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Monday, August 03, 2009

Cash for Clunkers: More auto-centric nonsense

Image of car in dumpster
From Yahoo News, 07.31.09:

House approves $2B more for 'cash for clunkers'
The House has voted to rush an additional $2 billion into the popular but financially strapped "cash for clunkers" car purchase program.

The bill was approved on a vote of 316-109. House members acted within hours of learning from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that the program was running out of money.

Called the Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS, the program is designed to help the economy and the environment by spurring new car sales. Car owners can receive federal subsidies of up to $4,500 for trading in their old cars for new ones that achieve significantly higher gas mileage. (Read more.)
The absolute insanity of this is just staggering.

Transit is starving, Amtrak is wheezing, bicyclists and pedestrians lack adequate facilities, yet the government happily tosses billions and billions of (borrowed) dollars at motorists. It's like a giant national Oprah show: "Everyone gets a new car!"

Easy credit for the masses has vanished. Catastrophic global climate change looms. Oil is running out. (We can debate whether we're at peak, beyond peak or nearing peak, but we don't call petroleum a "non-renewable resource" for nothing.) Simply put, the "happy motoring" era is finished, period. We need to get smarter about our transportation investments, if we are going to continue to have any kind of sustainable economy. This stupid revanchist "cash for clunkers" scheme does nothing to wean Americans off petro-dependency and debt overload. And don't get me started on the social justice inequity of all this (low-income transit riders facing cuts and fare hikes, while middle-class suburbanites buy new Ford Escape Hybrid SUVs.)

Worst of all, it appears the environmental advocacy community completely laid down for this. I even got a message from the Sierra Club: "Put Cash for Clunkers to Good Use."

Where's the environmental benefit? The 1,000 gallons or so of energy "embedded" in the prior manufacture of the existing clunker will be scrapped, so the new more fuel efficient consumer can save maybe 50 gallons a year? Huh?

Sustainable transportation advocates have long been frustrated by the failure of mainstream environmental organizations, obsessed with fantasies about clean energy or efficient vehicles. Transit has been on the chopping block everywhere, with negligible opposition from environmentalists.

If Congress wants to save jobs with some subsidy to the auto industry, we should demand concessions. Say a $1-a-gallon surcharge on gas dedicated to transit, walking, and bicycling in exchange for this freebie to motorists.

Bicycle advocates active with Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, and other enviro groups need to demand greater efforts for sustainable, not efficient transportation. Our economic future will be determined by how quickly we shift from a transportation system based on driving alone to one based on bicycling, walking, passenger rail, and public transit.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Cash-for-Clunkers: An ‘Expensive’ Way to Reduce Emissions, Wall Street Journal
Visit: When It Comes to Being Green, Cash for Clunkers Is a Lemon, Washington Post
Visit: Separating Myth From Fact on "Cash for Clunkers", Streetsblog
Visit: "Cash for Clunkers" Program Yields Dubious Benefit, Public Citizen
Visit: Your tax dollars at work to sell more cars, Baltimore Spokes
Visit: CARS Program is actually a C.R.A.P. Program, Get Energy Smart Now
Visit: Sustaining the Unsustainable,
Visit: Warning: Oil Supplies Are Running Out Fast,
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Baby on Board: Pregnancy and bicycle commuting

Image of a pregnant cyclist in Copenhagen
The following was edited out of the manuscript of my book, The Bike to Work Guide: What You Need to Know to Save Gas, Go Green, Get Fit. The question of bicycle commuting while pregnant has come up occasionally from site readers. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

While pregnancy is undoubtedly a time when women need to pay close attention to their bodies and use some caution in their physical exertion, it’s a complete myth that pregnant women shouldn't exercise and continue healthy activities they enjoy. Safe exercise throughout pregnancy offers many benefits to both expectant mother and child, including increased blood flow, greater oxygen delivery, stress reduction, endorphins, improved mood. Maintaining physical fitness improves a woman's stamina during delivery and speeds postnatal recovery. If you can continue to work during your pregnancy, you can make your trip to work by bicycle.

Bicycle commuting can be a particularly healthy activity for expectant mothers, even up to the week before giving birth. Of all the exercises a pregnant woman might choose, cycling is among the best because of its smooth motion and it doesn’t require lifting, jumping, or sudden stops. The level of exertion can be varied, making it easy for a cyclist to lower the intensity of her riding as her pregnancy progresses. Possibly the only physical activity more suitable for pregnant women would have to be swimming.

