Posts Tagged ‘Bicycling’

Support Bikes Not Bombs!

This weekend I will be riding in the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon with my 18-month daughter Kay as my co-pilot.

Bikes Not Bombs is one of my favorite charitable  social justice organization because it uses the bicycle as a vehicle for social change. This includes shipping restored bikes to International Programs in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean where sustainable transportation is vital for economic development. Closer to home, Youth Programs in the Boston area teach bicycle safety and mechanical skills to local teens building self-confidence and personal responsibility. Please make a donation to help the world-changing activities of Bikes Not Bombs. Better yet, come join us for the ride and/or for the post-ride festival at Stony Brook.

Book Review: Walkable City by Jeff Speck

Author: Jeff Speck
TitleWalkable City
Publication Info: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, c2012.
ISBN: 9780374285814
Summary/Review:

A city planner by trade, Speck is aware of what works and doesn’t work in creating and maintaining thriving metropolises.  He blames many of his fellow planners for the big mistakes of repeatedly designing cities for the swift movement of cars and then for places to park those cars, destroying the city in the process.  The obvious solution is to make the city more “walkable” but many efforts to design cities as a place to walk have failed as well, often due to their half-hearted nature or lack of understanding of what makes a city walkable.  To address this, Speck created a ten step list (cited in its entirety below) with each chapter describing the facets involved in creating truly walkable city.

The Useful Walk

Step 1. Put Cars in Their Place.
Step 2. Mix the Uses.
Step 3. Get the Parking Right.
Step 4. Let Transit Work.

The Safe Walk

Step 5. Protect the Pedestrian.
Step 6. Welcome Bikes.

The Comfortable Walk

Step 7. Shape the Spaces.
Step 8. Plant Trees.

The Interesting Walk

Step 9. Make Friendly and Unique Faces.
Step 10. Pick Your Winners.

I read a lot of books about urbanism, city planning, walking, and bicycling (and against the prioritizing of automobiles), so I’m the proverbial choir being preached too.  Speck’s book clearly states the advantages of his model to everyone, and enunciates the steps in getting to that point.  For these reasons, this is the book I’d hand to an automobile-focused doubter to read and think it would have a great chance of making an impression.

Favorite Passages:

“The General Theory of Walkability explains how, to be favored, a walk has to satisfy four main conditions: it must be useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting. Each of these qualities is essential and none alone is sufficient. Useful means that most aspects of daily life are located close at hand and organized in a way that walking serves them well. Safe means that the street has been designed to give pedestrians a fighting chance against being hit by automobiles; they must not only be safe but feel safe, which is even tougher to satisfy. Comfortable means that buildings and landscape shape urban streets into ‘outdoor living rooms,’ in contrast to wide-open spaces, which usually fail to attract pedestrians. Interesting means that sidewalks are lined by unique buildings with friendly faces and that signs of humanity abound.”

“Since midcentury, whether intentionally or by accident, most American cities have effectively become no-walking zones. In the absence of any larger vision or mandate, city engineers—worshipping the twin gods of Smooth Traffic and Ample Parking—have turned our downtowns into places that are easy to get to but not worth arriving at.”

“Engineers design streets for speeds well above the posted limit, so that speeding drivers will be safe—a practice that, of course, causes the very speeding it hopes to protect against.”

Recommended booksStraphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile by Taras Grescoe, Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability by David Owen, Triumph of the City by Edward L. Glaeser, and Pedaling revolution : how cyclists are changing American cities by Jeff Mapes.
Rating: ****

Book Review: Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes

Author: Jeff Mapes
Title: 
Pedaling Revolution 
Publication Info: 
Corvallis, OR : Oregon State University Press, 2009.
ISBN:
9780870714191
Summary/Review:

A good overview of the ongoing changes to American cities as more and more people switch to bicycling as a major means of commuting, running errands, and recreation.  Biking meets obvious challenges in both the safety of sharing roads with high-speed automobiles with indifferent drivers and the political hostility towards bicycling and bicycle infrastructure. The book covers many of the same points as Harry Wray’s Pedal Power, but I find Mapes’ work a more engaging read.  Mapes is preaching to choir when I am his reader but this book sets in good detail the detrimental effect of prioritizing the automobile in our cities and the benefits of switching to a bicycle-based culture.


