Thursday, December 30, 2010

18th St and Columbia Rd

Wooing is key



For those who bike everywhere now, biking in the street is probably no big deal. But most of those cyclists probably fall within the two categories of “Strong and Fearless” or “Enthused and Confident.” Together they make up 8% of the population. In the U.S., 8% is pretty good, but if we really want to break through, we need to find a way to get the 60% who are “Interested but Concerned” to ride a bike.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Out with the new, in with the old?

From the Washington Post:


[B]y picking can-do managers willing to take risks with new ideas, [Fenty] also helped bring about improvements in public safety, transportation, economic development and other areas.

Some of the accomplishments that contributed to the city's success helped to undermine Mr. Fenty politically. The city's changing demography unnerved some longtime residents, as never-healed divisions of race, class and geography reemerged.

Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) was elected mayor with the laudable idea that change can attract new residents without making existing ones feel unwelcome.

Pretty well sums it up.

Though the thinly-disguised code words get so tiring. Just for clarity, for those reading this from other cities, 'longtime residents' and 'existing ones' is DC code to mean black. 'New residents' means white.

Race is an incredibly loaded stew that underlies almost every debate in Washington (meaning the city where people live, not the federal side). Outgoing Mayor Fenty is outgoing largely because race dynamics cost him his job - to oversimplify, whites generally liked what he was doing, blacks generally were pissed off at him. It's really too bad, I really thought that Fenty being bi-racial would be a brilliant way to defuse a lot of the usual brouhaha. In the end he couldn't transcend race with results, which is what he seemed to be trying to do.

Anyway, I can't even begin to get deeper into the complexities and sensitivities of the subject here, and it would be too off-topic. But part of the reason this is actually on-topic at all is the way bike lanes lately have become iconic, lumped with cafes and expensive condos as pseudo-symbols of what whites supposedly want but blacks supposedly don't. At least early on, Capital Bikeshare was sometimes pointed to as hipster folly, even though what could be more Everyman than A-to-B urban transit that costs way less than Metro or the bus?

Vincent Gray says his goal is to create 'One City' from the current parallel universes. We'll see.

Tame and Reclaim



This is a few months old, but still a good one from Streetfilms. Look at the variety of people out using the protected two-way bike lane.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pierce Park

If you're heading into Adams Morgan from Calvert Street Bridge, there are perfectly fine bike lanes on Calvert Street. But the walkways through Walter Pierce Park* make for a decent protected cycletrack as well. Call it the scenic route.

(*Or as my daughter calls it, 'Shady Park', since the tree canopy in the playground area makes it great on hot days.)

I should also mention, since it's hard to tell, this pair looked trés chic.

Extra-stone age

From the BBC:


"The problem is really how people are getting around. They are driving more, cycling less and more likely to be employed in a sedentary job.

"Physical activity is slowly being removed from day-to-day life."

Not to pick on the Brits, it's happening everywhere, not least of course in the US of 'hey, buffet!'. I've read the Aussies have their own obesity epidemic. If only a certain magic wand (on two wheels) weren't staring us right in the face...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

18th St and Columbia Rd

Yeah, I know, I've used this building as a backdrop before. But not at night!

Getting better

From today's Washington Post, in case you missed it:


"This is not bicycling for the sake of bicycling," [Jim Sebastian, cycling coordinator for the District Department of Transportation] said. "We view bicycling as part of our transportation system, like the Circulator [bus service] and Metrorail. We want to give people an alternative."

And, pleasant surprise, for once no counter-punch quotes from disgruntled drivers tacked on at the end for 'balance'. No, 'uh-oh, driving's about to get a lot more treacherous around here, folks!' kind of thing (which I was appalled to see on a TV news bit when the Pennsylvania Ave lanes opened).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A victory lap of sorts


Earlier I saw a tweet from outgoing head of DDOT Gabe Klein who, along with friends and folks from various DC bike orgs, planned an informal happy-hour bike jaunt around some of DC's cycletracks and bike lanes this evening. So I joined 'em.

