16 May 2011

What Makes a Community Bicycle-Friendly?

According to the League of American Bicyclists, it is one that "welcomes cyclists by providing safe accommodation for cycling and encouraging people to bike for transportation and recreation." Judged on the Five E's (Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation & Planning) when it comes to integrating bicycling and walking as valid and important facets of multi-modal transportation, health and recreation, communities throughout the U.S. that apply to the Bicycle Friendly America Program are ranked not only on their current efforts, but provided valuable feedback on opportunties for future improvements and growth.

Just in time to mark National Bike Month, the League announced the latest round of twenty-one new Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) designations on April 30th, with Minneapolis, Boston, New York City and Washington, DC topping the list.

"This was one of the strongest groups of applicants we've seen with a lot of solid projects and programs from communities all across the country – from 1,200 people in Sisters, Ore. to more than 8 million in New York City," according to Megan Cahill, Communications Director.

From the Press Release:

“We are thrilled to see Minneapolis reach a gold‐level Bicycle Friendly
Community designation,”
said Bill Nesper, director of the League’s Bicycle
Friendly America Program.
“The city’s great investments in bike lanes, bicycling
safety education, and encouragement programs have paid off for its residents. In
fact, communities across the country are now looking at Minneapolis as a model.”

Under the leadership of Mayor R.T. Rybak, Minneapolis was first designated as silver‐level BFC in May 2008. 'We’ve made a deliberate effort to be one of the nation’s top bicycling cities, and those investments mean we have more and more ways for people to commute and experience the city on two wheels,” said Mayor Rybak. Thanks to the city’s efforts, Minneapolis has doubled its number of bicycle commuters over the last nine years, placing it behind only Portland, Ore. among the largest cities in the U.S.—no small feat for a city with a notoriously harsh winter.

East Coast Cities Earn Silver Designations and Race to Gold

To date, the Eastern United states has had very few silver‐level Bicycle Friendly Communities and no gold‐level BFCs. That’s beginning to change. Today, the League of American Bicyclists gave Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. silver‐ BFC designations. The cities are now competing to be the first to earn gold. Since Mayor Thomas Menino launched Boston Bikes in 2007, the city has added 38 miles of facilities and has seen a spike in bicycle ridership. Bicycle commuting grew by 125 percent between 2005 and 2009 – and is at a level four times the national average. In 2010 alone, Boston installed 20 miles of bike lanes, incorporating numerous best‐practices like cycle‐tracks, bike boxes, colored bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, and special treatments over trolley tracks and at high‐crash intersections. With 29 pre‐existing miles of multi‐use paths, the network now totals nearly 67 miles. All this helped Boston earn silver in its very first BFC application.

New York City has long been known for innovation and it is now applying that spirit to promoting bicycling. Under the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, Janette Sadik‐Khan, the city has made great strides since their 2004 honorable mention and 2007 Bronze award.

“Moving the needle on bicycling in a city the size of New York City is nothing short of remarkable, and the city is one of the very few that has jumped two award levels,” said Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists. “With the imminent arrival of bike sharing and the continued expansion of the bikeway network, Gold is not far away.” New York City developed an in‐depth crash analysis, distributed 45,000 copies of the BikeSmart Guide to Cycling, and built an unprecedented amount of new and innovative bicycle facilities. In 2010, the NYCDOT installed more than 50 miles of bike infrastructure citywide, including protected on‐street bicycle paths on First and Second Avenues, Columbus Avenue and Prospect Park West. The city has a nation‐leading 500 miles of bike lanes.

Washington, D.C. first received a Bronze BFC award in 2004. Over the last seven years, it unveiled several signature projects including buffered bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue connecting the White House and the Capitol Building, a world‐class bike parking facility, Bikestation, and the largest public bike sharing system in the country. These major projects are supported by an extensive bicycling education and encouragement program for children and adults. Washington now has the highest share of bicycle commuters of any major city on the East Coast.

Recently awarded a Silver-Level Bicycle Friendly Business designation by the League, BicyclingHub.com wishes to congratulate these communities on their efforts and encourages bicyclists to keep working to make a difference in their communities where invididuals feel safe to work, ride and play.

