Monthly Archives: February 2010

Does the Dallas-Fort Worth rivalry extend to cycling?


“Fort Worth is where the West begins and Dallas is where the East peters out.”
Will Rogers, 1879-1935

That observation from a man with strong Fort Worth ties is illustrative of the intense rivalry between two very different cities whose names are linked by a common airport.
On Tuesday night, the Fort Worth City Council unanimously approved a comprehensive plan aimed at making Cowtown one of the most bike-friendly communities in the country over the next five years. (See Feb. 10 blog post, From Cowtown to BikeTown?)
On Wednesday, a Dallas television station, KDAF-TV/Channel 33, reported on its Web site that “Dallas City Hall is looking for bicycling enthusiasts to help overhaul a 25-year-old city bike plan.”
Actually, that news was a bit old. Dallas’ new bike coordinator, Max Kalhammer, put out the word on Feb. 1 — as reported on the Dallas Observer‘s Web site — that he “is looking for folks to help the city rewrite the outdated Dallas Bike Plan, which hasn’t been touched since 1985, more or less.”

Sign for an annual bike ride in April

“The city’s forming a Bicycle Advisory Committee for which it needs 15 members, of course, who will be appointed by council members and the mayor,” the Dallas Observer reported. “Confabs start April 7, tentatively, with members expected to meet once a month for up to three hours till this sucker’s hashed out, which oughta take … oh, a year, maybe.”
Theresa O’Donnell, director of Dallas’ Sustainable Development and Construction Department, was quoted as saying: “This committee’s main function will be to give timely input and feedback on the major draft components of the Plan, and a thorough and constructive review of the overall draft Plan.”
Anyone who’s interested can go to the city’s Web site and download an application.
So does the rivalry between Fort Worth and Dallas extend to improving conditions for cyclists? One can only hope.

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From Cowtown to BikeTown?


“The city needs a car like a fish needs a bicycle.”
Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway

It has some way to go before it’s a Portland, Boulder or even an Austin, but Fort Worth turned a big crank of the pedals Tuesday night toward its goal of becoming one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in America by 2015.
In a chamber packed with cyclists, many of whom rode their bikes to City Hall on a frigid evening, the Fort Worth City Council unanimously approved the city’s “comprehensive bicycle transportation plan,” which aims to increase the number of bicycle trails, on-street lanes and signed bike routes from about 100 miles to nearly 1,000 miles.

Cyclists demonstrate their support for Fort Worth's comprehensive bike plan in the City Council chamber. Photo by Kevin Buchanan

The plan also proposes to triple the number of bike commuters and “attain official designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community through the League of American Cyclists” within the next five years.
The city estimates that only about 0.2 percent of Fort Worth’s 720,000 residents currently ride their bikes to work. That’s a figure in the hundreds, rather than thousands.
By comparison, in Austin, the state’s most active bike-commuting city, about 1 percent of the population commutes to work by bicycle. Home of Lance Armstrong and the main campus of the University of Texas, Austin is the only Texas city designated as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Cyclists.
Bernie Scheffler, Fort Worth cyclist, bike shop owner and activist, and Brad Blessing, architect and cycling advocate, were featured in a report on the City Council action by the local CBS station, KTVT-TV/Channel 11. (To see the video report, go to KTVT-TV’s video library and search for “Fort Worth cyclists.”) Scheffler and Blessing recently founded the group Bike Friendly Fort Worth, which helped organize the ride to City Hall.
Local clubs, such as the Fort Worth Bicycling Association and LMRA Bicycle Club, also took part in the ride. Kyle Carr of the LMRA designed the yellow T-shirts, declaring “I Support BIKE Fort Worth,” that were worn by cyclists in the council chamber.
The Web site FortWorthology, dedicated to such concepts as “smart growth,” “transit,” “bicycles” and “sustainability,” carried a report on the City Council vote and the cyclists who rode to City Hall to demonstrate support for the plan, called “Bike Fort Worth.”
Bike Fort Worth calls for the expansion of the bike transportation network to nearly 1,000 miles, with 224.7 miles of off-street trails, the conversion of the 1.4 miles of bus lanes downtown into bus & bike lanes, 218.3 miles of on-street sharrow [shared roadway] bike routes, and an incredible 480.3 miles of dedicated on-street bike lanes, with lanes to the city limits and dense webs in the urban core,” wrote Kevin Buchanan of FortWorthology.
“The plan even spells out the need for very progressive infrastructure where needed, including Bicycle Boulevards in residential neighborhoods, bike boxes, bike-only traffic signals (and signal recalibration for bike routes), contra-flow bike lanes for one-way streets, physically separated on-street cycle tracks, and more.”

