Category: Articles

Our friend Matt (regular reader and commenter “Palm Beach Bike Tours”) recently posted an article on his blog about using a bicycle to escape disasters…or to get around town after one hits.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Here is what I have learned: when all hell is breaking loose, a car isn’t going to do you any good. During evaculations, the roads are packed and moving 15 miles an hour. Cars run out of gas. Cars break down. Tempers flare. The roads move slowly.

After the 2004 hurricanes, 100-year-old oak trees in Orlando were down and even the most beefy Hummer could not get around town. Yet, you could get just about anywhere by bike if you didn’t mind lifting the bike over a trunk every once and a while.”

Read the rest of the article by visiting his blog.

Tropical Storm Fay

Well, crap. With a potential hurricane heading our way — the storm track projection on the above map labeled “8PM Tuesday” is pretty much directly over my house — we might just get to test this concept out. I’ll have to be sure the tires on my Xtracycle “escape vehicle” are pumped up! With two bikes, we should be able to get to safety with enough provisions for the whole family if we need to. Luckily, we live away from any flood zones.

I can attest to the utility of a bicycle after a natural disaster. I’ve lived in “hurricane country” (various points along the Gulf coast) since 1987, and I’ve been in the aftermath of about a dozen serious storms in that time. When gasoline is in short supply and there are downed trees everywhere, getting around town by bike doesn’t just make sense…it may be the ONLY way you’re going anywhere! A bike made it possible for me to visit friends to make sure they were OK after a storm — since telephone service was down, there was no way to call. A bike also allowed me to find a grocery store that was up and running when so many others were without power.

Something to think about, eh?

It seems like every day there is another news article stating that with the escalating gas prices and the surge in bicycles on the road, friction between motorists and bicyclists has skyrocketed. Surely, you’ve read such articles in places like the New York Times, Reuters newswire, The Wall Street Journal and a variety of other sources.

From www.taiwanderful.net
(photo from Taiwanderful)

Many of you have probably read (and responded) to such articles and discussion topics on a variety of bicycle-friendly blogs. Perhaps the most reasoned response I’ve seen comes from Paul Dorn of the excellent Bike Commute Tips blog. Check out his coverage of this issue and his thoughtful responses to this “media frenzy” by reading his article.

Another impassioned response to this media-driven “phenomenon” can be found on the Austin Cycling News blog. Writer Adriel (a frequent commenter on our site) breaks the argument down and provides some stirring rebuttals to the various “claims” of these news articles.

Put me in the “skeptic” camp…while I believe that more bicyclists are on the road and that many of them could stand to build up their skill levels a bit (something we’ve discussed before), I refuse to believe that there is a sudden rise in bike vs. car tensions. Conflict sells in the media, and with all those new bicyclists on the streets, there are a lot of “unseasoned bike commuters” out there who may perceive yelling and shouting from motorists as a terrible new development. Most of the more-experienced bicyclists out there know that this is par for the course, for the most part.

I certainly have not experienced any increase in the number or frequency of bike vs. car conflicts around here…nor have I seen a dramatic uptick in the number of bicycles on the road. But, as always, I’d like to hear your thoughts on these matters: is this all a bunch of hype to help sell newspapers? Have any of you experienced a rise in tensions on the road? Is there really a rise in these kinds of conflicts, or have a couple of highly-publicized confrontations (such as the New York and Seattle Critical Mass run-ins) put a biased spin on the public’s perception?

A friend just forwarded me a link to a resolution adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, held in late June in Miami, Florida.

ENSURING BICYCLING IS INTEGRATED INTO NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION, CLIMATE, ENERGY AND HEALTH POLICY INITIATIVES

Exciting news…perhaps politicians will really start to get on board with this and realize that bicycling is one of many great solutions not only to ease traffic congestion on U.S. roads, but also as a solution to America’s obesity epidemic, general quality of life decline and other facets that we commuters all know and love about riding a bike.

Read the full text of this inspiring resolution by going to the U.S. Mayors Conference website.

What do you think about this? Are we really going to start seeing accelerated improvements on our streets? As always, we welcome your comments and thoughts.


Our friend Ann Rappaport has been at it again…some of our readers marveled at her homemade kitty-litter bucket panniers, but that’s nothing compared to this incredible feat of DIY engineering! She was gracious enough to document the process in words and photos for us. Here it is:

The rack

Front Rack Supplies and Construction:

-Metal shelf supports/rods that are a squared off U shape:
Four @ 3 foot
One @ 4 foot
-Electrical Conduit Hangers
Two @ ¾?
-U bolts, threaded at each end and have the flat metal piece that runs between along with the two nuts
Two @ the size to fit your bikes front forks
-Clear aquarium tubing (One foot is more than enough)
-Metal Screws — I used 20 total, but the lengths may vary; buy a few extra of each size
10 @ 3/16?x3/4? long
6 @ 3/16?x 1? long
4 @ 3/16?x1 1/4? long
-Lock Nuts
20 @ 10-24
-Lock Washers
20 @ to fit screws
-Screws to fit your bikes predrilled holes on the bottom of the bikes front forks
Two

Tools:
-safety glasses
-Drill
-Metal drill bits
-Screwdrivers
-Hack Saw
-Metal File
-Pliers

Points of Importance:

1. These shelf rods have an “up? end. Always measure from that “up? end. This allows you to make use of many of the predrilled holes. To check this, measure the distance between the holes before starting. Mine were 12? apart from “up? end going down, but different when starting from the other end.