It was like touring the legacy, especially with some people using CaBis. I suppose it could have been a bummer, what with the uncertainty about the intentions of the incoming mayor. I'm not big on the whole organized ride thing personally, but this was cool. It felt like a victory (and farewell) lap around some of Gabe's signature efforts. Maybe like Cal Ripken's final jog around Camden Yards. Anyway the caroling kept it festive and it wasn't too cold.

We rode down the 17th Street bike lanes, past the White House, caught the tail end of the 15th Street cycletrack, across on the Pennsylvania Ave cycletrack, through Chinatown, back up 15th Street, ending with a few drinks at Marvin back at 14th and U.

Our Man in Munich - Part IV

My friend Mike Tierney, an American expat in Munich, on growing up outside New York and sensory deprivation/activation:

Engaging all of the senses, and observations otherwise missed
3rd Ave Elevated over Cross Bronx Expressway, c. 1974, photo by Jack E. Boucher, via Wikimedia Commons

First, an autobiographical note.  I was born in the Bronx in the early 1960s, but I have no memories of the place.  My family was among the thousands who fled the boroughs of the City for the surrounding countryside.  By that time, Robert Moses and his acolytes had lacerated New York City with highways to make way for the new higher-order life form and left the Bronx drawn and quartered.  The new Cross Bronx Expressway became the evacuation route for those of sufficient means to create a better life as grass farmers and quarter-acre landed gentry in Westchester and Putnam Counties.  It was not long before the neighborhoods of the Bronx died like a drained swamp, all non-auto human life left to die of asphyxiation and UV exposure.  The swamp is an apt metaphor: a carbon sink, a wealth of biodiversity, and a source of nutrients and oxygen for the surrounding area.  

Hudson River Valley, © 2009 James G. Howes
And so I was deposited in the highlands above the Hudson River Valley, around 70 miles north of Manhattan, along with a bunch of other kids from the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.  For a young boy it was the perfect Huck Finn life.  For years I explored miles of former farm fields that were growing into new forests, looking for caves and downed airplanes.  But we were city people: the winding country roads were called "blocks," and many evenings were spent hanging out on "the stoop" and listening to tales of milkmen, horse-drawn produce carts, and epic street stick-ball tournaments.

In my section of the woods ("our block") I was always outside, but that was it.  Otherwise, all I knew of my hometown was experienced from a car.  With the exception of a few parking lots and school playgrounds, my feet never touched the ground.  As a small child, the rest of my hometown was seen from the side window of the family Detroit land yacht, and later as an adolescent it was seen through the front windshield.  No better than High Definition TV, but with an 8-track tape deck and ash trays for everybody.  Had I not regularly hand-cranked the window open, I would never have known the smell of burning leaves (legal then), Indian Summer humidity, and melting snow.

Here endeth the historical note.

Biking through Munich offers sensory activation every kilometer, and it changes with the season.  Crossing the Isar by Rosenheimer Platz, twice a year you are hit with a sweet smell of fermentation from the industrial breweries that provide all the 6-7 million liters of beer consumed at Oktoberfest - with my help, of course.  Apparently, by law, all of the beer consumed must be brewed within the city boundary.

By Giesing (southeast of the city) I pass the Dallmayr coffee plant, where I get several hundred meters of the smell of roasting coffee.

In the fall a morning fog sets in between Giesing and Fasanenpark.  The temperature suddenly drops and only the nearby trees are visible, serving as both landmarks and speedometer.

One particular night offered something otherwise missed.  I was crossing the Isar coming home when I heard a strange splashing sound below the bridge.  I stopped to look.  My first reaction was that someone was driving a Fiat Cinquacento into the Isar.  I looked harder.  It was a beaver.  I swear you could throw a saddle over this thing.  Apparently there are a few of them living around the river, with no natural predators.  I realized then that this beast must be the basis of the Bavarian legend of the "Wolpertinger," a mischievous chimeric monster of the forest, similar to North America's Sasquatch and Mexico's dreaded Goat Sucker.  It submerged in to the blackness, leaving an eerie silence.  I checked my headlight and continued on.

Next:
Integration into the urban landscape and culture

Mo' better


When many bicyclists are on the road, cycling safety improves substantially. […] Now comes data from Portland, Oregon, that suggests encouraging bicycle use leads to greater traffic safety in general.

