Thursday, July 31, 2008

Montréal: What NYC should aspire to

After this first visit, Montréal is by far my favorite North American city. The use of public space was totally unique. Only Portland, Oregon even comes close. The city is clearly owned and used by the people who walk and bicycle and ride the metro. It's packed with public parks and spaces that are open - and I didn't see a single bench that had been outfitted to prevent someone from lying down on it. That alone is enough to make me love this city.

Parc Mont-Royal

Yes, every city has its problems, but what I noticed here was that residents and police alike didn't waste their time and energy trying to "clean up" the city. That said, it was cleaner by far than New York, where people regularly throw trash on the ground as they walk, completely oblivious to the city around them. Montréal has pan handlers, street kids and punks, sex clubs, cinemas and sex shops - and the city goes about its business. I didn't see police with lights flashing everywhere or cops harassing the street dwellers as you do here every day in NYC.

Sex shops and street culture and open parks and walking streets and seating designed for humans give a city life. Montréal seems to have learned that policing public space doesn't make it safer - instead they've opened it up so it's always filled with people. That's smart.

Here are some bicycle culture photos:

This bicycle locking space on the 'parking meter' is clever - and they were also widely used. It's an easy thing that any city could do to the parking meter system, if you still have them. I like how Montréal designates which space you're paying for in the pay-to-park scheme, it's very organized, but probably annoys drivers...

DSC_3593

Here's a 'meter' bicycle rack in use.
DSC_3795

Bicycle and car parking sharing space.
DSC_3603

You can take your bicycle on the subway - but only in the first car.
DSC_3651

I kept remarking that Montréal was like Portland, OR + Paris, France - kind of smashed together... And here's another example, these could easily be Portland bicycle police. But in fact they're Cadet with the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal.
DSC_3686

Overall, I was VERY impressed with the way that Montréal has designed many streets to be pedestrian and bicycle friendly. I especially like the way planters are used to slow down traffic and create a very 'public living room' feel on these side streets.
DSC_3794

I was stunned to see these wooden bicycle boardwalks in downtown. You can see in the larger photo, the blue and yellow sign promoting them.
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At the FrancoFolies music festival, I found this ultimate irony - Ford was the sponsor for the valet bicycle parking.
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And right across from where we stayed - this local bike shop.
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Offering more than just bicycles...
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And they had a makeshift sign for the Anglophiles as well.
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The public space around the Mont-Royal Métro station was lovely, lots of space for bicycles.
Métro Mont-Royal

And the Mont-Royal neighborhood (Plateau) was full of cyclists, including this guy with a child seat on his bicycle.
DSC_3709


There is much, MUCH more to the bicycle culture of Montréal - bicycles for tourists offered by information booths, plans for a citywide bicycle loan program starting this fall, pedestrial streets everywhere, many paths through the huge and beautiful city park (where drinking, drum circles, debauchery and spontaneous public gatherings are allowed and encouraged!) - and so much more. But there are bloggers who cover this all very well, visit them and then visit the city!

And, if you'd like to see some other photos from this trip of where we stayed and where we went, you can find them here.

Aarios

Reader Helen has introduced me to a lovely swiss bicycle brand.  She writes: "Aarios - named after the swift running river Aare."

And here is a photo of her new Aarios. I love the wonderful green color - it's like the best kind of moist moss that you find near waterfalls or beside the mountain streams born of snow melt.




You can find the Aarios web site here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Public Bike System


I'm having trouble finding information about this Public Bike System in Montréal... Does it exist?  Is it up and running?  I'll post more as I discover it.

Montréal

Will be in Montréal this weekend. Any tips on great bicycle rental shops, places to stay, food, etc are very appreciated!

Monday, July 21, 2008

First Day of Car Free Bedford!

Car Free Bedford!

There were some cyclists - no more than usual though. But the ride was sweeter!

Car Free Bedford!

It was beautiful. And the kids loved the open fire hydrants!

Car Free Bedford!

Although, I was suprised at the number of people who stayed on the sidewalk. It was like they didn't know what to do...

Car Free Bedford!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

5 days left to order...

You've got 5 days left to order a "Scout+" model from Jorg and Olif. "with 8-speed gearing and front/back Shimano "Rollerbrake" system (i.e. hand brakes vs. coaster). Scout+ 8-sp retails for $995.00."

They're accepting orders until July 25th.


