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Monday, March 31, 2008

Connecticut cyclists fight for train access

Bicycles on the Metro-North train car
From the New Haven Independent, 03.25.08:

Bikes on Trains? ConnDOT and Commuter Council Say No
Members of Elm City Cycling, Connecticut Bicycle Coalition and other supporters of making room for bikes on the new Metro North train cars in the interest of multi-modal transportation were dealt a serious blow when the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council voted on March 19 against a resolution that asked Metro-North and Connecticut DOT to provide bicycle parking on New Haven Line cars.
Bike Commute Tips Blog reader Mark Abraham forwarded information about this fight in Connecticut, trying to gain better bicycling access on one of the busiest commuter routes in the U.S. Presently, bikes are allowed on-board only during off-peak hours; such as this ridiculous sitation in the image above. Compare this chaos on Metro North, with a system like Caltrain's dedicated bike cars on every train or, better, the Amtrak Capitol Corridor. (Better, IMHO, because it disperses cyclists in small numbers throughout the multi-car train, rather than causing them to crowd in and crawl over each other in a single dedicated bike car.)

Bicyclists were a strong presence at a recent Metro North President's Forum:
A half-dozen New Haveners joined a group of cyclists on a train ride from New Haven to Grand Central Station Wednesday to promote their cause before the president of Metro North Railroad. He insisted it's a zero-sum game--i.e., more bike access means fewer seats for passengers.

So the cyclists vowed to take their fight to the governor and the Connecticut General Assembly. New Canaan resident (Richard Stowe) is a devoted cyclist and promoter of linking cyclists to mass transit. He’s been beating the drum, asking Metro North to create "safe, secure bicycle parking" on the new M8 cars the railroad has ordered.
One of the problems seems to be conflicting information from the Connecticut DOT, which first indicated that additional bike space would be provided on the system's new cars. Then it seemed that added capacity wouldn't materialize.

CT bikers are writing letters, reaching out to media, packing hearings, making noise. They will succeed. I'm a daily multimodal commuter, and wish great success to cyclists in Connecticut. (And until victory, they might want to consider a folding bike.)

Abraham also reports that New Haven registers a respectable--by U.S. standards--1.8 percent mode share for bike trips. He also sent a link to an interesting article on the Elm City's role in bicycling history.

Image: Five Borough Bicycle Club. Bikes on Metro-North car.
Visit: Metro-North unveils bike rack ideas, The Advocate (Stamford, CT)
Visit: Study: Bikes will get to ride on trains, The Advocate (Stamford, CT)
Visit: Cyclists fight for space on trains, New Haven Independent
Visit: The facts about bikes on trains, Darien Times
Visit: Connecticut bike commuters on TV, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Warmth excites bicyclists in Wisconsin

Bicyclist in Madison, Wisconsin
From the Capitol Times (Madison, WI), 03.30.08:

Bikers gear up as spring is upon us
Along with the first tentative rays of spring sun, flocks of fair-weather bikers are coming out of hibernation. Madisonians are hauling out their bikes for tune-ups, greasing up the chains and stretching out the spandex.

"We've had a big rush as soon as the first day of warm weather," said Eric Lyngaas, a salesman at Willy Street Bikes. "The first warm weekend hits, we get inundated with repairs, and our service department has been extremely busy. It's been pretty backed up in general."

Bike store employees cite a combination of escalating gas prices, an increase in the range and affordability of bikes, and an overall spread of bike culture as key factors in the increasingly wide spectrum of people using bikes for recreation and commuting.

"For a long time the bike industry has been ruled by competitive road-riding professionals, now it's more accessible to everyone and more a part of the culture," said Taylor Struwe, pulling a metallic blue cruiser from the rack for a customer to test drive. "With higher gas prices, people are just gonna ride two wheels. It's enjoyable, it's good exercise, minimal maintenance and far more economical than cars."

(Luke Clark of Machinery Row Bicycles)...noted that people are experimenting with trading in their four-wheeled transport for two. "A lot of people come in and say, 'We're looking to go from a three car to a one car family, we want two good commuter bikes.' Those types come out in fairer weather," Clark said. "There's a trend of people getting out of their cars." (Read more.)
With the approach of spring, thoughts turn to bicycling (and baseball, of course.) This article is another example of the storyline this year on bikes: higher fuel prices are causing more people to consider bike commuting. And an interesting comments section, with the usual back-and-forth between drivers ("bikes belong on sidewalks") and bicyclists, and a lengthy flame war among the pedaling contingent over the merits of a local bike shop. As a veteran of numerous flame wars on the SFBike listserve, I know that nobody can split hairs with as much venom as bicyclists.