And, it's worth noting:

[Portland's] 300-mile network cost approximately the same as the construction of a mile of urban freeway.

Friday, December 17, 2010

First snow

Not many winter warriors out yesterday during the first real snow we've had.

Then again it was the middle of a weekday, when people are at work anyway. DC is not one of those cities with nonstop bustle. Morning rush, evening rush, the rest of the time is relatively quiet. Weekends are different, much more of a normal urban flow.

Certainly sounds better

from Greater Greater Washington:


A "bike boulevard" prioritizes cyclists and pedestrians. And it provides motorists slower, more consistent speeds instead of the all-too-familiar race between stop signs and speed humps.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sense, us

No mention of biking directly in this report on new census data, but seems the patterns and reasons for the recent upswing in DC transit use mirror those that can lead to the choice of a bicycle as well.


[It reflects] the influx of younger residents who refuse to spend long hours in the car. Many of those in their 20s and 30s have chosen to live in vibrant neighborhoods along bus, Metro and rail lines, even if it means sacrificing the suburban amenities of their childhoods.

"They came of age in an environment of urbane media influences, watching 'Friends' and 'Seinfeld,' not 'Leave It to Beaver...' "

At Random

Bonowice, Poland, 2003

East and West

Build it and they will come:


In total, the bike count is up 88 percent in the last three years.


And over on the left coast, similar trend, despite the three-year ban on new bike lanes:


San Francisco, governed by a transit-first policy that discourages the use of private automobiles, has an ambitious plan to add 34 miles of bike lanes to the old network of 45 miles by 2014.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A hopefully rare post about helmets

You may have noticed I didn't point out in the previous post that the woman isn't wearing a helmet. First of all, it's obvious and speaks for itself.

Second, I don't want to be the guy saying 'see, don't wear a helmet'. I do want to be the guy saying 'make choices based on adult powers of risk assessment'.

Third, I don't want to talk much about helmets on this blog, because then the same arguments go around and around. It's boring and no one convinces anyone of anything.

With that said, ok, this is more good and sensible ammo for the next time someone says, 'hey, where's your helmet'?


Why does the perception of bicycle safety seem to differ so much with the reality? One reason is this notion that you have to be wearing ’safety gear’ (aka ‘danger gear’ – helmets, fluoro) which any normal person looks at and thinks… “Gee, that MUST be dangerous. I wouldn’t want my husband/wife/child/mother/father doing that. You must be so brave… etc etc”.

I cycle over 5000km per year for commuting and every other trip I would normally take a car for. I haven’t ‘fallen off’ since I was 10 years old. I don’t wear a helmet for 99% of these trips. I’d like to not have to break the law.

A mother knows

To me, this mom-cyclist is one of those quiet, unsung heroes of utility biking in DC. Not because she has the 'right' bike or chic attire. I just like the normal/cool clothes, no special gear, shopping bag in front, funky shoulder bag, kid in tow, a little twirly thing hanging off the back… No nonsense, serene, dignified demeanor, upright posture.

She knew where the not-so-known contraflow bike lane was and used it, unfazed by the trio of Do Not Enter signs. Or by the Brazil-esque (Terry Gilliam film, not the country) ductwork.

That cut-through was a closed road, now given over almost entirely to bikes. More here. It's actually a great back way to cross Adams Morgan north-south without dealing with 18th Street hassles.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Parking ups and downs

Bike parking has proliferated across the city in the last few years. But of course, bikes often end up lashed to any available pole. Like a dog waiting for its owner, or a horse in front of the saloon. But hey, that's one of the real beauties of urban biking, parking right in front of where you're going.

Usually it works perfectly fine.

Sometimes it's slightly awkward, like when dealing with a low parking meter.

And sometimes you come back and your bike is in an undignified heap, all akimbo. That sucks.

Our Man in Munich - Part III

Third in a series from my friend Michael Tierney, an American expat living and cycling in Munich:


The glorious dearth of spandex

I was on a bike path that cuts through the woods along the S-Bahn (Metro) tracks near the Fasangarten stop.  As I approached a street crossing I noticed an older man fifty feet downrange on an old creaking bike.  He was smoking a cigar as he rode, leaving a sequence of smoke clouds behind him.  In my head I heard locomotive sound effects as he accelerated: puff ... ... puff ... ... puff ... puff ... puff - puff - puff - puffpuffpuffpufpfpf.

