Tagcargo bike

Even the grocery stores are bike-friendly in Portland

Kenda tube vending machine

Swipe your bank card and get a new inner tube, next to a repair stand to help you change it.

Mike Cobb sent me this photo of a vending machine outside the Green Zebra Grocery in Portland, Oregon, that sells Kenda brand bicycle inner tubes. These vending machines are more common in Germany and the Netherlands although I only spotted one in Berlin.

Fahrrad schläuche

A tube vending machine, Fahrrad schläuche in German, outside a bike shop in Berlin.

He says they have a repair stand under shelter, air pump, tethered tools, and all-weather electricity outlets, too.

“Yeah, I’ll shop there every time I’m within a 1/2 mile,” he said. Mike is busy planning Disaster Relief Trials around the country this year and we’re working to make one happen in Chicago. But we need a title sponsor who has thousands of dollars to donate.

Seattle DRT: did it! (photo by Fred Bretsch, FEMA Region 10)

Mike in Seattle after winning DRT there. Photo by Fred Bretsch, FEMA Region 10.

Reverse traffic planning

Nothing revolutionary, just a clever design. It’s a t-shirt worn by Bicycle Innovation Lab co-founder Lasse Schelde in Copenhagen. I met Lasse at the Svagerløb Danish Cargo Bike Championships on August 18, 2012 (see all photos). The graphic is an upside-down pyramid. From the top it moves to the bottom with decreasing area as follows:

  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Utility Bicycles
  • Public Transport
  • Taxi/Transport
  • Car Sharing
  • Own Car
  • Airplane

There are many ways to interpret this graphic, but I see it as one of decreasing efficiency in moving people (disregarding nuances of population and distance).

A photo of me cycling in the team relay race on the world’s fastest cargo bike. 

Lasse and I were on the same team for the relay race. Miche and Brandon Gobel all rode his Bullitt. I started first so I wouldn’t have to carry any of the luggage (which consisted of two car tires and a wooden Carlsberg beer crate). The race was hosted on the Carlsberg brewery lot.

Cargo Bike Roll Call equivalent across the pond

The Cargo Bike Roll Call equivalent in Nijmegen, Netherlands, is called Bakfietsdag, or “box bike day”. The city is pronounced “nigh-may-hen” and is the home of a very awesome bridge that only carries trains and bikes.

Photo by Daniel Farrell. All other photos by Jan Beeldrijk.

See the full set of photos from my friend Jan’s photostream. I met Jan in Utrecht, and we rode our bikes from the Utrecht train station, through town, to nearby Houten, and then back to Utrecht. We visited the Spoorwegmuseum, too!

I am planning for the second annual Cargo Bike Roll Call. I held the first at West Town Bikes in September 2011. It’ll again be at West Town Bikes (Division Street and Campbell Street), but I’m aiming for June and I hope to have a street closure permit so we can (legally) take up more space this time. The police were friendly in our encounters last year, asking us to keep the beer inside and then asking us to stay in the parking lane and parkway. But this party is only going to get bigger.

I like this Long John’s design: instead of the cargo area being above the “forward” or “cargo tube”, it’s on the sides. I don’t know what advantages of disadvantages this has. You can also tell this bike was “homemade”. Another kind of Long John-style cargo bike is the Larry vs. Harry Bullitt, also spotted at Bakfietsdag.

Video tour of Open Streets

What is Open Streets?
It’s when a street is closed to cars and transformed into a safe place for fun and recreation. Read more on Grid Chicago.

Filmed by Steven Vance while sitting on the cargo deck of a Larry vs. Harry Bullitt, John Player Spezial. Cycling by Brandon Gobel, Bullitt owner.

Filmed with a handheld Sony DSC-HX5V. Edited with Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.

What is a utility bike

Well, if I had to choose, it’s the WorkCycles Fr8.

But if I had to define it, here goes:

  1. It can carry stuff so that I don’t have to carry it on my person, thus hurting my body. Carries in such a way so as to not negatively affect the handling and maneuverability of the bike.
  2. Has a design with devices, features, elements, materials that help prolong the life of the bicycle. This includes chain guard to prevent rust, fenders to prevent dirt, internal gearing to make that last longer, etc…
  3. Can be ridden by a variety of person sizes (I’m not sure if this represents utility, not 100% sure on this one).

