TagPortland

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!

What it’s like to Amtrak it with a bike

Update: This post has been widely shared. I suspect other people have blogged about their experiences of taking bikes on Amtrak. Leave a comment with the link, or tweet or email me, and I will include a link to your blog on this page. 

My friend, Will Vanlue, from Portland describes his experience taking a bicycle on Amtrak to Seattle. He bought a bicycle ticket even though he was pretty sure folding bikes could be brought on as carry-on luggage. It was true and the Amtrak staff refunded him.

Like some light rail trains, Amtrak Cascades cars have vertical storage for full-size bicycles. Travis was able to get his Bullitt “Long John” cargo bike on the train with assistance from the staff. 

The Amtrak Cascades train spoils their passengers compared to those on the Hiawatha or Wolverine, offering a power outlet for every seat, and free wifi. I took the train in April 2010 on my trip with Brandon to Portland and Seattle.

This is a good time to bring up, again, that Michigan trains will soon offer “roll on” bicycle service to passengers in 2012.

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.

November snow

November snow photo by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WsDOT).

I rode this train, the Amtrak Cascades, from Portland to Seattle, but in April 2010. I would love to go back and ride it again, through the snow this time. It looks so beautiful.

I commend the Washington State Department of Transportation for its good presence on social media and social networking websites. I’m tracking where other DOTs are online.

I want to make a crash reporting tool

UPDATE 12-01-10: Thank you to Richard Masoner for posting this on Cyclelicious. I have started collecting everyone’s great ideas and responses in this development document.

Hot off the heels of making my “Can I bring my bike on Metra right now?” web application, I am ready to start on the next great tool*.

I want to create a bicycle crash reporting tool for Chicago (but release the source code for any city’s residents to adopt) along the lines of B-SMaRT for Portlanders and the Boston Cyclist’s Union crash map based on 911 calls.

I’d rather not reinvent the wheel (but I’m very capable of building a new web application based in PHP and MySQL) so I’ve been trying to get in contact with Joe Broach, the creator of B-SMaRT, to get my hands on that source code.

Not exactly the type of crash I’ll be looking for. Photo by Jason Reed.

I want the Chicago Crash Collector (please think of a better name) to have both citizen-reported data, and data from police reports. I just sent in my FOIA request for police data to the Chicago Police Department, but I’m not holding my breath for that.

Readers Ask: Recommending bioswales

The second post in “Readers Ask,” from a planning student in Chicago.

I want to recommend bioswales for my Complete Streets project area which consists of a part of Grand in Chicago, Illinois  There are a lot of surface parking lots over there, and a big shopping mall which is built on a weird arrangement of slopes (Brickyard).  Since I know nothing about bioswales, I’m wondering what you could tell me about how I could go about recommending this. I have no idea what the rainwater runoff issue is over there, but I could only imagine that there would be one, with all the surface parking and weird slopage.

Bioswales are just one of many solutions to water runoff and stormwater collection. Another option is using permeable pavers in the parking lot. The real experts on this are Janet Attarian and David Leopold at CDOT. As a project manager at the Streetscape and Sustainable Design Program, he’s dealt with and implemented bioswales, permeable parking lots, and pollution fighting bike lanes – the works. There’s a parking lot, designed by CDOT, built with a bioswale AND permeable pavement on Desplaines between Polk and Taylor in Chicago (photo below)/

Parking lot has permeable pavement and a bioswale. The site is monitored by CDOT to see how it performs in the winter. Photo by Bryce.

EVERY parking lot has runoff – every parking lot should do a better job managing it. By not better managing our stormwater, we all pay the costs, be it through flood insurance, recovering from floods, or having to build bigger pumps and sewers.

Permeable pavement at Benito Juarez High School in Chicago, Illinois.

Perhaps you shouldn’t recommend a bioswale, but a parking lot that “captures 80% of its runoff” or something through a “variety of methods.”

Bioswale in Portland, Oregon, as part of a green street transformation.

The EPA lists additional Best Management Practices. The Cities of  Seattle and Portland are experts in this. Portland was even able to get parts of its bikeway built by rolling them into the Department of Environment’s Green Streets program, their efforts to reduce stormwater runoff and thus reduce the costs they pass on to their customers that pay for sewer service (like, everyone). I recommend this blog article about Portland’s sustainable design, written by a fellow planning student.

