Wednesday, January 21, 2009

George Hincapie, bike commuter

Image of bicycle racer George Hincapie with Lance Armstrong
From the Los Angeles Times, 01.21.09:

Traffic can't stop George Hincapie
After finishing 45th in Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under, Lance Armstrong answered a few questions and then was escorted into a royal blue Skoda car and beat a quick exit from the oval where the team support vehicles were set up....Most cyclists wait until the entire team has settled down, rehydrated, done interviews, relaxed a bit and then get on a team bus and head back to the hotel.

And then there are the smart guys, such as Team Columbia's George Hincapie...He rode his bicycle the 15 miles from the finish in Stirling to the Hilton in Adelaide.

While a particular car full of journalists was waiting impatiently at a stop light and trying to rely on the Hertz NeverLost guidance voice to tell them where to go, Hincapie breezed on by, still on his bike, pedaling on back to the hotel. He beat the car and didn't even need the NeverLost lady. (Read more.)
Bicyclists in California are getting excited in anticipation of next month's big Amgen Tour of California, arguably the most significant bicycle race in the U.S. It begins February 14 in Sacramento, and your blogging correspondent will be there.

Bicycle racing has little to do with bike commuting, except in the sense that it helps raise awareness of bicycling in general. Certainly Lance Armstrong's success in the Tour de France inspired many Americans to take up bicycling, and many have continued as bicycle commuters. Armstrong has since become a proponent of bicycling and bike commuting, most notably with his support of the League of American Bicyclists and the recent opening of his Mellow Johnny's bicycle shop in downtown Austin.

And it's hard not to admire George Hincapie, an extremely talented bike racer and consummate team player, who has subordinated own chances to be Armstrong's most trusted lieutenant on the great USPS and Discovery teams. I had the opportunity to witness Hincapie's victory in the 2001 San Francisco Grand Prix, an important but short-lived one-day race.

Image: Graham Watson, from GeorgeHincapie.com.
Visit: Lance wants more bike commuters, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
Tip of the Pendleton felt hat to Subcommandant Sasquatch for the tip.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winter biking, easier than you think

Image of bike lane on a foggy morning in Davis, California
From the Daily Camera (Boulder, CO), 01.18.09:

Winter Biking: It's easier than you think
For most of us who ride our bikes to commute, it's no problem in the spring, summer and fall, when temperatures are balmy and the sun shines. When the thermometer drops and the daylight is abbreviated, though, many of us put the bike away and turn to the auto. But with a little planning and precaution, biking during the colder months can be rewarding, invigorating and can even help save a little money.

No question, there are days when snow and ice make biking a challenge. But here in Colorado, our 300 days of annual sunshine usually result in clear roads most of the time. In fact, many commuters find that biking gets them to their destination faster than driving, especially in slow winter traffic. While winter riding requires more fluid and attentive riding, you don't have to be a professional cyclist to handle winter conditions. There are a few things to be aware of, though, especially with Boulder's new Winter Bike to Work Day quickly approaching on Jan. 21. (Read more.)
With an historic inauguration now behind us, and Groundhog Day on the near horizon, cyclists in the frigid north can be hopeful for the arrival of warmer weather.

In the meantime, winter still presents challenges to bicycle commuters. This inspiring article by the executive director of Community Cycles in Boulder offers great encouragement, with advice on clothing, equipment, and travel routes. The author also correctly advises greater caution bicycling in winter. Bicycle commuting is very enjoyable all year round, in all seasons, provided adequate preparation. Winter cycling presents a number of challenging conditions, such as the low-visibility foggy streets in the picture above, a typical winter riding challenge in California's Central Valley.

Beyond cold, winter cycling means lower visibility, with dimmer light and shorter days. Get a headlight, rear lights, and high visibility clothing. Think about reflectivizing to your bicycle, or even adding a personal laser bike lane. Street surfaces are also more hazardous during cold weather. When riding, anticipate slower braking, slicker street surfaces, and slower turns. Be more attentive for broken pavement and potholes, and metal surfaces are slippery when wet.

Days are slowly getting longer, winter is slowly winding down. Keep hope alive! Keep pedaling.

