Sunday, July 27, 2014

1902 Bicycle Demonstration Centrifugal Force

How a Thrilling Circus Feat Teaches a Scientific Law

From the Anadarko [Oklahoma] Daily Democrat, May 29, 1902.

This article, reprinted from the Chicago American, describes the effect of centrifugal force, (which I thought was centrifical force but that's apparently not the better term) on a cyclist in a high speed loop. I should admit, I'm not sure if the 1902 physics is correct or not. The same article appeared in the North Platte [Nebraska] Tribune, May 16, 1902 and the [Louisiana] Jennings Daily Record, May 26, 1902 - it was fairly common for human or general interest articles to be reprinted in this way across the country.
The bicycle "loop" presents a most interesting demonstration of a great scientific principle, which plays its part in preventing the earth from dropping into the sun, and the moon from being precipitated upon the earth, no less than in keeping the rider and his wheel from falling to the ground when he hangs, head downward, In midair, at the top of the loop.

A different article about a particular example of such a loop-de-loop was published that same year around the same time in the Cook County Herald, May 17, 1902 (Grand Marais, Minnesota). The second article is more interesting for a cyclist since it describes the particulars of his bicycle.

A group of circus men, newspapermen and photographers last week saw a dare-devil bicycle rider loop the loop at Coney island. With no other aid than the velocity accumulated by a rush down a steep incline the man rode up the concave surface until he hung head downward and continued on down out of the loop to dismount, cool and collected, 100 feet away. The bicyclist was Robert B. Vandervoort, an electrician, who has gone over the loop-the-loop railroad known to almost every visitor to Coney Is­land until he has come to look upon centrifugal force as a real, tangible thing.

Vandervoort's wheel is one especi­ally constructed for the daring ride. It weighs about sixty-five pounds, has pneumatic tires on broad rims of steel, no pedals, no chain or gearing and no brake. There is no way for the rider to stop himself once mounted and in motion, except to fall off, and there is no mechanism to allow of the rider's attaining motion. It has two footholds for the rider's feet, where the crank shaft os a bicycle usually is.

The same idea, but running rather than riding a bike ~

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cycling and Drones

In a blog post a few days ago, I discussed a video of a mass cycling event in June in Moscow. I didn't think much about it at first, but the aerial shots were not done by a helicopter but by a drone (or drones).

At 1:31 there is a drone visible in the upper left of the frame

This was surprising to me since one wonders about the permissions required to fly a drone for an event in Moscow - I have yet to see any drones hovering around the National Mall here in Washington. Perhaps in Moscow such things are easier?

Of course people are still thinking up things to do with drones - thanks to Amazon, the notion of having drones as delivery vehicles is out there, even if it may turn out to be impractical. As a kind of hip joke (but to get the students to ask questions about library services) the University of Virginia claims to be developing a drone-driven Air Freight Delivery Service for library materials. (I am aware that there is no connection to bicycles directly in this, but I'm a librarian. So humor me.)

Apparently the idea of delivery by drone is more real than delivery by bicycle messenger

I suppose that in the future many bicycle races could be filmed by drones - it isn't quite as spectacular as the real time coverage by helicopters as in the Tour de France.

As I said, people are still trying to come up with ideas for drones - in January a design company suggested the "cyclodrone" that would "be configured to fly ahead of and behind a [solo] bicycle rider on roads to improve visibility and reduce the chances of being struck by a vehicle." Somehow this seems . . . very unlikely. Even more unlikely than delivering library books by drone.

However preventing accidents involving bicycles and cyclists is clearly good. I just read this news item with video about a Russian teenager who was "run over by a truck" and survived, apparently without serious injury.

Caught on camera: [Russian] Teenage cyclist gets run over by 20 tonne truck - and SURVIVES [from the land of the dashboard camera]

The article states: "In the UK, heavy vehicles are disproportionately represented in crashes resulting in deaths and serious injury of cyclists. In London they make up just 5 percent of traffic, but are involved in 50 percent of cyclist fatalities."

Perhaps we did need escort drones.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Moscow & Washington - Cyclists & Infrastructure

Whatever else may be clear, Washington supports bicyclists more than Moscow - of course, Moscow's climate isn't particularly bicycle-friendly much of the year. (I do have plenty of people who don't think Washington's summer weather and humidity are very bike friendly either, but the problem isn't to be compared with riding in Moscow's snowy roads treated with huge quantities salt and chemicals.)

Nevertheless there is some advocacy in Moscow for cycling - for "bicycle culture" (velocul'tura) and seeking more cycling infrastructure, present on the Internet via this site and this site and a few others. (No, I don't know why the one Russian organization has a name, "Let's bike it" that is in English, not Russian.) The online map of cycling infrastructure in Moscow mostly references bicycle parking and rental, not bicycle lanes or trails, which are apparently pretty limited.

Recently the Moscow city transportation department and a number of informal and commercial organizations organized the third annual "Bike Parade" on June 29th in downtown Moscow, attracting thousands of riders for a 16 kilometer (around ten miles) ride on a closed course, much like Bike DC that the Washington Area Bicyclist Association used to organize as a fundraiser (although I guess they had some permit problems this past year). There was a fairly good video produced and available on YouTube of the 2014 Moscow "Veloparad." (I am not sure that having a car company, Opel, as a sponsor of a bicycle event would happen in most places other than Moscow ~)

Московский Велопарад 2014 - the 2014 Moscow bicycle parade

As I said above, I think of Washington as being ahead of Moscow in "velo-culture" but this past week a Washington Post columnist set things back somewhat by writing a column in which he suggested that DC area cyclists are "terrorists" and that perhaps a 500 dollar fine for hitting one with one's car isn't too high a price to pay (entitled "Bicyclist bullies try to rule the road in D.C."). Charming. (I only learned about this second hand; I don't pay for the online or paper Washington Post because it is so much worse than the newspaper I grew up with and giving them any of my mind might signify approval of their present editorial views and approach to journalism - also, it turned out to be quite easy to live without it.) The Washington Area Bicyclist Association has a response to the cyclist=terrorist column and others organized a lunch-time ride to the Washington Post to protest.

