June 18, 2013
Among our excuses for not riding bicycles is that America is too spread out. This explains why we don’t ride cross country very often, but not why we don’t ride to the grocery store. In fact, a whole lot of us live in places that are quite dense. I attempted to graph this before using 2000 Census data and “50K areas” but I was unhappy with the result, both because of my errors and because 50K area leaves out a lot (I live in a town of 25000, for example).
Happily, with new data, organized by non-overlapping zipcode, I can solve both those problems. One sixth of us (52 million people) live in places denser than 5362 per square mile; the next sixth, denser than 2786 per square mile, the next sixth, denser than 1292 per square mile (that’s the median density for our population; half of us live in zipcodes less dense than that, too). With all the zipcodes included it’s clear that many of us live in plenty-dense places.
I’ve tagged the graph with zipcodes in the Boston area north of the Charles River, mostly inside 128, plus all of Boston, and also plus three European cities known for their relatively high bike trip share. Read the rest of this entry »
We went for a ride on the tandem today (actually, months ago, I sat on this for a while), into Cambridge, to Inman Square, and we had to get there reasonably quickly. The conclusion from the stoker S was “that was not much fun; I would do it again on the tandem, but not on my own”. For all the claimed bike-friendliness of Cambridge, they’ve got a long long way to go.
The two main problems are (1) that the calm routes are not direct, and the direct routes are not calm and (2) avoiding nasty traffic and tight spots requires improvisation that is technically illegal, which makes it unsettling to many people, and hides it from official discussion of routes and infrastructure planning.
And people need to understand — me, personally, it’s good enough, but I’m a member of the biking 1% who tolerates traffic. The rest of you people, if you think to yourself, “gee, I’d like to commute to work on my bike, I need to lose 20 pounds, and I HATE parking in Cambridge” — until Cambridge gets serious, it’s probably not going to happen for you. You’ll try it, and hate it. And it’s not your fault; it’s Cambridge’s fault. Read the rest of this entry »
June 18, 2013
This is the sort of stuff that drives me nuts. Some guy (you know it was a guy) saved himself, oh, a minute or two by not writing an error message correctly, and that means that I (another guy) must spend many, many minutes in a debugging McGuffin to try to figure out what’s really going on. Read the rest of this entry »
March 30, 2013
Biking across Cambridge remains problematic despite their various efforts to improve things. The least-challenging routes are nowhere near direct, and the more direct routes contain uncomfortable stretches and a few random dangers. Sometimes fixing trouble spots is hard — for example, there has to be a tradeoff between car flow and bicycle flow, or between parking and bicycle flow.
But sometimes, making things better for bicycles requires no tradeoff. An example of this is the crosswalk from Cambridge Common to Harvard Law School across Mass Ave. Technically it’s “not for bicyles”, but in practice it is, because the other routes through Harvard Square are crowded and full of cars.
This crosswalk has two problems. First, it’s not big enough; there’s often enough pedestrian and bicycle traffic that people pile up and get in each other’s way. This can lead to conflict between bikes and peds, which is not good. Second, it’s not intuitive. For whatever reason, the crosswalk is divided into segments that don’t all “go” at the same time. A cyclist who’s not aware of this (who makes the completely reasonable assumption that it’s all go) runs the risk of sprinting right into the front of a car with a green light.
The problematic lane is marked with a blue dashed line. The other lines, pink and blue, show (what could be) the two basic cycles for this light.
My solution to this problem comes in two parts. First, the pedestrian crossing must be all “go” at the same time. The light then has two cycles, pink and blue. One problem with this is that it requires a very long walk signal for the slowest pedestrians to get all the way across, and this will probably interfere with the car traffic flow. Instead, run the walk signal on a shorter cycle that only gives the slowest walkers time to get half-way across. However, at the island where they are expected to stop and wait, provide a nice place to wait (shown in the picture with a green box). That means covered to protect from the weather, and with substantial barriers to protect from passing traffic (in the case of parents with small children, to help keep children getting into traffic). This should include a bench, so people can sit and rest.
Second, because the faster pedestrians and cyclists will certainly plan to cross in a single cycle, make the crossing wide enough (and mark it) so that they can spread out, move fast, and avoid conflict. There’s no particular reason that the crosswalk needs to be as narrow as it is; there is an ample stretch of unused space, and it should be dedicated to making this crossing nicer for people who aren’t driving.
