Tag Archives: winter bike commuting

Happy Birthday Bicycles Everywhere

10 Feb

How many of you remember your first bike? I fondly remember my first bike in spite of the scars I have to remind me of it! My first bike was a bright red children’s Pegasus with a silver Pegasus sticker on the frame.

When I was a kid I often wondered who made the first bike, but never really pursued the question because I was too busy riding my bike, acrobatic moves and all, and scraping my knees.

It turns out this year is a great time to learn more since the bicycle turns 200.  Information on who invented the first bike tend to contradict each other, and while some records date back to 1418, the bike as we know it today seems to be modeled after the 1817 machine made by Karl Drais. It was called the “dandy horse”, “velocipede”, or “the running machine.” It’s purpose—a replacement for the horse after a crop failure led to the starvation and slaughtering of horses. It was made of wood, front wheel steer, and it was propelled by pushing it off with the feet.  This first model was short-lived though and it would be another 50 years until the bicycle would get another chance.

bike1

Photocredit: Wikimedia Commons

 

A brief history of the evolution of the bicycle

  • In 1863 there was the “bone shaker” because it was made of hard materials with steel wheels and rode on cobblestone roads.
  • 1870 the “high wheelers” looked more like a circus bicycle and weren’t very safe, it’s no wonder they were not that popular either.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photocredit: Wikimedia Commons

  • 1878 first American bicycle, the Columbia Bicycle made by the Weed Sewing Machine Company and it was quite expensive, almost ten times more than a sewing machine.
  • 1880 women could also take a spin on a new model called the tricycle. Many men also adopted this machine because it was more practical than the two, high wheels model.
  • 1888 John B. Dunlop first used a pneumatic tire for the bicycle and made it more comfortable and safer to ride.
  • 1890 advances in metallurgy lead to the “safety bike”, a model that looked a lot like what we know nowadays, much safer and more popular. During this time, the bicycle also become more accessible to a larger number of people and many of them started using it as a means of transportation as opposed to an expensive leisure machine up to this point.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

  • 1890 was also the time when more women started riding bicycles.
  • 1894 a change in ladies fashion allowed them more freedom and increased mobility. This is also the year when bamboo bikes were manufactured.
  • 1894-1895, Annie Kopchovsky, finished a multi-modal trip around the world. She would ride her bicycle to and from the main ports.
  • 1895, Ogden Bolton Jr. patented the first e-bike.
  • 1903 Sturmey Archer invented the internal hub gears.
  • 1920 after WWI, kid’s bikes were introduced to revitalize the bike industry at a time when the automobile was gaining more and more popularity.
  • 1958 the first World Championship on road and track included women.
  • 1965 Bike-share begins in Europe.
  • 1970 on Earth Day, the bicycle sees a comeback in light of increased awareness of air pollution.
  • 1973 the Oil embargo creates even more interest in bicycling.
  • 1978 high oil prices lead to more sales of bicycles than automobiles.
  • 1980’s we see an interest in health and fitness and the bicycle is embraced for both recreational purposes and commuting. Interestingly the middle and the upper classes lead the way in this trend.
  • 1986 bicycling was the third most popular sport.
  • 1990 Shimano introduced the integrated brake levers.
  • 2002 was the year when Campagnolo introduced the 10 cog rear cluster which allowed for 30 speed bicycles.
  • 2016, the U.S. had 2,655 bike share stations in 65 cities.

I can’t wait to see where the bicycle will go next! Hopefully it will have Complete Streets everywhere so it can go anywhere it wishes.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of events. If you want to learn more check out the following sources:

https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/press_releases/bts020_16

http://www.ibike.org/library/history-timeline.htm

http://www.icebike.org/58-milestones-from-bicycle-history-you-must-know/

Bicyclists Outnumber Drivers In Copenhagen

2 Dec

When we think bicycle friendly city, we think Copenhagen.   And these days Copenhagen is getting a lot of attention and envy because it just reached a milestone; the number of bicyclists surpassed the number of drivers.

You can’t help but wonder how did it get here?

It turns out Copenhagen started as a city of bicycles, and then people embraced car ownership in the 1920’s. In a simple twist, bicyclists were seen as slightly annoying to motorists and the number of traffic accidents involving bicyclist and motorists increased.

