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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lance Armstrong in the Public Domain & Other Finds in "The Commons"

The Flickr Commons has many interesting digitized historical photographs of cycling and also the (very) occasional original "born digital" photograph as well - these are believed to be in the public domain or otherwise under some Creative Commons type license and available for use in things like my blog. So occasionally I go through the search results in the Flickr Commons for "bicycle" just to see what is there. Since the search results include items in Flickr where users have added tags, the available search terms are often more than if one did searching in the "native" system. So for example, a user may tag a photo from the Library of Congress with a bicycle in the background with the word "bicycle" when the Library of Congress would not have that as a search term associated with that photograph.

Wind Tunnel (2)
A digital photo (not digitized) of Lance A from the San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives

The San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives has an unusually large number of photographs, both digitized and "born digital," in the Flickr Commons - about 166,000. Among those are a few tagged with "bicycle." The photo above is unusual generally for the Flickr Commons because it is a photograph of a public figure, Lance Armstrong, taken relatively recently (2008), and in the public domain. Or anyway, the statement is that, "there are no known copyright restrictions." Perhaps in their hurry to put material online, the amount of metadata supplied for any item can be minimal - here the title is "wind tunnel (2)" and that's all there is - Lance Armstrong is not named (or searchable).

Madeline Bailey -- Mrs. Duryea -- WM.B. Bailey  (LOC)
Blurry bicycle in the background, off to the left

Above is an example where the user-added tags include bicycle, resulting in a "hit" for this photograph, although most users will not find this particularly helpful since the bicycle is so blurry as to be unidentifiable other than that it is a bicycle. Although perhaps someone might find useful the presentation of the opportunistic nature of bicycle parking in 1910 (as compared to today).

School Children, Were Forced to Use Their Bicycles on Field Trips During the Fuel Crisis in the Winter of 1974. There Was Not Enough Gasoline for School Buses to Be Used for Extracurricular Activities, Even During Dark and Rainy Weather 02/1974
National Archives digitized photograph showing children cycling in Oregon in 1974

The National Archives has some digitized photographs (including a few with bicycles) from after 1923, after which U.S. published materials (well other than music . . .) are generally not in the public domain. I am particularly amused by some photographs that document life during the "gas crisis" of the 1970s. The caption for the above photo states that, "School Children, Were Forced to Use Their Bicycles on Field Trips During the Fuel Crisis in the Winter of 1974. There Was Not Enough Gasoline for School Buses to Be Used for Extracurricular Activities, Even During Dark and Rainy Weather 02/1974." Apparently (and perhaps not surprisingly) things were more dire in Oregon in this regard than they were in Washington DC - I don't remember this level of deprivation around here. The children depicted all seem to have road bikes - was that typical in Oregon? It sure wasn't here. That I recall.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The "American Girl" of 1897 - to be Thankful for on Thanksgiving

In the St. Paul Globe newspaper this article was titled "The Queen of Thanksgiving" but the same article was published in a number of newspapers across the country (with various titles). The article has a large illustration portraying the American girl (or woman, really) of 1897 in various settings.

"American Girl" & Thanksgiving (article illustration)- 1897
Full version of the illustration for the article about the "American girl" of 1897

The full text of this article in the Sunday November 21, 1897 issue of the St. Paul Globe talks about many positive aspects of the "American Girl," stating that, ". . . Thanksgiving day, '97, will find the American girl, as all other Thanksgivings have found her, not emancipated, for she never was enslaved, but free as the bright, frosty air that wooes her athletic frame, sending the bleed coursing swiftly through her veins and imprinting the charming tinge of robust health on her cheeks." One can argue that point, of course, but the description of women and cycling that follows seems to suggest that some things have been changing:
A good place to view her at her best will be from the sidewalk of any smooth-paved street of our cities, or from the pathways of macadamized country roads. Here, in the nattiest and newest of bicycle rigs, she will be seen, with her cheeks aglow, her bright eyes sparkling, her pretty hair dancing merrily in the wind, bowling along a-wheel at a pace that surely has nothing in common with chains or fetters, unless it be the bicycle chain that enables her to challenge the wind to a trial of speed and beat the old flirt in a canter. The manner in which the American girl has taken advantage of this glorious sport bears ample testimony to the fact that when she wants a thing she will have it and knows how to take the fullest advantage of what is hers by right. If the shades of the dear old grandmothers of the days of wheel and distaff could return to earth next Thursday and gather along the highways and byways where laughing, chaffing, free and happy columns of wheelwomen fly by, they will surely return to the land of shadows with feelings of regret that their lot was not cast in an era when women find more healthful means of employing their time than the laborious and confining duties of the old-fashioned home life. That the change is vastly for the better even the most disgruntled and cross-grained critic of the up to-date womanhood will admit. Instead of the pale-faced, narrow-chested woman of the wheel and distaff era, the spectator who chooses a front seat to view the passing show of Thanksgiving day '97 will see a long procession of rosy-cheeked, lithe-limbed, happy, healthy and wholesome specimens of femininity that speak contentment in every action.

