Book review of “Pedaling Revolution”

en.wikipedia.org

en.wikipedia.org

I have just about wrapped up reading the fine book, Pedaling Revolution, by author Jeff Mapes. The subtitle of How Cyclists are Changing American Cities best describes the premise of his book, as Mr. Mapes thoughtfully explores the promises and pitfalls cycling advocacy in America. As an avid cycling proponent myself, I can certainly relate to many of the issues he describes. Even though the book was published approximately five years ago, it is largely up to date on the state of affairs in cycling and presents an interesting history of cycling and the bike culture; cycling advocacy in Europe (Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and London); cycling advocacy efforts in the United States; as well as specific advocacy efforts in iconic cycling cities like Davis, Madison, Portland, New York City, Boulder, Eugene, and Chicago.

I greatly enjoyed reading Pedaling Revolution and it will certainly be an important part of my bicycling advocate library. Here are a few dandy quotes gleaned from the book for your enjoyment:

  • “…very little is said about the huge subsides received by motorists that far outweigh any freebies received by cyclists. The largest is free–or cheap—parking.” (page 19)
  • “For all the ire directed at urban cyclists, most people do have a fondness for bikes themselves.” (page 20)
  • “We were, it seems, the last generation of children who headed out into the neighborhood with no more guidance than to be home by dinner.” (page 31)
  • “…just as war is too important to be left to generals, so highways are too important to be left to highway engineers.” (page 48)
  • “…suburban sit-coms like ‘The Brady Bunch’ were replaced by shows like ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Friends,’ which celebrated city living.” (page 50)
  • “If you’re the kind of cyclist used to riding in American cities, it doesn’t take long for Amsterdam’s bike magic to wash over you. Here you feel like part of the majority, not an oddball.” ( page 63)
  • “Amsterdam had to be the quietest big city I’d ever visited.” ( page 76)
  • “Critical Mass is kind of an anarchical ride for all.” (page 104)
  • “One of the spiels I give is about slowing down. We think we have to cram our lives full, 24-7, but there’s something about giving yourself some extra time. I realized that nobody would think it remarkable if he went to a gym for forty-five minutes every morning and then rushed downtown in a car. Yet doing an eighteen-mile commute through suburbia is weird.” (page 113)
  • “Somehow, in Portland at least, bicyclists have become part of that great American melting pot.” (page 168)
  • “Sometimes we have to use cars, but that does not mean they have to dominate our lives. Instead it should be dominated by human interactions…” (page 179)
  • In America, we spend more on dental research than traffic safety research.” (page 208)

The last quote is quite shocking and should stand as a clear wake-up call that our priorities are bass ackwards.

  • “Unfortunately, walking to the far end of a shopping center is about as much exercise as too many people are getting in modern America, which seems to be on an extended “Super Size Me” experiment.” (page 229)
  • “She has decidely moved from the sedentary majority to the active minority.” (page 241)
  • “…sometimes I feel like the hardest part about using my bike to get around town is the comments I get from people who think I’m just plain weird for doing so.” (page 244)

Amen to that last quote, brother.

Two less cars!

0419141724aOne of my favorite bicycle advocacy catch phrases is “One less car!” In celebration of this worthy and sustainable effort, Kathy and I spent yesterday (Saturday) accomplishing all our errands on our bicycles. Between us, we totaled more than 27 miles of travel on our bicycles, riding to places like the florist, Kohl’s, the bank, my apartment, her house, Douglas J, the Trek store, and other businesses in the area.

Source: pioneerpress.com

Source: pioneerpress.com

All in all, it was a very rewarding experience that we intend to duplicate over and over again, thus removing our two cars from the local roadways on those days where we ride about town instead of driving. Combined with our regular bike commuting to/from work, we are hoping to eventually limit our car usage solely to longer trips, inclement weather (particularly in winter) or travel-related purposes.

Source: zazzle.com

Source: zazzle.com

Considering 50 percent of all trips are three miles or less in length, just imagine the positive impacts that could occur if each and every one of us dedicated just one day per week or one day per month to run all our errands by bicycle…or by transit…or by foot. Such an act would lower our individual and collective carbon footprint, improve our health, reduce congestion, demonstrate sustainability to others, and serve as a positive reminder that not all transportation must be done by the almighty automobile. Will you join us?

Hey, Kohl’s – how about a bike rack?

unnamedRode my new Trek Allant to the local Kohl’s store this morning. I ended up parking and locking it inside the vestibule, as there are no bike racks and not even any signs near the entrance to park my bike safely. Of course they have cigarette disposal units near each entrance for the unhealthy set, and they kept broadcasting how green and environmentally conscious they are on their intercom system, but not a single bike rack to be found. Only acres of asphalt and concrete.

