Sunday, October 30, 2011

Small Change Where 14th St Bridge Meets GW Trail

National Park Service had a bit of asphalt added to make this better

This is where the "off ramp" from the outbound 14th St Bridge trail/path meets the north-south GW Parkway trail. The NPS apparently realized that for cyclists the narrow "T" intersection was not working particularly well (which it wasn't) and added some asphalt to ease things.

By the way, in the above photo, it isn't that the cyclist (heading left-to-right) is incredibly fast so much as the camera is incredibly slow.

Looking south - extent of added asphalt more visible

It isn't clear if they are done adding turf or if there was some particular reason to add turf right next to the path, perhaps to make things safer/better for bikes that run off the trail?

Dismount sign down
I suppose they will put it back up, but I liked seeing the "dismount" sign this way

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What! Yet Another Kickstarter Bike Lighting Project

If I strap LEDs to my bike's fork and seat posts, it becomes relevant???

Earlier in the day, I posted about another, successfully funded Kickstarter bike lighting proposal - well, I had forgotten to search on Kickstarter for both 'bike' and 'bicycle' and it turns out there is this one as well, for the 'LED by Lite' bicycle lighting system.

These folks are taking the more difficult fundraising approach and emphasizing safety over fun. (Fun proposals seem to do better on Kickstarter with bikes in my experience than ones emphasizing safety benefits.) They also introduce a "dashboard" and the ability to have your bike lighting system operate as a turn signal system - a recipe for previous failed Kickstarter proposals.

As someone who rides somewhere over 4,000 miles a year on my bikes, there are a number of issues with this thing. Mostly it is just too complicated - the idea of having these things attached all over my bike plus a 12 volt battery system is just a non-starter. It takes the clean elegance of a bike and messes it up.

I also don't think much of the turn-signal idea. I don't think electric bicycle turn-signals contribute to safety; they are more of a distraction/complication for the rider. What's important is that motorists see the cyclist - that's it.

While the LEDs are bright, no doubt about it, they end up being low on the bike, which is the opposite of what is wanted generally. That's why some people wear headlights and tail-lights on their helmets, for example - to get the "be seen" lighting up high.

Even if you concede the "be seen" function of these lights as OK, the "see" part seems a little sketchy as shown in the video - the front-facing white lights are housed in a defuser (that is waterproof and crushproof should a car drive over them, an interesting possibility presented in the video, that a car might be driving over them) that means there doesn't seem to be much focused light forward.

I switch between four different bikes, but three if you don't include the semi-serious road bike. A "lighting system" that can't be swapped between different bikes in less than 5 minutes isn't particularly useful for me just on that basis.

But what really fries my something-or-other is the notion that wacky technology like this is what's needed to make my bike a "relevant vehicle." I tend to assume that they simply are using "relevant" (oddly) to mean that the bike will be as visible ("relevant") as a car, but . . . anyway, ugh.

A Successful Kickstarter Bike Lighting Project

The "mini-monkey" wheel lighting system

This is one of a number of products out there trying to push the combination of making cycling in the dark safer (by providing a more visible bicycle) with a version of "fun" achieved with a bike that displays lighting patterns on the spokes.

The video shows riders chugging along with their wheels lit up nicely by these devices, making amusing patterns of light. As is usual with such videos, the riders don't have either headlights or tail-lights, so while they have lights they aren't following the law (in most jurisdictions) or common sense, for that matter.

The video spends a fair amount of time on technical aspects and not just showing how much fun this is, which is good. The design does seem better than some others - the "mini" aspect is that the unit that attachs to the spokes is small, so it doesn't throw off the wheel balance (much). The battery pack attaches to the hub, again to prevent the wheel from being unbalanced. Of course it does mean you have a wire running down a spoke to connect the hub unit to the lighting panel thing.

I am not much in favor of solutions (if one considers this a solution to the bicycle lighting problem) that don't scale well. If there were lots of cyclists all using this sort of lighting, it would be annoying and distracting.

Fortunately (again, in my view) at 50 bucks a unit (and what cyclist wouldn't insist on one for both wheels?) I don't think we'll be seeing too many of these around. I was also amused that they supply a steel security strap - nothing like having something new on your bike to attract "mini-theft."

What might be kind of cool would be something far more subtle (not making patterns) that would put a couple of LEDs on the wheels of bikes that have power generator hubs. I guess.

Anyway . . . they got over-funded, so good for them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Parking in the Bike Lane -Moscow

Moscow site with nothing but photos of cars parked in what is the first dedicated bike lane in Moscow, near Moscow State University. The person posting the photos, on a more or less daily basis, is a chemistry student who one assumes is doing this as some sort of protest.

I think acclimating Russian drivers to cycling will be tough.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Police Unity Tour on GW Trail

Sunday, mid-day - despite the excellent weather, not really that many riders out - any many were part of a local event supporting a national "Police Unity Tour" (by bike). The riders had event numbers on their clothes.

