The National Park Service has released its Preliminary Preferred Alternative for the National Mall available and opened it for comments. It’s a pretty solid plan, featuring calls for increased bicycle facilities (in theory, the Mall should be a great venue for recreational biking that also services some cross-town practical transportation needs; in practice it’s sort of neither) some smarter parking policies, and better pedestrian access between the Tidal Basin and the Washington Monument.
Stories tagged with “Bicycles”
By Matthew Yglesias
The weather’s pretty soggy in Barcelona this week, but it still looks to be a pretty solid bicycling town. One feature that I wish more American cities has is bike lanes that are actually separated from the flow of traffic so that they can be used for bicycling rather than as double-parking lanes:
They also have a bike sharing service called “Bicing” that appears to use identical infrastructure to our smaller SmartBike DC program in Washington:
It occurs to me every time I see a bike share service in another city that it would do a lot to extend the utility of these things if there were some kind of reciprocity agreement in place between different bike sharing cities. I’m a SmartBikeDC member, but I rarely use it because like most people inclined to get around town on a bike I own a bike and usually ride that. It’s when I’m not in DC that I really want to use a bike share.
Allan wants to know about “bike commuting in winter.”
This is my first winter as a bike commuter. I’d heard bad things about it but I haven’t found it to be a huge problem. The key breakthrough was when I figured out how to make my helmet big enough to wear my hat under it. That and remembering to wear gloves. Normally, I don’t wear gloves outside unless it really gets quite cold — it’s convenient enough to stick ‘em in your coat pockets if they get a little chilly, and keeping the gloves off leaves your hand free to fiddle with your iPod or whatever. But you can’t put your hands in your pocket on a bike, and you don’t need to manipulate any small objects with your fingers — what you need are some gloves to shield your fingers from the wind.
Beyond that, in all things related to bike commuting we need to look to our friends in Europe. The top bike commuting city is Copenhagen, not San Diego. If people can bike to work in Denmark’s winter (I even saw plenty of people biking around Helsinki in December) then it can be done wherever you might be in the USA as well. Unfortunately, American mindspace about bicyling tends to be dominated by the insidious recreational bikers, who’ve gotten it into people’s heads that even on a lovely day for a bike ride the act of pedaling requires intricate performance gear including funny biking outfits. But bike commuting is a whole different ballgame — you’re just trying to get to work, so you should wear what you would wear. If it’s cold, wear a sweater and a scarf under your coat. If you need to give a presentation, bike in a suit and fancy shoes. You’re not going to set world records in a bundled-up-for-winter outfit, but the point is just to get to work. See, e.g., the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog.
But it all starts with a hat and gloves even in weather that you wouldn’t ordinarily consider nippy enough for ‘em.
All decent residents of Washington, DC will be joining me in supporting Jim Graham’s Bicycle Safety Enhancement Act of 2008. Click here to send some email to your City Council representative. The council doesn’t get all that much contact from constituents outside a relatively narrow group of usual suspects, so this sort of thing can make a big difference.
Denmark is known for its good design, and Copenhagen is one of the world’s great bike commuting cities. At the same time, bike helmets are known for making you look idiotic. So what the world needs is some clever Danish designer to come up with some bike helmets that don’t suck. And here comes Yakkay to the rescue.
Thus far, they don’t seem to have any available in the US. Which is too bad. Also all these helmets seem to be for women. But still, progress!
Reader V.S. recommends this brief article contrasting the bike-commuting experience in the Netherlands from the much-inferior one here in the United States. I’m largely in agreement with the sentiments expressed therein, though I do think things are changing in many American jurisdictions. I will note, however, that geography is a real factor here — Amsterdam is a lot flatter than Washington, DC which makes it a more appealing cycling venue.
I swerved out of the way of a wayward pedestrian yesterday biking from the office to the gym, and wound up in a nasty pothole. Tire’s now busted and in need of fixing, so I’m going to suspend political commentary (well, okay, I might take a meeting with Lady Lynn de Rothschild, scourge of elitism) until I can fix the crisis.
Apparently Mary Peters thinks it isn’t. And she’s Secretary of Transportation, so her opinion counts for a lot. Thus, her department’s plans for improving transportation in the United States includes a proposal to cut funding for bike trails in order to free up money to be spent on good old fashioned highways.
Now clearly it’s true that a lot of people bike for recreational purposes. That said, I got to work today by . . . riding my bike. And I got to work Friday by . . . riding my bike. Indeed, I commute to work on my bike most every day. And to buy groceries. I use it, in other words, to transport myself from place to place. That sounds a lot like transportation to me. And encouraging people, at the margin, to substitute cycling for some of their driving trips would be good for the environment and good for public health. So I don’t see a really compelling case for shifting funding further in the direction of highways.
Streetfilms came to DC and made a short film about the new SmartBike DC program:
I think this is very promising; I signed up last week and am waiting for my card in the mail. Transportation policy is full of interesting network effects. The existing SmartBike DC system is somewhat useful, especially for me because it happens to be the case that one depot is extremely close to my office and another depot is three blocks from my house. It would be even more useful to me, of course, if there were a depot at the Waterfront-SEU Metro station right by my girlfriend’s house. And of course it would be much more useful to her if there were one by her house. And if the currently existing program gets a lot of subscribers, they’ll probably expand and create new depots — which will both make it reasonable for more people to sign up and add value to the subscriptions of existing members.
Similarly, if other cities also started SmartBikes programs and it was possible for subscribers to use SmartBikes in other places they visited (I really wished I’d had a bike when I was in Austin), that’d be even more useful. And of course that would provide a way for tourists in DC to take advantage of SmartBike DC. And if tourists could use SmartBike DC then the system would support more bikes and depots which would make it more useful for residents. And on top of all that, all the evidence (and common sense) indicates that urban cycling is safer and more pleasant in cities where more people ride bikes. In other words, something that starts off as a marginal phenomenon now can, if it manages to get off the ground, wind up feeding a substantial snowball effect.