Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Yay Bikes Newsletter - December, 2009

From the great folks at Yay Bikes! Visit their website, support them, and join the fun at Columbus's number one bike forum!


Dearest Cyclist,

In the most joyous spirit of the holidays, Yay Bikes! thanks you for your kindness, patience, creativity, and generosity in 2009. Without you, Yay Bikes! cyclists wouldn't have celebrated a successful Bike to Work Week, opened an office, launched a new website, educated seven cycling instructors, provided Pedal Instead bicycle valet service at major events, helped Columbus attain the League of American Bicyclists' Bronze Award, and organized rides as diverse as Bike the Cbus and Night of 1000 Tacos!

If you'd like to support the work of Yay Bikes!, there are several options in the left-hand column in this newsletter. But other (already-nonprofit) local cycling organizations could also use your help! Please read on to learn more about these projects and how you can help advance their missions with even a small donation.

And stayed tuned for next month's newsletter, when we'll lay out a timeline for May Bike Month planning! Start thinking about YOUR contribution NOW!

Happy Holidays,
Yay Bikes!

The Bike Lady
bike gift
In 2008, the Blacklick woman now known as "The Bike Lady" organized an impromptu bike drive that collected enough cash, bikes and gear for 125 children of Franklin County Children's Services to wake up to a new bike from Santa! You can help The Bike Lady fulfill the holiday wishes of a vulnerable child this year with a cash donation - any amount is appreciated; $125 will get a child on a bike with a helmet and lock.


Pedal Instead

b2ww

Volunteers with The Enrichment Association's bicycle valet service parked an impressive 5,436 bikes this year (up from 3,871 in 2008!) for cyclists at events like Buckeye Football, ComFest, Latino Fest, and more. This year the team was also awarded the WTS International Innovative Transportation Solutions Award! Your sponsorship of or donation to Pedal Instead allows the bike valet to maintain its equipment and to attend events that couldn't otherwise afford the service.


Third Hand Bicycle Co-op

b2ww

The primary goal of the Third Hand Bicycle Co-op is to promote cycling as safe and environmentally responsible transportation. The shop provides community members with the facilities and tools, and the skills and knowledge, to help make cycling an essential part of their everyday lives. Weekly open shop hours are Weds 6-9pm and Sat 12-6pm, with a Womyn/Trans night on Thursdays 6-9pm. Your donation to Third Hand helps with overhead during the winter off-season and with the purchase of tools.

Learn More & Contribute!
People, not speed.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hilltop Commission Recommendation Against Bike Lanes on West Broad - Good Decision or Bad?

Last night, the Hilltop Commission, a neighborhood semi-governmental group in Columbus, voted to recommend against installing bike lanes on its section of West Broad as well as removing the parking lane on the south side of the road.

As you probably all know, I'm a vehicular cycling advocate. I agree with the philosophy of the League of American Bicyclists and their bike education credo that:

Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.

I feel that bike lanes are dangerous for a few reasons.

First, drivers don't know how to use them properly - both cyclists and motorists. Cyclists tend to stay in them even when it's not safe, such as when they're approaching an intersection. And right-turning motorists, who should pull into the bike lane after yielding to cyclists already there when they wish to turn, don't do so - and run the heavy risk of hitting cyclists who are not turning (the famed "right hook" collision).

Second, they decrease visibility of cyclists. The safest place for a cyclist is in the middle of a lane, where he can be seen easily by all road operators. Many call this taking or controlling the lane. But by huddling into a bike lane on the right side of the road, they're frequently out of the line of vision for motorists. Any time a motorist can't see you, you're in danger of a collision.

Third, they send the wrong message. The above philosophy states that cyclists fare best when treated as the drivers of vehicles. Though the intention of a bike lane is to try to keep cyclists safer if they want that protection, motorists frequently see the intention of a bike lane as "keeping them darned cyclists out of my way." Though state law stipulates that no community can create a law that forces cyclists off of any road other than an interstate, motorists don't widely know that. And that mindset that cyclists belong off the road is not only incorrect, it's dangerous for obvious reasons.

The opposing view of bike lanes, also known as the facilitators' point of view, is that bike lanes are safer because they take bikes out of the way of cars, and that perception of more safety will increase the number of cyclists on the road. And it's true - study after study shows that cyclists fare better when more cyclists are on the road.

But... let's look at Columbus for a moment. We don't have a lot of bike lanes in Columbus - just a few miles along both Schrock and Morse Roads. Both of them are poorly designed and full of trash. But I don't think there's a regular cyclist in town (nor are there many motorists) who's going to deny that we have more people cycling in this city than ever before. And official statistics show this to be the case as well. Could we have even more if we installed more bike lanes? Possibly. But is it the best idea? I don't think so. It leads to uneducated (and therefore dangerous) cycling.

I'd much rather see the city/state implement more cycling instruction in schools - perhaps starting at the fifth grade level when kids are really starting to feel the urge to get on their bikes. Teach the kids how to operate bicycles properly.

And I'm even more in favor of instituting more motorist education at the drivers' ed level, to inform new drivers how to operate around cyclists and about cyclists' rights. Add to that some mandatory cycling-related questions on the drivers' ed examination and you'll solve a lot of the problems.

People, not speed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's the Best Riding Clothing?

One of the questions I get a lot from people who are just beginning on their bike commuting adventure is "what should I wear to ride on my commute?"

The question comes from numerous sources: experienced recreational cyclists who are just deciding to start commuting and want to know how I manage with all my spandex AND my work clothes; new cyclists who don't want to wear all those silly skin-tight outfits but don't want to sweat in their work clothes; and even folks who are looking for work clothes in which they can ride and not look too bad.

