Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Some 1913 Bicycle Accidents in DC

October 1913 had two bicycle accidents that received newspaper coverage, one that involved President Wilson and "the White House car" (as it was referred to) and another involving the then-highest ranking bicycle commuter in the U.S. federal government.

The Washington Herald of October 06, 1913 had this story about the follow-up after President Wilson's car (driven by a chauffeur) had an accident with a bicycle messenger.
WILSON VISITS BOY AUTO HURT - Calls at Hospital and Feels Robert Crawford's Pulse and Head.

LAD SHOWS PLEASURE - Particularly Happy Over President's Promise to Give Him Bicycle to Replace Broken One

"Laying on of hands" may fail to cure nine times out of ten in these days, but in the opinion of Robert Crawford, the messenger boy run down and injured by President Wilson's automobile Saturday, the soothing touch of the chief Executive's hands and his cheering talk worked miraculously yesterday when the President visited the little patient at Providence Hospital.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Young Crawford was assured that the President would see that he had another bicycle in place of the one that was demolished by the White House car. After giving the patient this assurance and telling him that he hoped he would be completely well soon, President Wilson left the sickroom and returned to the White House in his automobile.

A typical messenger boy with bicycle in Washington DC, 1912

This incident was of sufficient notoriety that it is mentioned in the Wikipedia article about "telegraph boys" - "The President sent his personal physician to attend Crawford. Later, he visited the boy in the hospital and presented him with a new bicycle. "I did not know it was the President's car that I ran into," the boy said. Wilson replied, "I rather thought it was the President's car that ran into you.""

Not long after that, the second highest official at the Department of State had a bicycle accident that was reported on in the newspaper by The Washington Times on October 14, 1913.

Secretary's Machine Wrecked and He Narrowly Escapes Receiving Serious Injury.

Assistant Secretary of State A. A. Adee had a narrow escape from serious injury this morning, when he rode his world-famous bicycle, which was carrying him to his office in the State Department, into the automobile being driven by J. E. Baines. of Browning Baines, coffee manufacturers, as Pennsylvania avenue northwest. Mr. Adee'a bicycle was damaged to such an extent that he was unable to ride it. He escaped serious Injury, however, although miraculously. Following the collision, Mr. Baines jumped from the car, assisted Mr. Adee to his feet, brushed the dust from his clothes, and after making an inventory, found that the aged cyclist was practically uninjured. The accident happened at Sixteenth and Corcoran streets. Secretary Adee was going west on Corcoran, and was turning into Sixteenth when he came immediately in front of Mr. Baine's automobile, which was going south. Mr. Baines turned his machine about, but not in time to keep Mr. Adee, who had not till that time seen it, from colliding.

Alvey Adee in 1914, riding his bike to work, some time after the above-described crash

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bicycle: Around the World: Around the WorldBicycle: Around the World: Around the World by Linda Svendsen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Other than the single page introduction, there is no text aside from captions that identify the location that each photograph was taken. The pages are unnumbered but the volume is easily an inch thick, so there are several hundred pages of color photographs, some running across both pages.

The goal is to show how bicycles fit into everyday life around the world. The focus isn't on the qualities of the bicycles themselves in the usual way for books that are heavy on photographs of bicycles. Some of the photographs are crammed with bicycles in some setting while others have just one that may be off in the corner of the photograph.

This selection of three photographs from the book gives some sense of what the book is like. There is no apparent attempt to include photographs taken in every country of the world - of the ~190 countries in the world, there are probably photographs of bicycles in around 40 (I'm guessing) but there are certainly photographs from each continent (not including Antarctica). They were organized in some order that presumably made sense to the photographer but I didn't discern any pattern - photographs from a particular country may run for several pages, then from some other country, and later one finds another photograph from the first country later in the book. It seems whimsical.

