Friday: Bicycles

May is National Bike Month and today is Bike to Work Day.  I know, I know, it seems to come earlier and earlier each year.  But seriously, Americans appear to be willing to entertain the idea that biking in an urban environment can be good for the environment and good for health.  For decades, the bicycle market has been dominated by sports and racing bikes with an emphasis on lightness and speed.  Unfortunately, that left many of us out.  Even hybrids can be can leave a cyclist feeling one quick stop from hurtling over the top of the handle bars.  But recently, we are starting to see the introduction of more upright European bikes and cargo bikes in the US, indicating that there may be a market here for more comfortable and practical riding experiences.  Electric assist bikes can help get you up a hill without feeling like you’re cheating.  Couple that with the addition of more bike lanes in many cities after years of steady advocacy and we may be on the verge of a biking revolution in this country.

To celebrate, let’s take a look at some current bike news:

In Pittsburgh, the Port Authority transit system is adding bike racks to buses.  Check out their handy video on how to “rack and roll“.

New European style bikes mean comfort and places to stash your groceries and laptop.  Check out this video for the features of a typical Dutch bike:

Last month, the British Bobbin came to America.  It’s a bit less upright than Dutch bikes but it’s lighter.  Public Bikes offer a similar style to the upright Dutch bike.  Cargo bikes offer long fenders for paniers or a couple of extra pint sized riders.  Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan at ApartmentTherapy likes the Yuba Mundo 21 Speed Cargo Bike for getting around Manhattan with your kids and your groceries.

And to stash all of your stuff, the new bikes have a lot of nifty options like baskets, bags and paniers.

Urban biking might start a chain reaction of lifestyle changes.  This NYTimes article muses that your dinners might feature more fresh food if you commute by bike since you can’t shop for more than a couple of days at a time when you’re restricted to carrying only one or two grocery bags home.  I can see a whole new retail space for bikers who need to shop for dinner on their way home.  And in Brooklyn, you can meet your friends for a beer or coffee after work and whip out your laptop while you’re waiting for your flat to be fixed.

Sounds great, you say, but what about the hills?  Evanti and CurrieTech offer electric assist bikes complete with solar chargers for the zealous.  I like the iZip E3 Zuma from Currie.  It’s about twice the price of a regular bike but check out that retro style- in aqua.  Lust.

But for those of you who are a bit more adventurous, check out the bike lift in Trondheim, Norway:

It looks so deliciously unsafe and fun, which means we’ll probably never get one here in the states.  But San Francisco is already looking into implementing a bike lift so who knows?  It will probably have guard rails and harnesses and safety seats and will require a release form or something but just thinking about designing one is a fun thought exercise.

The guy who was working at the bike shop I visited yesterday said that REAL bikers would just pedal up the hill but he lives in Metuchen where real HILLS are non-existent.  Try that in a neighborhood of Pittsburgh where the streets go straight up.

Maybe the real impediment to commuter biking taking off in America are bike shop owners who continue to see biking as a highly technical and competitive activity instead of a pleasant, inexpensive and healthy way to get around.  Maybe the next decade will change all of that.  There might be a business opportunity here for the intrepid visionary.

Anyway, have a great National Bike To Work Day.  I’m taking my bike in for a tune up this weekend.  Next week is the annual Tour of Somerville.  I don’t compete but it’s always a fun, festive atmosphere.  See you there?

One final thing: This is city biking in Utrecht.  It’s what American cities could look like if we didn’t have a bunch of hard ass clueless Tea Partiers and Republicans monkeywrenching progress all the time.

Getting the bike paths was no easy task in the Netherlands.  There was a not inconsiderable amount of struggle involved.  Here’s a video that explains how the Dutch did it.  There’s a lesson here for public servants.  Now is the time to push for them.  The timing couldn’t be better to get ahead of the curve.

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13 Responses

  1. Same as in Japan, I think they call them Shopping Bikes. They have a full chain guard and a step thru frame.

  2. Excellent day to ride a bike!!! Doesn’t even seen that I was going to work!

  3. Hi RD. Long time first time. For some good info on electric bikes visit Russ Finley’s blog, Biodiversivist. Some cool videos and other good stuff. Partway thru the Wall Street book. Great read!