2. There are slots cut into these rods to put the shelf support into. When cutting place your blade at end of the slot but not any closer to solid metal between each of the slots (some of the predrilled holes are in this solid metal area as well). If you cut “too short? you will need to improvise.

2. Don’t use a drill in one of these pre-cut slots; use a hammer and a punch instead. The drill will grab and get caught. Once a large hole is punched you can enlarge it with the drill.

3. Very important to mark first, then cut/drill each rod piece after you have held it up to the portion of the uncompleted rack that is attached to your bike. Mark all drill holes this way, cut off waste end/extra rod length this way.

4. File every cut [of the rod] as you make them.

5. Verify before you get all those screws, lock nuts and washers that 3/16? is the correct size for your brand of shelf rod.

The Shelf Rods:

The 3′ lengths will each be used for one 12.5 ? piece and one 23.5? piece. From the resulting four 12.5? pieces you make the rack frame (the square). From the remaining 23.5″ pieces you make the uprights that support the rack from below at the fork as well as the ones that connect to the handle bars and the back of the rack.

The 4′ length will be used for two 12.5? pieces which bolt on the rack’s center. Also the uprights from the fork attach to them. The remaining length, under 2′, is used for the various braces.

Order of Construction:

Use these instructions as a guide. They worked for my bike. Your bike is different; it may need a different sequence of steps. I put lock washers on every time I used a screw. You have to assemble, then attach the rack while building it in order to mark where the cut or drill hole should be on the next piece [to be worked on]. Then take parts off/apart so you can cut and drill. It was the only way to ensure correct placement of cuts and/or drill holes. Note on the pictures which side of the shelf rod faces out. I made mine so that the finished side was out and all lock nuts are inside the shelf rod itself.

1. Make the flat surface of the rack; mine is 12?x12?

platform

2. Using a predrilled hole, if available, attach each upright to the bottom of the fork in the existing holes.

struts

3. Place the next two 12.5? lengths onto the rack frame while holding it in position so that you can mark where you need to drill the screw holes both in the uprights and the two 12.5″ lengths.

supports

You will need another person to help with this step. The two 12.5″ lengths will each have 3 holes marked (one at each end and one in the approx. center); the two uprights will each have one hole marked. You will continue with this approach to marking, then drilling or cutting.

4. After drilling these 8 holes, screw the two 12.5? pieces to the frame and then screw the frame to the uprights. The four pieces that are parallel to one another on the flat surface of the frame should all be either on the top of the other two perpendicular ones or all under. I put them on top.

parallel

5. Mark where you will cut the extra length of upright off — the mark/cut should be on an angle so it lays flush to the bar it is joined to.

flush cut

6. Make the uprights that hang from the handlebars. I cut and bent the end to allow the two surfaces to meet better.

handlebar uprights

Measure and cut the other end for the conduit hangers. I did not have any shelf rod extend above the handlebar. This is contrary to any of these types of racks I’ve seen.

conduit hangers

7. Measure and cut the cross brace at the top of the lower uprights (just under the rack but over the tire).

8. Do the same for the cross brace on the uprights attached to the handlebars.

9. Use clear mineral oil to help the tubing slide onto the large U bolts. Cut it so that it does not extend onto the threads. Hold a piece of shelf rod near so that you can mark the location of the drill holes and cuts. Put the metal cross piece that came with the U bolts against the fork; I put the label touching the fork/paint.

u bolt

Notes:
The many slots have been great for attaching those small bungee cords. It wouldn’t be hard to engineer a way to attach panniers under the rack. The benefit of this being just a platform is that you can attach whatever is needed and are not limited to one thing such as a basket.

We’d like to thank Ann for sharing this with us, and we can’t wait for the next incredible project to come…this lady’s got SERIOUS DIY skills!

I used to own a beach cruiser equipped with a tall flagpole so I could fly a “Jolly Roger” flag at bike events (check it out on Velospace). Well, that bike rusted away, but I still had the flagpole, so I thought I’d attach it to the back of my Xtracycle.

This project took all of 10 minutes to complete — all that is needed is a length of PVC pipe, two eyebolts and corresponding nuts, a strip of aluminum or steel to make a bracket, one long machine screw with nut and a few zipties. Luckily, I had all that on hand, so this project cost me the princely sum of $0.00 — the BEST kind of project!

First, the flagpole was constructed — a couple of holes drilled and the eyebolts mounted to hold the flag. Next, the base of the pole was ziptied to the crossbar at the back of the Xtracycle’s frame:

base

Then I used a piece of aluminum strip and bent it to support the flagpole on an angle away from the back of the rig. One hole is drilled into it and a corresponding hole goes through the PVC pipe. Put the long screw through both holes and snug down. Then, this aluminum bracket was bent around the back of the V-racks, using a couple extra zipties to hold it in place:

bracket

Finally, the flag is attached and we’re off — our pal Val Kleitz has the most modded Xtracycle that I know of, but I’ll bet he doesn’t have a wicked flagpole for his rig!!

Arrgh!