Image: Rob Lambert.
Visit: Wisconsin’s commuters parking cars in favor of bikes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Visit: Fuel prices creating bike commuters, Wisconsin Radio Network
Visit: Is bicycling a possibility for commuting in Madison?, Madison Leader
Visit: Bikers ready to roll, Sheboygan Press
Visit: Winter cold no obstacle to bike commuting, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Bust out the bike

A bike rider pedals along the Spring Creek Trail just near Fort Collins, CO
From The Coloradoan, (Fort Collins, CO), 03.30.08:

With gas prices on the rise and the weather warming, here are some things to consider when choosing a new ride
How is that $3.17 a gallon gas treating you?

There is an alternative, you know.

I became a fair weather bike commuter when gas first hit $3 a gallon, and I love my ride to work. Of course, it helps that my 25-minute commute from the southwest side of town to the Coloradoan on the northeast side of town is virtually all on the bike trail.

With the weather warming, it's time to get a bike or get out your bike. Whether looking for a bike to commute or to recreate or both, here's a quick primer to help you turn from gas power to pedal power. (Read more.)
Very basic "how to" article from Ft. Collins, Colorado, with suggestions on bike models, sizing, materials, accessories, and bicycling etiquette.

Image: The Coloradoan.
Visit: Vision puts commuters on their bikes, The Coloradoan
Visit: Changing Gears: With bicycle ridership soaring, how ready is Fort Collins for bike mania? Fort Collins Now
Visit: Bike coordinator speaks out, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Colorado study on collegiate helmet use, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Friday, March 28, 2008

High gas prices keep bike shops busy

Wess Klunk of Adventure Cycling & Fitness in West Manchester Township pulls down one of the bikes he'll tune up for spring riding.
From the York Daily Record (PA), 03.27.08:

Bicycle business is brisk
Many bicycle shop workers across York County used the same word to describe business on Wednesday.


Some of the workers said the jump in business might stem from more people wanting to ride bicycles in an effort to spend less on gasoline while, at the same time, improving their health.

"People are making a concerted...effort to try to start riding to work," said Will Mahler, the bike shop manager at Ed's Ski and Cycle in Spring Garden Township. "If you can kill two birds with one stone, it's a great thing."

Ed Brandt, owner of Adventure Cycling & Fitness in West Manchester Township, said the shop has been busy with requests to service bicycles. "We're seeing a lot more people interested in commuting on their bicycles," he said. "I think it's obvious it's gas prices." (Read more.)
More evidence of a common theme these days, high gas prices causing more people to look seriously at bicycling.

Image: York Daily Record.
Visit: Fuel prices driving more to bikes, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: High gas prices yielding more bicycling commuters, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
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Tucson celebrates bicycling

Image of bicyclists in Tucson
From the Tucson Citizen, 03.28.08:

Bike events aim to boost Tucson's image
A series of events this weekend will kick off Tucson's Clean Air Days and Bike Fest, and the three-day Tucson Bicycle Classic race also is this weekend south and west of town. The events highlight Tucson's reputation as a bike-friendly community.

But that reputation needs some burnishing if Tucson is to be successful in receiving the top ranking among bike-friendly communities from a national bicycle advocacy group. The Pima Association of Governments last week applied for platinum status from the League of American Bicyclists' Bicycle Friendly Communities Campaign. A decision is expected next month. Davis, Calif., is the only community that has platinum status, according to the league's master list.

Since May 2006, the Tucson/Pima Eastern Region is one of only seven communities awarded gold status for having bicycle-friendly environments. But a bicycle-friendly environment does not necessarily mean a bicycle-friendly community.
"Achieving platinum is not bike utopia," said Diana Tolton, chairwoman of the Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee. "It's not the ultimate bike-friendly community. It just shows we have a lot to offer." (Read more.)
Article that conveys Tucson's ambitions for bicycling, and some of the remaining tensions between the "lycra-clad" set and a minority of motorists in the area.

Image: Tucson Citizen.
Visit: Putting the pedals to the pavement, Tucson Citizen
Visit: Tucson aims for pinnacle as bicycling mecca, Arizona Daily Star
Visit: Bike sharing program peddled for Tucson, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kansas City, see it on a bike

Bike lane in downtown Kansas City
From the KC Community News, 03.26.08:

Experience Kansas City's sights, sounds by bicycle
Theresa Van Ackeren wants people to experience Kansas City from a different driver’s seat--that of a bicycle.

