Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sometimes the Bike Commuter is Lucky

Slightly threatening weather - clouds, anyway

For the past several days, the promised or likely weather was always a little bicycle commuter unfriendly. I don't let that bother me or keep me from commuting by bike. For one thing, the promise of some rain doesn't necessarily mean it will be raining during the commute!

Bridgestone Sirius with (cheap) fenders
Even if it is raining some, a bit with well-fitted fenders like this makes it not so bad

Thursday afternoon I did ride in the rain, but for about a quarter mile - the rain squall was going one way and I was going another.

Commuting every day, it may be twice a year that I find myself completely soaked in a driving rain while commuting. Part of the adventure, and I try to be prepared for it.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Bait Bikes?

Bait bike?
Bike locked to bench for about ten days

Bait bike?
Bike locked to pole for about a week

I see these often along my commute - I sometimes imagine that the police lock these up as theft bait - that only seems a logical explanation because otherwise, why would bikes like these be locked up for so long? Just odd.

They are almost always oddly unattractive bikes - the first bike above is rideable - someone has updated an old cruiser bike as a fixie; the wheels and tires were reasonably new. The frame, however, was amazing for its rust - almost perfectly distributed across the entire thing. (This I would say however is not very attractive in a conventional sense.)

The second bike is even stranger. It's a Cannondale, discernible by the "handmade in the USA" on the chainstay. The components (brake levers, in particular) suggest it is almost twenty years old, but then it appears to carbon fiber? Or maybe it is aluminum. Someone has covered up the various branding. The funniest part is the chain used here, which looks like a chain you would use to lock up a motor scooter, not a bicycle.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Some Grim Cyclists From 1896

Donaldson Bicycle Lithos [of 1896]
Title: The Donaldson bicycle lithos for the season of 1896

Creator(s): Donaldson Lith. Co., lithographer
Date Created/Published: Cincinnati : Donaldson Litho Co., [ca. 1896]
Medium: 1 print ; chromolithograph ; 28 9/16 x 42 1/4 in.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-08976 (digital file from original print)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: PGA - Donaldson--Donaldson bicycle lithos... (E size) [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

This is a poster advertising the lithographic services of the Donaldson Company in 1896. The riders depicted are noteworthy for their grim expressions. Or perhaps just determined.

Some of these sorts of posters on the Library of Congress web site were digitized from film reproductions, not from the original, and the color is often not quite right and they are otherwise not great. Good, but not great. This however was more recently digitized from the original item which is 42+ inches across, so it is a pretty nice digital reproduction. Not so noticeable perhaps from the JPEG I copied from the site, but there is a high resolution TIFF image there you can download if you want (which is 58.7 mb).

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Thanks National Park Service! New Water Fountain on Mt Vernon Trail

New drinking fountain on Mt Vernon Trail
New water fountain along the Mount Vernon Trail near National Airport

There has been some construction work ongoing since (it seems) the end of last summer to improve small parts of the Mount Vernon Trail where it was routed down right next to the parkway (roadway). These improvements took longer than one would have imagined - part of it took longer than six months - but are good improvements.

At the same time, this new water fountain was installed. For a long time it was surrounded by yellow construction tape, but it didn't matter much since it was cooler weather. Now that hot hot weather has really arrived, it is great for this to be there.

Thursday afternoon it was up around 95 degrees (Fahrenheit, or around 35 Celcius) during ~ten mile (16 km) commute home. I have my bottle of water filled before I leave work, but getting through the DC traffic out of the city was hot work it seemed so when I got to this water fountain, I was glad to be able to stop and get a little refreshed.

The photo was taken Friday morning on the way in, around 6:30 - Fridays are a day a lot of people telework so not too much traffic, bikes or cars.

The fountain post has a metal bowl at the bottom that can be filled with water for dogs. Nice touch.

Thanks National Park Service! Happy 100th birthday!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Outbursts of Everett True Against Sidewalk Cyclists

A colleague at work brought Everett True cartoons to my attention - they appeared in newspapers and are now available online online in digitized papers.

Outbursts of Everett True - cyclist on sidewalk

From the newspaper "The Day Book." (Chicago, Ill.), 11 March 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

According to Wikipedia's article about The Outbursts of Everett True, this was a cartoon published from 1905 through 1927. The cartoon is described:
The original strip revolved around an ill-tempered man in late middle-age who was typically dressed in a suit and bowler hat of antiquated and comical appearance for the time. Without his hat he was completely bald. In the early cartoons he was moderately stout, but in the later ones he became increasingly portly. The first panel of each strip generally had someone inconveniencing or annoying True. In the second panel he would then make an ill-tempered outburst. In early cartoons this was usually an uninhibited rant which expressed what other people wanted to say, but were too polite to. Sometimes it was accompanied by comments from bystanders in speech-bubbles ("that's the way I like to hear a man talk"; "I wish I could hand out one like that"). Later cartoons were more slapstick in character.

