Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Get thee to a Bike Shoppe

In a recent column by local author Lisa Scottoline wrote about her new bicycle gifted to her on Christmas by a good friend. Since it has been 40 years since Ms. Scottoline a lot had changed including the number of gears on a bike as the last bike she owned was a three speed.

I can understand how she feels six years ago I replaced my fifteen year old 10 speed mountain bike. The bike I eventually bought, a 21 speed hybrid bike, was something of an adjustment. 21 speeds, quick release rims and seat, with a flat bar. It was quite the change in technology. It sounds like Ms. Scottoline is riding a similar bike.

In her article she talks about how the flat bars are a change from cruiser bars and how she can't figure out how to adjust the seat and handle bar height which makes riding the bike rather uncomfortable. My advice to her is either go to the bike shop it was bought at or a local bike shop and have them fit the seat height and handle bar height. They can also provide you with better options for saddles designed for women and may be able to change the handle bars to something you may be more comfortable with.

A common mistake for many new cyclists is being to nervous to admit that they are not sure how to do a basic adjustment on their bike, so riding it becomes uncomfortable. Which eventually leads to the bike gathering dust in a basement or garage. Your local bike shop is always willing to help you make basic adjustments to handlebar and seat heights. If your bike has a quick release front wheel have them teach you how to take it on and off. This will help you be able to transport your bike in a car when you don't have a rack.

A new bike does not have to be a scary piece if technology, take the time to have your local bike shop teach you how to use your bike and enjoy the ride.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

BCGP Survey Answers

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia posted a survey to its website to solicit feedback so they can chart their course towards the future. I chose to post my replies on my blog so a differing viewpoint from the traditional BCGP employee/volunteer/member party line.

A.Why do you support the Bicycle Coalition?
I need to be convinced that I should. All to often the Bicycle Coalition takes credit for work done by others. A recent example is the BGGPs 2013 campaign about family cycling which failed to give credit to Philly Kidical Mass for creating this local movement. Or the lack of public action, after Amtrak rejected the BCGP's e-mail asking about improved bike parking as part of the upgrades to 30th St. Station. A petition does not count, especially one that only garners 184 signatures. There should have been several thousand signatures given the size of their membership.

B. Complete the following sentence: The Bicycle Coalition is the primary organization in our region that:
Advocates for bicycling and bicyclists with a variety of government agencies
Encourages people to try bicycling
Works with neighborhoods and schools to promote safe routes for schoolchildren
Provides bicycling education programs and events
Works with planners to increase and improve bike lanes and other infrastructure
Brings bicyclists together to have a more effective voice in public policy
Promotes safety for bicyclists
Provides youth development programs

As you can see there are a lot of choices to select from. Which makes me ask, has the BCGP taken on so much that their efforts have become diluted? Frankly, I have my concerns. There are times when I have to wonder what the BCGP's priorities are.

Twice a year the BCGP makes a big announcement about the need for volunteers for their bike count, but they never make an equally big announcement of the results Because they never announce them.

Or after all of the time, money, and effort they invested to get the city to develop bike lanes they gave control to all future bike lane development to the Philadelphia City Council. Instead of leaving it in the hands of trained traffic engineers. In return for this deal they got a Complete Street bill which included cars parked in bike lanes getting tickets Seen an cars with tickets recently?

Even small things slip through the cracks. Get hit by a truck while riding your bike, end up in an intensive care unit at the hospital, and the BCGP will tell the world. Want to know if the driver is arrested or charged? That's when they stop being an advocacy group.

C. The Bicycle Coalition recently merged with the Cadence Cycling Foundation, a youth development organization. Cadence uses cycling to engage undeserved youth in Philadelphia. Were you aware of the merger?

D. How do you feel about the merger?
I'm not sure. What does the BCGP envision for its future youth programming? Do they have the staff and budget to do it?

