Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bikes crowding onto transit

Image of bicycles on Tri-Met MAX car in Portland, OR
From Oregon Public Broadcasting, 07.29.08:

TriMet Tries To Keep Up With Needs Of Bike Commuters
High gas prices are getting more Americans out of their cars, and some are even plotting a new course to work. That could mean jumping on public transit, or hopping on a bicycle. In Portland many commuters are combining those two options.

It's a Tuesday morning, and the MAX Blue line train from Beaverton to Gresham is packed. In fact ridership on TriMet has jumped more than 10 percent over a year ago. Colin Maher: "This is where we have our highest ridership, on these crowded rush hour trains."

That's Colin Maher. He's the Bike Programs Planner for TriMet. Maher says the relationship between high gas prices and record ridership is obvious...Maher says right now four percent of MAX users bring a bike, but that number is rising steadily. Colin Maher: "There's no way...we could pack more bikes on here."

No, more bikes are definitely out of the question headed into the city, but 20 minutes earlier, Cameron Adamez was doing a head count on her westbound train. Ten cyclists, with only four bike hooks to fight over. Adamez just joined the bike commuter movement a few months ago. Cameron Adamez: "I hardly ever...get to bike except on the weekends cause commuting took up a chunk of my time. But I found that when I took my bike I felt better in the morning, and I felt better in the afternoon, and it took me only an hour." (Read more, includes audio.)
This is an encouraging article. No, not because multimodal bicycle commuters are having trouble finding space on transit systems (an encouraging problem to have). But because journalists are starting to deal more substantially with the issues confronting bicycle commuters.

Much of the news coverage this year has been about the novelty of bicycle commuting--"Local Man Rides Bike to Work." In recent weeks, we've seen more articles about specific issues confronting bike commuters: challenges finding bike parking at workplaces; the issue of dressing for work; reducing bicycling injuries; selecting a suitable bike for commuting; improving safety of existing bicycling infrastructure (such as bike lanes or sharrows); and other topics.

Problems don't get addressed until attention is raised about them. There are many existing street and community conditions that challenge wide-spread bicycle commuting. It's gratifying to see the media begin to pay attention.

What bicycle commuting issues would you like to see journalists expose?

Image: BikePortland.org.
Visit: Train 'n Wheels: Caltrain Threatens the Perfect Commute, Wired.com
Visit: Dallas transit agency to add bike racks to buses, Dallas Morning News
Visit: Bicycles Oversaturate Metro Rail & Busway, LAist.com
Visit: City could open bike transit center, Daily Utah Chronicle (Salt Lake)
Visit: Bicycles crowd out riders on commuter rail cars, KSL-TV (Salt Lake City)
Visit: Florida: Cyclists flocking to trains, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Connecticut bicyclists fight for train access, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bikes on rails, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bicycling on transit in Sacramento, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Amtrak Capitol Corridor celebrates 15 years, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Monday, July 28, 2008

Parking a bike gets tougher

Image of crowded bicycle rack
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 07.27.08:

Parking a bike gets tougher in Seattle
It hasn't gotten as bad as trying to park a car in Seattle. There's no need to ride around in circles for blocks finding someplace to lock up a bicycle. But as gas prices skyrocket and more people get from here to there on bikes, Chris Cameron is among the bicyclists who say it's gotten harder to find an open bike rack. You've seen the result--bicycles locked onto racks four deep. "You have to get a little creative," said Cameron, bike commuting program director for the Cascade Bicycle Club.

A shortage of bicycle racks in Seattle? "ABSOLUTELY," said one response to a P-I reporter's question on the Cascade Bicycle Club's Web bulletin board. He blamed the replacement of parking meters for fewer bike-parking kiosks. "Anyone know how many thousands of parking meters have been removed from city streets? They have NOT been replaced with lockable bike racks all over town, sending bicyclists the not-so-clear message that car parking is more important (read revenue stream) than posts bicyclists can lock to," he wrote. (Read more.)
Secure parking for your bicycle is a critical need for bike commuters. The lack of secure parking is often a key obstacle for prospective bike commuters, who can't bring their bicycles into their workplace and are concerned about theft. Employers could do more to encourage bike commuting by converting spaces in their parking lots to accommodate bicycles--12 bikes could fit into the space occupied by one car.