As I blew through this Morse code SOS of smoke and smoldering lung contents I realized that I never see anyone in spandex.  I have ridden through biker-emitted cigarette plume sequences more often than I have seen anyone wearing an aerodynamic outfit that matches the bike.  Those times have has been on weekends and on paths that run along the river.

This guy is just on his way to work.  Note the gloves.  A good pair of gloves is key.  

The best of the city bikers, however, are the older women, purse in basket, hat defying aerodynamics, and the way they swing one leg in front of the seat and over the pedal crank to coast the last 30 feet of their trip standing on the left pedal.  It is a half century-rehearsed old school side saddle dismount, usually in front of the Apoteke (pharmacy) for a fresh can of purple hair dye.  I love those moments.  But beware and stay out of their way.  They are the curators of bike path etiquette and are quick to dispense terse instructions to anyone breaching them, with steely gaze and Bavarian accent.  They can smell fear and consider hesitation an invitation for a lecture.  Just look down and say "entschuldigen Sie bitte."

Next:
Integration into the urban landscape and culture

Engaging all of the senses and observations otherwise missed

Monday, December 13, 2010

Double Dutch

Just as I was wondering where all the citizen cyclists are hibernating, suddenly two Dutch bikes cross my path? On a cold night, no less. Like seeing two American eagles in this town, at least in the cold months. Ok not both Dutch, Alan's was a beautiful Pashley, Meg had a full-on WorkCycles step-through. They said they lived in Arlington but were up in Petworth for a party.

Let's call Meg and Alan City Zen Cyclists of the day (or evening). I wish I had taken a better picture, maybe I was dazzled...

Talking points


Bottom line (and that is what conservatives like to think they are all about): Cycling saves money, saves lives and makes us stronger as individuals and as a nation. Spending money to support cycling is like putting money in the bank - it pays big dividends at low risk. It’s as all American as Mom’s apple pie. How much more conservative can you get?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Art and a touch of nostalgia

So, Saturday being bike-day whenever possible (meaning bike around the city and do stuff, see people, as opposed to the weekday commute), with babysitter meter running I did manage to squeeze in a short outing yesterday in the pale afternoon.

From home in Petworth, first stopped by the arts fair at Domku cafe. This year it was outside on the sidewalk for the first time.

Ran into a few neighbors, including George.

Passing through Columbia Heights, a girl going by said to her friend, 'I LIKE that bike!' Down 14th Street to Transformer gallery on P Street, to drop in on old friend Jay Stuckey, in from LA for his touring exhibit 'Alptraum'.

Coming home via Adams Morgan, I stopped for some reason in front of the old Ontario Theater, where a number of amazing bands played through the 80s and early 90s (Gang of Four, The Clash, David Bowie's Tin Machine...). The 'hood was pretty rough at that time. Then the Ontario was partitioned into a few retail spaces, mainly you'd go there when you needed a cheap suitcase, or a prescription filled. Now it's shuttered, but at least the pharmacy moved out and down the street, so I wonder if the entire building could be used again for something noble.

City of (seeing the) light

It's not just the Velib bikeahare, Paris is getting the bikescape fundamentals right.


I can say that Paris is definitely a bicycle city. What does it mean? It means that cyclists, bikes and bicycle facilities are clearly visible on the streets. People bike to work, to shops and cafés, wearing normal everyday clothes. Almost all the bicycles are city bikes. Road bikes are also present while cross-country ones are almost completely absent. A significant part of bicycle traffic is represented by Velib’ cyclists

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Let there be color

Normally I prefer black and white photos, as you can probably tell from this blog, or if you happen upon my main photo website. For me there's photography and color photography.

But I don't like to be rigid. And somehow today, despite the sort of dreary light, the photo gods commanded color.



Friday, December 10, 2010

'Til springtime

Many cities are putting their whole bikeshare systems into winter hibernation around now.