Before embarking on any exercise during pregnancy, it’s important to consult with your obstetrician or midwife. Your caregiver should be completely involved in helping you design an exercise regimen that will be to your benefit. As long as your pregnancy progresses normally and you have no prior health concerns (such as a history of problems during pregnancy), a caregiver may encourage you to stay active with moderate exercise such as bicycle commuting.

The key to any exercise during pregnancy is not to overdo it. It’s fine to exercise as often as you normally would, but it’s best to keep the intensity level slightly lower than usual. For instance, while you may normally aim to keep your heart rate at between 70 and 80 percent of maximum while exercising, during pregnancy it’s best to keep it between 60 and 70 percent. Be sure to drink lots of fluids, take frequent breaks when pedaling, and avoid overheating.

Continue to be cautious when returning to biking after giving birth. While you’ll no longer be riding for two, you still need to keep your body well nourished, especially if you plan to breastfeed. Don’t be in too much of a rush to lose the extra weight you may have gained over the past months--it will come off steadily if you eat properly and continue cycling.

Your suggestions for happy bicycle commuting while pregnant?

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Can pregnant women safely ride bicycles, San Francisco Chronicle
Visit: Pedaling Pregnant, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
Visit: Bicycling and Pregnancy, American Pregnancy Association
Visit: Biking with a bump: Should you ride while pregnant?,
Visit: Preggo Velo, Tot Cycle Family Cycling
Visit: Riding while pregnant,
Visit: Bicycle travel, with kids too!, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bicycling Safety Considerations for Women
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Out of excuses: You—yes, you—can ride your bike to work

Image of MUNI bus in San Francisco with Bike to Work Day ad
From, 05.13.09:

Paul Dorn knows that getting Americans to ride a bike to work instead of driving a car is quite the uphill battle. Even on a good day, he says, only a tiny percentage of the nation’s commuters use pedal power to get to their jobs.

He remains undeterred.

Given that this is national Bike to Work Week, it’s an apt time to pick Dorn’s brain on the subject. Between co-authoring a book (The Bike to Work Guide: What You Need to Know to Save Gas, Go Green, Get Fit) his bike commuting advice Web site and his commuting tips blog, he is well-versed in the subject.

"I'm fairly typical of most Americans in the sense that the day I got my driver's license, the bike went into the garage. I didn't really touch it again until my mid-30s, when I was living in San Francisco, and didn’t have a car," he said. His frustrating mass transit commute took 90 minutes. So he hopped on a bike, cut the commuting time in half, felt healthier, stopped paying bus fare and just generally started having more fun.

Of course, starting out in San Francisco helped. It’s a generally bike-friendly city, and Dorn...found a supportive cycling community to tell him about equipment, routes to avoid traffic and other advice. (Read more.)
It's Bike to Work Day in many cities across the U.S., including the San Francisco Bay Area. (BTWD in Sacramento is May 21.) This extensive article offers insights--many of them mine--into bike selection, bicycling safety, and advocacy for complete streets.

Bike to Work Day has been an effective promotion, encouraging commuters to reconsider their default transportation mode. A major challenge facing many prospective bicycle commuters is what we might call (with a nod to James Howard Kunstler) the "Psychology of Previous Investment."

Motorists have made a huge investment--social, psychological, emotional, and financial--in their automobiles. "I love my car" or "My car makes me look hot!" They've made payments on car loans and auto insurance. They are afraid of diminished social status: "Jeff's not driving, I wonder if he lost his job?" The characters on their favorite TV dramas and sit-coms drive; their friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, everyone drives. Cars evoke nostaglic memories; our parents took us on car trips, not bicycle tours. There's also the perception that bike commuters are either eccentric geeks or low-income transients. It's not mature or grown up.

Our entire culture has been built around the automobile. While the rest of the world built transit and high-speed rail, we built freeways and parking lots. In much of our country, it is truly unpleasant to walk or bike to destinations, which in sprawling suburbs are often separated by long distances and dull numbing strip mall streetscapes. In short, our public policy for the past 60-70 years has discouraged walking, transit use, or bicycling.

It's a challenge to consider shifting to bicycling.

