More Amazing Utility Bikes

A couple weeks ago, I posted a set of YouTube videos that showcased some of my favorite wacky “utility bikes”.

That posting caught the eye of one of our astute readers, who forwarded us a link to an amazing article on the Designboom blog. The article is a showcase recently held in St. Etienne, France — consisting of sustainable human- and solar-powered utility bikes, from electric-assist tricycles to a solar-powered DJ booth to my favorite, the rolling human-powered bike shop:

bike shop
(photo from the Designboom article)

Spin on over to read the full article and to gaze upon some of these wondrous creations.

Just Ask Jack: Lock Considerations?

I got an email the other day from Jeff Baldwin, a professional locksmith and fellow bike commuter from up in Morristown, New Jersey. In an effort to better serve his customers who ask about good bike locks, he was hoping to get a little input from our readers.


Specifically, he would like some input on which locks have worked well (or poorly) for you folks out there. Have you spent a lot of money on a lock, only to find your bike missing when you went to retrieve it? Also, when purchasing a lock, is convenience and portability part of the equation, or do you stick with the most bulletproof lock you can find? Sometimes the two don’t go hand in hand…I favor a big hardened steel chain with attached padlock or disc lock, but I do NOT relish carrying that behemoth around!

We’ve talked about lock strategy a little bit before…and any tips and tricks you might have in this area would be beneficial.

In any case, other considerations/personal observations and stories you’ve had will be greatly appreciated by Jeff, who will take our input and possibly be able to write up a comprehensive article for the trade journal published by the Associated Locksmiths of America (in addition to better guidance for his customers). You’ve done great for us, dear readers — always ready to lend a hand in developing information to better the bike commuting community. Let’s see what you’ve got! Web Event Start Tomorrow

If you have time over the weekend, please visit our friend Darren’s excellent bicycle-touring website at

His two-day “Web Event” kicks off at 8AM tomorrow…and the crew from have been given the honor of kicking it off with the first article posted — a crash-course tutorial on bicycle commuting.

Check out the lineup by clicking here….it’s gonna be star-studded! Plus, there will be periodic prize giveaways throughout the weekend. Stop in and check it out, ok?

OpenStreetMap Mapping Party in Tampa

Sorry about the late notice… is hosting a bicycle-based mapping party in Tampa this coming weekend (November 22nd and 23rd). Here are the details from the invitation:

Mapping parties are events where anyone can come along and join in improving the free world map of everything. We show you how to collect data (survey) and get the data in to OpenStreetMap. Once you put the data in to OpenStreetMap you or anybody around the world, can use the map in interesting and creative ways.

We have an event coming up in the Tampa/St.Pete area on November 22 – 23, 2008. They are informal events with no explicit time commitment and often a social element / refreshments afterwards. You should join us.

Saturday 10 – 5, and refreshments after.
Sunday 10 – 5

Experts, beginners and the curious are all welcome.

Rain or shine.

The party kicks off at the Panera Bread location at 11860 Bruce B Downs Blvd, near the University of South Florida campus. The organizer states that there will be a few “loaner” GPS units on hand, but you’re welcome to bring your own if you’re so inclined.

If you’re in the Tampa/St. Pete area and you’re interested in getting involved, please RSVP to:

Commuter Self-Defense…For Real This Time

A few weeks ago, I posted a humorous YouTube video as a “self-defense” tutorial for bicycle commuters.

Mere days later, a close friend of mine (coworker and occasional commuting partner) was “bike jacked” on the streets of Tampa. Details are a little hazy — my friend lost his bike and was forced to run for his life, and in the mad scramble to survive, many of the subtle details were lost. Basically, two assailants saw him coming, hiding behind a van parked on the street until he passed them. One assailant jumped out and tried to tackle him off his bike. My friend wobbled and recovered, but by then the second assailant arrived, pulling the victim off his bike and punching him in the face and neck. My friend remembered that initially he was fighting to get his bike back…or at least keeping it between him and the thugs. When he heard voices approaching (More assailants? Curious onlookers? Good Samaritans? Who knows?), he decided to cut his losses and run away. He figured that losing a $75.00 bike was better than getting beat up (or worse).

My friend managed to get away, and he was picked up by the Tampa City Police a few blocks away. The bike-jacking occured in a not-particularly-bad neighborhood and it happened just after nightfall…well before incidents like this generally take place.

All of this brings me back to the topic at hand — with night coming early now that Daylight Saving Time is over, how can we defend ourselves against scofflaws? I mean, we already have to deal with dangerous motorists, road debris, obstructions and myriad other safety concerns.

On other sites, when this topic comes up, folks often respond, “oh, just carry a gun!” This isn’t an ideal solution for many of us, though. While concealed carry permits are definitely a valid self-defense option, some folks don’t want a firearm with them and others fear an escalation if things come to a head. Fellow bicycle commuter and gun-rights advocate Xavier (Nurse With a Gun) has written extensively on this subject. For me, this isn’t an option — although I am a firearm owner and CCW permit holder, I work in a government building where firearms are strictly forbidden…what am I supposed to do, stash my pistol in the bushes outside until I get out of work? I don’t think so…

So, the question is: what are some of the other options do bike commuters have to defend themselves? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Obviously, there are some common-sense approaches to minimize risks, like choosing commuting routes carefully, being hyper-aware of the world around you, avoiding incidents altogether and being prepared to sprint like hell when the chips are down. Your concerns, defense techniques and any other tidbits will be greatly appreciated.