Many communities are recognizing the value of bike lanes and other street safety enhancements. Bike lanes can be cheap to create--often just a stripe of paint--and provide a high visibility facility offering potential ribbon cutting photo ops for publicity seeking politicians. Bike racks are often the neglected component of cycling infrastructure. They can be capital intensive, perhaps $200 or more per rack not including installation. They often require permission from property owners, and may arouse the animosity of advocates for pedestrians and disabled people by encroaching on sidewalk space. Street parking spaces could be converted to bike parking, but this conversion often provokes opposition by retailers. The shortage of bicycle parking is increasing, as many communities such as Seattle convert individual parking meters into validated "pay & display" spaces using an central automated station.

At a time when more people are using bicycles for transportation, it's critical that government agencies develop more secure bicycle parking, including staffed central bike station facilities.

How's your city doing with bike parking?

Image: Peggy Archer.
Visit: Bikes get safe place to spend day, Seattle Times
Visit: Portland Bike Parking: Corral vs Oasis, StreetFilms.org
Visit: Sacramento's Mayor Wants To Add More Bike Racks, KOVR-TV 13
Visit: Making a place to hitch two-wheeled steeds, PhillyBurbs.com
Visit: CycleSafe.com Bike Lockers
Visit: Bike parking a challenge in NYC, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bike racks are beautiful, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Where's the bike rack?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Sunday, July 27, 2008

CBS on bicycles in the U.S.


From CBS News Sunday Morning, 07.27.08:

Pedal Power: With Gas Above $4 A Gallon, More And More People Are Trading In Four Wheels For Two
"Pedal Power" is coming into its own these days, as Americans of all ages are coming to realize biking can be practical, economical, and good clean fun--or should we say, good green fun? With gas prices now more than four dollars a gallon, for some the bicycle today is turning into a different kind of freedom machine...

Several cities like San Francisco, Chicago and Minneapolis are known for their bicycle facilities. But the one that's farthest down the road in making itself bike friendly is Portland, Oregon. Mayor-elect Sam Adams is Portland's transportation commissioner. He'll soon preside over the country's biggest bicycling success story. Remember, less than one percent of Americans cycle for transportation, but here in Portland, that number reaches six percent, and as high as 15 percent in some neighborhoods. (Read more.)
Interesting look at bicycling in the U.S., ranging from recreational riding in California, to bike education and commuting in Massachusetts, to the history of bicycling in the country, to urban planning efforts for bicycling. Clearly the media is paying more attention to bicycles. This is a very cursory overview by CBS, but far more comprehensive as a weekend news magazine story than standard TV news reports.

Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Buying the right commuting bike

Image of bicycle shop in New York City
From the Boston Globe, 07.27.08:

When it comes to 2 wheels, there are countless choices
So you want to get back into bicycling after all these years. Or, perhaps it's time to upgrade from your old gray mare to something more sleek and sexy. Shopping for a new bike can seem overwhelming, especially for neophytes. Fortunately, a wise (Belmont) Wheelworks employee like Michael Simon is on hand to help--and to pose all the right questions.

"What sort of riding are you doing?" the veteran salesman typically asks dazed and confused customers like myself. For fun or fitness or both? Occasional or hardcore commuting, casual cruising, or some specialized sport? Mainly riding on roads or pavement plus dirt paths? For many, the debate is between a road bike and a hybrid or mountain bike - and it often comes down to handlebars. "Usually [clients] have in mind drop handlebars, or they want to be upright," Simon said.