Image: Paul Dorn. Winter fog in Davis, CA.
Visit: Sluggish economy has more metro Detroiters biking to work in winter, Detroit Free Press
Visit: Bike commuters brave the elements to stay in shape, Dallas News
Visit: Riding bikes in St. Louis cold is crazy, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Visit: Arctic blast will send temperatures below zero, Charleston Gazette (WV)
Visit: Winter bike trail fashions, Dr2Chase Blog
Visit: Bike commuters laugh at the cold, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Cold weather no barrier to bicycle commuting, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Brr: Tips for cold weather cycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Stay flexible during winter cycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Uncle Sam pays bicycle commuters in 2009

Image of Stewart Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Construction, who often rides his bike with a trailer full of tools to work.
From U.S. News & World Report, 12.30.08:

Uncle Sam's Bike-to-Work Allowance
Remember that big $700 billion bailout package that Congress passed? There were all sorts goodies tucked inside, including one for bicyclists. Yes, bicyclists. It's called the Bicycle Commuter Act and goes into effect January 1. While employers can already dole out tax-free funds to employees for parking and public transportation, this Act permits companies to provide $20 a month tax free to employees who bike to work, allowing the money to be used for bicycle purchases and bike upkeep. Spearheading the campaign for a bike commuter bill was Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. "We have legislation that is designed to promote cycling and to provide a little equity for the people who burn calories instead of fossil fuel," he says. (Read more.)
It's 2009, and the Bicycle Commuter Act is getting significant media attention, from warm West Palm Beach to frosty Minneapolis. This media attention is very welcome. Most employers are probably unaware of the new bicycle commuting benefit, and many employers are struggling to understand implementation. One Silicon Valley bicyclist, entrepreneur, and Bike Commute Tips blog reader is developing a website to help cyclists gain Bike Commuter Act benefits at their workplace, including an application where you can send an e-card to your boss or HR director explaining your interest: BikeBux.com.

The actual benefit of the act, about $240 per individual cyclist each year is helpful, but minimal. The biggest benefit of the Bicycle Commuter Act is that it legitimizes bicycling as a commuting mode. This might inspire more employers to think about providing showers, lockers, secure bicycle parking, and other inducements to their employees. Providing free vehicle parking for employees is expensive (construction, maintenance, insurance, security, lighting, etc.), wastes valuable real estate, and offends a company's neighbors ("Too much traffic!") Employers can save money and burnish their corporate citizen credentials by offering their employees diverse transportation options, especially sustainable ones like bicycling.

Does your employer offer or plan to offer this bike commuter act benefit?

Image: Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
Visit: 2009 brings new benefits for Chicago bicycle commuters, but will they notice?, Medill Reports (IL)
Visit: A $20-a-month benefit if you cycle to work, Boston Globe
Visit: It pays to bike to work thanks to federal program, TCPalm (FL)
Visit: Bicycle commuters eligible for checks from employers, Tri-City Herald (WA)
Visit: The Bicycle Commuter Act of 2008, BikeWalk.org
Visit: Commuters can pedal all the way to the bank, Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO)
Visit: Take a bike: New provision allows employers to reimburse bike-riding commuters, Benton County Daily Record (Arkansas)
Visit: Bicycle Commuter Act in effect, Coshocton Tribune (Ohio)
Visit: Pedaling pays off, Bozeman Daily Chronicle (Montana)
Visit: Andrew Jackson: Come to papa, Lawrence Journal-World
Visit: $20 a Month to Bike to Work Won't Get People out of Cash Guzzlers, PitchEngine.com
Visit: More press for the Bicycle Commuter Act, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Alabama: Bicycle commute starts with a drive


From CBS42.com (Birmingham, AL):

Two wheels, no motor, no problem for local commuter!
Everything Elisa Munoz brings to work must fit in a small backpack. "Makeup, notebook, Ipod, wallet...it's very heavy actually," said Munoz. She is one of a few local commuters who brave rush hour traffic on two wheels with no motor and no roof. "You know I just chance it in case it rains. Hopefully it won't!" said Munoz.

Her seven mile bicycle commute from Birmingham to Irondale begins in a car because the first stretch is so dangerous. "I have to come up over the mountain and there are no shoulders and there's no sidewalks which are illegal to ride on anyway," said Munoz.

