Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

31 March 2019

Like A Pink Flamingo Needs A Bicycle

During my most recent trip to Florida, I spotted a long-legged pink bird.  It got away before I could fish my camera/phone out of my bag.  Later, I told a park ranger, who said that it was very unlikely I'd seen a flamingo, as they almost never venture further north than the Everglades--if indeed they make it that far up from the Yucatan.  Rather, this ranger explained, I most likely saw a Roseate Spoonbill, which is native to the Sunshine State.

I can't say I was disappointed, really:  the Roseate Spoonbill is actually quite beautiful if strange.  Still, seeing plastic pink flamingos in front of houses later that day seemed like some kind of bad joke.

Of course, if you ride through almost any area of single- or two-family homes, you're likely to see some of those pink flamingos.  But I doubt that you've ever seen this:




30 March 2019

From The Barrel: How Does It Age?

The bicycle has a two-century history, if you regard the draisienne as its starting point.  During that time, two-wheeled machines operated by foot power have been made from all sorts of materials, including wood--as the draisenne was.

Every generation or so, someone or another "discovers" wood as a bike-building material.  Some advantages of the material are its relative light weight and stiffness.  They, of course, are the reasons why wooden bicycle rims were used, mainly on track bikes, for decades even when nearly all frames were made of steel.  They were banned because bicycle wheels, especially those on track bikes, are built with highly tensioned spokes and ridden with high-pressure tires.  The problem was that an impact or other problem that would cause a wheel with a metal rim to bend or fold, but remain intact, would cause a wooden rim to shatter and send sharp splinters flying about.

I imagine that wooden frames wouldn't have such problems, as the joints that hold them together wouldn't be as taut as bicycle spokes, or experience impact in the same way.  On the other hand, I have to wonder how a wooden frame would hold up in various weather conditions, especially extremes of wetness or dryness.

If nothing else, a wooden bike would have a "cool factor", as few other people have one.  That is probably the reason why it would be such a popular item at an event like the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, held in Sacramento two weeks ago.



This "Cooper Bicycle" was created by industrial designer and University of Kansas professor Lance Rake. To join the wooden beams, and for the dropouts, he cut pieces of steel with a waterjet.  The seat and headtubes were also steel, just like the ones found on a traditional frame.



What makes the bike unique--and inspired its name--is the source of its wood:  a wine barrel.  A barrel-maker was known as a cooper, and I don't doubt that more than a few of them made bikes, as blacksmiths and other artisans did.  

That bikes were made by such people, and from materials like the ones Rake used, is the inspiration for a vision of his.  He wants to sell Cooper bikes, he says, but he is also interested in making plans and patterns available to local artisans "so we can make bikes from local resources."

Does he have plans to use his machine on a wine-tasting bike tour in, say, California or France or Italy?  "I hate to admit it, but I'm more of beer and whisky drinker," he confesses, "but my wife is into Red Blends."  Could a tandem be in the works?

29 March 2019

You Should Wear A Helmet Because....

The other day, I wrote about Tessa Hull's lecture on female-identified cyclists during the first "bike boom" of the late 19th and early 20th Century.

I didn't attend the lecture:  It was on the other side of the continent.  But I did read the promotional material for the lecture, and a bit about Ms. Hull.  She laments the fact that, in some ways, female-identified cyclists of today are second-class citizens to a greater degree than they were 120 years ago, when advertisements showed women riding on the front of tandems and in packs.

So, wouldn't you know it?, yesterday I came across this:



It's part of a German cycling safety campaign.  The other photos, while they show men who aren't wearing much more than the women, are notable for their complete lack of bicycles.



Now, I'm sure that whoever created that campaign understands that some people won't wear helmets because, well, they're not sexy. (Of course, that depends on what you're into!;-)) Still, you have to wonder what is accomplished with a campaign that looks more like one created for safe sex (Yes, sex really is safer with a helmet. Don't ask how I know!) or, in the first photo, something to get "bros" to buy something that will make them feel more like men.



One thing that really surprises me is that the campaign was started in Germany.  If any country in the world should know about female empowerment, it should be Germany.  I don't agree with much of her politics, but you have to admit that Angela Merkel being, arguably, the most powerful person in Europe is testament to the fact that we don't have to take our clothes off to get people to do what we want them to do.