“It’s part of the whole philosophy of ‘stop and smell the roses,’” Van Ackeren said. “When you’re on a bike and going slower, you tend to look around and see things you don’t typically see from the hermetically sealed confines of a car. You come in contact with more people and hear the sounds of the city.”

“I’m a big proponent of using your bike instead of a car for short trips, like to the grocery store,” she said. “I’m somewhat of an environmentalist but I also support it for the physical fitness aspect, for getting people outside and enjoying the fresh air. I plan to ride to work everyday.” (Read more.)
As a bicycling community, Kansas City doesn't get much love. A recent U.S. Census report identified KC as having the lowest rate of bicycle commuting of any of the country's 50 largest cities.

Bike Commute Tips Blog reader Eric Rogers, creator of, reports that things may be changing for the better in Kansas City: "We are actually on the verge of many great things. The city has its first-ever bike/ped coordinator, Andy Clarke (executive director of the League of American Bicyclists) is coming in May for a regional Bike Friendly Communities workshop, and Missouri is getting close to a state-wide Complete Streets law. And last year we hosted the cyclocross nationals and the Tour of Missouri. So it's not all bad news."

Rogers also reports that Kansas City has seen three new bike shops open in less than a month. "This has to be some kind of a record. Two of the shops in particular have a strong focus on commuting and urban cycling." One of these new shops is Family Bicycles LLC, owned by the same Theresa Van Ackeren featured in this article.

Image: Missouri Bicycling Federation.
Visit: Kansas City cyclists making slow progress, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Returning to KC and its booming downtown, Kansas City Star
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
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Monday, March 24, 2008

Cyclists, motorists share responsibilities

Bicyclist and car sharing the road
From the San Francisco Chronicle, 03.24.08:

In the wake of the tragic deaths of two cyclists in Cupertino, I am startled by a looming prejudice against those who choose to ride bikes, particularly in the media. Though it is clear that these cyclists were not at fault when they were killed by a deputy sheriff veering across the road, what has surfaced is an inexcusable "blame the victim" sentiment.

The Cupertino tragedy has been portrayed as a "bicycle safety" story, instead of what it really is, a story about the risks of dangerous driving. If that deputy had veered across the road into an oncoming VW Beetle or Mazda Miata instead of a line of cyclists, the occupants of that car would likely be seriously injured or dead, as would the driver himself.

Yet, the public dialogue has not focused on which streets are most dangerous for driving, bad behavior by drivers, or the fact that 40,000 people a year are killed in motor vehicle collisions in our nation.

I believe the over-emphasis on bicyclists' responsibility stems from the mistaken belief that bikes do not belong on the road, that a bicyclist is asking for trouble if she rides out in traffic, that a "good" bicyclist knows her place and gets out of the way of "legitimate" road users in cars.

Yet the law is clear that bicyclists have the same essential rights and responsibilities as drivers. We not only belong on the road, we even sometimes belong smack-dab in the middle of the road, if that is the safest place to be. (Read more.)
Great commentary by my friend Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. One hopes that the tragic deaths earlier this month of Matt Peterson and Kristianna Gough--killed by a police officer who fell asleep and lost control of his cruiser--will result in greater awareness of bicycling and road safety.

Due to time limitations, I haven't commented on this horrific incident and the media aftermath in the Bay Area. Fritz at Cyclicious has offered great coverage, including his illustrated transcript of the KQED-FM "Forum" program on bicycling safety. Attorney and former racer Bob Mionske offers a comprehensive analysis at Velonews.

In general, I also prefer to emphasize the proactive progress that is being made around the country to improve conditions for bicyclists, which has helped to prevent such tragedies. Generally these improvements come as a result of bicycling advocacy. That's my priority, encouraging advocacy.

However, a tragedy often inspires change, raises awareness, motivates activism, creates dialogue, prompts change. Let's hope this is the case with the shocking Cupertino incident.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Boston: New column on bicycling

From the Boston Globe, 03.23.08:

World-class bike cities? Why not Boston?
Portland, Ore. Davis, Calif. Boulder, Colo. San Francisco. Amsterdam. Copenhagen. Berlin. Barcelona. All are top-rated, world-class biking cities.

Boston? Not yet. Three times Boston was named to Bicycling magazine's list of the worst US cities for bicyclists, most recently in 2006.

Local roads may have given bicyclists the cold shoulder, but many advocates have hope for a friendlier future.

Welcome to Shifting Gears, a regular column that will follow Greater Boston's path toward this goal. We'll keep our eye on policy and progress, and also take some detours along the way to explore the daily joys and hassles of pedaling around this city.