Favorite Passages:

“It is true that cyclists don’t pay gas taxes (except when they are driving, as most cyclists do at one time or another). But they do pay property taxes, which nationally account for 25 percent of spending on local roads, which is what cyclists most heavily use. These streets have always been seen as public space, free to whomever wanted to use them. Motorists may want to turn them into a kind of gated community, but that is contrary to our traditions and to our law.

More importantly, very little is said about the huge subsidies received by motorists that far outweigh any freebies received by cyclists. The largest is free – or cheap – parking.” -p. 19

Recommended books: Pedal Power by J. Harry Wray, Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne, and Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt.


Rating:****

Hub on Wheels 2011

My son Peter & I participated in Boston’s citywide bike ride Hub on Wheels yesterday, our second consecutive year of participation. Participants could ride a 10-mile route on Storrow Drive or extend it to 30 and 50-mile routes around the city. We did an abridged version of the 30-mile route ending at the Arnold Arboretum since it’s near our home.

The ride started at City Hall with thousands of riders (apparently 5000 total) lined up past the Old State House. It was exciting to turn Storrow Drive into a big bicycle party. Peter enjoyed passing his day care center twice. The route then followed the Muddy River along Park Drive and the various Ways (River, Jamaica, and Arbor) to the Arboretum. Honestly the ride went by almost too quickly for me. We started at 8:08 am and arrived at the Arboretum around 9:20. I’d like to ride farther but there’s only so long one can expect an active 3-year-old to sit still in a bike seat.

The event went off without a hitch, with perhaps the one exception of the rest area at the Arboretum. The portable toilets and snack stands were set up along the road right in front of the visitor center creating a huge bottle neck as thousands of bicyclists tried to cram in. Last year the rest area was deeper in the Arboretum where Meadow Road and Forest Hills Road meet allowing a place for bikes to pull off without obstructing ongoing traffic.

Nevertheless, Peter & I had a good long snack on the hill by the visitor center. The bike traffic cleared out quickly and about fifteen minutes later it seemed that almost all the other cyclists were well on their way. We stayed in the Arboretum to play at Peter’s favorite little bridge, throwing rock and sticks in the stream.

Hub on Wheels is a great event and I love that every year Boston becomes more and more of a bicycle-friendly city. I’m going to have to figure out how to ride next year since Peter will have outgrown his child seat.

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Video of thousands of cyclists at the starting line:

Related posts:

Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon & Green Roots Festival

On Sunday June 26th, my son Peter & I rode in the fundraiser Bike-A-Thon for Bikes Not Bombs.  We were able to raise $376 for this worthy cause (feel free to add to our donations).  All-together 464 riders raised over $135,000 to support the work of Bikes Not Bombs!

My photos are online and some other great photographs from a professional photographer are also available.

The 15-mile riders prepare to set out.

  • There were rides of 65-miles, 25-miles, and 15-miles in length.  We rode the shortest of these, the longest I could expect Peter  to stay still.
  • Riders were sent off with a “trumpet” blast played through a modified set of handlebars.
  • The PA system was powered by cyclists spinning on stationary bikes.
  • There were an impressive number of children riding on their own bikes on the 15-mile ride.
  • Some of the steepest hills were near the start of the ride challenging everyone especially the young children.
  • The first place I’d never been before was the Stony Brook Reservation which featured a bike path through the woods that felt miles away from the city.
  • The path rather gloriously zipped downhill, but wet pavement and downed leaves forced me to be cautious.
  • Near our rest break there were well-uniformed adults playing baseball.
  • We returned to urban Boston passing through the rusty but charming Hyde Park area.  The neighborhood was very quiet on a Sunday morning.
  • When I finally returned to parts of the city I’d been to before on Walk Hill Avenue, I didn’t recognize it at first.
  • Another new discovery is a corrections facility right behind Forest Hills Cemetery.  I live on the opposite side of the cemetery and never knew it was there.
  • In Franklin Park we saw men playing cricket in the field by the zoo.  We were not able to find a toilet or port-a-potty that was  open (several were chained shut) for when Peter really needed to pee.
  • At the finish of the ride we were awarded medals made of old bike parts! Mine was a chainring, Peter’s a brake lever.
  • The Green Roots Festival was a great follow-up to the ride (and very JP).
  • Free food for the riders, which was delicious – hummus, beans, salad.  Yum, yum, yum!
  • Musical entertainment include some great drummers.   Peter enjoyed that a band of bucket drummers had left their instruments out for children to play with.
  • Children of all ages enjoyed zipping down the hillside on potato sacks down a large strip of cardboard.  Peter spent most of the afternoon doing this.  There were no real rules other than that you had to get off the slide so as not to be in the way of the next slider.
  • Other activities we admired but didn’t participate in included yoga, face painting and massages.

