Wasted Time

The Infrastructurist has a graphic showing the amount of time Americans spend commuting today versus 1977. Among the largest cities, Seattle is the only one showing improvement. The data was pulled from the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2009 Urban Mobility Report.

The Infrastructurist

[via Streetsblog NYC]

Roll Over America

Photo © Roll Over America

Most Americans have never heard of, much less seen, a velomobile. That’s going to change in 2011 when Josef Janning leads his group of 24 European velomobilists across the country from Portland to Washington D.C. on the “Roll Over America” tour.

In Europe, velomobiles are used for commuting, grocery shopping, running errands, and everything we use our bicycles for here in the U.S. They have yet to catch on here at all, but they are supremely practical vehicles given the proper conditions. Here’s more from Wikipedia:

A velomobile or bicycle car is a human-powered vehicle, enclosed for aerodynamic advantage and protection from weather and collisions. They are virtually always single-passenger vehicles. They are derived from recumbent bicycles and tricycles, with the addition of a full fairing (aerodynamic shell). There are few manufacturers of velomobiles; some are homebuilt. Some models have the operator’s head exposed; this has the advantage of giving the operator unobstructed vision, hearing, and some cooling, with the disadvantage of being more exposed to weather. Similar vehicles that are not human-powered are instead called microcars.

The group plans to embark at the end of July 2011 and make the trip in approximately 30 days. They’ll be crossing the northern part of the country and covering approximately 200km per day. It’s sounds like a fun and ambitious ride!

Roll Over America

Civia Carbon Fork Recall

Civia has issued a product safety recall on all of their carbon forks. From the Civia Blog:

Product Safety Recall Notice
Mon, Mar 15 2010 3:14 pm Written by: Scott Thayer
A few weeks ago we became aware that our carbon fork does not meet our expectation for product safety. We have seen a couple forks begin to crack around the steerer tube and one had the steerer tube separate entirely from the fork legs. Thankfully, the rider was not seriously injured when the separation occurred.

We’ve conducted 3rd party testing and have concluded that the problem we’re seeing is the fork was designed to be stiff so that under braking, the legs would not wander around creating a noodly fork feel. An unanticipated by-product of this leg stiffness is that the fork legs aren’t moving at all during regular braking and in turn, all of the braking force is passed up to the crown. These forces are over time will lead to potential failure.

We are in the process of contacting all of the bike shops that have purchased forks, or Hylands with the forks installed. The dealers will be working to contact all of the consumers that have purchased Hyland bikes or Hyland carbon forks. 100% of the Civia carbon forks are affected by this recall.

If you own a Hyland that has a carbon fork, or have purchased the Civia Carbon fork, please contact your dealer for information about how to go about obtaining a replacement Civia steel fork. We are also extending a credit to the consumer through the bike shop as compensation for the change in value from carbon to steel. For more details of the recall, please contact the dealer you purchased your Hyland or carbon fork from.

Beginning now, all Hyland complete bikes are coming with Civia steel forks. Pricing has been adjusted accordingly so that now Alfine builds are retailing for $1,575 and Rohloff builds for $3,250.

Thanks for your understanding as we go through this.

Civia General Manager



We live in what should be a relatively bike-friendly area that has 83 miles of on-street bike lanes, 27 miles of off-street bike paths, and 49 bicycle lockers, all in a city with a population of just over 100,000. It’s a nice suburb outside of a major metropolitan area that has a lot going for it, but it’s sorely lacking in both bike culture and fellow bike riders with which to share all that infrastructure.

Over the past few years we’ve had our share of friends and acquaintances retreat from parts less bike-friendly to places like Portland, Davis, and Boulder.

Over the past few years we’ve had our share of friends and acquaintances retreat from parts less bike-friendly to places like Portland, Davis, and Boulder. We’ve thought about making a move ourselves, and we may do so at some point. But when we consider making a move to a bike-friendly city, a nagging question always comes up.

Whenever we consider retreating to a city like Boulder or Davis, we wonder if we’d be less effective there, where we’d blend in with the already substantial number of dedicated transportational bicyclists. Where we’re at, we stand out and make a statement, a fact that’s supported by the number of questions and positive comments we get about our bikes and our bike riding habits. Here in the bike culture hinterlands, we’re missionaries of sorts, spreading our message about transportational bicycling in a place where it’s needed. We have to wonder, if we moved to a place like Davis or Portland, would we get lost in the crowd, would we be “preaching to the choir” so to speak?

What do you think? Does the example set by a transportational bicyclist have more impact in a bike-friendly city or in an area lacking in bike-friendliness?

Where does the example set by a bicyclist have more impact?

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In Memoriam

This morning a ghost bike was placed at the site of a bike-bus collision in Sacramento that resulted in the death of 46-year-old bicyclist William Detore. May he rest in peace.

