Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Are you a cycloterrorist?

I spent the last weekend in NYC (Manhattan) and, man, this is the city of bikers. They are everywhere! The most striking however, was the number of electric bicycles I have seen. Which is interesting, given the fact that they are... illegal.
 Electric delivery bike in NYC (Source: WSJ, photo by Michael Nagle)

Apparently, these vehicles used mainly by restaurant delivery men, are too fast and too... quiet (i.e. too stealthy) causing too much disruption in city traffic. NYC pretty much banned them considering their riders "cycloterrorists".

Then I read another opinion on how cyclists like to execute their rights on the road with no regard to other vehicles (i.e. cars). They ride two abreast on narrow roads preventing cars from passing them, they take too much space on the road (i.e. ride too far away from the curb) or they try to stay on the road at all cost in a heavy morning traffic while right next to them is a perfectly safe, wide sidewalk. It looks like those type of cyclists are being called "cycloterrorists" now as they disturb traffic flow. From drivers' perspective they are just a slow-moving obstacle, like an excavator (With the difference that no driver would ever want to crash into an excavator, while some of them would happily hit a cyclist). From bikers' point of view, they just do what the law requires and allows them to do.

I guess a little courtesy on both sides would be welcomed.

I do not think about myself as a cycloterrorist. I usually stay more to the right (Maybe I am not brave enough), I let cars pass by me, I stop on all red lights and I don't trample pedestrians on sidewalks. But what about you? Are you a cycloterrorist?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bike paths around the world

 WIN! in New York

 WIN! in Montreal

 WIN! in Barcelona

 WIN! in Bogota

WIN! in Bordeaux

WIN! in Paris

WIN! (somewhere in Europe)

 FAIL! in Ljubljana

 FAIL! in... Amsterdam (?)
FAIL! (somewhere in Bulgaria)

FAIL! (somewhere in Bulgaria)

FAIL! (somewhere in Bulgaria)

 FAIL! (somewhere in Bulgaria)

FAIL! (somewhere in Poland)

FAIL! (somewhere in Europe)

All these pictures are not mine. I found them everywhere on the net for your entertainment.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tell me why you don't like Mondays?

I had an amazing commute this morning - so quick, so easy, so light. All that despite the heat of over 31C (88F) that we are suppose to get later today. Yes, it was getting hot, but the morning breeze kept me cool and I could tell that the car traffic was much lighter (Could this be because of today's Boston Marathon?).
I knew that somehow my ride was faster than normal since in places where I usually crawl in the 2nd gear of my Nexus hub, today I was in the 3rd. Now I keep wondering how was that possible. Could this be the warm weather and the feel of summer that gave me an energy boost? Or was it just the reverse case of Mondays. Usually, people hate Mondays since it means that the weekend is over and it's time to go back to work. For me, it's quite different. Since I rarely find time to ride my bike on weekends, Monday morning is the time I can hop on a bike with freshly charged "batteries" - my restored energy reserves. I probably wouldn't feel that way if I had to sit in the morning traffic. One more positive thing about cycling, I guess.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Honest e-cards

Ever heard of Well, this one seems to be perfectly appropriate:
But since you may noticed that I usually try to balance my opinion, I don't want motorists to think that I don't share their pain at the pump:

Friday, April 6, 2012


Unpleasant surprise was waiting for me yesterday on my way back from work. Apparently, there is some work going on now on the Minuteman Bikeway in Lexington. Part of the trail is closed for bike traffic, which essentially forces bikers to ride on always-busy Massachusetts Ave instead. Since I didn't feel like merging with car traffic again, I have to admit I decided to further "investigate" this problem and ignore the warning. I wasn't alone. Most bikers didn't seem to care and were riding this way as usual (as you can tell from the picture below):
It turned out that two spots on the trial had a new asphalt in place and it looked like perhaps some pipes running across the path were replaced. Fortunately, the part of the Bikeway in Arlington was free of any obstacles and I could get home quickly.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rule #7 - You will have your bike inspected

Bike service (What is he doing, BTW?) (Source: Shutterstock)

I know you would like to be entertained so here is something that may make you laugh. I already wrote about the most absurd, in my opinion, ideas for cycling laws. They were:
1. Cyclists should pay a "road tax"
2. Mandatory insurance
3. Bicycle license plates
4. Mandatory helmets
5. Move all bikes off the streets
6. Signal all pothole-evasive maneuvers

Today, I would like to add #7 to this list. This invention came recently from the country of my origin. Maciej Mroczek, one of Polish MPs, suggested a law (read in Polish) that would require all bicycles to undergo an annual technical inspection. His reasoning is that since all road vehicles are required to obey this law, bicycles should not be excluded.

