Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cycling Saves Big Bucks

Sure, the simple act of cycling instead of driving can reduce carbon footprints and trim waistlines, but it adds more than just a little girth where it counts -- the pocketbook. According to a new report from the League of American Bicyclists, Sierra Club, and National Council of La Raza (NCLR), cyclists in the U.S. save a whopping $4.6 billion every year on gas and transportation costs. And, if all other commuters made even minor adjustments to their four-wheeled, gas-guzzling routines, that figure could be nearly doubled.

Considering that average annual cost of operating a car ($8,220) versus that of a bike ($308), the push towards more cyclists commuting doesn't just make environmental sense, it makes fiscal sense as well.
From the Sierra Club:
Forty percent of all trips are made within two miles of home. Analysis by the Sierra Club shows that 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.
“Biking is an important piece of a 21st century transportation system,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “Biking reduces America’s dependence on oil and lets individuals bypass the gas pump, saving individuals money and protecting our health and environment from dirty oil pollution.”

Friday, May 18, 2012

Great Biking Cities are Created

Jonathan Maus, from the great site BikePortland, got his hands on an animated map created by City of Portland bike coordinator Roger Geller. It shows the evolution of Portland's bikeways from 1980 to the present, and is a good visual reminder that great biking cities are made deliberately; they don't start out already formed, people have to put in the effort of making them bike friendly.Check it out:

Pink is for dedicated, off-street trails/multi-use paths; green is for neighborhood greenways/bike boulevards; and blue is for everything else (bike lanes, cycle tracks, buffered bike lanes).
It's interesting to see how non-linear the progression is. There are booms and then periods of stagnation, and some types of paths get more love than others. It would be really neat to be able to see this kind of chronological progression on a map for other cities too. Anyone out there has the raw data and can pull it together?

Via BikePortland

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bike Score Launched

Bike Score launched just in time for Bike to Work Week, and are showing their first ranking of the most bikeable U.S. cities. See how your city ranks and vote for your city to be next to get Bike Score.
They’ll add Bike Scores for the top 10 cities receiving votes between now and the end of National Bike Month on May 31, 2012.

How Bike Score Works
Bike Score provides a 0-100 rating of the bikeability of a location based on the availability of bike infrastructure (lanes and trails), the hilliness of the area, destinations and road connectivity, and the number of bike commuters.

The Bike Score for a city is then calculated by applying the Bike Score algorithm block-by-block throughout the city and weighting the scores by population density. Read the methodology details.
They collected thousands of votes for over one hundred ideas from their community on how to calculate a Bike Score.

The Bike Score methodology was developed in collaboration with Professor Meghan Winters at Simon Fraser University and Professors Michael Brauer and Kay Teschke at the University of British Columbia under a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Bicycling by the Numbers
• Americans made 4 billion trips by bicycle in 2009, more than twice as many as in 2001.
• Bike commuting increased 43% between 2000 and 2010.
• 71% of Americans say they would like to bicycle more than they do now.
Read their official press release or view the Bike Score rankings.
Bike Score: Built by bikers, for bikers!

Bike Share Suggested Station Map Reveiled

It seems that for every thing New York City gets right with its bike-share system, it insists on getting something else wrong. I cheered when I heard news that the bike share would boast 10,000 bikes, and then I almost threw up when I saw what they'd look like. I was reassured to hear that they'd come with handy baskets for stowing your stuff; I was distressed to discover out that they'd be prohibitively expensive. It's way too expensive, the pricing scheme is too punitive (riders face exorbitant costs if they go over a half an hour).

So I'm sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop on this one: The city seems to have done a pretty good job reaching out to the community to figure out where the initial stations should go. Here's how it worked, according to NYC's DOT:
Between September 2011 and April 2012, NYC DOT held 33 bike share demonstrations and open houses in three different languages throughout the city; presented to Community Boards and Community Board leadership 54 times; held 13 community planning workshops; met over 150 times with other stakeholders, institutions and business improvement districts; and collected almost 10,000 individual station location suggestions and more than 60,000 support votes on the suggestion map. The suggestions will remain available here, and will continue to be a valuable resource as bike share system evolves
And so they ended up the map you see above, which, for the areas encompassed in the rollout (not the Bronx, upper Manhattan, or Staten Island) looks pretty reasonable. But who knows, maybe they'll go ahead and announce they're concentrating 9,000 of them in SoHo.

Check out the stations in detail at the NYC Bike Share website.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Smart Gets Into the eBike Business

Daimler, who owns Smart the maker of small urban two-seat cars, has decided to get into the electric bike business. They seem to have spent a lot of time on design, because the end result looks both futuristic and practical, which is rare. In fact, the design is so good that it was awarded the "Best of the Best" prize for top design quality at the Red Dot Awards.

The first units of the Smart Electric Bicycle are beginning to be delivered in Europe right now, and the e-bike should also be available in the U.S. "soon", though no official date has been released yet.