E. Over the next three years, how should we prioritize our work? (check no more than 3)
Expanding bike lanes and trails throughout the region, especially the Circuit
Promoting Philadelphia’s new bike share (public bicycle) program
Public education about road safety
Youth development programs that teach life skills through bicycling
Intermodal transportation – for example, making easier to take bikes on SEPTA
Promoting Women Bike PHL
Engage in more political campaigns that benefit bicycling

After the the Safe Streets bill politicized future bike lane development the BCGP should steer clear of any future political campaigns until they are prepared to stop negotiating away significant gains. Because when they make an agreement it affects every cyclist, not just their members.

The BCGP appears to very good at promoting other organizations and individuals work. Promoting bike share, promoting Women Bike PHL, promoting road safety; While this is all very well and good it leaves the onus for results on the people who develop and run these programs. The BCGP needs stop promoting and start doing.

Developing the expansion and connecting the trail system in the counties surrounding Philadelphia, While it is needed it is going to take decades and tens of millions dollars to move forward. So at the same time I would like to see the BCGP focus on a short term goal, one that would benefit many people in Philadelphia. When Philadelphia replaced parking meters with muni-meters the amount of bicycle parking plummeted. Some of these poles were converted into bike parking. But at a cost of $1500.00 per conversion and given city governments limited funding parking meter conversion became a short term solution.

The Bicycle Coalition should start a public campaign to encourage businesses large and small to install bicycle racks or individual meter conversions. There are plenty of studies already existing that show how bike lanes and bike parking increase sales for businesses. The City of Philadelphia has also done surveys showing the real need for increased bicycle parking. It is time to put this information to use.

If the BCGP wants to show signs of change it can start with posting the results of the survey. To demonstrate that they are open about what the public expects of them in the future. Otherwise this survey is going to be no different from the bike counts statistics that are never revealed. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Philly bike scene in review

Philly Bike Party – After a one year absence the Philly Bike Party resurfaced for a Halloween ride. I understand that the organizers have had a busy 12 months with college, graduation, jobs, and planning the Philly Naked Bike Ride. I would like to challenge them to hold a ride once per quarter in 2014 to show that this group is more than a capricious flight of fantasy.

PPD Bike theft sting – One of the funnier and at the same time depressing moments was the Philadelphia Police Department's attempt to reduce bike thief. Instead of equipping an expensive bait bike with a GPS tracker and motion sensor and locking with an easily cut lock. So they could track thieves back to their homes and recover more bikes. They left an unlocked bike and arrested the first person who took it, not really a sting, more like entrapment.

On the other hand its hard to take the Philadelphia Police Department's efforts seriously when their own bikes get stolen

#unblockbikelanes - Recently the Philadelphia Parking Authority has begun to take the steps towards dealing with vehicles that park in the bike lanes. They created a Twitter hashtag, #unblockbikelanes, as a way to crowd source a database of problem locations throughout the city. There is only one minor problem, the launch for this undertaking was announced in the middle of December. So for the next three months the fewest number of cyclists will be riding due to the weather. I can only hope that there is a relaunching of this program in April to remind everyone. When more cyclists will be riding and more eyes will be on the street so this initiative succeeds. More importantly will be to see how long before the PPA starts cracking down on this problem.

Philly Full Moon Ride – With rides planned to coincide with the full moon of every month. The organizers of the Philly Full Moon Ride have been made a consistent effort to hold monthly rides since they first appeared on the scene. The fall and winter rides have been moved to an early start time something that allows for more ride time and makes them more accessible to people in 9 to 5 jobs who have to get up early in the morning. A practice that I hope will continue into the warmer weather.

Philadelphia Kidical Mass – One of the best success stories of the year has been Philly Kidical Mass. Created by Dena Driscoll and Marni Duffy as a way for families with children to enjoy child friendly group rides with other families. Each ride is a few miles long, using a combination of bike lanes of side streets, and finishes at a local playground. Philly Kidical Mass has quickly become the local source for cycling with children and cargo bikes; which have become the minivan for the urban cyclist.

Friday funnies - Winter inspiration

With Thursday nights snowstorm this might be a good source of inspiration to get out and ride.