To date, the League of American Bicyclists has received 452 applications and designated 179 Bicycle Friendly Communities in 44 states. For a full listing of all designated communities, visit the Bicycle Friendly America Program - Communities Master List. For more information on how to get started, consult the Blueprint.

All images courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists.

13 May 2011

When People Ride Bikes, Good Things Happen

That's People for Bikes motto--and we tend to agree. Be it for fun, fitness, or transportation, life is somehow just a little bit sweeter when bikes are present. In honor of National Bike Month, they created a short film that celebrates our shared velo love, visually demonstrating not only the ways that bikes transform the lives of people who ride them, but also how they help change and beautify the communities we call home.

People For Bikes is a national movement "designed to unify all people who ride bikes to speak with one powerful voice to policymakers, media, and the public." And they're looking to know how you roll: why you ride, who you ride with, and what type of riding you do. Having a better sense of Americans' bicycling habits will enable organizers to create a stronger, more dynamic movement. Next time you have 10 minutes, take their survey on your bicycling habits and preferences and become eligible to win one of two Schwinn cruiser bikes or one of 10 prize packages, and help guide the future of bicycling advocacy and products.

And if you haven't already, sign the pledge. 200,000 individuals (the same population of Des Moines, Iowa) have pledged their support for better bicycling in America's future thus far. "Every name gets us closer to more bike lanes, paths and trails - a better world for all who ride."

10 May 2011

Looking for the perfect in-between seasons glove? Castelli Lightness wins hands-down

Back by popular demand, Scott Mars from Crossbikereview.com has found a new favorite pair of cycling gloves for the "in-between" seasons, including rainy springs and autumns filled with cyclocross crusades. Read his full product review below.

Castelli Lightness Glove
Product review by Scott Mares, Crossbikereview.com. Published May 5th, 2011.
"The Castelli Lightness Gloves rock and were quickly moved to the front of the line in our gear bag. We hate bulky gloves and love the articulation that these gloves offer...These gloves are worth the money, will give you that pro look and performance."

We Liked

Castelli has always been about quality and they are more so now than they have ever been. The Castelli Lightness glove is a great example of this commitment to quality. However I would also have to add in the word performance as well. This glove was form-fitting but it was not tight and that meant that when you move (articulate) you fingers you are unrestricted and have a great sense of freedom with this glove. Its almost like the glove is painted on your hand. Usually when a glove fits like this there is a trade off in performance. This would normally mean that the glove dose not offer as much protection from the elements as you would think. With the Castelli Lightness glove this is just the opposite. The glove offers much more warmth than other gloves that offer as much freedom of movement. This glove is warm and operates great in blocking out wind and cold. I would like to say that it does have a limit to how cold this glove should be worn to. The Castelli Lightness glove is a cool to mildly cold glove. But what a job it does in the 40 to 60 degree range.

Another thing that we like about the Castelli Lightness glove is the grippy palm. The entire palm is covered with a two tone white and grey silicone imprint of the Castelli logo and name. This makes for plenty of grip and allows the palm to be flexible at the same time.

We Didn't Like

Getting in the glove takes a little bit of work. This is due to its form fitting nature of the glove. Now, I feel I need to explain what I mean by this. You hand structurally is widest at the knuckles and tapers down at the wrist. The Castelli lightness glove is cut anatomically to fit the hand. That means your putting your fist (widest part of your hand) though the narrowest part of the glove and that is where I personally found resistance. After that no problem.

I would also like to see some grip put on the first two fingers and thumb of the glove. The grip that is on the palm is WONDERFUL.

The Final Say

The Castelli Lightness gloves rock and were quickly moved to the front of the line in our gear bag. We hate bulky gloves and love the articulation that these gloves offer. They are surprisingly warm and kept our hands and fingers warm on cool morning rides. At 30 bucks this glove easily performance as well as gloves that cost twice as much. That's right these gloves only cost $30.00! The nice thing that Castelli does is the glove comes with a temperature rating. This means that they tell you what temperature range this glove is for. This way if you know the temp you know what is the best glove to be wearing. Castelli does this on all of their garments. I only think that there are only a handful of companies that actually offer that. These gloves are worth the money, will give you that pro look and performance. I definitely recommend that you get a pair for your cyclocross and spring campaigns.


