Cyclesomatic 2011

Bike Friendly Oak Cliff released the Cyclesomatic schedule for October – even bigger & better than ever.  Yes, it’s a whole month of activities full of bicycle love. See you there!

Events throughout October include:

Check the BFOC Cyclesomatic site for event updates, times, and locations.

              

Posted in Cycle Culture, Event | Leave a comment

Streetsblog Makes Streetfilms

Have you stumbled upon this Streesblog site?  If you haven’t, you’re really in for a treat. The title of this first project is Moving Beyond the Automobile, a 10 part series addressing an array of ways streets can be retrofitted to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and others, helping us move from a car-dominated urban layout to one more conducive to a richer lifestyle. It’s great intro material for your coworkers or clients who are new to this stuff – like a visual handbook, with chapters about everything from bicycles, car shares, and transit-oriented development, to the more controvercial congestion pricing, traffic calming and highway removal,  As they say, “Cars were then, and this is now.  Welcome to the future.”

If this just whet your appetite & you need more  visit StreetFilms.org

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Road-Bike Transformation: Part II

It’s almost complete. Okay, maybe never really complete but my bike looks completely different now, & officially has recognizable utilitarian-cruiser-commuter style.
20110525-045927.jpg
The handlebars are key. It took some serious consideration to pick the right handlebars: How upright or leaned-over do I want to be? How’s it going to work with the way this bike fits me? What angle do I want my wrists to be at? How high do I want the bars? Do I want the classic look like the Albatross handlebars?
20110525-095933.jpg

Or something completely unique like my sister’s?

20110525-100156.jpg

To begin with, I knew I need a wider stance to give me more torque when I have my Urban Acres grocery crate on the back (ahhhh, maybe that’s why my rack is bent?… New rack will have to be in the next phase. Especially if I’m going to mount a dog basket/crate for my 30lb mutt…more on that later.)

I spent hours holding different handlebars at the Oak Cliff Bike Co (OCBC) handlebar wall & finally settled. I really like the angle of my wrists on these. Also happened to be one of the cheapest at about $30, plus labor – I decided to get professional help for this part. Good thing ’cause the bars are a bit smaller than my bike’s neck loop and required a shim or two to fit snug.

20110523-110950.jpg

Then for the drink holder. Essential. There’s a classy little sweet circle that holds cups that get wider at the top – see this one a lot.
20110525-061752.jpg
But I chose something that would hold a … coke bottle or other type of non-alcoholic beverage…. This one is somewhat malleable to accommodate various sized containers.

First things first: coffee.

20110523-112155.jpg

A few days of heavy drink-holder use & it was slumping down. I tried tightening the screws, but the handlebars ate apparently just a bit too small for the fixture. Nothing a bit of duct-tape can’t fix tho! (bike work is generally incomplete without use of duct tape anyhow.) I folded two small pieces over on themselves to rid of sticky surfaces & put one on either side of the handlebar mount as a little filler. Perfect.

20110523-112458.jpg
And, while the duct tape’s out… The zip ties aren’t quite keeping my other bottle holder from slipping sideways – luckily the black duct tape matches!

20110523-113003.jpg

When I brought the bike in for a tuneup the smart boys at OCBC went ahead and shored-up my jimmy-rigged back rack too – looks WAY more sturdy, not to mention professional. Those guys do good work.

20110523-113435.jpg

And lastly, to complete the handlebars, I replaced the old foam pieces I cut from my curley handlebars with fancy black leather grips. Classy yet only $15.

I’d heard that the trick to sliding them on easily is to spray hairspray in it all, but it seemed counter-intuitive (hairspray’s sticky!) so I scrimped on my first try and it got seriously stuck about half-way. It was a chore getting it off again. Lesson learned.

20110523-114226.jpg
So, a liberal spray inside the grip as well and on all sides of the bar, and it slipped on effortlessly!

Next phase:
– new rack?
– dog basket crate (definitely.)
– chain guard! (to protect pant legs from chain grease & to protect chain grease from rain – now that I’m biking in work attire more & spring rainstorms are sporadic here in Dallas…. Come to think of it a poncho would be nice too.)

Posted in Bike Gear, Bike Work | 5 Comments

Love/Hate on the Katy Trail: Bike Accessibility

KatyTrail

KatyTrail

The Katy Trail is an urban oasis with few Dallas rivals (the White Rock Creek Trail is the only one that comes to mind…) I wish more of the pedestrian/bike routes through Dallas were this pleasant – especially at lunch. As an exercise trail for nearby neighbors it’s a gem. But as a cycle transit route it can get tricky.

Yes, it’s annoying that this great route through the city gets SO packed, but purpose here is not to rant about how crowded the Katy Trail is.

And for some, riding a safe speed is a bit of an inconvenience – though it’s a perfectly pleasant ride at 5-8 mph while trying to not sweat-out my office attire.

But there’s a more practical issue I discovered on the trail today. The connectivity for a cyclist is a serious inconvenience when using the trial as a route to destinations in Uptown/Oak Lawn. Most of the trail north of Reverchon Park is above the streets with few bike-accessible connections to the world below.

