Book review of “Pedaling Revolution”

en.wikipedia.org

en.wikipedia.org

I have just 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.

Roadside Americana – discount department stores

en.wikipeia.org

Source: en.wikipeia.org

The discount department stores listed below represent memories of the golden age of sprawl (if there is such a thing as a golden age for sprawl). Many of these were local and/or regional chains that grew out of a full-line department store in order to compete with the national discounters. For example, in my hometown of Indianapolis, Ayr-Way was started by L.S. Ayres. They eventually had stores all over Indiana and much of Kentucky.

Source: eastwashingtonstreet.org

Source: eastwashingtonstreet.org

Personally, I recall many trips with my parents to the Ayr-Way stores in Nora or Augusta, which are both on the far northside of Indianapolis. These two stores, as with the entire Ayr-Way chain, were later absorbed and converted into Target. Due to heavy competition from Walmart, Target, and Meijer, many of these chains are long gone and the only reminder are sad, shuttered/abandoned units along an old commercial highway. Others are now occupied by flea markets or second-hand stores.

Source: beatricedailysu.com

Source: beatricedailysu.com

See how many you many of these stores you remember and please feel free to forward any others that I might have missed. The list does NOT include five and dime stores like Ben Franklin, McCrory, G.C. Murphy, Kresge, Kress, or Woolworth, as those were a different retail niche, though some of those chains did start successful discount department stores like Kmart, Murphy Mart and Woolco.

Source: writtenward.com

Source: writtenward.com

Here’s the list with links to their history and the year they were closed or taken over. The ones I have shopped at are shown in italics.

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 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.

 

PROVOking the birth of bike sharing

Source: recoat.blogspot.com

Source: recoat.blogspot.com

Near the conclusion of his outstanding book, entitled In the City of Bikes; The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist, author Pete Jordan reveals an unknown [at least to me], yet significant part of bicycling history – the birth of the bike sharing movement. Referred to as the White Bicycles Plan and fostered/advocated by the spirited anarchist group PROVO, Amsterdam’s bike sharing program began as an act of civil disobedience against recently adopted policies which favored more cars on the city’s narrow streets.

PROVO’s goal was to place free and unlocked bicycles at various points across the center city so that anyone who wished to use one could. Initially, each bike would be donated and then painted white for visibility – painting them white also could be interpreted as a way to promote a people-powered product that is completely and humorously contrarian to the traditional black bicycle utilized throughout the Netherlands. Later, PROVO advocated that Amsterdam provide the necessary bikes, free of charge out of the city budget.

Source: quod.lib.umich.edu/s/sclnethic/x-sce00115/sce00115.tif

Source: quod.lib.umich.edu/s/sclnethic/x-sce00115/sce00115.tif

If the city’s police force had simply allowed the initial PROVO protests to take place unencumbered, the bike sharing movement may have germinated elsewhere, but they didn’t. As a result, history was made in Amsterdam. Here’s a brief chronology of the events as presented in Mr. Jordan’s book:

  • Tuesday, July 27, 1965 – Two members of PROVO are arrested while posting flyers promoting the following day’s event on a wall. (page 296)
  • Wednesday, July 28, 1965 – The White Bicycles Plan is announced by artist Robert Jasper Grootveld to approximately two-dozen people gathered to watch as they painted three old bikes white. All three bikes were confiscated by the police after being set out for public use by PROVO. (pages 300-302)
  • Saturday, July 31, 1965 – Several hundred people gather at the Amsterdam’s Het Lieverdje (the Amsterdam Rascal) statue in Spui Square to witness the whitewashing of another bicycle. Amsterdam Police responded by batoning PROVO member Roel van Duijin. (page 303)
Source: en.wikipedia.org

