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.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Build it and they will ride

Great to see this, sent in by the National Building Museum's Patrick Kraich (who, as it happens, is photo number 19 in the sidebar slideshow... I do recall photo-stalking him and his Electra). Tickets and event info here.

DC Builds: Build It and They Will Ride

During the past ten years, Washington, D.C., has seen an increase in the number of people bicycling as their principal form of transportation. One of the reasons for this growth is the conception and implementation of creative bicycling infrastructure throughout the city.

The District of Columbia has created over 50 miles of marked bike lanes, built the architecturally daring Bikestation parking structure at Union Station, installed more than 1,000 outdoor bike parking racks, and launched the successful Capital Bikeshare Program, the nation’s first and largest bike sharing program which serves all of the District of Columbia as well as Arlington County, VA. 

How can D.C. continue to build on these successful efforts? How does high-quality bicycle infrastructure assist in reaching the city’s goals of providing sustainable, multi-modal transportation options, reducing congestion, and decreasing pollution?

The National Building Museum convenes a panel of experts to answer these questions. The panel discusses future plans for Washington, D.C.’s bicycle infrastructure as well as potential challenges, including ease of use, safety, connectivity, and how the economic downturn affects planning, design, and construction of new bicycle facilities.

This program is presented during May in celebration of National Bike Month.
Panelists include:
Jennifer L. Toole, AICP, ASLA, principal, Toole Design Group
Shane Farthing, executive director, Washington Area Bicyclist Association
Jim Sebastian, supervisory transportation planner, Active Transportation Branch, District Department of Transportation.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Connecticut Ave

Ah spring. Even the citizen (uni)cyclists were out today. I was thinking, wow, they're so friendly and funky for DC…

Yep, they were from Baltimore.

Kunstler part II

Following up on yesterday's post, my friend Mike sent me this video of James Howard Kunstler's TED talk from 2004. If you don't know Kunstler it's a great intro. If you're already a fan, you'll remember why. A few brilliant laugh out loud lines, woven into his trademark deconstruction of the American Way. At least, our Way of building places and spaces over the last few generations.

What do his urbanism concepts have to do with bikes? I'd argue 'everything'. Bicycling goes hand in hand with the holistic world we create, or more precisely, the world we choose to live in. The world of, say, the pre-1960s naturally gave birth to a cycling mindset that today we might refer to as citizen cycling but then was just cycling.

Today, what North Americans typically think of as normal biking - faster, longer distances, hunched over, often with recreation or sport in mind, wearing specialized clothing and gear - was born of our very different world. People live farther apart, farther from work, in a more fractured and sprawling physical landscape, with time only on the weekends to ride for exercise or sport.

I always say biking is not just about bikes. In fact I actually don't care much about bikes themselves or biking per se as most people think of it these days. I care about cities, and the quality of life that a well-designed built landscape creates. A humane landscape that, incidentally, not only allows for more civilized biking but encourages it. Bikes, like birds or butterflies or good cafes or people walking around in a relaxed way, are a result, a symptom - when you see more bikes around, and people look happy, not grim, riding them, it means your city or town is doing many things right in creating a vibrant and harmonious human environment.

I happen to believe that a massive increase in biking - meaning getting non-bikers to consider getting on a bike - would cure a lot of what ails us. I think promoting the citizen cycling model is a good way to do that.

Better biking > better cities. Better cities > better biking (Copenhagen has a lot of bikes because it's a great city, and is a great city, in part, because it has a lot of bikes).

And no one is more about better cities than James Kunstler.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Clusterf--k nation

I always liked James Kunstler. I saw him speak at the National Building Museum years ago. His cutting and intelligent (even witty, at least never boring) books, particularly The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere, resonate totally with my visceral feelings about suburbia versus quality urbanism, among other things. He's become somewhat of a ranting gloom-and-doomer about peak oil and our national obsession with not facing reality about where we're headed as a country. But that doesn't make him wrong. More like the only one in the room willing to say certain things.

I usually read his, ahem, 'Clusterfuck Nation' blog pretty regularly via RSS. Here's a sample bit from the most recent post. A lot of his recurring themes, nothing about bikes per se but still has everything to do with a national dilemma that bikes - ok ok, yeah, along with a fundamentally revamped national physical landscape and a mass conversion away from suburban sprawl and auto-dependency - would go a long way toward helping to solve. (I actually find his general silence about bicycling puzzling, since I believe he bikes around the town in upstate NY where he lives...)


Here's something to chew on: we run about 250 million cars in the USA. Let's say we ramped up an electric vehicle fleet of 10 million cars - which, by the way, is a purely hypothetical and wildly optimistic number. Do you think it might be a political problem if 10 million lucky Americans get to drive electric cars while everybody else either pays through the nose for gasoline, or can't even afford to own a car anymore?

There are a few things you can state categorically about the US energy predicament and the national conversation we're having about it - including the leaders of that conversation in government, business, and the media. One is that we are blowing a lot of green smoke up our collective ass. None of these schemes is going to work as advertised. The disappointment over them will be massive and probably lead to awful political consequences.

Another is that we are ignoring the most obvious intelligent responses to this predicament, namely, shifting our focus to walkable communities and public transit, especially rebuilding the American passenger railroad system - without which, I assure you, we will be most regrettably screwed ten years from now. Mr. Obama had one throwaway line in his speech about public transit and nothing whatever about walkable neighborhoods.

The reason for this obvious idiocy is that it's all about the cars. That's all we care about in the USA, the cars. We can't get over the cars. We can't talk about anything except how we'll find magical new ways to run all the cars. This is a very tragic sort of stupidity and if we don't change our thinking about it, from the highest level on down, history is going to treat us very cruelly.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Windsor and Odin

Shockingly warm coming home from work today. A perfectly normal spring morning gave way to a breezy summer-like afternoon. Spied this Windsor chainguard-and-fenders number parked rather fetchingly. The owner, Andrea, was nice enough to indulge me and so was Odin. Good boy, Odin. I've never heard of the Windsor brand and neither had Andrea, she said she just found it online and liked the way it looked. Good enough reason.

Aveiro dreaming

Saw this on Copenhagenize, it's just a beautiful, dream-like little film showing bicycling in Aveiro, Portugal.