Why should you care? Because biking not only helps ease traffic congestion, but also is part of the solution when it comes to parking, obesity, climate change, and social interaction. It's a player in making Boston--and surrounding communities--more livable. (Read more.)
It's amazing how a big city mayor can set the agenda for bicycling. San Francisco's mayor has offered mere lip service for bicycling, which has resulted in a lawsuit delay of future bike enhancement. When Boston mayor Thomas Menino embraced bicycling last year, suddenly the city began looking with more interest at bike transportation. Latest evidence: The city's leading daily newspaper has now introduced a new bicycling column.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Boston mayor pushes bikes, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
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Fuel prices driving more to bikes

Image from the Rapid Transit Bike Shop
From the Bulletin (Bend, OR), 03.23.08:

Driven to change the commute
As gas prices take a bigger bite, more employees - and employers - are shifting gears on the way to work

It cost $51.65 to fill a 15-gallon tank with regular unleaded gasoline in Bend last Friday, according to the AAA Fuel Price Finder Web site. A year ago, it cost $43.07.

That kind of pain at the pump is spurring more Central Oregon employees to find new ways to reduce their commute costs--and more employers are trying to help them out.

Sunnyside Sports, which sells a range of road, mountain and hybrid bikes in Bend, saw a 50 percent spike last year in its commuter bike sales, said Mike Schindler, co-owner and service manager. Sales of commuter bikes, which typically have fewer gears and are easier to ride in an urban environment than a mountain or road bike, have started slower this season, which Schindler attributes to weather.

"There's more overall awareness of gas prices," he said. "It can be a tipping point for deciding to ride your bike more and cut down on car trips." (Read more.)
Article about the diverse options motorists in Central Oregon are adopting to avoid painful fuel addiction, including bicycling. Local employers trying to improve options for their staff are doing so with the assistance of the agency Commute Options, which has seen a 400 percent increase in participating companies over the past five years.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Skyrocketing gas prices prompt Bend commuters to explore alternatives, The Oregonian
Visit: Commuters change their habits in Bend
Visit: As gas prices rise, some turn to bicycles to get around
Visit: Gas prices lead to bike commuters
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bellingham: Bike-commuting librarian

Image of bike commuter Helen Scholtz
From the Bellingham Herald (WA), 03.21.08:

Cyclist enjoys the ride to work
Bellingham librarian reconnects with joys of bike commuting

Helen Scholtz doesn’t have far to go if she has questions about commuting by bicycle. In fact, the answers are as close as her family circle. The 60-year-old Bellingham resident talks about her family's influences, her commute and how it feels to be back in the saddle again.

When she began bike commuting: Scholtz started 15 years ago but eventually stopped. She started again about a year ago because she wanted to get some exercise and help the planet. "It's a small step in reducing our dependence on oil," she says...Scholtz also says she feels more connected to the outside world while on her bike.

"I’m smelling things, I'm hearing things I wouldn't in a car." (Read more.)
Interesting profile of a bike commuter in Washington, describing the importance of a sweet ride and a supportive family, workplace, and bicycling community.

Image: Bellingham Herald. Bike commuter Helen Scholtz.
Visit: Everybody Bike
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
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Urbana: Planning for bikes

Image of Champaign-Urbana Critical Mass
From the News-Gazette (Urbana, IL), 03.21.08:

Extensive bike plan proposed for Urbana
An extensive network of off-road paths, bicycle lanes and marked bike routes will be installed throughout Urbana over the next 15 years, under a proposed bicycle master plan headed to the city council. Urbana would spend $2.8 million over the next 10 years adding the bicycle facilities, most of that during the first five years.

The master plan is geared to making bicycling more convenient and safer for the casual adult cyclist, according to Alderman Brandon Bowersox, D-Ward 4. "A lot of people may not be hard-core cyclists, but they want a place where they feel comfortable riding a bicycle," he said. "We want them to have a safe place to ride."

A key goal of the plan is to increase by 50 percent the number of bicycle trips made by residents. Currently, bicycle use makes up 8 percent of all trips made in Urbana. That's a fairly high percentage, Bowersox said, especially considering that Urbana has neglected its on-street bicycle facilities over the years. "Urbana already has more people bicycling to work than many other cities, like Madison, Wis., which are well known for bicycling," he said. (Read more.)
Encouraging news from Illinois, sure to hearten former Urbana-Champaign resident Fritz, among others. The proposed $2.8 million over 10 years isn't much. But I suppose it's a start. Certainly this is better news for the region than the tragedy that struck the Urbana-Champaign bicycle community in 2006.