In the past, I've given you my philosophy about utility/commuter cycling (which you can refresh yourself with here). And I've told you all about my Pearl Izumi Jacket and its visibility, comfort, water-shedding ability, and durability. I've waxed nostalgic about what I've worn for my winter riding. And I've told you about some of the new items out for cyclists from Cordarounds and Arc'teryx, among others.

But now, I want to hear from you - no matter what your riding philosophy. Are you a jersey-wearing roadie who extends his workouts into his commute? Are you a messenger, and wear clothes that are durable and built for urban biking? Are you a college student, and just wear whatever to get to and from class? Are you a professional like myself, and have a special set of clothes that serve you best to get to and from the office or elsewhere?

Chime in! Share your favorite riding wear, and give us some short particulars. We can all learn from each other here!

People, not speed.

WOSU: Suburbs Look to Create Urban Settings (2009-11-23)

Frequently, suburbs are seen as the enemy of Complete Streets methodology. They're sprawled out, full of strip malls, cul-de-sacs, big box stores, and single-family dwellings. But two of our most prominent suburbs are fighting against that trend, and for completely different reasons. Check out this great WOSU story on what's happening in Dublin and Upper Arlington.

WOSU: Suburbs Look to Create Urban Settings (2009-11-23)


People, not speed.

Friday, November 20, 2009

ALERT: Save Our Bike Lanes!

I don't think I'm overstating anything when I say that the following email alert fromConsider Biking is important and may help to set a precedent that guides Columbus bicycle policy for a long time.

Whether you agree with the concept of bike lanes is pretty irrelevant here - we need to show support for ALL bicycle-friendly measures and this is the first big challenge we're encountering.

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Consider Biking Action Alert!
November 20, 2009
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The proposal to stripe bike lanes on W. Broad Street through the Hilltop Community is at a critical juncture. We need your help now!

Through a public input process over the last year, and in accordance with the City's Bicentennial Bikeways Plan, the Hilltop Community RESIDENTS have OVERWHELMINGLY expressed a desire to have bike lanes striped on Broad St.

However, as expected, some business owners along Broad St. have reservations about the subsequent loss of parking on one side of the road. (Despite the fact that additional parking will be marked on the south side and many more off-street parking alternatives identified.)

This bike lane project could set a precedent for the future of bike accommodations in Columbus. Residents across Columbus want bike lanes, and the Bike Plan reccomends them in many areas. If specific bicycle accommodations aren't included in this critical corridor...our past five years of work to develop and begin implementation of the Plan...will be compromised.

WE MUST TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION:
1) It is critical that bicyclists show up - in person - at the Hilltop Area Commission meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Dec 1st at 7:00 p.m. at the Hilltop Branch of the Columbus Library - 511 S. Hague. This will be THE MOST IMPORTANT action pro-bike-lane activists can make. This will, in fact, be the most significant call for action for bicycling we'll make in 2009!

2) Please provide written comment to the project planning team here www.hilltopmobility.com as soon as possible. The deadline is Monday, Nov 23 - however, your comments will likley be collected for a brief period afterwards. We encourage you to support the option that recommends bike lanes on BOTH sides of Broad St. Obviously, this is a critical east-west corridor to provide safe accomodations for bicyclists. More importantly, the recommended "road diet" and addition of bike lanes will add to the livability and resurrection of this neighborhood.

More details, with some of the neighborhood input statistics, are available here.

We've opened the post on our website to comments. You might also find a dialogue about this proposal at Columbus Underground.

Please contact jeff@considerbiking.org if you plan to attend the Hilltop Area Commission meeting, and would like to be included in a distribution list of talking points for the Commission meeting.

Consider Biking is the local 501c(3) non-profit, bicycle advocacy organization that works to get more people bicycling. We promote and encourgae all forms of bicycling - sport, fitness, health, touring, andventuring, utilitarian, commuting, kids to school - if it's bicycling,we support it!

And most importantly, we're your representative voice that works hard to advocate for more trails, road improvements, better laws, more support from businesses, etc. We're working hard,so you can just ride.

Also, we'll continue to communicate breaking news and updates on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Please use this opportunity to follow Consider Biking on these two social media sites so we can activate our troops quickly to ensure the voice of the cycling community is heard at public meetings, legislative chambers, and in the appropriate judicial systems when needed.

Donate to Consider Biking via Workplace Giving Camapaigns
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Do you work for the The Ohio State University, State of Ohio, the City of Columbus, or any workplace that participates in the Combined Charitable Campaign?

Consider Biking has been a 501c(3) non-profit corporation for a number of years. But this past year, we've joined a workplace giving federation and are eligible to recieve your workplace giving donations!

Look for us in your giving guides as "Consider Biking." We live under the Community Shares of Mid Ohio federation.

Thanks for your support.
Contact Information
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Web site - www.considerbiking.org
Facebook - Facebook Page
Twitter - Considerbikeoh
Executive Director, Jeff Stephens - jeff@considerbiking.org 614-579-1127

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People, not speed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cyclist Killed by Motorist on US 23

Frank R. Smith of Piketon was killed when a motorist driving a van hit him on US 23 yesterday afternoon.

More information on this story at the Columbus Dispatch.

We'll keep you updated as we hear more information on this one.

People, not speed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

MORPC Offering Open House on Westerville Road Study

From This Week News:

Open house set on SR-3 corridor study
Wednesday, November 11, 2009 1:31 PM

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission will hold an open house on the "Westerville Road (SR-3) Corridor Study" on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

The open house will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Blendon Township Senior Center, 6330 Hempstead Road.

A short presentation on the study is planned for 6 p.m.

"This study reviews current travel conditions in the Westerville Road corridor from north of Morse Road to south of Interstate 270 and will identify improvements that are needed by the year 2030," according to the announcement from MORPC. "Improvements that may be recommended include additional travel lanes, intersection improvements, access management, improved bicycle and pedestrian access and others."