A bike box in Portland, Ore.

The Huffington Post carried an item on Feb. 4 on how some cities around the world “have come up with creative and unique ways of trying to make biking a safer, more pleasant experience.” The post featured a nice selection photos of bike lanes in such cities as Munich, New York and Tokyo.
The estimated capital cost of the Bike Fort Worth plan over the next two to three decades is about $160 million. Some who are wedded to gasoline-powered vehicles might rather see this money spent on improving roads for motorists. But there could be an economic impact from making Fort Worth more bike-friendly that would benefit the city overall.
A new study by the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison says that bicycling generates more than a $1.5 billion annual economic impact in Wisconsin, exceeding the impact of even the deer hunting industry.

Arlie Robinson

To increase the economic impact of cycling, the Nelson Institute made these recommendations: accelerate investment and development of bicycle routes, lanes and paths throughout the state for safety and convenience; encourage people to replace short automobile trips with bicycling trips; and develop a culture of bicycling for recreation and transportation, especially among the younger generation.”
That sounds a lot like what Fort Worth is doing.
(See two previous blog posts on this topic: “Making Cowtown more bike-friendly,” May 15, and “Arlie Robinson: Pioneer bike commuter,” Aug. 17.)

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Best airports to crash in


Having spent last New Year’s Eve at London’s Heathrow Airport, fitfully dozing in a chair as Big Ben chimed in 2010, I was quick to explore a Web site that I tumbled onto the other day.

A traveler snoozes at Madrid's Barajas Airport

Called “The guide to sleeping in airports,” the site was the subject of a Jan. 25 story in the The Sydney Morning Herald with the jarring headline: “Best airports to crash in.”
The Web site, started in 1996, is the creation of Canadian Donna McSherry. She was quoted by the Aussie paper as saying that the site is “aimed at people who have to sleep in an airport because they are stranded or have an early flight and don’t want to pay for a bed.”
Airports in the wee hours are as dreary as shopping malls on a weekday morning, especially when nearly everyone else is celebrating the new year. But because of a very early flight on New Year’s Day, it made sense for my wife and me to spend New Year’s Eve at Heathrow’s Terminal 4. Very few travelers were about at that hour, and we were able to find a Delta lounge with some couches and armchairs, our dozing interrupted only by a cleaning crew and a couple of courteous police officers.
But overnight stays at other airports, according to McSherry’s Web site, can be far less pleasant.
“Charles De Gaulle in Paris was voted the worst airport, receiving savage reviews,” said the story in The Sydney Morning Herald. “The most common complaint was about rude, arrogant staff. One reviewer complained that the cleaning staff drove their electronic floor sweeper straight at him. Moscow’s Sheremetyevo was voted second worst — dirty and chaotic — while New York’s JFK was third worst.
“Singapore’s Changi got the nod for the best airport last year, as it has for the past 13 years,” the story said. “Budget travelers like the snooze chairs and the 24-hour massage stations. South Korea’s Incheon and Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok came second and third.”
The ratings, said to be based on more than 65,000 reviews, seem to have an air of subjectivity. One traveler may have a pleasant overnight experience at a given airport. For another, such a stay may be a nightmare.
Of Singapore’s Changi International Airport, for example, one traveler wrote that he’d spend the night at the airport even if he had the cash to spring for a hotel in Singapore. But another wrote that all the airport’s chaise longues were occupied by airport staff “who were sleeping either on or off-duty.” And yet another “got nudged with the tip of a machine gun in mid sleep and had to show my passport. ”

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To protect the junk and the hoo ha


When the “junk” and the “hoo ha” need protection, there’s an app for that.
Two felicitously named ointments,
DZnuts and Hoo Ha Ride Glide, are intended to be applied to a bicyclist’s nether regions to prevent chafing and saddle sores.
They were called to my attention by Kami Kitchen, a fellow rider in our cross-country bicycle trip last fall, after she read my Jan. 31 post, “Soothing the sores.”