Weeeee!

Tired but happy we went home to cool off in the wading pool.  I had a great time and would love to do this ride again next year.  Come join me!

Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon

Would you like to help out a cute 3.5 year old kid and his dad as they ride a bike 15 miles around Boston to support Bikes Not Bombs?  Then donate now to support our efforts for the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon.

My son Peter & I love riding our bikes around Boston and look forward to the 15-mile ride around the city on June 12th to support Bikes Not Bombs. Bikes Not Bombs is a great charitable organization that helps the youth of our city through programs that offer bike safety lessons, teach mechanic skills and encourage a healthy life. As a result of Bikes Not Bombs programs, kids learn confidence and leadership skills. Bikes Not Bombs also refurbishes bicycles and ships them abroad. These bikes help people in Central America, the Caribbean and Africa fulfill necessary transportation and technological needs in an environmentally friendly manner.

Please consider making a donation to sponsor us and support Bikes Not Bombs. Better yet, sign up and ride with us!

Thank you very much.

Hub on Wheels

Today, Peter & I participated in the Hub On Wheels community bike ride and cycling celebration in Boston.  This was our first time riding although I signed up in a previous year and then slept through my alarm.  The only ride of this sort that I’ve participated in before was the Bike New York Five Boro Bike Tour back in 2001. Although there are no awe-inspiring moments like crossing the Verazanno Bridge, I’ll have to say that Hub On Wheels felt much better organized than the New York ride as the volunteers spaced out the bikes to avoid back ups.  In the latter part of the rides cars & bikes shared the road without much fear of bicycle safety or delay for the cars.  And unlike New York, everyone was well-behaved with no punk teens doing stunt riding.

Highlights from the ride for me:

  • riding on the Orange Line with more and more riders and their bicycles boarding at each stop.
  • check-in at the pre-register desk was pretty easy, and presumably on the honor system since no one asked for my name.
  • we didn’t get started from our point in the line until 8:20 but after that there were no “bike traffic jams” and all the riders could cruise along at their own speed and ability.
  • speeding along Storrow Drive without those pesky cars or joggers in the way.
  • while crossing the Charlesgate flyover, I noticed that the wall was battered and covered in broken car parts.  Do people really crash there that often?  Crazy!
  • Riding along Riverway bicyclists were pelted with falling acorns.  One bounced off Peter’s helmet with a loud crack!
  • lots of people said hi to Peter and told me how cute he is
  • Gorgeous views of Jamaica Pond from Perkins St. and Parkman Drive.
  • I have my own cheering section on the hills chanting “Go! Daddy! Go!”
  • Big line at the Arnold Arboretum rest area but then the volunteers walked around handing out the snacks.
  • Peter checked out the pond at the Arboretum and suddenly almost all of the bikers were gone!
  • Peter chatted with a 1-year old who was riding in a trailer behind his Mom.
  • Actually, almost all the people left at the back of the ride were people riding with kids.
  • If I didn’t feel slow enough already, at the point where the 30-mile ride and the 50-mile ride merged back together, there were dozens of 50-milers speeding in!
  • Forest Hills Cemetery is a gorgeous place to ride.  I live right next to the Cemetery, why don’t I know this already?
  • At the Forest Hills rest area, Peter enjoyed running around and around and getting out all that pent-up energy.  I followed on my sore legs.
  • Peter also picked up acorns off the ground and threw them over his head.
  • Forest Hills was our “Finish Line” and we dropped out to go to Java Jo’s for a celebratory smoothie (and coffee for a tired Dad.

I’m looking forward to doing this again next year.  My goal will be more miles and encouraging more people to ride with us!

Check out my photos from the ride in this slideshow:

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