Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How to Get More Bicyclists on the Road?

I happened to bump into this interesting article from Scientific American by way of browsing one of my favorite websites: and decided to share it with you guys and girls.
To boost urban bicycling, figure out what women want
By Linda Baker | October 16, 2009

New York - USA
CYCLE TRACK, here along New York City's Ninth Avenue, keeps bicyclists physically separated from motor vehicle traffic. Such designs make riding safer and could boost the number of women cyclists. Image: Monica Bradley.
Getting people out of cars and onto bicycles, a much more sustainable form of transportation, has long vexed environmentally conscious city planners. Although bike lanes painted on streets and automobile-free “greenways” have increased ridership over the past few years, the share of people relying on bikes for transportation is still less than 2 percent, based on various studies. An emerging body of research suggests that a superior strategy to increase pedal pushing could be had by asking the perennial question: What do women want?
Bogota - Colombia
In the U.S., men’s cycling trips surpass women’s by at least 2:1. This ratio stands in marked contrast to cycling in European countries, where urban biking is a way of life and draws about as many women as men—sometimes more. In the Netherlands, where 27 percent of all trips are made by bike, 55 percent of all riders are women. In Germany 12 percent of all trips are on bikes, 49 percent of which are made by women.
“If you want to know if an urban environment supports cycling, you can forget about all the detailed ‘bikeability indexes’—just measure the proportion of cyclists who are female,” says Jan Garrard, a senior lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and author of several studies on biking and gender differences.
Women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities for several reasons. First, studies across disciplines as disparate as criminology and child ­rearing have shown that women are more averse to risk than men. In the cycling arena, that risk aversion translates into increased demand for safe bike infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding. Women also do most of the child care and household shopping, which means these bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference.
“Despite our hope that gender roles don’t exist, they still do,” says Jennifer Dill, a transportation and planning researcher at Portland State University. Addressing women’s concerns about safety and utility “will go a long way” toward increasing the number of people on two wheels, Dill explains.
So far few cities have taken on the challenge. In the U.S., most cycling facilities consist of on-street bike lanes, which require riding in vehicle-clogged traffic, notes John Pucher, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University and longtime bike scholar. And when cities do install traffic-protected off-street bike paths, they are almost always along rivers and parks rather than along routes leading “to the supermarket, the school, the day care center,” Pucher says.
Bogota - Colombia
Although researchers have long examined the bike infrastructure in Europe, they have only just started to do so for the U.S. In a study conducted last year, Dill examined the effect of different types of bike facilities on cycling. The project, which used GPS positioning to record individual cycling trips in Portland, compared the shortest route with the path cyclists actually took to their destination. Women were less likely than men to try on-street bike lanes and more likely to go out of their way to use “bike boulevards,” quiet residential streets with special traffic-calming features for bicycles. “Women diverted from the shortest routes more often,” Dill says.
Other data support those findings. In New York City, men are three times as likely to be cyclists as women. Yet a bicycle count found that an off-street bike path in Central Park had 44 percent female riders. “Within the same city you find huge deviations in terms of gender,” Pucher remarks.
Good infrastructure alone won’t improve women’s cycling rates, researchers caution. In an automobile-dominated culture, “attitudinal variables” also play a role, says Susan Handy, a professor of environmental science at the University of California, Davis. In a survey to be published in Transportation Research Record, Handy found that “comfort” and “needing a car” were important factors influencing women’s cycling rates—but not men’s. Needing a car is likely tied to the household errands women often perform, Handy says, and could be addressed in part by outreach programs showing that women can “jump on a bike the way they jump in a car.”
A few municipalities are beginning to implement a “second wave” of strategies aimed at broadening the cycling demographic. In Portland, a city already renowned for its urban cycling, a Women on Bikes program targets such concerns as fixing a flat tire. The city is also building its first cycle track—a European-style bike lane that is separated from cars and pedestrians. Across the country state and federally funded Safe Routes to Schools programs are creating practical bike routes for kids so they don’t have to be driven by their parents.
Ahead of the curve may be New York City, where about five miles of traffic-protected bike lanes have recently been installed. Credit goes to the new Department of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who is upending the department’s long-standing focus on trucks and automobiles. Remarks Pucher: “A woman cyclist became head of the DOT, and wonderful things started happening.”
Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "Shifting Gears."
Thanks to, Biking Network Victoria, The Sartorialist, Colombia Travel,, Cosmopolitan (Google Books)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Saudi women might not be allowed to ride bikes after all

