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.