Tag: trip

Weighting people’s experiences in route choice

An iPhone app is not a substitute for a paper map*, good signage on your bikeway network, or someone just telling you, “Turn right on Church, right on Chambers, left on Reade” to get to the bike shop where you left your water bottle.

At the bike shop I asked about how to get to the Williamsburg bridge so I could go “home” to Brooklyn. After looking at the map, he said, “Oh, take Grand.” -He then told me how to get to Grand.

The Williamsburg bridge. I took this one even though the Manhattan bridge was probably closer to my “home” because I hadn’t yet ridden on it!

I did. It worked. It was excellent. I even passed by the Doughnut Plant (which I had forgotten about visiting).

Doughnut Plant makes really tasty donuts. I wouldn’t get them too often, though, because each one costs $3.

Not only did I receive a “tried and true” route suggestion, I got it faster than any automated route devising device would have generated one.

Each month I’m asked by people how to get somewhere in Chicago. We have so many resources these days but we often still rely on the spoken interaction to get us to our destination.

*I’ve read or heard people suggest that “someone should make” an app that puts the bike map on their smartphone. I don’t think this app would be very useful or easy to use. But a paper map is both – and almost always free.

On my way to San Francisco

Actually, I’m not leaving until Thursday, March 17th, 2011; I’ll stay through Tuesday, March 22nd. I’ll be going to San Francisco with Brandon to visit a friend who recently moved to Stanford, visit some new and old California friends, attend Transportation Camp West, and of course visit the San Francisco Cable Car museum and plant (this is my favorite place). I think I also want to visit the Yuba Mundo folks in Sausalito.

If I know that you live in SF or environs, I will try to email you beforehand, but if I don’t, please leave a comment so we can get together – after Transportation Camp on Saturday would be a great time. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos I took in San Fran myself – I was last there in 2001 or something. I lived in Benecia until the end of kindergarten.

Also, I would like to borrow a bike. Can you help me?

Photo of cable car in Nob Hill. Photo by Marcel Marchon.

Cyclist on Market Street. Photo by Richard Masoner.

Welcome to Amsterdam

The coolest city in Europe. And probably where I spent most of the time bicycling around town. I carried my GPS tracker with me at all times in Europe. I had to edit the routes to exclude my train trip to Utrecht and back. In the end, I biked about 134 kilometers / 83 miles (see my map).

My rental bike on the docklands in the ‘t IJ looking towards Centraal Station. The cruise ship passenger terminal is on the left. The bike is a Gazelle Superieur Special. I paid €5 per day and a €50 deposit. Thanks to Álvaro for the recommendation of Recycled Rentals.

One of the free ferries, this one to IJ-Buurtveer. I took this one instead, to Buiksloterwegveer (Amsterdam Nord).

Amsterdam can be boiled down to a few things: Bikes, beer, and water. This post is heavy on water, and light on bikes. A beautifully yellow tugboat owned by the Port of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam has trains going everywhere, from Centraal Station, every few minutes. 32 trains every hour. An additional 18 trains daily. The Thalys has service to Brussels, Belgium, and Paris, France, nine times per day. I arrived in the station from Wuppertal, Germany (via Venlo and Eindhoven). I left the station to get to Utrecht for a day trip and then I left the station on the DB CityNightLine to Copenhagen (a magical 15-hour journey).

Houseboats in the canals and Amstel river are quite common. A Flickr commenter describes a little more about it (click on the photo to read it).

Not everyone has a purpose-built cargo bike in Amsterdam, but more exist here than anywhere else (except perhaps Copenhagen). Just tote your stuff under your arm, including a sheet of plywood. You might want to try out the WorkCycles Fr8 – a locally designed cargo bike.

And a gratuitous shot of me bicycling towards the docklands. I should have been smiling – as I was having such a wonderful time, but maybe I’m not because it was kind of cold.

View the 60 other photos I’ve uploaded of Amsterdam. If you want to visit, let me help you plan your trip.

Photos from Milan, Italy

I was in Milan on two separate days. The first for an hour while I waited for my train to Como after arriving from Rome. The second I spent eight hours there, walking around the castle, park, neighborhoods, and the Duomo. View the entire photo set.

Milano Centrale, the main train station, northeast of Piazza Duomo (I guess you would call this the “old center”). Grandi Stazioni is a company charged with “upgrading, valorizing and managing Italy’s 13 largest railway stations.”

On some of the pedestrian bridges in Parco Sempione, couples attach locks to signify their love. You may have zoom in on the photo to see the locks attached to mermaid’s “staff.” Here’s a closer view.