In DC the CaBis will keep rolling. Way to buck the city's southern/wimp image when it comes to winter weather. Maybe our bikers will end up being more tough-minded about these things than our drivers.


Bike systems in Denver, the Twin Cities, Nashville, and Washington state are shutting down until springtime [...] The District’s Capital Bikeshare system will not be closing over the winter, but is in the process of creating guidelines for possible snow days when the system must be shut down.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bike of the Day - Trek Belleville

Normally, I have to say, Trek makes some pretty ugly bikes. Not bad bikes, but if aesthetics is part of it, as it should be, this bike is a welcome surprise. Not quite an upright bike as they advertise, but with the chainguard, fenders, racks, internal hub, etc, the Trek Belleville is another major-brand citizen cycle option for a pretty good price. And eco-friendly to boot.

From their website

Inspired by the French porteur bikes of the mid-20th century, Belleville is designed front to back to reduce environmental impact. Fully equipped with steel front and rear racks, generator lights eliminate the need for wasteful batteries and the tires contain regrind and sustainable harvest rubber. The bike is a 3 speed internal but is compatible with single and multi speed derailleur drivetrains.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Zeitgeist and other German words

Zeitgeist. Angst. Alptraum ('nightmare', which I just learned from my friend Jay, who by the way is part of a touring exhibit of that name opening here Friday night).

All seem a propos at the moment, though wait, that's French.

Amazing how the zeitgeist pendulum swings. In keeping with resurgent provincial tendencies (ask Obama about Republicans, or Toronto about their new mayor),  Gabe Klein is out at DDOT. The man who helped bring more positive movement (literally) to DC than almost anyone since Boss Shepherd.

This really sucks, DC was actually gnawing at the edges of world-class in terms of modern thinking and livable-city progress. A few more years of the same could've done wonders. Now we likely won't get a lot of smart urbanistic goodies that we would have under Klein/Fenty. 

Poof, gone, sorry.

Maybe not all gone, but certainly less methinks, and I want all of it. Gray may not be horrible, but we had progressive vision and action in Klein. I'll be shocked if we get half of those qualities in his successor. Hope I'm wrong. More deliberative blah-blah will be the kiss of death, since it will always try to please the naysayers, the knee-jerk, and the car-centric. Or Gray will just say we can't afford any of it. Maybe true of course, but what we can afford is always a question of priorities. Keep your eye on Capital Bikeshare, our jewel of alt-transit. Or, better, sign up for it today if you haven't. If that gets cut, or withers from passive neglect, I'll be seriously depressed for our city.

So we're going to get more deliberation and consultation as standard procedure. Ok. But will bike lanes need to be approved block by block after consulting with residents? Will one block of residents who hate bike lanes kill a whole route? How about people who would use it, will they get a say? Until they figure that out, will any bike lanes be painted? More on this in a previous post.

Gray has given too many mixed signals on bike lanes etc to know where he's headed. Though in the meantime, judging actions, firing the guy who was most associated with bike lanes, bikeshare, and making our urban landscape more livable is obviously a worrisome sign.

Barcelona by Tram - 1908

While we're on the subject of bikes chasing transit - this is simply beautiful, a rolling, dreamscape ballet of Barcelona a century ago. Directed by Ricardo de Baños as part of a documentary series on a city enjoying the first throes of modernity. I would almost say it's idealized, but it's simply a camera mounted on the front of a tram. Rarely have I seen that period come to life as it does in this short film.

Thanks to Sytske Roskam for sending over the Twitter-tubes. Click the link below, I wasn't able to embed the video.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The real danger of biking


This short scene is pretty charming, but does serve as a stark reminder of one of the real perils of bicycling:  you may not be able to catch up to your girlfriend on the bus.

I remember Twist and Shout (Tro, håb og kærlighed in Danish) from around the time it came out in 1984. Really good but under-known coming-of-age film set in 1960s Copenhagen. I've always liked Danish director Bille August. His work usually has a certain atmosphere or quality that you can't quite put your finger on. Something about the muted color palette maybe.

And now for something completely expected

Yes, the moment has come. Time for the obligatory biking-in-winter post.