Why does this matter?

Photo by Jonathan Maus of BikePortland. Read his reporting on the topic

Oregon Manifest judges chose the winning bike on Friday, September 24, 2011, and it’s far from being the ultimate utility bike.

Tony’s bike – centered around an electric pedaling assist — was specifically designed to get people out of cars, introducing amenities that drivers have grown accustomed to on the road;  stereo, locking storage, stable loading and a huge dose of Fun Factor.

And I wasn’t the only concerned observer. Travis Wittwer, a Portland resident, was present at the announcement and wrote on Bike Noun Verb, in a post titled The Cargo Bike Future Sucks:

There was a palatable pause as the first place winner for the Ultimate Utilitarian Bike was announced at the the 2011 Oregon Manifest awards. The pause was long enough to register as a pause. A stop. It was uncomfortable. Clearly people everywhere in the crowd were saying, “What the hell?” I looked around and saw other people looking around. There was some confusion.

It doesn’t meet my definition of utility bike above:

  1. The wide front rack is mounted to the steering and thus will make maneuverability difficult. The double-leg kickstand is not very wide.
  2. The drivetrain is exposed, it uses electrical parts that will fail or need maintenance that many people will not be able to provide.
  3. The high top tube may make it difficult for some to mount the bicycle.
I do love the locking storage, though!

Cargo biking, one big sub-sub-culture of American bicycling

Updated May 10, 2011, to include link and information about cargo bike meetup.

As far as the sub-culture of American bicycling goes, cargobikes are quickly becoming one of the fastest sub-sub-cultures.

I’m part of a group of cargobike owners and enthusiasts. We blog and post photographs about our cargo bikes and spread the cargobike love to our friends and neighbors. A friend of mine in Portland, Oregon, first owned a bakfiets (Dutch cargo bike with bucket in front), a Madsen (bucket in back), and now simultaneously owns an orange Yuba Mundo and a black Harry vs. Larry Bullitt (modern, aluminum take on Danish Long John bike).

Travis may like cargobikes more than me – he makes t-shirts!

So what did I do to earn my cargobike chops this month?

I just added five new comments to Dottie’s review of her one-day trip around town with the Yuba Mundo, now for sale at two Chicago local bike shops, J.C. Lind and Blue City Cycles (where mine was born).

I’m also working on emulating this Portland cargo bike meetup for Chicago. My first problem is finding the appropriate bar/restaurant that has a lot of space out front for all the Chicagoans to bring their family and cargo bikes.

Cargo bike meet-up outside Green Dragon Pub in SE Portland. Photo by Jonathan Maus.

I went all the way to Portland, Oregon, to test ride a Yuba Mundo at Joe Bike on Hawthorne. See more photos of my Yuba Mundo or from that trip.

Introducing Grocery Store Bike Parking Ratings

This article is part of a series (it seems) of grocery stores with poor bike parking – it first started with my local Dominick’s. I started an inventory and rating system for Chicago. I welcome your contribution. If you want to start a page for your town, I can help you with that.

After seeing the photos of the wacky bike parking situation at the Lincoln Park Whole Foods on Ding Ding Let’s Ride, I had to take a trip there myself!

By my count, I find that with 3 wave racks (of 2 sizes) and 3 grill racks, there are 27 bike parking spaces. You can debate me and possibly find 4 more.

Surely you can fit more, just like you can fit 4 bikes on a 2-space Chicago u-rack.However, the racks are installed so closer together to make this area quite a pain to find a space. And if you have a long wheelbase cargo bike (bakfiets, Madsen, or Yuba Mundo), GOOD LUCK!

The only space available for a longtail cargo bike like my Yuba Mundo is in a car parking space next to a hybrid Chevy Tahoe illegally parked in a handicapped parking space.

Photo showing too-close placement of the two kinds of racks. Notice that some bikes hang into the curb – it was the only way to use that bike rack. Other spaces might not have been opened when these people arrived.