The study was funded by the city of Columbus, Franklin County and the Ohio Department of Transportation.

At last week's Northland Community Council meeting, president Dave Paul urged people to attend the Nov. 17 open house. He pointed out that state Route 3, or Westerville Road, crosses through multiple jurisdictions and includes many different intersections.

For more information on the study, visit www.morpc.org.


People, not speed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More Thoughts on the Bike Box

Reader danc posted some great links in the previous post's comment box and I think that it's well-worth sharing them with everyone. And it gives me a chance to explore the bike box and the many problems I have with the idea.

First, here are danc's comments:

The bike box “works” (so to speak) in the traffic light red phase, during the yellow or green phase, it fails just like any other bike lane. 
Here a is simple animation: Why “bike-boxes” fail http://cycledallas.blogspot.com/2009/08/why-bike-boxes-fail.html

The example uses a large truck, but a utility, delivery truck or SUV with large blind spots or impatient driver will work against any naïve bike box or bike lane user.

John S Allen writings:

Bike box rationales
http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=11

Comparing crosswalk and bike box
http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=60

Advanced Stop Line or “Bike Box"
Extended article with research links.

http://bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/stopline.htm

Remember "bike boxes" are experimental!

I had previously seen that video from CycleDallas (and if you haven't watched it, please do. It's short but poignant) and wish I'd remembered it for the last post! It's an excellent look at how these things can be dangerous. I think that what is missing is some explanation of the video beyond what danc included about semis and larger vehicles having a huge blind spot that might block their view of the bike lane.

Sure, a bicyclist should know that if the light turns green while he's in the bike lane, trying to maneuver into the bike box, he should allow the vehicles ahead of him in the general traffic lane to go... but in the case of the semi depicted in the video, he may not see the light change because the semi is blocking the cyclist's view of the lights. And the other, non-fatal problem with this plan is that the cyclist may then get stranded in the bike lane while trying to get over and go straight through, which is the proper thing to do.

The proper way to negotiate ANY bike lane is as follows: cars turning right on a street where there is a bike lane should pull INTO the bike lane to do so - scanning and yielding to cyclists already in the lane. That avoids the right hook. Cyclists who are going straight through should move into the general traffic lane to do so, allowing cars to turn right if they wish to do so. These measures would avoid the situation depicted in the video, and if followed no bike box is necessary.

My personal feeling is that all this lane changing back and forth, especially near an intersection where both cyclists AND motorists have more to look for and may miss key details (like the presence of a cyclist in the bike lane, especially given the "blind spot" that cars possess) is a bad idea. In this case, bike lanes give you a choice - lots of potentially hazardous lane changes near an intersection or the increased chance of a right-hook.

John Allen's website does point out that cyclists and bike lanes have their own set of signals in many European nations, letting them know when it's safe to move forward in a bike lane and when it's not - avoiding the right hook. Many transportation engineers in this country, who are putting bike lanes into the mix willy-nilly, don't take this into consideration when they're planning, I think. And while many vehicles are starting to include things like blind-spot detectors, extra mirrors, etc. to avoid the aforementioned problem, the problem of technological rollout is making these measures ineffectual (until all the older cars without these options are off the road).

The best answer, as usual, is cyclist and motorist education and proper vehicular cycling.

People, not speed.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Columbus Installs Bike Box With Mixed Results

The City of Columbus is trying some new stuff with our bike infrastructure, most notable of which is the test of a bike box at the corner of North Broadway and Milton - the street route for the Olentangy Multi-Use Trail between Clinton-Como park and Whetstone Park.

Consider Biking's website talks about what a bike box is and how it should be used, noting that the bike box is sort of a controversial idea.

The intended use of the bike box is to eliminate the risk of the "right-hook" accident, in which a cyclist who is attempting to ride straight through an intersection in a bike lane is cut off or hit by a right-turning car, because the car was not paying attention to traffic in the bike lane. When traffic is stopped by the red light here, cars are supposed to stop behind the thick white line at the bottom of the green bike box, and bikes are to be allowed to ride up the right (in the green bike lane) and stop in front of the cars in the bike box.

It's an interesting solution to a common problem. Bike lanes are considered by many as dangerous because they invite the right-hook problem. Technically, a car is supposed to pull INTO a bike lane to make a right turn, looking to the right to make sure the lane is clear before doing so. But, obviously, most motorists (and especially motorists in Columbus, where bike lanes are not widely available) don't know this. So the bike box at this intersection, which has considerably more bike traffic than most places in town due to its nature as the bike-trail-connector, seems justified.

However... as this video taken recently by one of Columbus's League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructors shows, many people (bicyclists and motorists alike) have no clue how to use it.


It's very obvious from this video that the simple fact of using engineering to create improvements is not enough. Cars park in the bike box, riders ride up the right when the light is green and cars are trying to turn, and cyclists still swerve off to the right to cross North Broadway in the crosswalk.

The "Six E's" of the League of American Bicyclists are as follows:

Equality – Legal: traffic law and legislation, including movements, access, equipment, uniformity

Engineering – Transportation: road and bicycle facilities development, design, and construction, and mobility and funding sources

Enforcement – Police and Courts: Equitable treatment of cyclists through citations and trials

Education – Schools and Smart Cycling™: Traffic skills education for the public, engineers, enforcers, and legislators

Encouragement – Public and private agencies: advertising campaigns, promotions, etc.

Evaluation – Public agencies: Measurement of the effects of the other Es using relevant research methods and testing.

The bike box measure is a use of "Engineering", and arguably "Encouragement." But it totally ignores the measures of "Education" - no one really knows how to use it - and "Enforcement" - no one appears to be monitoring this new measure to make sure it's used properly. And, arguably, it goes AGAINST the idea of "Equality" - it's putting the cyclists ahead of cars instead of making them equal by having the bikes line up as part of traffic.