Bike to Work Day is effective at raising awareness, as individual commuters and as citizens in a culture long-dominated by the auto-petrol industrial complex. BTWD offers a "safe" day to try bicycling, makes us confront our transportation reality, and causes us to examine our real options. And a few of us will try bicycle commuting, and possibly continue with it. Happy Bike to Work Day.

Image: San Francisco Bike Coalition.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sacramento Bee profile of multimodal bike commuter

Image of bicyclist Paul Dorn boarding the Amtrak Capitol Corridor in Sacramento
From the Sacramento Bee, 04.30.09:

Commuter: A 'multi-modal' journey

In 1992, Paul Dorn sold his car, which wouldn't be such a big deal, except he never bought another one. Now he has written a book showing others how to get by with less car use or no car use at all.

"The Bike to Work Guide: What You Need to Know to Save Gas, Go Green, Get Fit" (Adams Media, $7.95, 218 pages) focuses on helping the 57 million cyclists in the United States "extend the fun they have bicycling on weekends to their daily commute."

"I didn't set out to become a bike commuting expert. I had a modest goal of creating a Web site, and that led me to have an ongoing conversation with bicyclists," said Dorn.

Dorn is not a bike rider fixated on speed. He equips his touring-style bike with a rear rack. He usually rides wearing loose-fitting hiking shorts instead of tight-fitting Lycra. "People should ride whatever they are comfortable in and whatever suits their style," he said.

Asked his position on helmets, which are not legally required for adults, Dorn says, "I'm not one of these helmet-enforcement types. I'm not a bicycling advocate who accentuates the danger. I accentuate the fun. Bicycling is safe. More people die in bathtubs every year than riding a bike."

"There are so many people who ride bikes for recreation. The real challenge is to encourage them to ride it during the week, too. A lot of people get started for various reasons – to lose weight or improve their health or save the planet. But they persist with bike commuting because it's fun." (Read more.)
An overwhelming article in today's Sacramento Bee, by bicyclist and journalist Blair Anthony Robertson, with an impressive video by Andy Alfaro.

I'm glad my comment about "the ongoing conversation with bicyclists" made it through the editing process. By means of this blog and my website, I've been privileged to have an extensive dialogue with bicyclists and would-be bicyclists from around the world. Everything I know about bicycle commuting is the product of the comments readers have sent to me or left on this blog, and I've learned a great deal from the bicyclists in San Francisco, Davis, and Sacramento.

Let's hope this article encourages a few more folks to consider bicycle commuting.

Image: Andy Alfaro, Sacramento Bee.
Visit: Biking Journalist: Interview with Blair Robertson, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Friday, April 10, 2009

Velorution coming to Boston?

From the Boston Globe, 04.10.09:

Is Boston Ready For a Revolution?
Can Boston really go from being the worst city for bicycling to the best? The mayor and his spitfire bike czar think so, and they're determined to launch the biggest bike-share program in the country. But as one visit to Paris reveals, bike share is about more than cool racks and shiny two-wheelers...

I'm visiting Paris to see how its new bike-sharing program has transformed and energized the city. Boston is exploring the idea, and while plenty of bike fanatics and clean-air enthusiasts are ecstatic, a lot of others think it's lunacy, given that our street system is a mess, our drivers are maniacs, and our weather isn't exactly ideal for biking...

When I arrive, Paris is having a rare cold snap and there's a dusting of snow...Even as I'm trying to keep my legs from shaking in the cold, a steady stream of undeterred commuters rides by on Velib bikes...I walk down to get my bike. A green light blinks, telling me to pull it out of the locking system...I ride down the block. The bike is heavy but handles well.

Mayor Menino commutes to work on his bike some days. He's convinced Boston can be transformed by a sustained effort to get citizens out of cars and onto bikes. He is not alone. "Bike share would allow non-riders to get on a bike with a very minimal change to their lifestyle," says David Watson, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition. "Forty percent of car trips are within 2 miles of home. If bike share helps us shift just a small percentage of those trips to bikes, it will have a huge impact on our citizens' health, on the environment, and the vitality of our community."(Read more.
A writer for a major daily newspaper visits Paris, and is impressed by the city's innovative Velib program and imagines how it might transform Boston. He's not alone. The success of Velib has attracted significant attention, and inspired initial efforts in many cities.