But officially, for planning purposes, the Chicago Department of Transportation considers that rack as only fitting 2. This area could easily be sheltered. I think it’s something the store should look into. It provides sheltered car parking, which costs proportionally more than sheltered bike racks!

In the future, I expect better from Whole Foods.

For now, Target takes home the cake for providing consistently “good” bike parking. (Great’s the best a store can achieve.) So far, the rating system isn’t fully formed or automated. It’s a work in progress!

Sidenote: Access to Whole Foods via bicycle really sucks. There’s a 5-way intersection controlled by stop signs; then there’s the old railroad track and potholes. It might be better if you come in from the south, but then you have more RR track to deal with.

Photo montage showing how to access Whole Foods from Sheffield by bicycle.

My cargo bike is my Social Network

Stefano and I are on our way to AMC East (Streeterville) from Pilsen to see the Japanese movie, “Sword of Desperation” (ask me about it).

As I silently predicted, Stefano’s bike got a flat, in Greektown, less than half of the way to the theater. (I predicted this based on my knowledge of how little he cares for his bicycle.)

Immediately, our plan was to fix the flat. I’m the only one anyone can trust to carry tools, but I forgot the wrench to remove the wheel* (actually, the Transportation Security Administration stole it from me at O’Hare airport). So, I proposed to Stefano two choices:

  1. Take two buses, 8 and 66, meet me there and be late for the movie
  2. Take a ride on the Yuba Mundo and we’ll arrive at the same time and probably be on time for the movie

Stefano chose option two and locked his bike to a bike rack. I gave him the rules and he hopped on.

The rules of Yubering are:

  • Sit as close to the operator as possible. This brings the center of gravity closer to where I’m used to it.
  • Try not to move – you can affect my balance.
  • Hold on to the passenger’s handlebar – this helps keep you from moving, and falling off.
  • Stay in constant communication with the operator – I like to know what’s going on. This is mainly just for the sake of conversing and to be lively, happy, and social.
  • Use your hand to signal turns on my behalf. I have a lot of weight to handle so it’s best if I keep both hands on the handlebar.

A ride like this doesn’t come without streetside commentary. (Read what people have said in the past.)

A slightly drunk woman in a taxicab at Lake Street and Canal Street said, “What happens if he [the operator] farts?” Uhh…

So we got to the movie theater at 9:59. Stefano ran in to buy tickets. As this movie was part of the Chicago International Film Festival, there were no previews. I locked up and went inside. We missed about four minutes of the movie.

Now, for the ride home.

Stefano’s bike is still locked up in Greektown and he lives in Pilsen. Knowing that the Yuba Mundo has no cargo limits, I propose we go pick up the bike and I take him and the bike home.

It was a rousing success!

And the commentary didn’t stop. After a two-hour visit to Timothy O’Toole’s, around 3 AM, a young man in a sports car on Adams Street slows down to match our speed and says, to Stefano, “So are you really riding his bike carrying a bike? Wow

YES! That’s exactly what’s happening. Not sure what he said after that. I had to concentrate on riding the bike. This was the highlight of my night.

It took a while to get home as I had to go slow, but it was fun. We were able to have uninterrupted conversations. Bicycling is The Real Social Network. Carrying a passenger makes it just a bit easier to communicate. The Yuba Mundo makes every ride a blast.

*I now realize that removing the wheel to fix a flat is unnecessary, but I didn’t think of this at the time. If we did repair the flat, this whole experience never would have happened.

More photos below the fold.

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Cargo bike obsessiveness

You’ve never seen anything cuter than this.

Blue is a Yuba Mundo, v3

Pink is a DeFietsfabriek (now defunct) omafiets.

The park is Palmisano.

Cargo bike review in Momentum Magazine

Go read my first-ever article published in a magazine!

Turn to page 48 of Momentum, a magazine for people who like bikes. You can view it in its print form here or read the article on the magazine website.

A photo of the review. The printed photo was taken by Stefano Rini.

Carrying three bags of recycling to the drop-off center in Bridgeport. My goal was to get a bike that can carry as much as possible.

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