No Excuse Zone-Orlando

After flying back from Texas, last night's Critical Mass ride was an awesome way to get back in the saddle and to be back amongst bicycle friendly people. Critical Mass in Orlando has finally gotten so large that I am not even sure what the exact number of cyclists participating was, easily over 250-300!

As Orlando increases its cycling ridership, I am starting a small project with some of my cycling friends that may help other commuters and cyclists feel more comfortable in using their bicycle in the urban Orlando environment. We are calling it the No Excuse Zone, based on a project that our company did for Sydney Australia with the same premise. Their project incorporated case studies from multiple cities in Australia and Europe, where they performed this same process.

Our experiment is to start at Lake Eola in the heart of the city and ride out in all directions and document different routes that get us 30 minutes down the road. We think that this will create a map graphic that shows zones around the city that show people how far they can go in 5 minute increments. These routes will be based on the current conditions, but my hope is that through some deeper analysis, we can prescribe some facility solutions that could improve the cycling efficiency and safety.

Stay tuned as our experiment gets started and I get some results. The goal is to show Orlando that they have no excuse to not get on their bikes and ride! Ride on!

Roadside Assistance

I have been out in Texas all week for work, and am in a small town that doesn't have a single bicycle facility to be found. It is pretty amazing when you go from a place that you would feel comfortable biking anywhere, to a place that doesn't even have a bike rack. I have gotten to enjoy the stationary bike in the Holiday Inn, so I am not completely out of the saddle, but definitely not the same.

On this slow week of riding, and the lack of access, I was reminded of a service that I discovered on the internet a while back. This service is your typical roadside assistance, but strictly for bicycles. I always think that people should know how to change their own tires, do minor maintenance and repairs, and be prepared before each ride in case of any emergencies. Maybe riders that are in extreme locations or that are new to riding, could use this service, but these seems a little too cautious. 

I look forward to my weekend ride on Saturday and getting back to riding country! Ride on!

Reflecting Back On The Road

This weekend has been beautiful riding weather and I got to put in 4 hours of recreational riding. Most of my time in the saddle was spent taking in the sight and sounds of the open road/trying to hang onto the back tire of the rider in front of me, but the rest was spent contemplating my thoughts for the day. For some reason I was thinking about my progression in cycling and how my reasons for cycling has evolved.

When I first began seriously cycling, at grad school in Gainesville, it was strictly about time, money, and common sense. We had an apartment 2 miles from the architecture studio and it took longer to drive, park, and walk than it did to just roll down the road and pull up to the classroom door. Of course it also saved me on gas and parking tags, so it was a no brainer to ride in.

When I moved to Orlando, these same reasons for cycling continued, since I was again living 2 miles from where I worked and could save time in getting there and saving money on gas parking fees. It was also at this time that I started to trail ride and ride more for recreation. This encouraged me to ride more often and to explore the sport holistically. I also concluded that if not for anything else I was riding for the health of our environment and sold my truck to become strictly a bicycle commuter.

In the past year I started road riding and doing group rides for sport and recreation. I always knew that riding a bicycle was great for physical fitness, but I hadn't been training specifically for speed and endurance until then. The aerobic activity is great for heart health and the low impact pedaling is much better for joints than running or court sports. It is a completely different mentality when you are performing a task that challenges yourself personally and you can set goals that only you can control and achieve.

So it seems that cycling saves me money every time that I ride (no car payment, insurance, gas, parking, maintenance, etc). It saves me time in my commute to work by giving me a direct route from door to door. It helps the downtown automobile congestion by having one less vehicle on the road. I am doing my part in helping the environment by not adding exhaust and carbon from fossil fuels. I am not adding to the noise pollution from automobiles and I am making my neighborhood feel more pedestrian friendly. Finally, I am personally keeping my heart and joints healthy and am living an active lifestyle.

As I look back at where I have been and how I have progressed, I think that right now I don't have any reasons not to bike. I think if someone asks me "Are you still riding your bike into work?", I will have to respond with the line I have heard other cyclists give, "Are you still driving your car?". Cycling is more than just a way to get around, it is a lifestyle and is a benefit to all.

Ride on!