"American Girl" & Thanksgiving - 1897 (detail)
Bicycling "American girls" - to be thankful for on Thanksgiving

There is a certain polemical aspect to this that speaks to the power relationship between men and women at that time which I think it is possible to separate from the way that women and and cycling are portrayed. In other words, trying to say that women are don't need emancipation because they enjoy the benefits of cycling is not a terribly good argument against emancipation, but the way women and cycling in 1897 are described here (aside from the period writing style) tells us that cycling was in fact a change for women at that time. Just not the last change . . .

Get the Kids Riding

Low Rider
Happy rider - moving along steadily

This is from a few weekends ago - this young rider from the neighborhood is making his way up the trail alongside "Lucky Run." Apparently he enjoys having a distinctive bike. It isn't clear how much the "chopper" design changes the dynamics of how the bike rides - the combination of a very long wheelbase considering the low position of the rider and the small head angle and the amount of trail. (See this for some explanation of bicycle geometry.)

Observing him ride up the slight hill, my sense was that the bicycle frame design wasn't an issue so much as the single speed aspect - once the hill started getting even slightly (but not very) steep, he got off and walked. Fortunately it is mostly pretty flat around here . . .

Saturday, November 23, 2013

"Make Us Bicyclists Look Good"

Last Monday I took the day off - as the end of the "leave year" (accumulated vacation time) is approaching, I have more than I can "carry over" so I am having many three day weekends. The weather was slightly odd for November since it got up to 70 degrees (F - around 19-20 C). I did a counterclockwise circuit, riding north along the Potomac and then heading up near Rosslyn on a trail that runs along I-66. In Rosslyn while waiting at a light to cross, I looked down and found the stenciled message below.

"Make us bicyclists look good"
This means you!

This is an area that I am not crazy about riding in, but since it isn't a very long part of what is otherwise a ride I enjoy, no worries. The reason I don't like it is that after miles of riding on trails, here it is necessary to ride on the sidewalk - although there aren't many pedestrians. This location, where Lee Highway crosses Fort Myer Drive, feels like as a cyclist one is intruding on the automotive bliss (or hell) the the drivers are experiencing. Because of a curve in the road for the oncoming one way traffic, a person would be crazy to venture to cross three lanes of traffic that can come zipping out of D.C. So there is time to contemplate this statement painted on the sidewalk.

I have blogged about my views on the "cyclists should model model behavior" before. I don't care much for it as a priority - to summarize my thinking.

Make us bicyclists look good
Another Flickr user in DC has a similar photo

To me, this statement - "make us bicyclists look good" - begs the question, look good to (or for?) who? (Or whom, I suppose.) And for what purpose? Make us bicyclists look good to the motorists so they will respect our law-abiding nature? (And not run us over.) Really? Keep in mind almost all of these same motorists are from time to time committing all sorts of small traffic infractions (exceeding posted speed limits, not making full stops at stop signs, talking on cell phones, texting, on and on).

