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

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...


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.