Many of the bicycles shown in the developing world have obviously been subjected to heavy use and are not emblematic of bicycles as works of art or engineering. In fact the only "iconic" bicycle, presumably included without a sense of its iconic nature, is a Jack Taylor tandem shown in California. Perhaps this is repeating myself, but this is not a book of photographs of bikes to be admired in the typical way that I might.

Most of the photographs do not include the riders with the bicycles; rather the bicycles are shown parked (sometimes laying on their sides, looking more discarded than parked), waiting patiently for their riders to return.

This is not a new book or likely to be found in a bookstore selling new books. I was able to find a used copy at Powells book store for $6.50 which seemed an excellent deal.

View my reviews of cycling books on Goodreads.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Classic American Bicycles - Book Review

Classic American BicyclesClassic American Bicycles by Jay Pridmore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book, which is now 15 years old, is a good blend of readable text and color photographs of mostly iconic bicycles from the earliest bicycles in America through the 1990s. The book is published as part of as series titled, "Enthusiast Color Series" so the presumed audience would most be people like me who are already interested and know something about bicycle history.

The photographs are generally of bicycles on exhibit at the Bicycle Museum of America - most were taken outdoors in posed settings. There are a small number of reproduction period photographs, too. Perhaps the main drawback of this kind of book is that the photographs are all full shots of the bicycles at medium distance so that you usually can't make out particular details - it really takes a coffee table size volume to have lots of close-up shots, too, I guess.

Given that more than half the space in the 96 pages is taken up with the photographs, the text does a good job of being both engaging and informative, even though it can't serve as an in-depth description of the subject. Mr. Pridmore, whose other books include ones about Schwinn's history, seems well qualified to write this book.

A book like this, focusing on "classics," tends to emphasize the unusual - for the enthusiast these are often the most interesting. And for a so-called enthusiast, that's fine - such a person will get that. As a photographic history of American bicycles more generally, however, this wouldn't work very well.

I gave this book five stars because it fulfilled my expectations for such books very well - I bought it used from Powells Book Store - I like to have books like this to pick up and page through from time to time.

View my reviews of cycling books on Goodreads.

Additional comment: Having read this book, which credits the Bicycle Museum of America as a "collaborator" on the title page, I looked at their website. I assume there are any number of reasons why small museums like this provide somewhat inferior presentations of their collections online - for one, if one could see the bicycles well on the site, why travel to New Bremen, Ohio? And also such web presentations cost money. The "online museum" includes a timeline of bicycle history (that reflects many of the highlights in the book) and an alphabetical directory of bicycles, presumably ones they have on exhibit. Oddly the entry for Pierce Arrow misspells the company's name as "Piece Arrow" in not one but two places. The selected images in this directory of bicycles are small and not likely to take away anyone's desire to visit the actual museum.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Presta Valve Follies

A few days ago while putting air in a road bike tire before taking off to work, I managed to remove the pump head such that it snapped the front tire's Presta valve stem off. This is the second or third time I have had this happen - admittedly over something like 15 years, so not exactly an everyday thing. Still, it is annoying since I typically put air in the tires right before taking off. In this case, since the broken valve didn't let any air out but simply meant I could no longer put air in, I decided to ride to work and back before dealing with it - that is, replacing the tube with a new one with a working valve. So I wasn't slowed down on departure much.

The Presta valve - the part that should insert into the pump and open the tube to receive air snapped off

This situation was preceded by bending the stem at some point, which apparently creates a weak point. Then I suppose when I loosen and tighten the lock nut every time I put air in the tire, it puts some stress on the bend, or something like that. Then at some point as I pull the pump head off, it is at such an angle that the stem snaps.

Inner tubes with working Presta valves

The replacement tube I will use is at left - I an using the tube that was in my bicycle tool bag, which was in a bag with talcum powder so it will move around easily in the tire and not get trapped between the rim and the tire during installation. I will coat the newer tube at right in talcum and put it in the bike tool bag.