So here’s the rundown.  For entrances/exits, we have:

A well-landscaped new stairway to Hall St,

Hall

To Hall

a beautiful new sitting area and connection to Carlisle St,

Carlisle

To Carlisle

some dirt cut-throughs from a parking lot just north of Lemon, (much steeper than it appears here)

Dirt path to parking lot

Dirt path to parking lot

and a treacherous little stairway down to Blackburn.

To Blackburn

To Blackburn

Then the beloved short stairway I stumbled upon (with bike slide!!!) at the Tao of Warren little plaza where Armstrong dead-ends

Bike slide at Armstrong

Bike slide at Armstrong

All before you get to the at-grade entrances/road crossings at Knox St and at Harvard Ave, 2.5 miles from Reverchon Park (which by the way has some great paths and stairway entrances to the Trail, not to mention the seamless transition to city sidewalk by the American Airlines Center nearby.)

For today’s adventure, biking from my office downtown to Luke’s Locker on my lunch break, I bounced my trusty road-bike-turned-cruiser down the Blackburn stairs on the way to Luke’s (at Oak Lawn & Lemon) and swore to find a better route back. The suggestion I got was to bike up to Knox, which added a good 1.6 miles to my 6 mile lunchbreak trek. Luckily, at Armstrong & Abbot I spied the short stairway entrance with bike retrofit and made my way back downtown.

I’ve seen this type of bike slide on stairways in other countries (such as these in the photos below) but this is the first in Dallas. It seriously made my day and I realized that yes, there are retrofitting options to better integrate the trail to surrounding destinations, even after the stairs have been built.

So, Katy Trail developers, my plea is thus: can we please get some more of these bike slides on Katy Trail stairways?! Specifically to the Blackburn and Hall stairways. You guys do a great job of continuously improving this great asset of Dallas – would you add this on your list of To Dos?

A sincere thank you in advance.

Posted in Trails, Urban Design | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Biking to Northpark Mall

Today’s car-free day involves the challenge of going to the mall by cycle. I’d heard from my coworker that the path from the Park Lane DART station to the mall is the most treacherous 3 blocks she’d ever walked.

Apparently DART has a Northpark shuttle bus departing every 20 minutes 7 days a week to drive people those 3 blocks. Seriously? It’s maybe a quarter of a mile.  Okay, it’s exactly half a mile.

Given that the mall has been open for decades, the station opened in it’s current above-grade form in 2002, and the new Park Lane development adjacent to the station opened March 2009, I can only conclude that either minimal effort was made to connect these or whoever did the engineering plans for DART and Park Lane has never actually walked or biked anywhere.

Just as my coworker described, the sidewalk abuts the road with some spiny plant along the side. And the sidewalk straddles electricity poles. (At least there’s some grass to ride around the poles.)  So I crossed the road but it wasn’t much better.  There were pretty textured ramps at the corners of the sidewalks though!

The Park Lane development seems to be designed with the pedestrian in mind, though still very much oriented as though all pedestrians just got out of their cars (note, however, how in the photo below the Park Lane development has a half-circle of sidewalk around the pole!)

Then I crossed the freeway – just a bit unnerving but generally safe, though not aesthetically interesting other than some fancy pink paver stones paving the median instead of concrete.

My first glimpse of the mall property reveled little cut-throughs in the bushes where people who walk to the mall clearly were given no concessions.

But I did have a paver-stone sidewalk along the road!  And the sidewalk to the mall through the parking lot was actually kinda nice with all the big trees.  Just as I had suspected though, there wasn’t a good place to lock up the bike – all the entrances were pretty stark and devoid of sign poles, fences, or anything else to hook my U-lock around (much less, an actual bike rack).

At the Valet, I asked the guys if they’d valet a bike and commented how there was nowhere to lock-up.  They directed me to the little decorative gate around the restaurant’s patio.  I had to get in the bushes to lock-up but it worked.  I can’t imagine that more than 4 bikes could lock-up there though, and that would hideously detract from the posh feel of the valet area.

As I left the mall, I forgot I was on a bike and took the regular car exit and realized I’d have to be biking in the busy road because there wasn’t a sidewalk at that exit.  That threw me off a bit (even though I’m accustomed to riding in the road I hadn’t been prepared for the lack of sidewalk here.)

So I made it back to the freeway crossing and the safety of the median crossing and sidewalk, only to realize how frustrating it is to have to share a sidewalk with people – who walk slowly….  It’s dangerous enough riding on a sidewalk with inches between me and cars speeding past at 50mph, pedestrians added a frustrating element of navigating around moving obstacles.

And then there’s no cross through the median over to the station.  I should have crossed at the light.  Thanks for the warning.  Now I’m jumping curbs over the median through traffic even though it appears there’s an official entrance to the station on the other side of the road.

(looking back from the station’s pedestrian entrance after having jumped the median to cross the street)

But look!  There’s a bike rack, even a bike box! There was at least a thought that cyclists would be present at the station….