For rides or commutes of 1 1/2 hours or less, Simon suggested a bike with flat handlebars. This puts the cyclist in an upright position with hands set far apart for greater stability and a clearer view of the road. Older bikers or those with poor flexibility often prefer riding upright. A hybrid's longer wheelbase (the distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels), compared with a road bike, also means improved steadiness. "More stability means more confidence," said Simon. "We have a lot of interest in hybrid-style bikes for people who want to ride to work maybe twice a week."

Another consideration: comfort. A hybrid also will typically have wider tires than road bikes, making for a more cushioned ride. All these factors can make hybrids appealing to less confident riders (though their longer wheelbase can make hybrids slightly slower to respond when maneuvering). Most commuter bikes are in the same category as hybrids, he added; they have thinner tires than mountain bikes but wider than road bikes, and some include suspension systems. (Read more.)
As discussed earlier on this blog, many fossil fuel refugees appear to be flocking to bike shops with an enthusiastic desire to become bicycle commuters. The "right" bike is a critical component for effective and fun bicycle commuting. Many visitors to this blog and my bike commuting tips site inquire about appropriate bicycles for commuting. In response, I created a page with suggestions for buying a bicycle.

The Boston Globe article cited here offers many helpful tips, beginning with finding a trusted quality bicycle shop and consulting with shop staff. A good bike shop is a great partner for successful bicycle commuting. Don't even consider the cheap bikes sold by big box discount stores. The article also mentions several specific suitable models, including the Trek 7.3 FX, Trek 7000, Specialized Globe and Globe 6, or Bianchi Valle. Of course, many other brands offer comparable models, including most notably the commuting bike pioneer Breezer Bikes.

In general, for commutes less than 10 miles, I agree that a hybrid bicycle is likely the best choice. For my own commuting, I use a two-year-old Novara Randonee touring bike to make the 17-mile ride between home in Sacramento and office at UC Davis. For some multimodal commuting and around town rides, I have two hybrids, a Bianchi Boardwalk and a Jamis Commuter. I also own a road bike and a mountain bike, which I've used for occasional commute rides.

For many years the bicycle industry chased the athletic cycling consumer with high performance technological enhancements. The resulting carbon fiber wheels, carbon fiber cranks, and 10 gear cassettes offer almost no benefit to everyday bicycle commuters. We need reliable transportation, not high speed advantage. Thankfully, the bicycle industry is now producing a greater range of commuting-specific bicycles. This variety can overwhelm the new bicycle shopper. So before entering the store, consider your commuting needs, do your online research, find a trusted bike shop that welcomes beginning bicyclists, and make test rides on several models.

What advice regarding bicycle choices do you offer new or prospective bike commuters?

Image: Ed Yourdon
Visit: How to choose the right bike for you, NorthJersey.com
Visit: Bargain Basement Bikes: a false economy?, BikeRadar
Visit: Get giddy over that new bike, The Oregonian
Visit: Commuter bikes: Balancing roads, personality, San Francisco Chronicle
Visit: Beginning cyclist tutorial–buying your first bike, Examiner.com
Visit: Local experts weigh in on how to buy a proper bike, RedandBlack.com (University of Georgia)
Visit: Commuter Bike Off!, Huffington Post
Visit: Tuesday Tips: Buying a Bicycle, Washington Post
Visit: Run on bikes leaves slimmer pickings at some shops, Associated Press
Visit: Interest in commuting by bike on the increase, Boston Globe
Visit: Bikes made for commuting are hot!, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bikes com in all shapes for all people, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Getting comfortable on a bike, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Buying a Bike: new or used?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Massachusetts: Bicycle shops reap windfall, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bicycling increases, so does injury rate

Image of Yehuda Moon cartoon on comics
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 07.21.08:

Rookie and rusty cyclists hit streets ... and hospitals
Mike Schatz figured it was the right thing to do. Horrified by his first $70 trip to the gas station, Schatz drove to a bike shop last month, plunked down $2,500 on a new touring bicycle and began two-wheel commuting from his Grant Park home to his office in West Midtown.