Schrader valve patent from 1892

Apparently the Presta valve is more suitable for high pressure situations than the older Schrader valve - or at least I think the Schrader valve design is older. In Google's patent database the Schrader valve carries the Schrader name from its being patented in the U.S. in 1892. The Presta valve is a little more mysterious.

Is this the earliest Presta valve-like patent? from 1897

According the Wikipedia article on Presta valves some Presta valves now have removable cores which is not something I had realized was even possible. It says, "removable core Presta valves have become more common" - perhaps, but not on the low cost (i.e., cheap) tubes I buy. (Schrader valves all have removable core valves - a slow leak with a tire with a Schrader valve can simply be that the valve is not tightly installed. A very useful thing is a Schrader valve cap made of metal that has a built-in valve core remover/tightener.)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

End of Year Look at Blog Stats

Overview - 90,001 all-time pageviews (click image to enlarge)

No, I still don't get what happened when pageviews was shooting up and then went south for a while, and now sort of zigs and zags.


The top four posts are the four that are featured at the right as "popular posts" - once ensconced there they seem hard to displace. They have, however, changed in rank relative to one another over time.

The blog post that has the most page views that comes next is Kickstarter Reflector Sticker = Success - I don't understand at all why this continues regularly to come up. It is (from my point of view, writing it) the least substantive post I did about Kickstarter proposals. There is little predicting which posts will get lots of views.

I do like that several posts related to my 1982 Bridgestone Sirius are popular. (Another one is here.

Traffic Sources

The traffic mostly comes from Google searches, not reading of current blog posts (I think). The VampireStat spam numbers are fairly low, all things considered. Good.


Not surprisingly most traffic is from English speaking countries. And an assortment of others.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Kickstarter Risk Example - E-Bike Co. Goes Bust

I suppose I should take care not to appear obsessed with Kickstarter . . .

For a while I have looked at the Bike Portland blog fairly regularly because I guess I thought of Portland as somehow advanced in its support for cycling. Now I'm not so sure "advanced" is the right word, but anyway, it is a source of bike related news that can be stimulating to read.

They just had a blog post about a company ceasing operation - the company, Conscious Commuter, was trying to bring a folding e-bike for commuter use to market. Although not evident from their web site, they have packed it in - the Bike Portland blog post quotes extensively from an email sent out from the company to its Kickstarter supporters.

So yes, in addition to other funding sources, this company sought and got $25,000 through a Kickstarter effort. Thirteen of the people who contributed were at the $1,395 level, for which the "reward" was to be, "You are pre-ordering and will receive a numbered, signed, limited edition folding e-bike, numbered in the order your Kickstarter pledge was placed. In addition to special pricing, you will get another pre-release offer -- a 2 year warranty!" (Estimated deliver - March 2012.) Anyway - no, that didn't and isn't happening, as it turns out. Instead you get an email more than two years later that says, "We appreciate your support of Conscious Commuter. We wish we had been able to raise the additional funds needed to continue what we believed was a very promising business- but after two and a half years filled with momentous achievements and challenges, financial issues have forced us to close our doors." Actually the email says a lot of other blather. At this point anyone who gave them $1,395 is probably not too surprised.

Since this proposal was made in 2011, Kickstarter has tried to clarify that there is some risk in such things with their "Kickstarter is not a store!" blog post, that requires proposal to include a "risks and challenges" section (which the e-bike proposal didn't have) but in my experience these never say, "there is risk we spend the money on something other than producing the thing you think you will get."

Just from the fifteen minutes or so I have spent acquainting myself with this effort (admittedly after the fact) it appears they had problems staying on track. Even the Kickstarter people say, "under-promise and over-deliver" - instead they seemed to have tried to come up with every conceivable variant imaginable - the same bike without the electric drive, the same bike with the e-drive but you don't have to (or can't?) pedal the thing, even a version in carbon fiber.

