The Guardian Bike Blog

The Guardian has started its own bicycling blog.

“Whether you are a speedy road bike user, an infrequent shop hopper or mountain bike off-roader, this blog is for all who cycle.”

There’s not a lot there yet, but it looks promising. They’ll be adding a podcast shortly.

A Note to Everyone Else

If you’re not currently riding a bicycle for transportation, this note is for you.

We do an awful lot of preaching to the choir around here. It’s only natural; any website dedicated to a specialized subject is going to attract people who are interested and involved in that subject. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but ultimately we hope to reach out and inspire those who aren’t riding their bikes for transportation to consider giving it a try sometime.

While chatting among ourselves, we often talk about the many benefits of bicycling:

  • Improved health – Even a short commute of 5-6 miles roundtrip provides 20-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise
  • Lower transportation costs – Replacing a car with a bicycle has been shown to save upwards of $7000-$8000 per year
  • Reduced environmental impact – If 1 out of 10 car commuters switched to a bike, CO2 emissions would be reduced by 25.4 million tons per year
  • Reduced dependence on foreign energy sources – Eliminating one automobile can reduce gasoline consumption by more than 500 gallons per year
  • Reduced road congestion – Fewer cars on the road means cleaner, quieter cities and safer neighborhoods for our kids
Do you remember that feeling of freedom you experienced when riding a bike when you were a kid? The feeling of the wind on your face and the road buzzing by beneath you, the smells of cut grass, warm asphalt, and honeysuckle drifting through the air?

Any or all of the above are excellent reasons to take up bicycling for transportation. What we don’t often talk about are the things about bicycling that keep us out there day-after-day, month-after-month, and year-after-year.

Do you remember that feeling of freedom you experienced when riding a bike when you were a kid? The feeling of the wind on your face and the road buzzing by beneath you, the smells of cut grass, warm asphalt, and honeysuckle drifting through the air? Have you ever experienced coming around a corner on your bike and seeing a deer or a coyote in the road, with that split second of startled recognition as your eyes met? Did you ever ride you bicycle all the way across town, further than you’d ever gone before under your own power, exploring strange neighborhoods as if you were on an expedition?

Here’s our big secret: those aren’t just memories, you can have those experiences right now. We bicycle riders have many experiences such as these on a regular basis. All you have to do is get out there and ride your bicycle every day with an attitude of adventure. And there’s no better way to carve time out of your busy schedule for bike riding than to ride your bike for transportation. What else could be simpler and provide such a huge payback in so many ways?

So think about joining us. Think about riding your bike to work. Think about replacing a few car trips per week with a bike ride instead. Be bold and even think about giving up your car completely. And whatever you do, little or big, know that it’s good for you and the world around you, and more importantly, know that you’re gonna’ love it.

Bike Parking

I’ve said many times that a lack of secure bicycle parking is a major reason we don’t see more people using bicycles for transportation (particularly for commuting). According to an article in today’s New York Times, the city government is taking steps to remedy the situation in New York.

“You have to reach a certain critical mass for this to work, and we’re there,” said Amanda M. Burden, the city planning commissioner. The new zoning requirements, adopted in April, include one bike space for every two residential units in buildings with more than 10 apartments, or for every 7,500 feet of commercial office space. In other words, if the Empire State Building had been built under the new rules, it would have around 350 bike spaces.

The impetus behind the new zoning requirements is a City Department of Planning survey which found a lack of bike parking the primary reason more people aren’t commuting by bike (read the report →).

Councilman David Yassky is currently pushing a bill that would grant bicyclists access to all office buildings in the city (read Intro. 0038-2006 Fact & Support Sheet →). He’s confident he has the votes to get the bill passed within the next few weeks. Here’s an excerpt from the fact sheet:

Intro. 38 will amend the city’s administrative code to require building owners and managers to (i) evaluate reasonable ways by which employees may access their building with a bicycle and (ii) determine possible locations within the building for bicycle storage.

Hallelujah! Now, hopefully, the example being set in New York will have an influence on planners in other cities across the country.