The pluses included conservation and fitness as well as frugality--until the morning he went airborne above traffic on West Marietta Street. Hit by a car, he broke both elbows. Afterward he asked himself, "This is what I get for trying to save the environment?"

Cycling advocates say this could be the Summer of Splat on local roads. Take the area's dearth of bike paths, add aggressive Atlanta motorists, then toss in bikers who haven't been on the roads for decades. Presto — the buns are busting all over town. "We're seeing more people getting hit" by cars, said Dr. John Xerogeanes, chief of sports medicine at Emory's Orthopedic and Spine Center. "There are people crashing and people having trouble because they're starting to ride their bike in the city." (Read more.)
Granted, Atlanta is not a bicycling friendly city, ranked by Bicycling Magazine as one of the three worst in the U.S. However, Atlanta is not alone as a city with residents eager to escape the clutches of the gas pump pirates. Many of these fossil fuel refugees are flooding into bike shops and emerging as novice bike commuters. So it's appropriate to post on bicycling safety. The following is a very brief, very basic summary from the safety chapter of my new bicycle commuting book, to be published in November by Adams Media.

Know your bicycle. The best way to improve your bicycling safety is simply to bicycle more. Take your bike to a quiet street or park and practice riding. Learn how your bike handles: how it stops, accelerates, turns, and shifts. Gaining confidence in your bicycle handling skills will greatly improve your safety.

Keep it working.
Many bicycle crashes result from equipment malfunction. Keep your bike well-maintained and you will avoid many problems.

Pre-ride inspection. Before you ride, give your bike the "ABC Quick Check": Air, Brakes, Crankset, Quick Releases. Make sure your tires are inflated, brakes are good, chain is in the chainrings and cogs, and that quick releases are closed.

Be seen. Ride predictably, with traffic, where drivers can see you. Stay in the traffic lane, maintain a straight line. Never ride against traffic; wrong way cycling is extremely dangerous.

Be heard. Communicate with motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists with hand signals, bell, and horn. Make eye contact with motorists, to be sure they see you. Smile when motorists yield the right of way.

Be assertive. Timid riding invites abuse. You have a right to the road. Claim it. Define your space. Don’t be bullied.

Be alert. Watch for hazards: potholes, debris, open car doors. Anticipate. Be familiar with your route.

Speed kills. Going fast on a bike is thrilling. But don't ride at a speed beyond your capabilities. Ride in control at all times.

Be smart. Obey traffic laws. Or the law of traffic. Know your limits.

Bicycling is safe. Sedentary couch potato lifestyles kill far, far more Americans than pedaling. What other suggestions do you offer new bicycle commuters?

Image: Yehuda Moon.
Visit: Bike Safety Hits Close to Home, Washington Post
Visit: Sharing the Streets: Bike Safety, Washington Post
Visit: Safe bicycling video from League of American Bicyclists, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Cyclists should be proactive about safety, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Is Bicycling Safe?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: What to do if you have a collision, (Interview with bicycling attorney Gary Brustin), Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Special Safety Considerations for Women, Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bike commuters dress for work

Image of bicyclist in a suit
From the Reading Eagle (PA), 07.21.08:

What to wear when bicycle commuting?
When the weather is good, Terry Plowman can get from home to his downtown Pittsburgh job in about 45 minutes. Not by car or bus, but by bicycle. And after a quick change from his biking gear to business casual, Plowman is ready for another day of work at Verizon.

There are signs that more Americans are commuting to work on bikes, a trend fueled by environmental concerns and the rising cost of gasoline. "It's unbelievable to me the change that has gone on over the past two or three years," said Brad Quartuccio, editor of Urban Velo, a Pittsburgh-based cycling magazine.

Whether rolling along trails, designated lanes or crowded streets, for bike commuters heading to work there's the question of how to dress. Most people who bike to work don't do so every day because of weather or schedules. But when they do, it takes planning because there's usually a need to groom and change clothes when arriving at work.