The classic Disney cartoon portraying motorist behavior

This 1950 Disney cartoon, with Goofy portraying the crazed "Mr. Wheeler" when behind the wheel and the calm "Mr. Walker" while on foot, demonstrates the reality I see - most drivers, looking for an advantage in getting down the road more quickly themselves, aren't spending mental energy toting up a positive karma scores for cyclists when they see one who is 100 percent law abiding. If you get in their way, they'll remember that - not in a good way, of course - but if you stay out of their way, they are down the road. Bye!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Super Cargo Bike ~ of 1898

Paging through issues online of the 1898 "Cycle Age and Trade Review" I found in the November 10, 1898 issue a remarkable article with two illustrations of what seems to be a monster cargo bike - but alas, by this time, this "cycling" journal was starting to include articles about various motorized vehicles as well.

Pope Cargo Trike Motorized)
The eye-catching cargo trike - with gasoline engine, it turns out

Pope Cargo Trike Detail
Detail view, that hides the engine from inspection

Pope Mfg. Co. of Hartford, Conn., has published a pamphlet describing the carrier vehicles shown in the accompanying illustration. The merchandise capacity of the vehicle is rated at 500 pounds under which it will give its regular speed and power. The structural strength, however, is sufficient to permit a load of 600 or 650 pounds, although under this extra weight the motor will not develop its normal speed. The form and design of the carrying bodies are not necessarily as shown, but may be varied to suit different requirements. The two styles illustrated show wide variation between a light motor truck wagon and a closed-up affair such as would be suitable for a dry goods establishment. The motor is a specially designed gasoline engine for which no water jacket or other cooling device is necessary, thereby saving many complications and much weight, says the company. A supply of gasoline which is sufficient for about 100 miles travel is carried in a tank attached to the frame between the boxes. Like all gas or gasoline motors, the first explosion must be obtained by physical effort, and bicycle cranks and pedals were adopted to give the desired result in the easiest and most satisfactory manner. By the attachment of a clutch with chain and sprocket to the shaft of the driving wheels, foot power may be used to assist the motor when on steep grades, obtaining higher speed than the auxiliary low gear of the motor would normally produce. When the cranks and pedals are not in use they remain stationary. The normal weight of this carrier vehicle is given as 750 pounds.

Pope was the manufacturer of Columbia bicycles (I was not familiar with this identity, "Pope Motor Carriers") and I had not realized the degree to which some of their motorized products were hybrids with their products as this one is. Of course this may only have been a design prospectus and never produced or sold.

It's an interesting idea, to have the pedals used for the kickstarter function to start the gasoline motor and then as a supplementary power source when useful.

Modern day cargo trike, in Portland Ore (naturally), with an electric assist motor

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"Dangerous States" Where Insurance Companies Hope to Sell You Coverage

Hope to sell you policies and make bigger profits.

Insurance Business America, on online publication, has an article, "The Most Dangerous States for Cyclists" - it's a little strange to read.

Florida is the most hostile state for bicyclists, with 6.56 cyclist fatalities per million people in 2011, according to data from the US Department of Transportation. Louisiana and Oregon follow close behind, with 3.93 and 3.87 deaths per million.

This publication is arguing for special bicycling insurance policies - "For cyclists in these states, certain insurance policies are vital." They even get the League of American Bicyclists to provide an endorsement: ""Claims against any of your existing policies may result in an increase in premiums," said Scott Williams, membership director for the League. "But filing bike-related claims under a bike-specific policy may protect you from rate increases—and provide additional, supplemental coverage." Plus the national authority on bike law, Bob Mionske - "And cyclist insurance isn’t just for people who bicycle professionally, says bicycle attorney Robert Mionske. Producers would do well to recommend cyclist insurance to all clients who regularly ride a bike and don’t have proper coverage elsewhere."

Comprehensive cycling policies are only $250 to $300 a year for most riders, this article says, and concludes that, "there is a "big movement" in the insurance industry for bicycle coverage, which may pay off handsomely for producers in at-risk states." Yay, more profits for insurance companies!!

Probably it is better if people outside of an industry don't read these sorts of things.

bicycle Insurance Ad in Paper
Bicycle insurance was around before there were cars, as a matter of fact

Ad from the Evening star. (Washington, D.C.), 15 Oct. 1895.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why They Were Called "Safety" Bicycles

The first popular bicycles were so-called "ordinary" bicycles - the rider sat high atop a single large wheel that had pedals attached directly to it with a single wheel that trailed behind. It was not easy to mount, it was not easy (apparently) to stay balanced, and since there were no brakes as such, stopping could be difficult - but if you hit the wrong sort of obstacle, you could come to a sudden and unexpected stop, pitching forward.