Image: Boston Globe.
Visit: Boston Tries to Shed Longtime Reputation as Cyclists’ Minefield, New York Times
Visit: Bike-Sharing Blog
Visit: Boston improves as a bike city, Boston Globe
Visit: Bike sharing sweeps Europe, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Boston: Paths to safe cycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Josh Switzky Interview, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Friday, March 06, 2009

Bike commuting and economic downturn

Image of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists on a bridge
The economic situation is bleak, and getting bleaker. In some sense the current economic crisis is primarily an energy crisis.

The American economy rose to global hegemony on a wave of inexpensive petroleum. An assumption of perpetual cheap energy is the foundation of the business plans of nearly every corporation traded on the NYSE, NASDAQ, and other exchanges. The global economy assumes cheap oil, and no economy assumes this with greater enthusiasm than the prodigiously profligate U.S. economy, which consumes 25 percent of total annual global production of petroleum, most of which fuels the country's motor vehicles.

However, the era of cheap abundant oil is over. That's the dope slap now causing panic in the equity markets. Despite the momentarily lower price of oil, the long term trend is for increasing scarcity and rising prices for petroleum. Alternative fuels on the massive scale needed to fuel the global economy are scant, unrealistic, underdeveloped, and distant at best. Welcome to post peak America.

The new energy reality will have significant impacts on the economy. The first domino to fall was the housing sector, having powered economic growth for several decades through sprawling development of energy-intensive exurban "McMansion" subdivisions. The mortgage driven banking industry was the next domino to fall.

Other sectors approaching collapse include consumer credit cards, mall retail, automobile makers, and the airline industry. Business is eroding for the restaurant, travel and hospitality sector. Energy-intensive and credit dependent corporate agriculture is in trouble. The fuel-guzzling military-industrial complex will be challenged. Sadly, America's political leadership fails to understand this pivotal paradigm shift, and seems determined to launch another frenzy of stimulative highway spending in a futile attempt to reinvigorate the "Happy Motoring Era."

Those interested in more detailed examinations of the new energy future might consult the work of thinkers such as James Howard Kunstler, Michael Klare, and Paul Roberts, or films such as The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream or A Crude Awakening-The Oil Crash. Eventually the American economy will reach a new equilibrium, but it will doubtless be at a lower level. This will require a fundamental shift in how we live.

What does this mean for the future of bicycle commuting? In short, I believe the prospects are very, very bright. Those of us who now commute by bike will be less lonely on our streets. The relative appeal of travel by bicycle will increase, as Americans become less affluent and energy prices continue to climb. Some speculations:

• Urban Rebound: sprawling suburbs will lose their appeal, as gas gets scarce and costly. Dense, walkable cities will become more attractive, making transit and bicycling more practical.

• Transit Renewal: strapped public agencies will find even basic road maintenance an expensive challenge, let alone new highway construction. Fixed rail transit (trolleys), bus rapid transit (BRT), and passenger rail will all become more critical. Multimodal systems--combining bicycles and transit--will become more common.

• Power-assisted Bicycles: as much as bicycle commuting purists think pedaling is a virtue, many others will look to electric bicycles, scooters, mopeds, and other energy-efficient two-wheeled transportation. We will need to negotiate better accommodation for all two-wheeled vehicles, so bike lanes are not overwhelmed with motorized transport.

• Bike-Sharing: many municipal agencies will experiment with bike sharing, as a form of cost-effective public transportation. Boston, Washington, and San Francisco are among the early movers pursuing Paris Velib-style bike sharing systems.

• Bike Parking: companies looking to reduce the expense of providing employee parking may become more supportive of their bicycle commuting staff. The Bicycle Commuter Act is a hopeful start; possible new initiatives to provide more equity in transportation provision will emerge.

• Health Care Reform: cost-containment efforts are long overdue in American healthcare, which may shift the emphasis from medical intervention/treatment to illness prevention. This will provide more support for healthy activities such as bicycling.

The shift away from an oil-intensive economy and transportation system will be traumatic and difficult. But it doesn't have to be. Much has been done in many communities around the U.S. to facilitate bicycle commuting. We need to encourage even more public investment in bicycling, and end support for gas guzzling foolishness. The future of bicycle commuting may be very bright, and may be the foundation of economic recovery.

What do you think of the future prospects? Is there a silver lining for bicycling in the dismal economic trends?