It's an interesting idea, to be sure. And technically, it's capable of reducing the problem of right hooks. But it's not being implemented properly to do that very thing. Neither motorists nor bicyclists seem to have a handle on how to use it. It's clear that following all six E's is crucial for anything to be improved for cyclists.

Bike Box video courtesy of Patricia Kovacs.
All pictures property of Consider Biking.

People, not speed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Time to Shift Gears?

I've got something on my mind that I want to share with all of you since you've been reading my stuff for a while (hopefully). I'm thinking about slightly shifting the focus of this blog to a more general "carless commuting" theme.

I'm still a fan of the bicycle, don't get me wrong. And I don't intend to stop writing about bikes. The main focus of this blog will still be the bicycle. I believe that the bicycle is the most perfect form of transportation ever developed. It's fast, lightweight (even my bike), inexpensive, and it promotes health. Nothing can beat that. I wouldn't have gotten a League of American Bicyclists Instructor certification if I didn't like the bicycle.

And the focus of the blog will still be Columbus. I live here, I'm raising my family here, and I love it here. And I want to see this city thrive and grow, not only financially but in regards to the happiness and health of its citizens.

But I have other interests in the world of transportation as well, and I think all of them have a part in the arsenal of the commuter who decides to shun the tyranny of the automobile. Part of this has to do with the recent post I did on the EcoBike and Segway of Ohio. I saw there that bikes are not the only great alternative to the car - there are a lot of other options.

And obviously, Ohio is in the news recently for its efforts to improve rail transport and get a passenger line back into this state. And the streetcar issue, though minimized right now, is still a neat idea that I think deserves merit.

A lot of this has also come from my recent position as the Alternative Transportation Examiner for Examiner.com. I want to spread out a bit and cover more stuff on both sites - with the Examiner.com model being more news-focused and professional, and this blog being more of my personal feelings about these matters.

So perhaps next week, perhaps the week after, this blog's name will be changing slightly. I've got some ideas, but until I come up with something concrete I won't be changing it.

I'd be honored if you'd drop a comment on this post and let me know how you like the idea and if you have any suggestions for things you'd like to see me cover.

People, not speed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Los Angeles Doctor Convicted on All Counts of Assault on Cyclists

In a case that cyclists all over the country have been watching with great interest, Dr. Christopher Thompson was convicted on all counts in his car-assault on two cyclists last year.

Thompson, as you may remember, deliberately backed his car into two cyclists after screaming at them to ride in single file and passing them dangerously closely. The two cyclists both went to the hospital and one is permanently scarred.

This case may just be the landmark we as cyclists need to turn things in our favor.

And it also illustrates a very important point: ALWAYS report dangerous motorist activity to the police, with a license plate number if possible. Dr. Thompson's excuses about his behavior were greatly undone by a previous report on similar behavior, showing him to habitually endanger cyclists' lives and health.

I look forward to discussion on how this case might be used to help cyclists who find themselves in similar circumstances in the future.

People, not speed.

Yay Bikes Newsletter - November, 2009

From the great folks at Yay Bikes!

COMMUTER CYCLING COURSE - NOV 7
Columbus's League Cycling Instructors are offering a 6-hour (2-8pm) commuter course for riders who are already comfortable on the roads but need support to master them. All for the price of a tank of gas - $35 per person! Register online to learn how you can ride more confidently and commute to work with ease.

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NEW SITE LAUNCH & PRESENTATION
website

Our new website will be rolled out within the next couple of weeks (!!!!), so we'll be sending another email shortly to let you know when you can log in and how to get started.Webmaster Mike Reed will then present the site and demonstrate how it can work for you on Sunday, Nov 22 from 2-5pm @ the Yay Bikes! offices. Mark your calendars now, and stay tuned for more details!

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B2WW PLANNING MTG #1 - NOV 15
b2wwIt's that time of year when some cyclists retire their rides until next season -- that is, time to hunker down and plan for spring. Our first meeting for Bike to Work Week 2010 is now on the books for Nov 15, 1-3pm @ Summit on 16th (82 E. 16th Street). Please join us to make this year bigger and better than ever before. We need your help to create massive mode shift in Columbus!

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ON OUR WAY TO 501c3!
mailing letter

It's official -- we've mailed our letter to become recognized as a 501c3 nonprofit in the State of Ohio! We can't thank enough the people who contributed to our filing fee; we are incredibly humbled by your generosity.

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TUESDAY NIGHT RIDES
Every Tuesday evening, Yay Bikes! now offers 3-hour fun rides through Columbus with Ray George (big ups to Ray for coordinating this)! To join our band of merry cyclists, meet at 7pm at the corner of Park & Buttles (Goodale Park); stay connected to this ride through Facebook.

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AUSTIN @ PECHA KUCHA - NOV 5
Pecha Kucha is a fun, fast-paced presentation format in which every speaker gets 20 PPT slides and 20 seconds per slide. Our very own Austin Kocher will present "Place: The Final Frontier" at this week's Pecha Kucha event at Wild Goose Creative, starting at 7pm.

A teaser for his talk: Have you ever been to Junctionview Studios, Free Geek, or Third Hand Bike Co-op? You don't have to fly to another galaxy to find far-out places. People around the world -- and right here in Columbus -- are discovering ways to create radically new places, transform traditional places for fresh purposes, and create new potential for collaboration. Be there or be square!

People, not speed.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"I Killed Some Guy Today"

Ed W, better known to the bicycle blogging ranks as CycleDog, hits us hard with this fictional story today. It's fictional... but very realistic.

Read on. CycleDog.