I am not sure if he thought about the consequences, should such law become real. Bicycle inspections would require a national bicycle registration system and this is not going to be cheap. In fact, given the price of an average bicycle, registration fees would have to be low and it is unlikely that all cyclists would even bother to register their bicycles (Unless it is strictly enforced, which again, generates more costs). Any income from such fees would be negligible compared to the cost of the system. This absurd law would not make anyone happy except, maybe, bike store owners as they would get more business.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Yepp, this is how we ride

As, I promised earlier, this is the year I am going to put Dr J on a bike. But since he is only about a year old and he obviously can't ride by himself, I had to find him a bike seat.

There were two bike seats that immediately caught my attention, both of them from the same manufacturer - Yepp Mini and Yepp Maxi. The front-mounted Mini seemed like a better choice for a 1-year old over the rear-mounted Maxi. Here is why:

+ Better weight distribution. Rear wheel is not loaded that much and the rear rack is free for groceries (or a diaper bag).
+ Front-mounted seats allow my child to see more, not just my back.
+ I have more control over what my son does.
+ I can better protect my son by embracing him with my arms.
+ I can have a normal conversation with him during the ride.
+ He can't suddenly grab the handlebars and throw my balance off. This applies to Yepp, since it is mounted on the stem. Other front-mounted seats, such as WeeRide Kangaroo, are installed on a crossbar above the top tube, not the stem. This means that the seat does not rotate with the front wheel but it also means that child can grab the handlebars.

There are several drawbacks with front-mounted systems and Yepp Mini:
- Lower weight limit. Yepp Mini maximum load is 15kg (33lbs). Heavier babies have to travel in a rear-mounted seat.
- Can obstruct pedaling. A frequent problem with many front-mounted seats is that they require pedaling with legs spread out more to avoid hitting the seat with rider's knees. This could be really uncomfortable. Fortunately, it is not as bad as I thought it would be due to Mini's narrower profile.
- Yepp was designed in Holland and works well with Dutch bikes. This means it can be installed on quill stems but not on threadless type stems. Not an issue with my Schwinn but if you happen to own a mountain bike you are out of luck.
- As child grows, it may start obscuring your view and make riding uncomfortable.
- Riding uphill is difficult since it is not possible to stand on pedals.
- Requires a straight sitting position. Again, not a problem for me since this is how I sit on my Coffee but for more sporty bikes front-mounted seats may not be suitable at all.

In general, it looks like the front-mounted seats provide more fun and comfort for the child, while rear-mounted ones give it more to the parent.
Couple of days ago we took a few mile long ride to Wilson Farm in Lexington. Dr J loved the ride and apparently the only thing other that the views that was distracting him, was the brass bell on my handlebars. Yepp Mini proved to be a good product and we were both happy with it. 

However, then I started to think that Mini may not be the best choice in the long run. I realized that we will probably use it only this year as the next spring Dr J may be just too tall and heavy to ride in it. This made me replace it with the Maxi.

Maxi is a classic rear-mounted seat. With the weight limit of 22kg (48lbs) it allows transporting children up to 6 years old. This means it will last us longer. I really like how it mounts on the bike. Unlike many similar seats, it doesn't use the rear rack, but a clever frame-mounted bracket. The bracket attaches to the seat tube and gets positioned above the rear rack. When the seat is removed, the bracket stays so much forward that I can still easily use the rack. Installing the seat takes only a few seconds. Simply slide it into the bracket all way in. Removing it is equally easy but (just like in the Mini) requires pushing two separate buttons (a security feature). Both Mini and Maxi come with a key lock to prevent theft.
Yesterday, we decided to test the new seat and we took a family ride to Alewife. Our fridge was quite empty as usual, so our destination was the Whole Foods Market. Again, the seat worked well and as I expected, it is much more comfortable for the parent than the Mini. I didn't even feel that I had my son riding with me. And I could pedal normally without my knees hitting the seat in front of me. Everything went well... up to the last couple of hundred meters/feet from the house. Dr J got tired of all his morning activities and fell asleep. And then I realized the major flaw of most (all?) rear-mounted seats. Kids can't nap in them since they sit too upright and their heads have no support. I guess I would have to find (build?) a napping pad mounted to the seatpost - something similar to those at front-mounted seats. But yesterday I had no choice - I ended up carrying my son in one hand and pushing the heavy-loaded bike in the other.
The only last wish I would have is if I could get the Maxi in orange. But since I got a 20% discount on a black one, I can't complain.