Image: Web capture.
Visit: The Ruins of the Unsustainable: Searching For Answers to the Suburbs,
Visit: Did Your Car Cause the Crisis?, American Prospect
Visit: Tomgram: Michael Klare, The Permanent Energy Crisis Hits Home,
Visit: Dilip Hiro: The Energy Reality We Face,
Visit: The end of oil is closer than you think, The Guardian (2005!)
Visit: Will The End of Oil Mean The End of America?, (2004!)
Visit: From the Wilderness
Visit: Peak Moment TV
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Protect your bike from theft

Shawna Sanders, a biology student at Sacramento City College, secures her bike to a rack with a U-shaped lock before heading to class
From the Sacramento Bee, 02.20.09:

Bike theft is a common crime--no happy ending in most cases
Hey, what about my bike? That's what lots of local cyclists have been saying this week as police worked to crack the Lance Armstrong $10,000-plus bike theft case.

Each year, several thousand bicycles are stolen in the region--and few result in even a token police investigation.

Shawna Sanders, a student at Sacramento City College, said Thursday the lack of any follow-up on her missing bike case "really irritated" her. Sanders...said her old bike was swiped from her backyard near Curtis Park. She carefully secured her new bike's frame to a bike rack with a U-shaped lock. "I understand that they have a lot going on, but … " she said.

Her story isn't unusual, city police officials say, but the reality is there are few leads to work in bike thefts and when budgets are tight, public safety cases win. "Unfortunately, property crimes are not the top priority right now," said Officer Michelle Lazark. (Read more.)
Lance Armstrong's bike isn't safe from theft. Is yours? The well publicized theft of Armstrong's expensive time trial bike from a locked team truck last weekend in Sacramento has helped generate interest in the very real problem of bike theft. Knowing how to secure your own cherished bicycle is a real key to happy bike commuting. I've been very fortunate--I've had minor accessories stolen, but have never lost a bike. I've always been very conscious about locking, security, and theft deterrence. The following is an excerpt from the relevant chapter of my book, The Bike to Work Guide: What You Need to Know to Save Gas, Go Green, Get Fit:

You've arrived at work. Now you need a place to leave your bicycle.

Sadly, employers in the United States are not very enlightened about bicycle parking. They aren't reluctant to provide parking for their employee's automobiles, spending thousands creating a parking lot or garage for staff car parking, and thousands more on lighting, maintaining, security, and insurance for these parking lots. Yet only one automobile parking space could be converted to create parking for ten or more bicycles.

Until your employer gets better informed about the value of staff bicycle parking, you will need to take responsibility for keeping your bicycle secure during the workday...If possible, try to leave your bicycle in a secure indoor location. Not only will this keep your bike secure from thieves, it will also protect it from weather. Perhaps you have enough space in your office to keep your bike there; where it will also become a conversation starter with colleagues and perhaps inspire others at your workplace to bike commute. Perhaps there is a closet or storeroom with space. The luckiest bike commuters work at organizations that provide secure indoor parking.

While regular commuters may want something that provides a bit more security (if it’s available), most cyclists depend on what’s available in the immediate vicinity. Wherever you decide to lock your bike, make sure it’s safe for the bike and safe for everyone else as well. For example, don’t chain your bike in a place where it will block pedestrian’s paths. Besides being obnoxious, it may also be illegal...

Unless you leave your bike at a safe, supervised parking lot, always use a strong bike lock, preferably some sort of U-lock. You may also want to use more than one lock, such as a cable in addition to your U-lock. Redundancy is effective at deterring thieves, who may have the tools to defeat one type of lock, but not several types of lock. And don’t forget to take any accessories or easily removable parts with you when you leave the bike.

Other Theft Deterrence Techniques

Record your bike's serial number. Every bike has a unique serial number, usually stamped on the frame below the bottom bracket. Record this number in a safe place. If your bike is stolen, report it so that law enforcement agencies could possibly recover your bike.

Uglify your bike. Make your bike as undesirable as possible. Some cyclists remove brand name decals or repaint the bike to disguise a top-of-the-line model as a piece of junk. Many bicyclists also put decals on their bike, both to express a message ("One Less Car", "I Bike & I Vote" or "What Gas Prices?") and to discourage easy re-sale in the event of theft.