A slick video pushing a carbon-fiber variant

Most amazing to me, for a project that involves Kickstarter funding, is the "about us" page on the Conscious Commuter site. (This page is most likely going to disappear soon, but no worries, I used the Internet Archive's "archive this" functionality to make a copy for posterity, which is here: https://web.archive.org/web/20131222164759/http://www.consciouscommuter.com/pages/our-people-1.) I mean, good lord, the company describes nine different management or adviser types and nothing about anybody who puts their hands on a bicycle!! You know, to make one. The 25,000 bucks from Kickstarter, less the five percent to Kickstarter and the credit card charges, wouldn't pay for this crew's $ needs for very long. (Yeah, I get that maybe one of these people was focusing on this full-time - but still, can't they say something about someone who gets grease on his hands occasionally?)

Again, it's easy for me to look at this critically more than two years after they created their Kickstarter proposal. Perhaps there is something be learned here. Hmm.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Modern Lugged Frame & 3D Printing

VRZ 1. a tack bike frame with 3d printed lugs from Ralf Holleis on Vimeo.

A clever use of 3D printing to create lugs for a bicycle frame. I am not someone who pines for a bicycle-as-work-of-art like this, but there is no reason I can think of not to use a technical approach like this to build a bicycle frame that would more pedestrian in appearance but good to ride.

From a bicycle "accessories" (mostly parts) catalog of 1900

The elegance of a lugged bicycle frame to me is that it is the way most good (and I suppose some other) bicycles were built for the better part of 100 years.

My 1982 Bridgestone with a lugged steel frame

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Kickstarter Wheel of Fortune - Bicycle Turn Signals (Again)

There are very few new ideas - that is one lesson one quickly learns perusing Kickstarter. But some folks are able to package an idea in a way that is far more attractive, that much is clear.

Several years ago I had a blog post about a Kickstarter for bicycle turn signals built into gloves.

Failed Kickstarter proposal from September 2011

The fellow had a pretty ambitious goal ($50,000) and his product, as displayed in Kickstarter, looked in need of further development work. His proposal failed - he only got about 20 percent of his goal pledged.

I myself don't really get the logic for electric light driven bicycle turn signals, whether on your gloves or otherwise. I discussed aspects of why I think this in the earlier blog post but mostly I don't think they will contribute much to making urban cycling more safe. Such gloves would give information to vehicle drivers coming up from behind that the cyclist is turning - but this isn't a scenario where most accidents happen between cyclists and motor vehicles. Check out the top ten ways to get hit at BicycleSafe.com - none of them would be helped by rear-facing turn signals for the bicycle. (OK, arguably a signal could be used for #9 where you change lanes to get around parked vehicles etc and are hit from the rear by a car - but these signals wouldn't obviate their critical advice, which is Never, ever move left without looking behind you first. Is the motorist going to be more likely to give you room because you have an electric thing on your hand?

I read in the WashCycle blog about this new Kickstarter to fund essentially the same idea

This guy has a lower target dollar figure and it looks like he might make it (as of mid-January). So apparently 100s of people (who peruse Kickstarter and have extra money) think this is something they want to own - because this Kickstarter is very up front that the whole idea is to sell funders the device. Even though Kickstarter maintains that Kickstarter is not a store.

As far as how this connects with cycling history, it was big part of early cycling history in the 1890s that folks submitted patent applications for very similar "inventions" - over and over. See some on Flickr.

Patent 573920 (part a)
Many different versions of "no flat" tires were patented during the 1890s with springs in the tires - all of which failed

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bicycles as Christmas Presents - Ads

My local bike shop (that isn't a national chain) says on their web site that "bikes are the perfect gift for kids" - but then the photograph they have of happy kids with their new bikes shows them in summer. On the other hand, the best bike I ever received as a gift from my parents was a Christmas present . . . I guess there is nothing to be done about the disconnect between bicycles as presents for kids and December weather (at least where it isn't typically that warm in December).