I have been trying to persuade the store to add bike racks ever since it opened approximately 8-10 years ago.  I have spoken to staff, written emails, and left customer comment cards – so far without any success. This despite the documented evidence showing bicycling is good for business.

So here’s my new tactic – broadcasting how much I spent in their store as a bike riding customer in hopes to shame them into action. So Kohl’s – I spent $140.00 at your store this morning – do you think you could afford a bike rack or two now?

How about insurance incentives for bicycling?

Source: usastreetsblog.org

Source: usastreetsblog.org

Among my many ponderings about cycling and bike commuting, one topic that bugs me on a semi-annual basis is why I am not eligible to get a lower auto insurance rate for commuting to/from work so often by bicycle? In calendar year 2013, I bike commuted 73 times to work or 33% of the time, while in 2012 my bike commutes accounted for 40% (or 87) of my work commutes. Given the greatly reduced time, mileage, and wear/tear on the car as a result of bicycling to and from work, why don’t I qualify for some sort of discount from my auto insurer? Yes, I have asked them in the past.

The same holds true for health insurance. Shouldn’t those of us who practice a healthier lifestyle be rewarded with lower rates or some sort of discount? It would be one thing to only ride now and then to work, but when it equates to 20 percent or more of your total commutes, there should be an “x” factor built into the actuarial tables which rewards those who cycle to and fro. Granted, some type of substantive proof would be necessary, but a notarized document from an employer could suffice. The HR Department where I work certainly is aware of my bike commuting.

It seems to me, if there were a 5% or 10% discount on auto insurance rates for being a consistent bike commuter, overall ridership and safety produced from the corresponding increase in cyclists would be beneficial to all. Growth in ridership would also contribute to improved health and fitness in the community, which should drive down health care expenditures, which should (in a perfect world) lead to lower health insurance rates.

There may be some examples of discounts already being offered here and there around the country, but it is hardly universal and certainly is not marketed extensively like good driver, good student, multi-policy, and other available discounts. To me, it is long past time for the insurance industry to shift gears and start pedaling some innovative and new ideas for those of us in the cycling community. If it does not embrace such an approach, then perhaps state regulators should consider requiring such an option be made available.

Graceful Danish bicycle bridges

Canal Bridges in Copenhagen - Source: copenhagenize.com

Canal Bridges in Copenhagen – Source: copenhagenize.com

Above and below are both photographs and/or artist’s renderings of some of the graceful and stylish bicycle bridges that can be found in Denmark. While these bridges may not have the dynamic boldness of those posted previously from the Netherlands, they are sleek, artistic, handsome, and functional in their own right. Particularly likable is the way these bridges fit aesthetically into their surroundings without being overpowering. Enjoy!

Brygge Bridge in Copenhagen - Source: kimbach.org

Brygge Bridge in Copenhagen – Source: kimbach.org

20110930_120352_Bro_over_Inderhaven_2_1200x695-1

Inderhavns (retractable) Bridge in Copenhagen – Source: dak.dk

Abuen Bridge in copenhagen - Source: demotix.com

Abuen Bridge in Copenhagen – Source: demotix.com

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Cable-stayed bridge under development in Odense – Source: cycling-embassy.dk

woven_bridge_copenhagen_m270312_1

Woven Bridge in Copenhagen – Source mlrp.dk

 

A cut above – Detroit’s Dequindre Cut

Source: smithgroupjjr.com

Source: smithgroupjjr.com

For those out there that think Detroit’s a lost cause, the magnificent Dequindre Cut Greenway is an example of why you are wrong. Constructed along an abandoned below-grade rail corridor, the 1.35 mile greenway links some of Detroit’s coolest features – including the scenic 2.5 mile long RiverWalk, the vibrant Eastern Market, and the trendy Villages. Combine those with a world-class greenway for cyclists and pedestrians and some seriously hip graffiti artwork and you have the recipe for a Midwestern version of New York City’s High Line or Atlanta’s Belt Line.

Source: streetsblog.org

Source: streetsblog.org

Kudos to all those individuals and organizations involved in making the Dequindre Cut a post-industrial success story that truly is “a cut above” most other nonmotorized trails.

Source: freep.com

Source: freep.com

 

 

Eleven planning lessons from Boston/Cambridge

Dowtown Boston

Downtown Boston from Cambridge

I had the opportunity to visit Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts in mid-March. Here is a list of eleven planning-related lessons I took away from visiting these two dynamic cities.