Oh, and she can't stand Donald Trump, and the feeling is mutual. That must count for something.  That alone is reason, I believe, why someone in Germany can, and should, come up with a more enlightened bicycle safety campaign than this one--or any I've seen in the US!


28 March 2019

A Star Water Bottle Carrier

Every once in a while, shopping for some small part or another will lead me to something I not only didn't realize existed, but didn't know that anybody would even conceive of.



I mean, how many of you have wanted to attach a water bottle cage to your Wald (or other wire) basket?  Perhaps I'm odd in that I tend not to use baskets and water bottles (at least the kind that fit in water bottle cages) at the same time.  You see, I tend not to ride my basketed bike(s) over long distances, and if I do carry libations, they are likely to be in the basket.




But, now that I think about it, I can understand why someone might want to attach a water bottle cage on a basket.  The curved frame tubes of many city bikes or beach cruisers, for example, make it difficult or impossible to mount water bottle cages.  And, I guess that if you're not carrying other things in your basket--say, your beach towel or lunch--the bottle might rattle or roll--or bounce out of the basket if it's not restrained with bungee cords or a net.

I'm not sure of whether Wald still makes their Bottle Cage Bracket #8088:  I couldn't find it on the company's website.  And I am not sure I would use one.  But because it is, like other Wald products, inexpensive, it's almost tempting to buy one just because they're so unusual.

(Yes, the title is a riff on what you think it's a riff on:  possibly the greatest film about bicycle racing ever made.)

27 March 2019

Where Have We Gone In The Last 130 Years?

I have to admit, once or twice...well, okay, maybe three or four times...I've attended concerts, readings, plays, lectures or other events because I liked the advertisement for it.




Now tell me you wouldn't attend a lecture after seeing a photo like this.  Of course, it combines topics as close to my hearts as my Mercians:  cycling, history, women's history and gender identity.  Tessa Hull, who gave the lecture, didn't come to her topic--summed up in the lecture's title, "Women, Trans and Femme Riders in Early Cycling History"--through a women's or gender studies program.  Instead, she encountered it while on her own journey, literally:  She's cycled alone from Southern California to Maine and in Alaska, Cuba, Ghana and Mexico.  She said that, wherever she went, people were generous, but she heard the same warning:  "You know, a woman can't travel alone."

Well, I know that's not true!  And so did some women in the late 19th Century, during the first "Bike Boom."  Although there probably are more women cycling now than then, she believes that the culture around women and bikes has retrogressed in some ways. In the old bicycle ads, she explains, "you see packs of women riding bicycles, and women riding on the front of tandems," none of which is "really a norm now."  She feels we are "trying to get back to where we were in the 1890s " and warns, "[I]f you don't keep pushing for the advancement of culture, things can quietly digress."

I have to admit, even I--who, if I do say so myself, knows a thing or two about the history of women and cycling--was surprised to see women attired as they are in the photo. And they have rather athletic builds.  These days, it seems that most women in bike ads are there to entice men and look as if their limbs would break if they actually tried to pedal.


26 March 2019

Were They Entering Or Exiting The Gate Of Hell?

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that my daily commute takes me over the RFK Memorial Bridge, which gives me a perfect view of the Gate of Hell.

All right, it's Hell Gate, and the Hell Gate Bridge.  But it's fun to tell students that I pass the Gate of Hell on my way to class!

Anyway, this morning I saw the trail of a boat zigging and zagging to--or from?--the bridge:



I can't help but to wonder:  Was a boat skittering away from, or rumbling toward, the Gate of Hell...I mean Hell Gate?




25 March 2019

Lower Bicycle Taxes--In Belgium?

I've bashed the US President more than a few times on this blog.  But, to be fair to El Cheeto Grande, I must point out that he isn't the only one who's come up with a completely pointless tax on bicycles.  Oregon imposed their own state tax a little less than two years ago; other jurisdictions either have done, or are considering, something similar.

Of course, in the US, about three generations of adults didn't cycle. So, we are just starting to understand that the bicycle is a viable means of transportation as well as enjoyable means of recreation and exercise rather than just a kid's toy.