Recently I found two different booklets available online, both published in 1881 in Boston, that make the dangers of the ordinary bicycle quite clear.

Over the Wheel
As with all the illustrations in this little instruction manual, at first things seem manageable . . .

These two illustrations are from "Over the Wheel" - well, with a title like that, perhaps the emphasis on mishaps is not surprising.

Over the Wheel
As usual as portrayed in this booklet, the rider ends up in an accident

Another booklet in a similar vein is "The Illustrated Bicycle Primer" that similarly features illustrations with cyclists crashing in various ways.

So, once the bicycle as we know it today apppeared in the late 1880s, with similar sized front and back wheels and a chain drive system, it is hardly surprising it was distinguished from its predecessor, the "ordinary" as being the "safety bicycle."

First Safety Bicycle
An early "safety" bicycle

After not a very long time, the "ordinary" bicycles disappeared and the word "safety" to designate a bicycle also went out of use.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Negotiating for Cyclist Safety - the NYTimes Editorial View

Today the NYTimes has an opinion piece titled, "Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclist?" It takes a meandering approach to the subject, so summarizing it accurately isn't something I am going to try to do, but a few aspects jump out at me.

It's a step in some direction (whether forward or back may vary depending on one's perspective) that someone has published something in a broad circulation publication that says we have a car culture that tolerates cyclists getting killed on a pretty regular basis with no legal consequences for motorists who are at fault, unless the motorist flees (hit-and-run) or was drunk. And he ties this to the obvious point that in car-cyclist crashes, "only cyclists have much to fear." The apparent answer to the question in the title of the piece is, "yes, generally it is OK to kill cyclists with your car." That's radical, even for the NYTimes.

In fact, it reminds me of one of the reoccurring rants from Bike Snob NYC, who in recent months has revisited the lack of culpability for motorists who kill cyclists often. But Mr. Snob brings approaches the subject with several differences that I think are significant.

For one thing, Mr. Snob usually brings in the pedestrians, and points out that the better way to think of this problem isn't "all powerful (and protected, in several senses) motorists vs vulnerable cyclists" - he adds in the vulnerable pedestrians. Because when you look at the highway statistics, what you see is that motorists kill a lot more pedestrians than cyclists. The way to look at this is to use the "Complete Streets" model - not reducing the conversation to "a vs b" when it really should be a discussion of what serves all the road users so that none are at high risk is better, and to his credit, that is the way Mr. Snob approaches it (even though he is not particularly pedestrian oriented otherwise).

I find it exceptionally annoying that the NYTimes' author drags into his discussion that he sees cyclists routinely "ignore traffic laws" - that much of the problem must come from that. This seems to come up all the time - those scofflaw cyclists, it's all their fault. Strictly speaking, the scofflaw aspect only means that the cyclist is at fault when the cyclist (let's say) doesn't stop for a light and gets into an accident. That one breaks certain laws from time to time and then is in an accident that is the motorist's fault does not absolve the motorist because the cyclist can be presumed to have been breaking laws frequently elsewhere.

Cyclist middle of 14th
Under the NYTimes writer's logic, this dopey cyclist who is "running" (slowly) a red light is inciting motorists

This fixation on getting cyclists to "obey the law" can be seen in news publications often - yesterday, for example, the "Kearney View" (of Nebraska) has an opinion piece Follow Safety Codes Bicycling on City Streets that is a very politely stated reminder from a motorist that cyclists have rules that they need to follow - but based on the two-times wrong statement that "unsafe cycling puts everyone on the road in danger." Uh no - it isn't all on the cyclists and it isn't the same risk for everyone.

The NYTimes writer closes with this: "So here’s my proposal: Every time you get on a bike, from this moment forward, obey the letter of the law in every traffic exchange everywhere to help drivers (and police officers) view cyclists as predictable users of the road who deserve respect. And every time you get behind the wheel, remember that even the slightest inattention can maim or kill a human being enjoying a legitimate form of transportation."