04 May 2011

Bicycle Commuting: Benefits and Ways to Get Rolling

Part III of a Three-Part Series

In Part I of our series on bicycle commuting, we introduced some real-life commuters across the country and how they got started, what inspires them to keep going, and how they make it work. In Part II, we addressed some of the challenges of bicycle commuting, and how individuals were able to overcome obstacles and roadblocks so that they might travel on two wheels rather than four. In our final installation, we've collected testimonials on some of the benefits one can reap from bicycle commuting, and a few suggested ways to get rolling.

Bicycle Benefits

As previously mentioned in Part II, the key to getting more everyday individuals and families on bikes is to make cycling safe, accessible and convenient. Utilizing a bike for short trips (be it to work, school, the library or supermarket for a carton of milk) equates to improved health, reduction in congestion and heavy traffic volumes, and a noticeable savings in your wallet.

Adrian Ortiz of San Diego, CA summarizes: "I really like riding to work...I’m exercising, I get to enjoy the weather, I have my dog and I get to challenge my body to go up big hills and sprint to the next light. It’s better than the treadmill and I've actually lost weight."

Randy Rocheleau is committed to riding 36 miles round-trip from Albany to Watervliet, NY at least 3 days a week. "The main thing is the physical benefit: I get miles in that way." [When queried, he said he's stopped keeping track.] 3 days a week commuting = 108 miles per week for Rocheleau, plus two days a week doing group rides with the local cycling club and two days a week mountain biking. With that cycling regime, it's no wonder he's able to drop men half his age and enjoy fully-loaded, self-supported bicycle tours with his wife on his Surly Long Haul trucker.

Paul Moore waxes eloquently on the ways bike commuting can be workable AND enjoyable.

Here's what I love about my commute:

1) "I get lots of guilt-free training time in (I have a six-year-old son, and on weekends, every hour I spend riding is an hour I'm not spending with him). Commuting gives me a chance to ride while he's still sleeping."

2). "I'm simultaneously doing the "right" thing for my body and the environment. And BOTH make me feel GREAT!"

3) "Maybe--just maybe--others will see me and begin to see the bicycle as a viable alternative to their cars. I'm visible proof that one doesn't have to be Lance Armstrong or Superman to commute long distances to work."

4) "I leave my house at 5:30, well before rush hour. I pretty much have the streets and roads to myself. I see some of the same people every ride, and judging from the waves and smiles I get, I know at least some of them recognize me. I think I have become--in some small way--a part of their daily routines."

5) "I get to see the sun rise over the Sierra Nevada every morning and, depending on the time of year, I get to see it set, too. From my bike. On the same day."

6) "My commute, although almost perfectly flat, isn't boring; I pass a broad spectrum of sights, sounds, and smells...from very urban to very rural, then vice-versa coming home. From Starbucks to strawberry fields, Dairy Queens to dairy farms, and Orchard Supply Hardware stores to blossoming orange and almond orchards."

7) "There is no better way to wake up in the morning than riding my bike to work; and there's no better way to shrug off the stress and strains from work than riding my bike home. I can leave school with a million things grating on my mind, and by the time I get home, I've replaced them all with thoughts of a hot shower, some food, and some time well-spent with my wife and son. The days on which I drive just aren't the same."
Chris De Farcut, an avid commuter and part of the cycle club Peloton Charity Shield in Perth, Australia, reflects on his personal journey: "My commute started out as a means to an end, to get fit, and sell a car. Along the way I’ve: lost 6kg (1 stone), got my cholesterol and blood pressure in check (and a resting pulse of 48!), met some great people, formed a cycling club and successfully petitioned local government for all new roads to have wide road shoulders. When I’m having a tough day on the bike, I remind myself of these.