I brought my camera into the museum, Pinacoteca di Brera. This worker was busy restoring artwork.

In many places in Milan, the trams had segregated right-of-way. I think it looks beautiful when trains run over and through separated, landscaped corridors. See a smaller tram (one car) outside the Milano Centrale train station.

If the roof is open, go up! You get some nice views of the Piazza below, as well as the always-there crowds and the Galleria. You can also get a closer view of the cathedral buttresses.

Coming from Chicago, I don’t have access to protected or separated bike lanes. And I was surprised to see them in Milan! But I shouldn’t have been surprised, because most cities in Europe have them.

Intercity bike paths, or “bike roads”

Imagine every suburb around Chicagoland connected to a handful of others by a “bike road.” In the Netherlands, it’s a strip of pavement about 1.5 American-car lanes wide but the bicyclist always has priority and any drivers must drive at the speed of the bicyclist. For cars, the road serves mostly rural towns, but for bicycling, it serves as part of a cross-country and intercity bikeway. On some parts of your trip to another town you might ride on bike roads, and others on bike-only paths.

This bike road helps connect Houten and Utrecht. I’m traveling north alongside a Nederlandse Spoorwegen Sprinter train. See more photos from my day trip to Utrecht and Houten.

The Cal-Sag Trail is a typical multi-use path in the works and will do something similar, connecting south suburban Cook County communities (like Calumet Park, Blue Island, and Alsip) along the Calumet River and the Calumet-Sag Channel. It will be car-free. While multi-use paths in Illinois are often used for recreational or touring use (many don’t lead to destinations, or are out of the way for convenient routes), the Cal-Sag Trail will be useful for social, shopping, and school trips as well as fitness. Additionally, it will connect to at least three existing trails.

When any path or road opens it needs sufficient wayfinding. The “United States Numbered Bicycle Routes” system began in 1982 to do for bicycling what numbered highways did for driving: make it easy to create and follow a route. Planning for the system was revitalized in 2010.

Several European countries (including Netherlands and Germany) have had such a system for years but instead of numbering routes, they number junctions. Starting at any origin shown on the junction map, find the junctions that connect the route segments to your destination and remember their numbers. Then watch for signs that point you in the direction of the next number. You only need to remember 2-3 numbered junctions at a time because there will eventually be a new map to remind you which junction is next. See photo and route example below.

This junction is number 34. To go to Houten from here, follow the directional signs, first to 33, then to 36, then to 01. The “bike road” photo above was taken near junction 36.

Welcome to the grand entrance of the Illinois Prairie Path to Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, Aurora, and Batavia!

Another Chicago trail example

There’s a great example near Chicago of a trail that’s “80% there.” The Illinois Prairie Path begins in Maywood, Illinois, a couple miles from the western edge of Chicago, and a mile from the Forest Park Blue Line terminal. Getting there from Chicago is a problem: it’s not connected to anything but 4-lane, fast-moving 1st Avenue. And bicycling to Maywood from anywhere in Chicago there is a lack of safe routes, regarding infrastructure and personal safety (a lot of Chicagoans would consider the center west side quite dangerous). I grew up the far western suburb of Batavia and have occasionally ridden the trail, but only once did I ride it while living in Chicago.

Another view of the trailhead. Photo by Carlton Holls.

I wanted to visit Fry’s Electronics in Downers Grove, just 4 miles from the trail. It took me over an hour to get to the entrance and then I missed the sign (or wasn’t there one?) for Finley Road and went too far. It was getting dark, so I decided to call the trip a small loss and boarded a Metra train at Glen Ellyn for downtown.

The first thing I see in Amsterdam

I got off the final train of a 4 hour trip from Wuppertal, Germany, to Amsterdam Centraal Station via Venlo and Eindhoven and the first thing I see is parking for about 7,000 bicycles. WOW!

7,000 is just the quantity at the front of the station. There’s additional parking in the rear along a major “bike highway” going east-west (on two defunct barges in the river IJ) and underground (guarded) parking as well. In all there “officially” 10,000 parking spaces for bicycles – and it’s not enough. During construction of the new north-south subway, bicycle parking and station access by bike will be reconfigured. Some people say that when the additional bike parking comes online, it will again be insufficient.

Since you read this blog, you know I have a passion for bicycle parking. Just like planning for automobile storage, bicycle storage requires similar attention and infrastructure.

I’ve uploaded more photos of bike parking in Europe (so far just 16 photos), including the fancy underground garage at Amsterdam Zuid Station, with its own escalator! For more sweet bicycle parking in Netherlands, check out the Fietsappel on Daniel Sparing’s blog, Railzone.nl.