Police Unity Tour - GW Parkway
Came up upon this fellow heading north on the GW trail near National Airport

Police Unity Tour - GW Parkway
Riding with gun

I guess maybe this is a work-related activity? I don't see the need for this guy to be riding with his sidearm. I wasn't able to work out what jurisdiction he was from.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Four Mile Run Trail Flooding

Four Mile Run Flood
Minor flooding of trail along Four Mile Run under Route 1

This is part of my morning commute - the heavy rain combined with the tides can lead to some flooding at this location, the low point of the trail along Four Mile Run. You can see that earlier the high point was perhaps 2-3 inches above where it is now. There was one time last winter after one of the heavy snows when there was a heavy rain storm that also melted snow and the flooding was probably a foot higher than this - I pulled myself along the fence to keep from peddling underwater. This was a dumb thing to do since bottom brackets are generally not watertight and enough grease was washed out that the bottom bracket started to emit rather amazing creaking noises. Always learning something . . .

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Overdue Bicycle Parked at Library Branch

Bicycle parked at Aurora Hills Branch Library, Arlington VA
Bicycle parked at Aurora Hills Branch Library, Arlington VA

You can't leave your bike locked up at one location for more than five days, or it gets removed. To where is a bit vague.

Tag on bicycle parked at Aurora Hills Branch Library, Arlington VA
Tag on bicycle parked at Aurora Hills Branch Library, Arlington VA

I guess we won't have any books published like Bicycles Locked to Poles with its photos of bicycles in New York City (in various states of disassembly, mostly attached to poles with chains as heavy or heavier than the bikes themselves).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

500 Hurt in New York City by Bikes - Good? Bad?

The Wall Street Journal (that is mostly behind a paywall, so no point in linking to it) has an amazingly bad article titled "A Different Spin on the Dangers of Urban Cycling" - the first sentence states, "Two recent studies appear to expose cyclists as a potent urban menace." I guess for this fellow it appears that way.

The first study he quotes compares soot accumulation in the lungs of five (5!) cyclists who commute by bike in London with Londoners who don't. The cyclists had higher levels of black carbon in their lungs. When I think of something as an "potent urban menace" I am thinking it means to other people and not to themselves. But it says cycling is bad, so he tosses that into his article.

The second study has been reduced by the Internet (and the Wall Street Journal) to "500 pedestrians hurt by bikes in NYC a year." The study, done at Hunter College, was more nuanced that that and tried to determine if more or fewer pedestrians were injured by cyclists over a four year period - their conclusion was that despite more cycling and cycling infrastructure, the number has dropped (slightly). So this is a good metric - that is, even if we want to think that cyclists are a potent urban menace, it seems to be declining, or anyway not growing at the rate that cycling is growing. No one suggests that the 500 figure is good but there are questions such as, "compared to what?" and "is it going up or down?" that these articles typically ignore.

Different publications draw different conclusions - the New York Daily News takes the view it suggests a "need for tougher enforcement" which I guess is step beyond the Wall Street Journal position. But a physical fitness advocacy group takes the position that this is good news since the number isn't growing - "The city says that while bike use is up, the total number of accidents is stable. According to a Hunter College study, some 500 pedestrians are hurt each year by cyclists. At Bike New York, there is nothing but optimism." Kind of oddly put, but anyway.

This takes the "is the glass half full or half empty to new heights (or lows, depending on your point of view). And it does nothing for confidence in the Wall Street Journal.

Another point of view is provided by the trailer for the new bike messenger movie set in NYC - it makes it look like it is the messengers and the taxi drivers who are having dramatic traffic interactions.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Kickstarter Funded Folding e-Bike

A Kickstarter project for an e-bike that is fully funded. It is a very attractive design.

Kickstarter page for folding e-bike

The informational site (that doesn't have much information yet.)

Since a $1,390 Kickstarter pledge meant one received one of the early bikes at a "special" price one can deduce that the expected sale price will be somewhere north of that. A Dahon electric folding bike with a more traditional derailleur shifting system can be had for around $2,000, so that's a point of comparison in the folding bike world. Performance has a Schwinn 8-speed comfort bike (no folding) with a 250 watt front hub for $999, which is probably the low(est) end for pricing for what is probably an OK (not for heavy use) electric bike.

Putting the battery in the frame seems lovely from a design standpoint but not necessarily very practical otherwise, but in the notes to funders, apparently it will be possible to attach supplemental batteries.

A strong advantage of this design compared to many e-bikes is that it looks to be reasonably light. In one of the videos, someone commented on the bike being light, which is hardly the first thing people typically say about e-bikes. The Schwinn mentioned above, near as I can figure out, must be around 50 pounds (or about 20 pounds more than it would otherwise).

Otherwise it has some issues, I think. Looking at the set-up, there appears to be a single brake lever yet one can see two brake units, front and back. A single brake lever that controls both brakes? I know this is technically possible but it seems highly undesirable. There does not appear to be any shifting mechanism for the pedal-drive system - the traditional drive system that the electric drive in the front hub supplements. Perhaps it just a single speed bike? And the use of a direct drive system rather than a chain (or a Gates belt drive, if one is insistent on getting rid of greasy chains) isn't something I find appealing, even if it is a elegant design element. I suppose since it is an electric bike, the loss of some pedal power due to the inherent inefficiency of direct drive is OK. Real bikes have tires that run on roads and sidewalks etc where there is dirt - in the rain, quite a lot of messy stuff, actually - so while you can get rid of the chain, folding the bike may still involve some mess.

I find most puzzling the use of "recycled aluminum" for the frame - presumably this is recycled aluminum appropriate for a bicycle frame and not just former beer cans. Or perhaps turning former beer cans into 6061 bicycle frames or similar is easy.

At least this bike project got funded!