Tuesday, February 21, 2012


In case it wasn't already obvious, I've stopped posting to this urban cycling blog. I'm proud of the content on DCC and will leave it up for a while for visitors who drop in. But I believe a blog is allowed to be a finite project, in this case one that I don't have time to continue any more.

Power on, 'just ride', and keep trying to make Washington DC and cities everywhere better for cycling (and walking and transit for that matter).

Cheers, Bill

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bikesharing and safety

This is interesting, in part because the article and even some of the comments are starting to catch on to what often gets lost in the debate over helmets and bike safety generally - that's it's all about HOW you ride!

Stats are starting to show that bike-sharing is safer than riding your personal bike. Maybe because many people's riding styles on their personal bikes are faster, hunched over (meaning primed for forward ejection in almost any incident), and likely competing with traffic. Plus bikeshare tends to be used in urban environments for short, casual trips, as opposed to long commutes or sport/recreation warrior-ing.

Heavy, slow, upright bikeshare bikes inherently enforce more of a citizen-cycling mode, making it quite rare to be injured while biking. Yes, even on the mean streets of North America, London, etc. Let's hope the lesson can be applied to personal bikes.

And before certain people start shrieking, no, I don't mean 'hey everyone, stop wearing a helmet'. Do what makes sense for you. Helmet or not, it just seems to be proving out that citizen cycling (for lack of a better term to encompass many aspects) is safer. Let's stop pretending that all biking is the same.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lane-blockers or trail-blazers?

Had a somewhat conflicted moment when driving to my daughter's school today.

Two rather charming-looking young women (attractive, wearing normal/chic clothes) were ambling down the road toward me on their humble citizen-cycles (upright, chainguard, basket, you get the picture). They were not going very fast, very leisurely.

They weren't riding single file, they were riding next to each other so they could chat as they went along, basically blocked the single lane of traffic. It was a residential street (5th Street southbound, north of Grant Circle) in a fairly quiet neighborhood (Petworth) but there is some through-traffic along there.

I had a double-reaction. First thought, as their comrade in the Chainguard Revolution - 'hey, cool, that's my kind of cyclists'.

Followed quickly by 'you know girls, you're going to piss someone off blocking the road like that, and make a bad name for cyclists'. Right on cue, as I got closer, a stressed-out looking woman in her SUV gave them a wide berth with a distinctly irritated look on her face.

I felt a little ashamed chastising the bikers like that, albeit internally. I guess when driving it's hard not to think like a driver.

What do you think, were they inconsiderate or perfectly within their rights? Somewhere in between? Were they creating a positive model of biking, and was the driver just another negative example of North American car-centrism? Or, given the narrow road with no bike lane, should the bikers have made room for cars? Was this a case of citizen cyclists paradoxically claiming the vehicular cycling mantra of 'claim your lane'? How would drivers' reactions (including my own) to them differed in certain bike-friendly European cities? Was I being the ass I strive to oppose, or just being realistic?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Case for Bicycle Infrastructure

This is great, saw it over on Copenhagenize today. Basically a mighty (yet accessible) barrage of international research bits backing up the virtues of bike lanes and cycletracks. Hope it trickles down to all the dark, musty places where the idea somehow still lurks that somehow bike lanes - especially protected lanes - are somehow a bad idea or not worth the investment.

Someone in DC might want to pass this along to new DDOT Director Terry Bellamy.

Much of the rest of the world including quite a bunch of (presumably) smart people seem to have come to the conclusion cycle lanes and cycle tracks are very much worth every penny.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Go, social-planning technocrats!

Great article from today's New York Times.

Dutch drivers are taught that when you are about to get out of the car, you reach for the door handle with your right hand — bringing your arm across your body to the door. This forces a driver to swivel shoulders and head, so that before opening the door you can see if there is a bike coming from behind. Likewise, every Dutch child has to pass a bicycle safety exam at school. The coexistence of different modes of travel is hard-wired into the culture.

This in turn relates to lots of other things — such as bread. How? Cyclists can’t carry six bags of groceries; bulk buying is almost nonexistent. Instead of shopping for a week, people stop at the market daily. So the need for processed loaves that will last for days is gone. A result: good bread.

Gotta love the kicker at the end:

But while many Americans see their cars as an extension of their individual freedom, to some of us owning a car is a burden, and in a city a double burden. I find the recrafting of the city in order to lessen — or eliminate — the need for cars to be not just grudgingly acceptable, but, yes, an expansion of my individual freedom. So I say (in this case, at least): Go, social-planning technocrats! If only America’s cities could be so free.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stationary bike station

From reader Rob Jordan:

Here's a pic I snapped yesterday near Eastern Market. Kids were pedaling in place on CaBi bikes, and seemed to be having a great time.