People, not speed.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cyclelicious Giving Some Love to Bike Commuting In Columbus

Just a quick note - I want to thank the famous Yokota Fritz for adding a link to this blog in his sidebar on his fantastic bicycling blog Cyclelicious.

If you're a regular follower of this blog you know how often I've linked to his work, and you know that Fritz's scope for cycling news extends across the board. Doesn't matter if it's advocacy, road racing, mountain biking, celebrity bicycle spotting, bike culture, what have you - Fritz gets it all. He's also a frequent guest on the Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable podcast.

Plus, he's a really nice guy. Go visit Cyclelicious and drive his readership levels through the roof.

People, not speed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

E-Bikes Are Bikes, Plain and Simple

At the Interbike trade show last month, one of the big buzzwords was e-bikes. Short for electric bikes, the concept has elicited a lot of different reactions from the bicycling public. And this is honestly to be expected, as the cycling world is hardly homogeneous. But not knowing anything about the e-bike other than it's a bike with some electric assist features, I decided it was time to find out something about them. And that took me to the Short North and Jared Cavalier at Segway of Ohio.

Talking with Jared was a pleasure, as it always is when you're talking to someone with a true passion for what he's doing. And his passion is redesigning the way that we get around town, and making it easier for everyone to do. Segway of Ohio has Segways, of course, but they also have lines of other vehicles including folding bikes, powered skateboards, and the EcoBike. And the EcoBike, which is the brand of e-bike that Segway of Ohio chooses to carry, was my mission for the day.

Before going in to see Jared, I did a bit of research, particularly this article from CNN and an Interbike TV interview with one of the founders of mountain biking, Gary Fisher.

My initial reaction before reading the CNN article and watching the Gary Fisher interview was that these were just scooters with some pedaling ability, and that the only folks who were going to be using these were people who were simply too lazy to ride a "real bike." But both the article (which is accompanied by a segment on video, below) and the Gary Fisher interview revealed that these were a real option and that you didn't have to give up "real riding" by getting on one of these bad boys.

Watch Optibike - Keith Felch in Technology | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Fisher's interview in particular reminded me of some of the reasons people give for not bike commuting, including having to change clothes, getting all sweaty, etc. We've discussed these before, naturally. And after having a chance to check out the EcoBike and test ride it, I'm convinced that this vehicle can be the answer that many folks are looking for. And after talking to Jared, I'm also convinced that my preconceptions about e-bike riders simply being wimps was not the case at all.

First, a bit of discussion of the EcoBike. The bikes themselves come from Europe, where cycling culture is more accepted into the mainstream and bike companies don't focus nearly as much on recreation as they do here. Bikes in Europe, though they have the high-end mountain and road bikes, are generally more functional, and just another form of transportation. And the EcoBike follows that mold with one tiny difference: you get a bit of help while riding.

EcoBike comes in three models in the US market: the folding Vatavio, the urban Elegance model, and the more rugged Adventure mountain bike model. All of them have a 36 volt Lithium Ion Battery and a 290 watt brushless rear hub that provide the assist. The wheels on the Elegance and Adventure model are standard 26 inch wheels, and the folding Vatavio has 20 inch wheels (which Jared said does tend to change the ride somewhat significantly, making it not quite as smooth as the non-folding models).

Other than that... these things are bikes, pure and simple. Jared was pleased to point out that they are customizable with parts that come from any bike store (with the exception of the rear wheel which holds the motor in its hub and the battery casing). If you wanted to modify yours to include a Brooks saddle, change the tires to something a bit more sturdy (though they come with Kenda puncture-resistant tires), and put on some panniers, you can do so. If you want to put your kids in the Burley trailer behind the bike and get them to school or the park, you can. All the models come with a rear rack attached (complete with bungees), a rear light, a double-kickstand, full fenders with mudflaps, and a full chainguard.

The motor is, as I said, fully electric - no gasoline required. A full charge takes 4.5 hours, and that'll last you for up to 25 miles of assisted riding (a term I'll explain momentarily). Naturally, your results may vary depending on your route, how much you pedal, etc. The battery lifts out of the bike easily and is about the size of a small shoebox. And if you are planning on some serious distance, you can get a second battery which fits perfectly onto the rack of the bike.

Jared pointed out that the EcoBike does not have regenerative braking or any in-ride-recharging ability (like a hybrid car does), but that's one of the features that keeps it inexpensive. And inexpensive is, in this case, under $2000. Before you gasp, go to your local bike shop and look at the prices of even some of the mid-range road bikes - the cost is similar.

So now the big question: how does it ride? Well... the answer is simple. It rides like a bike.

I rode the Elegance - the urban model. And riding it felt pretty much the same as riding my current bike - which is a bit heavier than most bikes simply because I like sturdiness for my daily commute. I took the bike up High Street a bit, onto some of the sidestreets in the Short North, and up and down some hills in my test ride. The ride is very comfortable, even on the brick streets of the Short North. And pedalling without the power assist is, while not perfectly easy, not any harder than riding my bike when fully loaded for work. The six speed Shimano Tourney gears on the bike allow you to put the pedalling intensity right where you want it, and it shifts very smoothly with a twist grip.

But putting the bike into assist mode was the most pleasant surprise of the day. As I pedalled away from the store, I was immediately propelled forward ever-so-slighly by the assist motor which gave me a little more "oomph" in getting off the line - solving a frequent issue mentioned by cyclists in that they feel they're holding traffic up a bit too much as they pull out. And going up the hills was much easier, obviously. You barely feel that there's any assist as you ride, but when your legs aren't burning as you hit the top and the flop-sweats fail to leave their mark on your work clothes, you'll appreciate just how much work the bike is doing for you.

