The top-ranking states in the League of American Bicyclists’sBicycle Friendly State ranking always get some buzz. For 2012, the #1 state was Washington, “a model for use of federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.” It scored 9 out of the Top 10 Signs of Success, including “Safe Passing/Vulnerable Road User Law,” “Bicycle Education for Police,” and “Complete Streets Policy.”
Other top-scoring states included Minnesota (#2), Massachusetts (#3), Colorado (#4), and Oregon (#5). California was ranked #12, due to faults with “infrastructure and funding,” and “evaluation and planning,” as well as lack of a “safe passing/vulnerable road user law,” and “state bicycle plan.” Cali did have more than 1% of people commuting by bike, which Washington did not (we’re guessing because of all the rain up there).
We love this report, because sure, it’s good to know what states we should dream about biking around in. But what really interested us were the states at the bottom of the list (we want to know where to not take a cross-country touring trip). What were they were doing wrong?
New Mexico was chilling near the bottom of the rankings at #45. According to its report card, it only had 2 out of 10 Signs of Success, as well as having inadequate Policies and Programs in place.
Alabama (#47) scored low in all categories, particularly Infrastructure and Funding, and Evaluation and Planning (though it was congratulated on its recent texting while driving ban).
North Dakota (#49) also lacked any of the 10 Signs of Success, and spent less than 0.63% of federal funding on bicyclists and pedestrians.
Arkansas, rock bottom at #50, scored a 2 out of 5 on Legislation and Enforcement, and 1 out of 5 in every other category. Also worth noting is that Arkansas, along with New Mexico, is considered “one of the least safe places for bicyclists in the country (based on the number of fatalities and bicyclists).” Yikes!
This kid saves the day for his big brother with his awesome bicycle posse.
May 18, 2012
Bikes in Pop Culture
We don’t think this guy’s lack of a car is his real problem. Check out :13 —his seat is way too low! That’s why you’re not getting power, dude. And doesn’t he know that that kid has to share the road?
May 16, 2012
Los Angeles Puts Its Bikes to Work!
Thursday is Bike to Work Day in Los Angeles county. Do you have your route planned out?
If you’re only an occasional cyclist, or you only bike recreationally, you’ll have a few new factors to consider when commuting by bike. Some of these take a little forethought, but don’t worry! If you’re too late this time, you’re allowed to bike to work on other days, too. We promise.
The biggest worry for most people is sweating–we’d all choose biking to work more often if we didn’t have to arrive with stinky pit stains. There are a few tricks for this.
Take it easy
Plan a route that avoids hills as much as possible, and give yourself enough time in the morning that you don’t need to rush. Ride your route beforehand to get a feel for how long it will take you at a relaxed pace, and then give yourself some extra time, just in case.
Bring a change of clothes
No matter how easy you go, you’re not going to want to wear your silk blouse or nice blazer on the bike. If you can, drop off your work clothes the day before. If not, bring a backpack (or put them in your basket or panniers if you have them). Bring deodorant or perfume, too!
Avoid busy streets
Nothing spoils a nice bike ride like having growling cars rushing by a few feet away. Find backstreets or bike paths that you can take, instead. They’ll be safer, and usually more scenic, too.
Getting to work by bicycle shouldn’t be a chore. Make it into a nice excursion before work, not a sweaty obligation. That may take some planning and some extra time, but it’ll be a worthwhile change to your daily grind.
If you haven’t biked in years, don’t make your first ride a commute to work. Start off with a few easy miles on the weekend, and work up to it. Give yourself time to fiddle with your bike, adjust the seat, and learn how to change a flat. Then take advantage of a nice day by skipping the gridlocked traffic and the hunt for parking, and catch some fresh air instead.
May 10, 2012
Bikes in Pop Culture
Bicycles have had a long and complicated evolution in our culture. In their early days, they were mostly used by reckless young men in a kind of extreme sport mentality, and women who rode them were seen as sexually loose and immoral. It was only near the end of the 1800s that bicycles became mainstream, used for everyday conveyance as well as pleasure and racing.