Monday, July 11, 2011

'No, see, we DO bike'

From today's Washington Post:

Biking took a beating in last year’s mayoral election. For some political activists and residents who had soured on former mayor Adrian M. Fenty, the freshly painted bike lanes spreading along major streets around the city became a symbol of the young white people pushing longtime black residents out of the District.

The backlash came at a time when researchers cite an explosion in cycling around the country, as new residents pour into revitalized urban communities and look for cheaper, greener ways to get around. The District is at the vanguard of the cycling boom, with the percentage of workers who commute by bike nearly tripling over the last 20 years, rising from 0.8 percent in 1990 to 2.2 percent in 2009. That rate puts Washington among the top 10 U.S. cities.

But the racial gap for cycling is huge, both locally and nationally. Cycling advocates and enthusiasts say groups like Black Women Bike DC, which launched on Facebook six weeks ago with three women and now has more than 60 members, could encourage more African Americans to consider biking for transportation and recreation. Those pushing to expand biking infrastructure throughout the city hope that more participation by black cyclists would stem opposition to bike lanes, racks and bike-sharing facilities.

Nice to see my Petworth neighbor Marya mentioned at the end of the article!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

First ride

My wife grew up in Dakar, Senegal and never fully learned to ride a bike. Not that kids there don't, ever, but especially for girls it's not the given that it is here in the US. If anything, among better-off urban Africans, bikes can sometimes be seen as what you ride if you… well, can't afford a car.

Anyway, she's talked about getting on a bike for quite a while and finally we got around to the big moment yesterday. We went to the Capital Bikeshare station at the bottom end of the National Zoo, since it was closest to a nice quiet trail in Rock Creek Park.

What immediately became apparent is how not learning to ride as a child makes cycling a surprisingly difficult balancing act (literally) as an adult. She was very unsteady at first and tended to veer wildly in unexpected directions. But with the help of her youngest sister - who does ride - she kept at it and had a few really nice runs near the end. Great job!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Woe, Canada

First a prelude (rather lengthy and disproportionate, sorry) for today's post, which is actually about Toronto:

I suppose we in North America shouldn't be surprised. After the past few years of watching increased urban bicycling - and in particular the idea of citizen cycling, previously almost unheard of here - the pendulum swings. Or at least there are plenty of people trying to give the pendulum a shove.

New York City is a well-known case, notable both for its exponential blossoming of bike lanes and the degree of pushback from some quarters. Yet somehow amid the characteristic rancor, you have the feeling that over the long haul the city's commitment is there and the disgruntled will come around.

So much depends on that top-down commitment. Here in Washington DC, nerves have been somewhat frayed among cyclists since the ouster of pro-bike Mayor Adrian Fenty and his even more pro-bike transportation head Gabe Klein. DC at least has Capital Bikeshare and lots of nice new bike goodies to remember them by, and the new mayor, Vincent Gray, has paid lip service to supporting continued improvements. Yet recent backtracking on one major downtown bike project (see previous post), long in the works, has twanged people's gut fears:  that the Gray administration doesn't mind improved biking, you know... as long as it doesn't infringe on parking. Or driving. Or the budget. Or someone who doesn't like it.

What the Dynamic Duo of Fenty-Klein showed us is that it takes vision and relentless advocacy for real progress, not just passive acceptance that can go wobbly when presented with any number of conventional (usually discredited) arguments. I expect that under Gray, DC may eventually see at least a slight net loss of bike amenities, at least if you count amenities promised and/or planned. Though I don't expect him to start taking out existing lanes.

Theeennn there's Toronto. Moving aggressively backwards now under the new mayor, Rob Ford. Hoo-boy. This guy does not like bikes and doesn't care who knows it. His lips are paying another kind of service. Some bike lanes are about to be removed, including from Jarvis Street. Here's a roundup of coverage, starting with James over on the esteemed Urban Country blog, who put it in his usual good perspective:

Copenhagenize today has an informal video poll of cyclists and drivers on Jarvis Street, where Ford and the city council (which includes Ford's brother - see the charming photo at the end of the post - who apparently jokes about hitting bikers with his SUV; click here and scroll down about halfway) will apparently be successful in drawing first blood. Metaphorically and likely literally, as cyclists are cast back in among the cars. Another recent post has a very interesting email exchange between a citizen and Ford's office on the matter.