All the crosswalk signals must have countdown timers, so that people crossing can properly estimate whether they can make it across in a single cycle or not.
March 23, 2013
Dear Burlington Planners,
I don’t live in Burlington, but I work in Burlington, and I often ride my bike to work, and what keeps me from riding to work more often is the abominable cycling and pedestrian facilities that you (Burlington) provide. I think you can and should do better. In addition, a friend of ours has a somewhat-special-needs son who works at the Dollar Tree; he cannot drive, but with a few road improvements in Burlington he could probably ride a bicycle to work, which would be better for everyone involved. Read the rest of this entry »
February 9, 2013
January 21, 2013
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s crying with all her might and main,
And she won’t use the bike lane – ice pudding again -
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
Pictures taken January 8, snow from before the New Year.
But at least, when we get to the light, bicycles have their very own plowed lane:
October 29, 2012
I read, over on comments on a blog entry at the Atlantic, that New York City government employees are asked to report to work tomorrow, even though the subways are likely to be out of order, and at least one of those employees is peeved at the prospect of traveling seven miles by foot.
And I know if I say “you could ride a bike — in fact I plan to ride a bike to work tomorrow, 10 miles, because of the likely traffic jams”, that this mere statement of fact will mark me as a smug asshole, totally out of touch with the life of ordinary-salt-of-the-earth-Americans. But in fact, if you rode a bike often enough to stay in some semblance of shape, you could do this, and your mayor is even putting in all sorts of bike lanes and cycle tracks to make this somewhat easier, and would probably have installed even more by now if ordinary-salt-of-the-earth-Americans did not make such a tremendous fuss every time he installed a new one.
but if you were thinking about getting a cargo bike, the coming-soon Xtracycle EdgeRunner is a pretty nice-looking piece of work. Here’s the promo for Interbike, here’s the technical guy from Xtracycle explaining features.
I’m not sure what I could say to add to their own advertising, except to confirm that this stuff is real, meaning you really can do what you see in the video, and these guys really do know their stuff. Xtracycle’s first product (the FreeRadical) was a wonder; three attachmnt points and it’s securely on, the only mods to the bike itself are longer shift and brake cables, plus an extension to the chain. Miraculously, the derailer chain would just fit in the available space between all the structural parts. The snap deck was light, strong, and good looking, and even then the design was “open” enough that people made their own replacement decks (for example, a snapdeck skateboard).
A choice of a cargo bike involves tradeoffs, but this design made some nice ones. More torque, longer wheelbase, lower load, stiffer, and nice new accessories for carrying kids or really heavy stuff with ease. The big advantage of longtails (over the other large-bike choice, front-loading Long-Johns and bakfiets) is that they maneuver “just like a bike”; unloaded, you can walk or ride them through narrow places with relative ease (front loaders are more convenient to load, but ride less like a “normal” bike, and tend to have mandatory width, though it varies).
There’s a serious electric assist option — 910 watts; that’s almost 3 of me, meaning that I could haul a 110-pound load up a 10% grade at 12-15 mph, depending on how hard I wanted to work. That drives up the price, however.
For bonus fun, it’s a relatively open platform; the electric assist is designed to use standard connectors, not proprietary ones, and the specs for the cargo area of the frame itself are “open“.
For double bonus fun, the frame’s designed by the fastest (self-propelled) man on earth.
August 26, 2012
Not of general interest, but I am proud of my handiwork. This is for a Rohloff hub and tensioner. The problem with the tensioner, at least on my bicycle (Big Dummy), is that there is a stop-peg for setting how far forward the cage can go, that also limits how far back the cage can go, and this gets in the way of removing the wheel. For something as expensive as a Rohloff (and the Big Dummy’s not exactly cheap, either), everything should just work, and it didn’t, so this was a problem. Looking at it, I realized that I could build my own stop from any sort of flat stuff (I also have some Corian countertop scraps that would have served), and then remove the peg. I did this, and after one false start (hand to do a second pass with a Dremel) it worked.
I suppose I should do the work to render this into a 3-d model, so that I can have them fabbed by Ponoko or Shapeways or something, but I’ve got mine, and the market for Big Dummy’s equipped with Rohloff hubs AND chain tensioners is probably not that large.