For me, this "we cyclists can (or gotta, more like it) earn the motorists' respect!" approach is just baloney. The only legislative change advocated for in the piece, stronger penalties for motorists who kill cyclists, is made dependent on that "obey laws/earn respect" mantra.

I am reminded of the Norwegian video that looks at motorist-cyclist interactions that I blogged about recently. The video carefully avoids strong suggestions of fault and rather draws out the often ambiguous nature of cyclist-motorist interactions. It is a "be careful out there" message without the "be legal" argument thrown in.

If we want to focus on passing laws to improve this situation, I think budget laws that direct more resources to Complete Streets style infrastructure is more important long term. And short term.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Soviet Kid with Bike Mystery Photo

Taken during the mid-1970s, somewhere near Leningrad

I have digitized slides and photographs from when I was in the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s, but in some cases I can't figure out exactly when and where they were taken. Like this photo of this Russian boy with his bicycle. I am puzzled by the monastery or whatever it is in the background - where is this?

The boy has what seems to me for the time and place to be a decent bicycle, for a child who is fairly serious about riding a bicycle. I like the tool bag attached under the top tube and the place for a pump behind the seat tube.

It is somewhat surprising that there is such a photo (to me) since I was not particularly interested in bicycles at the time. Also, one really didn't see that many people in the city riding bikes. But then this isn't in a city.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Kickstarter Your Way Out of Sweating

One of the "problems" that apparently needs solving is to create a bicycle that requires less effort to pedal. One doesn't want to "break a sweat" after all.

Electric bikes have been increasingly popular worldwide - even (or particularly) in places where bicycles are a more serious form of everyday transportation than in the U.S., such as the Netherlands.

"Smart Wheel is a pedal assist which means it helps you ride your bike effortlessly. The motor turns on when you start pedaling and begins accelerating to your desired speed. It stops when you stop. It saves you time by getting you to your destination faster and gets you there without losing your breath or breaking a sweat. There’s no need to worry about what to wear to that business meeting or 8 o’clock date."

The clever aspect of this Kickstarter, which is aimed at urban residents who already have a bicycle but aren't always interested in using it as much as they perhaps hoped and for any one of several possible reasons don't want to buy a purpose-built electric bike, is that it supports an easy and not too expensive conversion of an existing bike to an electric bike. In fact, one can easily switch back and forth by swapping in the standard rear wheel or the e-wheel! Oh and the whole shebang is controlled by your smartphone that you attach the handlebars. And a smartphone recharging system is helpfully part of the deal.

Of course the only fun in looking at Kickstarters like this is in critiquing them. Yeah.

* Purpose-built electric bikes are typically heavy. This wheel weighs only 9 pounds and has both the motor and the batteries in it - in fact, nothing more is required than the smartphone to control it. So leaving aside the phone, it only adds 7-8 pounds to the previous weight of whatever bike you use it with. But a reason that electric bikes are heavy is not just because their electric bike specific components (batteries, motors, controls) add more weight (than this one) but also because the whole bike is built up to support heavier loads since the force propelling it is now not just your legs. In particular, the brakes of your average bike intended to be ridden around at 9-10 mph are going to be working hard to stop a bike that now weighs 1/4 to 1/3 more that is routinely going 15-20 mph. So you would likely end up having more maintenance issues with a bike not designed with such use in mind and some safety issues with stopping, at least potentially.

* Carrying the bike up stairs - an obvious advantage for urban residents in apartments is a bike that isn't so heavy that you can't easily carry it up stairs. Arguably taking the typical bikes they are showing that weigh 25-30 pounds as manufactured and then adding 7-8 more pounds will result in a bike that can be carried easily by some people up stairs but by others not so much.

* Smart phone controlled - OK, I'm not strictly speaking a Luddite but the idea that I need to manage my bicycle through my smartphone takes away a considerable amount of the elegant simplicity of what a bike is. However since many if not most people now have some such device with them anyway, avoiding the extra weight of a specific control system for the e-wheel makes sense.