Plowman, 54, takes a change of clothes with him each day. Others, like John Burgess at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, keep a mini-wardrobe at the office to avoid added weight on the bike. In nearly five years of biking to campus, the professor has discovered that it's best not to wear your work trousers on the 15-minute trip. "You'll get grease on your pants, even when you're being careful," he said. "And on a hot day, you get sweaty."

There's an added dimension for professional women, who may find it more difficult to manage a bike in a skirt or dress. Barbara Brewton of Pittsburgh wears shorts or capris and a T-shirt, and carries a change of business-casual work clothes on her bike. Kim O'Dell of Mount Lebanon, her co-worker at the Heinz Family Foundation, keeps business suits and heels at the office. (Read more.)
Helpful article from Pennsylvania, about the techniques bicycle commuters use to meet their office apparel needs. Many bicycle commuters who must dress for business employ a variety of means. One standard approach is carrying office clothing carefully rolled in panniers or in a bicycling garment bag; perhaps with an iron at the office for quick touch-ups. Other bike commuters leave all office apparel at work, using a nearby dry cleaner as necessary. And some drive to the office on certain days, with a week's worth of clothing, and bicycle commute the other days. And a lucky few are able to make the commute in their suit or dress.

Any other suggestions for handling the office dress code as a bicycle commuter?

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Bicycle clothes explained, Marion Star (OH)
Visit: Biking to work brings wardrobe considerations, Toledo Blade
Visit: Biking to work forces fashion dilemmas, Scripps Howard News Service
Visit: Biking, walking gain in San Francisco, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: No belt, no bra, no pants?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Marine Corps looks to bicycles

Image of folding bicycle next to Marines Corps helicopter
From Military.com, 07.17.08:

Marines Look to Alternative Commuting
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO--Record high fuel prices have depot personnel turning to alternative forms of transportation. The use of public transportation, bicycles, and carpools are on the rise. The rising price of fuel has led some people to drive less frequently.

Many San Diegans have recently bought bicycles as an alternative to driving. "There is a 20-to-30 percent increase in bike sales lately because of the rise in gas prices," said Mo Karimi, owner of San Diego Bike Shop. "Sometimes we are out of stock on bikes and bike parts because the demand is so high locally and nationwide."

But if a service member lives too far to bicycle to work and doesn't want to pay the full price of public transportation, there is the Transportation Incentive Program available to Navy and Marine Corps military members, federal Department of the Navy civilian employees, nonappropriated fund employees, part-time federal employees and interns, and reservists on active duty for more than 30 days.(Read more.)
For better or worse--in my view, the latter--the American military is a major employer of both civilians and service members. It will be a great thing if the military became a model employer of alternative transportation, especially bicycles. Most military facilities are not easily accessibly by transit; this article comes from San Diego, where the climate and existing infrastructure makes it easier to bicycle.

Are you presently serving in the military or a civilian employee? Are the conditions at your base or facility favorable for bike commuting? What's your experience?

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Air Force Base Hosts Bike to Work Day, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Paris Vélib celebrates first anniversary


From StreetFilms.org, 07.15.08:

On July 15, 2007 Paris debuted the world's largest self-service "bicycle transit system" called Vélib outdoing previously designed bike share programs. Vélib is a balance of scale and functionality, clocking in with more than 20,000 bikes, and 1,451 docking stations, which are never more than 1,000 feet apart. As a result, Vélib is effectively a new form of public transportation that has generated more than 25 million new bicycle trips in its first year, 10% of which substitute former car trips.