The advent of the affordable car in the middle of the 20th century began the bicycle’s decline as a means of adult transport (at least, in America). There are still many people today who have this kind of image when they think of the typical bicyclist:
Today has seen a resurgence of bicycles everywhere, not only for recreation, but for sustainable and emissions-free transportation. Far from the wobbly, awkward, one-size-fits-all prototype of early bicycles, modern bikes come in thousands of sleek shapes and sizes, suited to women, men, and children for activities ranging from road racing, to mountain biking, to cruising about town in comfort. Don’t get us started on the hybrid types. Some bicycles have even become the purview of adventurous youths again, like this video that riffs on the division between classical and modern culture:
That’s probably one of the more interesting ballet performances that we’ve seen. Stay tuned to this blog for more Bikes in Pop Culture next week!
May 03, 2012
Safer Streets with Bicycle Boulevards
When you see British Columbia and Amsterdam utilizing a bike-related system, you can usually assume that a) it’s totally sweet, and b) we probably won’t get something similar without a huge fuss and a long delay (for instance, six foot wide bike lanes, widespread bike paths and bike signals, plenteous bike corrals). The same might be said of “Bicycle Boulevards”, also known as Greenways, Neighborways, or (as LADOT calls them) Bicycle Friendly Streets (BFS), but the movement is gaining momentum.
The concept of a BFS is pretty basic–use traffic-calming devices like roundabouts and lowered speed limits, and the street instantly becomes less dangerous and more inviting for pedestrians and bicyclists. Add “share the road” signs and marked crosswalks, and motorists get the cue that they need to drive more carefully.
BFSs range from normal roads with some alterations, to roads that are completely blocked to motor vehicles. Sharrows and bike left-turn lanes can aid in the recognition that cyclists are not blocking the road–they belong there.
Because of the simmering resentment some motorists feel towards bicyclists, especially when bikes take up “their” road space, advocates have noted that the term “Neighborhood Network” (LADOT’s term for the plan) is a better way to describe the benefits of such streets for all users–not just cyclists.
This short but poignant video brought our office to a standstill.
Apr 26, 2012
The 100 Miles of Nowhere Race
Anyone who’s done a Century has a story to tell about it. The tales range from inspiring, to horrifying, to outrageously funny. Part of the draw of a Century is the thrill of challenging your limits, but it’s also about camaraderie, getting some fresh air on your bike, and often supporting a good cause. Centuries are ridden through all kinds of landscapes–from mountains and valleys to perfectly flat plains. There’s plenty of advice out there on getting ready for your first Century, including what kind of food and drink to bring, how often to stop, and how to push through the mental depression that sometimes sets in near the three-quarters point of the ride. Depending on the Century, you’re advised to familiarize yourself with the course, and maybe even bring a map.
The 100 Miles of Nowhere is one ride where you probably won’t worry about the map part. The first 100MoN happened as a result of a bet between the Fat Cyclist and his readers, and took place inside on rollers–truly, a race to nowhere. But then, magically, it caught on. People started doing the Hundred Miles everywhere–in neighborhood cul-de-sacs, in parks, in one-mile loops featuring a hill that got steeper with each mile.
The first 500 to register for Fat Cyclist’s Hundred Miles of Nowhere were rewarded with cool swag, but registration never really closes, because the course is anywhere you want it to be. And if you want to, you can still send in your fee. Profits from registration go to Livestrong, which passes them on to Camp Kesem, a free retreat for children who have a parent battling cancer. Each year has seen a surge in the number of participants, with some truly hilarious and inspiring stories from individuals across the country. The Hundred Miles of Nowhere is the ultimate in equal-opportunity races: if you have a bike and a place to ride it, you can compete. If you don’t have a bike, you can jog. Or swim. Whatever you want. Also, it doesn’t have to be 100 miles–you can do 25 if you want. And the best part is, you always win your division (if you define it right, of course). The official date of the race is June 2nd this year, but you can start as early or late as you want. This is really the perfect Century for some of us who have trouble keeping track of dates or directions on a map.