Not by me. Mine would be - I bike in winter unless it's icy or snowbound. You might try it too, no big deal. No, this is a short practical commentary by blog-comrade James Schwartz up in north country, aka The Urban Country.

Yes, it's getting colder out there, but let's not go wobbly, people. Listen to the Canadian.


When people ask me for tips on winter bicycling, I have very simple advice: Wear what you would have worn if you were going to walk outside in the winter. If it’s wet, throw on some water-proof pants on top of your regular pants, and that’s it. It’s very simple.

full article

Cycle Chic has had a ton of snowy photos lately, northern Europe's been getting buried. But notice the bikes roll on. I like Copenhagenize's version of what James is saying: try to dress for the destination, not the journey.

Update - As usual, I'm referring to reasonably short urban trips. For longer journeys, the Bike Arlington forum has a good discussion of how to make it work and be presentable in the office.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bloomingdale representing


Today's City Zen Cyclist is Coburn Dukehart, pausing on her way to yoga on a cold morning.

(Ok that's a classic photojournalistic white-lie caption, it's posed of course. 'Pausing' because I said hi Coburn, thanks for meeting, this will just take a second, stand there please, click-click, done…)

Coburn bike commutes from home in the Bloomingdale 'hood to her job not far away at NPR, where she's the (first-ever) Photo Editor at NPR.org. She says she sticks to side streets, wearing normal clothes, even skirts as she proudly pointed out. Nice example of structuring your life so such urban citizen-cycling is possible.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Happy bike-day

Sometimes you have a good bike-day.

My Electra was in the shop, so this morning I CaBi'd from Petworth to Bloomingdale for a quick photo shoot. Stopped off at Big Bear Cafe for a coffee (man, the place was packed on a Saturday morning). Then CaBi'd from there to The Bike Rack at 14th and Q (100 percent on the R Street bike lane) to pick up my bike. Ran into one of my neighbors who was thinking about a new bike. I, true to recent form, gave her the upright/slow/normal clothes spiel. I know, I'm probably getting annoying.

Moseyed over to Dupont Circle to look for citizen-cycling pics. Didn't find much going on photo-wise, but did put a few of my Moo calling cards on any parked bikes that looked like candidates for the Chainguard Revolution. In a nice little moment of karma, my friend Eric sent me this cool video that was sort of apropos to the bike-day I was having. Watched it on my phone before heading up to Adams Morgan (first real hill of the day) did a few errands, warmed my hands up in a few places.

Grabbed lunch from one of the Latino vendors who set up on weekends in the little plaza outside City Bikes. Really great Puerto Rican pork and a garlicky plantain dish I can't remember the name of. The nice guy who sold it to me sat down while I was eating it and explained all the inside tricks he uses to make it.

There I met Eryn and Patrick, around the time I was taking this picture of the plaza scene:

They asked me about my bike because she was shopping for an upright bike and had been eyeing the Electras online. She actually had heard of District Citizen Cycling! ("wow, that's you?!") Very cool, first time that's happened. Further up the street, here's Eryn and Patrick taking out the last available CaBis at the 16th and Columbia station:

Riding home, dropped in for the tail end of the bike clinic behind Qualia Coffee on Georgia Avenue, where I finally made some decent photos that helped redeem the day a bit in that regard (see previous post):

Kind of cold out there, and the wind had some bite, but plenty sunny. Nice DC early winter day. Just the kind of bike-day that puts you in touch with the city in a way that driving and walking don't. Walking's great, but biking you're flowing like water through the streets, covering ground quickly while absorbing your changing surroundings, finding a kind of rhythm, feeling DC's great neighborhoods and how they connect. City zen!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

DIY clinic

The Bike House co-op runs free repair clinics on Saturdays from 12-3pm, behind Qualia Coffee in Petworth. Though next Saturday there isn't one, and the Saturday after that [12/18] is the last of the season. Fix your bike and get your coffee fix at the same time.




Friday, December 3, 2010

New Hampshire Ave and Monroe St

No reason a cruiser can't be a perfectly respectable citizen cycle.