She parks about a mile away from her home and pedals the rest of the 20 minute trip. Munoz says she's been chased by dogs and even run off the road, but mostly she just runs into attitude. "I get a lot of looks. I get honks. I get occasional yells to get on the sidewalk even when there is no sidewalk and to get off the road a lot," said Elisa Munoz.

To promote cooperation between bicycle commuters and drivers the Birmingham Regional Planning Commission is organizing a bike to workday (sic) in May. "It's an awareness raising thing...It's a way to get cyclists to see that just because they are biking doesn't mean that they own the road," said Sean Saffle.

Elisa Munoz says bike paths would be amazing, but at this point she would settle for just an awareness that there are cyclists out there. "So I could ride without being yelled at," said Munoz. "There's just nothing like the feeling of riding your bike. I love it." (Read more, includes video.)
OK, I grew up in New England, now live in California, and have never been in Alabama. So I may be accused of Northern bias. But from what I've read, it seems Alabama is truly deserving of its #48 ranking of bicycle-friendly states in the U.S. That's third from the worst. It just doesn't seem a very hospitable state for bicyclists. Any insights from 'Bama bikers?

This article itself is very suggestive. It's news that a person bikes at all! She drives the first mile! The SmartCommute guy says Bike to Work Day is about disciplining cyclists!?! I'd been hopeful of progress when the Birmingham News introduced an intriguing bicycling columnist. For sure California has some hostile roads, but this report is just scary. Any perspectives? How can we make it better?

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Federally-funded program pays cyclists for pedaling to work, Birmingham News
Visit: Alabama: Lonely bike-commuting parent, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
For the record, this Northerner absolutely fell in love with Savannah on my first visit in November.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Republicans oppose stimulus for bicycling

Image of bicyclist Barack Obama
From The Hill, 01.11.09:

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Sunday indicated that Congress may not be able to pass a massive stimulus as quickly as President-elect Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) want.

“American families and small businesses are suffering. We need to do this quickly, but we need to do it in a responsible way,” Boehner said. “And whether we can do it in a responsible way that quickly is unknown.”

The GOP leader noted that he was confident earlier in the week that the measure could be passed by the Presidents Day recess but, after hearing Democratic criticism of Obama’s planned stimulus, he is now not sure if that target can be reached. He added that investing in infrastructure can be a component of such a plan as long as it is targeted.

“I think there’s a place for infrastructure, but what kind of infrastructure? Infrastructure to widen highways, to ease congestion for American families? Is it to build some buildings that are necessary?” He stated. “But if we’re talking about beautification projects, or we’re talking about bike paths, Americans are not going to look very kindly on this.” (Read more.)
Wrong, Mr. Boehner. Americans can no longer afford our addiction to driving. Our automobile dependency is driving the country to bankruptcy. We can barely maintain our existing roadways, let alone expanded highway facilities As the global economy continues its rapid decline into possible depression, we will need innovation, not tired old thinking.

Many bicyclists are excited about the pending inauguration of newly elected President Barack Obama, whom they believe will offer more support for transportation bicycling than notorious mountain biker George W. Bush. As a candidate, Barack Obama expressed support for bicycling, admiration for bicycle friendly cities like Portland, and is himself active as a bicyclist. So he could hardly be worse than the out-going single-track shredder.

Bicycle advocates are greeting the new administration with valet bicycle parking at the Inauguration later this month. Advocates are also proposing bicycle infrastructure as part of an environment-friendly economic recovery package:
Infrastructure investments that include: retrofits to existing streets to make them safe for all users, as well as new trails that create comprehensive networks, cannot only create new jobs, but can help American families recover from the economic downturn and lay the foundation to address some of our nation's major crises, such as climate, energy, and health.
-America Bikes member organizations have identified over 1.2 billion dollars of ready-to-go bicycle and pedestrian projects.
-Bicycle and pedestrian projects are labor-intensive and require less expensive materials than road building projects thus creating jobs at roughly the same rate as highway repair.
-By prioritizing Complete Streets projects, and by fixing existing roads to complete streets standards, this recovery bill invests not only in jobs, but also in projects that will not have to be retrofitted in the future.
The current discussion of stimulus plans creates a great opportunity for bicycle advocates. But only if we push aggressively with our advocacy. Obama may be more receptive to transportation choice than Bush. (Frankly--with Biden, Hillary Clinton, Lawrence Summers, Robert Gates--I see more continuity than change.) But Obama will be supportive only if pushed by a strong grass roots movement for bicycling, walking, mass transit, and especially passenger rail.

