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Monday
Jun302008

Cardboard Cycle, and a Bobby’s Bike Ban


Two stories to emerge from England over the last few days:

Phil Bridge, a 21 year old design student from Manchester, England, has designed the ultimate “Cheap” bike, made of cardboard.

A cycle made from re-cycled material; you can’t get any greener than that. Phil hopes his bike will sell for around fifteen British Pounds. ($30.)

The plan is that the bike will be so cheap, no one will steal it. Don’t count it, have you ever noticed that hotel coat-hangers are made without hooks, because people steal ’em. And if thieves don’t steal it, vandals might set fire to it.

No doubt, the honeycomb construction will ensure a sweet ride. I am wondering, will it come in a box, and will the box cost more than the frame? Here’s an idea, the box could be the frame. Now that’s thinking outside the box.

My apologies Phil for having fun with your project. As long as your business doesn’t fold, you’ll probably end up making a packet and retiring early.

All joking aside, I congratulate Phil Bridge. Whether or not this project turns into a practical application, anytime someone brings the concept of the bicycle to the forefront of the daily news, this is a good thing.

In addition, Phil has captured the media’s attention, and obtained worldwide publicity which, in of itself is a huge achievement.

Read the story in the Telegraph

The second story could be straight out of a British police comedy movie.

It is a news item about a British Bobby banned from riding his bike. The reason, he hasn’t passed the cycling proficiency test; even though Officer Nick Barker (Right.) has ridden a bike without incident since he was a kid.

It gets worse; it appears there are not enough police cars to go round, so Nick must ride the bus to patrol the three hamlets (Very small villages.) of Halstead, Knockholt and Badgers Mount, in Kent, in the South East corner of England.

If Nick happens to be in Knockholt and an incident takes place in Badgers Mount, he is at the mercy of the local bus schedule.

Let’s hope the crime rate is pretty low in this neck of the woods; never-the-less let Nick take his cycling proficiency course, and get him back on his bike pronto, before the local villains get hold of a bus time-table, and have a field day.

This story in the Daily Mail

Friday
Jun272008

Friday Fun: Limericks

I composed some limericks for your amusement, with a cycling flavor of course.

A professional golfer from Spain
Decided cycling would be his new game
He had a good year
'Til he slipped a gear
And dimpled his balls on the frame.

A roadie pedaling hard as he could
Was passed by a "Fred;" that’s not good
Legs, hairy and pale
With a flapping shirt tail
And a dirty sweat shirt with a hood.

Riding my bike, who would guess?
That I would come off second best
Got into a fight
With a girl at a light
Turned out, was a bloke* in a dress.

*bloke = man

This last one tells a story in four verses.

A weight weenie said with a grin
My bike is the lightest it’s been
I’ve got ceramic balls
That weigh nothing at all
Then his bike blew away in the wind.

It sailed ’cross the sky like a kite
Gave airline pilots a fright
Made the six o’clock news
And Larry King too
Spoke of a runaway satellite.

Landed in some Middle East Nation
They asked the US for explanation
But even Dick Cheney
Couldn’t explain the
Mysterious flying sensation.

The CIA probed the mystery
And George Bush had to go on TV
Let this be a lesson
A weight weenie’s obsession
Could’ve started World War III.

Monday
Jun232008

Bike lanes may disappear on Coleman Blvd.


The people of my home town of Charleston, South Carolina, are proud of the new Cooper River Bridge. (Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.) Opened in 2005, it is a beautiful structure, and connects the Charleston Peninsula with Mount Pleasant on the east side.

The new bridge replaced two older bridges (Since demolished.) built in 1929 and 1966. The old bridges were narrow and with no provision for pedestrians or bicycles.

Cyclists on the Charleston side, wishing to ride in the Mount Pleasant area, would have to transport their bikes across by car, and vice-versa. Commuting by bicycle or even walking the four miles across was not an option.