Bike of the Day - Public J7

These are actually pretty cute, and an affordable way to ride upright with a chainguard and fenders. Plus not everyone wants the weight of a true Dutch bike. They're made in San Francisco, the closest place to test ride one is in NY, unfortunately. Though you can buy them online.

From their website:

The PUBLIC J7 is our ultra affordable new lightweight, easy-shifting, bike designed for stop-and-go city riding. With its curved, open, step-through frame design, it is often referred to as a Dutch bike. But this classic European geometry is seen on the streets from Denmark to Italy and now more frequently in the US. It especially well suited for those who wear skirts, carry extra weight on the rear rack, or prefer not to swing a leg over a typical frame crossbar. Tastefully understated and seriously overbuilt. Reliable enough to be your everyday, rain or shine, commuter workhorse. Chic enough to turn heads on city streets. Priced to fit student budgets. Color options include our classic Orange and Vanilla.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Connecticut Ave Bridge (aka Taft Bridge)

Crossing this bridge southbound towards Kalorama, I always feel like now I'm entering the city.


color bridge photo used under Creative Commons from NCinDC

Hope and Gray

I really really hope Gabe Klein stays on at DDOT under new mayor Vince Gray. Fenty aside, seems Klein is mainly the one pushing the livable-city changes in DC.


Even in the confined political environment of Washington–where many streetscape changes have to be vetted by multiple levels of city and federal government - Klein has hurled himself into elevating pedestrians and bikes over cars.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Culture of fear



Mikael Colville-Andersen, of Copenhagenize and Cycle Chic fame, speaking today at the TEDx Copenhagen event. Good articulation of the 'culture of fear' - especially surrounding bike helmet use - and how it negatively impacts cycling rates. He points out that a helmet promotional campaign in Denmark (of all places, where cycling is incredibly safe) had the effect of significantly decreasing the number of people willing to bike.

Please, don't respond by thinking 'yeah but I flew 40 feet off my bike and would've cracked my skull open if I wasn't wearing a helmet'. Because first of all, slow down a bit please, maybe reconsider HOW you ride. Sorry, but we need to look at ourselves somewhat in this country, I will say it.

Partly it's the emphasis on biking as sport, not transit. It's also a hangover of the so-called 'vehicular cycling' mentality that has characterized much of our biking for a few decades: ride in traffic, as traffic, claim your lane. Well, if you swim with sharks, you might get eaten. That's also what pisses drivers off the most, a situation in which we can only lose. Or at least look fairly unappealing decked out like a Christmas tree with the requisite lights and reflectors - not to mention the glare off your white knuckles.

But that's all starting to change. Part of the citizen cycling idea is that we can all be ambassadors of a better, safer, more serene and elegant way of cycling that can actually seduce more drivers to get on a bike. Then everyone wins, drivers and bicyclists alike. There's no better way to re-humanize our cities.

Also, as Mikael points out, the evidence of helmet effectiveness is quite split in the scientific community. It's important to be open to the big picture that he presents. That bikes are such a powerful tool for transforming our urban landscapes in a positlve way, on so many levels.

Bottom line, bike as you want, wear a helmet, or don't, but please don't succumb to a psychology of fear. Just bike.

Gangs of DC


Riding home yesterday I came across one of these little herds of kids on bikes, on their way from school. Just south of the Petworth metro, off Georgia Avenue. I see them in the morning sometimes too, passing through Columbia Heights. Looks like how I imagine the Portland bike scene.

I think it's great and cool, but also a little sad in a way. I remember being that age and riding my bike everywhere, by myself or with a friend or two, just launching out on adventures. Kids in the city or suburbs don't get the same freedom now.

Then again, in those days we didn't wear seatbelts, adults smoked a lot more, and a sunburn was a badge of honor. Not to mention the range of unfortunate 1970s fashion choices. But it was a fun time to grow up.

Our Man in Munich - Part II

[Editor's note - Second guest post in a series from my old DC friend Mike Tierney. Now living and working in Munich, he'll provide a closer look at that city's bikescape.]

An opening comment - I have read (including in this blog) that opposition to bike paths is mounting.  As an expat away from the battle lines, I am grateful to all of you who are fighting for the humans, and trying remove the car from its decades-long position as the higher order life form in our country.  Our soul is at stake.