When it comes to women's rights in Saudi Arabia, things always seem to move one incremental step (or, in this case, cycle) forward, two steps back. On Monday, AP reported that al-Yawm, a Saudi daily, had cited an unnamed Saudi religious police official as saying that women will now be allowed to ride bicycles in the country, but only for "entertainment" purposes.
The underwhelming story inspired its fair share of sarcasm in the blogosphere. Cartoon images of fully veiled women pedaling on bikes circulated online. Jezebel ran with the headline, "Saudi Arabia Lets Women Ride Bikes for Funzies." Meanwhile, Policymic listed five ways the change doesn't represent progress at all (and accompanied the list with a few can't-miss GIFs).
But, alas, even this modest sign of progress may have been an illusion. The pan-Arab daily al-Hayat spoke to the country's religious police chief who called the matter "funny," adding that because riding bikes is uncommon in Saudi society, officials never considered the practice as something to either be banned or allowed for women. (Al-Hayat also name-checks the outlets that were a little eager in reporting the AP story, including Fox, the Huffington Post, and ThinkProgress). 
In light of the ambiguous wording, it remains unclear whether it would be acceptable for women to ride bikes in public if the mood strikes. My guess, for what its worth? Probably not. 
Credit (Foreign Policy)
(h/t: Riyadh Bureau)
Image entitled "Allowed", by Mohammad Sharaf

MONDAY, APR 1, 2013 06:54 AM ADT
The new policy stipulates that women must be accompanied by a male guardian and ride "only for entertainment"
(Credit: AP)
Women in Saudi Arabia are still banned from driving cars (among other things), but the kingdom’s religious police are now allowing them to ride motorbikes and bicycles in certain parks and recreational areas. The catch? A male relative or guardian must accompany women riders, according to Saudi news outlet Al-Yawm.
As reported by the Associated Press:
The Al-Yawm daily on Monday cited an unnamed official from the powerful religious police as saying women can ride bikes in parks and recreational areas but they have to be accompanied by a male relative and dressed in the full Islamic head-to-toe abaya.
Saudi Arabia follows an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam and bans women from driving. Women are also banned from riding motorcycles or bicycles in public places. The newspaper didn’t say what triggered the lifting of the ban.
The lift on the bicycle riding ban is one of several recent nods to women’s empowerment in Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah issued a decree in 2011 allowing women to run for office and vote in municipal elections beginning in 2015. In January, the king also appointed 30 women to the country’s Shura Council and pledged that women would constitute 20 percent of the consultative body. While the Shura has no authority to pass or enforce laws, some activists view the change as a symbolic step toward a more egalitarian culture.
“Abdullah has a strong desire to see women advance in Saudi,” Fawzia al-Bakr, a women’s rights activist and professor at King Saud University, told Time magazine. “He wants them to work, he has given them scholarships [to Western universities], and now, with the Shura, he is tackling the most difficult issue in our society today: segregation. If you can get rid of segregation, then most of our problems will be solved.”
A Saudi official told Al-Yawm that the new policy stipulates that women may not use the bikes for transportation but “only for entertainment” and that they must not ride near men “to avoid harassment.”