In the 1890s bicycle sales focused heavily on adults - until the collapse of the bicycle market around 1897-98. After that apparently interest in sales to children (or anyone!) for Christmas grew, demonstrated in the Washington DC newspaper ad below from 1903.

1904 Christmans Bike Ad
From The Washington times., December 13, 1903

The ad copy isn't particularly good - "any boy would be hilariously happy if Santa Claus brought him a new bicycle for Christmas" - perhaps the phrase "hilariously happy" made more sense 110 years ago. It's also unclear why the effectively exclude girls - presumably there were girls bikes for sale.

1922 Christmas Bike Ad (Detail)
The herald. (New Orleans, LA), December 14, 1922

Above is part of an ad from a newspaper in New Orleans in 1922 - more what one would expect. Of course today it would be rare when a parent would think that a bicycle as present would "fulfill the biggest wish" of the child receiving it.

1922 Christmas Bike Ad
The full ad - most of the toys are more oriented toward physical activity than those of today

Ksenia learns to ride a bike
My daughter, some years ago, and her Christmas present bike

Monday, December 9, 2013

NYC Bicycle Accident Report - From 1897

This long list of accidents involving bicycles in New York City for the month of July, 1897 is from the New York Sun newspaper. I reproduce the text (cleaned up from what is in the source) from the full article. No illustrations were provided. Normally I do not fill a blog with the entire text taken from an article like this, but at least for me reading all of this gives an interesting picture of that time, particularly when compared to how such things transpire these days.

Some background may help - the actors are generally pedestrians, bicycle riders, drivers of horse-drawn vehicles, and a few runaway horses. In particular the word "rider" is always used to refer to cyclists, particularly in the phrase, "rider arrested." And the word "driver" is always referring to someone operating a horse drawn vehicle since at this time there were no automobiles, again as in the phrase, "driver arrested."

Despite the title of the article, that to me suggested wheelmen and wheelwomen were at fault in all the incidents described, the blame is sometimes ascribed to the drivers of vehicles or to events beyond anyone's control, for example with runaway horses or a bicycle that has a fork break and falls to the street. Where fault was found by the police on the spot, it is noteworthy that the party at fault, whether a rider or driver, is immediately arrested, sometimes after being chased. Some of the cyclists are not arrested because they escape. And in this list, riders are considered to have been at fault far more than drivers.

Some cyclists are described as "scorchers" - I described scorchers in an earlier blog post - this term was used to describe reckless speedster cyclists during the 1890s.

Some of the language in the piece reflects a different approach to journalism - some individuals are labeled as "fat" or "stupid," for example. The article appears to be intended to have a certain entertainment value in its approach to the subject (or something like entertainment).

JULY'S BICYCLE RECORD - Misadventures of Wheelmen and Wheelwomen and Accidents Caused by Them

The list of bicycle accidents that occurred in this city during July is long, despite the fact that for more than two weeks most of the wheelers were kept indoors by almost incessant rain. A surprising thing about the month's casualties is that while the cycling season is well advanced the number of careless and unskilful riders doesn't seem to diminish. Fewer of the accidents in July can be counted a unavoidable than in June, although in some cases it is difficult to determine by the brief report obtainable whether or not the mishap could, under the circumstances, have been prevented. The habitual scorcher certainly took a rest last month, and was probably not responsible for more than one-tenth of the damage done. Following is a summary of the accidents reported:

A peddler's wagon runs into a wheelwoman, who is thrown from her saddle. 8he falls into the arms of a bike cop and escapes injury. The bicycle is smashed and the driver locked up after a lively chase.

A scorcher knocks down an elderly man, whose collar bone is broken by the fall. The victim is taken to a hospital and declines to make a complaint against the wheelman.

A cab driver runs down a wheelwoman and one of the wheels of the cab passes over her head, breaking her nose and fracturing her skull in several places. She is taken home and the cabman is arrested.