Bicycle Friendly Community Fail

On the commute today I saw a sign that was too good to not get some pictures of. There are several "Bicycle Friendly Community" signs that are around town and a couple that are on my daily routes. One of the signs apparently got hit last night and was completely bent over to the ground. It is pretty unnerving to see, since the driver of the automobile had to cross through the bike lane, hit the curb, hit the sign, and then back through the bike lane. Plenty of times for a vehicle to come in contact with a cyclist. Bike safe!

Ride Full of Right Turns

In my short commute to and from home and work, I typically have a smooth, trouble free ride, free of conflicts with automobile traffic. Today, was not one of those days.

On three occasions today I had cars that tried to turn to the right, right in front of me. All of my rides today were during the rush periods of the day, and the drivers that tried to cut me off were driving aggressively and seemed to have to be somewhere in a hurry. They were accelerating rapidly from stop lights and stop signs and it is interesting as a cyclists, that sometimes you just see vehicles that you automatically know are going to give you trouble.

All three of my close encounters were cars that came up from behind me, passed me, slowed down so that I was about half a car length from behind them, and then they turned without using their blinker onto side streets or driveways. Even though you see it about to happen, you still can't hardly get any words out other than "Hey!!!" or "Nice blinker!".

Tomorrow is going to be better. The weather is gradually getting warmer again and as the work week heads toward Friday, people seem to not be in such a rush as they are at the beginning of the week. Either way I'll have my head on a swivel and my eyes wide open!

Ride safe!

"Canary" in the Bike Lane

This weekend I didn't get to do the Lakemont ride because of a 5K that my work helped sponsor. I don't care for running that much and don't train for it, but was still able to finish in 25 minutes. I just prefer cycling to running because I'd rather go farther than a few miles and have a faster change of scenery.

One thing that is cool about running/walking is that if a street is good for running then more than likely it is good for cycling. I like to call it a "canary in the coal mine" scenario. If walkers and runners of all ages are present, then cyclists should be too.

Bike lanes actually help pedestrians walk or run on sidewalks because they provide an extra buffer from passing cars on the street. They also provide an area for runners to run on the street, but pedestrian and cyclist conflicts are always a problem, so both modes of transportation have to be cognizant of one another.

This is just another reason for municipalities to invest in bicycle facilities. They help runners, cars, and of course cyclists to all work harmoniously. It's beautiful outside today so let's go ride! Ride on!

Bike Lane Fail

On my ride home tonight I encountered an unwelcome guest in the bike lane. Tomorrow is trash day and typically I get to dodge the usual bin left out in the street, but in one stretch of my trip I came upon a heap of limbs and landscape debris that completely covered the bike lane and even out into the road. Of course I had the normal 5 o'clock traffic buzzing next to me so that I had to stop and ease around the debris, hoping that a car will be nice enough to let me in the flow of traffic.

This is a great website that has great photos of cars and debris blocking bike lanes from around the world, and allows you to report bike lane violations anonymously.

Non-cyclists should just remember how frustrated they get when their travel lane gets blocked by an obstruction and they had to yield to the oncoming traffic to continue on. They should then imagine what it feels like to do that on a bicycle while trying to not get run over from behind. Not fun.

Brain Bucket Fashion Statement

It looks like it is going to be a cool week of commuting (60 degrees is cool for Florida). It is pretty refreshing to feel the cool wind hitting you in the face.

In my internet research today, I came across this website and had to share it.

Apparently a Danish designer has released a product that claims will keep you from looking "dorky" with a bicycle helmet on. I feel that trying to hide your helmet makes you look even dorkier, but that is just me. I think that the female covers look better than the guys', but either way I guess wearing a goofy cover on your helmet is better than wearing no helmet at all.

If you’re too embarrassed to wear a helmet, then you are also too dumb to ride a bike in a city. Seriously.

Ride on! Ride safe!

Headwind Full of Hurt

This morning's Lakemont ride was full of interesting drama. The weather was a cool 60 degrees and I think the group was trying to keep heart rates up to stay warm. I rode in the B group and we gave the A group our typical 5 minute head start, but we caught them by mile 8. That was when the speed and the fun really started.

The wind had been calm up to that point and maybe even a little bit to our tails, but that just meant that we were rolling at 25-30+mph and our hearts were beating out of our chests. This continued with both groups combined until about mile 20, and that's when things started to go awry. One of the local high schools was having a fundraiser 5K and we slowed slightly as we passed groups of runners, and I got distracted watching the crowds instead of focusing on the riders in front of me. Next thing I know the guy in front of me waves me up to pull and to my dismay, the main group was about 50 feet away from us. The rider apologized and just said "Sorry, I thought I could catch them back." I was full of anger and the sinking feeling of having to ride out of the main pack for the last 30 miles.