Use a "beater bike". Leave your expensive titanium or carbon fiber bike at home, commute on a less expensive model. Many bicycle commuters ride "urban beater bikes" that are less appealing to thieves.

Make it unrideable. Many cyclists remove wheels and saddles to make it impossible for thieves to ride away on a bike. Even thieves who load bikes onto trucks may avoid those with missing parts; they don’t want the hassle of finding spare parts when they can simply steal another bike without missing pieces.

Register your bike. Many communities offer bicycle registration through the local police department or other agency. Many states or communities also offer or require a bicycle license, which includes an adhesive label. There is also an anti-theft organization, the National Bike Registry, which also provides tamper-proof adhesive label. These discourage thieves, who move on to unregistered bicycles that are more difficult to trace to the original owner.

Identify your bike. Many bicyclists use permanent markers to personalize their bikes, making them less appealing to bike thieves.

Report stolen bikes. Most times, police can’t do anything to help you find a stolen bike, especially when it is unregistered. It may be either impossible to find the thief or too time consuming at a busy precinct. However, a large number of stolen bikes are eventually recovered, so it’s worthwhile to report a theft just in case.

Never buy a stolen bike. Without a thriving market for stolen bikes, the huge problem of bike theft would not exist. Besides, you may be held partly responsible for a theft if you buy a stolen bike. To avoid stolen bikes, only buy from reputable bike shops. If someone offers you a great deal on a used bike, ask to see a receipt or registration. Without either of these, it’s impossible to be sure the bike was'nt stolen at some point.

image: Sacramento Bee.
Visit: What Would Get Americans Biking to Work? Decent Parking., Slate
Visit: Avoiding the Bicycle Thief, Slate Magazine
Visit: A better way to store bikes,
Visit: Theft Prevention, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
Visit: Bike theft real, and preventable, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: It's 5 p.m., do you know where your bike is?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Cutting a bike lock, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sacramento Meetup: bicycle bloggers, others

Image of cool bike in Old Sacramento
Coming to Sacramento for Valentines Day--and also the prologue of the Amgen Tour of California? Finish the day at the AToC Social Media Meetup. Join the inimitable Fritz (Cyclelicious, CommutebyBike), David Bernstein (The FredCast), Jonathan Tessler (, Jon Winston (Bikescape), myself and others this Saturday, February 14 at 7 p.m. at Bar R15 in Sacramento (15th and R Streets.)

This is a casual, no-host get together, meaning you're responsible for your own food and drinks. (I'll be sipping Diet Coke.) Some bicycle parking is available (one rack, nearby poles), so you may need to use your kickstand and self-lock your bike or leash it with a friend's bike. Theft danger is present, but not huge. To find us, look for cowbells, bike race media passes and paraphernalia, or helmets. RSVP on Facebook. No RSVP is necessary, but leave a comment if you think you can stop by.

During your visit to Sacramento, try to visit the new Bicycle Kitchen if you have time. And also try to take a ride on the American River Bike Trail, one of the premier bicycling facilities in the nation. The Amgen Tour prologue course will be open for riding at 11:30 a.m.; enjoy a ride on traffic free streets.

Visit: Web capture.
Visit: Sacramento Bee Amgen Special
Visit: Sacramento: Bicycling gaining big, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Sacramento: Cycle City?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Sacramento goes for gold, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Monday, February 09, 2009

Davis shows the way for bike commuting

Image of bicycle path in Davis, California
In anticipation of the Amgen Tour of California's start in Sacramento and Davis, I was asked by the Yolo County Visitors Bureau to write an op-ed touting Davis' stature as a bicycle-friendly community. It was published this week by The Reporter (Vacaville, CA), the Davis Enterprise, and the Daily Democrat (Woodland, CA):

Davis shows the way for bike commuting
By Paul Dorn

Bicycling is an inherently sociable activity. Travel in a car is a very alienating experience, containment in a metal vehicle moving at the highest-possible velocity, the terrain is simply scenery seen through a windshield.

When you travel by bicycle, you're immersed in the terrain, and all its delights and surprises. You feel hot breezes; hear laughter and snatches of conversations; smell flowers and the house having a cookout. You are part of your community, not apart from it.