Image: kidmissile; Champaign-Urbana Critical Mass.
Visit: Urbana plans to improve infrastructure for bicycles, Daily Illini
Visit: City drafts new plan to increase bike routes, Daily Illini
Visit: Urbana-Champaign Bike Commute Blog
Visit:Champaign Plans for Bikes, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ambassadors and bicycling

Image of bicyclist directional sign in Germany
From the PRNewswire, 03.18.08:

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Washington, DC are pleased to announce their new partnership. As part of a joint initiative, they will promote bicycling as healthy, environmentally sustainable means of recreation and transportation in the Washington, DC area. On Saturday, April 12th, the German Embassy will host WABA's Annual Gala and Benefit Auction, an event which raises funds for WABA's bicycle safety and education programs throughout the year.

"Having the German Embassy host WABA's annual event allows us to work together in promoting our shared interests in recreational and competitive cycling, affordable and alternate transportation choices, and environmental sustainability," said Eric Gilliland, WABA's Executive Director.

"Germany is a country of bikers. On average, every German cycles .62 miles per day, which adds up to over 18 billion miles each year. That means Germans save almost 800 million gallons of gasoline per year," said Dr. Georg Schulze Zumkley, Deputy Director of the German Information Center USA (GIC) at the German Embassy. He added: "Germany supports the use of the 'zero emissions vehicle' to help fight climate change. To Germany, this is a matter of global responsibility; as a global leader in renewable energies, Germany promotes innovative approaches to preserve our planet for future generations. Cycling is healthy, it's fun--and it's smart." (Read more.)
Congratulations to WABA for this prominent partnership. In other diplomatic news, the American ambassador to Denmark has spent part of the past two years bicycling around getting to know the Danes. He calls it the ReDiscovery Bike Tour; even has a special promotional coin.

On the sad fifth anniversary of a hideous and criminal war for oil, there is certainly greater need for both diplomacy and bicycling.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: An American Ambassador on a Bike, Copenhagen Bike Culture Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
Thanks to Jack W. Painter for story suggestion.
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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Not just for cars anymore

Illustration of the complete street concept
From the Hartford Courant, 03.16.08:

'Complete Streets' Movement Focused On Making Way For Cyclists, Pedestrians, Transit

If America is going to conserve energy and become more physically fit, a good place to start would be with the streets.

Since at least World War II, streets have been regarded primarily as conduits for cars and trucks. But if streets and their sidewalks and intersections were handled in a more far-sighted way, they would serve a bigger slice of the population--pedestrians, bicyclists and mass transit riders, as well as motorists.

Throughout the United States, a "Complete Streets" movement is emerging, causing more and more governments to broaden their outlook. According to a report last fall in the AARP Bulletin, 52 municipalities, six counties, 10 regional governments and 14 states have adopted Complete Streets policies. These policies require transportation departments to design--or redesign--streets and roads so that they accommodate people using all modes of travel.

The West Coast is a hotbed for such efforts. The first state to pass a law mandating that facilities for bicycles and pedestrians be included in all road projects was Oregon, in 1971...

In most of the country's urban neighborhoods, there simply isn't room to add many bike lanes, so cities turn to other methods, such as employing law enforcement and traffic-calming design techniques to bring speeds down. (A) consultant on Complete Streets efforts...advises governments to try to slow cars and trucks down to 20 to 25 mph--a speed at which motor vehicles and cyclists can comfortably share the road. This also makes pedestrians safer and more relaxed.

In Portland, the result of applying these and other techniques is that 4.2 percent of the city's residents commute by bike. That's the highest proportion in any American city, and four times the national average. (Read more.)
Interesting op-ed the senior editor of New Urban News, making the case for a more comprehensive approach to streets. Compare the green, friendly, attractive street pictured above, with the insanity of this street development. Case closed.

Image: AARP Bulletin
Visit: "More bike lanes? No thanks." Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Josh Switzky: Cycling Planner, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Petition: Ask Google to add bike routes

Bike route signage on Market Street in San Francisco

Help us show the Google Maps team that we really really want the ability to get bicycle route information via the main Google Maps interface. We can get driving directions for cars, we get can wonderful mass transit information, and now we want the ultimate in sustainability and self-reliance and exercise and healthy living--bicycle route information.
This is a worthy cause: Persuading the leading search engine to embrace bicycling. Sign the petition, spread the word. also features a helpful page with links to existing online cycling maps. Not to endorse monopoly, but one comprehensive multimodal mobility mapping site would be a very useful thing. Bike routes are more helpful if we can find them.