MODELS: OMA & OPA

GEARS: 1, 3 AND 8* SPEED

*8-SPEED IS NEWLY AVAILABLE AND COMES WITH HAND BRAKES

COLOUR: BLACK, MUSHROOM, STEELBLUE & RED


PRICES:

1 SPEED: $645

3 SPEED: $745

8 SPEED: $995

Click here to place order: info@jorgandolif.com

Scout 'Oma': Shown in Black

Scout 'Opa': Shown in Black
Scout 'Oma': in Mushroom

For more information contact:
Jorg & Olif Head Office
Suite 301-21 Water Street
Vancouver, BC Canada
V6B 1A1

1.604.877.1850
info@jorgandolif.com
www.jorgandolif.com

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Guest post from Liz:

A few weeks ago I journeyed to my southern homeland thousands of miles away. It is a place I call Little Rock, Arkansas.

It is not a terrible place, as Michael has mentioned in the comments, but it is definitely lacking bicycle culture. Little Rock is a town of roughly 200,000 people sprinkled over 116 square miles/302 square kilometers. Everyone drives a car and it is basically impossible to get anywhere without one. The only bicycle friendly part of Little Rock is the two neighborhoods of Hillcrest and the Heights. This area has cottage style houses, narrow streets with bike lanes, and locally owned shopping.

So what does ridership in the southern United States tell us about bike riding here in Brooklyn, Denmark, or elsewhere?

My Little Rock bike friends seem to all own and advocate for mountain or speed bikes with appropriate attire. Some of us here on Drunk and in Charge disagree with such choices but we should definitely investigate why such differences exist. I asked my dress wearing Little Rock girlfriend why she rode her mountain bike. She told me that it was the best choice because she needed something that could easily handle the gigantic paved hills that are in Little Rock as well as the local outdoor, mountain terrain she likes to tackle on the weekends. Here in Brooklyn I certainly do not tackle giant paved hills or actual mountains so I could not argue with her choice.
Although I have little evidence I would argue that many places are less likely to have a city commuter bike culture if the only places to bike are the two extremes of five lane streets or designated "off-road" bicycling paths. There is no short-trip commuting (under 10 miles) or urban public life for most cyclists in suburban Little Rock.

An example of a possible future southern bike environment is a friend of mine who works at Heifer International in downtown Little Rock. She rides her speed bike about 4 miles from Hillcrest everyday.
The path she takes is not bicycle friendly but because Heifer rewards their employees with interior bike parking and other bicycling perks she is motivated to continue. (This Indonesian pedicab is parked on Heifer's third floor, its unfortunately not a bike one of the employees rides.) My friend likes the idea of her bike becoming more reflective of her personality and lifestyle and would like to ride a slower and more comfortable bike once she is used to navigating the car plagued streets.

The quantity or quality of ridership is not all physically determined of course.

Some Little Rockians were open to changing their commuting choices when presented with pictures and tales of my bike adventures on my squeaky, kickstand, Basil-basket ridden ride. They simply hadn't been socially presented with any biking alternatives before.

The moral of this story, in the face of re-evaluating American energy costs, is to keep spreading the news of your bike adventures to anyone you meet in hopes of changing American commuting culture.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

snip, snip, slice, slice

Hank & Me posts about cable locks. This morning on the way to the subway, I walked past the U from a broken U lock... and then a few feet later I walked past the bottom part of the U lock... and then I walked past the loop from the end of a kryptonite cable (the really, really, really thick one) and then I found the rest of the cable and an empty bicycle rack.

This poor person, some stranger here in Williamsburg, had their bicycle stolen on Driggs last night.

Alex is right to warn us - cable locks are temporary locks to prevent someone from grabbing a seat or wheel - they aren't secure.

Way, way, way beyond Lycra.

swrve Teaser

I got the most amazing product for review in the mail today - a pair of knickers and a hoodie from swvre, the LA based "urban cycling apparel" company. For today, I'm just posting this teaser until I can get out and take some photos of them while riding - but trust me, get to swrve's web site and order. You won't regret it for a second.

They sent me a "men's grey regular trim fit cotton knicker" ($80) in size 32 and a "men's blue pullover hiding hoodie" in medium($40).

Here's the thing. I'm not into cycling clothing. At all. I figure, why should I wear anything different when I'm riding my bicycle? But I am into really cool small label designer clothing with sleek looks and strong ethical standards. And that's exactly what swrve is.