Kami

She wrote in a comment to the post that she and Cathy Blondeau, a fellow rider mentioned in the Jan. 31 post, found Hoo Ha Ride Glide for sale during our journey through East Texas.
“Cathy and I giggled and were tempted to purchase this brand when we were in a cycle shop in Beaumont, Texas, but since we already had a stockpile of gender-neutral lube we changed our minds,” Kami wrote. “But, it is on the list for the next ride. I can almost hear Al Pacino saying, ‘Hoo ha!’ from Scent of a Woman.”
Hoo Ha Ride Glide is marketed as the only anti-chafing skin and chamois cream “for women by women.” A Web page touting its appeal to women says: “The smell is very refreshing with hints of lavender, tea tree and peppermint that also provide added protection against unwanted infections.”
A Web site for DZnuts, whose slogan is “protect your junk,” says it was designed for American professional cyclist Dave Zabriskie “by a pharmaceutical scientist to reduce and relieve chafing, irritation, and protect fragile perineal skin from bacterial and fungal infections.”
It sounds like DZnuts is intended only for male cyclists. But Kami steered me to a woman’s blog, “Lovely Bicycle,” which suggests otherwise:
“One discovery I have made in my attempts to battle roadbike discomforts is a product called DZnuts,” the blogger wrote.
“This is a chamois cream that promises to ‘protect your junk’ from chafing, irritation and infections that can occur during long distance cycling on a roadbike. This stuff is sold in most bike shops, branded as a men’s product. So I present it here surrounded by lavender and a cup of herbal tea to indicate that it also works for ladies.”

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When you need a little boost


I’ve often felt the need of a boost as I’ve huffed and puffed up a steep hill on my bike, especially when hauling 50 pounds of gear on a self-contained tour.
“Hey, old man!” says a little voice in the head. “There’s an easier way to do this and still enjoy traveling on two wheels in the open air.”
A Harley? A Vespa? An electric bike?
An electric bike? Hmmm. Probably not.
For cyclists who ride for aerobic exercise or relish the challenge of tackling a formidable mountain pass or traveling a long distance under their own power — like a ride across the United States — a battery-powered bike may not have much appeal.
But for those who view a bicycle as simply an alternative means of transportation — for shopping, errands, short commutes — an electric bike might be ideal.
The New York Times carried a story on Monday about the growing popularity of battery-powered bikes. An esimated 120 million are already on the road in China and they’re catching on in India, Europe and the United States.
“From virtually nothing a decade ago, electric bikes have become an $11 billion global industry,” the Times reported.

Trek Valencia+

So far, U.S. sales have been relatively modest, with an estimated 200,000 electric bikes sold last year, the Times said. But “Best Buy began selling electric bicycles in June at 19 stores in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore.” And Trek, a Wisconsin-based U.S. bicycle manufacturer recently began selling an “electric-assist” bike designed by Gary Fisher called the Valencia+.
“If you think you can’t commute by bike, Trek Ride+ electric assist changes the game,” says Trek’s Web site. “Suddenly pulling a trailer or carrying heavier loads becomes doable. A sweat-free commute becomes a reality. And going up hills is as fun as going down.”

The Copenhagen wheel

An alternative to an electric bike is the “Copenhagen wheel,” developed by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and unveiled Dec. 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
The New York Times said in a story on the eve of the unveiling that the device is “a wheel that captures the kinetic energy released when a rider brakes and saves it for when the rider needs a boost.” And the beauty of the Copenhagen wheel is that it can be retrofitted to conventional bikes.
Check out a video on the Copenhagen wheel.

The Times quoted Christine Outram, the project’s lead researcher, as saying that the aim of the Copenhagen wheel is to eliminate the clunkiness of other electric bikes with heavy batteries and unwieldy wires by putting all the technology into the wheel.
I haven’t seen or tried a bike with a Copenhagen wheel. But I’ve test-ridden an electric bike, owned by a friend. It was indeed a cheap thrill to zip through the neighborhood without any effort on my part.
I’m not yet ready to switch, but it seems clear that electric bikes might appeal to many people of my vintage who might want the pleasure of cycling without the pain.

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Filed under Cool stuff, Cycling across America, Journeys, Urban cycling