The rider of the smart ebike decides how much power he wants the electric motor to deliver to support his muscle power by pressing a button on the handlebar. There is a choice of four power levels with the fourth level providing maximum pushing power. Depending on the power level selected and the manner of cycling a battery charge can last for up to 100 kilometers.
With 423 Wh the lithium-ion battery is one of the most powerful batteries in the competitive environment. It has been attractively integrated in the frame of the smart ebike. The portable battery can be charged either at a normal socket or whilst riding, with the latter offering advantages in terms of cost and the environment. The wheel hub motor becomes as a generator when the rider brakes. The braking energy is recuperated, i.e. it is converted into electrical energy and stored in the smart ebike's lithium-ion battery. (source)
It's priced at 2,849 euros in Germany, but that includes 19% of VAT tax, so price in the U.S. should be lower (hopefully).

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Citibank Sponsors NYC Bike Share

Bike sharing has been exploding for some time. Even though VĂ©lib, the Parisian bike share, was instrumenal in showing that bike sharing could easily become a stylish form of transportation for urbanites, bike sharing hasn't been considered an economic 'engine'. Quite the contrary - cities struggling financially felt the start-up costs of a large-scale bike share prohibitive. So, they turned to corporate sponsors. Perhaps it is inevitable that all good ideas get commercialized. However, in the case of bike sharing, this can have the unfortunate result of shutting out some users who might most benefit from access to bicycles for short hop trips in city settings.

The Citi Bike system will be 100% privately funded with 600 stations and 10,000 bikes in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Citi Bike's pricing is listed on its site as $95 for an annual pass, $25 for a 7-day pass, and $9.95 for 24-hour access. Ouch.The first 30 minutes are at no extra charge, but then rates climb sharply.

But the city of New York has plans to making sure the Citi Bikes are accessible to New Yorkers "of all income levels". A program is being developed, according to the web site, so that qualifying New Yorkers will be able to purchase a reduced annual membership for $60, payable in quarterly installments.

Also from the site:
There is also an affordability program that will be available to all NYCHA residents, as well as members of Community Development Credit Unions (CDCUs) who primarily serve low-income clients and have signed on to be bike share partners. Low-income New Yorkers who are currently unbanked would be able to sign up for a low-or no-cost bank account with a participating CDCU in order to obtain a reduced-fee bike share membership.

Alta Bicycle Share designed the system - and the front 'rack' attached to the handlebars can hold bags/purses, with an elastic strap 'that can hold materials in place'. New York's Municipal Art Society (MAS) thinks bike share will reduce short auto trips in the city.

President Vin Cipolla issued a press statement:
“MAS sees tremendous potential in New York City’s bike share program. In addition to increasing mobility, bike share will help introduce people to active transportation, alleviate pressure on transit, provide a quicker connection between transit stops and final destinations, and reduce the number of short auto trips.”

Monday, May 7, 2012

Milan's BikeMi Continues to Impress

Milan has had a bikeshare system since 2008 and is now up to 1400 bikes and 120 stations. They are impressive bikes; instead of chain drives, they have a shaft drive. This is theoretically less maintenance and risk of a customer getting their pants caught in a chain.

The bikes are evidently not used for recreation; on Sunday, every rack was full and I never saw one in use. However at 7:00 AM on Monday morning, the streets were full of people on yellow bikes going to work.

The bike stations are in a really tight cluster in the central part of town; they are of little use for commuting. Wikipedia notes that the system was supposed to be 200 stations and 3000 bikes; It could certainly use a bit of geographic expansion. More at BikeMi

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Bike is a Dog's Best Friend

And now for something on the lighter side, here's a video from China that shows that while a man's best friend might be a dog, this dog's best friend seems to be a bicycle. As being a dog fan, I am known in my neighborhood as the "guy running his dog on his bike every night". My dog Cricket can definitely relate to the dog shown in this video.

"Apparently this adorable bike-guarding dog lives in Nanning, China, where he’s known as Li Li the Bike Hugging Dog."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Current NYC Bike Boom

When the bicycle boomed in New York City in the last few years of the 19th century, it boomed big. New York's Western Boulevard, slanting outward from Columbus Circle to Riverside Drive, transformed from a once-quiet residential street to a thoroughfare for thousands of bicycles, especially on weekends.

City cyclists used the road for sedate weekend rides, as a way to enjoy a little nature in the city, and to show off their bicycle outfits. With the advent of the automobile around the century's turn, bicycling continued, but the car edged its way in, and then smothered the bicycle movement.
Yet now the bike it enjoying a new boom in the New York City Metro area, according to a study from the New Jersey Department of Transportation. Obviously, cyclists already knew their numbers in the city were increasing, and local organizations like Transportation Alternatives have encouraged riders.
What the NJ DOT study shows, however, is that during the peak usage time - Saturday afternoon - bicycles make up just over 47 percent of the traffic on U.S. Route 9W, just outside the city.
Over a three day period, NJ DOT found 35 percent of all vehicles traveling the stretch of Route 9W north of Orbach Way were bicycles.
“There are times when Route 9W draws virtually the same number of bikes as motor vehicles,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “It’s imperative that public officials meet this demand with appropriate infrastructure for safe bicycling.”
NJ DOT's study is the one of the first to try to quantify NY's bike boom and the high volume of bike traffic on the highway.

While the bike renaissance is great news (and May is National Bike Month!), local cyclists say wider shoulders on Route 9, increased traffic enforcement, and opening the George Washington Bridge 24-hours would improve New York cyclists' lot.