Image: Los Angeles Times.
Visit: No, Seriously: Republicans Don't Get It, Huffington Post
Visit: Bike League, Americans, respond to Boehner’s "trash talk", BikePortland.org
Visit: Are we building new roads to crumbling bridges, Transportation For America
Visit: Bicycling Stimulus, AmericaBikes.org
Visit: StimulusBike Blog
Visit: An Urbanist President, Bikescape
Visit: League of American Bicyclists
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Improve Your Life: Bike to Work


From U.S. News & World Report, 01.10.09:

Ride Your Bike to Work
You can save money on gas and get some extra exercise

On a freezing November morning in Chicago, Megan Mason puts on leggings, several polyester tops and a fleece, a windbreaker, four pairs of gloves, and silk sock liners. She ties a bandana over her head, dons earmuffs, snaps on a helmet, safety-pins a scarf into a cocoon around her head, and gets on her bright green Schwinn for a 6.5-mile ride to work.

Surely anyone who braves Windy City cold must be a hardcore biker. But Mason, a 27-year-old curriculum analyst at the Northwestern University School of Law, is new to the ranks of cycle commuters--one of thousands of Americans who this year have switched to pedal power. It's too soon for national numbers, but many cities and counties are reporting a surge. In Chicago, 3,500 people rode in a spring Bike to Work day, up from 2,800 last year. Bikestation, a nonprofit that has six indoor parking facilities for cyclists on the West Coast, mainly in downtown neighborhoods, has seen a 30 percent increase in usage in the past year...

The thought of urban cycling can pose a minicrisis for a newcomer. Mason had to overcome her fear of city streets and dark winter nights. How do you make the leap from wannabe to bike commuter? Cycling gurus are happy to offer advice. (Read more.)
The momentum continues for bicycling in 2009, with this "50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2009" feature in an important national news magazine. "Bike to Work" tops the suggestions for the "Your Body" category--which also suggests napping and an eye exam--in U.S. News & World Report's "50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2009" feature.

Despite the recent decline in gas prices, this new year is a very promising one for bicycle commuting. This article mentions the new Bicycle Commuter Act taking effect in 2009, which can help employers support bicycle-related expenses. Much of the political talk is of a need for economic stimulus, which could present opportunities to improve local bicycling conditions (more on this later.) And two new bicycle commuting books are now out to help aspiring bike commuters: my own book (with Roni Sarig) The Bike to Work Guide: What You Need to Know to Save Gas, Go Green, Get Fit; and the Bike to Work Book, by Tim Grahl of CommutebyBike.com and Carlton Reid of BikeforAll.net.

One of the best ways to encourage more bicycle commuting is to simply keep riding, offering a visible presence on the streets and role model among our associates. What else do you plan to do to encourage more bicycle commuting among your colleagues and friends in 2009?

Image: U.S. News & World Report
Visit: Thrifty Living: Get on your bike to make big savings, The Independent (UK)
Visit: Letters: Bike to Work Perks, U.S. News & World Report
Visit: A Surge in Bicyclists Appears to be Waiting, New York Times
Visit: Bikes back in fashion as eco-friendly alternative, Japan Times
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Friday, January 09, 2009

Miami making bicycle progress, at last

Image of bicycling couple in Miami FL
From the Miami Herald, 01.09.09:

More and more, Miami becomes a bike-friendly city
Miami's long-downtrodden but growing community of bicyclists is reaping a sudden bonanza: Miles of new bike lanes and plans for more. A new monthly, family-friendly bike festival downtown. And a clutch of bike-friendly proposals designed to promote cycling for recreation and commuting.

On Saturday, Miami-Dade County will formally inaugurate new dedicated bike lanes along the full length of the Rickenbacker Causeway by closing half the roadway for the morning and letting cyclists, roller bladers and pedestrians have the run of it.

The following weekend, on Jan. 18, the city of Miami will host the third, expanded edition of Bike Miami Days, the monthly effort by the administration of Mayor Manny Diaz to promote urban fun and safe cycling by closing off streets in downtown and the Brickell area in hopeful emulation of the famed Ciclovía in Bogotá.