Image: Paul Dorn. Signs on Market Street in San Francisco.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
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Cutting a bike lock

Image of a bike lock being cut by a power grinder

Image of a bike lock being cut by a power grinder

This week I fought with my bike lock, and conceded defeat. After many months, including quite a few rainy ones, the locking mechanism stuck on my OnGuard Rottweiler armored cable lock. No amount of WD-40 or Tri-Flow lubricant would free it. I tried every key that came with the lock, in case my usual key was worn down. No luck. It wouldn't release.

Fortunately I work at the most bicycling-intensive university in the U.S., the University of California, Davis. I contacted the bicycle program staff at UC Davis' Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS), inquiring if they could help me. Of course, was the response. Within an hour two of TAPS' student staff arrived, just one stop on their busy day removing abandoned bikes and freeing stuck ones like mine. A few minutes of grinding, and my bike was free.

This Rottweiler is a pretty heavy-duty lock. Perhaps overkill in most situations. (Not as severely secure as the locks on my "always outdoors" bicycle.) On the other hand, I've never lost a bicycle to theft. As I describe on my Bike Commuting Tips site, my approach to securing a bicycle is to "outrun the bear." Make my bike more secure than others in the vicinity. Thieves will go for the easier target.

I'd be interested to hear if others might have had similar trouble with OnGuard locks. For the most part I've been very, very satisfied. But are OnGuard locks more vulnerable to corrosion than other bike locks? (Note: I did lubricate this lock fairly regularly.) Could there be another flaw beyond corrosion?

Image: Paul Dorn

Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Spring means bicycling and baseball

I have many passionate interests. Prominent among these interests are bicycling and baseball, both activities that come to the forefront with the end of long cold winter. Spring's growing warmth and brighter days--today is the start of daylight savings time--always encourages more people to think about bicycling. And, of course, spring means baseball!

Living in San Francisco for most of the past decade, I had the opportunity to bicycle to Pacific Bell Park (then SBC Park, now AT&T Park) and leave my bike with the secure parking staffed by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. I've long wondered why more baseball franchises haven't offered similar bicycle parking facilities. Especially in California, a hotbed for both bicycling and baseball.

In 2004 during my brief tenure as executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition, I wrote an article for the coalition's newsletter, the CalBike Advocate:

"Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd." Just don't try to ride a bike there. That's the unfortunate reality for fans of most of California's professional baseball teams. While many of the state's major and minor league franchises offer abundant parking for motorists, facilities for bicycling baseball fans are practically nonexistent. Of California's five major league baseball franchises, only one--the San Francisco Giants--offers secure staffed bicycle parking.

At a time when California faces significant challenges with traffic, pollution, energy, and obesity, why aren't the state's professional sports teams doing more to encourage bicycling? What is the responsibility of major traffic-generating enterprises such as ballparks to promote environmentally sustainable transportation options for getting to their facilities? (Read more.)
My article contrasted the bicycling friendly approach of the San Francisco Giants, and the automobile-centered approach of their south state rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers. My hope was that the article would prompt bicycle advocates around the state to push their local professional baseball franchises to embrace bikes.
"The Giants should be commended for their commitment to providing diverse transportation options to their ballpark," said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. "More teams could easily set up similar bike parking programs, which aren't expensive, serve numerous patrons, and generate significant goodwill for the franchises. Professional baseball teams are highly visible enterprises that are sensitive to public opinion. I'd encourage bike activists around California to demand their baseball teams do more to provide alternatives, including bicycle access." (Read more.)
In the nearly four years since my article originally appeared, conditions have only gotten more favorable for bike-friendly ballparks: higher gas prices, continued traffic nightmares, expanding waistlines.

My article is also available at, and as a PDF at the California Bicycle Coalition website.

Visit: S.F. Giants: Valet Bike Parking 81 Games Per Year,
Visit: San Francisco Giants Offer Valet Bike Parking,
Visit: Bike Parking at Giants Stadium,
Visit: Valet bike parking at PGE Park, Bicycle Transportation Alliance
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
As a Massachusetts native, it goes without saying that I'm a Boston Red Sox fan.
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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Chicago: winter biking grows in popularity

Image of Chicago bicyclist along Lake Michigan
From Medill Reports (Northwestern University), 03.05.08:

Winter biking growth offers unexpected boon to city bike shops
As another fierce Chicago winter wanes, bike shop owners throughout the city are smiling at their good fortune: Off-season sales have been better than ever, softening the industry’s traditional seasonality.

That means fewer cash-flow headaches for the small neighborhood shops spread throughout the city, and fewer layoffs for mechanics and salespeoples used to finding part-time winter work elsewhere.

Irv’s Bike Shop in Pilsen, founded in 1972, is enjoying its best winter ever, owner Henry Ortiz said. Sales are up about 40 percent over last winter. "It's been a lot better than the last two or three years," Ortiz said.

