Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Building a better mousetrap (2)

Or at least a better way to gather cans. From New Mexico.

Notice how the basket is made out of bike rims!

A better mousetrap (1)

Or at least a way to turn sign posts into better bike parking. From Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Arturo Flores of Astoria, R.I.P.

If you have information, please leave a comment. People need to know. Especially about funeral arrangements and such things.

Was the driver drunk?

Was the man a excellent pan flute player (not my favorite instrument... but now that's not really the issue here, is it)?

Did he run a red light? Who knows? Does it matter? He was good man who didn't deserve to die.

I run red lights all the time. But not if a car is going to kill me. If I was a car running a red light (I've seen it all the time) and killed a guy on a bike... I'd say the bike ran the red light. I simply don't believe cars. Especially when they do stupid shit and kill people.

No charges filed.

I write this and I hope nobody ever has to write this about me.

R.I.P. Arturo Flores.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Astoria bicyclist killed

Rumor has it that a bicyclist was killed yesterday morning at 27th St and 23rd Ave in Astoria. The driver stopped and, as always, was not charged.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Finally... Tax breaks for bike commuting!

One of my biggest pet peeves: drivers get my tax dollars for driving to work and I get nothing for biking.

It's changed! Just two weeks after the news broke, you read it here. (Amazing what other bike blogs will tell you.)

Now don't get too excited. It's only $20 a month. But symbolically, I think it's huge. I commute. I bike. I should be encouraged to do so.

Read about it here and here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Free bikes at school

Bikes and college. Perfect together. Here's the story in the Times.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Screamin' Salmon Unfixed

The Screamin' Salmon was my fixed-gear bike. A few months ago, after 10 years, I decided to unfix her. I wanted to coast down the Queensboro bridge.

First I put the Bendix 2-speed kickback hub on her, but that hub was too heavy for such a light bike. So then I went with a simple $20 Shimano one-speed coaster brake hub (the Bendix hub was moved to my heavy locked-outside local bike, which is a great match). And I put on 650 wheels (smaller than standard racing wheels) to allow fender clearance. And there's a nice chain guard. I have a rear rack that attaches to the seatpost (not pictured) with panniers for light and medium loads. Plus the Egyptian Spoke Bell (great for Times Square and the bike lane down Broadway). If it weren't for the bell, I probably would have gone with standard hand brakes on the rear wheel. But coaster brakes are also nice because they're weather proof.

I present the Screamin' Salmon to you as a good light fast upright city bike.
It's also probably the coaster-brake bike in the world with bike clipless peddles.

I've fiddled a lot with the bike. I've changed the seat, and the handlebars, and the handlebar stem, and the wheels. I think I've finally got it right.

It may not be the perfect city bike as it goes more for upscale speed than down and dirty carrying. But it meets all the requirements for a good city bike. And as one of my three bikes, it fills a nice niche between racing bike and tank of a bike. I ride this when want to bike to Manhattan and not carry anything on my bike. Or on the rare occasion when I'm wearing something halfway nice and want to arrive looking decent.

Bike wrangling

A friend from Amsterdam brought this nice system for hanging bikes. It's German. And has pulleys. I like pulleys.

Our ceilings aren't high enough so you can actually walk under the bikes. But it does make things a lot neater with two of three bikes up off the ground.

Queensboro Bridge

I biked all the city in the past few days. The bike lane down Broadway (bring your bell), to the Gowanus Canal, and over the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges. And more painted bike lines are coming. If you squint really hard, you can begin to see the start of a real bike network in places. Astoria still has a ways to go. On the other hand.

I also went over the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges for the first time in a while. The Manhattan Bridge has always been good biking. The Williamsburg, I noticed, never levels off. It's up, and then down. I'd say the Queensboro is almost as nice as the Manhattan Bridge, but the Queensboro is too loud, with all that traffic right there. Also, I get so frustrated at the bad design on each end of the bridge.

And that they spend money putting up a useless and ugly fence.

On the Manhattan side, where there was a perfectly good original-era wall (seen in background, they plopped down Jersey Barriers, making a narrow path narrower, and put up a chain link fence. Now it's worse and uglier.

Russian Girl to Dogwalker

Seen on the Queensboro bridge.

Hi Dogwalker,
Tell me what I did wrong. I'll change. Let's start over. I only want you. I miss you.
The Russian Girl
How come nobody chalks love letters on the Queensburo Bridge to me?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Brompton Folding Bike

I rode my friend's Barbie-pink Brompton folding bike in Boston. I was impressed. It rides very well and folds so small you can almost put it in your pocket. Small enough to bring in to places with you rather than lock it. And when it's folded, it rolls. My Swift Folder doesn't roll. If it were a present, I'd take the Brompton of the Swift Folder. But the Swift Folder costs much less (about $800 versus $1,400) and is made in Brooklyn.