* The smart phone charging system - the cell phone charging system relies on a wired connection to a type of generator that is still used in Europe but is not very commonly seen now in the U.S., where a small wheel presses against the tire and drives the generator - a so-called dynamo generator. I had one of those on a bike when I was a teenager! On some level, given the rest of it, the thing is charmingly retro. I guess. But arguably it is a necessity only because your bicycle, with this wheel, requires your working smartphone and that in turns requires it is juiced up. So one is stuck by extension with providing an independent charging source for the smartphone.

* Anti-theft system - locking the wheel. Uh, they must be kidding. You would still need to lock this thing up, and in NYC that would require a locking system that weighs as much or more than the wheel. (In fact, a bike like this would be a high theft target, with its exotic wheel.) While in a certain way it may be helpful to have the GPS to find it when it is stolen, this is a poor substitute generally for not having it stolen in the first place.

* The gearing - in response to a question on this point, it says, "Smart Wheel is actually fully compatible with multi-geared bikes since the rear gear cassette gets removed together with your old rear wheel once you replace it with the Smart Wheel. This of course turns your bike into a single-speed bicycle but we don't see that being much of a problem since shifting is no longer necessary beause Smart Wheel is already doing most of the work for you." Leaving aside a bike with a front derailleur (that would remain and could presumably still be used) it appears that the e-wheel has 18 teeth, so in order to ride the bike with its pedal assist at 20 miles per hour you would have to maintain a pretty high cadence (how fast you turn the pedals) even if you aren't using much force to do so. This assumes that smart phone control aside that "pedal assist" means that in order for the motor to apply force, you have to be pedaling.

* Riding in the rain - the photo in the Kickstarter shows a woman riding a bike with no fenders, just of those plastic things that sticks out vaguely over the rear wheel. What one learns after riding a bike with properly fitted full fenders is that it is really the front fender that does the most useful work, keeping your feet dry by keeping water from flying from the front wheel into the frame of the bike and then down onto your circling feet in a more or less continuous stream as you ride. This isn't so much a drawback of it being an e-bike, but it would seem to me that in order to have a good example of an all weather bike they should have shown the rider in rain with full fenders.

But no worries - this thing is well over-funded by folks looking forward to early delivery of their own one of these things from the Kickstarter store as a Kickstarter "reward."

Interestingly while FlyKly.com is now all about their Smart Wheel for bikes, they have also worked on e-motor scooter development as evidenced by photos of the things in Flickr. Good e-scooters would seem in some ways more helpful for society since the gas powered scooters that are increasingly popular around here with folks who can't afford cars and don't want to use transit seems problematic in various ways, some of which would be addressed by a electric version.

FlyKly's e-scooter - now past?

I guess that's enough for this for today . . .

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cycling Propaganda the Norwegian Way

This video, which is from a Norwegian government agency and features the well known Norwegian cyclist Thor Hushovd, has been out for a while. In the U.S. such things when presented on television are known as "PSAs" - a "public service announcement," or advertisement that is provided for public benefit (generally at no cost).

In Norwegian only, no closed captioning in English - however little is said ~

"'Del veien' is Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) campaign to increase understanding between cyclists and drivers in the traffic." - according to the YouTube information for the video. Their agency web page doesn't provide more information (unless you speak Norwegian). The video shows different situations where the cyclist, Hushovd, almost has serious crashes with different motor vehicles, yet (miraculously) arrives home in one piece - the punch line is "for those who don't have nine lives" (in Norwegian) - it makes sense when you watch it.

I would imagine a fair amount of thought went into coming up with different seven different "interactions" between motor vehicles and the cyclist (in one case, while he is riding with a group). Although set in a village, each of close calls is an illustration of a typical high risk situation where cyclists and motorists can end up crashing in a more urban setting. There is a little of everything, which is remarkable in the 45 seconds allotted. Also, if one (whether cyclist or motorist) stops to think about each of these situations, it isn't so obvious who is at fault in most of them - so (apparently) the notion from the government agency is to "increase understanding between cyclists and drivers in the traffic" by showing the ambiguity in how they sometimes interact. I read this as quite different than the usual American approach, that to me can be summarized as, "if we (but particularly those cyclists) all obey the law, everything will be OK." Laws are fine up to point, but you can't legislate common sense, and you can't rely on traffic laws to provide guidance for every aspect of what works on the road for safety and what doesn't. Or so it seems to me.

