Monday, September 29, 2008

Employers warm to bicycle commuting



Work demands have limited my blogging activity. However, in catching up on the bicycle commuting news, a couple items in September seem important to share. One item is this video, which highlights bicycle encouragement programs at the National Institutes of Health, Discovery Channel, and Google.

Another important article on bicycle-friendly employers is this article from Chicago. From Crain's Chicago Business, 09.16.08:

Bike commuters find employers that smooth path

As more Chicago-area commuters opt to bike to work, many workplaces have made an effort to accommodate workers on two wheels, greeting them with secure parking spaces and hot showers. "Businesses are recognizing the benefit of having healthy, happy employees," said Margo O'Hara of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation...

Whether it's due to rising popularity of the green movement or recent sky-high gas prices, many workplaces are gearing up for an increase in bicycle traffic...The Sears Tower offers bike-friendly services to its more than 100 tenants and is ready to add more. "We roughly quadrupled our (bicycle parking) capacity (last) September," said Tom Dempsey, vice-president and general manager. There are now 49 indoor bicycle parking stalls in the garage on the first level, 44 of which are being leased to tenants for $25 per month or $200 per year. "If we lease up the next five stalls, we would definitely add more."

Mr. Dempsey is also exploring other ways to accommodate bicycle commuters, including offering tenants discounted memberships at a health club in the building, where they can use the showers. And they can sign out bicycles from the garage, free of charge, as part of a bike-sharing program. "I have a bike in (the building) garage that I use for meetings, and that kind of inspired it," Mr. Dempsey said. "It's a green alternative to a taxi or having to drive your car downtown because you have an outside meeting." (Read more.)
Bicycle commuting is more appealing when your workplace is supportive. There are many advantages to those employers that encourage bicycle commuting, including improved health of employees, better morale, reduced absenteeism, and reduced demand for vehicle parking. And employers who offer a diverse mix of transportation access have a competitive advantage recruiting the most talented staff.

How does your employer support bicycle commuting? What incentives or support might your employer offer to encourage more of your colleagues to bicycle commute? Health club membership? Cash for bicycling mileage? Secure bicycle parking?

Visit: As Bike Commuting Gains Traction, Companies Get Into Gear, CNBC.com
Visit: Firms promote cycling to work, United Press International
Visit: Bringing a bike to work would be easier under new bill, New York Daily News
Visit: Employers Finally Giving Bike Commuters Some Love, Wired.com
Visit: Wisconsin’s commuters parking cars in favor of bikes, Milwaukee Journal-Standard
Visit: Bicycling to work can show what co-workers think about you, Chico Enterprise-Record
Visit: Employers: Embrace bicycle commuting, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Portland: Leaving the car behind, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Pharma corp embraces bike commuting, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
Thanks to TheRealEdwin at Current for sharing video link.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Optimism rages at Interbike

Image of titanium commuting bicycle at Interbike 2008
From Wired.com, 09.28.08:

As America Implodes, The Bike Industry Booms
LAS VEGAS--It's never been a better time to be in the bicycle business, what with global warming, childhood obesity and a failing economy.

The nation may be wracked by collapsing banks, foreclosed houses and a tanking economy, but there's no sign anything's amiss here at Interbike, the bike industry's annual trade show. In fact, it's party time as a perfect storm of eco-conscious consumerism, health-conscious lifestyles and wallet-sapping gas prices conspires to get people out of cars and onto bikes -- especially electric ones. "The gas prices are the best thing that ever happened to cycling," says Kevin Menard, whose year-old custom bike business, Traitor Cycles, is thriving. "I hope they go up even more."

The gargantuan trade show, and the crowd filling it, has never been bigger, organizers boast. A record 23,000 people and 750 exhibitors fill several acres of the Sands Convention Center, further proof that all is well in the bike biz..."You can feel the collective buzz," a smiling Tim Blumenthal, executive director of the bicycle advocacy group Bikes Belong, says from the middle of the bustling show floor. "It's a really, really heady time for us. This show feels very optimistic and that bucks the general economic trends. There doesn't seem to be many businesses that are thriving, but the bike business is doing very well."

Cycling enjoyed a "huge spike" in interest in June when gas topped four bucks a gallon, Blumenthal says. Much of the bike industry has enjoyed double digit growth since then. Some manufacturers have seen 50 percent growth in the last quarter, and dealers can’t keep up with demand. The service sector ("tubes and lube" in industry jargon) also is booming as old bikes are hauled out of sheds and garages and dragged into shops for tune-ups and tires. A growing number of people are ditching cars in favor of bikes for commuting to work or running to the supermarket, Blumenthal says. "Cycling for recreation in America has always been big," he says. "Now we're starting to see cycling for transport." (Read more.)
Interbike wrapped up last week, and from all reports, the bicycle industry is bullish on future growth. This is the same industry that long neglected the commuter market, as it chased the performance athlete and the single-track trail shredders. It's nice to see the industry finally waking up to the obvious market potential of the 98 percent of Americans who presently don't commute by bicycle. For complete Interbike coverage, see Cyclelicious and CommutebyBike.com.