Copenhagen was headed in the same direction as many other cities, congestion, traffic accidents, and pollution. People riding bicycles kept being pushed to the side of the road or off the road and they took the streets; they wanted to be able to ride their bikes safely again. Copenhageners protested and asked for a change in street design, putting bikes first and cars second and asking for safe bicycle infrastructure.

There was, as you might expect, some back and forth about design, cost, and how to pay for the new bicycle infrastructure.

In the end, city planning gave space to bicycle lanes, bicycles experienced a comeback, and it is now once again seen as a symbol of health, freedom, and the symbol to clean and lively cities. Most people in Copenhagen, even kindergarteners and a large number of politicians, bike year round.

I guess the answer is good planning, starting young and keep the wheels spinning until it becomes such a big part of your life that you are no longer willing to tolerate pollution and traffic accidents anymore and would rather leave the car behind.

Sources:
https://cleantechnica.com/2016/11/28/people-bicycling-driving-copenhagen-now/
http://denmark.dk/en/green-living/bicycle-culture/how-denmark-become-a-cycling-nation
http://denmark.dk/en/green-living/bicycle-culture/copenhagen-bike-city-for-more-than-a-century
http://www.copenhagenize.com/2012/02/danish-bicycle-infrastructure-history.html
http://www.copenhagenize.com/
http://www.citylab.com/commute/2012/04/why-streets-copenhagen-and-amsterdam-look-so-different-ours/1849/

Bike Commuter Journal – the Commuter Bike a Year Later

6 Feb

Commuter Bike After 1 Year Made a few changes to the commuter bike in the year it’s been flogged every day 2 miles to the office and back – for reference, see last year’s post Accessorizing the Commuter Bike

There were two main issues – pain in the shoulder, caused by the straight handlebar, and pain in the neck, caused by dealing with the hydraulic disc brakes (mental pain, not physical).

Swapping the straight handlebar for a mustache bar provided the hand position that prevented shoulder pain (yep, even on a ten minute ride). Tried new grips, which didn’t help, then swapped the grips from my mountain bike to this bike – when that didn’t help it had to be the bar, because those grips are very comfortable on the mountain bike’s straight handlebar.

The next, more obviously self-inflicted issue, was that some idiot overloaded the light duty rack on grocery runs. The rack uses the fender as support, and the rivet-nut holding it to the frame pulled out (not just once, either), so the guys at the shop drilled and through bolted it to the frame – problem solved. (Also, bought a cargo bike so don’t need to overload the commuter bike anymore – an expensive fix, you might say, and my spouse would certainly agree – more in another post.)

The less obviously self-inflicted issue was dealing with the hydraulic disc brakes. One time, some idiot took off the wheel to put on the winter tires and closed the brake lever. You probably know that if you don’t have something for the brake to grab (disc, credit card, cardboard, etc.) it will not open back up, and the wheel will not go back on. Anyway, back to the shop to have the brake lines bled, and not for the 1st time.

The first time back to the shop was after a few months of winter riding and the lever went all the way to the handle without stopping much. Another time was to get the brakes to stop screeching, and to put some silicone around the fender rivets so they stopped rattling. The last straw was when some road gook got into the front brake on a ride to Hopewell, and I fought and listened to the tick from the brake all the way back to West Windsor, because there’s no way to loosen the calipers on hydraulic brakes in the field. I’d had enough – they were simply not idiot-proof enough for this idiot. The new mechanical disc brakes not only have ways to loosen them, they have dials for making adjustments and a fancy way to automatically align the calipers.  It sure sounds good.

On the sound advice from the good folks at the shop, let’s talk about bike maintenance and keeping your bike clean. If (like a certain someone) you just ride it and occasionally lube the chain (sometimes after wiping the main gook off), you will have a much harder time pedaling by the end of the year – maybe because the derailleur pulleys rust into place. Really, it’s a wonder I could pedal at all.  You might think this would encourage better bike cleaning, but instead it has me thinking about belt drives – anyone have experience to share?

 

Bike Commuter Journal – Blinking Winter Bicyclist

22 Apr

Our guest commuter this week is Mike McCormick – if you’d like to share your commuter experiences, contact jfoster@gmtma.org.