As an example of this American thinking, the NYTimes had a recent "debate" with different viewpoints expressed - "should the laws and infrastructure be altered to recognize differences between bikes and cars, or should cyclists be treated the same as drivers?" was the question discussed. The differing responses to a considerable extent lined up on opposite sides by choosing to focus either on "laws" or on "infrastructure," ignoring the "and" in the question (that suggests both should be addressed). The perennial American stalwart of "vehicular cycling" John Forester presents his usual view, that "cyclists are fully capable of obeying the rules of the road; they fare best when they act, and are treated, as drivers of vehicles" while the expert from Copenhagen points out that there cyclists are "separate but more than equal" - but not in terms of the law, but in terms of infrastructure that means they get where they are going (up to certain urban-typical distances) faster on average than motorists.

A 3:50 minute mini-documentary on how the one-minute video was made

In the English speaking blogs mentioning the Norwegian video that I have seen there is just a pointer to the 60 second YouTube presentation but the Norwegian agency also have this short video on the making of the video, which is interesting even if one doesn't understand Norwegian - cramming as many different cycling-motor vehicle scenarios into one short video turns out to have been a pretty elaborate (and by the look, expensive) project. One assumes that Norway's oil wealth makes possible such productions from a government agency.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bike Share in Boston


I'm visiting Boston for work for a couple of days and have been using their bike share system. Here is the station in front of Boston Public Library.

I found out I would be traveling to Boston rather late so I ended up with a hotel about three miles from Boston Public Library where the meetings were held. There was a bike share station on Commonwealth Avenue about a third of a mile from the hotel and from there it was a straight shot most of the way on Commonwealth Avenue by bike to Boston Public Library. Commonwealth Avenue has a green painted bike lane most of the way. It was very nice, even on a heavy Bikeshare bike (or perhaps particularly on such a bike).

It takes a little getting used to, riding along on that busy a street with the busses in particular right along side. It seemed much better however than simple sharrows or sharing a traffic lane with motor vehicles. (I am not a follower of John Forester, in other words.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Flats Come in Threes??

I have written about this before - it seems often like flat tires "come in threes" - I don't have any for a long while, then boom - in short order, three.

Yesterday about a mile from home I realize the front tire was getting low on air but was not flat. After I stopped and checked it, I continued on, putting my weight as far back as I could, to put it on the rear tire (mostly). I was able to continue about 3/4 of the rest of the way without adding air (and I walked the last bit rather than getting a pump out).

First flat I've had in a while

I was a little worried that I had damaged the tire with this but it seems OK. Overall it probably isn't a smart strategy given that tires are kind of expensive. (Or good ones aren't cheap, anyway.) Now I'm wondering if I will encounter a rash of flat tires in the next few weeks. Hmm. I have seen a lot of glass on the bike trails lately, mostly from broken bottles. I have thought about bringing a little wisk broom, but then where is one supposed to sweep the stuff? If for example I swept glass off the 14th street bridge into the Potomac, is that even legal? Or am I supposed to carry the stuff with me, like a camper?

Patent 574015
An 1896 patent for a possible anti-flat tire system - one example of many . . .

For almost as long as there have been bicycles with pneumatic tires there have been people trying to "solve" the problem of flat tires by "fixing" or improving the design of bicycle tires (and wheels). So far, though, the standard pneumatic bicycle tire with inner tube prevails ~

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Another Kickstarter for Cyclists - the "Most Compact in the World"

From Fubi.com "The basic idea with FUBi was [i.e., is] this: a foldable bicycle that was very easy to store inside due to optimum compactness and at the same time would retain all the functionality and styling of standard full-sized bicycles!" and "FUBi is not intrinsically an ordinary foldable bicycle. It is a full-sized bicycle with a fold-able feature! There is a difference there."