The growing number of commuter bikers is driving the positive sales trend, according to Ortiz and other shop owners enjoying the unexpected boon. Whatever these bikers’ reasons for braving the cold and swerving around street snow, their decision to forgo automobiles and public transit has translated into more tune-ups and purchases of gear, spare parts and even new bicycles at local shops. (Read more.)
Interesting article from Chicago, where cycling has been flourishing in recent years, thanks in no small part to the advocacy efforts of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. The article features an accompanying video, as well as helpful tips for winter riding and a link to BikeWinter.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: In Chicago winter, hardy bicyclists keep riding
Visit: Bike in the winter?, Medill Reports, 02.19.08
Visit: Bicycling in winter has its rewards, Elgin (IL) Courier News, 02.20.08
Visit: Got Snow? Add Bicycle. National Public Radio
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Commuting for the joy of it

View from the seat of a bicycle
From the Columbus Dispatch, 03.07.08:

Outspoken cyclist likes fighting tide
Bicycle commuters know few greater joys than smooth pavement, clear skies and a balmy spring morning. Jennifer Jasmin is looking forward to them. Until then, she'll battle ice, slush and disbelieving motorists on her daily ride to work.

She bought her bicycle, a Giant Cypress, in August. It's strong and heavy. It's adorned with reflectors, decorations and political statements, some of which can't be printed in a family newspaper. Her hat says, "Life is Good." Hers is a life--or at least a commute--against the grain. "People at work think I'm crazy. This is probably as close as I come to being a rebel." (Read more.)
Interesting profile of a bike commuter in Columbus, who deals with severe weather by combining bicycling and transit. She's improved her health, saved money, and surely had more fun.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Colorado study on collegiate helmet use

Image of bicyclist in Colorado
From the Coloradoan (Colorado State University), 03.07.08:

Study: Students fail to wear helmets around town
Tyler Boyd always wears a bike helmet when he mountain bikes. But on Wednesday afternoon, the Colorado State University junior hopped aboard his Schwinn five-speed and prepared to ride from campus to north Old Town--without a helmet. "I just don't want to carry it," Boyd said. "And I figure if I get hit by a car, I'll get hurt either way."

Boyd is not alone. A new study released by CSU this week says college students rarely wear bike helmets while riding around town, even though many of those same students wear a helmet while riding for fun or exercise. (Read more.)
Few topics are as certain to ignite a flame war among bicyclists as helmet use. Internecine arguments over helmet use distract from the necessary united effort to push policy makers to improve the overall safety of streets. My own attitude is that collision avoidance is a better strategy than collision mitigation. Ride smart; don't ride scared.

I trust individual bicyclists to make their own risk assessment, and decide for themselves. If bike advocates exaggerate the "danger" of bicycling, we won't attract many new bicyclists. If a bicyclist feels more comfortable while wearing a helmet, fine. If they choose not to wear a helmet, fine also. Bicycling is safe. Period.

When I mountain bike or ride fast on a weekend outing, I wear a helmet. When I commute I don't. (Just as I wore a helmet when I played collegiate football, but not when I play touch football with friends.) A community with an abundance of helmet-less bicyclists indicates a community where bicyclists feel comfortable and at ease on the streets. A bicycling-friendly community, in other words.

Bicycling is not combat--as this silly Jessica Simpson outfit suggests. (Kneepads?!?) Bicycling is safe.

Image: Coloradoan.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Americans learn bikes cut costs and improve fitness

Image of bicyclist in Washington DC
From Reuters, 03.07.08:

WASHINGTON (Reuters Life!) - At a time of soaring gasoline prices, expanding waistlines, and growing worry over climate change, more Americans are getting on their bikes.

American cities including Portland, Oregon, Louisville, Kentucky, and Washington, D.C. are aggressively promoting bicycling as a clean, efficient and healthy means of transport, and many of their citizens are taking to two wheels for short urban journeys.

"The public is getting the message and they want to do it" said Andy Clarke, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, the leading U.S. advocacy group for bikes as a means of transportation. "There is a palpable increase in the number of people cycling," he added in an interview at the National Bike Summit.

About 500 people including bike enthusiasts and industry and government officials attended the summit sponsored by the bicycling lobby. They attended workshops, training and meetings to promote policies to get more people riding bikes. Bicycle advocates say the bike should be used for the 40 percent of urban journeys that are less than two miles (3.2 km), especially since 90 percent of those journeys are done by car. (Read more.)
In the wake of the annual National Bike Summit, an interesting article on the traction bicycling is gaining, pointing to Portland and Washington DC as two transformative models of cities embracing bicycling.

