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Everything Old is New Again…

Our friends Matt and Ken from Palm Beach Bike Tours had an interesting article a couple weeks ago that we wanted to share with the rest of you — a bike-commuting pioneer from the first U.S. gas crisis.

devon

Take a look at the article by clicking here. Apparently, synthetic fibers were all the rage in commuting clothing even way back in 1974…polyester is KING!

Superbowl Fever in Tampa…but what about bikes?

Anyone who follows professional football knows that next weekend, Superbowl XLIII makes its appearance in Tampa. Preparations are underway throughout the city for an estimated influx of over 100000 visitors for this huge event.

Since I live right down the road from Raymond James Stadium (where the game’s going to be played) and not too far from downtown Tampa, I thought I’d take a bike trip to capture some photos of the preparations and to see if there was any evidence of bicycle accomodations for the event.

First, pictures: how about the stadium itself —
rayjay

Along Himes Avenue, what used to be open grass parking fields have been converted into a “tent city”…event tents, stages and other structures designed to house the press, numerous VIP parties and something called The NFL Experience. It’s really quite amazing to see just how much has been packed into this area:

himes

more development

Huge fences have been erected with security entrances at points along it…the NFL was thoughtful enough to cover the fencing with “no peek” banners so the non-ticketholding-riffraff can’t look in at all those celebrities in attendance:

fence

Elsewhere in Tampa, a number of displays have gone up. Downtown near the Channelside area, two art installations are available for visitors. The first is an NFL-themed interactive sculpture that was part of Tampa’s recent “Lights on Tampa“. This one is called “Tampa’s public mood ring”, as it responds with different-colored lights as the crowd responds to it. The artists were thoughtful enough to set up an online tool to help change this art piece in real time. Play with that by clicking here.

mood ring

The second art installation is located nearby the “mood ring” on a portion of Tampa’s Riverwalk. It is a series of really cool sculptures made out of welded recycled steel and each piece is meant to represent an NFL team:

sculptures
(sorry, the pictures aren’t great…I’m no Russ Roca!)

Just down the street, construction crews have put the finishing touches on the brand-new Tampa Bay History Center, which is a breathtaking building. They had their grand opening last weekend and hope to be 100% operational by the time all those tourists and celebrities make their way into town.

history center

So…what does any of this have to do with bicycles? Good question. As many of you might have heard or read about, the recent inauguration in Washington D.C. saw thousands of cyclists take advantage of the free bike valet parking, courtesy of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA). These folks did a tremendous job in orchestrating this, and with large parts of the city closed to motorists, bicycles made a LOT of sense to get around on.

What about Tampa and the Superbowl? Well, it’s like this: NO ONE I’ve spoken to and nowhere have I heard about or read ANYTHING about any bicycle accomodations for this huge event. There are going to be massive street closures (some of which are listed by clicking here) and because some of the road closures are major avenues through the city, I fear that gridlock is going to spill out into surrounding areas. I’ve got a couple theories about bicycles and the Superbowl, though:

1. If you can afford a ticket to the game or one of the exclusive VIP parties, you wouldn’t be caught dead tooling around town on a bike!
2. They can’t accomodate bikes at this event because they needed the room to park all the limousines, team vehicles, broadcast trucks and celebrity Hummers.
3. The most plausible: Tampa just doesn’t get it. Bikes? Those are for recreation, not transportation!

Anyhow, things should get interesting around here. I’ve got next weekend off, so I am strongly considering putting my pirate flag on the Xtracycle and wading into gridlock over in the stadium area…passing out “Gas Sucks” stickers and showing folks caught in traffic that there IS a worthwhile alternative to burning gas. I think I’ll check out that NFL Experience, too!

Who knows? I might bump into Diddy or Carmen Electra heading to one of those exclusive parties.

