Monday, May 30, 2011

New Stop Sign, GW Bike Trail

GW Bike Trail
New stop sign added for traffic coming off the 14th St Bridge (from DC) - sorry, lousy phone camera photo

A new stop sign has been added where traffic coming from DC on the 14th St Bridges meets the north-south George Washington Parkway bike trail. They have also added some helpful (I suppose) directional information - "trail north" and "trail south" for example.

The stop sign is in a somewhat unorthodox location - instead of being on the near side of the intersection, to the right, it is across the intersection, in the middle. I don't see that this clarifies the situation and it may just confuse things.

GW Bike Trail
My favorite - "dismount before crossing"

For bike traffic northbound, there is a "dismount before crossing" sign, apparently pertaining to the humpback bridge a 100 yards on. The Park Service seems to have lots of these "dismount" signs to put up (to no purpose). Also, the sign is on the left side rather than the more conventional right side (presuming I am understanding who it is intended for correctly).

Aside from all this signage, this intersection is a mess for the kind of mixed cycling/walking/running going on here. Neither the north-south trail nor the one coming from the 14th St Bridge are wide enough.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Voice of America Covers DC Bike to Work

A good set of photographs from this month's Bike to Work day in Washington DC is on the Russian language VOA site - scroll down and the slide show launches. Knowledge of Russian not required.

As associated article in Russian isn't much for non-Russian speakers, but Google translate will render something like (but not exactly like) English - certainly it is understandable, if quirky.

Often in machine translation, the story becomes more dramatic in the telling, such as, "Move along the wide roads designed for a more dimensional and fast cars with gasoline engines - it's not only scary but dangerous. Therefore, local authorities began to pay greater attention to road safety. Cyclists immediately responded to these steps, rushing into the streets en masse."

I will be on the lookout for these cyclists storming the streets of DC.

(Not even slightly connected with bicycles, the translation business reminds me of the infamous Time article about Madonna's interview supposedly translated from English to Hungarian and back - which turns out to be an urban legend.)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Complete Streets" Video

Complete Streets: It's About More Than Just Bike Lanes from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Very well done video about implementation of bike lanes as part of a "complete streets" strategy. Local political types, journalists, drivers, pedestrians, business owners, and bike riders all comment. Well worth watching.

This simple video makes it clear that the argument in favor of bike lanes needs to be about how everyone can benefit, not just the bike riders. That everything about the roads shouldn't be about people in cars.

Stated as though obvious (and OK) is that slowing down speeding motorists as part of the general strategy benefits everyone, even the motorists (who are no longer terrorizing pedestrians and cyclists). Narrower lanes? They slow the cars down. Islands? The encourage the motorists to stop and wait for pedestrians.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Nice 1912 Columbia Bicycle Catalog

Columbia 1912
A nice catalog, digitized by the Smithsonian

Here is a link to the
catalog's cover and from there you can navigate to the rest of the pages as individual page image thumbnails. Columbia bicycles, from the Pope Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut.

The catalog is quite text-heavy for the first few pages, arguing heavily for the benefits of bicycles in various ways - economical, reliable, and health benefits as well (with a quote from a physician, as was often done in the 1890s).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bicycle Built for Four (1898)

Orient Quad bike, 1898
Orient Quad bicycle built for four, from the Library of Congress photograph collections.

Just for fun. Can't figure out why I hadn't see this before ~

Apparently Orient was known particularly for making tandem and other multiple riders bikes, such as this quad. There is a picture of an Orient "built for ten" that was presumably a stunt of sorts.

My BikeDC 2011 Experience

The last time I rode in BikeDC was in September 2001 - the George Washington Parkway portion was removed that year because it was something like ten days after September 11 and they could get the police support required (or something). I'm not a person who likes crowds but I have had this interest in riding on the GW Parkway so once it was clear that the weather would be OK this year (for a change - last year was a downpour) I signed up.

The event has a more or less rolling start - I got there (having ridden in on my bike from home) about 15 minutes are the first riders hit the course from just west of the (U.S.) Capitol, riding off through closed (to cars) streets in downtown DC, crossing the Roosevelt bridge into Virginia and heading north(ish) on the George Washington Parkway and heading a few miles down the Parkway before turning around and heading back up the Parkway, then the official route crossed back into DC for the finish (but I just road home).

Through downtown DC
Sparse (relatively speaking) bike travel in downtown

Starting 20-25 minutes after the initial bunch seemed to work out well at this point - not too much (bike) traffic.

Not long before the Roosevelt Bridge, we rode through a short tunnel

After crossing the Roosevelt Bridge and approaching the GW Parkway, the bikes bunched up more.

Here you get a sense of the mix of riders - there are some spandex "we could go a lot faster types" but the crew on the tandem are just rolling along and then there are kids, too.

Entering VA
Nearing the GW Parkway

Beyond the Key Bridge the bike traffic became quite heavy - the bikes only had one side (two lines) of the divided highway, with bike traffic in each direction confined to one lane (with cones down the middle). Round about now I began to wish for more common sense and more common courtesy from my fellow riders. As we climbed, relatively slow moving (bicycle) traffic filled the entire single outbound lane. Some people riding uphill nonetheless impatiently tried "on the left" when what they meant was, "you're in my way; I want to go faster." Some crossed over into the oncoming lane (for bikes - usually a lane of traffic in the same direction) to pass the entire column, then pull in with the other riders (who would more or less have to let him or her in).

Some riders barreling down the GW Parkway on the return side presented a more intimidating picture - here there were some people whose cries of "on your LEFT" really sounded like "OUTTA MY WAY or I may run into you."

Now this sounds like chaos, but probably it was one in 250 or less that was acting in this way, but when you have thousands of riders on a few miles of road, 1-in-250 makes an impression.