Today the program celebrates its first anniversary...In Paris, Vélib has saved the city 10 million km in car trips, roughly equal to $10 million in savings. With 200,000 Parisians paying the city $50 each for an annual Velib pass, this has yielded an additional $10 million in revenues. Beyond economics, Paris has seen tremendous traffic calming and air quality benefits from this public bicycle system. (Read more.)
A great report from the talented folks at StreetFilms.org about the first anniversary of the exciting bike-sharing program in the French capital, Paris Vélib. Several other articles have appeared this week, looking at the experience of Paris Vélib. An extensive article in the British Independent hails the program as a great success, despite having nearly a third of the bicycles vandalized or stolen and the deaths of two riders on Paris Vélib bikes (out of 26 million total users over the year.)
Yet despite the problems, fashion-conscious Parisians have decided Vélib is cool, and fits into their lifestyles. "Everyone has seen for themselves that you can ride in a suit or high-heels without being obliged to wear Lycra shorts," one bike enthusiast told Le Monde...Describing Vélib' as a "form of utopia', Libération newspaper said that the presence of thousands of slow-moving, stately bikes has also had a soothing effect on Paris' frenetic pace. "At the speed of a bicycle, an idea is gaining ground: one of a less arrogant and more human city," it said.
The hordes of Paris Vélib users also seems to be pushing the city to further enhance its already significant network of bikeways. The article also indicates Vélib stations are gaining a reputation as "propitious for flirting."

The Independent (UK) reports:
"In the space of one year the vélib' has become a Parisian institution, giving the streets and boulevards of the French capital a vague air of Amsterdam or Cambridge."
Agence France Presse reports that 94 percent of Parisians approve of Paris Vélib, and that judicial authorities have approved the program's expansion to neighboring communities. The New York Times also suggests that Paris Velib is prompting supportive bicycling policies, quoting one authority: "Bicycles become fashionable, and the more bikes there are in a city, the safer it is, and the more the city will give space to bicyclists."

Many bicycle advocates around the world have been paying attention to the Paris Vélib experience, and its success is inspiring similar programs in other cities. The first American city to launch a similar bike-sharing program is Washington DC, where delayed launch of SmartBike is set for August.

Visit: Is Boston Ready For a Revolution?, Boston Globe Magazine
Visit: No easy ride for bike programs, USA Today
Visit: Bike culture rolls into the mainstream, Globe & Mail (Toronto)
Visit: Bike-Sharing Gets Smart, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: More love for Paris Vélib, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paris Velib is chic, trendy, hip, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Car appeal sinks in rising gas price tide

Andy Singer cartoon
Could America really be ending its love affair with the car?

Earlier on this blog, I wondered if rapidly escalating gas prices might indicate a "tipping point", where the U.S. begins moving to more sustainable transportation, such as bicycling, transit, and walking. Most bicyclists, myself included, doubt that rising fuel costs alone will do the trick. We will continue to need proactive advocacy for bicycling; at a minimum the recent energy "crisis" has given us an opportunity to gain more media awareness for bikes.

However, a few interesting articles in important outlets this week may indicate that if the tipping point is not on the immediate horizon, it might not be far beyond it. From the New York Times, 07.06.08:

At $100 for Tank of Gas, Some Choke on ‘Fill It’
With gasoline prices high and rising, a new financial milestone has arrived: the $100 tank of gas. For decades, the $100 barrel stood as a hypothetical outlier in doom-and-gloom conversations about future oil prices. And nobody could even imagine an American family paying $100 to fill the tank. But the future is here...

For people who love their big vehicles, the pain is acute...Hummer clubs are hurting...In Nebraska, Ric Hines of the Omaha Hummer Owner Group--known as Omahog--stopped doing off-road trips this summer and started riding his recumbent bicycle instead. “I get to camp either way, and biking pushes me to save a few hundred dollars on gas,” Mr. Hines said. (Read more.)
Even more evidence of a rush to sanity in the auto-crazed United States appears in the Guardian (UK). From CommonDreams.org, 07.07.08:
America’s Love Affair Fades as the Car Becomes Burden of Suburbia
It is known as the Inland Empire: a vast stretch of land tucked in the high desert valleys east of Los Angeles. Once home to fruit trees and Indians, it is now a concrete sprawl of jammed freeways, endless suburbs and shopping malls. But here, in the heartland of the four-wheel drive, a revolution is under way. What was once unthinkable is becoming a shocking reality: America’s all-consuming love affair with the car is fading.