On the other hand, Europeans still see the bicycle as I've described it.  In some countries, masses of people never traded two wheels for four; in others (or in parts of some countries), the auto-centric culture hasn't persisted as long as it's had its grip on America.  Thus, to people to ride again, and safely, Europeans can tap into memory, if you will, that hasn't gone dormant or extinct.

Such is the case in Belgium.  That country has more bicycle-related events, from races to randonees to rallies, and more talented cyclists, per capita than just about any other nation.  I haven't spent a lot of time there, but it's easy to see that bicycles and velocipedic culture are never very far from Belgians' consciousness.

That might be the reason why some law makers over there understand that the way to build useful and sensible infrastructure, preserve a country's bicycle industries and, well, encourage people to ride, is not to impose more taxes on bikes, whether at the retail level or when they enter the country from someplace else.  

Bicycles parked by medieval houses in Ghent, Belgium

At least, that's the impression I have after the Belgian parliament voted through a bill to impose a lower sales tax for bicycles and e-bikes than the current Value Added Tax levied there and in other European Union nations.  If approved by the European Commission, the surcharge for bicycles and e-bikes would be lowered from the standard VAT of 21 percent to 6 percent.

Belgian politician Laurent Devin has been championing such a measure for some time.  Other political leaders agree, including Ahmed Laaouej, agree.  He  leads the Belgian Socialist Party, which happens to be the second-largest party in Belgium's parliament.

While some EU member states have been able to reduce the VAT on bicycle repairs, no other country has attempted such a widespread reduction on the taxes levied on two-wheelers.  In 2017, 445,000 bicycles were sold in the country, of which 218,000 were e-bikes--in a country of 11.35 million people.  On a per capita basis, that is roughly the same number of bikes sold in the US, but Belgians, like other Europeans, tend to keep and ride their bikes longer than Americans, so fewer are first-time bike buyers than in the US.


24 March 2019

What Do You Love About Bikes?

I'm too lazy!

That was the excuse of someone I simply could not interest in cycling.  That person was honest which, I suppose, counts for something.

The funny thing is that I fell in love with cycling because I was lazy:  I didn't want to walk everywhere.  I can say I "fell in love" with riding because, more-years-than-I'll-admit later, I'm still doing it.

Then there are those people who aren't really interested in cycling but like bikes.  I thought of them when I saw this:



I love tires!  I wonder how that sloth feels about whole bicycles.

Now, if I can get a sloth to ride....

23 March 2019

The Wrong Way

Be on your best behavior when you're on the lam.

Is that the moral of the story I'm about to relate?




Jeff Basil Chandler was riding a bicycle on Richmond Road in Williamsburg, Virginia at 3:02 on Sunday morning.  The 24-year-old from Yemassee, South Carolina was weaving in the eastbound lane.  The problem was, he was headed westbound.


The advantage to riding at that hour is that, in most places, you won't encounter much traffic.  Hence, there tends to be less of a police presence.  On the other hand, if constables are in the area, they're bored (unless they're chasing drunk drivers) and looking for something to do.


So it's not surprising that a Williamsburg police officer would notice--and stop--a cyclist weaving in the wrong lane.  Perhaps that officer thought Chandler was drunk; in any event, said officer identified Chandler through his South Carolina driver's license.


These days, nearly all patrol cars (at least here in the US) are equipped with computers that allow officers to run a check on whomever they stop. The Williamsburg cop did just that and found that South Carolina had issued warrants for Chandler's arrest.


Turns out, he was wanted for kidnapping, robbery with a deadly weapon and being an accessory to a felony.  He was brought to a local jail and booked two hours after he was stopped.  Now he has to decide whether to waive his extradition hearing or follow a process that will allow him to appeal extradition in local court and with state prosecutors.


Just remember:  If you're going to run (ride) from the law, make sure you're running the right way, and in a straight line!

22 March 2019

It's Not Dark--Yet!

Where was I at 5:58 PM (EDT) on Wednesday the 20th, Spring Equinox 2019?




I got out for another late-day ride.  The funny thing was that even though I was pedaling into the wind, I wanted to keep on going. And so I did, to Point Lookout. 





You can tell you've been through a winter when you look beyond the rocks and everything seems to be in a shade of stone:  the almost slate-like blue-grey water, the gnarled brown trees and granular tan-colored sand on the opposite shore.





