Bicycle! Bicycle!

I stumbled upon this pretty entertaining video on the Blog 'People Powered' and thought I'd pass it along. I think it's rather well done considering the setting length and complexity! I remember people on Peaks Island joking about organizing and singing choreographed 'island songs' on the boat packed with July tourists. :-)
I'm glad they did it because it's creative, fun and non threatening. Do you think it makes a statement about bikes?



Cyclists Manifesto

While on my 4 day visit to see my family in Maine I spent the evenings up late (on Oregon time) reading Robert Hurst's The Cyclist's Manifesto. I was still high on Jeff Mapes' Pedaling Revolution and wasn't let down at all.
Hurst excels in one area in particular I think, and that is his incredibly level headed assesment of statistics. Often he suggested that many studies that cyclists latch on to readily (such as those that indicate lower death rates on bikes than in cars, etc) were conducted poorly, or lopsidedly.
His creative sense of humor also stands out.
One idea that struck me came up when he was discussing how america fits into the 'biking world'. Generally I feel that activists and developers are looking to countries and cities where more people bike and try to emulate them. Copenhagen, Amsterdam, China, etc. Hurst finds all of the deabate over the pros and cons of cycletracks (bike lanes separated by a small curb), bike lanes, etc a bit unproductive. He suggests that instead of trying to become like other cities and countries are, we need to develop an American way of cycling. Our infrastructure is different. Our culture and history are different. Shouldn't our cycling be different? Hurst spends some good time on 'sharrows', bike arrows that do nothing except remind cars on the road that bikes have the right to the lane. These sharrows when placed down a side street constitute a bike boulevard. He also suggests that there are American solutions waiting to happen as well, and that no individual idea can 'cure' our bike problems.
I kind of like this idea. It frees us to invent our own way. Until we start doing it better than Europe I think we will struggle with our identity as American cyclists. (although 'cyclists' sounds so sporty, I mean you all on bikes!)
I good book I highly recommend.
Sam is reading Pedaling Revolution now, and I have Robert Hurst's previous book The Art of Cycling waiting for me when I get back to Portland.

Be safe!



Slow Riders in Portland. Maine, that is

This video caught my eye recently and I really like it.
Portland Maine Slow Riders
(and their facebook group)
I'm really excited when I see riders in Maine because the cold weather much of the year and shoulder-less roads can be very discouraging, but it's a place where people really would ride I think. Unfortunately I didn't really start riding as an adult until after leaving the wonderful state. (as a side note, when I took to biking for transportation in collage it was natural and logical for me due mostly to my wonderful upbringing on Peaks Island where my family had no car and biked everywhere, and the summer trips to Acadia National Park, with upwards of 4 bikes and a trail-a-bike somehow on top of our Volvo.)

The wonderful atmosphere in the video made me think of Critical Mass. I kind of feel that this is what Critical Mass ought to be like. More creative, more communal and with less baggage. I think CM has played a very important role around the world. It was the first event I ever participated in where I felt like I wasn't alone as a cyclist in Provo Utah and has impacted me personally in a very positive way, but CM also has a lot of history. Often negative history, that makes it hard to ride in, I think. I'd like to see more rides like this, similar to critical mass, but without the name and history. There is one here in Tokyo, or so I hear.

Ride safely! (and in great numbers)


ps: rad posters as well!!!


Tokyo Bike 1

Hello from the land of the rising sun!
Just a couple bikes I've seen and liked. By far the most common are the mamacharis; step through frame, heavier bikes, fenders, front basket, back rack, built in rear wheel lock, and often modified for extreme or awkward loads. (sometimes people)

now and again gems such as the following show up:

This great foldable bike has a motor hooked up to it as well as the nifty cooler on back.

A pretty intense fixie that stood way out in this land of bulky steel frames!

More fun photos of bikes to come as well as some thoughts of riding in Tokyo and how bikes can actually fit into a cities social code of transportation.

I hope you're all well and pedaling places.




I'm in Tokyo! Amazing bikes and people!
more later


pedaling revolution

I got to read a couple books this summer and besides Harry Potter 7, this one was probably the most riveting. Jeff Mapes, a Portlander and journalist explores bicycling as a political movement and where it can take us in Pedaling Revolution.

The book caught my eye on the shelf in Powell's that I visit most often and having read one of its inspiring chapters and having some hot-off-the-press store credit in my pocket I couldn't resist. Mapes' writing is very engaging and clear. I found his chapters on bike advocacy history easy to read and very enjoyable. The middle of the book deals with personal experiences he has had visiting people in cities across the country that are trying new things with bike transportation. Amsterdam, Portland, Davis and New York City are a few he explores. These chapters in particular I found inspiring as an individual trying to get a grasp on how to contribute to bike politics and policy constructively. This may not have been their primary purpose, but these chapters helped me see the issues that cyclists and policy makers are facing in some of the most developed bike cities in the world and how that relates to struggles in cities I live in. The last chapters on health and safety were wonderful (and unbiased) and I would highly recommend them to anyone in a position to make local bicycle policy. One concept that was particularly revealing had to do with cyclists breaking traffic laws. I'm sure you have experienced the following:

You're riding along civily, stopping at stop lights, using the turning lanes, yielding to pedestrians when suddenly, whoosh! a cyclist, no helmet, passes you on the right, blows through the red light and hops the opposite sidewalk. You can just feel the sarcastic remarks oozing from all of the cars around you. It's almost maddening to be 'represented' by someone who has such a different approach to traffic laws, and lets face it, when you hear honest people complain about bikes in the road, cases like this abound. Jeff Mapes brings up a few great points that help explain some of this erratic behavior. Cars have a very definite space on the road, as do pedestrians, and the laws governing the use of automobiles is quite consistent in my experience, state to state. It's very clear that a car is a vehicle, and that pedestrians are not, but what is a person on a bike? Clearly a vehicle, yet almost never given space on the road. Not a pedestrian, but able to ride on sidewalks, walk the bike, carry it up stairs and even board trains and buses in many cities. No wonder many cyclists pick and choose which laws to follow, because it hasn't really been that clear historically how bikes should behave. How many of us as pedestrians cross the street despite the glowing red warning after we're certain no cars are coming? If a red light doesn't change because the sensor won't pick up the metal in a bike frame, do you run the light after it becomes clear it never will? The bicycle is struggling for a place in our societies and is still a little homeless. Most city officials have little experience dealing with bike laws or policy.

Helping make people aware of the issues and successful solutions being employed around the world brings us just a bit closer to the visionary 'bike friendly society' we all seek after and only Amsterdam and Copenhagen have discovered. :-)

I highly recommend you order yourself a copy, read it and then share!
happy biking! (and reading)



there is still time to enjoy it!

Last weekend Sam and I had a great evening of biking, ginger ale, popcorn and an outdoor movie. Some of Sam's friends invited us to watch 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' playing for free at dusk at a nearby elementary school park and it was great! I hadn't seen the movie and enjoyed it much more than I expected. There were more than a hundred people on blankets with snacks, bikes, dogs and paper bags of popcorn given out for free from a cart nearby. All of this turns out to be part of Portland's Summer Free For All which I was unaware of until now. Check out their schedule of events and all the bands, movies and activities being hosted near you this last month of summer.


Remember: We Are Traffic

Another documentary from our good friend Ted White (director of the famous return of the scorcher) this time on Critical Mass.
SF Critical Mass
Take a look! 'We Are Traffic'
As a former participant, and enthusiastic advocate of the ride, which I only discovered a few years ago in provo ut, I've been really interested to hear the opinions of those for and against it. I feel I tend away from it now due to unruly riders often riding irresponsibly and obnoxiously, and more toward focusing on alternative rides and commuting daily. This documentary made me interested again in participating in Critical Mass as well as exploring rights of road users. I've seen a few legal guides for cyclists at Powell's which I will definitely buy and read in the near future.
The scene where the police and mayor of SF try to control the ride, and the ensuing police riots are very interesting and even scary. I've been in a ride disbanded by the police, and it's a scary feeling when you realize that by being on your bike and in the road you are at risk of being fined or arrested. Like your right to the road no longer stands.
I think beneath all of the different reasons to ride Critical Mass, and even under the reasons to NOT ride in it, lies the idea that bicycles, like automobiles, have a right to use the streets. As one participant said in the film, our roads are often hostile places for bikes. Riders feel unsafe, get harassed and told to leave. Critical Mass is about creating, even if only for a moment, a friendly street environment for cyclists.

Have fun riding this week!


hopefully they're needed more elsewhere

This past week has been a mix of emotions. Sam and I went to a Matisyahu concert last night, climbing with old friends, getting a placement in Japan for my internship, etc. But all of this has been in contrast with the pain of getting my bike stolen. On Sunday Sam and I discovered both of our bikes gone from off the front porch of my house.
I have lost things, and even had a few things stolen or destroyed, but none of that hurts anything like having your bike stolen. For those of you who live without a car, ride often, and have a passion for bikes, you may know what I mean when I say that it kind of becomes part of your soul. You learn the ins and outs of the bike, the q
uirky problems and strengths, how the breaks, w
eight, turnings, etc feel and react. The hours of repairs, tweaking, shopping for parts, accessories and so forth.

2 Days after the incident, and feeling completely immobile, I found a similar Schwinn that only needed a little work at the recyclery in St. Johns a
nd bought it, but that still only means one of us (Sam and I all but live together) can get around by bike at one time. (not to mention I still haven't picked up a rack for larger loads)

The second let down of the whole experience is that this kind of betrays some of the trust I've had for society as a whole. I'm an optimist and have lots of faith in us all as humans. Perhaps my rather idylic upbringing contributes to this, but I tend to trust people more than distrust them. (I grew up on a small island off the coast of Maine in
a community where people left the keys in their cars, if they had them, and their bikes unlocked) This experience hasn't tainted that view, but I do worry about my bike much more than I used to.

If you have thoughts on bike theft, or experiences to share, let me know

Here's to our lost bikes, I hope they are being used by someone who needs them more than we do.