I feel like this became a negative rant assessing my little jaunt to the mall.  I mean…it wasn’t a completely awful experience, but definitely not for the meek at cycling.  It was by far not a bike-friendly experience.  A bike lane would be awesome for that little half-mile stretch of Park Lane.  At the very least some painted pedestrian crossing stripes at the intersections, and some signage.  Oh, and bike racks at the mall.  I bet some local artist could put together some sweet little bike racks that would add to Northpark’s carefully crafted minimalist exterior….

Not sure if I’ll try this treck again.  It may be easier next time now that I know what to expect, but the point is to facilitate ease of use of our transit system and multi-modal integration.   If it’s too treacherous for a novice cyclist or pedestrian to navigate, it defeats the purpose of having a transit station there.

View of the Park Lane development from the station… finally headed home.

Posted in Car-Free Challenge, DART, Economics | 2 Comments

Economics of Biking

Quantifying the Economic Value of Bicycle Tourism

A recent economic analysis values Wisconsin’s bicycle tourism at contributing $1.5 billion to the state’s economy. The gross state product is about $240 billion (in 2008) and tourism as a whole accounts for about a third of the state’s economy. So it’s not a huge chunk of the economy, but it’s cool that they found a way to quantify it – and that it contributes over a billion dollars. $535 million of which is attributed to out-of-state visitors who probably would’ve spent their money elsewhere.

Granted, the state has put a lot of money into infrastructure lately. “From 1993 to 2008, Wisconsin invested nearly $40 million of state and local funds in bicycle projects, with an additional $156 million contributed by the federal government.” (See the full document) Madison is one of the ten communities that earned a gold‐level bicycle‐friendly rating from the League of American Bicyclists. And at just over a fifth of the size of Texas, it has 80% as many Rail to Trails bike paths. So it’s understandable that it’s an attractive place to visit for cycle touring.

Cycling-related businesses in general contributed $600 million to the state’s economy. Major cycling companies headquartered in Wisconsin include Trek Bicycle Corporation, Saris Cycling Group, Planet Bike, Pacific Cycles, Waterford Precision Cycles, and hundreds of locally-owned bike shops and bicycle-friendly businesses support local economies, totaling about 13,200 bike-related jobs in the state.

Beyond the jobs and the sales, the study goes on to quantify the value of the health care savings and air quality benefits for the Wisconsin economy. It’s a tricky methodology to directly tie cycling to health and environmental benefits, not to mention the ephemeral benefits of being part of a cycle-friendly community.

Cycling clearly creates great economic benefits. I’m on the look out for a more comprehensive study that’s quantifying the value of bike commuters, eyes on the street, easier access to shops and familiarity with local commercial activities, meeting neighbors and building community, and the pure joy of cycling freedom.

See the full report

Posted in Cycle Culture, Economics, Urban Design | 3 Comments

Car-Free Challenge: Weeks 2 & 3

Week 2’s car-free day (Thurs Jan 13th) wasn’t that challenging – except that it was 26 degrees.  Usually that’s a strong deterrent to getting out of bed (I usually check my iPhone weather first thing in the a.m.), not to mention biking anywhere.  I was determined to not lose the challenge on week #2 though, knowing I’d need to drive Friday, uncertain what Saturday would hold.  At least the sun was out, so that helped.

With good thick gloves, thick socks, leggings under pants, two shirts under a sweater under a wool coat, and a bulky wool scarf, below-freezing temps aren’t really so bad!  Sometimes it’s just all in your head, you know?  Now that I’ve proven to myself that 26 is doable it’s been much easier to venture into the cold.

Week 3 started with one “failed attempt” at car-free (Sunday Jan 16th), and one early success (MLK Day Monday!).  I put “failed attempt” in quotes only because it was really only a failure in the attempt to go the whole day without using the car (which I didn’t do), and a huge success for biking in general!

Even though it was a bit damp outside from the rain (and was misting occasionally) I decided today was the day to go to Home Depot for bungee cords.  It’s only 2 miles – I’m amazed how close 2 miles is starting to feel on a bike!!  Got home and strapped a big crate on the rack (and attached a water bottle holder which was a bit of an ordeal – more on the transformation of this road bike into a commuter/cargo bike here) and headed to Urban Acres for groceries!  Errands for the day done on bike: check.

Then I decided to run to my sister’s in Red Oak (20 miles, no DART, not biking) so that ruined the car-free part, but the day was such a huge success!

Monday was a holiday so biking around town was easy – coffee shop downtown, dropped off some dry-cleaning, and headed home after dark.  Biked the Commerce Street bridge for the first time, which isn’t too bad if you time it right with the lights and traffic, then down Sylvan toward Bishop Arts.  Sylvan has a good little hill, but there were good sidewalks so the crazy fast traffic wasn’t an inconvenience.

Haven’t made a car-free day again this week, but it’s starting to feel more normal to just run neighborhood errands on the bike.

Posted in Car-Free Challenge | 2 Comments