Even though the days are getting longer, and we have more light at the end of the day because of Daylight Savings Time, getting to Point Lookout meant riding home into the sunset along the Rockaway Boardwalk.




After I turned away from the boardwalk and up the bridge to the Queens "mainland", I kept telling myself "It's not dark yet" as the sun disappeared from view--and, yes, even after I turned on my lights in Ozone Park.





Maybe it had something to do with having the wind at my back.

21 March 2019

Spring Into Color

Today is the first full day of Spring.

Does this make you want to spend it in the Netherlands?:




The photo is from Bicycle Dutch, of course.

If you can't get the day off from work (or whatever), you can always dream:




20 March 2019

Getting Their Wheels Back

Use the words "bicycle" and "sculpture" together and, for many people, two things will come to mind:  Marcel Duchamp's "Bicycle Wheel" and Pablo Picasso's "Bull's Head," made from handlebars and a saddle.

There are many other lesser-known bicycle-based sculptures all over the world.  Some are in public places.  Unfortunately, securing and maintaining them isn't a high priority in most places.  Even if municipal officials don't appreciate bicycles, bicycling or even art, they should be sensitive to what the work means to its creator--and for at least some members of the public.

Greeley Sweethearts


I was reminded about that after Wes Cackler's "The Race" disappeared from it spot in a Palm Coast, Florida shopping mall.  Now I've learned that another sculpture "Greeley Sweethearts", lost its wheels.  Whether they were taken by the wind or a thief, no one seems to know.  But now the artist, Amos Robinson of San Diego, has sent replacement wheels to the city of Greeley, Colorado.  According to city staff members, the wheels will be installed when weather permits.

And the "couple" will once again "enjoy" their "ride" in Josephine Jones Park.

19 March 2019

Spanning The Seasons

Last week, daylight savings time began.  That means more daylight at the end of the day.  And, as the days are getting longer, I can now take a late-day ride before it gets dark.

Yesterday's jaunt took me through Queens and Brooklyn to Coney Island and the Verrazzano Narrrows.




I approached a great bridge, one that spans a strait of the Atlantic Ocean separating Brooklyn from Staten Island.  The Spring equinox arrives tomorrow.  Perhaps I am riding toward a bridge between two seasons.  


18 March 2019

Using Ma Velo To Make Mon Choco

The secret or not-so-secret vice of many cyclists is chocolate.  Yes, it's one of mine, too.

I reckon that most cyclists prefer dark chocolate.  At least, that's been the choice of the cyclists I've known.  It's mine, too.  It's a great energy food and not sickeningly sweet. Also, milk chocolates are more difficult to digest when riding.


As I've written in previous posts, cyclists have harnessed the power of their wheels to do all sorts of things, such as  sharpening knives, making electricity and grinding flour.


So, if cacao beans have to be ground up in order to make chocolate, it makes sense that someone would use the power of pedals turning a wheel to turn out the confections we love.


Such is the idea behind Mon Choco, an operation overseen by Dana Mroueh, who says he is guided by an "eco-friendly" philosophy.



Entrepreneur uses bicycle to make organic chocolate



Using stationary bicycles to power the chocolate grinders is just one way Mon Choco minimizes its use of electricity.  It also doesn't roast its cacao pods.  That, according to Mroueh, also allows the pods to retain more of their original flavor and nutritional value, the latter of which is greater than most people realize.  (If you've ever looked for an excuse to eat chocolate, there it is!)  

But, in keeping with Mroueh's philosophy, Mon Choco uses organic cacao.  That doesn't seem surprising until you realize that Mon Choco is operating in la Cote d'Ivoire, where most of the cacao is grown with the use of pesticides and other chemicals.  Those substances are, in themselves, bad enough for the environment.  So, however, is the very act of making caocao plantations, which has contributed to deforestation.  Environmental campaign groups say that la Cote d'Ivoire is at risk of losing all of its forest cover by 2034.


That deforestation can be said to be part of the "hangover," if you will, of colonialism.  La Cote d'Ivoire is the world's largest cacao producer, but until recently, almost no finished chocolate--the real revenue-producer--has been made in the country.  Nearly all of the raw cacao or powder has been exported to Europe or, to a lesser extent, North America.