One product category making a splash at Interbike is electric bicycles. As a traditional pedaling bike commuter, I have mixed feelings about electric bikes. I suppose I'll welcome more car-less commuters, even if they are on powered rides. But it feels a little funny to me. Electric bikes may reduce congestion and pollution, but won't address the public health issues of low physical activity levels among Americans. I'm also concerned about the safety issues (speed differentials, braking, noise, etc.) that arise from mixing powered and pedaled bicycles in dedicated bike facilities (bike lanes, bike paths). But maybe I'm just being a cranky geezer.

Your thoughts? Are electric bicycles a form of vehicular or cycle commuting?

Image: Web capture. Titanium commuting bicycle at Interbike 2008
Visit: Interbike 2008: Commuters are King in '09, Bicycling.com
Visit: Schwinn’s New Tailwind eBike: 25 To 30 Miles On A 30 Minute Charge, OhGizmo!
Visit: Bicycle makers tout two-wheeled hybrids for commuters, Los Angeles Times
Visit: More Americans Bike To Work, Voice of America
Visit: Manufacturers nailed it with new cruiser and commuter bikes, The Standard (St. Catharines, Quebec)
Visit: U.S. lags in global bicycling boom, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: CBS on bicycles in the U.S., Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Americans learn bikes cut costs and improve fitness, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bike shop sales strong across the U.S.

Image of bicyclist in Illinois
From The Daily-Journal (Kankakee, IL), 09.20.08:

Bike sales increase as more people pedal to work
Hal Trovillion, pastor of First Baptist Church of Manteno, rides his bike four blocks to his church every Sunday. "I have ridden my bike to church for a couple years," Trovillion said. "It saves me money, but I mainly use it for exercise. It can also be eco-friendly."

Trovillion is not alone. As the cost of getting from here to there increases, local stores have reported a spike in bicycle sales as more people look for alternative means of transportation to save money...high fuel prices and eroding consumer confidence led more people to reach for Kryptonite bike locks rather than car keys.

And strong sales continue even as winter approaches, bike shop owners say. The national trend can be seen at Tern of the Wheel bike shop in Bradley. "We have experienced a 10 percent increase in sales compared to last year," said owner Steve Linneman. "People are saying they want to ride their bike to work because they can't afford to put gas in their car."

"The fact that people--even in Houston--are riding in record numbers is a clear sign to us that this is happening across the country in places you wouldn't expect," said Elizabeth Kiker, a spokeswoman for the League of American Bicyclists. (Read more.)
At the autumn equinox, we can perhaps declare Summer 2008 to have been the season Americans rediscovered the bicycle. This article from Illinois indicates that bike shops all over the country are reporting increased sales. All year, we've seen evidence of flourishing bike sales across the U.S., from Massachusetts to Ohio, to Florida to Oregon. The cost of gasoline is clearly a factor--about 30 percent above last year's price at this time. This article from "middle America" is further confirmation that the bicycling trend isn't just a phenomenon of the coastal areas or college towns. Bicycling is sweeping the nation.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: More Americans Bike To Work, Voice of America
Visit: High Gas Prices Mean High Bike Sales Across U.S., CBS4Denver.com
Visit: Biking it: From the morning commute to police patrol, some people prefer pedaling over driving, Benton County Record (Arkansas)
Visit: Pedal power: Commuters swap cars for bicycles, Wenatchee World (Washington)
Visit: Bicyclist Bucks High Gas Prices, WMTW-TV (Auburn, Maine)
Visit: CBS on bicycles in the U.S., Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Americans learn bikes cut costs and improve fitness, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bike to Work Guide Available Soon

Cover of Bike to Work Guide, by Paul Dorn and Roni Sarig

My publisher, Adams Media, contacted me this week to inform me that marketing had begun for the book project that kept me busy much of the summer.

The Bike to Work Guide: What You Need to Know to Save Gas, Go Green, Get Fit will ship in November, be in stores by December, and be on sale everywhere by January. It's now available for "pre-order" on Amazon.com and elsewhere. Affordably priced at only $7.95, the Bike to Work Guide offers a lot of helpful information to those considering commuting by bicycle.