  • Preserve, protect and celebrate your community’s history.
  • A varied blend of historic structures and new edifices is visually intoxicating.
  • Savor and build upon the benefits derived from being home to institutions of higher education.
  • Cultural diversity and inclusiveness makes a community much more vibrant.
  • Accessible mass transit and bike sharing systems are wonderful things.
  • Denser urban development can be softened by rich and varied public spaces.
  • The removal of an ugly freeway can reawaken once forlorn areas.
  • The heart of the city can be a great place to raise a family.
  • Pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, and cars can successfully and safely coexist.
  • A thriving city requires thriving neighborhoods – you cannot have one without the other.
  • A compact and walkable urban core is far more preferable to a sprawling mess.

The poetry of a spring bike commute

Spring Morning Commute

By Rick Brown

 

Wheels spin round and round

Traversing the paved terrain

They roll in cadent unison

Along the paved bike lane

 

Fresh air breezes past me

As fragrances abound

Spring charms once dulled senses

As my wheels spin round and round

 

Songbirds serenade me

With their musical delights

A cavalcade of sweet tunes

To start the day off right

 

One pedal before the next

While shifting gears in time

In constant, subtle harmony

A soothing, recurrent rhyme

 

Away from the congestion

Through canopies of bliss

My wheels roll ever onward

Cloaked in the morning mist

 

Freed from harried schedules

As the wheels spin on and on

To enjoy keepsake moments

Amid the day-breaking dawn.

2014

The cycles of one’s life

Source: schwinncruisers.com/bikes/stingray/

Source: schwinncruisers.com/bikes/stingray/

The Golden Days

I will always remember when I got my three-speed, sky-blue Schwinn Sting-ray bicycle with its white, banana-shaped seat and removable plexiglas windshield for Christmas. I thought I was the coolest kid in the neighborhood riding that three-speed bike around. It wasn’t nearly as quick as the ten-speeds the older kids had, but it was seriously cool, stylish, and all mine.

Source:

Source: bikerodnkustom5.homestead.com

Many avid cyclists develop a deep fondness for our rides, perhaps even some name their bicycles. For me, a name never seemed appropriate, but they were my trusted steed all the same.

Sadly, I really cannot recall details about the tricycles and training bicycles I rode prior to the Sting-ray, other than at least one of them was red. The Sting-ray on the other hand was my pride and joy from about age 8 until I was a teenager.

At that point, I had grown too much for it to be a comfortable ride and I was getting tired of not winning the neighborhood bike races we held (and I organized) each May to coincide with the Indy 500. As kids growing up in Indianapolis, that’s what you did each May in the 1960s and 1970s – live,  eat, drink, and breath the Indy 500. Perhaps my family more so since my grandparents owned a trailer rental lot on Main Street in Speedway, Indiana.

Source:

Source: icollector.com

So, as a teenager, I was given a sporty, sierra brown Schwinn ten-speed street bike. It was a terrific bike, but I never grew as close to it as the Sting-ray. I still rue the fact that we gave away my Sting-ray, but the brown ten speed did make me more competitive in the bike races, though I do not recall ever winning in the awesome race we used to hold around the loop of Delaware Trails North or amid the cul-de-sacs of Somerset. Didn’t really matter, as we had great fun.

The Dark Days

As I began driving at age 16, the use of my brown ten-speed waned more and more. In fact, I didn’t even take it to college or later to grad school. I guess I became an arrogant car culture adherent who thought cycling was passe’. I rode every now and again, but for a good 16 years, cycling was largely off my radar screen. I regret that fact very much, as well as the lost riding opportunities.

Golden Days Return

As my sons grew and rode their bikes, my desire to ride more often also increased. Upon moving to Michigan in 1992, my love affair with the bicycle quickly returned. We lived on a mile-long dusty dirt road near Saline, which was perfect for riding back and forth, as well as through the adjoining subdivisions. As a result, I bought a black, Raleigh 21-speed bike that was a cross between a hybrid and a mountain bike, perfectly suited for the gravelly road conditions. I was back in cycling heaven (for some reason I cannot find a photo of this bike online).

The only problem with our location was, there was no safe way to ride into town without risking life and limb, especially if the kids wanted to join me. None of the nearby paved roads had any kind of shoulder, nor were there sidewalks and/or pathways. This was the first time that cycling advocacy became an important consideration. It seemed downright silly that children had no safe way ride to their schools, or parks, or playgrounds. Communities should not develop in such a manner where it is always necessary to drive a stupid car! It’s not healthy, not smart, not cost-effective, not environmentally sound, and not efficient.

