Sweden Is Getting the Next Bike Superhighway

If you want to find an unassuming place where bicycling is a way of life and nobody makes a big deal about it, head south. The south of Sweden, that is, where the small university town of Lund has a big bicycle habit. They just don't advertise it.

In Lund, 60% of the populace bikes or takes public transport to go about their daily tasks. And then there's Malmö, Sweden's third largest city - only 20 miles southwest of Lund. Malmö also doesn't have a reputation for fantastic biking. But some say it is the country's best biking city - ahead of both Stockholm, the capital; Gothenburg, the second largest Swedish metropolitan area, and a host of smaller bike-friendly burgs.

Just across the Øresund sound from Copenhagen, Malmö has always lived a bit in the shadow of the Danish capital. But in the last few years it has done a lot to take a place among the great biking cities of Northern Europe, mostly by its investment in infrastructure and pure commitment to get people on their bikes. That has paid off - cycling has increased 30% each year for the last four years, while car trips under five kilometers have dropped.

Now Malmö is upping the stakes by putting up 30 million Swedish crowns (about US$4.1 million) toward the building of a four-lane super cycling highway between it and its bike-happy northern neighbor city Lund.

The Swedish Traffic Authority (Trafikverket) has already studied the feasibility of building the bicycle superhighway between the two cities. What remains is for the central government (and Lund and the smaller towns between the two areas) to put their money down. Trafikverket has planned a route for the superhighway running roughly parallel to railway tracks, which makes it easier and less expensive to build, as right of ways are already in place.

The proposed bicycle superhighway would, in addition to four lanes (2 in each direction) have exits but no intersections, two types of wind protection (low bushes as well as solid fencing) periodic bicycle service stations, and would take eight years to complete. Total cost of the superhighway is estimated to be about 50 million Swedish crowns (US$ 7.1 million).

We already know that building bicycle infrastructure is magnitudes cheaper than building new car roads, and better for our health and our air quality. So, what will the first U.S. cities be to build this type ofsystem?

Flexible Bike Rack Makes Locking Up Easy

I'm not sure how many times I've been frustrated trying to lock up my bike, making the lock fit through the frame, the front wheel and the rack itself, but it's a high number. The Tulip Fun Fun is a bike rack created to alleviate that problem. The work of Margus Triibmann of Estonian design firm KEHA3, it bends to fit bikes of different sizes and shapes, so you lock your bike however you want.

The rack is made from metal cable surrounded by rubber, attached to a hot galvanized metal plate that is bolted to the ground. It's simple and smart, and I'd love the see it wherever I ride.

KEHA3 has a couple of other interesting bike rack designs, notably the Grazz, with stalk-like metal cables with looped ends, and the eye-catching Typo.

Top 10 Bike Books for the New Year

I just got a new Kindle for Christmas and have started a new e-reading list that I thought I would share. It's never too late to start transportation cycling, so if the depths of winter generate some legitimate excuses not to start or refine your cycling career right this minute, this is a great time to get inspired. Here are some of the stellar bike books published in 2011 (and a few from 2010), in order to start out or build up your biking bookshelves.
eban weiss bike snob book coverIf Bike Snob author Eban Weiss didn't invent snark, he certainly perfected it -- first in his BikeSnob NYC blog, and later in this best-selling book. Weiss is super-snarky, dead-on observant, and sometimes very, very funny. He stereotypes the bike world to within an inch of its bike pedals, and it makes for an amusing and informative read.

Bike Snob is a great way for new cyclists to understand the politics of what goes on in the bike lane, and maybe, just maybe, have a little compassion for the different types of cyclists that pedal there. Maybe.
If you want more of the mercilessness, Weiss continues on with the BikeSnob NYC blog. Or, if your snark bones are tired, read David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries instead.
tillie the terrible swedeDespite being a children's book, Tillie the Terrible Swede: How One Woman, A Sewing Needle, and A Bicycle Change History will give all cyclists a wonderful taste of cycling back during Biking 1.0.

Tillie Anderson, the book's heroine, was a real-life amazing athlete who broke numerous records and won scores of bicycle races during her short career in the mid to late 1890s. Anderson was part of a group of women cyclists who flaunted Victorian social constraints and moral codes in order to race their bicycles.
Author Sue Stauffacher became entranced with Anderson's story back in 2005, and succeeds in telling a sweet tale of Tillie's rise to short-lived fame -- from Swedish immigrant seamstress, to world-class athlete, to contented housewife.

cover art from book On BicyclesThe 50 individual essays in On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life make sure to cover all aspects of Biking 2.0, including sex, safety, bike shops, and sharing the road. Chapters from famous bicycling advocates such as Jeff Mapes, John Pucher, and Elly Blue help enliven this 'Whole Earth Catalog' of bicycle culture.