 Katie McDonough is an assistant editor for Salon, focusing on lifestyle.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Biking to work, withouth the post-ride shine

St. Paul, Minn. — Surveys show that men account for more than two out of three of this country's bicycle riders.
Organizers of Bike Walk Week want to chip away at the imbalance. There are several events today in the Twin Cities encouraging women to bike and walk to work.
Part of the equation for some cyclists -- women or men -- is figuring out how to deal with the glow one acquires while pedaling.
Two weeks ago Rachel Bents went carless. Bents, a St. Paul consultant, works at home but has to attend meetings where on occasion business dress is appropriate. Bents says her recent decision to get rid of her car and rely more on her bike for commuting raises the perennial perspiration question. "How do I go to work, how am I presentable at a meeting? How do I go on a date even?" she said. "How do I do some of those things where traditionally it's not appropriate to be all sweaty?" The answer is go slow. Don't work too hard. This is confirmed by Mary Hansel Parlin who's been commuting by bike to work for 15 years.  Parlin is a high school teacher in Winona. Besides allowing plenty of time for the trip her other perspiration reducing solution is to plan a route of least resistance. "I also took a couple of practice runs," Parlin said. "You don't want to have it be your first day at work and you come in too sweaty or exhausted or late."

After perspiration another big issue raised by biking to work is fashion, what to wear. Mary Hansel Parlin remembers learning an important bike commuting fashion tip early on. "When my long skirt got caught in my chain and I wiped out on my way to school that was the last time I was foolish enough to wear a skirt, so I just have to bring extra clothes along," she said.
As a challenge to the bike commuting fashion gods, Rachel Bents shows up for our radio interview dressed for success just to show it can be done.
"I've got a dress on today, I actually wore heels today. I don't always wear heels when I'm biking," she said. "I feel like, 'OK, I can do this. Women in Europe do it all the time.'" And it's true. Rachel directs me to the Copenhagen cycle chic website filled with photos of women in Denmark dressed to the nines riding their bikes.
A growing number of employers are warming to the idea of biking and walking to work.
Every year during Bike Walk Week in Duluth, Carol Andrews' employer, Barr Engineering, stages a friendly competition. Employees win points if they ditch their car and bike or walk instead. "We had a gal up in Hibbing who said, 'Well, I'd like to do that but I live 30 miles away,' and I said what if you drove 15 miles and then biked the last 15 on the Mesabi Trail and she started doing that a couple days a week.," Andrews said. And that brings us to a central point raised by Bike Walk Week. Besides tips for combating perspiration and selecting the right apparel the annual event brings up the question of deciding where we live.
Carol Andrews says she and her husband selected a place to live that allows them to walk or bike to their jobs.
Same for Mary Hansel Parlin in Winona. "I think one of things that our family decided when we bought a house is where is everything and could we possibly bike or walk there," she said.

One of the most far reaching questions posed by Bike Walk Week is: What would America look like, how would cities and suburbs change, if more people made similar choices?

NPR News:
by Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio
June 9, 2010

Romantic Graffiti

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Road Rash

"I believe people powered transportation can contribute to vibrant communities. Bicycles aren't just for kids and hippies. I'm a girl that likes good food, interesting people, and pretty dresses. I ride a bike.

So here I am, up in Canada. Trying to change the way people (women in particular) think about transportation. One bike; train; bus ride; carpool at a time.

These are the stories from the life of a girl who loves to bike."
I have included this introduction to Miss Sarah's blog because in there you will find a rather interesting paper titled: Road Rash.  I find it interesting because it summarizes quite well what I am trying to accomplish with this blog myself.
I will even give you the address so you can go and look at it and come back and tell me pros and cons and what else you think. I personally agree with every part of it and wish this town was now to cold and snowy. If you lower 49ers think you have it bad in the winter, think about this: us here in Anchorage are still waiting for the temperature to get up above 30 degrees. Click on girls and bicycles to access the full paper. Enjoy the ride.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Biking Politics

It's nice to see our two presidential candidates here riding their bikes. We know though that this was done more for the picture than because they really bike either for commuting or for sports.
Very few people nowadays don't know how to ride a bike. Even though very few of us really bike only for transportation.  My boss makes a gigantic operation out of biking. I mean, she mounts the bikes on the car, all the gear, water bottle, map, and who know what else as if going on a space expedition.  To begin with, a bicycle is a method of transportation.  That means you shouldn't have to put in inside a car (another method of transportation) to then take it to a second place, dismount the bike from the car, mount the bike, go a few miles, come back, etc.  You get the picture.  Biking should rather be a quite simple activity.  Just get on the darn thing and pedal. 
Perhaps the first mistake I see people making when acquiring a bicycle; when they see the weather changing every year as the summer approaches, is that they get the one bike with the fattest tires and the most gears.  Some how that gives them the impression that the wheels will do the pedaling and that the wider the tire, the faster they'll go.  Granted, fat cross tires will allow you to get into many more places such as grass, dirt, on and off sidewalks, but the thicker the tire, the more drag it creates,  the more vibration and the heavier the bike it will get.