In the cycling community, we spend a lot of time dealing with and talking about aggressive drivers and rude motorists, and there’s no doubt that it’s a real and pressing issue. But people are people, and the cycling community isn’t immune to that kind of attitude, either.
As a cycling enthusiast and blogger, I do a lot of looking around to see what more seasoned riders are doing, as well as a good amount of blog and forum lurking. And while I continue to find an overwhelming amount of awesome, supportive people who love cycling for the fun, freedom, and eco-friendliness of it, I also see some chest-thumping and some outright disregard for others on the road.
This becomes problematic when cyclists clash with other road- or trail-users. Because as much as we’re used to having to fight for our rights against oblivious motorists and (worse!) ignorant law-enforcement, there are some situations where cyclists could gracefully yield. For instance, this past CicLAvia. For an event that aims to bring a community together in a space free of the dangers of cars, there seemed to be a certain amount of aggression on the part of some cyclists who found their route blocked by pedestrians or other (slower) cyclists.
When Streetsblog writer Gary Kavanagh left his bike at home this time, he noted that there were “a few moments where those on bikes came a little close for comfort as we walked in the street.” Blogger Walk Eagle Rock commented on a cyclist moving at speed who had tried to squeeze between other cyclists and a boy walking his bike, “slammed into the boy’s rear wheel, flew off his bike and crashed onto the street.” Other commenters noted that cyclists “dinged” at them or told them to “get off the street,” and refused to slow in the face of pedestrian congestion.
Fortunately, these seemed to be isolated incidents, with the majority of cyclists riding responsibly and respectfully along the route. It seems worth keeping in mind, however, that road rage is a trap any of us can fall into, and it’s seldom worth it. Just as cars should slow down and be mindful of cyclists, so cyclists must be mindful of pedestrians and others on the road or path. Here are some great ways to avoid tense situations:
Bells on the bike- A group in Santa Barbara installed boxes of bells on some trails where conflicts between hikers and mountain bikers were occurring. By borrowing these bells and placing them on their bikes during the ride, bikers could be heard by hikers, and thus avoid collisions and heated words.
Controlled Speed- We all know that part of the rush of biking is barreling down a technical trail with only your skills and your bike between you and a faceplant, but that speed can cause someone else serious injury. An easy way to prevent this is to slow around blind corners and ring your bell or give a shout to let people know you’re coming.
Announce Yourself- A well-maintained bike is nearly silent, so give joggers, hikers, or other cyclists ahead of you a friendly “On your left!” to let them know you’re behind them. If they’re hard of hearing or have earbuds in, they may not hear you, so be prepared to take defensive maneuvers if they step in front of you.
Be Cool- Not every bike ride or cycling event is a speed test. If there are pedestrians or slower cyclists, just go with the flow, and pass when it’s safe to do so.
Just keeping in mind a few tips like these can help keep relations between cyclists and pedestrians friendly–after all, both are choosing a sustainable, healthy mode of transportation, so why not give those shared values some respect?
Apr 12, 2012
CicLAvia is almost here!
Cyclists have made a lot of progress in recent years, from the construction of bike lanes and trails, to the passing of laws that codify our rights. But in general, being an urban cyclist (or pedestrian!) means living in an environment where you’re mostly an afterthought as far as city planning goes. But not during CicLAvia.
Ciclovias started in Bogotá, Colombia, inspired by a desire to be free of the congestion and pollution of city traffic, if only for a short while. In Los Angeles, CycLAvia closes miles of road to motor vehicles for half a day, giving people some much-needed space to bike or walk around the neighborhood in streets emptied of cars. Businesses and shops open up their doors, and everyone is a little more relaxed in the absence of traffic and crowded parking lots.
If you haven’t had a chance to experience CycLAvia yet, this is a good time to start! Ten miles of streets have been closed to cars on this year’s route, giving many people their first opportunity to bike or walk downtown in peace. The event will last from 10am to 3pm, so don’t sleep late on April 15th!