Monthly Archives: May 2011

‘If you build it, they will come’


Transportation planners who are considering a bike-sharing program for Fort Worth, my hometown, can draw some encouragement from Washington, D.C.
Since the nation’s capital introduced Capital BikeShare on Sept. 20, the program “has become so popular, it may become a victim of its own success,” National Public Radio reported Monday.

A Capital BikeShare docking station

Jacob Fenston, who prepared the story for the program “Morning Edition,” reported: “The system now has 12,000 members. Many of them weren’t biking at all before.”
And therein lies a problem: “The main complaint people have about the BikeShare system is that so many people are using it, it can be impossible to find a bike, especially at rush hour,” Fenston said.
Capital BikeShare is the largest bicycle-sharing program in the United States with about 1,100 bikes at 114 stations around the the District of Columbia and Arlington, Va. It has 12,000 members who pay an annual fee of $75 and records 4,000-6,000 trips per day in the prime riding season.
A user can check out a bike at any of the stations and return it to another. The first 30 minutes of each trip are free. Each additional 30 minutes incurs a fee.
During its first eight months of operation, Capital BikeShare has exceeded expectations for its first year.
Besides the shortage of bikes at peak periods, another glitch in the Capital BikeShare system is “dockblocking,” which occurs when too many users show up at the same station and all the bike “docks” are filled.
Washington is one of about 10 U.S. cities that already have bike-sharing programs, among them Denver and San Antonio. “Now Boston is planning to launch this summer,” NPR said. “San Francisco has a regional system in the works. And New York City is looking to roll out some 10,000 shared bikes early next year.”

A bike-sharing station set up as a demonstration near Fort Worth's City Hall. Photo by Kevin Buchanan

In Fort Worth, a bike-sharing system would be run by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, or the T.
“Officials at the T recently met with a manufacturer, who explained how bike-sharing programs work in other cities.” the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on May 18.
“Generally, a city of Fort Worth’s size would need $500,000 to $800,000 to start a program, including the cost of buying approximately 200 three-speed bikes and a few dozen bike racks that could be placed around the city.”
The bike-sharing idea is still in the early stages, and the T would likely need grant funds to pay the initial costs, the Star-Telegram quoted T spokeswoman Joan Hunter as saying.
The T’s long-term strategic plan adopted last year called for starting a bike-sharing program within five years, but if there is enough interest the program could be up and running in about a year, she said.
If Washington is any indication — in the words of a catchphrase from the 1989 film Field of Dreams — “If you build it, they will come.”

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One lucky fool!


London has done a fine job, under Mayor Boris Johnson, of creating a network of bike lanes, increasing the number of bicycle commuters and making the British metropolis much safer for cyclists.
But there’s no fix for stupidity.
Watch the video below of an impatient cyclist, intent on improving the gene pool, as he gets caught behind a double-decker bus, veers out of the bike/bus lane, races ahead around a line of cars and tries to duck back into the bike/bus lane.
He gets sandwiched between the bus and a pickup truck.
“That was really stupid,” says a voice in the video, presumably the videographer.
But the cyclist lived to ride another day. He’s one lucky fool!
The video, by the way, was shot with a goPro HD Hero cam! “This was the first thing I filmed with it!,” says the guy who shot the footage.

Hipster Trash Compactor – East London from jssjmsvckry on Vimeo.

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Doubts about Lance, even in Austin


Here’s an update to the item about Lance Armstrong posted earlier today: Folks in Armstrong’s hometown, Austin, Texas, are beginning to doubt his adamant insistence that he never doped during his stellar bicycle racing career, according to a report by NPR.

AP photo by Thao Nguyen

The NPR story by John Burnett quoted Kirk Bohls, a sports columnist for the Austin American-Statesman, as saying that the latest allegations by teammates that the legendary cyclist used performance-enhancing drugs may have pushed local opinions to a tipping point.
“Most of the email and response I’ve received has been very negative toward Lance Armstrong,” Bohls said, “and I wonder if some of the tide may have turned against him.”
And there’s this about Austin’s favorite son from Steve Godfrey, a 39-year-old cyclist from Louisiana, who stopped to chat with Burnett:
“I would just say it’s a difficult situation; he’s become such an iconic hero to so many people. It’s almost like a 21st century Shakespearean tragedy maybe in a way.”
Burnett’s story, headlined “Et Tu, Austin? Locals Start To Doubt Lance Armstrong,” was prepared for NPR’s “All Things Considered” program for broadcast Friday afternoon.