Many people quit bicycling because they start out with the wrong bike. One that is uncomfortable or one that makes them look silly. The one bike that makes them also waste a bunch of money on Lycra, carbon, fleece, shoes, etc - just to look official.

My personal opinion is that as beginners, we should get a bike, new or used, that is comfortable. A bike that is not expensive.  That way, if we don't bike again, if we fall and don't like it anymore, we can just store it in the garage or leave it outside all winter and never lose much money or sleep over how much money we spent on the bicycle that we are no longer using.  It could be a comfortable city bike so that we can just jump on it without having to change clothes or shoes.  Upright/cruiser/beach/city/comfort bikes allow us to do that. They are not designed for performance. Just to go easy around the park and enjoy ourselves.  We shouldn't expect to go fast, nor should we expect them to be light.  That is not the point.   They should be comfortable and easy to use. If we then feel that biking is our thing and we see that we spend more and more time doing it, we can go and spend the money on an upgrade.

The pictures that we have here exemplify exactly that.  These two presidential candidates are clearly not the type of commuter/biker that they pretend to be.  Mitt Romney in a suit and on a road bike to which he was not used to.  It does not even look like he ever rode it on the weekends.  A city commuter would not choose that combination of bike and clothing.  Good for the picture perhaps.
And Obama, riding a bike that's too small for him. His daughter wearing helmet down her neck. 
When you bike periodically, you get to know your gear because almost every time you wear it, you make small adjustments to it until it fits good.  None of these bikers seem to have a clue.

I'd say you don't have to be good at everything.  Stick to the politics and may best one be the winner.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Biking through Disaster

Bowers Beach - DE - Source
Every time we experience disaster or at least during the last 200 years, there is a constant that keeps showing up as a prevailing survivor, and perhaps more as a survivor's companion. A tool to emerge from debris and despair.  It's our two wheel hero, the bicycle.
As you can see in our  May 17, Biking the Way out of Disaster post, the bicycle is the one companion that prevails, that is not dependent on electricity, not restricted by satellite connectivity. The bicycle is blackout proof. Not constrained by fuel shortages and for that matter not affected by any of the other casualties and consequences of a disaster. 
In the aftermath of the Japan Earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown, all the shortages that followed could not stop this metal steed because the bicycle only requires you and your willingness to survive either by escaping or by staying to recover and rebound.

East River, NY - Hurricane Irene
Yet after you have used it and abused it and taken yourself to safety, you can leave your bike outside in the rain, in the wind, in the snow and whenever you decide to come back to it, it sure will be in the same place waiting for you.  What an unconditional friend. Only a dog would do that for you. The problem though is that your dog might need to be rescued also.  It's only fair. The bike however, is made for one thing and that is to take you places without requiring much from you.

Bay Shore NY  - Source -  NY Times

We have seen time and again during Hurricane Katrina, Irene, Sandy, Pedro, Maria, etc.  The one element that survives with the survivors along the damage is the bike. I have selected a few pictures that exemplify precisely that.   Having said that, I will also say that not always is a good idea to face nature with simply a bike.  Hurricane Sandy and most tropical storms will bring torrencial rains with high velocity winds.  Remember that a bicycle, as heroic as I might make it seem, only has the lineal support of two wheels.  As opossed to a car, which stands on a four-point support plus it has an iron cabin. Of course cars seem to be the first victims  of hurricanes.  If all else fails... RUUUUUNNNN!!!