Streetfilms: Voices From The National Bike Summit

The League of American Bicyclists hosted the tenth annual National Bike Summit in Washington D.C. last week. This excellent film from Streetfilms provides an overview for those who are unfamiliar with this important event.


Some Thoughts on Photographing Bikes

The Golden Hour

I receive quite a few questions about my photos, so I thought I’d share a few details about my approach for those who also enjoy combining photography and bicycling. Since I’m a graphic artist, not a trained professional photographer, I’ll skip over the camera operation stuff and talk more generally about light, composition, and approach. If you’re unfamiliar with the basic manual operation of your camera, there are numerous resources on the web to help in that regard.


My photos are mostly about light. I usually shoot within what is known as the “Golden Hour”, the first hour or two of light in the morning, and the last couple of hours of light in the evening (you can read more about the Golden Hour at Wikipedia). I look for good light first, then when I see it, I get out the camera and I start shooting. I’ve learned that if the light doesn’t trigger some emotional response in me, the photo is not likely to trigger an emotional response in the viewer.

Of course, sometimes we all have to document an event when the light is less than ideal. If I must shoot during the bright of the day, I look for areas of dappled or filtered light (e.g. coming through trees), or I shoot in shadow and let the background blowout. I rarely shoot at high noon in full sun, the results of which are typically harsh and rarely pleasing (to my eye, at least). Unless I absolutely must do so to capture a specific event, I simply choose not to shoot when the light is uninspiring.

Dappled Light

Capturing good light requires that you have a camera available when it happens. This means carrying a camera with me almost anytime I’m on or around bikes. This could be a point-and-shoot camera when I’m busy commuting or running errands, or a digital SLR when I’m riding for pleasure or when I’m specifically on an outing to shoot photos.


As a bike lover, I make a conscious effort to avoid being too distracted by the bike I’m shooting; the last thing I want to do is hurriedly point my camera at a bike and start clicking the shutter. I try to dissociate from the bike as much as possible and visualize what’s coming through the viewfinder as flat shapes of abstract color and light. Doing so makes it much easier to see the underlying composition of the image. Graphic artists are trained to look at images as grids with underlying geometric shapes, and I think this is a good approach for photographers as well. As a rule, if the abstract shapes in an image form a strong composition, the photo will generally be pleasing, regardless of the surface details.

Seeing Shapes

Balance, shape, symmetry, positive/negative space, framing, and a number of other factors should be considered when analyzing the composition of an image. Basic concepts such as the Rule of Thirds, the Golden Section, and the Diagonal Rule are good starting points. It’s well beyond the scope of this post to get into the myriad details of image composition, but there are numerous resources on the internet if you’re interested.

Subject Isolation

One of the things that most obviously separates a snapshot from a more composed image is subject isolation. Isolating the subject from the background mimics how we view the world with the naked eye, and typically makes for a more convincing and pleasing photo. Isolation can be achieved by placing the subject (a bike in our case) in front of a simple background, or by reducing the depth of field to place the background out of focus.

An Isolated Subject (shot with a point-and-shoot)

SLR cameras are much better at so-called “selective focusing” than point-and-shoot cameras, so I always try to use my SLR when I need to reduce the depth of field to blur the background. When I’m carrying my point-and-shoot camera, I keep an eye out for open areas or simple backgrounds in which to frame the bike since I don’t have as much control over background focus. I’d say the shots published on EcoVelo are split about 50/50 between those taken with a point-and-shoot and those taken with a DSLR.

Selective Focus (shot with a DSLR)

Post Processing

Some people feel that processing digital photos in software such as Photoshop is somehow “cheating”. I don’t agree with this viewpoint at all. In my mind, processing digital images on the computer is essentially the same as processing film in the traditional darkroom (though working in the proverbial “digital darkroom” is greener, less expensive, and more efficient). My approach is to modify an image as much as needed to capture the feeling I experienced when I took the shot in the field. This might involve nothing more than a few minor adjustments to global contrast, color, and sharpness, or full-blown retouching of the entire image at the pixel level.

Before Processing
After Processing

It’s Not About the Bike (or in this case, the camera)

I’m as bad as the next guy when it comes to focusing too much on the tools. Bike riders are bad in this regard, and I dare say, photographers are even worse. Much of what photographers used to do manually is now done by in-camera computers, which makes it very tempting to think a new camera will improve our photography.

I’ve found that much like it is with bike riding—where the riding is more important than the type of bike I’m on—the important thing in photography is to get out there and shoot a ton of photos and work hard on the craft. Afterall, photography is really about inspiration and expression, not mega-pixels or processing power. Keeping this in mind has probably done more than anything to improve the quality of my work.

© 2011 EcoVelo™