This book owes a great debt to readers of this blog and my Bike Commuting Tips website. Your comments, questions, suggestions, and criticism have informed my understanding of bicycles for transportation. I am very grateful for your comments and messages. Please continue to respond to my site and blog; your comments are hugely appreciated.

Clearly, more people are considering bicycle commuting these days. My book is only one newly available resource responding to this new interest and demand. (My site and blog have encouraged commuting by bicycle for more than 10 years.) Another exciting new book project, Bike to Work, by Tim Grahl of CommutebyBike.com and Carlton Reid of BikeforAll.net, will also appear this fall. It seems that 2009 will be a promising year for the growth of bicycle commuting.

Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Study: More cyclists means safer cyclists

Image of Sunday Streets in San Francisco on August 31, 2008
From Science Daily, 09.07.08:

A Virtuous Cycle: Safety In Numbers For Bicycle Riders
It seems paradoxical but the more people ride bicycles on our city streets, the less likely they are to be injured in traffic accidents.

International research reveals that as cycling participation increases, a cyclist is far less likely to collide with a motor vehicle or suffer injury and death...And it's not simply because there are fewer cars on the roads, but because motorists seem to change their behaviour and drive more safely when they see more cyclists and pedestrians around.

Studies in many countries have shown consistently that the number of motorists colliding with walkers or cyclists doesn't increase equally with the number of people walking or bicycling. For example, a community that doubles its cycling numbers can expect a one-third drop in the per-cyclist frequency of a crash with a motor vehicle.

"It's a virtuous cycle," says Dr Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from UNSW who address a cycling safety seminar in Sydney, Australia, on September 5. "The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle." (Read more.)
Great news from Australia, confirming earlier research by Peter Jacobsen and others, that motorists adjust their driving behavior in the presence of bicyclists. This research will help bolster advocacy arguments for enhanced bicycling facilities and encouragement.

The researchers also suggested policy makers emphasize the positives of bicycling--fun and health--rather than safety concerns: "We should create a cycling friendly environment and accentuate cycling's positives," said Dr. Chris Rissel. "Rather than stress negatives with 'safety campaigns' that focus on cyclists without addressing drivers and road conditions. Reminding people of injury rates and risks, to wear helmets and reflective visible clothes has the unintended effect of reinforcing fears of cycling which discourages people from cycling."

Amen to this. Stop perpetuating the myth of bicycling as a dangerous activity. Leave your helmet at home.

Image: Web capture. Sunday Streets in San Francisco.
Visit: Don't let fear hold you back, Streetsblog.org
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Even Dutch people are bicycling more

Image of bicyclists in Amsterdam

From Agence France Presse, 09.07.08:

High petrol prices see bikes gain ground in the Netherlands
The Dutch rely ever more on the humble bike for transport as pollution concerns and high petrol prices give new impetus to traditional pedal power in the only country with more bicycles than people.

The average Dutchman cycled 902 kilometres in 2006, up 16 kilometres from 15 years ago, according to official statistics. Annual new bike sales rose by 80,000 in 2007 to 1.4 million as the Dutch, known for their thrift and pragmatism, shunned the comfort of gas-guzzling cars for the cheaper, greener alternative in a year marked by record oil prices.

The flat-landscaped Netherlands, home to just over 16.3 million people, actually boasts some 18 million bicycles--a ratio of 0.9 persons per cycle, or 1.1 bikes per person. Its closest European competitors are Denmark and Germany, with respective figures of 1.2 and 1.3 citizens for each bike...

Not even the wet climate seems able to put a spoke in the wheels of the Dutch, who weave through city traffic shrouded in plastic on rainy days, transporting anything from pets and children to groceries, musical instruments and plants on their bikes. Many a parent can be seen negotiating traffic with a child secured to each end of a bicycle with shopping bags and even a briefcase secured to the sides. (Read more.)
Hard to believe, but even in the most bicycling intensive culture on the planet, higher priced fuel yields more bicyclists.

In a period of rising energy prices, those nations and communities that wisely made prior investments in bicycling facilities--such as the Netherlands and Portland--will see greater growth in bicycling, as other communities struggle to catch up. This will likely yield a competitive advantage to these communities, as enterprising and creative younger commuters seek a shorter commute and better quality of life.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Wall Street Journal: Building a Better Bike Lane, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Less driving is more more cash, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: More cycling inspiration from abroad, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: John Pucher: Cycling for everyone, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Bike retailers warm to commuting market

Image of commuting signage in an REI store's bike section
To say I'm oblivious is an understatement; I'm male, graying, and, um, male. So the other day when my wife and I were in a local REI store, I didn't immediately grasp her point. "Look," she said. "Look at that."