This Brompton bike was fully equipped. Fenders, rear rack, a dynamo for lights, a bag that attaches to the front, and three speed internal hub plus a 2-speed derailleur giving half speeds. The latter seemed a bit excessive at first, but Boston has more hills than NYC. I used all the speeds. Boston is also a fabulous biking town because it's so damn small. I miss biking in Boston.

Folding bikes are great, once you get over the goofy way they look. But hey, unless you're a beautiful woman or a man in a suit riding an Amsterdam-style bike, you already look goofy riding a bike.

Are folding bikes as good as a full-sized bike? Well, that depends on what your full-sized bike is. For all the idiots riding around the city with too large aluminum-framed mountain bikes with straight handlebars and knobby off-road tires, well, the city folding bike would be a nice step up.

My complaint about folding bikes is that they're a very rigid ride. But mostly that's not because they fold but because they're hard aluminum and not soft steel (though that lack of the traditional triangle shape must also play a roll). The handlebars are also a little smaller than I would like. But I'm picky about bikes. And very sensitive.

I bought my Swift Folder as my New York City bike before I lived in NYC. I could keep it my girlfriend's apartment. It served me well but now does not get ridden much. It now is a guest bike for short guests.

And if the choice was folding bike or no bike, I would have no hesitation.

Self Service Bike Rental

I was on Peaks Island, Maine. Year-round population: 1,000. It's part of the city of Portland and a short and pleasant ferry ride past hundreds of lobster traps.

There's not actually much to do there, but the island is too big to walk around quickly. But as we we started heading off to nowhere in particular.

Oh, what joy when we stumbled upon the self-service bike rental sign. It's the type of thing, had I found it in foreign lands, I would have said, "you'd never find this in America!" I filled out a form, put $10 in a box (for two bikes for one hour), picked a nice bike, and biked off. It was fabulous.

We circled the island, dipped our feet in the water, biked barefoot a bit, and my wife rescued a cute little snake from the middle of the road. She's very brave.

Thank you, Peaks Island self service bike rental.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Where's the outrage?

Or even the traffic ticket.
Two Women Are Fatally Hit by Taxis

"This one taxi tried to beat the light," Mr. Medrano said. "He hit the first girl. She flew up and into oncoming traffic. He ran over the second girl."

Both taxis stayed at the scene, and the police said no charges had been filed against either driver.
No charges?! Are you fucking kidding me?! How about speeding? How about reckless driving? I think it's safe to say that any time you hit a pedestrian you're being reckless!

The basic problem is that the car is never at fault as long as the other party was also doing something wrong. And that counts jaywalking as wrong, which isn't the case in NYC.

How about this for a law: any time a car hits a pedestrian or bike in New York City, the car is at fault. Period. That's the law in Amsterdam. It's a great law. It makes cars slow down. It saves lives.

Yes, that's right, you can be riding swerving drunk, at night, no lights, the wrong way down a one-way street, and running a red light (though they usually turn them off at night). You go right in a car's way. Bam! The car was minding its own business. The car is at fault. Always.

Here is New York City?

Bike hits pedestrian? Bike at fault. Bad bike.

Car hits bike? Bike at fault. Bad bike.

Car hits pedestrian? Oops. Sorry. Accidents happen. You're dead.

So if you're one of those namby-pamby people who bitches about bikes running lights, get some perspective and stop friggin' whining.

Or if you think that the public will love you because you're a "good" rider and wear a bike helmet and smile when you come to a complete stop at stop signs... Yeah, fat fucking chance.

If you think it's wrong for me to advocate that bikes rationally (and courteously) ignore most traffic laws, you have a Teutonic sense of moral order that would make Rudy Giuliani proud.

And if you think that "following rules" and being "in the right" is protection against being killed, don't frown. You must live in Big Rock Candy City where the cars are cushioned with marshmallows and the curbs overstuffed with down.

It's a big city and every now and then a bike will hit a pedestrian. Sorry. If the bike is at fault, give the bike a ticket and move on. In the meantime, get a fucking grip and bitch about what's really killing you and me: Cars. That's why I hate them.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Disco Queens bike

Nobody ever said Astoria Bike was out there breaking the latest news.

Six weeks behind the times I give you this:

See the Gothamist's first and second store for the whole old story.

And the source: Made in Queens.

So cool. Check out the trailer for the documentary. These are cool bikes and I love Indians with Caribbean accents, but, er, I'm glad they don't go blaring through my neighborhood. Actually, I might love it if they came through here about once a month.


Putting bike racks on subway grates. And protect against flooding. I just hope the grates are small enough that keys can't fall through.
The whole story is here.