Surging petrol prices have worked where environmental arguments have failed. Many Americans have long been told to cut back on car use. Now, facing $4-a-gallon fuel, they have no choice.

Jonathan Baty used to be a pioneer. The lighting designer has cycled to work every day since 1993. It’s a nine-mile round trip through the heartland of a car-based culture once famously termed ‘Autopia’. But now Baty has company on his daily rides as others choose two wheels rather than four to navigate southern California’s streets. ‘We have seen a whole emergence of a bike culture in this area. There is a crescendo of interest,’ said Baty, who does volunteer work for a cycling group, Bicycle Commuter Coalition of the Inland Empire. (Read more.)
Sprawl is the great enemy of bicycle commuting, as expansive car-dependent development creates communities where destinations are spread farther apart. Many communities are pursuing "smart growth" planning strategies to combat sprawl and encourage denser walkable and bikeable development. One of the national leaders in the "smart growth" movement turns out to be my own city of Sacramento. From the Wall Street Journal, 07.07.08:
With Gas Over $4, Cities Explore Whether It's Smart to Be Dense
Sacramento's 'Blueprint' for Growth Draws National Attention

Gasoline was less than $2 a gallon when Mike McKeever brought his gospel of bikes, light rail and tightly packed neighborhoods to this state synonymous with cars, freeways and suburban sprawl. "The development industry was very concerned," says Mr. McKeever, head of Sacramento's regional planning agency.

Seven years later, with gasoline hurtling past $4 a gallon, Sacramento has become one of the nation's most-watched experiments in whether urban planning can help solve everything from high fuel prices to the housing bust to global warming. For decades, backers of "smart-growth" planning principles have preached the benefit of clustering the places where people live more closely with the businesses where they work and shop. Less travel would mean less fuel consumption and less air pollution. "Expensive oil is going to transform the American culture as radically as cheap oil did," predicts David Mogavero, a Sacramento-based architect and smart-growth proponent. (Read more, includes multimedia.)
It won't happen overnight, but a brighter future for bicycle commuting seems probable.

(Apologies to readers: You may have noticed that I'm blogging less this month. I'm presently working on a bicycle commuting book project, which I'm contractually obligated to deliver to the publisher by July 17. Once completed I hope to resume blogging more actively. Certainly the news these days is favorable.)

Image: Andy Singer.
Visit: Suburbs feeling the pinch as fuel prices soar, Reuters
Visit: Bikes help commuters get around gas prices, Los Angeles Times
Visit: Bicycle commuting good for the earth, the wallet and the body, Birmingham News (AL)
Visit: Up yours Big Oil, I'll bicycle, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bicycling makes communities healthier, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Biking, walking gain in San Francisco

Image of bicyclist Cheryl Brinkman
From the San Francisco Chronicle, 06.29.08:

Commuters ditching cars for bikes, foot power
In this era of increasing prices at the pump, bad air quality and general belt-tightening, more people in the Bay Area are opting to commute to work via heart-healthy biking or walking. But the financial and physical benefits aside, that kind of commuting has the potential to wreak havoc on one's professional image--even considering the casual-attire aesthetic that dominates many offices.

Graduate student Lisa Foster refuses to let the peddling keep her from wearing her pumps, as she wrote in an issue of the San Francisco Bike Coalition's Tube Times. "I really think bikes are made for people who wear heels," she said. "You don't have to walk in them. It's so much better."

New bike riders can benefit from the fashion-forward lessons learned by long-time cyclists, many of whom have perfected the little fashion tricks and tips that can ease the transition from congested city streets to cubicle.

Cheryl Brinkman...lives in the lower Haight and commutes 2 miles to her job as a product manager at McKesson Corp., in the Financial District. About her wardrobe, Brinkman said, "I've altered it for the better and only one thing that I don't wear now that I bike so much is long full skirts."

On the days she rides her bike, Brinkman tucks her skirt into a band of elastic that she wraps around one thigh, a homemade garter belt solution, as it were. And, she said, "I always have a small binder clip in my handbag, as well, to keep wrap skirts or dresses closed while pedaling."