In the initial planning stages, the new bridge was also to be for motorized traffic only. However, local cycling advocacy groups, along with pedestrian and running groups successfully petitioned for a separate bicycle/pedestrian path to be added.

This is a tremendous triumph for these advocacy groups, because since it opened the path is used by hundreds of pedestrians, runners, and cyclists, every weekend.

Walking or riding the bridge is now one of the “must do” things for visitors to Charleston. The only way to really appreciate the view of the harbor and the old city of Charleston, is on foot or by bicycle.

The picture at the top shows the bridge from Charleston Harbor side, looking inland. The pedestrian/bike path can be seen on the near side. There is a cement barrier between the path and the motorized traffic, which is four lanes in either direction.

Recently the City of Charleston, built a bike/pedestrian path on Bay Street, leading onto the bridge path entrance.

On the Mount Pleasant side the path emerges on Coleman Blvd. This is a wide road, with a bike lane, two lanes of traffic each direction, and a center turn lane. Coleman Blvd. is the direct route to the beach communities of Sullivan’s Island, and The Isle of Palms.

Some disturbing news has just come from the City of Mount Pleasant. Together with the South Carolina Department or Transport, they are planning to remove part of the bike lane from Coleman Blvd. and reroute cyclists onto side streets.

The reason; to allow parallel parking of cars on Coleman Blvd. Once again, making provision for automobiles is more important than people. Pushing cyclists off onto side streets will only reinforce the average motorists view, that cyclists don’t belong on Coleman Blvd.

I rode Coleman Blvd. on Sunday, and I fail to see why they need to park cars on this particular road. It is a normal business district that you would see in any American city, and every business has its own ample parking lot.

Local bicycle advocacy groups are asking that they keep the bike lanes along side the parked cars. My personal view is that this is a bad idea. I must emphasize this is my view and not that of any other group.

This would not be a problem but for a certain number of drivers who can’t seem to exit a vehicle without flinging the door open with complete disregard for the passing cyclist in the bike lane.

This negligent action usually results in the death of the cyclist as he is knocked from his bicycle into the adjacent traffic lane and under the wheels of a passing vehicle. Two such deaths have occurred this month in Chicago, and in Moorestown, New Jersey.

The City of Chicago, which is trying very hard to encourage bicycle riding, has taken criticism for bike lanes next to parked cars. On their own city website, they have posted a safety tip urging cyclists to use the outside edge of the bike lane, leaving at least a four feet door zone. (Left.)

The Charleston area has precious few bike lanes as it is, we cannot afford to loose what we have. Mount Pleasant’s plans are a huge step backwards. We have this beautiful bridge with a bike path, encouraging people to ride over to Mount Pleasant. Cyclists need to be accommodated when they get there.

Here is an idea for the city planners. If you must park cars on Coleman Blvd. put a four foot “Door Zone” next to the parked cars. (Clearly marked “Door Zone.”) If necessary make the bike lane only eighteen inches or two feet wide at the point.

I feel this makes more sense than making a five-foot bike lane, then advising cyclists (On some obscure website.) to only use the outside one foot of the lane. Coleman Blvd. is a wide road; if necessary make the traffic lanes narrower and lower the speed limit.

It is my understanding that this whole parking cars issue is because of plans to make Mount Pleasant a new and vibrant town center. Lowering the speed limit and enforcing it, would ensure that motorist do not simply speed through on their way to the beach. And in doing so completely miss your new and vibrant town center.


More on the Coleman Blvd. plans here.


Footnote: In the top picture you can just see the two old bridges behind the new; as mentioned in the article, these have been demolished.

Friday
Jun202008

Why do cyclists shave their legs? The only explanation you will ever need

It’s hotter’n hell, 90 degrees (32 C.) and we are going out for the evening. My wife is wearing long pants.

“Aren’t you going to be hot?” I ask. “Why don’t you wear a dress or shorts?”

“I can’t, I haven’t shaved my legs.”

End of questioning, no further explanation needed.

