Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cars, Bikes, Pedestrians in NYC

3-Way Street from ronconcocacola on Vimeo.

Overhead view of bicycles interacting with cars and pedestrians

Many made comments about the cyclists being clearly breaking more laws than the pedestrians and the drivers or that the cyclists were much more zippy when breaking laws (apparently implying greater danger). No one commented on the heavy imbalance in favor of cars over bikes as a way to get around. And the cars are certainly taking up the most space and the infrastructure is entirely intended to serve the interests of cars (although failing to do so very well).

Bicycle Rush Hour Utrecht (Netherlands) I from caguta on Vimeo.

Rush hour in the Netherlands . . . a bit different than NYC

Oh, so you can have lots of bikes and not so many cars after all. Hmm.

In the NYC video, the videographer inserted red flashing boxes, circles etc., when bikes got too close to pedestrians, cars too close to bikes, and so on - a comment was that being close isn't necessarily dangerous. And we see that in the Netherlands where the tolerance for close maneuvering on bikes blows away anything one would see here.

Patriotic Recumbent Bike

Fully Enclosed
On the bike trail along Four Mile Run, Arlington VA

I don't really understand why he isn't hot in there, although I suppose some air circulates from below and it is somewhat open in front of him to let hot air out.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bicycles Expressing Some Opinions

Politically active bike
All free space covered in bumper stickers

Mostly Arlington is not a place where one sees lots of cars (and trucks) plastered with bumper stickers - or bicycles either. This one in Shirlington is an exception.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Florida Leads Nation . . . in Cyclists Killed by Cars

Well, and pedestrians too. That's what this article from a Florida newspaper says.

Florida leads the nation in bicycling and pedestrian fatalities. Gancarz is at least the 20th bicyclist to be killed since July while riding on area roads.
According to the article, "blame" (as determined after the fact) was split evenly between drivers and cyclists.

One of the first books about travel by bike I read was by Barbara Savage, who in the 1980s went around the world with her husband by bike and wrote Miles from Nowhere. I recall that they found Florida to be one of the least friendly states for cyclists - have things not changed in 25 years? (Barbara Savage died in an accident with a truck while cycling after returning to California . . .)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Yike Bike & Picycle - Electric Bicycles For All?

It seems likely that cyclists will be seeing more and more electric bikes - for some reason, this seems to take some getting used to. Performance Bike has several Schwinn models now for under $1,000 that looks pretty good and at that price, when people are otherwise buying "city bikes" for close to that price (or more), it seems like a reasonable option.

Some of the options seem a little too exotic, however. The Yike Bike in particular I find puzzling since it doesn't include any ability to pedal the thing at all. Is this really a bicycle?

Promotional video for a Yike Bike

Actually, I can't tell if it is legally a bike or not - the focus of the explanations of the legality of electric bikes is usually on the upper limits for the amount of electric power and not being able to exceed 20 mph unassisted.

Video that attempts to persuade that the Yike Bike can cope with the real world - does not seem the rider read the Yike Bike "warning" page

The above video looks convincing but I doubt I would want to be out on the road much on one. Apparently most of the rider's weight is distributed to the front wheel, but that tiny back wheel . . . And the various Yike Bike videos never show a rider wearing a helmet. I'm not obsessive about helmets, but it seems at least as likely to crash a Yike Bike as a regular one, so why not a helmet? (The unsettling "warning" page for Yike Bike says "always wear a cycling helmet which meets the latest safety standards applicable in your region for YikeBike usage." Oh.)

The steering set-up for the Yike Bike would take a little getting used to (and yes, the "warning" page has some advice there, too). The basic "handlebars from behind" isn't a new idea - a patent I looked at in an earlier post is the same in that regard although the small wheel is in front (and the materials are mainly wood and not carbon fiber!).

In one respect the Yike Bike goes way back, to the "ordinary," with it's extra large wheel in front and tiny wheel in back, when strong braking could lead to "headers" as the rider went over frontwards upon a sudden stop, landing on his (or her) skull. The safety video above actual shows such a sudden stop, but presents it as a "feature" - but on grass. Going down a steep hill might be a bit different. The "warning" page advises (among other things) "never use the YikeBike on steep hills (over 5 degrees) and only go slowly down hill."

Another issue is that the Yike Bike has zero built-in cargo capacity, other than for the rider to carry a backpack or messenger bag. The Yike Bike site states that the combined weight of rider and bag should not exceed 100 kilograms (or 220 lbs, give or take). The Yike Bike itself (the basic model) weighs 23 lbs, which is more than a typical high end road bike these days and about the same as my 30 year old steel Bridgestone road bike. When folded and tucked in the optional $60 carry bag, that would be a bit of weight. And of course if the drive system fails this isn't a bike in the usual sense (that is, with pedals) so carrying would be the only option.

A more traditional electric bike, if not in appearance, is the Picycle.

The basic Picycle

Here the exotic aspect comes from the design, and not from most of the electric bike features. The base version is under $3,000 while another version with a fancier internal hub system (for the pedaling) and a belt drive rather than chain (again, for pedaling) puts the cost up around $5,000. Of course, for either sum, you have a "bicycle" that will attract lots of attention!

The main technical advantage (or difference, anyway) of the Picycle over "traditional" e-bicycles is that the drive system does not boost the existing drive system to the rear wheel but rather has a motor in the front hub. However the Schwinn models for under $1,000 use the same approach. The Picycle also recharges as you coast down hills. On the other hand, it takes 3.5 hours for a Picycle to recharge (per their site) while the cheap Schwinn claims 30 minutes to full charge, allowing the same 20 miles of riding (without pedaling - this seems to be the basic metric for these things).