Europe trip recap: List of cities I visited

All links lead to a photo or photoset of that city. More links will be added as I upload more photos. Cities are in the order I traveled through Europe, over 18 days.

All blogs about this trip are under the tag, Europe trip.

A bike “jam” – everyone in the photo is performing a “Copenhagen left” or box turn.

The Schwebebahn is the world’s oldest operating monorail that operates daily in the North Rhine-Westphalia city of Wuppertal, Germany.

Friday, I try again

Because of severe weather delays in the Midwest (ice and fog), my plane to JFK from ORD arrived almost 4 hours later on Tuesday. That meant I missed to Rome Fiumicino before I even left Chicago.

In a situation like that, one’s options are poor and limited.

I much prefer Midway to O’Hare. Weather delays are less of an issue there (mainly because there’re fewer flights) and it is 4x closer to my house (in terms of time to get there).

I could choose to take my flight to JFK, arriving there about 10:30 PM (local time). I would then talk to the gate agent in JFK (which gate) or the ticketing agent and ask to be placed on standby for a flight to Rome. The Chicago gate agent was extremely helpful to me but would not place me on standby on any Rome-bound flight from JFK. When I introduced myself to him, he said he had called me on the PA once or twice (which I didn’t hear) seeing that I was not going to make my connection.

He explained there was not an open seat to Rome for days (he was telling the truth, according to the ticket counter agent). I decided that waiting in New York City was less preferable to waiting at home in Chicago. He had a ground worker pull my bag from “baggage system” (remember, the plane it would be loaded onto hadn’t arrived).

I told him I would attempt rebooking later.

I went to sit down in an empty gate and mulled my options. It was extremely difficult. My friend in Rome was expecting to meet me at Stazioni Termini di Roma at noon (local time). There’s no free wifi in O’Hare (nor Midway) so I couldn’t email him without paying $9 for the privilege – I’d have to wait until I got home. And I had no idea when I would be getting home.

I got my bag from the “lost bags area” near the baggage claim and headed up to the ticket counter. Wow, there was not a single person in line. Much different than 3 hours ago when I was in line for 30 minutes just to drop off my bag (I’ve since rearranged my bag situation so that I can just carry it on). The ticket counter agent (“Alexis” – not her real name) sighed many times during our conversation as she searched for an alternate itinerary. She complained several times that my fare class made this harder, as the airline limits the amount of seats available on an airplane in any fare class. She was still helpful and found a workable alternative for me. I told her I had to think about it.

I sat down and just stared at my calendar. How would this work? How is it interrupting my trip? In the end, I realized that the new trip meant I only had to skip Rome and that everything else was intact. I went back to see Alexis and she booked me on the flight. Done, and done.

Fast forward to Thursday. I’ve repacked my things, but this time into a rollaboard (roll on, whatever). I was able to put back some things I was going to leave (like my heavy SLR camera) because of the different luggage dimensions (I originally was taking a Jansport hiking backpack). I checked in for my flight, and Delta gave me the option of changing my flight plan (again) at no charge. Weird! So I found a better flight than Alexis booked me on. It goes through Atlanta instead of JFK but cuts my layover in half (now 3 hours instead of 6).

Looking at tomorrow’s weather forecast, it’s supposed to be snowing when I’m riding the Blue Line at 8 AM to ORD.

Please follow my Flickr for trip updates.

Note: This is an unedited chronology of events I experienced on Tuesday. It was one of the most stressful days I’ve encountered. I was at the airport for almost 5 hours, and, including transit time, away from home for 8 hours (getting nothing accomplished, it turned out!).

New York City, a dreamland

Rather than write a lengthy post here describing my recent trip to New York City (I went in the last weekend of August), I will invite you to peruse my 50 photo gallery. They are in order by date and time taken and fully mapped and described.

I was last in New York City in August 2001, for the MacWorld Conference where I saw Steve Jobs announce the iPod – I got that iPod for Christmas that year. I stayed in Connecticut. The first day, my dad and I drove into the city. The next day we took Metro North from Bridgeport. The only thing I remember doing on that trip is taking the subway from the Javits Center to the Hard Rock Cafe and over to Grand Central Station.

I’ll describe my 2010 trip as a “whirlwind tour.” In three days I rode over 100 miles on a too-small borrowed bike. I met fourteen people. I went up and down the island four times. I wouldn’t shut up at work about it for a week.

The first photo in the set, about the typography of the New York City yellow cab system.

The last photo in the set, about pedestrian craziness in the segregated bike lanes.

Full photo set. The set is sure to grow, so stay tuned to my Flickr photostream or Twitter feed for updates.