Read the article in the NYT

Locking Strategies

Bike theft is on the rise, and as thieves use more sophisticated methods, we bicyclists need to respond with ever better deterrents to thwart their efforts. Following are a few of the things we’re doing to keep our bikes safe.

For locking out in public where the bikes are most vulnerable, we take the security-in-numbers approach by using a U-lock on the frame and a heavy duty cable lock threaded through the wheels and frame. Since it takes a pry bar to break a U-lock and it takes a set of high-quality bolt cutters to get through a heavy cable, right off the bat we’ve effectively eliminated the thieves who aren’t carrying both, and we’ve slowed down the thieves who came prepared.

If we’re loaded with multiple bags, we may also carry a smaller, lightweight “accessory” cable lock to thread through the bags. This doesn’t ensure the bags are 100% theft proof, but it’s probably enough to keep the random opportunistic thief from running off with the low hanging fruit.

It may seem obvious, but it’s important to lock up to something that’s immovable and at least as strong as a U-lock; there’s no sense in locking up to a little tree that can be snapped in half.

It may seem obvious, but it’s important to lock up to something that’s immovable and at least as strong as a U-lock; there’s no sense in locking up to a little tree that can be snapped in half. Also, locking up to a pole is ineffective if the bike can simply be lifted over the top of the pole. It’s surprising how often I’ve seen both of these methods employed.

We always avoid leaving a bike outside overnight regardless of what kind of lock is employed; giving a thief that much time to work on a lock is asking for trouble. We also avoid locking a bike in a location completely hidden from public view, particularly if the bike is going to be locked there on a regular schedule.

For bike commuters, parking a bike outside, regardless of what type of locking strategy is used, is nowhere near as secure as indoor bike parking. Unfortunately, the building where I work no longer admits bicycles of any type (including folders). As an alternative, the City offers bike parking “bullpens” (fenced parking areas) and a limited number of secure bike lockers. Neither are ideal, but both are preferable to simply locking a valuable bike on the street all day and hoping it’s there when you return.

I’d love to hear what others are doing to keep their bikes safe.

Win a Strida

Inhabitat is giving away a Strida folding bike:

Does your bike need a major eco tune-up? Starting today Inhabitat and Areaware are giving away an awesome folding bike by Strida, worth $950! We’re asking our readers to submit pictures of their old clunker or evidence that they need a new ride. One lucky winner who is in most need or just has the most creative reason for wanting a slick new folding bike will win. Entering the contest is easy. Readers just need to sign up for our newsletter and submit photographic evidence of why they need a new bike. Photos should be less than 100k and 537 pixels wide. The Deadline for submissions is Friday, June 19th at midnight EST.


More Helmet Wars

Matthew Modine, actor, environmentalist, and founder of Bicycle for a Day (BFAD), is getting a lot of press recently over his choice to not wear a helmet while bicycling. It all started when Modine mentioned in a New York Magazine interview that the League of American Bicyclists refused to link to a BFAD promotional video in which he’s shown riding helmetless. From there, the story was picked up by Treehugger, Copenhagenize, and finally, Streetsblog.

It’s always amazing to me how contentious this subject can be; follow the links below if you’re up to diving into the fray.

NY Mag
Bicycle for a Day

A Bicycle Friendly Community

We spent the afternoon in Davis, CA, one of only three cities in the United States designated a platinum-level “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists. The above photo illustrates what the bike rack at the transit center of a platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Community looks like on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Everywhere we looked, people of all ages were going about their business on bicycles, wearing regular clothes, and having fun. Coming into town we had to smile wide at an elderly woman in a long skirt, floral blouse, and Sunday hat, cruising along at a good clip with a beautiful pedal stroke. Michael exclaimed, “Sheesh, even the grandmothers in Davis have a buttery smooth pedal stroke!”

Davis is a perfect example of what can happen when city planners and the community work together over a period of years to improve conditions for bicyclists and promote bicycling as a serious form of transportation.

City of Davis
Profile of Davis as a Bicycle Friendly Community

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