Edited by Amy Walker, co-founder of Momentum Magazine, On Bicycles definitely has something for everyone, and yields up its bounty without being overly preachy. Especially welcome to the non-technical transportation cyclist are chapters such as "The Case for Internally Geared Bicycle Hubs" by Aaron Goss, and "Ergonomic Evolution: The Advantages of Riding Reclined" by Vincent Tourdonnet.
cover art from book wheels of changeSue Macy's book Wheels of Change: How Women rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) is supposed to be a young adult title, but readers of almost any age will find lots to love in this history of how women used the bicycle to gain new-found freedom. Macy details the history of the cycling innovations that helped women throw off the cumbersome skirts of the Victorian era and get on two-wheeled "safety' cycles and out into the world.

She includes some of the historical cycling heroines, from Tillie Anderson to Louise Armaindo, and she sprinkles historical narrative with features -- cycling slang, for instance, and the rich vein of cycling songs that came out at the height of the bicycle boom in the late 1890's. Wheels of Change is fun, and the archival photos alone will keep you absorbed for hours.
the lost cyclist book about frank lenzDavid L. Herlihy is well-known as one of American cycling's historians. While researching his classic Bicycle: The History, Herlihy time and again came upon old clippings referring to Frank Lenz, a reporter and touring cyclist who disappeared in 1894 while attempting to bike around the world. Intrigued, Herlihy further delved into Lenz's fascinating story, and eventually wrote a book specifically about his journey, disappearance, and fellow cyclist William Sachtleben's quest to find him, called The Lost Cyclist.

Rich in period detail, The Lost Cyclist is an enjoyable, if sometimes slightly plodding read. It is those few slow moments when the gallery of vintage photos of Lenz during various stages of his short and semi-famous life help tide the reader over. Though Herlihy does a painstaking job of trying to clear up the mystery of Lenz's disappearance, readers might remain somewhat unsatisfied. There are plenty of clues as to who killed Lenz, but the exact reasons why are never completely established.
cover art from a simple machine, like the leverEvan P. Schneider's novel A Simple Machine, Like the Lever, is an ongoing stream-of-consciousness journal detailing the joys of cycling in a complex, sometimes heartbreaking world. Schneider, through his alter ego Nick, manages to find some universal cycling truths -- not just the big ones, but the ongoing day-to-day ones.

Nick is trying to come of age in a very complicated society, and though his struggle is by no means unusual, the sweet observations of why we are cyclists keep you reading. Schneider, the founding editor of Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac, gives a lovely portrait of the simplicity and joys of cycling.
urban cyclists survival guide bookA new sub-genre of books has sprung up with tips and techniques for the urban cyclist, and this Urban Cyclist's Survival Guide by James Rubin and Scott Rowan covers many of the basics. The approach is safety and survival oriented, and advocates defensive cycling. If you are a style-over-speed cyclist, you might grow alarmed at how many times "survival" pops up in this book, and at how the tone is one of competition, speed, and natural selection rather than cooperation and community.

Never mind, just take from this guide the tips that will help you, wherever you are in your cycling journey. For even more cycling urban cycling philosophy, follow up this book with The Art of Cycling by Robert Hurst.
pile of zines on a schwinnMuch of the interesting commentary on urban cycling is to be found not in so-called mainstream publishing but in the blogging world, so it's hardly surprising that some of the best recent titles on biking aren't mainstream books at all, but e-zines.

Our Bodies, Our Bikes is the latest in a series of 'zines by Grist blogger Elly Blue. Blue likes to write about bike policy, bike politics, and bike economics, and Our Bodies, Our Bikes mixes those together. Blue mostly plays editor on this compilation of essays, though she does a turn with Caroline Paquette on the essay "Your Vulva."

There's no bike porn in Our Bodies, however. Instead, there's a lot of practical advice mixed with a healthy dash of feminist encouragement. After all, men outnumber women in the bike lanes by at least 2 to 1.
Blue has a number of great e-zines, including a great long essay on bike economics -- all available at takingthelane.com.

Also check out both Boneshaker e-zines, the UK and the US versions.
robert penns dream bike and bookRobert Penn's paean to bicycles, It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels, is another title looking for the essence of why humans love bikes. Luckily, Penn's book is easy to read, and full of the quirky bike history that the cycle-obsessed just love to know. He's also bike obsessed, and dreams of a perfect bike, then describes it in full detail. It also includes some great background on the bike business and its development, plus lots of personal anecdotes.