Buffered bike lanes make bicycling easy

UPDATE: With the post you’re reading and this post, I want to show you what a bicycle lane can do! Also clarified definition of buffered and protected bike lanes in second paragraph.

All of this talk about protected bike lanes made me want to watch some videos! Here’s a clip of my friend and I riding on our first ever buffered bike lanes. As seen on Stark Street in downtown Portland, Oregon.

The next video is about Sands Street (over 1 year old now) in New York City that I’ve been raving about for a couple weeks and months now, since riding on it in late August 2010. One half is protected by a concrete wall, and the other half is semi-protected by having raised pavement and a buffer. A bike lane with only a spatial buffer is not considered protected (like in the first video, above).

People riding their bikes westbound (right side of bike lane) on Sands Street toward either the Manhattan Bridge (turn left, south), or Dumbo Brooklyn and the waterfront (turn right, north).

Keeping score: Portland, one million and Chicago, zero

UPDATE 10-15-10: There’s good news. The Chicago situation is nearly resolved.

Up the score for Portland and bicycling by another gazillion points and keep Chicago at zero.

New Seasons Market grocery store (think Whole Foods lite) opened a new store Wednesday in Portland. On a bike boulevard. With 50 bike parking spaces (almost used up on the first day). Grocery delivery by bike. Free air and patch kit. You can even borrow a cart to tow stuff home. (By the way, the store provides only 36 auto parking spaces, on its roof – where it belongs.)

What do we have in Chicago?

A Dominick’s (part of Safeway companies) grocery store that refuses to install a single bike parking space, even after major renovation in 2008-2009. Don’t worry though – I’m on the case! I just mailed my letter to Safeway CEO Steve Burd in Pleasanton, California, yesterday. (Read about my recent struggle getting bike parking installed here.)

And Dominick’s, when you do get around to installing it, please don’t pick this piece of garbage.

Abysmal bike rack selection at Dominick’s near Roosevelt and Canal in Chicago, Illinois – notice how the bike can’t be properly locked here. Don’t repeat this mistake. Learn what’s best when it comes to bike parking.

Thanks to BikePortland and Tucson Velo for the story.

New blogs I like

Now that I’m without a job, I’ll have more time for reading, commenting, and writing. And job finding. I just started reading these two blogs today and they’re quite exciting. Both blogs started this year.

  • MAX FAQS – MAX means Metropolitan Area Express, the name for Portland, Oregon’s regional light rail system. I’m not sure who writes it (that’s left out on the introduction post), but they’ve very knowledgeable about the operations of TriMet and light rail in general.

Two trains at the Rose Quarter Transit Center, northwest of the busy and multi-modal Steel Bridge in Portland, Oregon.

Sustainability is more than individuals installing rain barrels to water their lawn (for free). But we all should so less water goes down the drain and into costly water treatment plants.

Philadelphia Water Department moves away from Deep Tunnel-style water management

West North points out that instead of spending $8 billion to build new sewage holding tanks throughout the city, the Philadelphia Water Department plans to conver impervious surfaces to pervious, natural surfaces. The American Society of Landscape Architects has more information on The Dirt:

The green infrastructure proposal would turn 1/3 of the city’s impervious asphalt surface, or 4,000 acres, into absorptive green spaces. The goal is to move from grey to green infrastructure. Grey infrastructure includes “man-made single purpose systems.” Green infrastructure is defined as “man-made structures that mimic natural systems.” As an example, networks of man-made wetlands, restored flood plains, or infiltration basins would all qualify as green infrastructure. The benefits of such systems include: evaporation, transpiration, enhanced water quality, reduced erosion / sedimentation, and restoration. Some grey / green infrastructure feature integrated systems that create hybrid detention ponds or holding tanks, which are designed to slow water’s release into stormwater management systems.

And, like Portland, Philadelphia is accomplishing more than just better stormwater management.

…the city is calling for a triple-bottom line approach, aiming for: more green spaces, improved public health, and more green jobs. [The Dirt]

Portland is building “Green Streets” that combine bicycle facilities with green infrastructure like bioswales inside curb extensions. This plan did not arise perhaps as altruistically as Philly’s (actually with a little controversy), but more as a way to build bicycle facilities with bioswale funding.

Meanwhile, the Deep Tunnel system in Chicago continues to expand. But it’s not all bad. The City of Chicago will showcase green infrastructure in a new streetscape in the Pilsen neighborhood.

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