An elderly woman is knocked over by a wheelman and so severely cut and bruised that she is taken to a hospital. Cyclist arrested.

A seven-year-old boy, while playing in the street, is run over by a cyclist, receives a scalp wound, and is sent to a hospital.
NY Sun 1897 Newspaper page
The entire middle column is made up of this list of bicycle accidents for July 1897 in NYC
The forks of a bicycle break on Eighth avenue and the rider is thrown heavily against the curb. He is taken to a hospital.

A boy cyclist knocks down three-year-old girl who is playing in the street, the child is severely injured about the head and shoulders and is taken to a hospital. Boy arrested.

A woman is struck by a wheelman, receives a broken wrist and scalp wounds, and is taken to a hospital. Rider arrested.

One wheelman collides with another, is thrown, and receives a bad scalp wound. He is taken to a hospital.

A young woman is run down by a wheelman and has her left thigh and arm broken. Rider arrested.

A wheelman's pedal strikes a curbstone and he is thrown heavily to the pavement, but escapes with a few scratches.

A tandem collides with a buggy at the Central Park Circle and is smashed. The cyclists, a man and a women, are thrown off, but escape injury. The accident said to be due to the torn up condition of the Circle.

A reckless young wheelman runs into a six-year-old boy, whose right leg is injured and left ear badly torn. Rider arrested.

A seven-year-old girl playing in front of her home is run over by a wheelman, but not seriously hurt. Rider arrested.

A six-year-old girl is struck by wheelman; her leg is broken and she is taken to a hospital. Rider arrested.

A young wheelwoman runs into an ambulance, which comes upon her suddenly. The wheel is smashed, but its rider isn't hurt and the driver isn't blamed.

A truckman corners a wheelman and runs over his bike, smashing it. The cyclist barely avoids being run over himself, and, it is said, is told by the truck's owner that 'tis a pity his neck isn't broken as well as his wheel.

A wheelman in trying to pass in front of a wagon, hits its shaft and strikes his eye against a harness buckle, injuring the eye badly.

A woman is knocked down and run over by a wheelman, has her cheek badly cut and is taken to a hospital. Rider arrested.

A wheelman is crowded off his machine by a team of horses drawing a heavy wagon. A wheel passes over his ankle, and the driver, in backing the team, rolls the wheel over the cyclist's ankle a second time. The injured man is taken to a hospital and the driver is arrested.

A man is knocked down and run over by a wheelman. The pedestrian receives contusions on both knees and on the left arm and is taken away in an ambulance. Rider arrested.

A driver runs over ten-year-old boy cyclist, who is badly cut and bruised about the head. Driver arrested.

A monkey-backed scorcher, riding on a cable slot with his head down, bucks into a truck and is thrown violently into the street. He is picked up in a semi-conscious state, with his head badly cut, and is treated by an ambulance surgeon.

A wheelwoman's bike slips on a wet pavement and she is thrown off. Her elbow is cut and she is bruised in several places. An ambulance is called and the surgeon dresses the woman's wounds and sends her home.

Another wheel slips on a wet pavement, and the rider, a woman, is landed in the street with great force. Her left ankle is fractured and she is taken to a hospital, where she is likely to remain for several weeks.

An engaged couple on a tandem are run into by a lad driving a grocery wagon and are thrown, one of the wagon wheels passing over the young woman's body. She is severely bruised and receives a bad scalp wound, while the man escapes with slight injuries. Driver is blamed, and is locked up after a chase.

A coal cart and a wheelwoman collide on the Boulevard and the cyclist is knocked out, but not seriously hurt. Bystanders blame the driver.

A young couple, man and woman, are riding a tandem in Central Park, when the handle bar parts and the man is pitched forward onto the fork and receives a slight wound on his right side. He is taken to a hospital. The woman is not much hurt.

A four-year-old girl is knocked down by a scorcher, and has her right leg broken. The scorcher doesn't stop to investigate.