Streetsblog also has a good recent item on the Toronto situation.

As I said, we shouldn't be surprised. Or complacent. Usually the debate is whether the bike gods (i.e. your local government) will giveth or withhold(eth) the means for bikes to coexist on the roads with relative safety. To give to not to give. Now the precedent has been established for trying to take it away.

[A final aside for DC readers - If you want to get the M and L Street cycletracks built, one good way to help is to USE the 15th Street cycletrack. Please go out of your way to use it if necessary. You think they won't look at those numbers when making the final arguments for the downtown lanes?]

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Backtracking on Cycletracks

Great. Look out DC bike amenities, here comes the death-by-not-quite-enough-enthusiasm that many feared from the new mayor. Well, his new DDOT director, but same thing. At Director Bellamy's confirmation hearing - wow, before he's even official - the playing to the wrong crowd has begun:

Much of last week’s confirmation hearing for DDOT Director Terry Bellamy went smoothly.  He said the right things, including stating support for improved bicycling.  But when asked about specific projects, things went less smoothly. Specifically, Director Bellamy said that the L and M Street cycletracks were “on hold” and that “we may not do them” due to concerns over parking removal.

Now there's some courage and vision. Click here for the full post on the WABA blog. And more importantly, if you want to express support for the promised downtown cycletracks, click here.

Where have you gone, Gabe Klein? A city turns its lonely eyes to you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Twins' wonder

I came across this nice promo video for Minneapolis' Midtown Greenway, claimed from an old rail line, and this item about their new self-service bike repair kiosks.

Anyone ridden there? Aside from the Greenway itself, anyone know if the city's other urban bikeways are well-integrated? Meaning, once you drop back in with the cars, how well is the city doing on that front? Is the city ranked as the top biking city mainly for the Greenway, or for the whole picture?

Makes me wonder what in the hell is taking so long with DC's Metropolitan Branch Trail.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

VA CaBi expansion

If you're in the DC-VA area and recognize Capital Bikeshare as the positive game-changer that it is, think about coming on out Monday night to a meeting about new stations planned for Arlington. Sounds like you can also make a pitch for a station on your block.

Hey, maybe the ArlingtonGOP folks will be there in full-throat against, per their recent anti-CaBi blog post. (Well, not so recent, April actually. In fact, seems that was their most recent post. Boy, just when I was feeling bad for MY periodic posting slow-downs.)

From the CaBi announcement:

Public Meeting on Capital Bikeshare in Arlington
Monday, June 27 at 7:00pm

Capital Bikeshare has exciting plans for expansion throughout the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor within the next year and your input is needed. The Arlington County Department of Environment Services cordially invites you to offer your feedback on proposed stations and to make suggestions for other locations. Nearly 30 stations are already proposed for the Rosslyn, Courthouse, Clarendon, Virginia Square, and Ballston urban villages. All were determined with the assistance of a Bikeshare Demand Map, which analyzed population and employment density, bike and transit facilities, and destinations to estimate demand for public bicycles […]. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yeah, it really should be a sidewalk

[from reader Herb C.]

With regard to the previous post on taking public space away from cars and giving it back to people: 

Here in Cleveland Park we're fighting the good fight to restore and pedestrianize the broad sidewalk on Connecticut that was destroyed in the 1960s to create the bizarre little service/parking lane that's now there. This block could be a vibrant public space with sidewalk caf├ęs, etc. A recent poll on the CP listserv showed 2-to-1 support for the idea, although the usual suspects are unenthusiastic or opposed, on the grounds that our commercial strip can't survive without the couple dozen parking spots on the inside of the lane. 

The campaign is called "I Wish This Was a Sidewalk" (inspired by Civic Center's "I Wish This Was" project in New Orleans). 

Please take a look and sign the petition if you're so inclined!

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Amsterdam

From my recent photo shoot for de Volkskrant, a Dutch newspaper. The pictures accompanied a commentary about NYC's evolving bikescape, this one was used as the lead (a layout PDF is here, look on p.4-5 for a couple of extra photos).

Part of the article's emphasis was on the 'rocky transition' and the 'uneasy coexistence' between bikes and peds and cars. Dunno, all seemed pretty right with the world, but I suppose the detente could have been due to the Memorial Day weekend.

And man, is NY doing an incredible job of taking public space away from cars and giving it back to people. Examples are all over the place. That was almost more striking than the bike lanes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

V Street

This great-looking Kronan utility bike was parked in front of the newish American Ice Company bar one afternoon recently. Nice details and apparently they are relatively inexpensive for an upright bike, in the Electra/Public range, but see this 2008 blog post with quite a range of comments about the build quality etc.