My lovely wife doesn’t want to be the only one in a roomful of ladies with silky smooth legs, while she is sporting stubble. Even though I would have to get down on my knees with a magnifying glass to find a tiny emerging follicle.

This is exactly the same reason why cyclists shave their legs, No one wants to go out on a group ride and be the only wooly mammoth in the pack.

Even if I am riding alone, I still shave my legs; I never know who I might meet on the road. Shaved legs simply look better on a cyclist. Some call it vanity, frankly I find that an affront to my pride.

I started racing in 1952 and that’s when I started shaving my legs. The European professional riders shaved their legs because they were riding the big stage races like the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.

Stages were long back then, sometimes in excess of 180 miles. (289.6 km.) They needed some serious massage therapy at the end of each day in order to have the leg muscles supple and relaxed ready to go again the next morning. It is neither comfortable for the cyclist or the masseuse to be massaging hairy legs.

The long, smooth legs in the picture at the top belonged to “Il Campionissimo” Fausto Coppi. I was no different from any other cyclist of the 1950s; we all wanted to emulate the great professional riders of that era. So we shaved our legs.

Shaved legs are faster; it is psychological. Like polishing the engine on a hot rod car; you can’t see inside the engine but you polish the outside. The cyclist is the “engine” of his bike; you can’t see the heart or the lungs inside, but by making the legs smooth and clean so you see every vein, sinew, and muscle, it is a definite psychological boost.

Professional cyclists today shave their legs for the same reason as their predecessors, and road cyclists of all levels, from amateur racers to weekend warriors follow suit. End of story, there should be no further explanation needed.

Fellow cyclists understand, but non-cyclists question this practice. We come up with all kinds of creative reasons for shaving our legs. We pretend that it is in case we fall and get road rash.

Sure with hair free legs it is easier to clean and dress wounds, but that is not why we shave our legs. A lady known only to me as “Jan” commented on a recent post. “If you fall and get road rash on your legs, wouldn’t you also scrape up your arms?” Good point, cyclists rarely shave their arms. (That would be weird.)

If someone asks me, “Why do you shave your legs?” I answer simply, “It’s traditional.” That is the only answer I need. No one questions it or doubts my word. After all, if something is traditional, who am I to break with tradition?

Professional racing cyclists have been shaving their legs for at least 100 years, that’s probably longer than ladies have been shaving their legs. So the practice definitely qualifies as a tradition.

Think of it like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain; when someone asks, “Why would you run down the street in front of a herd of stampeding bulls?”

“It’s traditional.”

“Oh well, that explains it. No further explanation needed.”

Or, “Why are you taking that dead pine tree into your house at Christmas.”

“It’s traditional.”

You see how it works; it doesn’t matter how bizarre or irrational the act, just say, “It’s traditional,” and it is immediately accepted.

It is so easy. No more excuses, no more lies about road rash or guilt feelings over vanity. The answer is, “It’s traditional.”

No further explanation is needed.

Wednesday
Jun182008

Helmets: Now you can vote


After the first three comments on my last “Dispelling the Myth” post, I posted my own comment saying I hoped this wasn’t going to turn into yet another helmet discussion.

Then I thought “To hell with it,” deleted my comment, stepped back and let the discussion grow legs and go wherever it wanted.

I am now glad that I did because it turned out to be a highly civilized, intelligent debate. I enjoyed reading all the comments, and I would like to thank all who took the time to post.

I hope no one lost sight of the theme of the original post; the “Myth” is that cycling is dangerous. With or without a helmet, it is not as dangerous as some think it is.

If someone wants to ride a bike for no other reason than a transport to and from work, or wherever he or she needs to go. And they choose to do so in regular clothes and no helmet, they should be encouraged, not discouraged.

In many cases drivers will give such a person more room because they are not sure how experienced they are.

If you look to the right hand side-bar of this page and scroll down a bit, you will see I have added a “Helmet” poll.

I plan to leave it there for a while, the more people participate, the more accurate it will be. I will then post the results as a separate blog, and it will be here permanently.