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RadioShack’s Armstrong dilemma


The latest allegations by former teammates that Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs pose a marketing dilemma for RadioShack, the Fort Worth-based corporation that sponsors the bicycle racing team that Armstrong represents, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Friday.
The company has sponsored Team RadioShack since July 2009. Armstrong raced for the team in last year’s Tour de France, finishing third, and in other races before he announced on Feb. 16 that he is retiring from professional racing. Most recently, Armstrong has appeared in RadioShack television ads as the company’s “chief mobility officer.”
Armstrong’s career is one of the most remarkable in sports. In 1996, he nearly died of testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs. He survived, made a comeback and went on win the Tour de France a record seven times, from 1999 to 2005.
But the doping allegations in connection with a federal investigation of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional cycling have cast a shadow over the Texas cyclist’s illustrious career and his celebrity endorsements.
“Clearly, the situation puts RadioShack and new CEO Jim Gooch, who took over last week, in a tough spot,” wrote Star-Telegram business reporter Barry Shlachter.
Shlachter’s story quoted Rick French, CEO of French West Vaughan, a public relations firm based in Raleigh, N.C., on RadioShack’s situation:
“If they jump ship too early and he is later proven to be innocent, they will have a PR problem. If they stay with him and he is proven to be guilty, they look like the ostrich with their heads in the sand and also face a PR problem.”
French’s advice? “Begin to de-emphasize him without cutting ties until more information is available.”
That’s what RadioShack might be doing, Shlachter reported.
“RadioShack has made no public statement of support, but spokesman Eric Bruner confirmed that it had an ‘ongoing’ relationship with Armstrong,” the newspaper said. “Bruner declined to provide details other than to say the cyclist is not in the current mix of commercials.”

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Forever young: II


I wrote on Tuesday, Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday, that one of the aims of bicycling is to “stay forever young” — in the words of one of my favorite Dylan songs.
Here’s a nice video vignette on Lucette Gilbert of New York City who has been living that lyric since she began cycling as a 7-year-old girl in France.

Lucette Gilbert

Now in her “very late 70s,” Gilbert has been a cyclist for about seven decades.
A New York transit strike in 1980 prompted her to become a bicycle commuter, and she still rides just about everywhere she needs to go, including a daily trip to work from the Upper East Side to Union Square.
Gilbert scoffs at any suggestion that she might be too old to bicycle.
“People say, ‘Oh you’re still biking,’ which I find offensive,” she says. “When I can’t bike anymore, my body will tell me. But my body keeps telling me, ‘Go for it!'”
I liked the headline on one online item about Gilbert: “If this little old lady can ride her bike to work, what’s your excuse?”
But Gilbert will have to ride for many more years to match Octavio Orduño of Long Beach, Calif. Orduño, who turned 103 on March 14, uses his trike nearly every day to ride to the park, the beach and the farmer’s market, a ritual practiced for nearly 40 years.
His 81-year-old wife, Alicia, made him switch to a three-wheeler after he turned 100.

My NYC Biking Story: Lucette Gilbert from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

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Wanting to believe


Jennifer Floyd Engel

Jennifer Floyd Engel, a sports columnist for my hometown paper and former employer, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, did a nice job today in expressing the conflicting emotions of those who still want to believe that Lance Armstrong isn’t a fraud.
The Texas bicyclist who won a record seven Tour de France races is now the focus of a U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration investigation of doping in professional cycling, and several former teammates have alleged that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his career.
The latest was Tyler Hamilton who made his allegations during a Sunday broadcast of 60 Minutes on CBS.
The network said former teammate George Hincapie provided similar testimony to the feds.
“I believed in Lance Armstrong,” Jennifer wrote.

Tyler Hamilton on CBS

“And typing that d feels treacherous, so much so I rolled my finger on my backspace key again and again in indecision because to add the d is to make believe past tense and I still want to believe Armstrong.
“What Armstrong accomplished was not simply about amazing athletic achievement, which winning seven Tour de France titles certainly qualifies as. What he did was make crazy hope cool. The yellow jersey provided inspiration for everybody fighting cancer and everybody who may one day lock horns with this insidious disease. This was proof that doctors are not always right, that not everybody they say is going to die does and those who do win can come back stronger and better.”
I, too, still want to believe. But it has become increasingly difficult. Jennifer’s column reflected my own feelings on Armstrong, expressed in a blog post on Feb. 16, the day he announced his retirement from professional bicycle racing.
“Is he one of the most remarkable athletes who ever lived — one who first defeated testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs and then went on to ‘own’ perhaps the world’s most grueling sporting event for seven straight years?” I asked then. “Or is he a fraud whose extraordinary powers were enhanced by some substance injected by a needle? Say it ain’t so, Lance!

Lance Armstrong. Photo by Business Wire

“Armstrong’s comeback from a devastating disease to achieve dominance in one of the world’s toughest athletic endeavors is a story that has transcended sports and tugged at the emotions of us all,” I wrote. “It would be very sad, indeed, if one day he emerges from a Los Angeles courthouse after being indicted and is confronted by a youthful admirer who says: ‘Say it ain’t so, Lance.'”
Jennifer also wrote that she’s not yet ready to say that she has given up her belief in Armstrong.
“Although I have a bad feeling Hincapie or the grand jury or somebody else will do that for me soon enough, and I will be the last idiot to finally say out loud what most everybody else has been screaming,” she wrote.
“Until then, though, I want to believe Armstrong because I want to believe not everybody they say is going to die does and a few even come back to Livestrong.”

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Forever young


The video below has nothing to with bicycling.
But, hey, today
is the 70th birthday of Bob Dylan, the bard, balladeer and backbeat for my generation.
“Forever Young” has long been one of my favorite Dylan songs.
The lyrics express the hopes I had for my three sons, all born in the decade in which the song was written.
And the song takes on added meaning as one advances in age. One of the aims of bicycling, after all, is to “stay forever young” — or, at least, to fight off creeping decrepitude for as long as possible.
In retirement, the last verse is particularly meaningful:

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

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