The 1986 Washington Times published regular full pages of news and information for cyclists, wanting their readership-imagine that!

Unfortunately since I don't subscribe to the Washington Post, I can't cancel my subscription in a huff. Oh well.

To circle back to cycling in Moscow, the comments at the end of the video (embedded above in this post) are what you would expect about how much the ride was enjoyed, but two of the comments say that the riders were sorry the ride was not longer, which I think is surprising since ten miles for something like this in a city like Moscow seems pretty good. (Oddly I could not find a map showing the route and only found in one place mention that the length of the ride was 16 km.) They were certainly lucky with the weather and it looked like great fun.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Fast Commute to Work

My route from south Arlington to Capitol Hill

According to the GPS driven app on my phone, the distance from my front door to work is 9.25 miles using my usual bike route. Today, thanks to some wind from the south (which is unusual in the morning), it took only 34 minutes and 18 seconds and my average speed was 16.2 mph.

Just to be clear, I'm not someone who obsesses about the speed of my bicycle riding efforts, but someone was asking about how far my occasional lunchtime jog is and I now have a so-called smartphone and found an appropriate app, so I was curious mostly to know what it would report as the distance of my commute. Years ago I estimated using Google maps that it was around 9.6 miles, so apparently I was a little high since it is almost exactly 9 1/3 miles. Oh well. I was amused today when I used the app riding in when I realized that the wind was coming from the south and that I would be a "fast" time (fast for me) because that wind pushing me up the river makes a difference. I don't think there are too many days where my commute is under 35 minutes. (Again - not that I'm paying much attention.)

Fanciful sail-bikes from 1894

One of those ideas from the 1890s that didn't catch on.

Friday, July 4, 2014

July Fourth Bicycle Race, 1902

From the the New York Tribune, July 5, 1902, an article about a bicycle track race on July 4, 1902. (I on the other hand went to Nationals baseball game today.)



The largest attendance of the year — fully eight thousand people — witnessed the bicycle races at the Vailsburg track, near Newark, yesterday. While no records were broken, the sport was excellent throughout, and the onlookers watched the finishes of the races with the closest attention. The weather was a little too warm for the spectators, but was of the ideal sort for the racing men, who do their best work when the sun scorches the pine ooze out of the board track.

Vailsburg is a merrymaking sort of a place. The enthusiasts who went to the track yesterday carried their pockets full of firecrackers and pistols. When a finish was to their liking the men and boys arose to their feet and let off noise and din, giving full play to their patriotism and satisfaction at the same time. When Kramer defeated Lawson, just returned from abroad, there was a fusillade of fireworks which made the rafters of the grandstand tremble.
And how did [Eddie] Bald win "in clever fashion?"
Bald, who had a lead of 100 yards, was in in good position from the start. Entering the homestretch Bald was in front riding with all of his oldtime fire and spirit, with nearly a dozen riders in a close bunch behind. One hundred yards from the wire one of the riders In the front rank went down with a bang bringing down five others with him. This left Bald with a clear field before him. He won by nearly twenty yards. None of the riders who fell were severely injured,

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tour de France in the American Press - 100 Years Ago

I'm confident that there was more reporting in the U.S. press 100 years ago than I found, but there certainly wasn't much in Chronicling America. In fact, I just found the one story from 1913 (not 1914).

From the New York Sun for July 28, 1913. This would seem to be all the coverage for that publication for the entire race.


Winner Covers Distance In 197 Hours 54 Minutes

Special Cable Dispatch to The Sun.

Paris, July 27. The bicycle race round France, which began on June 29 with 140 competitors, wound up to-day, The total distance of the race was 3,387 miles and It was run in fifteen stages.

Twenty-five survivors started in the last stage of the race this morning from Dunkirk to Paris, a distance of 212 1/2 miles. All of these arrived here within twelve to fourteen and a half hours. The two leaders made the same time for this leg of the race, 12 hours 5 minutes.

Theiss [actually, Phillipe Thijs, of Belgium] won the first prize of $1,000, besides other prizes for different wins at various stages. He made the total distance in 197 hours and 54 minutes. Garrigou, who finished second, went over the entire route in 198 hours. The first and second men averaged more than seventeen miles an hour for the 3,367 miles.

The race was run again in 1913 but then World War I intervened so that the next running after that was in 1919. Note that in this article, the phrase "Tour de France" does not appear; it is "the bicycle race around France."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Four Mile Run Detour Re-Opens

This past Monday the detour for the Four Mile Run trail near the south end of National Airport was removed. The section of the trail that was under the bridge that was removed (see above) was widened somewhat and is edged on the inner side with some raised concrete. Work was being completed yesterday but the fences that enforced the detour were completely removed, so I am fairly sure it is OK to say the detour is done. It was open again this morning on the way to work.

The photo above shows the trail east of where the detour started - you can see that the bushes have taken over some of the trail while the work has been going on. Presumably Alexandria (I think this part of the trail is theirs) will send someone along to trim things up.

I was stopped to take this photo and blocking about 1/3 of the trail. The fellow in the photo came upon me and said, "excuse me" in a cranky tone which I took to be his way of complaining that I was blocking his speedy transit of this area. I don't know why people don't communicate more directly. What he clearly meant was, "you are in my f---ing way." Oh well. Mostly other cyclists seemed extremely pleased that the detour was over. I agree.