As a result, when we moved to Greater Lansing, one of the principal criteria used was to find a home/neighborhood with access to bike paths and trails. Thankfully, the home we bought was in a subdivision abutting the community’s bicycle-pedestrian pathway system and 20-25 minute ride to/from work.

In the 2000s I started developing some minor numbness in the palms of my hands from the forward leaning riding position on my Raleigh. As more and more of my riding was now commuting to/from work,I decided to replace the Raleigh with a blue and silver (Detroit Lions’ colors) Diamondback Wildwood model that allowed me to sit up straighter. In the meantime my oldest son used the Raleigh while in college in Ann Arbor. After 20 years of use by our family, the Raleigh was sorely in need of major repairs and was sold to a fellow graduate student when his family moved to Massachusetts.

Source: bikereviews.com

Source: bikereviews.com

Eventually, as bike commuting became my passion, I added a headlight, storage rack on the back of the bike, as well as a pair of matching saddle bags to transport a change of clothes (when necessary), lunch, my notebook computer, etc. As I developed some back-related problems, the seating, weight, and wider tires of the Diamondback were not working for me.

Source: citizenbike.com

Source: citizenbike.com

After much research, in the fall of 2012 I purchased a dark-gray six-speed Citizen Miami folding bike online. I love this bike and have ridden it religiously for the past 18+ months (weather permitting), particularly for work and church commutes, but also for recreational distances as long as ten miles. It is light weight, easy to fold, easy to adjust, fun, and great in nearly all-weather conditions. The only downside trying to keep up with road bikes and hybrids on longer-distance rides and seat comfort after the ten-mile threshold.

Source: bicyclehabitat.com

Source: bicyclehabitat.com

Behold. Above is an image of the newest member of my riding stable – a 21-speed Trek Allant utilitarian bicycle. My plan is for it to fill my needs for longer distances while also maintaining my comfort level. I am looking forward to many years of riding fun on my new Allant.

An old friend

One other bicycle must be mentioned in this post. When my mother remarried in the mid 1990s, we presented the newlyweds with a 1970s yellow, five-speed Schwinn Twinn tandem bicycle. This bike has been kept at our family lake cottage for the past few years and every trip there requires a fun-filled ride on this vintage treasure. The tandem is the perfect bike for a lake cottage, as it can be ridden alone or Kathy and I can ride it together. It is also much easier to have it stabled there than to bring multiple bikes with us on the back of the car, though most of them have made at least one trip to the lake.

Source: ilikethebike.com

Source: ilikethebike.com

Conclusion

To this avid cyclist, my bikes have always meant more to me than my automobiles. There is something freeing about riding a bike that cannot be felt in a car. Perhaps it’s the fresh air without the accompanying road noise or exhaust fumes. Perhaps it’s the ability to ride off the beaten path. Perhaps its the health and fitness benefits. Perhaps it’s the numerous environmental benefits. Or, perhaps it is the ability to relive and revive your inner child. My guess is that it is some of all the above, but especially the youthful joy of riding a bicycle that leads the way.

 

Most innovative USA metros: 2000-2011

Source:  inc.com/magazine/201404/lydia-belanger/the-most-innovative-cities.html

Source: inc.com/magazine/201404/lydia-belanger/the-most-innovative-cities.html

Below is a list of the twenty most innovative metropolitan areas in the United States, based on the number of patents issued between 2000 and 2011. Most surprising is the absence of the Research Triangle of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Denver-Boulder, Colorado; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and the Salt Lake City, Utah urban areas.

  1. Silicon Valley, California = 89,547
  2. New York City, New York = 61,587
  3. San Francisco-Oakland, California = 54,205
  4. Los Angeles, California = 49,193
  5. Boston-Cambridge, Massachusetts = 40,195
  6. Chicago, Illinois = 31,751
  7. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota = 28,088
  8. Seattle, Washington = 26,359
  9. San Diego, California = 25,790
  10. Detroit-Ann Arbor, Michigan = 25,293
  11. Dallas- Fort Worth, Texas = 23,230
  12. Austin, Texas = 22,916
  13. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania = 22,481
  14. Houston, Texas = 21,035
  15. Portland, Oregon = 17,641
  16. Washington, DC-MD-VA = 16,061
  17. Boise, Idaho = 15,969
  18. Phoenix, Arizona = 14,438
  19. Rochester, New York = 14,407
  20. Atlanta, Georgia = 14,381

Source: inc.com/magazine/201404/lydia-belanger/the-most-innovative-cities.html