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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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