questioned the higher fines’ preventative effect.

The traffic laws not only affect cyclists, but motorists as well. Registered traffic infractions that used to cost between $85 and $200 will after January 1 cost $335, while speeding tickets will increase by between $100-$200.

Biking fines, effective Jan 1
  • Cycling without lights in the dark: $115
  • Using a hand-held mobile phone while biking: $170
  • Missing or defective brakes or reflectors: $115
  • Cycling through a red light: $170
  • Cycling against traffic: $170
  • Cycling across a pedestrian crossing: $115
  • Cycling on the cycle path on the left side of the street: $115
  • Not respecting traffic signs or arrows: $115
  • Violating the right of way: $170
  • Failure to signal a turn or stop:$115
  • Cycling no-handed: $115
  • Cycling on the pavement: $115
  • Holding onto a vehicle: $115
  • Having two or more people on a regular bicycle: $115 per person
  • Wrong position while/before turning: $115
  • Non-functioning bell: Warning

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Milk Crate Basket/Bike Seat

I love bikes and I love when designers reuse materials to make bikes more functional and efficient. So what's not to like about "Two Go" by Israeli designer Yael Livneh?

Using a reclaimed milk crate, the piece acts as an additional bike seat for carrying a passenger or it can be converted back into a crate for carting your groceries home. Very neat, very low tech, and a great way to add capacity and adaptability to that greenest of machines—the bicycle.

Head over to designboom for more pictures and a detailed description of the Two Go concept.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

NYC Bike Counts Up 298% In Last 10 Years

New York City has become much more bike-friendly over the past decade, and despite some bumps in the road, momentum seems to have increased over 2011. StreetFilms point out in the video montage above, the bike count in NYC is up almost 3X since 2001, and it has doubled since 2007. Public opinion surveys show that support by New Yorkers for more bike lanes is increasing, and the data shows that pedestrians are safer where there are bike lanes. All of this is worth celebrating! Let's keep going and make even more progress in 2012!