And, while people who've tasted Mon Choco's creations praise them, the sad fact is that most Ivoiriens can't afford them:  a typical Mon Choco bar sells for about 1500 CFA (US $2.60) in a country where the average monthly wage, after taxes, is about 200,000 CFA (US $345). So, for the moment, most of Mon Choco's production is exported, mainly to France.

17 March 2019

For The Road Ahead, And The Journeys Taken

Here is a St. Patrick's Day greeting from Amy Gantt, the Oakwood, Ohio-based artist behind those lovely and whimsical creations of Lula Bell:

May your troubles be less
and your blessings be more
and nothing but happpiness
come through your door.



It would be just the thing for these young ladies just starting their journey:




or these women, who forged paths for us long before we were born:

From the Dublin Cycling Campaign.  They have participated in the past ten Dublin St/ Patrick's Day prades.



Enjoy the day!

16 March 2019

Does This Bike Need An RU Screw?

When you ride your bike to work every day, certain sights become familiar.  Sometimes, though, they're not the ones you anticipate.

If you live in a city, you probably see bikes parked in the same places every day.  Some leave in the morning, on commutes to work or school.  But others remain in the same spot and start to look like street fixtures.




This Royce Union three-speed has been parked on East 139th Street for three years, maybe more.  I say two years because that's when I started riding along a route that includes the block on which the bike is parked.


The bike is from the mid-60s or thereabouts.  I know that because I had a bike just like it--actually, the diamond frame, a.k.a. male, version.  Also, mine was black and white.  It was lovely but, oh, I would have loved the color of this one. (That tells you something about the kind of kid I was!)




Royce-Union started in England early in the 20th Century.  Later, they started to manufacture bikes in the Netherlands and, by the 1960s, Japan.   Later they would make their wares in Taiwan.  I'm guessing that by now, their stuff is coming out of China or possibly Malaysia.  You can more or less trace the geographical history of bicycle manufacture from the company's timeline!




Not surprisingly, those '60's bikes--like the one in the photos and the one I had so many years ago--were imitations of English three-speed .  Whatever market existed for adult wheels in those pre-Bike Boom days was filled mainly by so-called "English Racers" from Raleigh, Dunelt and other British manufacturers and, to a lesser degree, similar bikes from Continental makers and Schwinn.





One detail of this bike I just love is the white saddle bag.  My bike had a bag just like it, in black.  The saddle was also like the one I see parked in the Bronx, but in black.


I also had to chuckle at the "RU" on the bag and saddle.  I attended Rutgers University many years ago.  Of course, many items pertaining to the school are emblazoned "RU", though in a very different style and color.  I couldn't help but to wonder, though, whether the Royce Union had any non-standardized parts.  In a way, I hope it doesn't, because I'd love to hear someone go into a bike shop and ask for an "RU Screw."




(You have to have gone to Rutgers to fully appreciate that one!)


15 March 2019

Blue Ridge Cycling Blues

There're too many of those gosh-darned bike riders on this-here road.

OK, so the complaint might not have been articulated in quite that way.  But I've given you the gist of it, as it was relayed to a state legislative representative.

So what does that legislator do?  He introduces a bill that would require all cyclists riding on public streets or highways in his state to register their bikes (for a fee) or face a fine.  They would also be required to affix a plate to the rear of their bicycles.


The representative is Jeffrey Elmore, a Republican who represents Wilkes County in the North Carolina House of Representatives.  He filed the bill "by request," which usually means the representative filed it as a favor to constituent or someone who's not in the general assembly.  It doesn't necessarily mean that the representative who files the bill is in favor of it.

Elmore hasn't said anything about the bill, HB157, since filing it.  However, at least two of his colleagues--both Democrats--have voiced their opposition to it.  

Susan Fisher of Buncombe County said it would discourage people from using their bikes to get to work or school, or for recreation, at a time when "[w]e should be encouraging alternative forms of transportation in light of the carbon restrained future we're facing."  

And Brian Turner, also of Buncombe County, pointed out that such a requirement would place an unfair burden on poor people who rely on their bicycles as their primary mode of transportation.  He also raised another issue:  "Is this what we want our police to be enforcing?"