More on the “LightLane” Concept

Many of you have probably read about the “LightLane” concept dreamed up by the fertile minds at Altitude, Inc. of Somerville, Massachusetts. The concept has been covered on a wide variety of cycling and design blogs, but there wasn’t a whole lot of information included.

lightlane

As a professional librarian, the quest for more information is near and dear to my heart, so I sent the designers, Evan Gant and Alex Tee, an email. Here’s what Evan had to say about the concept:

Thank you for showing interest in our LightLane concept. We are extremely excited about the response it has been receiving, which has spurred us to continue down the development path. The origin of the idea was purely conceptual, as Alex and I had entered a design competition to promote commuting by bicycle (editor’s note: the design competition was Bicycle Design’s excellent “Commuter Bike for the Masses” contest). Having witnessed several friends be hit by cars while in traffic, we felt the intimidation of sharing the road was one of the bigger barriers to commuting by bicycle.

However, we also noticed that our personal comfort on roads with bicycle lanes was much improved so we set out to understand what the differences were between these two situations. Clearly one of the biggest benefits of bicycle lanes is that there is an established common boundary that both drivers and riders respect and must stay within. However, this requires a great deal of resources and planning to implement, so we decided to focus on the fact that the bicycle lane establishes a safety buffer outside of the bicycle’s footprint.

After experimenting with physical ways of increasing the perceived size of the bicycle, we quickly realized all of these would compromise the rider’s safety by increasing the probability of accidental clipping. It was at this point that we decided to project a visual boundary onto the adjacent pavement using a laser. Although it doesn’t establish a clear and predictable path for a rider to follow, it does encourage a driver to provide the rider with a wider berth by capturing their attention in a different way.

Currently we are building a beta prototype where we will be experimenting with different laser colors and orientations. Once the optimal laser configuration has been established and validated, we will quickly develop a fully functional unit where we will focus our efforts on several aspects of usability including theft prevention, cleanability and corrosion resistance. Concurrently we will be looking for manufacturing and distribution partners.

It’s been truly remarkable to see the excitement that this concept has generated, especially considering it was just a fun quirky idea to begin with. What’s been equally interesting in my opinion is to see how the product has pushed the debate of who owns the roads. This well established debate has been a common point of discussion within my own family, and clearly the LightLane, nor any product, will solve it. Instead we hope that it connects with people in a new and fun way.

Thanks, Evan, for responding — there have been lots of great comments on the various sites that covered this concept, including different laser colors (green lasers for more daytime visibility) and even aiming the lasers into following motorists’ eyes (not such a good idea). Let’s hope this concept reaches a prototype soon, as the idea behind it is full of possibility!

Tough times…can’t sell my bikes

If you frequent this site enough, you’ll know that I like to flip bikes for fun. I really don’t make money on it, just enough to cover my next flip and take the wife out for a few drinks. But recently my flips are far and few and in between. Let’s go back about 2 weeks, keep in mind, I usually sell my bikes within the first few days of listing it.

This time I had a total of 3 bikes to sell. One of them I picked up at a local thrift store in which I reconditioned the stuck shifters. I paid $30 for it and I listed it at $100. My last bike I sold that was very similar to this model, was gone within a few hours. After 3 weeks of trying to sell this bike by posting multiple listings…nothing. I did sell one of my other bikes, but that took 2 weeks. The last bike I have, the lady never showed up and never returned my emails…flake.

So I sit there wondering, does the economy have an impact on used bikes as well? I also have a feeling that new bike sales will be hurting since more people will have less disposable income to spend on a bicycle. Or it could do the total opposite and have a different effect. Our economic down turn could wake up people and invest in a bicycle to use for daily errands. What sucks too is that gas prices have crept up again…but don’t get me started on that!

“Bicycle Design” Contest Finalists Posted

James over at the excellent Bicycle Design blog has posted the six finalists (out of over 60 entries) to his “commuter bikes for the masses” design contest.

Check out the finalists by visiting this link. There are some VERY intriguing concepts over there…but like one of the commenters, I’d love to see the rest of the designs as well.

Head on over and check it out…and when you do, is there anything that catches your eye? Do any of these solutions help encourage non-cyclists to swing a leg over and starting riding to work?