A young woman, after spurting to get past a wagon, strikes against a curb before she is able to stop. She is thrown heavily to the sidewalk, her head striking against a hydrant. She goes home in a cab.

A wheelman, in anticipation of a happy event expected hourly to take place at home, scorches down Second avenue, runs over a six-year old boy, and is locked up. The boy is taken to a hospital practically unhurt. The cyclist is released, but was too late.

An elderly woman is knocked down and run over by a wheelman on Eighth avenue; her thigh is fractured, and she is taken to a hospital in a serious condition Rider arrested.

A wheelwoman walking beside her bicycle is knocked down by a runaway horse. She is unconscious, but suffers only slight injury.

A wheelman riding up Fifth avenue, with his back curved like a dromedary's and his nose almost touching the handle bar, fails to turn the corner, dashes into the sidewalk and strikes a girl, knocking her down. She is rendered unconscious, but isn't much hurt. The rider is thrown by the collision, but immediately remounts and scorches away.

A wheelwoman falls from her machine on Fifth avenue, receives a contusion of the right elbow and it taken home.

A wheelwoman loses control of her machine on Eighth avenue and falls, fracturing her left ankle. She is removed to a hospital.

A young wheelman collides with a truck on Third avenue, is thrown, and lacerates his hand badly. He refuses to make a complaint.

Two wheelmen riding rapidly on the Boulevard collide, and are thrown to the ground. Neither is much hurt, and they ride away after a brief but heated argument.

In cleaning his bike a wheelman's forefinger gets caught in the sprocket wheel and is cut off. The wound is dressed by an ambulance surgeon.

A wheelman is overcome by the heat and falls from his machine, striking on hit head. He is picked up unconscious and removed to a hospital suffering from concussion of the brain.

A cab driver runs into and knocks down a boy cyclist, badly cutting the lad's left knee and arm. The cabman lashes his horse and escapes.

A bicyclist is taken ill and falls, fracturing his skull. He is taken to a hospital and his injuries are probably fatal.

A cab strikes a boy cyclist, who is knocked under the horse's feet and barely escapes being run over. He is badly cut and is taken home in an ambulance. Driver hurries away.

A middle-aged woman learning to wheel becomes over-confident of her skill and turns too short in a bicycle academy. Her machine slips and she falls on her left foot, breaking her ankle. She is taken to a hospital.

In getting off a street car a man steps in front of a rapidly moving bicycle, is knocked about five feet, and has his left leg broken. The wheelman is thrown, but remounts and spurts away.

A stupid driver proceeds uptown on the wrong side of Eighth avenue and runs into a wheelwoman, who is thrown into the street, but is not much hurt. Her wheel is completely wrecked. Driver is locked up.

A middle-aged wheelman is run into on Eighth avenue by another wheelman and knocked off his machine. He falls under a truck and has his right arm broken. In explanation, rider No. 2 said: If I hadn't run against you I would have fallen myself." The injured man is taken to a hospital, but refuses to make a complaint against the other rider.

A fat wheelman and a slender wheelwoman, in trying to escape from a runaway horse, collide on the Boulevard and both riders strike the pavement on all fours. They suffer only from fright. A bike cop stops the horse.

In June several wheelmen were struck by cable cars at "Dead Man's Curve" and other places but it is noticeable from the above sketch that the cable road was responsible for none of the accidents to wheelmen in July. Whether that fact is due to the warning which THE SUN gave to the bicycles last month or to the slower speed at which the cars have lately rounded the curves, is left to the reader's judgement. A striking feature of last month's record is to be found in the theo largo number of children who were run down while playing in the street. And in this regard a hint may be wisely taken by parents and wheelmen alike. It appears that the troublesome, reckless driver so much complained of by cyclists came near smashing his previous records in July, a very large fraction of the month's accidents being attributed to his long-felt want of good sense.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Wheelmen - Rise and Fall (of the Use of that Word)

This is a somewhat random post, as I think about it in advance. Hmmm.