Outbursts of Everett True - cyclist on sidewalk

From the newspaper "The Day Book." (Chicago, Ill.), 21 July 1915. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Cycling does not appear to have been a common topic; these are the only two examples I found and arguably they are the same cartoon, one with dialog and one without.

Anyway, in his "everyman" role, True seems to be expressing a general annoyance with cyclists on the sidewalk in cities - a hundred years ago. Who knows that the law was on this at that time (and in this place).

Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution (Book Review)

Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban RevolutionStreetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution by Janette Sadik-Khan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't read this from cover to cover but paged through it and read some of the sections more focused on cycling. I can't imagine as a bike commuter I need or want to own such a book, but to get it from the library and read up a little, sure. It is readable enough. If you ignore the occasional attempt at making it all more dramatic than it probably was.

I have several quibbles with the title. I don't think this is a handbook, for one, and even if it is a handbook, it isn't for an urban revolution but for incremental urban change. It's just that the way things work around here, it seems like a revolution. To me.

Anyway, as to whether it is a handbook or not - according to wikipedia, "Handbooks may deal with any topic, and are generally compendiums of information in a particular field or about a particular technique. They are designed to be easily consulted and provide quick answers in a certain area. For example, the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers is a reference for how to cite works in MLA style, among other things." If the topic here is urban traffic design, then this is more a collection of case studies than a reference book. Handbooks, as reference works, are something you look up an answer in, not something to be read in large chunks. This is more the later.

The chapter on the NYC implementation of a bikeshare program is sort of amusing since here in the DC area there was much less drama but it seems to have worked out just fine.

View all my cycling book reviews on goodreads.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Nice Bridgestone Bicycle

Bridgestone 400 at Nats Park

From studying the Sheldon Brown digitized Bridgestone bicycle catalogs, it appears this is a 1988 Bridgestone 400.

This appears to be mostly the original components and is in pretty good shape, all things considered. The rear wheel looks to be the original 27 inch wheel while the front wheel is a 700 mm wheel - it isn't a good fit, which is clear from the front brakes, which only extend down to the tires, not the rim. Does the person use the front brakes on the tire?? I suppose that would sort of work. The seat is obviously not the original and could use replacing (again). A bike like this could be nicely refurbished.

Monday, July 4, 2016

To Enjoy the 4th of July - a New Bike! (1897 Ad)

To enjoy the 4th of July - a bike! (1897)

From The Evening Times newspaper. (Washington, D.C.), 03 July 1897. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
To Enjoy the 4th of July
See that your outfit is complete. It is immaterial what your sport or pastime is, you will find something that will be invaluable to you in our monster Fourth of July and Vacation Sale that will commence today.

BICYCLES. We are offering the best Bicycle bargain of the year, new 1896 Spalding Bicycles, fitted with 1897 tires and 1897 Christy saddles, at $50 for men's and $60 for women's models. We will attach to the 1896 Spalding the Hygienic Cushion Frame device, which makes riding over all kinds of roads a pleasure, for $10 extra. We have a few 1897 Tandems left at $50 each, sold for cash only, fully guaranteed by the maker, and it is a genuine bargain.

BICYCLE CLOTHING. We are offering exceptionally fine values today in complete Bicycle Golf Suits-just the kind to knock about in for cycling, seashore, or mountain. The fact that we manufacture all our own clothing makes it possible for us to offer you better bargains than anyone else.

BICYCLE SUNDRIES We are headquarters for Bicycle Sundries. Have everything required by the cyclist. The famous Christy Anatomical Saddle will make your vacation trip a pleasure if you are going riding. See that your bicycle is fitted with one.

1013 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

July 4th - Let's Sell More Bikes

The holiday themed advertising campaign is an American tradition - here is an example from a little over a hundred years for a July 4th bike sale:

July 4th Bike Sale 1913

From The Pioneer Express newspaper. (Pembina, Dakota [N.D.]), 27 June 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

The marketing approach in the ad's text is amusing (or something) suggesting immediately the second class nature of cyclists to motorists by this time (1913):
We are giving away an electric automobile horn to the best decorated automobile in the proce ion on July 4th, but thee are no prizes to bicycle riders. So I have concluded to donate to new riders handsome presents in the prices of new wheels. . . . We have a shipment of new, standard bicycles which will be on sale July 4th, while they last at twenty per cent off the regular price. This includes the regular $22, $25, $30 and $35 kind, from the single tube to Dunlop and G. & J. tires and coaster break [i.e., brake]. We have seven new bicycles to dispose of at these prices, and no more, and they will be sold for cash only.
Probably seven bicycles for sale in 1913 was quite a few in 1913 in North Dakota. ?