Luckily the group had been riding so fast that we had shed about half of the starting riders and they had grouped themselves into small packs of 5-10 riders. I decided that it was better to try to work together and finish, than attempt to catch the main group and blow myself up.

This turned out to be a great choice since around the next curve we hit a headwind of 15-20mph that crushed us for the remaining 30 miles. It wasn't a complete loss. I tried to look at it as an opportunity to get more training in, since I was required to do my portion of the pulling and didn't get the luxury of sitting back in the peloton and shield myself from the wind. It's days like today that I envy the smaller riders and I feel like my chest and shoulders are acting like a sail and pulling me back like I have a parachute around my waist.

Like I always say though, any day in the saddle is always better than the alternative, no matter the conditions. Ride on!

Cyclist's Best Friend

I would be remiss if I didn't reveal my favorite riding partner. As with any entity that you spend a lot of time around or with, you bond and feel like you become one with that entity. It goes without saying that my bikes, especially my Trek and I are basically one in the same, but my favorite riding companion is my Australian Sheppard, Cricket. It's been a good week in the saddle and one of the highlights of each of my days is a ride after work on my bike, with Cricket running along side me.

When we got Cricket we knew that she would be an energetic dog and that she would require exercise each day, but it's hard to imagine running at least 2 miles, as fast as a dog wants to run.

At first I was worried about Cricket lunging or running too far in front and possibly getting into the front tire and spokes, but she intuitively knew what the bike was doing and trusted me in not running over her.

Cricket usually starts her run with a full sprint for about .5 miles and then settle into a steady run for another mile or so. Of course she hits the finish line with another .25 mile sprint and we average about 8 miles an hour over the 2+ mile route.

Riding with Cricket not only gives her the exercise and activity that she requires, but it also is another way for people to see cycling in action. At least once a week we get stopped by people walking in the neighborhood, driving by, or out with their own dog. Most people don't think about using their bicycle to play with their dog, but I have found that it is great for the dog and is a good way to illustrate different ways to ride. Any time on the bike is quality time, and time with man's best friend is even better.

Taking a Spin with Bike Sharing

It has been a slow week on the bike here in Orlando, due to the rainy weather that we have had for the past two days. I have still been commuting, but there haven't been too many extra miles logged.

Today on NPR's Marketplace, I heard a good interview concerning bike sharing systems here in the United States. I had heard about these plans, and even saw them in Paris a few years ago, but I wasn't completely sure how they worked. Below is a link to the article, and the audio about the bike share program starts at minute 22.5.

NPR Marketplace Podcast

The company that is profiled in the article is B-cycle, which is a collaboration between Humana, Trek, and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. They started the bike sharing programs in Europe and based them on the popular car-share programs. Now there are multiple bike sharing stations in dozens of cities. In Paris alone, there are over 100,000 riders per day, so we are already playing catch-up here in the States.

B-cycle stations have started popping up here in the US in several large cities and initiatives have been started to get stations put here in Orlando. Boston has the largest amount of B-cycles in America, with 1000 bikes, and I can't hardly imagine what Orlando would look like with 1000 cyclists cruising around.

The concept is quite simple; B-cycle systems accept memberships that give the user a "debit card" to use as many times as they want for the monthly fee. Walk-up riders can use a credit card that is debited for the minimum amount, as well as ensuring an available balance just in case the bike is not returned. The rider can then go wherever they want and return the bike to any station in the city.

The program does have its issues that have to be worked out in a city by city fashion. Any city that adds a few thousand bikes to its network will automatically need more infrastructure--kiosks, bike lanes, and specially designed bikes that are rugged and theft resistant. It costs Boston more than $3 million a year to run its program. That comes from government money, private sponsors, and bike rental fees. The theft problem has been slowed by adding electronic identification chips and GPS devices in the bikes.

If bike sharing sounds like something that you would like in your city, click this link to B-cycle, and click on the "Who Wants it More" button and add your name to the map of petitions.

The rest of the week looks much better for cycling, so get out there and getting riding!