She brings her purse but eschews wearing a helmet - not because she fears having dreaded "helmet hair" upon arriving at her destination, but because she believes it gives her an advantage on the road. "I feel safer in the city riding without," she said. "If I ride in Marin, I absolutely wear the helmet, but in the city, when you look more like an average person, I think drivers treat you that way. They give you a little room, treat you nicer." (Read more.)
Great article from San Francisco, with helpful advice for those prospective bike commuters who are concerned about the "dressing-for-the-office" challenge. The article features my friend Cheryl Brinkman, part of the creative team at the Less Car, More Life blog.

As indicated before on this blog, I share Brinkman's attitude on helmets. The anxiety over "helmet hair" is way, way overblown. However, if hair insecurity scares people from bike commuting, then I say "fine, don't wear one." (Helmets mitigate the consequences of a crash; helmets don't prevent a crash.)

Image: San Francisco Chronicle. Bike commuter Cheryl Brinkman of San Francisco
Visit: Facing High Gas Prices And Time Crunch, Commuters Start Biking, Wall Street Journal
Visit: Ride the rails to the river, Less Car, More Life
Visit: No belt, no bra, no pants?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bike Commute Myth Busting, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bike commuters save gas, get exercise, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Bike parking a challenge in NYC

Image of bike racks in New York City
From the New York Times, 07.01.08:

For City Commuters, Same Old Story for Another Vehicle: Parking Is Scarce
Carlos Martinez bicycles to work in Manhattan from his home in Jackson Heights, Queens...But when Mr. Martinez gets to his office on East Fourth Street, where he works as the Latin American liaison for an environmental group called Green Map System, he becomes the envy of riders across the city. That is because the office building allows him to bring his bike upstairs and stash it in a walk-in closet alongside bikes belonging to three or four co-workers.

“It’s one less problem for me,” Mr. Martinez said. “At least I know my vehicle is O.K., so I’m pretty sure I can get back home safely.”

It may seem like a simple sentiment, but having a safe place to store a bike at work is an urban amenity that ranks somewhere with having unfettered roof access or a key to a community garden. While people are generally free to wheel their bikes in and out of residential buildings, commercial buildings often ban them.

At a time when, city officials say, the number of people cycling in New York is soaring and the city has been implementing a plan to create 200 miles of new bike lanes, one glaring problem for those who want to cycle to work is the shortage of parking, particularly in areas like Midtown Manhattan.

“It’s one of the biggest missing links preventing New York from being a world-class bicycling city,” said Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group that promotes bicycling. “It’s the No. 1 reason that serious, savvy cyclists don’t use their bikes to get to work.” (Read more.)
A great article in today's Times, highlighting a critical challenge preventing New York City from becoming a true bicycling capital: lack of secure bicycle parking. The article finds bicycle commuters begging for space in offices, shops or parking garages: scheming to keep their bikes safe outdoors (including use of the heavy Kryptonite New York Fahgettabouditlock); or finding a friendly courier service to store the bike.

Bike lanes and paths are often more politically attractive, because they are visible and provide media-friendly "ribbon cutting" opportunities for attention seeking politicians. But bike parking is equally critical to creating a bike-friendly urban environment. Efforts are underway in NYC to require commercial office buildings to provide space. Surprisingly in a city infamously thick with bike thieves, transit and high-rise office buildings, no mention is made in the article about creation of a Bikestation-type facility, similar to San Francisco's Warm Planet Bikes.

Image: New York Times.
Visit: City Planning Unveils Bike-Friendly Zoning Regs, Streetsblog
Visit More indoor bike parking for NYC municipal workers, Newsday
Visit: Commuter Cycling Is Soaring, City Says, New York Times
Visit: More bicyclists in New York City, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Valet Bike Parking: Idea whose time has come, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Where's the bike rack (retail)?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bike racks are beautiful, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Shelter for smokers, not bikes?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site