With no connection to the previous other than that it was published in a digitized newspaper, here is an Uncle Sam graphic with him riding a bicycle to celebrate the Fourth of July:

Uncle Sam on a bicycle for July 4th

From the Willmar Tribune newspaper. (Willmar, Minn.), 29 June 1897. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

It would seem this was originally published in the St. Louis Chronicle but was republished in this Minnesota paper.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Bicycle Rationing - No Really, It Happened

Someone at work sent around a message about the new Library of Congress online access to pre-digital versions of the Federal Register and used "bicycle" as the example search. When I ran the search, I discovered that bicycles had been rationed during World War II. It had never occurred to me that bicycles would have been rationed, although I knew there was rationing of sugar and gasoline (although apparently gasoline was only rationed on the east coast, it seems) and certainly tires, but bicycles? Yes.

The National Museum of American History has a good description of one example of a Victory bicycle and the program but oddly with no photographs. Here is one paragraph:
In December 1941, the Office of Production Management and leading manufacturers developed specifications for a simplified bicycle dubbed the "Victory bicycle" by government and media. OPM reviewed several prototypes submitted for examination. Regulations finalized in March 1942 specified that bicycles would be lightweight - not more than 31 pounds, about two-thirds the weight of prewar bicycles - and they would be made of steel only, with no copper or nickel parts. Chrome plating was limited to a few small pieces of hardware. Handlebars and wheel rims would be painted instead of chrome plated, and most accessories (chain guard, basket, luggage rack, bell, whitewall tires) were eliminated. Tire size was limited to a width of 1.375 inches, narrower than balloon tires on prewar children's bikes. Production was set at 750,000 Victory bicycles per year by twelve manufacturers, approximately 40 percent of total prewar production but a significant increase in annual production of adult bicycles. The manufacture of all other types of civilian bicycles was halted.

However some bicycles were produced from existing parts that were also considered to be "Victory" bicycles, as shown in the photograph below that varies considerably from the description above.

A Victory Bicycle during World War II
A photograph of a newly produced Victory bicycle in Washington, DC

Title: The first lot of the new "Victory" bicycles to reach Washington receiving the seal of approval from Leon Henderson, administrator of the Office of Price Administration. Miss Betty Barrett, an OPM stenographer, is in the parcel basket. Stratetic [i.e. Strategic] war materials were eliminated in the manufacture of the bicycle.
Date Created/Published: 1942 March.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-102599 (b&w film copy neg.)
Notes: Office of War Information Collection. No. D-10906.
Henderson, Leon,--1895-1986.
World War, 1939-1945--Economic & industrial aspects--Washington (D.C.)
Bicycles & tricycles--1940-1950.

Library of Congress

Leon Henderson who ran the Office of Price Administration for several years appears to have been kind of an idiot, since putting a woman in the bike's basket is pretty dumb, all the while smoking a cigar. (He was fired after the 1942 elections.) Since this bike would have been made from existing parts, the title entry above is in error (although it was transcribed, so the error isn't that of the Library of Congress) - strategic materials would only be eliminated in the production of new bicycles made with newly manufactured parts, not a bike like this.

HathiTrust Digital Library helpfully provides a booklet published by the federal government during the War that explains rationing, which notes, "In a democracy, government controls are relatively novel." In the section, "How Things are Rationed" it talks about bicycles:
When the supply is not large enough to distribute some to all, the commodity goes only to those who need it in connection with service to the war effort or the public welfare. Commodities being rationed in this way are tires, tubes, automobiles, bicycles, and typewriters.
On page 11, there is more about rationing of bicycles:
With curtailment of automobile manufacture, a new demand for bicycles arose in the United States. Whereas previously bicycles were used largely for sport, now there is a demand for them for essential transportation. In order to make sure that war workers, communications and messenger services and other essential users would be able to secure bicycles, the Government decided to ration the available supply. Bicycles may be purchased only by persons who need them to travel to work or who need them in their work, providing that such work contributes to the war effort.

It is slightly disingenuous to say that "bicycles were used largely for sport" - apparently 85 percent of bicycles sold before the War were children's bicycles. Production of all children's bicycles ceased as part of bicycle rationing, so that while far fewer bicycles were produced overall, there were more adult bicycles made and sold.