Het Lieverdje (the Amsterdam Rascal) statue – Source: en.wikipedia.org

  • Saturday, August 7, 1965 – 200 people again gather in Spui Square, as bikes were painted white and white paint was dumped over the head of the Het Lieverdje statue. Police confiscate one of the white bikes and during the ensuing raucous, seven people are arrested.(pages 303-304)
  • Saturday, August 14, 1965 – more than 2,000 people look on as police forcibly stop members of PROVO from laying flowers at the feet of the Het Lieverdje statue. (pages 304-305)
  • Tuesday, August 17, 1965 - Luud Schimmelpennick‘s “White Bicycles” manifesto is released in PROVO magazine. (page 306)
  • May-June 1966 – PROVO member Duco van Weerlee publishes a book entitled, What Provos Want. The number one item was adoption of the White Bicycles Plan, “for the communal possession of all Amsterdammers who want the tin-canned status symbol [cars] out of the city center.” (page 308)
  • June 1966 – PROVO member Bernhard de Vries elected to Amsterdam City Council, taking the seat previously held by the “pro-car” party. (page 308)
  • March 1967 – Duc van Weerlee replaced on Council by fellow PROVO member Luud Schimmelpennink. (page 310)
  • October 4, 1967 – The White Bicycle Plan presented to Amsterdam City Council by Luud Schimmelpinnink. It called for three actions:

“Banning cars from the city center;”

“Increasing the frequency of public transit;”

“The purchase and maintenance of 2,000 white-painted bicycles of a distinct model that will be made available for general usage in the city center…, particularly as supplementary transport for users of tram, bus, taxi, and train.” (pages 311-312)

While the White Bicycle Plan was never adopted, the actions of PROVO successfully planted the seed of an idea that germinated and fully blossoms today – bike sharing. Myths about the success and/or reach of the White Bicycles Plan grew in subsequent years following its defeat at Amsterdam City Council. Even though it never was formally implemented beyond the initial protest efforts of 1965, the urban legend about the success of the plan continued.

Source: wanderlustandlipstick.com

Source: wanderlustandlipstick.com

Despite the defeat of the White Bicycles Plan in 1967, its influence on cycling history continued to grow. Its impact expanded exponentially in 1994 when cycling advocates Tom O’Keefe and Joe Keating initiated the Yellow Bike Project in Portland, Oregon based on the principles of the White Bicycles Plan. They learned of the plan from watching a brief scene in the movie Sex, Drugs, and Democracy. Similar bike sharing programs sprang up in other North American cities based on the Portland model.

Source: imdb.com

Source: imdb.com

The anarchist group’s name, PROVO, is short for the term “provoke.” And whether or not you agree with their beliefs and/or methodology, PROVO must be credited with giving birth to the concept of bike sharing, which has spread to cities worldwide. Granted, most modern bike share programs are not free, as PROVO advocated for, but they have become an integral part of the urban cycling infrastructure. In 2014, it may not take acts of civil disobedience to get bike sharing established in one’s community, but it was those initial actions in 1965 that have allowed the rest of us to reap the benefits today. For that alone, we all should be thankful.

In many ways, “PROVO-esque” campaigns continue to take place in communities around the world.

  • If you have ever participated in a Ride of Silence, you are solemnly provoking action towards safer streets for bicyclists.
  • If you have ever been part of a Critical Mass cycling event, that is a method of provoking change.
  • If you have ever placed a ghost bike at the scene of a rider’s death, laid flowers there, or paused to reflect at one, you are provoking change.
  • If you have ever advocated to local, state, or federal legislators for bicycling projects, safety improvements, and/or infrastructure improvements, you are seeking to provoke action on the part of elected officials.
Source: thinkgree.typepad.com

Source: thinkgree.typepad.com

Granted, you may never feel the painful sting of a police baton or participate in whitewashing a bike or statue, but that doesn’t mean your impact on society isn’t being felt. Sometimes, accomplishing big improvements in cycling advocacy first require us to undertake a wobbly ride with training wheels. Thanks to our predecessors at PROVO, bike sharing has graduated from its symbolic training wheels to toddling tricycles to mature urban utilitarian bicycles. I for one, greatly appreciate and salute their efforts to effect change for social equity, for social justice, and for the overall social good.

Painted white bike presented to John Lennon and Yoko Ono at the Amsterdam Hilton in 1969 - Source: jornwemmenhove.nl

Painted white bike presented to John Lennon and Yoko Ono at the Amsterdam Hilton in 1969 – Source: jornwemmenhove.nl

Your live in a tax haven when…

Source: ltjj.org

Source: ltjj.org

Late March/early April here in the States seemed like the perfect time of the year for this satirical post. Enjoy!