Fortunately all the bike crashing I saw was small-time stuff and no one was significantly injured. I observed several obviously (or one assumes) really new riders fall for no particular reason and on the Parkway, fortunately while moving only a few miles per hour, a bike turned into another causing a tangle of metal and rubber.

Nearing the turn around to head back on the GW Parkway

No helmet for WABA guy
Last but not least - the one guy I saw who wasn't wearing a helmet, wearing a WABA jersey.

Yeah, image is a bit out of of focus, so his head looks funny - but there isn't a helmet on that head is what you can see readily enough. I don't believe wearing a helmet was required, but still.

The ride continued southbound on the GW Parkway and was, I thought, supposed to continue to the Air Force Monument, but at the Arlington Bridge there was some sort of accident (involving a cyclist? not clear at the time, or now for that matter) that had many emergency vehicles and a medevac helicopter. About a quarter mile beyond that was a turn around again on the GW Parkway to circle back and return into DC. Having had enough of a BikeDC experience for one day, I moved over to the GW bike trail and rode the eight or so miles home.

I guess overall I had an enjoyable experience, but I can't say I feel much of an urge to do it again at the moment, either.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bike to Work Day, 2011, Arlington VA

Bike to Work Day, 2011
Inadvertantly part of a "new rider convoy" near National Airport on the GW Parkway bike path

Since I pretty much bike to work every day, I am never quite sure what to think of Bike to Work Day - at least this year the weather was mostly good (in the afternoon it clouded up and at least a few drops of rain fell some places). The number of riders for this "event" looked pretty impressive, but the fair weather aspect of this is fairly apparent when compared to earlier in the week when it had been rainy.

Bike to Work Day, 2011
In the photograph the barbed wire is more noticable - normally I am looking forward I guess and don't even see it.

Bike to Work Day, 2011
As riders get into the District, the group disperses

I tried to take some other group photos of "convoys" but my camera had focus issues. Oh well, maybe next year!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review - "It's All About the Bike"

"It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels" by Robert Penn. Published April 26th 2011 by Bloomsbury USA, 208 pages.

Book description at

YouTube video giving author's description of his book

Here's my review on Goodreads ~
The author describes some of the history, particularly the early history, of the development of cycling along with an account of his selection of the bits and pieces that are eventually assembled to make his dream bike including visits to manufacturers, all in less than 200 pages. Since I have a coffee table book that describes the history of just derailleurs, in my view he summarizes, generalizes, and leaves some (OK, a lot of) stuff out. For me, knowing something about the subject, it was an interesting read - I enjoyed it. I have to wonder how a reader who was interested in bikes but didn't know that much about the subject would find his explanations of certain slightly technical subjects. It would have been great to have more and better illustrations.

I read the U.S. edition. The dust cover of the U.K. edition included a color photo of this bike he went to so much trouble to have built; it seems odd to have left that off the dust cover of the American version. The British English was not fixed for the U.S. edition - I thought that was a standard process. "Tyre" etc. Not a big deal but seems odd. U.S. distances are supplied in addition to kilometers etc.

Even having read his book, I still don't quite understand what this was the ideal bike for (given that he has six other bikes of various types). It almost seemed like he wanted a randoneering (touring) bike, anyway something for long-long rides, but the subject of randoneering (with its rather different views of many of the choices he made) doesn't come up.

At the end he points out that the bike cost him $5,500. (He translated that to a U.S. measure, anyway). There are plenty of off-the-shelf bikes that cost more than that, so I think he must have got some special pricing on some of it. (Which is fine.)
I have a few other thoughts since I wrote the above ~

* Coming from the U.K., he really has a very European focus in the components he finds interesting. This isn't really a problem per se, but it would have been nice if he could have said a little more about some of the other sources that are important today. Yes, Campagnolo of Italy has made and continues to make great components, but they are mighty pricey and most people are making other choices - Shimano and increasingly SRAM.

* I still don't really understand his "dream bike" except that it is a really sturdy road bike made of steel. He says he figures he'll still be riding it when he is 70 down to the pub, but I am doubtful he'll want to ride what is essentially a racing bike to the pub then. He says nothing about randoneering bikes that seem a lot more "dream bike" to me, but perhaps this movement hasn't caught on in the U.K. (I don't think this fellow reads Bicycle Quarterly, the mother-ship journal of rando cycling.)

* With all the choices in the universe, he has his custom bike painted orange and blue - really, orange and blue? The Denver Broncos. Oh well.

* I also didn't get his choice of carbon fiber Cinelli handlebars for his steel bike, particularly since as I read the book, he got Cinelli Ram bars that integrate the stem and the bars, but on his site the photo shows carbon fiber handlebars with a standard stem. The photos of Cinelli Ram bars that I have seen are quite exotic - so much so that they would grab much of the attention on any bike you had them. Anyway, I must have misunderstood something, but I would have chosen something more traditional for the handlebars.

* The book is mostly about his quest for a perfect road bike of his own profile, but he does meet Joe Breeze of mountain biking fame and describes a pretty amusing outing with him, riding down a famous old mountain track. A lot of his descriptions of discussions with the people he meets who create (or whose companies create) the parts of his bike are engaging; really, that stuff is better than some of his descriptions of early cycling history.

He has photos of the bike

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

National Jukebox - 1901 Recording About Bicycling

Uncle Josh Weathersby on a bicycle, performed by Cal Stewart, January 8, 1901 - a two minute, 41 second recording from a 78 record of a then-humorist spoofing cycling. Part of the Library of Congress' new "National Jukebox" that streams audio recordings from the late 19th and early 20th century. There are a fair number of "spoken word" performances and not just music.

The full press release describing the National Jukebox project.