    C22

  4. Ann Arbor MI is a bike semi-friendly college town. The buses have pull-down 2-bike racks on front of them. Some streets have bike lanes and some sidewalks have bikeable curb-cut slopes. I happened upon some bike-day festivities at our Farmers Market venue yesterday. They had a little “get photographed holding your suggestion on a blackboard” booth. I got photographed holding my “more bike-racks at bus stops and especially route-terminii stops” suggestion. The nice lady running the booth turned out to be somewhat connected to bike-bus interface-design planning groups. She liked my idea and expanded it by countersuggesting “park and ride” lots for bikes as we now have for cars. I verbally tweaked it to
    ” park, rack, and ride” which she liked. I then suggested what about little flatbed trailers ball-hitchable to the buses and with space on top for 5 or 6 bikes? That would increase bus-bike intermodal back-and-forthing.

    Since I can’t offer any clickable links at this sad little public library computer, I con only suggest a couple of bike links worth reading. An energy conservation site called The Energy Guy has a sub-site link to various bicycle links and articles. An alternatech website called Journey To Forever has an internal subsite link to articles and links about bicycles. There is a company in Ohio called Workman Bicycles which makes ruffntuff bikes and trikes for industrial and mobile-retail users.

    I had my old Raliegh-clone made more upright-sitting friendly by having the handlebar-stem removed and turned around backwards and the various cables etc. re-installed onto the turned-around-backwards stem and handlebars, which put the handlebars closer to my body when sitting upright. I would like to see the gear-wheels have bigger thicker teeth and the chains have matching bigger links for more long-lasting durability. Thicker-rubber more flat resistant tire.
    Thicker wheel-rims and thicker spokes. Working bike-wheels should be halfway between what they are now and “light-duty” motorcycle wheels for yet more long-wearing weight-bearing strength. The bicycle seats of today should be replaced with bicycle CHAIRS with BACKS on them so you can force yourself up against the BACK of the bicycle CHAIR and push more counter-force through your legs and feet onto the pedals.

    I look forward to a world of $8-$10 per gallon gas. That will increase the pressure on bike designers to make aggresively practical hardwearing multi-use cargo-hauling bikes.

  5. The downside to being a bicyclist where I’m from. :(

  6. “It’s what American cities could look like if we didn’t have a bunch of hard ass clueless Tea Partiers and Republicans monkeywrenching progress all the time.”

    Oh, so if we just elected Democrats, we’ll get wonderful bikes lanes such as the ones in the video and increased safety. Except, um, not. As in, not at all, not even close, hardly on the agenda. But yes, if we’re Democrats, let’s pat ourselves on the back and declare victory for being a bike-friendly town…except that it’s not bike-friendly in the least.

    In my heavily Democratic “bike-friendly” town, which has been under Democratic government for my entire lifespan, there are little signs marking ‘bike paths.’ These are strips of pavement possibly 6 inches wide marked off by a white stripe on the road – which end in about 3 blocks. The sudden end of the bike path coincides with the abrupt end of the sidewalk to so you can join the pedestrians walking in the 45mph road or risk the broken glass in the weeds. And sometimes in our town you can find a bike rack but usually not.

    Yeah, I sure recall how bicycling is part of the Democratic party platform to reduce our dependency on oil. Except not. I’ve stopped counting on the Democratic party for unicorns and rainbows anytime soon.

    This is a great idea. So why are you trying to use it as a cheap if inaccurate slam on one half of the dysfunctional two party system?

    • $6.00-$10.00 a gallon for gas will bring you the bike support infrastructure which your local Democrats are trying to sabotage and prevent. So $6-10 buxagallon gas is the thing to wish for if you want a bike-friendlier world.

    • No, if we stop voting for Tea Partiers and Republicans we’d be able to accomplish these things. I said nothing Bout electing Democrafs. What we need is an influx of Democratic Socialists. There, I said it. You tea party people and Republicans are out of your fucking minds and your ability to swallow stupidity is legendary.

  7. The 1st Compressed Air powered CAR traveled 100 miles IN THE 1820′s ! C.A.Locomotives ran 1829 to 1948 until The Rockerfeller OIL Cartel EXPUNGED them.Water/Windmills etc…power compressors & store energy for years.When Drake drilled his 1st OIL well The COMMISSIONER of COMMERCE declared the DEATH of FREE ENERGY & The BIRTH of the 1%. Confirm this see A car that runs on air by MDI on you tube & see others as well.( perpetualmotion100 ) STOP POVERTY & THIS CORRUPT CANNIBALISTIC GOVERNMENT FROM ENSLAVING YOUR CHILDREN.THE UNBORN OWE OVER $50,000.00 IN DEBT.BEING WORTH MORE AS ORGAN DONORS THAN TAX PAYERS.& YES THERE ARE BETTER WAYS TO BUILD FREE ENERGY DEVICES see perpetualmotion100 for FREE information on how to build your own FREE ENERGY DEVICE = NO B.S. just FREE information.

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