Visit: Summit Breaks Attendance Record, Bicycle Retailer & Industry News
Visit: All Eyes on Portland at Bike Summit, StreetsBlog
Visit: Congressional Bike Caucus rolls in Washington, DC,
Visit: Bike shop owner becomes first-time lobbyist
Visit: Hee, Hee, Bikers in Suits, Grist
Visit: "Ways to trim your gas bill", Everett (WA) Herald
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Ventura: Pedaling for the planet

From the Ventura County Reporter, 02.28.08:

Many Ventura County residents want to ride bicycles for transportation as gasoline prices rise and to help combat global climate change, but conflicts with stressed out motorists on busy roads is a growing concern for bicyclists and police.

That’s why bike enthusiasts recently met with Ventura police and city officials about dangerous confrontations, including one that left a bike rider injured. Now they’re teaming up for a public outreach campaign to help ensure riders and drivers get along...Police plan a crackdown on drivers who intimidate bike riders and break the law.

"That's a big issue with bicyclists who choose not to ride more frequently because they feel like they're being harassed," (Ventura Transportation Engineer Tom) Mericle said.

"There's a kind of camaraderie when you're bicycling, you go slow enough and you're not in your little encased metal box so you can say hello and wave to people, and see things and smell the roses," said (Rachel Morris, president of Ventura Climate Care Options Organized Locally, or VCCOOL). "It's a healthy thing for a community to have a lot of people bicycling." (Read more.)
Article from SoCal on efforts by bicyclists and law enforcement to improve cooperation on public streets, with a motivation to save the planet.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

St. Louis: Change your view

Encouraging series of public service announcements from St. Louis. Relaxed, accessible, sunny, emphasizing the joy.

Visit Gear up and pedal to office, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Feds report on Marin's cycling progress

Image of cyclist in Marin
From the Marin Independent-Journal (CA), 02.28.08:

Foot power: Report reveals Marin's biking, walking habits
Every day, Marin residents log more than 131,000 miles by bike and on foot, according to the first report on the county's participation in a $100 million nationwide pilot project aimed at getting people out of cars. The percentage of daily trips made by bicycling or walking is an estimated 13.6 percent, according to the study. That's better than the national average of 9.5 percent.

The report to Congress, released Wednesday, details baseline data for the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program, which is in its second year. The next report, showing the impact of the pilot, will be issued in 2010-11. Marin and three other communities--Minneapolis, Minn.; Sheboygan County, Wis.; and Columbia, Mo.--were picked for the trial in which each community was given $20 million for bike paths and other improvements aimed at increasing biking and foot traffic.

The goal is to decrease auto-related pollution and fuel consumption, which will help fight global warming and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. (Read more.)
On the week of the annual National Bike Summit, here's encouraging coverage of the landmark Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program. The advocates who attended past summits helped to pass this provision, enabling generous Federal support to several communities working on improved bicycling and walking. Advocacy works for bicyclists.

Image: Marin Independent-Journal.
Visit: Bicyclists and Pedestrians Can Cool the Climate, Rails to Trails press release
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

2008: Year of the Bicycle?

Image of bike lift at Critical Mass in Times Square
From the Daily Press (Newport News, VA), 03.02.08:

Bicycling's best year since the start of the auto age? That's the argument likely to be made March 4-6 as hundreds of cyclists from across the nation gather in Washington for the National Bike Summit sponsored of the League of American Bicyclists.

A crescendo of trends and developments makes the case.

First the trends: Oil costs are surpassing $100 a barrel, global warming alarm calls are mounting, polluting autos and trucks increasingly clog city streets, and health concerns about a sedentary and fattening society are mounting.

And now the developments: Handy bike-for-hire stations are proving instant hits in Paris and other European cities, and seem poised to invade urban America. Moves to add painted bike lanes along city roadways are being eclipsed by proposals for entire networks of "bike boulevards"--roadways altered radically to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians. And a companion "Complete Streets" movement--making roadway space for cyclists and pedestrians, not just cars and trucks--is gaining traction nationwide. (Read more.)
Encouraging editorial by syndicated columnist Neal Peirce, a prominent media voice for transportation sanity, having written past columns in support of walking and livability, Amtrak and passenger rail, and Safe Routes to Schools. This column also appeared in the Denver Post, the Louisville Courier-Journal, among others.

I had an opportunity to attend the National Bike Summit in 2004, during my brief time as executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition. It's an important event that has made a difference in gaining congressional support for bicycling-friendly streets.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site