  • There are nonstop flights to Switzerland, Grand Cayman, Luxembourg, and Monaco, but no place else.
  • More Wall Street brokerage firms have offices there than on Wall Street itself.
  • Gordon Gekko is mayor.
  • There are statues honoring Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley.
  • Streets are paved with gold and silver bullion.
  • There is no need for accountants or tax lawyers.
  • 1040 is just a number.
  • Gangsters are replaced by banksters.
  • The whole darn place is duty-free.
  • There are more private jets and yachts per capita than anywhere else in the world.
  • Monopoly is the favorite board game.
  • Polo is more than a brand name.
  • Money bags exceed grocery bags.
  • The power plant is fueled with cash for there really is “money to burn.”
  • Pinkerton, Brinks, and Garda sell armored cars for personal use.
  • The high school team’s logo is the $.
  • Nobody ever needs deductions.
  • All cats are fat.
  • Money really does grow on trees.

Great seaports from space – Southern Europe

For part two of this series, here are satellite images of seven great seaports of Southern Europe – Barcelona, Spain; Cadiz, Spain; Constanta, Romania; Genoa, Italy; Istanbul, Turkey; Marseilles, France; and Piraeus, Greece. The harbours almost resemble jagged teeth of a saw blade ripping into the adjacent waters (or alternatively into the urban form) and often stand in stark contrast to the orderly design of the city’s street grid – particularly evident in the images of Barcelona and Piraeus.

Barcelona, Spain - Source:

A magnificent view of Barcelona, Spain – Source: apollomapping.com

Cadiz, Spain - Source:

Cadiz, Spain – Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Constanta, Romania -Source:

Constanta, Romania – Source: tours-tv.com

Genoa, Italy - Source:

Genoa, Italy – Source: en.wikipedia.org

Istanbul, Turkey - Source: virtualtripping.com

Istanbul, Turkey – Source: virtualtripping.com

Marseilles, France - Source: astrium-geo.com

Marseilles, France – Source: astrium-geo.com

Piraeus (Athens), Greece - Source:

Piraeus (Athens), Greece – Source: ham.gr

 

Great seaports from space – Northern Europe

Rotterdam, Netherlands - commons.wikimedia.org

Rotterdam, Netherlands – commons.wikimedia.org

While preparing the satellite photos from the “Can you guess the city” series, I noticed how interesting the images were of great seaport cities. The harbour channels are very evident and in combination with the natural and urban geography present a quite stark contrast. So, to start this series of posts off, here are satellite images of seven great seaports of Northern Europe – Antwerp, Belgium; Copenhagen, Denmark; Gydnia, PolandLe Havre, France; Gothenburg, Sweden; Rotterdam, Netherlands (above); and St. Petersburg, Russia. Enjoy!

Source: fuzzygoon.com

Antwerp, Belgium – Source: fuzzygoon.com

Copenhagen, Denmark - Source: alebo.se

Copenhagen, Denmark – Source: alebo.se

Gydnia, Poland - Source: skyscrapercity.com

Gydnia, Poland – Source: skyscrapercity.com

Gothenburg, Sweden - Source: en.wikipedia.org

Gothenburg, Sweden – Source: en.wikipedia.org

Le Havre, France - Source: skyscrapercity.com

Le Havre, France – Source: skyscrapercity.com

St. Petersburg, Russia - Source: tours-tv.com

St. Petersburg, Russia – Source: tours-tv.com

 

A most practical bicycle invention

Source: trampe.no/

Source: trampe.no/

This is what I call a most practical invention – the world’s first bicycle lift for climbing steep hills. While many of us bicyclists like to think we are physically fit, even the best of us has difficulties climbing steep terrain, especially when you cannot get momentum going ahead of time. Leave it to the Norwegians to come up with a practical solution. The Trampe Bicycle Lift (or CycloCable) helps cyclists reach the top of 130 meter/428 foot high Brubakken Hill in the city of Trondheim.

Source: lkv.no

Source: lkv.no

Below is an interesting video about the lift that originally opened in 1993 and was updated with a more advanced technology in 2013 followed by some photos. Kudos to the City of Trondheim, Norway and its amazing bicycle lift. Hopefully, a few other cities around the globe will latch onto this gem of an idea – just here in the United States a bike lift would come in handy in hilly cities like San Francisco, Duluth, Pittsburgh, Roanoke, Chattanooga, and Asheville. It is certainly one of those inventions where we all say to ourselves, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Source: trampe.no/

Source: trampe.no/

Source: exviking.net

Source: exviking.net