These are designs that I would buy whether I'm cycling or not - and would wear even if I hated bicycles. They really are incredible.

swrve Teaser

I know, I sound a little too excited. The thing is, it's so hard for me to find summer clothes that I like. I'm really just not a summer clothing person. But these knickers and this hoodie are so sleek, I really love them. One of the most impressive things is the way they fit - it's like they were tailored for me. And the detailing and the quality of manufacture is outstanding. The knickers are so swell I would totally dress up with them in the summer for a nice night out. And the hoodie is super breathable. Our apartment is about 100 degrees right now and I just put on a long sleeve hoodie. I was sure I would regret it, but I felt cooler than I had in my T-shirt!.

Also, don't be fooled by the road bike focused photos on the web site - these clothes are uniquely classic. That's what's so amazing about the design, they'll fit right into whatever your style is. They even have a pair of knickers designed in collaboration with esteemed bicycle maker Rivendell.

swrve Teaser

And finally, check the statement out on the label:
"swrve is committed to fair labor practices

we are dedicated to the happiness and welfare of our workers. we think things like a clean and safe working environment are important. we don't think it's right to take advantage of anyone, so we offer a competitive hourly wage and additional pay bonuses. most garment work is seasonal but we think it's only fair to offer year-round employment and job security. we also have paid days off because there are more important things than work... like getting out on your bike!"




A full review with more photos will follow when I get a chance to get out and ride.

One step closer to a car-free Bedford!

This is the best news of the summer.

July 19th, July 26th,  August 2nd and August 9th - Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg will become pedestrian only. As it is the sidewalks are too narrow to handle the walking traffic on a weekday, let alone a weekend. The goal is to test out the idea and consider closing Bedford every Saturday. That would be a dream come true...

"Not a street festival or street fair, Williamsburg Walks is an experimental temporary pedestrian street closure intended to promote the enjoyment of Northside Brooklyn, both on Bedford Avenue and beyond, by encouraging the community to come together to shop, stroll, and socialize in an area unobstructed by traffic.

Williamsburg Walks places emphasis on allowing the community to self-organize and enjoy the spaces they have at their disposal. These events will focus on community involvement, and feedback from each Williamsburg Walks weekend will influence subsequent events."

Monday, July 14, 2008

; )

One of the esteemed members of our online bicycling community brings up a great point.  She reminds me that I wrote in a previous comment:

"Bombshell - Thanks for reading - I've never been to Atlanta. Well, I've been to the airport, but I'm sure the rest of the city isn't full of bigoted, gluttonous rednecks..."

And she, rightly so, wonders if "generalizing people as "bigoted, gluttonous rednecks" is not the first step in eliminating ad hominem attacks on your blog...perhaps i am missing your sarcasm. "

The answer is YES!  If anyone took that comment seriously, they were missing my sarcasm.  And there is a good chance they are missing my sarcasm in about 90% of the comments I make, both here and on other blogs.  I have a very dark sense of humor, something I learned along with drunk bicycling while in Denmark, and if you combine that with the effects of NYC on a country boy - it's wild.  Some get it, some don't.

Also, I try to stay away from emoticons as much as possible.  We've become far too reliant on them.  So, don't let the lack of a winking punctuation mark fool you.

And, while we're on the topic, have a look at my favorite bike blog for some really biting sarcasm:  Bike Snob NYC

Velorbis on Ebay

Dutch Bike Co. Seattle is auctioning some Velorbis Scrap Delux bicycles on Ebay.  Bid here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Blog Ettiquette

Just a reminder for our readers. Ad hominem attacks will not be tolerated. In other words, your comments will be deleted if they attack an individual based on motive or character without presenting evidence. Please feel free to make whatever assertions you like about public figures, politicians, bicycles, and me - as long as they are criticisms of policy or practice or positions held and not attacks on character or motive without evidence.

Freedom of speech is unlimited in public space. Please feel free to express anything you would like in public space. This blog space however, won't be hijacked for ad hominem attacks.

And thanks for reading!

Wet Hot Panniers

Note:
This is a guest post from Liz, aka ehouse, who often sends Michael bike related photos or blurbs through email instead of on here like she should.

This past Tuesday I rode my bike a few miles to watch Wet Hot American Summer at McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn. When I arrived I learned that no bikes were allowed inside and I didn't have a bike lock because I am paranoid about leaving it alone. On top of that, I noticed there were no bike racks outside. But, I decided that now was the time to buy a bike lock, so I rode to the nearest bike station, Spokes & Strings, and bought Kryptonite's New York Lock (which costs more than my bike is monetarily worth). When I returned I saw that a million people had now locked their bikes to the surrounding fences and I joined them without complaint. I realized that no bikes are allowed inside because so many smart people ride their bikes there.

