Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Stoopidtall Bike Is a Hit at L.A.'s Ciclavia

Here, in a fabulous aerial view, is proof that the people of Los Angeles are ready and willing to bike, especially when the streets are free of car traffic. This year's most recent Ciclavia (L.A.'s car-free streets rides), packed the pavements with riders. The LA Times reported that over 100,000 cyclists took part in the ride. And amongst them was Richie Trimbles, a young guy riding what must be one of the tallest of the tall bikes seen on city streets. From the ground to the handlebars is 14.5 feet.

No, this bike Trimbles is riding isn't street legal, as the law specifies the rider should be able to put a foot on the ground. And no, Trimbles didn't wear a helmet as he trekked on the car-free streets. And from the video evidence, he didn't have an easy way to come to a stop and balance.
Maybe that's why he calls the bike Stoopidtall.

But the crowd at Ciclavia loved it. Here's how Trimble described the most harrowing portion of his ride to Streetsblog LA, when he was under an underpass that was getting progressively lower as he rode:
As I go under, I drag my hand along the top and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, I’m probably the only person to have touched this besides the workers that built the overpass.’ And that was pretty chilling, but then I realize that the street I was on was at an incline and the bridge above me was banking, the gap was closing in on me. And all I could think was, ‘Holy shit! What am I going to do if I can’t make it out? How do I wedge myself up against this and still make it out? What do I do?’ I could feel the crowd below me, they all knew what was coming. All eyes on me and this bridge closing down on me. It got to the point where my body, my back was parallel to the ground and I looked at my hand and I had about two inches clearance above my knuckles and then I came out from under the bridge and the whole crowd ROARED! A deafening scream of ‘Holy shit, you made it!’ And I swear, those smiles must have lasted the whole ride. That was the moment for everyone.
Trimble hopes to break a world record for tall biking, and answered those who chided him for not wearing a helmet by saying that the ride was a performance, not meant to be imitated for your daily bike ride.

Via: Huffington Post

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cool New City Bike Design

At first glance, you might think "pretty bike". But check out the photos below; This sleek new city bike called the Kinn Cascade Flyer is loaded with city-friendly and family-friendly standard features.
The Cascade Flyer has the possibility to please a lot of different bike culture sub-groups - it's pared-down enough for minimalist city cyclists, eye-catching enough to spark interest amongst mainstream cyclists like me, and imbued with some nifty features that make it a great family bike-mobile.

Kinn designer Alistair Williamson was a novice at bike design when he started putting together prototypes of the Kinn Cascade Flyer back in 2010. He had a very specific need he wanted met when crafting the bike: a longtail bike that would be short enough to fit on the bus and make the curve when carried up stairs. He calls that a 'midtail' - a tern coined by cycle truck designer Joseph Ahearne.

Through the long design process, Williamson managed to make a bike that has a handful of really nifty features for family riders.
The first thing you'll notice about the Kinn Flyer is that it feels like a normal-length bike. Actually, the frame has been extended by just six inches, with the back wheel pulled back and an extra-long (21 inch) back rack above that back wheel. Many cargo and/or longtail bikes are 12 to 18 inches longer than standard bikes.

Williamson wanted the extra length so that he could safely and easily put his grandkids on the back of the bike, either in a Yepp child seat, or sitting on the back rack's smooth wooden plank seat (which easily and quickly detaches to accommodate the Yepp). The short handlebars for the back rider are a sweet addition, but Williamson assured me that the back of the bike can easily also carry an adult.
(Also note the secret toolkit storage area underneath the back rack wooden panel...accessible by key)

Other standout features of the Kinn are its nifty back panels and foot rests. The lightweight panels function both as great skirt guards and as a wonderful way to keep little feet from drifting in between the spokes. Williamson said he did research watching biking families get on and off their bikes in front of local Portland grocery stores, and he realized that a great family bike would have a fantastically rugged and steady kick-stand and a way for larger kids to easily climb onto the bike, as well as protection for children's feet from getting caught in spokes on take-off. And in spite of the foot rests, the bike can still easily manage standard panniers.
One of the Cascade Flyer's really great secret features is the ability to turn the front wheel all the way inward. That might not seem important at first glance, but it allows the Flyer to be positioned on bus bike racks, a big plus for weary bike moms and really anyone pushing to have their bikes do part of the duty of lengthier cross-city trips.

It also isn't cheap: entry level Flyers start at around $2,000. But Williamson has worked hard to make the bike as locally produced as possible (frames will be fabricated in Portland) as well as to make it meet the needs of family cyclists. Kinn plans to run a Kickstarter campaign soon to help finance a production run of the Flyers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

NYC Citibike Bike-Share Selling Annual Memberships for $95

It took a while, but New York City's bike-sharing program is finally getting close to launching. Annual memberships for Citibike are now available, and the first 5,000 members will be considered "founding members" and get some perks (though what exactly is still not clear). There are also discounted yearly memberships available for those who qualify (criteria here), and daily and weekly memberships for those who suffer from commitment anxiety.

6,000 bikes are expected to be deployed at 300 stations.

The station map still shows all stations as "planned", but once we reach the launch date in May that should show which are active and become a useful tool. Citibike writes: "The stations are solar-powered and modular to allow for easy installation. Each station consists of a variable number of docking ports for the bikes, plus a touchscreen kiosk for the purchase of Access Passes."