And that's not all: Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez is sponsoring an ordinance, patterned after regulations in Portland and other famously bike-friendly cities, that would require bike racks in all new public and private commercial developments in unincorporated areas, plus encourage installation of showers and lockers for bike commuters.

"There's a lot of big momentum," said Brett Bibeau, chairman of the county's Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee. "There is significant progress being made."

If anything, Miami is coming late to the pedal party. The popularity of cycling is rising sharply across the country, and bike lanes, bike parking and other forms of "bicycle infrastructure" are increasingly seen as essential urban amenities.

Cities from New York to Chicago to San Francisco have installed miles of dedicated bike lanes, instituted bicycle days in which major streets are closed to cars, and launched programs to promote bike commuting and safety. (Read more.)
Great news from Miami, named last year by Bicycling magazine as one of the three worst cities for bicyclists in the U.S. Clearly city leadership has gotten the message. This article suggests that bicycling has become a favorite cause of politicos eager to tame traffic and burnish their "green" credentials. There's now much optimism. With its flat terrain and year-round warm weather, Miami could be an outstanding bicycling city. And an inspiration to bicycle advocates across the nation--if it can happen in Miami...

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Florida Bicycle Association
Visit: Bicycle lanes on Rickenbacker Causeway first of many Miami cycling projects, Miami Herald
Visit: Cycling The Contours of Miami, Planetizen
Visit: TransitMiami Bicycle Lanes
Visit: Miami getting friendlier for cyclists, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Make Miami a bicycle friendly city, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Happy bicycle commuting sans helmet

Image of helmetless bicyclist
From Reuters, 01.05.09:

More than half of U.S. cyclists forgo helmets
WASHINGTON (Reuters)-More than half of Americans admit they never use a helmet while bicycling and more than a quarter skip the sunscreen, even when they are in the sun all day, according to Consumer Reports National Research Center.

The risks of cycling without a helmet are even higher -- the group cited the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as saying 92 percent of bicyclists killed in 2007 were not wearing helmets. Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent.

Similarly, sunscreen can prevent skin cancer, which is by far the most common cause of cancer, although the two most common types are rarely deadly. The American Cancer Society estimated that more than 1 million new cases of basal and squamous cell cancers were diagnosed in 2008.

The survey of 1,000 Americans has a margin of error of about 3 percent. It found that 58 percent of Americans never used a helmet while cycling and 27 percent claimed they never used sunscreen.(Read more.)
Helmets are an often heated topic among bicyclists. The proponents of strict helmet use and the proponents of helmet-optional cycling offer intense arguments in support of their respective positions.

And articles such as this indicate a clear bias in favor of helmet use: "cyclists admit riding without helmets...tsk, tsk." The media perpetuates a popular perception that bicycling is in itself a dangerous activity, and that riding without a helmet is wanton recklessness.

Of course, this is complete nonsense. Bicycling is safe. Bicycle-related fatalities each year are relatively few, and easily avoidable with proper riding technique (stay sober, ride with traffic, use lights when riding at night, etc.) Certainly bicycling kills fewer people each year than sedentary lifestyles.

Helmets are not, repeat not, necessary to happily bike commute. In much of the world where bicycling is more prevalent, helmets are rarely used. Bicyclists should use their own judgment; if they feel safer with a helmet, fine. Helmets are certainly justified in higher-risk cycling activities, such as high-adrenaline racing or mountain biking.

It is important to stress, however: helmets merely mitigate the consequences of a crash, they don't prevent a crash. Many of the minimal risks of bicycle commuting can be avoided or mitigated through effective maintenance, proper bicycling technique, attentive riding, and street smarts.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Helmet on Your Head or Egg on Your Face, Streetsblog San Francisco
Visit: 7 reasons there's more to bicycle safety than helmets, DC Examiner
Visit: Is it wrong to show a cyclist without a helmet? Denver Examiner
Visit: The Mailbag-Brain buckets, confessions and bike fit, VeloNews
Visit: The Mailbag-Readers write on helmets, VeloNews
Visit: Wearing a helmet is good resolution, Redding Record (CA)
Visit: Study: More cyclists means safer cyclists, Bike Commute tips Blog
Visit Cyclists should be proactive about safety, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Wearing helmets 'more dangerous', Bike Commuting Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site