Family cycling in Boone, North Carolina


The question of enforcement is related to another issue:  Would visitors from out of state be required to purchase a temporary permit?  If not, the police would probably waste a lot of time pulling over cyclists who didn't have plates on their bikes but who came Tar Heel State for a race or a tour of the coast or the Blue Ridge Mountains.   

That last point was not lost on Mike Sule, the executive director of nonprofit Asheville On Bikes.  He points out that his state has become one of the more popular destinations for bicycle tourism.  "WNC (Western North Carolina) is a great place to ride a bike," he explains.  "But so is Pennsylvania, and so is Tennessee" and that "we have to understand that we are competing with those other states for people to come here and enjoy themselves."

He also wonders whether such a bill, if passed, would have a negative impact on the state's bicycle manufacturing and retail industries, which are thriving even with the demise of Performance Bikes.  WNC is home to Industry 9, Fox Factory, Cane Creek and other bicycle-related companies.

Sule also made one other really good point against the bill.  He noted that other cities, including Seattle, San Diego, Chicago and Fort Lauderdale, have imposed similar fees.  In none of those cities did requiring cyclists to register their bikes for a fee meet the objectives, whatever they were, that served as the rationale for such fees.  And enforcing such regulations cost more than the cities collected in fees--while cycling was discouraged.


14 March 2019

A Room With A View, Without A Roof

You never know what you'll see on your way to work.



All sorts of things are dumped by the stairs to the RFK Memorial Bridge walkway.  I've even seen a stripped bicycle frame on that spot.  But I don't recall having seen anything in such usable condition, or as meticulously placed, as the bedroom furniture in the photos.



Was it left by a litterbug with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?  (Does such a person exist?)  Or did the person who abandoned those pieces display them to make them more enticing to someone who might want to take them away?

After I got to work, I had a darker thought about those items:  Perhaps a homeless person is setting up residence there.  I hope that's not the case! 

13 March 2019

R.I.P Kelly Catlin

By now, you've probably heard that Kelly Catlin died.

The USCF confirmed her death on Sunday.  I waited to write about her because, like many people, I reacted with disbelief when I learned how she died:  suicide.  





Of course, it's terrible when anyone kills him or her self.  I know:  Five people in my life, including two close friends, did it.  But people were all the more shocked about Kelly because, really, she seemed to have everything going for her:  She was young (23 years old) and had a range of talents most of us can only dream about.

I mean, how many people pursue a graduate degree in computational and mathematical engineering--after getting an undergraduate degree in mathematics and Chinese--from Stanford, no less?  Oh, and as her brother Colin recalls, she could go from listening to German industrial heavy metal to playing Paganini on her violin.  In fact, when she was training for the 2016 Olympics, she spent her spare time memorizing Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major, all 35 pages of it.

Such talents, and her pursuit of them, could have made her hermetic.  People who knew her, however, described her as warm, funny and generous.

But the reason why her suicide made the news is that she was part of the US Women's Pursuit Team that won the silver medal in the 2016 Olympics--and won three consecutive World Championships from that year through 2018.



Kelly Catlin (second from left) on the podium with her teammates at the Rio Olympics, 2016


According to reports, she was advised not to participate in this year's championships.  That alone probably wouldn't have sent her "over the edge."  But the reason that advice was given to her may have been the cause.

She had experienced a series of crashes that left her with injuries, including a concussion.  We've heard a lot about those among NFL players--some of whom, not coincidentally, have taken their own lives.

It's known that concussions can alter the structure of a person's brain.  A cheerful, optimistic person who suffers such an injury can therefore become angry and depressed, and people who pride themselves on their physical and mental dexterity find themselves fumbling through things that had been routine.

The problem is that no one seems able to determine the extent of the damage or other change to the brain of someone who's been concussed--until an autopsy is performed.  And if the person's mind is benighted with thoughts of ending his or her life, the usual entreaties to seek help are of no use.  

Kelly's family is donating her brain to be used for research.  I am sure their gesture, or even the knowledge that doctors and scientists will learn much from it, will not comfort them.  But we can only hope that we won't have to hear more stories about lives full of promise--or, for that matter, any life--ended too soon.

12 March 2019

Can Silicon Valley Become Amsterdam--In India?