Mostly, the book is good because Penn is a fluid, graceful writer. That's important as sometimes the going gets technical. The book will also teach you to know your bike intricately.
bike bookshelf helen pidd bookHelen Pidd, a journalist for The Guardian, released Bicycle -- Love Your Bike: The Complete Guide to Everyday Cycling in 2010, and it really is a complete guide. Packed with facts and written in a sassy, smart style, Bicycle is a great guide for both new and experienced urban cyclists.

Though the layout is cheerful and the illustrations of bike parts and procedures are welcome, the book does suffer from a bit of an overstuffed, overdesigned lack of readability -- the small orange san serif text on a black background can lead to a headache. Still, Pidd does the bike world a great service in tackling many of the issues facing urban cyclists every day, as well as providing the type of basics every cyclist needs, at one point or another, to know. It deserves a solid space on the bike bookshelf.

Cycling Fines In Copenhagen Are Increased to Help Discourage Breaking Traffic Laws

Some of the biggest dangers to cyclists occur when they are riding improperly or breaking traffic laws. On any given day, it is difficult to not come accross a rider that is riding against flow of traffic, jumping curbs, and running stop lights/signs. If the US would adopt some of the new fines being implemented in Copenhagen, maybe it would start to detour these dangerous actions, make the streets safer for riders, and create a better perseption of riders from motorists. Mind you that I have converted the fines to US dollars, and that these infractions would be occurring on Copenhagen's protected bike paths.

Beginning in the new year, riding no-handed, cycling through a red light, or forgetting to signal a turn will cost bicyclists dearly in Copenhagen. The traffic law changes will result in fines for a variety of bicycling infractions jumping from $85-$100, and in some cases to $175. It is the first increase in biking fines in 12 years.

Cycling on the pavement, riding without lights, and cycling through a pedestrian crossing are among the acts that will net a $100+ fine, while cycling against the traffic, running a red light and using a mobile phone will result in a $175 fine.

According to a Konservative MP, Tom Behnke, the fine increases are meant to discourage cyclists from breaking traffic laws.

“A $175 fine will hurt more, so that most people will think: ‘Oh, that sucked,'” Behnke told Politiken newspaper.

But a 100 percent jump in the cost of cycling infractions overshoots the mark, argued the cyclists’ union, Cyklistforbundet.

“Parliament is using a bazooka to shoot a butterfly in this case,” the union’s head, Jens Loft Rasmussen, said in a statement. “It cannot be right that it should cost [the equivalent of] one fourth of the cost of a bicycle to talk on a mobile phone while on a deserted bicycle path.”
Rasmussen, however, was not against the notion of fining cyclists.

“We don’t think cyclists should have free rein,” he told Politiken. “But we know that it is primarily motorists who cause the serious accidents - it’s not cyclists who kill others. Cyclists can be irritating, but I believe that smaller fines would be more appropriate.”
A Copenhagen Police spokesperson, John Sckaletz, told Politiken that while he hoped the fines would help to decrease traffic chaos, he questioned the higher fines’ preventative effect.

The traffic laws not only affect cyclists, but motorists as well. Registered traffic infractions that used to cost between $85 and $200 will after January 1 cost $335, while speeding tickets will increase by between $100-$200.

Biking fines, effective Jan 1
  • Cycling without lights in the dark: $115
  • Using a hand-held mobile phone while biking: $170
  • Missing or defective brakes or reflectors: $115
  • Cycling through a red light: $170
  • Cycling against traffic: $170
  • Cycling across a pedestrian crossing: $115
  • Cycling on the cycle path on the left side of the street: $115
  • Not respecting traffic signs or arrows: $115
  • Violating the right of way: $170
  • Failure to signal a turn or stop:$115
  • Cycling no-handed: $115
  • Cycling on the pavement: $115
  • Holding onto a vehicle: $115
  • Having two or more people on a regular bicycle: $115 per person
  • Wrong position while/before turning: $115
  • Non-functioning bell: Warning

Milk Crate Basket/Bike Seat

I love bikes and I love when designers reuse materials to make bikes more functional and efficient. So what's not to like about "Two Go" by Israeli designer Yael Livneh?

Using a reclaimed milk crate, the piece acts as an additional bike seat for carrying a passenger or it can be converted back into a crate for carting your groceries home. Very neat, very low tech, and a great way to add capacity and adaptability to that greenest of machines—the bicycle.

Head over to designboom for more pictures and a detailed description of the Two Go concept.

NYC Bike Counts Up 298% In Last 10 Years

New York City has become much more bike-friendly over the past decade, and despite some bumps in the road, momentum seems to have increased over 2011. StreetFilms point out in the video montage above, the bike count in NYC is up almost 3X since 2001, and it has doubled since 2007. Public opinion surveys show that support by New Yorkers for more bike lanes is increasing, and the data shows that pedestrians are safer where there are bike lanes. All of this is worth celebrating! Let's keep going and make even more progress in 2012!