Crawford, NJ - Source -
   Thanks to: The New York Times
                 Keith Bedford - Reuters
                 Karl Merton

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cycling While Pregnant

Since my wife is now pregnant I have stated to wonder if she could still bike with and what would be the potential risks, so here are the results of my modest research.

Bike riding can help maintain your well-being during pregnancy. Is it safe to ride a bike with a baby in your belly? Cycling education guru and mother Nicola Dunnicliff-Wells investigates. It's widely accepted that regular physical activity is highly beneficial for mums-to-be.
According to Active & pregnant, a guide produced by VICFIT and the Royal Women's Hospital, a sensible pattern of exercise can help maintain wellbeing during the pregnancy, help prepare the body for labour and help in recovery from the birth. Glenys Janssen, midwife at the Royal Women's Hospital Childbirth Education and Training Department, encourages exercise, citing multiple benefits. "It also helps you feel good about yourself, and it might help control weight." The rate of diabetes in pregnancy is increasing dramatically, she says, largely because more women are overweight."You're much less likely to get diabetes, and you're more able to control it if you're exercising regularly."
Glenys says that while some people worry that exercise could cause a miscarriage or damage to the baby, no studies have shown any negative effects of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise in a normal, healthy pregnancy.
"If you have complications, such as a multiple birth, or high blood pressure, you wouldn't do exercise," she says. "Or you would only to do it in consultation with a doctor and physiotherapist."
For women with normal pregnancies, moderate-intensity is key. Fiona Cooper, health educator and former midwife recommends cycling to help women build up their endurance for labour, but cautions against riding too strenuously. Staying cool and maintaining the body's water balance is important. "It's the same as the SunSmart message - take a water bottle and ride at times where you're not out in the heat," Fiona says.
Glenys Janssen says that nausea can be quite debilitating. "If you're feeling tired or you don't feel like exercising on a particular day, give it a rest. It's very physically demanding being pregnant."

The Active & pregnant guide stresses that every pregnancy is different: "The pattern of exercise which works well for someone you know may not be the right one for you. Choose exercise to suit your own level of fitness [and] your lifestyle. If you decide not to exercise, this is a perfectly reasonable decision. Give yourself permission to slow down or not to exercise at any time."

Precautions during pregnancy
  • Avoid getting too hot 
  • Drink more water than usual 
  • Don't push yourself (pulse shouldn't exceed 140 bpm) 
  • Don't get fatigued 
  • Avoid falls 
  • Don't exercise if you feel ill 
  • Stop if you get dizzy, pain, headaches or short of breath. 
After the birth of her son Lucas, Kathy Brunning decided she wanted to be fitter. "I wasn't particularly fit the first time around, and I wanted to get myself really fit for baby number two." When Lucas was two, she took on the challenge of riding Around the Bay in a Day.  Some time afterwards, she became pregnant with Callum. This time, she says, she felt much fitter and kept riding until the last few weeks of the pregnancy. Riding felt good, and helped to relieve the queasiness in her tummy and, later in the pregnancy, helped her aching legs.  Kathy Brunning also believes her recovery was much quicker because she was fitter. "I was also smaller [the second time] because I didn't put on excess weight."

Deb Chambers rode competitively before she became pregnant, typically riding 400km a week. During pregnancy she eased back on the intensity. "I used a heart rate monitor to make sure I didn't go above 140 beats per minute. "I stopped going up hills, or I just took it slowly."  At six months, Deb rode shorter distances, and raised the handlebars to ride in a more upright position. "At the end it was easier to ride than walk, because the bike supports your weight," she says. "But the best thing was I think it really helped my labour and recovery."
Not everyone has such an easy time. Megan McDonald, who was very active before pregnancy, had bad nausea. "I rode to work for the first few weeks, but when the nausea started, I'd be doubled over dry retching in the sink when I arrived. I don't know if riding actually made it worse, but it was one more thing to worry about, so I stopped." Megan believes it's important not to have big expectations. "You might plan to keep riding right through pregnancy," she says, "but things don't always go to plan. You have to listen to your body and do what's right for you."