A version of the Picycle is available with two motors (and no pedals/chain) but that model, able to hit 35 mph, is not legally a bicycle (but the Picycle people ignore that). I certainly wouldn't want such a thing on the bike trail (where the speed limit, much ignored, is 15 mph).

A review of the Picycle from the LA Times - the reviewer wears a leather jacket and a motorcycle helmet since she is apparently more a biker than a cyclist.

The Picycle models have rear fenders, in part because the seat post is integrated with it (I think) but no front fender. Typically I'm not too concerned with fenders (by which I mean none of my bikes have them even though I ride in all weather) but because the front wheel is motorized I suspect it would spit up far more debris in all weather, so I think despite the uncool design aspect that a fender for the front wheel would be good. The Yike bike also allows attachment of a typical rear rack, but generally the publicity photos don't show that kind of ordinary set-up.

The Picycle is heavy - over 60 lbs. If the drive system fails (which is probably not that likely) or you run out of battery power, pedalling this thing would be a chore; still, in a pinch it is better than the Yike Bike no-pedals-at-all approach. (For comparison, the Schwinn models are said to be 12 lbs over the "normal" weight for such a bike, which I would guess would put them at something under 45 lbs.)

The Picycle people offer an amazing set of (pricey) options, including belt drive (rather than chain for the pedal-driven "drive system") and even "PiFi" which is some sort of wireless system (for a bike?!) and naturally, at prices of $5,000 and beyond, GPS theft location capability.

I'm assuming the thinking of the Yike and Picycle people is that there is a market for thrifty green "cyclists" who would find a traditional bike that has added a motor to a traditional bike design to be too pedestrian (perhaps that's a pun?) and that these thrify folks will gladly part with several additional thousand dollars to be special.

It's a theory.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bike Event in Berlin Closes Streets, 150K Riders

English language news story with video about an annual event organized in Berlin that this year had 150,000 riders - all the roads temporarily closed to cars.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

14th St Bridge to GW Parkway Bike Trail Detour Still Wanted

The detour that won't die
Fence opened allowing access to what was a temporary detour

When construction work closed off the regular route (now restored - see photo below) a presumably temporary detour was put in that was eventually paved (see photo above). Now that a detour isn't needed, the Park Service has installed temporary fencing along the top of short "cut-through" to prevent its further use, but people who like the idea of a shortcut (perhaps cyclists, perhaps walkers/runners) keep opening the fence up. Last night when I rode home, it was closed. By now I'm sure it's open again.

The USPS "authorized" route

It would make sense, I think, to have stairs (or something bicycles wouldn't try to use) instead of the old detour to pull some of the foot traffic away from the busy intersection (admittedly not busy at this time of the morning) shown in the photo above. In the meantime, we have this silly situation where there is a "sometimes" option that wasn't very good as a detour and isn't any better as a shortcut for combined bicycle-foot traffic.

I didn't get a photo of it, I'm sad to say, but one morning a cyclist had ridden up the cut-through only to realize that the fencing closed him off, and instead of disconnecting the fencing (or turning around), he had put his bike over the fence and was in the process of climbing over to join it. Hmm . . .

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Two Years Blogging on Bikes

Two Years Blogging High Posts
Screen shot of Blogspot most visited posts for this blog, for "all time"

Total pageviews are given as one number (available for various intervals) - this includes pageviews of individual posts and to the blog as a whole (wheelbike.blogspot.com). In my case, 80 percent, 90 percent, and sometimes even more of the pageviews are for individual posts.

I now have several hundred posts. Some are on fairly obscure things, but it turns out that my blog posts on these perhaps obscure topics will pop up fairly high on a Google search, such as the one on Arthur Conan Doyle's full quote on the benefits of cycling, so every couple of weeks, more regularly than I would have guessed, I can see that someone looks at that page having searched for its content with Google. My version is better (says I) than most "quote sites" because I have the full quote (typically it is reported only in part), and it is both transcribed and I have a page image of the Scientific American where it appeared in the first place.

So, for most of my pages traffic comes from Google searches (although often not just Google.com but Google-dot-some-other-country's-domain). I suppose it doesn't hurt that I use Google's Blogger and also have built up some content (with my 200 posts) and of course some of the stuff about cycling in the 1890s isn't that commonly written about.

Most the leading posts, however, have reached that status because a light went on in my head and I wrote the owner of some other, more popular blog and they published a link to one of my pages. Jan Heine's blog published a link as part of a sort of joke about fat-tired bikes to my post about a giant tricycle in 1896 and his hefty popularity (in certain circles) meant that this post had hundreds of page views in a few days and over time, went above 500 pageviews.

Similarly, I wrote to the guy behind the Washcycle blog about a lovely newspaper article about cycling in D.C. that included a great map and it has almost 300 pageviews. Several other high posts are mostly references from Washcycle.

Two posts about women cyclists of the 1890s are the top performers for posts I have done where the pageviews are driven almost entirely by Google (and other) searches and not be links from other blogs. Google searches have also driven higher-than-average pageviews for my posts on unusual old tandems and my description of my 29 year old Bridgestone. I have observed from the traffic source information that a fair percentage of page views come from Google image searches, so I generally try to include an image with my posts - or really, I guess at this point I am mostly inspired to post about topics that will have an associated image.

Two Years Traffic Sources
The traffic sources information confirms the importance of (a) other blogs, and (b) Google

A couple of these are oddballs. Someone once tweeted a link to a page with a photo of a bicycle built for four leading to several dozen page views and "pingywebedition" and a couple of other sources are simply a mystery.

My numbers are certainly not very large, but having figured out certain things about cycling, both today and yesterday, I find the evidence that these discoveries have been shared to pleasing. Also, I have built up traffic over time. The first year it was really quite negligible. After 24 months I have had 5,500+ page views total but over the past month, 800+, which seems respectable.

So, for anyone who has read this far, thank you!