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.

36 minutes of bliss

Source: foreveryoga.com

Source: forever-yoga.com

One definite advantage of my work place is that it is located directly adjacent to several hundred acres of park land. As a result, I can wander, relax, bike, read a book, or participate in other activities during my lunch hour. When it is sunny and warm (but not too hot), I particularly like to lay on the seat of a picnic table or on a park bench to soak up the rays, listen to the birds, and feel soft breezes drift across me. After such a brutal winter as we just completed, these noon time siestas are at the very top of my list.

As a result, I usually get about 36+/- minutes of bliss and solitude to relax and recharge my batteries during the noon hour, before I must return to the office to eat lunch. Those 36 minutes are like a touch of heaven on Earth. Needless to say, during Earth Day or Earth Week, I appreciate the blessed beauty, peace, and serenity of our lovely planet even more during these lunch siestas.

Happy Earth Day 2014 to all.

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.

Are they insane?

Source: freep.com

Source: freep.com

Who in their right mind would “plan” to store radioactive nuclear waste within one mile of 20% of the world’s freshwater supply? Apparently, there are some people in Canada who think that’s a sane notion.

This storage facility would be situated across Lake Huron from Detroit’s freshwater intake location and upstream from Toledo, Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Hamilton, Toronto, Oshawa, Kingston, Montreal, and Quebec City. Even the most minuscule error could taint the drinking water for all these urban centers for decades.  Doesn’t anyone recall what happened earlier this year in Charleston, West Virginia when a non-radioactive chemical pollutant that got into that city’s water supply?

Source: mnn.com

Source: mnn.com

This has to be the stupidest idea ever put forth since the dawn of time. Given the geographic enormity of Canada, why doe this have to be located in such a vulnerable location.

One would hope the regulatory bodies in Canada would toss the idea aside as ludicrous, but in today’s money-centric world, who the hell knows? If you are opposed to this insane plan, please speak up and quickly! Here are some pertinent organizations:

 

 

 

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