This video, in my view, doesn't adequately address all the complexities of what they are proposing

The FUBi Kickstarter project page is the longest one I have ever seen (although I limit myself to looking at Kickstarter projects related to bicycling, so that may be a skewed sample). It is certainly the most ambitious project, in terms of the many novel aspects of the new bicycle they propose to build (and sell, eventually). Their Kickstarter seeks 90,000 British Pounds. (I don't understand why, at least where I live, it is given as in Pounds and not say Euros.) Most of the support so far is from a small number of people wanting to be at the head of the line to receive one when they are first available as a product. With 4,452 Pounds raised and 25 days to go, it doesn't look all that promising (based on what I understand about the usual trajectory for successfully funded Kickstarter projects) but maybe it will work out.

Folding Bike Patent 1896 (p2)
Folding bike patent, 1896 - the interest in folding bikes is of long standing

The FUBi people (or guy?) have a problem, I think - there is no "elevator ride" (that is, brief) way to explain all the aspects of the FUBi bicyclke - this is certainly not just a bike that folds up, but rather a collection of different innovative bicycle technologies, rolled up into a folding bicycle. Here are just some of the unusual (if not novel) aspects to the FUBi design:

* Truss frame design (which is the solution to providing stiffness for this folding bike, but can be a feature of any bike).
* The front and rear wheels have what are described as "an inverted hub as the center of hub is rotating, whereas on a regular hub the axis is fixed and non rotating" - the wheels are identical and only 50 mm wide (compared to 100 mm for a standard road bike front wheel).
* The drive cog set and rear derailleur are outside the chain and seat stays, which is associated with the used of identical narrow front and back wheels.
* The rear (and only) derailleur uses the spring opposite from a traditional modern derailleur - it pulls the chain up onto the larger rings rather than down to the smaller rings (while the rider applies pressure through levers to pull the derailleur in the opposite direction). This is described as a "totally new fast shift derailleur."
* Tension is applied to the chain by a separate system than the derailleur.
* Headset design has the front fork rotating outside of (in front of) the tube where the bearing are.
* The brakes and other aspects of the design are easily adjustable or simply allow use of several different diameter wheel sizes, thus the bike can be said to be usable in configurations ranging from mountain bike to road bike.
* FUBi claims that their bottom bracket, that uses ball bearings mounted directly into the frame and not a cassette is a plus or simplification but I'm not sure most people would see it that way and it isn't particularly unusual (at least not historically).
* And two different ways to fold it up - one fast, another so that it is reduced to the size of tennis equipment bag (and a small one at that - except for the wheels, of course).

I am not an expert of bicycle design and patents, but my impression is that the only piece of this (other than the overall folding design) that is truly new is the "fast shift" derailleur. (And maybe the wheel hub design?) But certainly the amalgamation of all these unusual design features in one folding bicycle is different.

One of 19 (at present) videos on YouTube from "FUBiworld" - how the frame assembles

Kickstarter now requires a "risks and challenges" section to each project proposal be completed - in other words, risks and challenges to the completion of the project if the funding is acquired. The FUBi people talk about some engineering issues, mostly to do with the use of titanium, possible problems with the supply chain for some parts, and building out their team - sure. But a more interesting risk or set of risks for someone putting money into this expecting to get a bike out of it (which is everyone who is putting more than trivial amounts of funding into it) is whether it is a good bike or not. By "good" I mean more than just "does it ride well and all the parts work," but also whether it is easily maintained over the long haul, because a good bike should last a long time. You know, as in at least ten years. To me, to take as obvious both that this bike would ride well and that it will be possible to maintain it in say 2025, seems doubtful - there is risk in particular with the design of the rear derailleur that if FUBi otherwise isn't a success that you end up with a bike that requires a part that isn't available.

Panasonic bike at Shirlington
A Panasonic Villager - a bike that demonstrates the problems with one-off bicycle innovations that don't catch on

This somewhat sad bike (note the missing left pedal) that I photographed (more for the odd frame design) was considered an innovative bike when made decades ago in that it had its freehub in the bottom bracket and not in the rear wheel - as a result, since no one else adopted this design, these bikes are not easily maintained (other than taking parts off of another example of the same bike). At the same time, the design of the bike is such that reworking the bike to use a standard design is also not possible - much like it would be impossible (I think) to redo your FUBi with a standard rear derailleur.

On the other hand, Kickstarter seems to be much about providing people who have some money they don't know what to do with the opportunity to have something really unusual, if only for a while (that it is unusual). So what the hell. Sure, FUBi.