Efforts to get people out of cars and onto bicycles are most commonly associated with European (and, to a lesser extent, North American) cities with relatively young and affluent populations.  Most of them are places that have long been established as regional, national or worldwide centers of commerce, culture and technological innovation.  

Those cities, with a few exceptions like Portland, are relatively compact:  San Francisco, Montreal and New York are hemmed in by water, while European capitals are ringed by long-established, if smaller, municipalities.  In other words, they can't expand, so if people move in, their population densities increase--and housing becomes scarcer and therefore more expensive.  That, as much as anything, puts a damper on the growth in such cities' populations.


Most people don't immediately associate car-to-bike campaigns with rapidly-growing cities in developing, low- to middle-income countries.  If anything, people want to parlay their newfound prosperity, or even flaunt it, with their new automobiles.  That their shiny new machines may spend more time idling in traffic than moving to any particular destination seems not to deter them from getting behind the wheel rather than astride two wheels.

So it is in Bangaluru, known in the English-speaking world as Bangalore.  It's often called "The Silicon Valley of India" for its concentration of high-tech firms, which have drawn migrants from the rest of India. As a result, it's been one of the world's fastest-growing cities and metropolitan areas in the world: The 2011 Census counted 8.4 million residents (about the same number as my hometown of New York) but current estimates say that there are between 10.5 and 12.3 million people living in the city where fewer than 3 million lived in 1981 and only 400,000 took up residence in 1941.

But Bangaluru, like other rapidly-growing cities in developing countries, has even more knotted and chaotic traffic than what one encounters in First World cities.  As I've mentioned before, millions newly middle-class Bangalureans have taken to driving.  The real problem, though, seems to be that the city's roads simply can't handle so much traffic.  They are narrow, and many people won't cycle because they don't want to compete with motorized vehicles for space.  Worse, they are jostling with cars and trucks on the roadway while dodging huge potholes:  Before the boom, there wasn't money for maintenance, but now it's difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with needed repairs.  


The possible model for Bengaluru


So, the city and its regional administration are working on a several-pronged plan that both takes its cues, and learns from the mistakes of, other schemes in the area's cities.  In those places, bike lanes were built but people didn't use them because they weren't useful for getting to wherever they had to go or were simply seen as not much safer than riding on the streets.  Also, Bangaluru planners have learned that city-owned bike share programs have had a number of problems and, as one report put it, while municipalities are good for providing the needed infrastructure, private companies are better at providing share bikes.  A problem with those services, though, has surfaced in cities all over the world, especially in China:  the bikes are left anywhere and everywhere when people are finished with them.  So, a possible solution is to have a company like Yulu or Ofo provide the service, and for the city to build dedicated parking facilities--like lots for cars, only smaller--where people can leave, or pick up, bikes.

Could India's Silicon Valley also become its next Amsterdam?

11 March 2019

When The Trees Are Barest

It is always darkest just before the day dawneth.

We've all heard some version of that aphorism.  It's often attributed to the 17th Century historian and theologian Thomas Fuller, though he never claimed to be the source.  I've heard that it actually comes from Irish or Scottish folk wisdom--depending, of course, on whether you talk to an Irish or Scottish person!



In any event, there is, I believe, a parallel:  The trees are barest just before spring.





And, perhaps, the snow seems iciest when it's about to melt away.



Whatever the reality, a memorial to those who died in war is always bleak, and any attempts to soften the reality that the commemorated folks are dead, and usually for no good reason, only makes it more so.

But it was still a lovely day, and ride the other day.  The roads were clear, but, seemingly on cue, snow banked the sides of the roads as soon as I crossed the state line.

10 March 2019

....Like Your Bicycle Needs A Fish

Contrary to what many believe, it wasn't Gloria Steinem who said, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."  She herself admitted as much, and credited Irina Dunn, an Australian educator, journalist and politician with coining the phrase--which, as Ms. Dunn admits, was a "smart-arse" take on "Man needs God like a fish needs a bicycle."

Anyway, those fish will never know what they're missing. But, apparently, someone decided that his or her (or someone else's) bicycle needed a fish:



or two:




You really can buy anything on Amazon--whether it's for your fish, or your bicycle!