From a car window, ugly strip malls are hastily passed by and parks are briefly glimpsed. On a bicycle seat, expansive parking lots are detested blight and green expanses are savored. Shade hardly matters to climate-controlled travel; mature trees and leafy canopy are celebrated by pedalers. Friends passing in their respective vehicles might wave or offer a quick horn toot--if they see each other at all. Friends passing each other on bicycles may stop, exchange pleasantries and perhaps pedal together for a bit.

Bicycling is intrinsically social. And no city in America is as enthusiastic about bicycling as Davis. It is one of only three platinum-level cities in the country for bicycle friendliness, according to the League of American Bicyclists--the others are Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo.--Davis has the highest per capita bicycle use in the U.S.

In the 1960s, Davis was the first city in the U.S. to create on-street bike lanes--lobbying for changes to the state traffic codes to do so- and has continued to develop its streetscape and infrastructure.

One particularly delightful feature of life in Davis is observing the morning and afternoon "rush hours" on the greenbelt paths, as groups of children travel to and from school on bikes, skateboards and scooters.

The social aspect of bicycling may help explain the appeal of Davis and its environs. It's a city where nearly every resident bicycles, at some point or another, from child to student to parent to grandparent. And this shared sociable travel on two wheels connects residents with each other, inspiring civic engagement with their community and passion about its improvement and environment.

So it's not surprising that Davis will host the first stage of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California, the most important bike race in the U.S. The event will attract the world's best bike racers and marks the American comeback of seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, meaning the event is sure to attract global attention.

At a time of increasing concern about the environment, energy, traffic and public health, many cities are looking at bicycles as a means to facilitate sustainable, active mobility. Getting more people out of cars and onto bikes will yield enormous benefits. And Davis offers a great model for how communities might incorporate bicycles into their civic life.

Creating more bicycling-friendly communities won't be a cakewalk. Adding bike lanes may require less space for cars, always a contentious challenge for any municipal government concerned about impacts on the retail and employment environment. Yet Davis demonstrates how an improved bicycling environment and a robust local economy aren't mutually exclusive objectives.

Davis's admirable bicycle facilities aren't an accident, but the outcome of visionary city planning more than four decades ago. "Because of certain unique features -- mild climate, level terrain, a large population of healthy, young and cash-poor university students for whom cycling is a natural choice -- Davis would have a high rate of cycling without doing anything," says David Takemoto-Weerts, longtime bicycle program coordinator for UC Davis. "However, it was Davis' decision in the mid-1960s to proactively encourage and protect cycling that has made it the most bike-friendly community in the country."

Davis has grown from 5,000 residents in 1960 to more than 60,000 today, spreading out over a larger area to accommodate that growth. Its character has changed as well, from a purely "college town" to a partial "bedroom community" for nearby Sacramento and even the Bay Area. These changes could have easily crowded out cycling if it weren't for the proactive efforts of city residents, government leaders and city agencies.

"Davis has had the advantage of being able to build cycling infrastructure as it has grown," says Tim Bustos, former bicycle coordinator for Davis. "This is easier than trying to retrofit an older city like San Francisco. However, there's no excuse not to begin creating more favorable cycling conditions. A lot of communities waste time arguing over whether or not to provide for bicycles. In Davis, that argument is over. Bicyclists aren't asking for anything special. We only want the same consideration given to every other transportation mode."

There are challenges in Davis, to be sure. Car use continues to grow along with the city's population. However, given the wide community recognition of the benefits of cycling, it seems certain that Davis will continue to provide an increasingly important model for bike-friendly city planning.

Bicycle racing fans making a first visit to Davis are sure to feel welcome -- and inspired.

Sacramento resident Paul Dorn is a bicycle commuting blogger, writer, and co-author of the The Bike to Work Guide: What You Need to Know to Save Gas, Go Green, Get Fit (Adams Media, 2009). He is employed as the marketing director for the Department of Campus Recreation at UC Davis.

Image: kate at yr own risk, bicycle path in Davis, California
Visit: What Makes A City Bike Friendly? Ask Davis, California, Wired
Visit: Davis retains platinum status as bike capital, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Davis studies its bicycling activity, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Davis commemorates 50 years of bicycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn responds to John Forester on Davis, Cyclelicious
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

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
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:

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,
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,
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 (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,'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",
Visit: Are we building new roads to crumbling bridges, Transportation For America
Visit: Bicycling Stimulus,
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 and Carlton Reid of

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: Why I'm done wearing a bicycle helmet, Spokesman Review
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