Bike Century

Like Bike-to-Work Day? Well, Copenhagenize - with tongue apparently at least partly in cheek - has tried to up the ante with their Bike Century campaign.

Not sure it's more than a half-joking branding exercise, but hey, one more way to plant your flag for a bike-centric future.

You can join the FB group here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Better for drivers and peds too

Streetfilms decided to look at three of NYC’s most recent re-designs — Columbus Avenue, First and Second Avenues, and Prospect Park West — and show how pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers benefit from safer, calmer streets.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Radar love

So I'm driving down 14th Street yesterday and my 5-year-old daughter says 'look daddy, that woman is riding a bike with high heels, take a picture!' Plenty of other bikers out and about, yet her radar was tuned to the citizen cyclist.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pinwheel revolution

Introducing a new green bike accessory that harnesses the awesome power of wind as you ride.

You see, the faster you go, the faster it spins, though I can't make scientific claims as to its propulsion capabilities. This is merely a prototype. Haven't figured out how to turn it off either, you park your bike and it keeps on spinning.

As you can see it's actually partly green. And kind of shiny, so it's a safety device as well, making you more visible.

This technology, like many great human advances, was stumbled upon inadvertently. In this case, when I picked my daughter up from school on the bike and she didn't have a free hand to hold her pinwheel.

(Ok, seriously now, who wants to invent a pinwheel-powered bike light? There's an idea for you right there. You're welcome.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

When in Wien

My friend Andre, a recent convert to DC's CaBi, sent some pics of the bikeshare in Vienna. Anyone ever used it?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cool coup

From The Atlantic:

How a stylish, convenient bikeshare program catapulted the District into the ranks of America's elite biking cities

So cool that - as touched on in the article - these days you're not guaranteed to find a bike at popular stations in rush hour. Like this morning, the station at Petworth was empty (first time it's happened to me), so I walked to Columbia Heights and got a bike in front of the Giant. Then when I dropped it off on the west end of Calvert Street bridge, the guy in the photo was happy to snatch it up, as that module was empty too.

Not a complaint, I love you dearly, CaBi. You're the best thing, babe, perhaps in all of the North American bikescape at the moment, the only real competition being Montreal's Bixi and NY's bike lanes.

What I love the most is that it has basically institutionalized the citizen cycling model, with its bike-as-you-are mindset, upright/slower ride, A-to-Bism, and designing it as integrated transit, not 'bike rental'.

And the chainguard of course. I still say the revolution starts with the humble chainguard.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tipping point

I read somewhere on the Twittersphere that biking levels in DC have seemed to be at a tipping point as spring weather breaks out, with cyclists '15 deep' reported at one stop light.

I don't get out enough, but if it's true then three of the factors are in this photo from this morning: 1) normal DC suit figured out that biking is the best way to get to work, and didn't require special gear or an alternative lifestyle; 2) all the new bike lanes; and 3) Capital Bikeshare.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Red menace

The ArlingtonGOP blog had an interesting post the other day, County yanks parking spaces in Rosslyn, which sure sounds alarming but you know, funny enough, it was actually about expansion of the popular Capital Bikeshare (which operates in Washington DC and parts of Northern Virginia, for those reading non-locally).

What? Oh, sorry, I mean it was about 'the seizure of valuable on-street parking spaces for an under-used bike service'.

Yeah, and you know what else? You know some of those underused sidewalks in Arlington, that are empty pretty much all the time, except during lunch, or maybe some old person? I can’t BELIEVE those haven’t been converted to parking spaces, or hell, a new lane of traffic. Pedestrians aren’t really using ‘em, and what are they doing walking around in the public realm anyway?? The public realm is for cars and drivers! Pave, baby, pave!

I heard those RED (hmm, coincidence???) bikes are pretty popular over in the District. But this is Virginia, we D-R-I-V-E. Why do those damn Dems keep frustrating motorists with annoying alternatives?

Ok, sorry, couldn't help it. I mean, really. I believe the breakdown was losing eight parking spaces total in three locations, gaining three bikeshare dock modules of approximately twelve bikes each. WashCycle has a full and sensible rebuttal.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

'ello Guv

While driving home this evening I spotted ol' Arnold Schwarzenegger cruising west on the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack, right below the Capitol. Caught up to him on Constitution to make sure I had a clear shot from the car. I know, Citizen Paparazzi. Apparently the former governator had a meeting earlier in the day with Obama about immigration reform.