Top speed on the bike is about 20 mph (depending on conditions, of course), which puts it right at the same amount of speed as most bikes - thus (in my mind) removing the question of "do bikes like this belong with non-powered-bikes?" The answer is yes. As I said... this is most certainly a bicycle. And if you want to ride slower, that's no big deal either. Ride slower. The bike's not going to push you to go faster with its motor behind your work - it gives you a bit of help when you need it, that's all.

To switch between assisted-pedal mode and full "scooter" mode is done with a flip of the right thumb. I wasn't particularly impressed with the full scooter mode - but then I'm a cyclist and don't have the same frame of reference there. And Jared said up front that it's not built to be a full scooter - it's a bike, period.

I returned from my too-brief test ride with a new jones, so to speak. This bike is really the answer to a lot of questions regarding bike commuting. You still get exercise, there's no doubt about that. You're still moving and pedalling. This bike just makes the ride in traffic and among faster vehicles that much easier.

I asked Jared about who the market for the EcoBike was and who was buying them the most, not sure what I expected as his answer, but was surprised anyway when responded "everybody above 30."

And after riding it, I can see his point. Everything we teach in the League of American Bicyclists Traffic Skills 101 class still applies with an e-bike, because it's still a bike. As an instructor, I would have no problem with a student coming to class with one of these bikes. It has the same capabilities and limitations of a regular bicycle.

But for those who don't want constant changes of clothing as they ride to and from work, want to arrive at work looking fresh and ready to go, or even have some physical challenges that might keep them off a standard bike (Jared mentioned that he has some nerve damage in his knee that keeps him off a standard bike), this is a more than acceptable answer.

So don't fear the e-bike. Try it out and judge for yourself.

People, not speed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Commuter Cycling 101: Courtesy to All

This post is less about rules and safety, and more about trying to be courteous to everyone else on the road. We've been talking quite a bit about cyclist perception on the road recently, with posts on obeying the law and the like. This post is a more "best practices" idea that came up in response to that post and some questions I've been asked on Twitter.

One of the things I tell people when they start bike commuting or ask me questions about it is that we, as cyclists, need to stop worrying about whether we're holding up traffic. It's simple: if we ride safely and as we're allowed to within the law, we are going to do just that. And that's the basis for a lot of the enmity we face - we don't go as fast as everyone else and the perception is that we're roadblocks. And let's face it - the dehumanizing aspect of cars makes many drivers feel as though everyone else out there is just a drone out to piss them off. Well, that's obviously not true, and there are some things that we can do to help to keep the peace with drivers.

First, one thing that you see a lot of on the road, and that isn't technically illegal but is a big no-no in my book, is cyclists who come to a line of cars at a red light or stop sign and ride up the side of the line to the front of it in order to get out in front of everyone else. If this was Portland, and we had bike lanes and bike boxes, then not only would that be kosher, it'd be legally allowed. Now I'm not going to say it's illegal in Columbus because, to the best of my knowledge, there's nothing on the books about it.

But if you were in a car, and you passed a cyclist on the road, trying hard to give him enough room as you moved past him, only to come to a stop and have him pass you and every other car in the line to zoom up the front, wouldn't that tick you off?

For that reason, I suggest that cyclists take their place in line with all the cars - and do so right in the center of the lane behind the car in front of you. That will set your place in the line, show the cars around you that you're a part of traffic just like them, and also give you the advantage of not allowing cars to pass you in the middle of the intersection (which is REALLY not safe). Get over to the middle of the lane as soon as you see cars lined up at the light or stop sign and take that lane position as soon as possible. Sure, it's a bit slower, but it's more courteous and you'll do more to show that you are PART of traffic that way, not a hazard to traffic.

Second, you frequently see cyclists who need to come to a stop as a light changes from yellow to red. I mean, let's face it - the lights aren't timed for us. It happens a lot. Now obviously, I'm not going to tell you to blow through it, that's illegal and dangerous. And I'm not going to tell you to position yourself in the lane all the way to the right, unless you're turning right. In that case, signal your right turn as you come to the stop and then (if signage allows it) turn right when the way is clear, like any vehicle in traffic.

But what if you're going straight through, and the option for turning right on red is there? What I like to do, then, is position myself on the left side of the lane, and allow cars that wish to turn right past you to do so. Wave them through if they seem hesitant. I do this a lot.

"But what if they try to blow straight past me when the light turns green?" you ask. Good question. Keep an eye on the approaching cars behind you, the ones who might potentially be turning right on red. If a car is coming up that isn't turning, then angle your bike slightly so that they can't get by you, and then pull straight out into the lane in front of that car when the light turns green again. No car is going to be getting past them to turn right anyway, so you're not really holding anyone up. Again, you're part of traffic, you're just taking advantage of your smaller size to be courteous to a few people.

If you're not comfortable with this second option, and I can certainly understand if you're not, then don't do it. Safety comes first every time. I don't do it if the car behind me is a Hummer, bus, or truck, for example. I don't want a wide car like that trying to inch past me - even on the wider streets. But if it's a small car, then give it a try. You'll soon figure out what you're comfortable with.

Now let's say you're riding down a narrow two lane road (one lane of travel in each direction). You're taking the lane for safety, but you've got a long line of cars behind you. There's nothing wrong with letting longer lines of cars get past you when the opportunity presents itself (a side street or a driveway, for example). In fact, many cycling manuals will suggest you do just that. It's not required - in fact, Ohio bike law states that cyclists can't be charged with "going too slow" as long as they're travelling at an appropriate speed for a bicycle. But it is a nice gesture. And give a friendly wave as you let people pass you.

So those are a few options for being courteous to your fellow vehicles on the road. What courteous things do you try to do on the road when you're riding?

People, not speed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

P.R.O. Lobster Wind Mitts from Pearl Izumi

From the Gear Junkie on Outside Magazine comes a product review that is a great idea - a cold weather cycling glove that has mitten-like finger covers for the REALLY cold days!

The Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Lobster Glove looks to be the best of both worlds: a glove that allows for dexterity and protection during moderately cool weather, and a lobster-claw mitten that gives maximum protection for those REALLY cold days. The mitten flaps fold back into a small pocket on the back of the hand of the mitten, keeping it out of the way when not needed.

This seems like a great idea. I can easily see a ride where I realized half-way through the route that I'd misjudged the temperature, wind chill, etc. and wished I'd brought my lobster claw mittens instead of my gloves. I'm in a hurry to get to work and don't want to pull over to pull them out of my pannier, assuming I packed them at all! With these babies, it'd be easy to simply pull them out and over my fingers while sitting at a stop light when I'd have to stop anyway.

And the price of $45.00 seems to be a bargain for an item that serves two purposes. I am going to have to try to find a pair of these to give you a real review of them!

People, not speed.

The Speed Mentality

Today, I was commuting down High Street as I normally do, taking the lane the entire way (for those who don't live in Columbus, High Street's lanes are not wide enough to share with a passing car). I ride from approximately Arcadia in Clintonville all the way down a few blocks south of the I-70 bridge.

I was coming down from the "cap" past the Convention Center and was almost to the red light (and it was red at the time) at Nationwide and High. It was at this point that a bus (#9527) decided that he had enough room to pass me and did so. Normally, not a problem. If someone wants to pass me then as long as they get over I have problem with that.

But this bus driver apparently had no clue how to do it properly. First, he jackrabbited past me and left me maybe two feet of clearance. Second, he cut back into the lane almost hitting as he did so in order to get to the light ahead of me. Third, there was absolutely no point in his doing so because as soon as we crossed Nationwide after the light changed, I passed him again as he stopped to drop off passengers in front of the Nationwide Building.

I know I probably don't get a lot of motorists on this blog. And preaching to all of you who read this regularly is pretty much preaching to the choir. But please, please, please, motorists: think about why you're passing someone. Is it really necessary?

If you know you're going to be turning right at the next street, do you REALLY need to jackrabbit past that cyclist just to get in front of him? Or, if you're a bus, and you're making frequent stops, is it really necessary to fly past a cyclist just to get to your next stop? Or could you wait a moment longer to let the cyclist get past the stop? Is it really worth the five seconds you "save" to put someone's life in danger?

For those wondering, I have made a formal complaint to COTA about this driver, and I hope to hear a response, soon.

People, not speed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Streetfilms Presents On-Road Bike Facilities From New York City

I'm generally not a fan of bike lanes and the like, as I think it's not a good idea for a Complete Streets mentality to separate bikes and cars from each other. That being said, New York City is doing some very interesting things with their bike lanes and sharrows. Streetfilms has a video here:


It's interesting to look at these and think about places around Columbus where such ideas could be implemented. Any ideas? Please comment!

People, not speed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Arc'teryx Now Making High-End Menswear

More companies are seeing the wisdom of marketing clothing products for bike commuters (and other active folks) all the time. Witness the Veilance Collection from Arc'teryx (via the Gear Junkie).

The blazers, jackets, trousers, and shirts of the collection are made of high-tech materials like Gore-Tex, Merino Wool, and Windstopper technology, and look like they'll be perfect for getting around in the cooler months while staying clean and dry on our bikes.

They're a bit pricey, but undeniably well made and should last a long time. And with markets like this, the pricier stuff will soon lead to other companies following their lead and driving prices down across the board. I look forward to seeing more such offerings from Arc'teryx and other companies!

People, not speed.

Why Don't Columbus Cyclists Obey the Law?

I've been out with the flu for a few days (no, I'm not oinking), and I missed this surprising post from Jeff Stephens of Consider Biking back on October 9th. Suffice to say that Jeff took some time to sit back and watch the behavior of our city's cyclists, and was dismayed at what he saw.

I'm in complete agreement with Jeff on this issue. Simply too many Columbus cyclists do not obey the law. But let's look at the reasons that Jeff proposed in his commentary:

Why are you riding this way? Are you so self-absorbed, that the world revolves around you? Are you just opportunistic since the bicycle gives you the opportunity to cheat traffic? Are you “expressing yourself” with your nonchalant coolness, hipness, whatever? Or, do you just not know any better? Do you just follow the example of the guy/gal in front of you because you’re new to urban bicycling? (I think it’s the latter.)

Jeff's statement breaks the possible reasons for this behavior down into two extremes:

1. Those who know the law and don't follow it.

2. Those who don't know the law.

And there are probably groups of people who fall into both categories.

The very first thing I did when I started this blog was a rather thorough discussion of what the law is as pertains to cyclists in the city of Columbus. Links for those posts are below.

I wanted to know what exactly was expected of me as I commuted by bike, and what I could expect from the people around me. And a quick look at the law was the easiest way to do this.

But the topic here is WHY? To quote Jeff again:

And don’t give me the “loss of momentum” or “it’s safe because there are no cars” or “cars break the law too” arguments. I’d heard them all ad nauseum. We ought to be better than that. Hold ourselves to a higher standard.

All of the reasons above are nothing but excuses, excuses that aren't going to hold water if you ever actually are stopped. And excuses aren't going to keep you safe when you miss seeing that oncoming truck as you blow through a red light.

So what if you're going to lose momentum? So what if there are no cars? So what if cars are breaking the law, too? The point is that the law exists, and it doesn't exist to try to keep you down, or anything like that. The point is that traffic law is created to keep people safe. If there's one point that I've been hammering on since the day that this blog began, it's this:

The current traffic code in Columbus, if enforced and followed, is more than adequate for ensuring the safety and proper operation of bicycles in this city.

