I experience my share of grief with support from companies, but today I had a great experience dealing with Bell. I've worn out the pads in my Bell Sweep helmet and called their customer support hoping I could purchase a new set. I was pleasantly surprised when their representative just asked for my home address and contact info so they could ship out a replacement set, no charge. I've heard some people grumble about Bell customer service, I certainly have nothing to complain about after my initial experience with them today.
The Monday, July 30th edition of the USA Today had a front page article on the "complete streets" program. For those that may not know, "complete streets" is a term used to describe roadways designed to accommodate all types of travel, not just automobiles. It's great to see this idea make headlines in a major US paper.
I'm starting to hear talk of bike share programs becoming a reality in the US. The whole idea is to have various checkout stations around a city, where you can swipe a credit card or pay by phone to rent a bike. You then return the bike at any other checkout station. It provides an economical means to travel from place to place around a city. It appears that NYC is testing a bike-share program, I haven't read about any other such programs in the US. I think you would need a fairly large city or a very progressive city, where few people own or drive cars, to make such a program work. It will be interesting to see how the test works in NYC.
Speaking of NYC, I saw an announcement for the upcoming PARK(ing) day on September 21st. This is a one-day, global event started in San Francisco where artists, activists, and citizens collaborate to temporarily transform parking spots into a "PARK(ing) space", a.k.a a temporary park. This is certainly an interesting idea, I just wonder how many motorists it really annoys. I guess motorist can't complain too loudly, as long as they abide by the parking meter rules. As most meters I've ever parked at have a two hour maximum stay, some of these people sure put in a lot of work. I wonder if they start feeding the meter upon arrival or when they are finished setting up?
I happened across an article written by a bicycle commuter in Nevada prior to this years bike to work day, here is the entire article. I thought it was a simple, yet effective article discussing some of the issues facing cyclists. I don't think it was overly confrontational and provided some food for thought to motorists who may otherwise have just become annoyed by cyclists. I've never seen anything like this published in our local paper, perhaps in just under a year I'll go back, dig this article up, and send something to our local newspapers.
I was riding into work this morning and happened to pass a Starbucks parking lot with a Smart Car parked in it. I stopped to take a quick peek and snapped a couple of pictures. It looks like a cute and practical little car for a commuter or couple. The best demonstration was when the guy took the car and parked it perpendicular to the curb on the side of the road, try that with a normal car. If you haven't already seen the video, there is a pretty amazing smart car crash test video posted on You-Tube. Talking with they guy, they are going to be distributed through Mercedes Benz dealers in the US and will be priced at between $14k and $17k. My bike still gets better gas mileage, but it is still a pretty cool little car.
I saw a "Share the Road" message on one of those big highway signs yesterday. The odd part, it was on the highway in a place where cars and bikes would never meet. I like the fact that they actually had this message being displayed, but question how effective it will actually be. Now take that sign or a bunch of those signs, put them at all the entrances to the city and now you have something that could really make a difference.
I'm becoming more convinced that there are more bikes on the roads these days. For a while I was questioning whether I was just becoming more in tune with watching for cyclists or there was a real growth. I started asking other cyclists whether they have noticed the same trend and we are all in agreement, there are definitely more bikes on the roads. Some day we may actually reach a critical mass and all cities will be like Portland, OR.
Since we live on a peninsula, there is a fairly narrow corridor I can ride as I approach my house and I frequently meet up with random cyclists along this part of my commute. Typically, I'm best matched up with racers who are out for a "day off", they cruising along at a pretty good commuting pace and it gives us a chance to chat. Over the past few months, I've discovered that I'm apparently developing a reputation. Almost all of the people I meet ask whether I'm either "that commuter guy" or "the guy that moves with panniers". Obviously, my bike is noticeable enough that they either see me in person or have heard mention of my great commuting feats during races.
This is another great example of how different your interactions are with those around you when commuting by bike rather than car. In a car, you certainly get to the point where you recognize other people who commute the same way you do, but do you ever interact with them? I'm curious what the bike culture is like in Europe, do they act more like drivers and keep to themselves or are they frequently having rolling discussions with different people. I guess I'll just have to do a field study some day.
I saw my fist Townie on the road during my ride home yesterday. We were passing in opposite directions, so I didn't get a good look, but it was definitely one. These bikes have been raved about online. I know Charlotte actually ended up purchasing one a few weeks ago. Hopefully, she will post some initial thoughts about the bike after she gets few miles under her tires.
Fisher-Price has recently released a kid's exercise bike to help fight childhood obesity. Apparently, it's a plastic bike that connects to your television and encourages your kid to pedal along to interact with games. If this isn't a sad statement about the habits of American's, I'm not sure what would be much stronger. What ever happened to having kids go outside and play? My kids absolutely love playing outdoors and, if it weren't for those nagging parents that try to schedule meals, might well be happy spending the entire day outside.
A a slightly different note, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is renewing his push for a congestion pilot program. "The scheme calls for cars to pay $8 and trucks to pay $21 to enter Manhattan's most heavily traveled business district during work days, with the money going toward transportation improvements." They don't go into details about what transportation improvements they are talking about, but one can only hope it involves mass transit and tossing some money towards support bicycles. This type of scheme has been used in London for a number of years now and seems to be working out just fine. Opponents claim that the charges would place an unfair burden on the middle class. Huh? They could ride a train or choose to pay the daily rate. I can't believe it would be more expensive for someone to pay the costs associated with driving (gas, fuel, and maintenance) than it would be to purchase a monthly train pass. I'd certainly like to see more people hop on their bikes, but I'd settle for mass transit at the moment. A use tax should help ease congestion, which will certainly make it nicer for cyclists.
I installed Alex King's WordPress Mobile Edition plugin this evening. It allows people with mobile (smartphone/blackberry) browsers to easily keep up with the posts and comments on the site. Let me know if you notice any problems with the site or if you use the plugin and find it helpful.