The Heat is On

We’ve been quietly enjoying one of the most mild and pleasant springs we’ve had in recent memory, with temperatures falling below average for many weeks now. We knew it couldn’t last, and it looks like it’s time to ante up; the weather report is calling for triple-digits all weekend. We’ll be out early, but the bikes will be in hibernation after around 11am. Stay cool!

Things to Come

We have a number of bicycle reviews in the works for this summer:

The list is likely to grow as the year progresses. We also have a number of accessory reviews in the works and a headlight shootout planned for the fall. And of course, as promised, we’ll host our second photo contest later this year, this time focusing on a specific theme (we’re looking for ideas).

Stay tuned, and if you aren’t already following us via RSS or e-mail notifications, consider subscribing so you don’t miss anything!

Violet Crown Special Pricing

Violet Crown Cycles is now offering $300 off on custom Ferguson city bikes ordered before June 30. They also now produce a step-through model to accompany their standard diamond frame model.

“In April, VCC launched with the Pa Ferguson, the traditional diamond frame style of our custom city bikes. Many loved the Pa but wanted a step through version for ease getting on and off the bike,” said Elliott McFadden, the builder and owner of Violet Crown Cycles. “We are now pleased to be shipping our step-through frame, the Ma Ferguson, in all the same colors and options as the Pa.” As special introductory pricing, VCC is offering $300 off any Ferguson city bike order booked by June 30, 2009.

Visit the Violet Crown website for details.

Violet Crown Cycles

“Bike Safety” Public Service Announcements

This pair of “Bike Safety” public service announcements are creating quite a stir on various bike blogs around the i-net . The first is from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the other is from the New York City Department of Transportation.

It’s my opinion that the ads do more harm than good. Most people who aren’t already bicyclists perceive bicycling to be much more dangerous that it actually is; they don’t need a PSA to reinforce their unfounded fears. On the other hand, bicycling enthusiasts already know not to ride against traffic or run head-on into a car traveling at 50 mph (ridiculous). If anything, the ads encourage people to do the most dangerous thing they can possibly do: stay at home in front of the TV and develop heart disease, the number one killer in the United States.

What do you think?

[via Cyclelicious]

Amsterdam: Bikes Overtake Cars

For the first time, the bicycle trip share in Amsterdam has surpassed the automobile trip share. According to a report in Bike Europe, between 2005 and 2007, residents used their bikes 0.87 times per day and their cars 0.84 times per day. The number of trips by car has fallen 14% since 1990. In the city center, bike trip share is as high as 41%. Amazing.

Bike Europe

Relativity

“When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.” —Elizabeth West

I agree with Ms. West in spirit, though I have to admit I love my iPod Touch and my digital cameras. ;-) But when it comes to transportation, you have to wonder what the world would be like today if the internal combustion engine was never invented. It’s hard to imagine. One thing’s for certain; our love affair with the automobile and our continuing and overwhelming desire to “make thermodynamic whoopee with fossil fuels” as Kurt Vonnegut so wonderfully described it, has placed a major stress on our environment.

Most of us grew up in the age of the automobile (my Dad, who is in his mid-80s, is the only person I know who remembers getting around by horse and wagon), and consequently, the unnaturally high speeds made possible by the internal combustion engine seem natural to us. And as cars become safer and safer, we become more and more insulated from the dangers of driving at high speeds, hence the increasing number of people who multi-task behind the wheel, texting, plucking eyebrows, and trimming sideburns while driving with one knee (yup, seen ‘em all).

Let’s face it, bicycles seem impossibly slow when compared to almost any automobile, and if we’re not careful, this dramatic discrepancy in speed may compel us to race from light to light in a vain attempt to mimic a car.

I believe we’re so accustomed to traveling at high speeds that we sometimes ride our bicycles as fast as we can without realizing what we’re doing. Let’s face it, bicycles seem impossibly slow when compared to almost any automobile, and if we’re not careful, this dramatic discrepancy in speed may compel us to race from light to light in a vain attempt to mimic a car. This is neither a pleasant, nor an efficient way to ride a bicycle (unless you’re training for a race or you enjoy sweating in your street clothes).

Instead of focusing on how slow I am compared to automobiles, I try to concentrate on how fast I am compared to pedestrians. Even at a comfortable pace, the bicycle multiplies a pedestrian’s speed and reach by a factor of four (this is an amazing feat if you consider the fact that no fossil fuels are burned in the process, but I digress). When I focus on where I’d be if I were walking, instead focusing on where I’d be if I were driving a car, I find myself relaxing and slowing down to a more leisurely pace, basking in the knowledge that I’m getting there much faster than I would be otherwise.

The point of all this is to point out that speed, like so many things, is relative, and how we think about it makes a tremendous difference in how we feel about it. So the next time you find yourself feeling a little slow and tired on your bike, just remember that you’re actually flying along at over four times the speed Mother Nature intended you to travel.

Active Transportation

“Active Transportation” is the term used to describe any of the modes of transport that involve human power such as bicycling and walking. Obviously, I’m an enthusiastic promoter of active transportation, and for good reason. Did you know that half of the trips in the U.S. are within a 20-minute bike ride, and a quarter of the trips are within a 20-minute walk, yet the vast majority are taken by automobile?

Among many other benefits, active transportation:

  • saves valuable time and improves health by combining exercise with a practical activity;
  • provides substantial financial savings to individuals by reducing automobile use;
  • reduces government spending by reducing the need for road maintenance;
  • benefits the environment by reducing automobile emissions;
  • saves lives by reducing the number of automobiles on the road; and
  • generally improves our quality of life.

In 2008, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, in conjunction with Bikes Belong, published a comprehensive report on the benefits of active transportation. The report attempts to quantify the positive results of past federal spending on active transportation while making the argument for increased investment in infrastructure to support active transportation going forward. Here’s an excerpt:

Decades of car-centered transportation policies have dead-ended in chronic congestion, crippling gas bills, and a highly inefficient transportation system that offers only one answer to most of our mobility needs—the car.

Investment now in a more diverse transportation system—one that provides viable choices to walk and bike, and use public transportation in addition to driving—will lead to a far more efficient use of transportation resources.

Active transportation is the missing piece in our transportation system.

Half of the trips in America can be completed within a 20-minute bike ride, and a quarter of trips are within a 20-minute walk. Yet, the vast majority of these short trips are taken by automobile. Bicycling and walking can also improve public transportation by providing fast and well-planned access to it. Given the availability of safe and convenient infrastructure, more people will choose bicycling or walking for short trips and in combination with public transportation for longer trips. Further, communities conducive to bicycling and walking promote a richer and denser mix of residences and businesses, leading to shorter trip distances, even for those who drive.

The report is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of active transportation in the U.S.

Active Transportation for America (PDF) →


 
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