After the wet hot movie I returned to find a printed, paper tag on my handlebars advertising hand-made bike panniers. This self described "teensey punk business", Swift Industries, crafts your order in their Seattle basement. The panniers are great but since I already have storage room in my front basket I'm thinking about ordering a custom tool pouch.

Williamsburg Bridge is #1!

Williamsburg, Memorial Day Weekend

Looks like the new stats out show the Williamsburg Bridge has more bicycle traffic than any other bridge in NYC. Go team! Our 'hood is winning!

"But for Transportation Alternatives spokesman and Greenpoint cyclist Wiley Norvell, it’s not the number of shops that matter — it’s the number of cars.

The ridership numbers for the Williamsburg Bridge, coupled with statistics indicating that North Brooklyn has lower rates of car ownership than the rest of the borough, have convinced Norvell that his neighborhood is the most heavily biked part of the city.

“There are times looking down Bedford Avenue when every other vehicle is a bicycle,” he said." Read more...


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

SoHo Bicycle Share

In the meantime... This SoHo bicycle share program is working. Find a free bicycle to loan here.

"The project is sponsored by the Forum for Urban Design, a membership group of architects, designers and planners and the gallery. David Haskell, executive director of the group, stood out front of the gallery. He urged passing pedestrians to try a free bike ride. Twenty bicycles, donated by Metro Bicycles, are available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for rides through Wednesday from the Storefront, near the corner of Kenmare Street and Cleveland Place." Read more...

Bicycle Loan for NYC

More press (and no action yet) on a bicycle loan program in NYC.

""New York is a world-class city for biking, and we are looking to build a world-class bike network," said Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the Department of Transportation, which is spearheading the idea. The city so far is just considering the idea, asking companies to offer input of how a bike-share program would work in New York. Other cities like Paris and Washington, D.C. operate or have experimented with programs where people pay per ride or hold a yearly membership, contributing to a reduction in motor vehicles on the streets." Read more...

Western Spaghetti

Take a break from thinking about wheels - it rained SO much today. Enjoy this video.


Yum

Take a bite of this juicy new blog on the block. Perfectly ripe for summer.


Bicycle or not, he just broke our hearts.

This is a terrible day for civil liberties in the USA.

FISA?

On January 28th, Obama said this - and then today, he voted yes for retroactive immunity for the telecommunication companies that violated federal law and assisted Bush in spying on us. A sad day for HOPE. A sad day for civil liberties. A sad day for all of us who have worked so hard for Obama's campaign.

"I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill.

Ever since 9/11, this Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.

The FISA court works. The separation of power works. We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight, and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend.

No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people -- not the President of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed.

That is why I am co-sponsoring Senator Dodd's amendment to remove the immunity provision. Secrecy must not trump accountability. We must show our citizens - and set an example to the world - that laws cannot be ignored when it is inconvenient."

Monday, July 7, 2008

Smog

"So if the air looks dirty or the air quality board warns about the pollutant level, just take that workout indoors..."
LA Times asks if maybe you shouldn't engage in outdoor activities when the air quality is low. Apologies to my dear friends in LA, but remind me: Why do people live there again?

Bicycle Valet

Transportation Alternatives is providing valet bicycle parking for the Bryant park summer film festival.
THE DETAILS: The lawn opens at 5pm and the movies start at dusk, 8 or 9pm. And here's the list of screenings.

Mon, July 14 - Fail-Safe
Mon, July 21 -Arsenic and Old Lace
Mon, July 28 - The Apartment
Mon, August 4 -Lifeboat
Mon, July 11 -The Candidate
Mon, July 18 -Superman


Friday, July 4, 2008

Advice on choosing a bicycle...

In our limited US bicycle market, we only have access to a few Dutch and Danish and Normal-Euro-Bicycle options. Because of this, it's easy to get wrapped up in a '08 Democratic primary style battle to determine which bicycle is 'best'. First, it's a silly question. Second, there is no answer. Third, there is a lot of misinformation in the debate. Fourth, one of the bicycles didn't vote for the war in Iraq, so it's not that easy.

And...just because there isn't an answer doesn't mean it's not worth discussing.

I'm not sure where this Azor vs. Velorbis geometry argument really came from or what the motive behind it is, but I will say I have only heard it from one dealer. That dealer posted it here as a comment when I was making my decision and shares that opinion with prospective buyers who contact them. I respect the dealer and their opinion - but I disagree.