Er, look at what? "At that! The last time I was looking for a bicycle bell at REI," she said, "I had to look in the children's section." Indeed, there was a healthy selection of bells and other commuter-related bicycling paraphernalia in a dedicated "Commuting" section.

Interesting, considering that most REI stores are located in sprawling parking-abundant mall locations--often adjacent to such earth-loving retailers as Walmart or Best Buy. (One might wonder what REI's "Stewardship" effort means, when they can't seem to develop stores in transit- and bike-friendly urban locations. Really, try to find an REI store that isn't surrounded by at least 200 parking spots...and online doesn't count.)

Despite some signs of a shift, the bike industry as a whole remains very much in the business of selling recreational equipment. A quick leaf through Bicycling will tell you that. For two decades the bike industry has pursued performance enhancements that offer precisely no benefit to commuting bicyclists, offering high-tech toys to competitive or athletic bicyclists. You know, maybe .5 percent of the American population? Us bicycle commuters? Well, we just kind of "got by." We commuted by bicycle in spite of the bike industry, not because of it.

A "Commuting" section at REI. Another sign of the bicycle industry's growing interest in the bicycle commuting market? Maybe?!?

Image: Paul Dorn
Visit: Bike Your Drive, REI.com
Visit: Beefy bikes for getting you around town or around the block, Seattle Times
Visit: National retailer supports bike advocacy, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Is the bicycle industry waking up?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bikes made for commuting are hot!, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: In praise of chainguards, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Where have all the kickstands gone?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Massachusetts: Bicycle shops reap windfall, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

U.S. lags in global bicycling boom

Image of Sunday Streets in San Francisco on August 31, 2008
From the Washington Post, 08.31.08:

For Bicyclists, a Widening Patchwork World
U.S. Lags Behind Two-Wheeled Boom


TACHIA, Taiwan -- Antony Lo is one happy biker. He is 60 but looks younger, with a body buffed by commuting 130 miles a week on his bike. He is also president of Taiwan-based Giant, the world's largest bicycle company, where sales are soaring, helped along by global anxiety over oil prices. With undisguised glee, Lo says: "High-priced gasoline is here to stay. I tell my people we are just at the beginning of a very big cycling boom."

Boom it is...Yet when it comes to using a bike for everyday transportation, the boom appears to have bypassed many countries. While Northern Europe and Japan have figured out how to make bicycle commuting a safe, cheap alternative to driving, the United States, Canada, Australia and Britain have not. And the world's two most populous nations, China and India, are discarding bicycles in favor of cars. A rising middle class in both countries views cycling as an unhappy reminder of the recent past, when nearly everyone was poor.

Still, among the world's most developed countries, a reliable recipe has emerged for making cycling a mainstream means of getting to work. Commuters in Northern Europe have been lured out of their cars by bike lanes, secure bike parking and easy access to mass transportation. At the same time, steep automobile taxes, congestion-zone fees and go-slow rules have made inner-city driving a costly pain in the neck. In the Netherlands, where such carrot-and-stick policies have been in place for decades, 27 percent of all trips are by bike.

"It is very clear how to do this," said John Pucher, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University and lead author of a global study of strategies that promote cycling. "It is not rocket science."

In the United States, with the exception of a handful of cities, these strategies have been ignored. Car-centric transportation policies and suburban sprawl continue to make bicycle commuting rare, arduous and relatively dangerous. Although millions of Americans recreate on bikes, they ride them for just 0.4 percent of their trips to work, according to the U.S. Census. Germans are 10 times more likely than Americans to ride a bike and three times less likely to get hurt while doing so...

At the headquarters of Giant, the island-based bicycle maker, Antony Lo said that if gasoline prices remain high worldwide, government transportation policies will have to change. "People are waking up," he said. "This is a long-term trend, not a fad." (Read more, includes video.)
Impressive article in the influential Washington Post, featuring reporting from Beijing, London, New Delhi, Berlin, and Tokyo. There is also a video on the impressive robotic bicycle parking facility built in Tokyo. The lesson from all these cities is: "If you build it, they will come." Bicycle facilities attract bicyclists.

Image: San Francisco Chronicle
Visit: Obesity and high oil prices are good news for the world’s biggest bikemaker, The Economist
Visit: The Bike Boom--Will it Pass Us By?, Outside Blog
Visit: Eurobike and web tech, Cyclelicious
Visit: As oil prices rise, U.S. lags behind two-wheeled boom in rest of world, Cycle Rochester
Visit: More cycling inspiration from abroad, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Question from Europe: American cycling behavior?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site