Now, whether the city's police are doing what they should to enforce the law is an entirely different matter, one that I've also tried to get across since starting this blog. But that's neither here nor there in this case. Proper, legal riding has gotten me to a point in my daily riding where I don't fear for my safety because I know that I'm doing what drivers expect and they're doing what I expect. I'm predictable, assertive, and know my place on the road. Most of the time, safety concerns don't even come to mind.

But ignorance of the law is another issue. Sure, you may never have been taught the law as it pertains to bikes. In our car-obsessed culture, that's a fair thing to say. I can't recall ever having been taught bicycle law when I was growing up, either, other than "keep to the right" and "don't ride on the sidewalk downtown" (I didn't grow up in Columbus - that was the law where I grew up).

But even if you've never been told the law as it pertains to bicycles, you can't honestly (key word: HONESTLY) get on your bike and think that the law doesn't apply to you. Somewhere in that head of yours, you know that there are laws that pertain to bicyclists.

But it's your own fault if you don't look it up and use that law to your advantage. Did you know that people getting out of parked cars are responsible for making sure they don't award you the door prize? Did you know that you only have to stay as close to the right side of the road as is practicable? Did you know that there is no "minimum" speed limit that would prohibit a bike from operating on anything except an expressway in Ohio?

So ignorance of the law is no excuse, either. If you're on the road without knowing the law, you're negligent. So either you're negligent or you're a knowing lawbreaker. There's no middle ground, other than you may be both (knowing only some of the law but breaking it anyway).

So perhaps it's most proper to say that there's really only one reason that people have for their scofflaw cycling habits: willful disregard of the law. Either you know it and disregard it, or you don't know it, and you disregard the need to find out what it is.

Either way, you're a menace on the road: a menace to your own safety, and a menace to those who do follow the law and have to deal with the repercussions of your behavior.

So let's discuss this. Those of you who don't follow the law of the road when cycling: why don't you?

People, not speed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

League of American Bicyclists Newsletter - September 28, 2009

League News

Take our Membership Survey & Win $130
As an incentive for members to fill out our quick membership survey, one person will be chosen at random to receive $130 (the League's age in 2010). You can spend this money on new bike accessories, a down payment on your next bike vacation, or just dinner out with friends (perhaps after a great ride?). The winner will be chosen and notified by January 22, 2010; the survey closes on January 15, 2010. Take the survey today!

National News

Bicycle Commuting Trends, 2000-2008
As the League has reported earlier, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2008 American Community Survey (ACS), released on September 22, 2009, 0.55 percent of Americans use a bicycle as the primary means of getting to work. This is up 14 percent since 2007, 36 percent from the first ACS in 2005, and 43 percent since the 2000 Census. Read our analysis as it pertains to bicycle commuting on the League's blog.

Distracted Driving Summit
The U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood closed the distracted driving summit with a series of immediate actions and pledges to continue the Department's research on how to best combat distracted driving. As part of this pledge, the Department will launch a new demonstration program this year to evaluate techniques that states can use to get the most out of their efforts to end this destructive behavior. The League will continue to work closely with the USDOT to ensure that bicyclists interests are represented in these discussions. Read more.

National Center for Safe Routes to School Grants
The National Center for Safe Routes to School is awarding 20 mini-grants of up to $1,000 each to encourage student creativity in new or existing Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs. The goal of SRTS programs is to enable and encourage children to safely walk and bicycle to school. Mini-grant applications are due October 30, and award winners will be announced by December 1. To obtain the mini-grant application, go to www.saferoutesinfo.org/minigrants.

State & Local News
Bikestation D.C. Opens to the Public
Bikestation Washington, D.C. officially opened on October 2, 2009 at Union Station. This location houses over 100 bicycles in 1,600 square feet of free-standing ultra-modern glass and steel design. In addition to secure bike parking, the facility also provides a changing room, lockers, bike rental, bike repair and retail sales. Membership registration is now open. Memberships and 24/7 access are handled by the Bikestation Coalition, a national network of similar bike parking facilities. Interested cyclists can go to www.bikestation.com to register.

NYC Vehicular Homicide Symposium
Transportation Alternatives invites New York's residents to attend a symposium on October 27 addressing the prosecution of vehicular homicide in New York State. They are bringing together diverse views to examine the existing legal framework and discuss improvements and alternatives, analyzing both innovative or untried techniques and those in use in other states. Find event info here.

New Tenn. Strategic Highway Safety Plan
Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely signed a new Strategic Highway Safety Plan for Tennessee on Wednesday, September 30. The goal of the new plan is to reduce the number of fatalities in Tennessee by 10 percent by 2012.

"Working together, we have the ability to make dramatic strides in making Tennessee's roads safer," said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. "As a major partner in this effort, TDOT is increasing its focus on implementing improvements that can make roadways safer, like cable barrier rail, high visibility pavement markings, and improved directional signs." Read more here.

Downtown Long Beach Associates
Recognized for Bicycle Initiative
Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA) will be honored with a Pinnacle Downtown Achievement Award from the International Downtown Association (IDA) for the City of Long Beach's Bicycle Master Plan (found at www.bikelongbeach.org) that was launched with the inaugural Long Beach Bicycle Festival and Race, a two-day kickoff event last April. Read more here.

Other News

Vote in the Drive Smarter Video Contest
Watch the Drive Smarter 10 short finalist videos and tell them what you think by submitting your ratings. The ratings by you and other members of the public will determine who will win the Grand Prize of $5,000 and three other exciting prize packages! Watch, enjoy, andsubmit your ratings now before it's too late!

The League of American Bicyclists promotes bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation, and works through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America. The League represents the interests of America's 57 million bicyclists, including its 300,000 members and affiliates. For more information or to support the League, visitwww.bikeleague.org.
People, not speed.