As for the bikes, you can see a photo above: "They feature a step-thru frame that provides a lower center of gravity and ease of access to a wide range of heights. Every bike has three speeds, a bell, front and rear-flashing LED lights and a handy front rack. Plus, the internal hub gears, chain guard and fenders keep you riding clean, confidently and in style." More details about the bikes can be found here.

Because this is the 21st century, Citibike also has a smartphone app that makes finding stations and planning routes easier.

Via Citibike, Bloomberg

Monday, April 15, 2013

Can Bike Share Change LA?

Los Angeles is a sprawling and car-centric city of 3.7 million people (without the metro area). The last American Community Survey (from 2011, compiled by Darren Flusche of the League of American Bicyclists) showed that just 16,101 Angelenos are commuter cyclists. That number is almost what the city of Portland, six times smaller than L.A., has in bike commuters.

The reasons its hard to bike in L.A. are numerous: distances between city segments are great, main arterials streets are fast-moving, and traffic is incredibly dense and relentless.

Recently, however, Los Angeles has made some fairly big efforts to be kinder to cyclists. In 2010 the city passed a bike plan that called for 1,684 miles of planned bicycle lanes. Putting them down was going to require 40 years in total, and millions of dollars. In the two years since the plan was adopted, the LA Department of Transportation has installed 123 miles of new 'bikeways', and is working on adding 200 miles of additional bikeways every five years. LADOT also plans to add 'sharrow' bike icon markings to 22 miles of streets this year. It's fairly easy to put a bike on L.A. Metro buses, though the crankiness of the bus driver varies wildly from route to route.

In addition, the Department of Recreation and Parks hasn't been slouching on adding to L.A.'s off-road paths. One of the most famous starts in the Pacific Palisades and runs along the Pacific Ocean all the way through Santa Monica and Venice, continuing for more than a dozen miles south to Redondo Beach. The San Gabriel River Trail also runs for nearly 40 miles between L.A.'s Azusa foothills and Seal Beach.

And this month Los Angeles should also see the start of a very ambitious bike sharing program. Bike Nation's plan is to eventually have 4,000 bicycles at 400 different stations - if the plan comes to fruition L.A.'s bike share will be even larger than New York City's.

While the flurry of bike works is encouraging, there's no indication yet that it has significantly increased the city's bike commuters. In spite of a very successful series of car-free city street Ciclavia events - the next one happens next weekend on April 21 - , LA just doesn't seem to have a critical mass of riders willing to brave the streets on regular days. Though there is plenty of bike traffic on the beach-front path, the new bike lanes seem sparsely used by cyclists when I visited at the end of March.

It also didn't feel like there's much of a community of cyclists quite yet. When you ride around the streets, other cyclists seem less like friendly allies than like other survivalists just trying to scurry quickly and safely from point A to B. And just as in New York City, in Los Angeles there are so many cars and so much traffic that the bike lanes that do exist end up being frequently used by drivers waiting to pick people up or waiting for parking.

While these downsides are discouraging, Los Angeles has some key features that make it possibly primed for a big time bike revolution. For one, the weather is pretty fantastic - nothing like the cold rain of the Pacific Northwest or the long winter slog cyclists in Minneapolis and other midwestern and East Coast cities face. For another, with traffic so relentless, biking can be a pretty cheap way for Angelenos to reduce their stress and save some money by getting out of their cars, even if only occasionally. The effect on air quality would be pretty welcome, too.

Perhaps bike sharing can really help create that critical mass of cyclists the city really seems to need, and fast, to use the bike lanes instead of letting them become extra idling space for parking-seeking vehicles.

Monday, April 1, 2013

New Style of Urban Bike Store

A new bike store opened this weekend, sandwiched between two restaurants on the Koreatown section of Toronto's Bloor Street. This is not a major event in Toronto; lots of bike shops have been opening recently, notwithstanding the city's official ambivalence towards two-wheeled transport. But Gallant Cycles is different; there are just a few bikes on the floor, and they are all made to order under the Gallant Badge.

It's a new project by Tony Mammoliti, owner of the successful YNOT Cycle line of bike accessories, and Jason Wood. They have broken the process of choosing a bike down to a series of steps:

Surprisingly, the first step is to pick a colour. Jason has developed a powder coating process that matches the wheel rims to the frame.

Then you pick a frame, in a conventional or step-through design, in a wide range of sizes. you then have an option of single speed, fixed gear, coaster brake, 2 speed automatix coaster or freewheel or 3 speed. It's all so simple.

The design of the store is simple and minimalist; store fixturing is built out of Unistrut, an industrial framing system usually used for hanging pipes and ducts. It is far more attractive than the usual slatwall.

Here, the display system is holding other items in the YNOT line. Jason has hacked the Unistrut with wood strips so that it can accommodate standard Slatwall display hardware but still show the brick behind.

City bikes are a different, relatively new breed of bike. You don't need the weight and suspension of a mountain bike, and you don't want the cost and sitting position of a road bike. You just want to get where you are going in comfort and, frankly, a bit of style, at a not terribly high price. I think Tony and Jason are on to something.

Not much information on the website yet at Gallant Bicycles