Bike paths and visibility on the intersections

There is a "ring" road - more like a highway - around the perimeter of Munich's original walled city.  This road is rather wide and fast, and cars get bottlenecked at a few key intersections.  One would expect these intersections to be treacherous for bikes, but the city has done an excellent job of making the bike crossings visible.  And let me make this clear: drivers in Munich are fantastic when it comes to looking out for bikes.  It may be that the bike is just one of many forms of transportation in the city, and that every driver rides as well, or knows someone who does.  Even in the busiest intersection, whether from a Maserati, old BMW, broken down Trabant, or Toyota minivan, you are assured of eye contact with the driver as he/she tries to cross your path when turning.  I never take that for granted.

Anyway, this (not so poorly taken as the other photos yet still lousy) picture is of the Lindwurmstrasse bike path as it crosses Sonnenstrasse near Sendlinger Tor, the southern facing gate of the old wall.  This path crosses a set of Tram lines in addition to four car lanes.  Immediately past this intersection to the left is Sendlinger Tor Platz, where a roasted chestnut stand sets up shop for the Winter.  The smell wafts through a hundred meters or so of this stretch of the commute.  I recommend them with a good single malt Scotch.  A bag of eleven costs 3 euros.

The intersection below is at Isartor, the east-facing gate of the original walled city.  The red painted bike path extends across the ring road and around the Isartor toward Marienplatz.  In the evening it is common to be in a pack of bikes on this path.  It is wide enough for abreast.



The same site in a not so jolly time.  These gates are over 800 years old and have seen a lot.  If you cannot read it, the sign says "Death is so permanent, driver carefully," which was obviously meant for occupying US troops.  Note the two bikes to the left.  This image is scanned from a postcard I bought in a bookshop in the Reichenbachstrasse neighborhood.  The postcard rack had ironic war rubble postcards like this, along with early 20th century photos of enormous women carrying ten or fifteen loaded beer steins and Lederhosen-clad men doing the ankle slapping dance.


next:
The glorious dearth of Spandex

Integration into the urban landscape and culture

Engaging all of the senses and observations otherwise missed

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chainguard Revolution


About ten years ago, I was looking for a new bike equipped with something you would think would not be that difficult to find: a chain guard.

Today, […] many manufacturers, from big companies to small start-ups, make specifically urban bicycles, meant for city riding, not laps around the track or careening down a mountain. […] All with that most coveted of things, a chain guard. Some even have the Dutch-style ones, that wrap completely around the chain.

full article

See?? It all starts with the chainguard! That's what I've been tryin' to say!

Grandma rides again

Today my 78-year-old mother got back on a bike for the first time in around 15 years. She had a bit of the wobblies at first but settled into it pretty quickly. Nice and flat, car-free side streets around her house, and I lowered the seat on her old Humber 3-speed so she can put her feet down easily (insert 'granny bike' pun here).

Ok, I'm a little nervous for her, since she didn't really ride much as a kid. But this is the same woman who started playing the cello at age 57, so I'm sure she'll be fine. It'll be good for her hip that's gotten a little funky.

Still, keep it in first gear for a while, mom.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Humber by Hipstamatic

Hanging out at my mom's house on the Chesapeake Bay, nice weekend retreat for me and my daughter. My mom was reading this blog and saying she wanted to dust off her old bike that's been mostly collecting dust for the last fifteen years. So I checked it out and it's this cool Humber 3-speed, an amazing citizen-cycle. According to Wikipedia, Humber was an English brand taken over by Raleigh in the 1930s, up until the 70s.

I'm going to test ride it tomorrow. What sort of things go invisibly bad in a bike that sits that long unused in a basement?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Moving on up


From today's Washington Post:


[...] the District has undertaken one of the most ambitious efforts in the country to promote the use of bicycles.
I've always thought that Capital Bikeshare fits perfectly into the ride-as-you-are concept. So great to see it taking off, along with increased bike use in general. Of course, if you check the comments in the Post piece, the haters are out in force. Incredible how some people can't tolerate the combo of beauty, efficiency, and fun. And as a friend of mine said recently, more biking is better for drivers, they just haven't figured that out yet.