"When I started riding 2 years ago, the distances and experiences I’m having now would have been unthinkable. Riding long distances is no longer hard, or a duty. I enjoy my weekend competitive challenges amongst friends but it is no longer my main driving force. As my fitness and strength have improved, there is now an indefinable sensory connectedness between man and machine. It feels like a moving meditation of is timelessness where you no longer focus on the distance to be traveled. The power of your own body is translated to the fluid motion of the bike. The Japanese have a phrase for it: ‘Jinbai Itai’, Horse & Rider as one."

Ways to Get Rolling
Some tips and practical suggestions to make your efforts to go by bike roll a little smoother.

Whether to Weather the Weather

You know the old Norwegian saying, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing?" Randy Rocheleau suggests you invest in some good rain gear---jackets that offer windblock protection and are both waterproof and breathable, such as the Showers Pass Elite 2.0 also help combat the cold weather. Other favorite cold-weather gear on his list includes Pearl Izumi Amfib tights and Lake winter MTB boots. "Having a technical outfit took away any excuses for not riding," he says. "[What gets me out the door is] my commitment to it. it's like qutting smoking; it's a commitment to yourself. It's no different than stating you were going to go gym 3 days week. Okay, it's Wednesday, I'm riding, so I dress appropriately for the weather."

Take Advantage of the Bicycle Commuter Act

According to the League of American Bicyclists, "The Bicycle Commuter Act is a simple, equitable solution to put cyclists on the same footing as people who receive qualified transportation benefits for taking transit or driving (or parking, actually) their cars to and from work. 

Any employer, if they chose to do so, may provide a reimbursement of up to $20 per month for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee in conjunction with their commute to work by bike. Please note, that unlike the other qualified transportation fringe benefits, a qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement benefit cannot be funded through employee pre-tax income, nor can an employee receive both the transit and bicycle QTF in the same month." For more information, consult Bicycle Commuter Tax Provision: Frequently Asked Questions.

Make your workplace a Bicycle-Friendly Business

Does your workplace have bike racks or secure bike parking? On-site showers or changing facilities? Provide maps, resources, or otherwise encourage bicycle commuting? If so, they should consider applying to the League's Bicycle-Friendly Business Program. If not: encourage your workplace to apply. The checklist of what's needed and technical assistance and suggestions on how to get there may prove invaluable in increasing productivity, elevated moods and overall health of their employees, while cutting down on expensive parking spots and sick days.

Other suggestions by Momentum Magazine, March-April 2011:

1. Start slow.
Don't try to travel far distances by bike right off the bat. Take a trip to the nearest convenience store or a friend's place and work your way up from there.

2. Bike sharing.
May cities have bike share programs -- such as Montreal, Denver and Minneapolis -- that you can take advantage of for making small trips around the city.

3. Get a lift.
Integrating cycling and public transit systems allow you to place your bike on buses and light rail systems. If you live far away from transit and your final destination, you might also consider putting your bike in the trunk or on a rack, driving part of the way and cycling the rest.

4. Choosing the right ride.
There are many different bikes on the market, each suited to a different purpose and riding style. The best way to enjoy your ride is to invest in a bike that meets your needs. Options include:

* City bikes
* Folding bikes
* E-Bikes
*Cargo bikes

5. Proximity.
Living a bike lifestyle might also mean looking for a place near to where you work, shop and play. Finding a home within 5 kilometers of the places you frequent the most is ideal.

6. Accessories.
Enhance your commute by adding the right equipment to your bike, such as panniers, racks, baskets, clothing that is comfortable and stylish to ride in, lights and ergonomic grips.

Bob Palkon, at AT&T systems worker in Joliet, IL who rides 25 miles each way to his work-issued service truck, sums it up nicely: "I just feel better! Plain and simple! Riding reduces the stress of the day. I don't need as much medicine to keep my blood sugar under control. It is good for me. It doesn't even take too much time away from my family. Realistically it takes away about 1.25 hrs out out my time with them. the 2hrs in the morning is time I would just be sleeping and the additional hour is the difference between the drive and the ride home.

"I think, for me anyway, the reward comes from the accomplishment itself. The idea that riding to work becomes routine, providing all the benefit that come with it freely and without charge."

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