Since July, 2007 I’ve commuted just about 25,000 miles by bicycle from my home in Allentown (NJ) into Trenton – about a 25 mile round trip each day.  I’ve found it to be a great way to begin and end each day, with a few notable exceptions due to bad weather, and/or worse drivers.  For the most part, I’ve remained unscathed, thanks to some brightly colored clothing and a lot of lights.

During the winter months, it’s been said that I’m a cross between a Christmas tree and a Las Vegas casino, blinking and flashing my way down the street.   I do draw the line at ice or snow covered pavement, of which there has been plenty this past winter.  I’ve been reminded of how much I dislike traffic, interstate highways and parking lots that seem to be a mile away from my office door.

There are many instances when my bicycle is the fastest vehicle on the streets of Trenton, and to date, no one has taken my indoor parking spot:  a sewage pipe in the basement of the Hughes Justice Complex, to which I chain my bike each day.  After almost seven years, it is hard to imagine how – or why – others insist on driving to work each day!

Bike Commuter Journal – To the Train Station, All Winter Long

25 Mar

Melinda bikePlease welcome another guest commuter, Melinda Posipanko, this week – if you’d like to share your commuter experiences, contact jfoster@gmtma.org.

I seem to have had this conversation with someone almost every day this winter:  Question: “Did you ride in today?”  My answer: “Yeah.  It wasn’t too bad out.” Reply: Either 1)”Wow”, 2)”You’re insane”, 3) “Impressive”, or 4) a sad shake of the head.

Now to be completely transparent, “riding in” for me means a 1.5 mile ride from my house to the Princeton Junction train station.  Not exactly a grueling bike commute.  And I’m nobody’s idea of a “cyclist”; more tortoise than hare and riding an el-cheapo bike I bought at Kmart 5 years ago.

Let me be clear.  I HATE COLD.  So why have I gotten layered-up every morning to bike commute?  It’s not a simple answer.  I’m not crazy (at least not completely), but I really love using my body to move itself from one place to another.  I ride my bike, I take the stairs when practical, and I usually take the easy-to-find far out parking space at the mall.  Moving my body feels good.  And even a short bike ride in the morning can make a huge difference in my overall energy level for the day.

It makes some practical sense, too.  It used to take me just about the same amount of time at the end of the day to walk to my permit parking space as it now takes for me to ride home.  I don’t have to clean off my car when it snows.  Now, I pay $22.50 /quarter to rent a bike locker instead of $120/quarter for a parking space.

But really, I think it’s mostly the sense of accomplishment I have when I make it to the train under my own power no matter what Mother Nature throws at me.  Me against the world…that sort of thing.   I’m proud of the fact that I’ve driven into the station fewer than 10 times since October – and only then on days when the roads were clearly not safe.

And I’m obviously not alone.  I’ve seen bike riders and empty CitiBike stalls all over NYC even on the coldest days.

So I’ll continue to suit up and head out every day that I can.  And keep looking forward to spring!

Bike Commuter Journal – My Moment of Commuter Zen

5 Mar

whit at workPlease welcome Whit Anderson, our guest commuter this week – if you’d like to share your commuter experiences, contact jfoster@gmtma.org.

I love my commute. Rarely a weekday goes by when I am not appreciative of how lucky I am to have it. I bike commute from Hopewell Borough to Princeton University’s Forrestal campus, four or five times a week, all the year round. For the most part, my route is quite idyllic – lovely bike lanes on most of CR518 (I am working on Mercer County to address the parts lacking), scenic bike path on the Kingston Branch Loop Trail and a quick turn up to Mapleton where I give the bald eagles a nod if they happen to be nesting.  When I get to my lab, a suite of bike lockers and racks are waiting for me, and inside we have showers and changing facilities.  Yep, it is a pretty sweet deal.

Even after describing my commute to people I still get the “you are crazy” comments. Most of the time I laugh and shrug it off – too bad for them, they will never know what they are missing. “Me crazy? They are crazy” – that’s what I would always say to myself.

Then this winter happened. A few times this winter I caught myself agreeing with them – even with the multiple layers of wool and synthetics, the studded winter tires and a large thermos of steaming coffee I found myself thinking, “I am crazy”.  But the thought never lasts long. As soon as I get to my destination the feeling of accomplishment washes away any lingering negativity. That, and the hope that spring is just around the corner. Come on spring.