Having ridden 3 Velorbis bikes - 3 different models, I can confirm that the Velorbis is a completely upright riding posture when the seat and handlebars are correctly adjusted for your height and inseam.

There is no leaning forward, there is no weight on the hands, one's back is completely straight while riding, the center of gravity is on your seat.

The Velorbis (red) and Henry WorkCycles Azor (blue) frames, superimposed. Note that the frames are exactly the same, the only differences are that the Velorbis seat in this photo was set higher and the hub of the rear wheel is slightly further back (this is an adjustable difference on the Velorbis, not part of the inherent frame geometry as it is on the Azor). There is no difference in the distance or angles between the seat post and pedals, the seat post and handlebar stem and the pedals and handlebar stem. If you choose an upright riding posture - adjusting the seat and handlebar height and tilt will give you this posture OR not, on both an Azor frame and a Velorbis frame. I'm a rider, not a technical bicycle person, so forgive my incorrect labelling of the parts - but you know what I mean, so get over it.

I've ridden bicycles in Denmark, France and other places in Europe over the past 17 years - and all the bicycles I chose to ride were upright. There is a trend toward leaning forward slightly for young men, and this is occurring all across Europe. Because of this trend you will see some Velorbis riders who are choosing to raise the seat and thereby lean slightly forward. But that doesn't reflect the frame geometry. Rather, it reflects the way the seat and handlebars have been adjusted and the size of frame chosen by the rider.

There are many reasons to choose an Azor over a Velorbis or vise versa, but frame geometry just isn't one of them.

When I was trying to decide on a bicycle, I spent months doing research. I would suggest anyone trying to decide on a bicycle contact, by email, all the different dealers and bike shops you can find, both in your hometown and abroad - ask them the same questions and compare the responses. Once you've done this - you can get a good sense of which shops and dealers prefer which bicycles.

I contacted bicycle shops, dealers and manufacturers in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, New York, Vancouver, Portland and more - asking for all of their opinions. When they all shared an opinion, I considered it pretty likely to be true-ish.

And above all, don't forget, guys and gals in bike shops are people just like you and me - and they have personal preferences, likes and dislikes, etc. Keep those in mind and don't forget about your own preferences and likes and dislikes when you're listening to theirs.

If you want an upright bicycle - get a Gazelle, a Batavus, an Azor, a Velorbis or any other upright bicycle - they're all upright, they're all (most models) sturdy steel frames and they'll all get you there in style.

Guardian reports on cycling in US cities

"Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been pushing to make it a better biking city after a 10-year study of cyclist fatalities found that all but one of the 225 bikers who had died between 1996 and 2005 weren't in bike lanes - and that 97% of those deaths involved riders who were not wearing protective headgear. The city promptly handed out 1000 free helmets, and then got to work implementing some long-term improvements. Since 2006, 110 miles of bike lanes have been added, and an additional 90 will be laid by next June. Between 2000 and 2006, the number of bike commuters increased by 100%, and the NY department of transportation is determined to double the count again by 2015. Of course, only 0.6% of all New Yorkers now bike to work.

Still, that's progress - especially in a city of its size. It's also about twice the national average. And, in the interest of encouraging cyclists and pedestrians, Bloomberg is conducting an experiment: During three Sundays this August, he'll ban cars from a seven-mile path that will run from Brooklyn Bridge through Central Park to the Upper East Side. "If it works, we'll certainly consider doing it again," he has said."

Read more...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

131,000

The New York Times covers the total lack of bicycle parking in NYC...

Ugh.


Is anyone else sick of these? I just got this one and sighed, out loud, without meaning to.

A Black Bike


A commenter on Sigrid's blog My Hyggelig, brings us this encouraging discovery, a 'dutch' bicycle distributor in New York City: A Black Bike

Their web site says they carry bicycles "built by Holland's best bicycle builder using top quality materials and fitted with the latest technology in gears, brakes and accessories." So that would suggest Azor, Gazelle or Koga Miyata are supplying the frames? And the gears would be in-hub (Shimano or Sturmey-Archer?)

However the bicycle pictured appears to be single speed and have only coaster brakes. The web site is registered to someone in the 11205 zip, which is around Fort Green or South Williamsburg. I'm looking forward to learning more... Have any more info? Post in the comments, please.

360 Degrees of Nudity

Check out this panorama of the Naked Bikers ride in London.