In the 1880s-90s, the term "wheelmen" was most commonly used word to describe (male) cyclists as a group. Therefore if one is using a search engine sort of approach to mining in the digitized newspapers of Chronicling America (up to 1923) or Google books, one will generally get more results using "wheelmen" than "bicyclist(s)" or "cyclist(s)."

This can be confirmed using an Ngram viewer that is available that works against the Chronicling America body of newspaper text. It returns the frequency of particular terms in the corpus over a period of time (here, 1865-1922).

Ngram results - wheelmen
"Wheelmen" (red line) rises - then falls (click image for more detailed view)

"Wheelmen" (the red line) starts up around 1890 and takes off, peaking in 1896-97, then falls just as quickly as it went up. By 1910 is practically gone. The terms "wheelman," "bicyclist" (which gets the plural also), and "cyclist" (also gets plural) have a similar trajectory to one another and also peak in 1896-97, but really it seems "cyclist" goes forward as the most used term - but not so much (per million words) as in the 1890s! (By the way, "wheelwomen" was also a term used during the late 1800s and the Ngram curve for it is like of "wheelmen" but on a lower level, going up, then down.)

Ngram results - bicycle
"Bicycle" (red) is overtaken by "automobile" (green) (click image for more detailed view)

When you open the viewer the "demonstration" search is for "telephone," "bicycle," "automobile," and "telegraph" - this shows the same rise and fall of all things bicycle in newspapers, which presumably reflects their significance in society, to some extent anyway. Of the four, "bicycle" shows the most dramatic rise - and then later, fall. It must mean something - but I'm not sure what - that the fall of "wheelmen" as a topic in newspapers starts before any significant discussion of "automobile(s)" in newspapers.

I was reminded of this in part by seeing a reference to the recently published book that uses the word "wheelmen" in the title about Lance Armstrong, Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever - talk about "rise and fall." Do anyone still want to read about Lance? I'm surprised.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Four Mile Run Bicycle Detour - A Coming Distraction

Four Mile Run detour info
One of several signs announcing the detour

A detour was supposed to start on in my bicycle commute, but the demolition must be behind since it hasn't happened as of December 2nd (2013) per announcements.

Four Mile Run Potomac Yard Bridge Demolition Updates

As of today, this is what the text says:
Starting December 2nd and running for approximately 6 months, a short section of the Four Mile Run trail in Potomac Yard near the junction with the Mt. Vernon Trail will be closed during most commuting hours due to demolition of a bridge overhead.

A detour will be provided, but many riders may find it better to pick an alternate route to avoid the construction area altogether.
I have given it some thought, and for most people there aren't workable alternate routes that don't add significantly to the distance or that you use surface streets through Crystal City, which means that you ride on (ugh) surface streets. Well, whatever, as they say. It continues ~
The detour - designed for ADA compliance, not necessarily bicycles - diverts traffic off of the trail onto the Jeff Davis Hwy west side sidewalk and also at the new switchback ramps to cross US1 at the S. Glebe Road signal. For those who are game, the switchback does incorporate a flight of stairs with bike rails built in.
I find this part quite annoying. The "switchback ramps" are not "not necessarily [for] bicycles" but absolutely not for bicycles, if they mean while being ridden. And the "bike rails" are simply boards butted up against the railing, not trough-style rails that guide the bike properly up and down the stairs. Pitiful. "If you are game" - what's that about? It is either OK or it isn't OK. It isn't OK.

Switchback Shown In Video
Above is a screen grab from a video from Arlington County that shows the switchbacks while under construction (although it is not, in fact, in Arlington County)

Four Mile Run bike and pedestrian detour
The stairs that is part of the detour, with the so-called "bike rails"

Bike rail, public stairs
This image shows what a proper bike rail looks like