Friday Musings: My Bikeless Butt in Buenos Aires

Happy Friday, Bike Commuters! A short, but wonderful WTF weirdness update from the world of Mir.I.Am: live from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Rental Bikes - Buenos Aires - Argentina

Bike Envy: my bikeless butt covets the yellow bikes of Buenos Aires. By pepsiline on flickr.

It’s perpetual travel time nowadays, which means I am bikeless in Buenos Aires. The last bike standing – my orange vintage ride – woefully collects dust in the faraway land of San Francisco, at my sister’s apartment. After a shameful three months of hoofing it through Costa Rica and Dramamine-induced bus rides… I think I’ve come down with a case of Bikeless Butt Envy! Everywhere I look, I see happy Argentines riding yellow cruisers, and my butt gets jealous like too-short teenagers in a roller coaster park. These fits of jealousy spark an inner dialogue between my butt and me that goes like this:

Bikeless Butt Post-It

“Get your limp body up on a saddle!” – my butt taunts as Cycle Ladies breeze by in summer dresses and platform sandals in Buenos Aires. I must be losing it – my butt is talking to me. Did my butt just leave me a post-it on the front door?

“I’m sick of this shiz, smother me into some strange-ass public bike share saddle, Mejor en Bici style,” chirps my bum.

“Quit your nagging, Flatness Everdeen, I’m on a tight travel budgie since Costa Rica… And, let’s be honest, you weren’t ready to crank me up Volcano Mountain in humid rainstorms without clips and some spandoise!” I retort.

“Get over it, Chinita Loca… There are ZERO hills in this city. Booty-up and do your paperwork so we can see the city via two wheels!” The butt makes a good point, and I’m out of excuses.

Time to muster up my Castellano courage and dive into some paper bureaucracy – the only thing I need is proof of address in Buenos Aires and identification. Check out those baskets and clown horns, amigos!

And so, the excursion begins this week – I’m on this like tweens on Twilight. It’s time to listen to my butt and get back on a bike. With 28 Mejor en Bici stations, the bike share possibilities are as prolific as puddled potholes in the sidewalk around this town. And there is a large network of car-free lanes (marked in yellow in the map below) where bikes can avoid the notoriously heinous driving of the local Porteños… Drool in awe:

Cross your fingers, Bike Commuters, for a successful sign-up to get my butt back on a bike. It’s been far too long, and I’ve gone off the deep end. I’ll think of all the velomonsters out there this weekend, as I live vicariously through your bike commutes.

Bike Pin Up Girl

Bike Envy! From my butt, to yours.


Traffic jams, pileups, parking problems…on bikes

Commuters here in the U.S. have had it beaten over our heads for years about how amazing the bike culture is in cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. In fact, when a U.S. city gets serious about developing bike infrastructure, one of the first tasks is to send planners to visit one of those European cities for a firsthand look at how it all works.

But, those cities are not without their problems:

Problems all-too familiar to car drivers the world over, from traffic jams to road-rage and lack of parking, are now also threatening to turn the Dutch dream of bicycling bliss into a daily hell.

In a small country where bicycles outnumber people by 1.2-million, the Dutch have simply run out of space to accommodate the five million cyclists who take to the road every day, turning commuting in major cities into a nightmare.

Read the rest of the article by visiting South Africa’s Independent Online site.

Too much of a good thing? Personally, I could live with some of that two-wheeled mayhem! How about you?

The “Perfect” Commute – Sunday Bliss

Man vs. Machine

Empty streets in Honolulu - The "Perfect" Commute! Image from Oliver Beattie's flickr.

Do you ever have one of those late evening/early night rides home where you take some superfluous detours just to stre-e-e-e-e-etch your ride a little bit longer!?  The other evening I had The “Perfect” Commute home after a relaxing work party chock full of boozin’ co-workers and tasty catered goodies.  It was a just-turned dark out blissful Sunday, at no such thing as traffic o-clock.  The weather was balmy enough for shorts, flowy top, and rubber slippahs for the beginning of the commute.  Near the end of the ride, when the sweat starts to kick in, just a smidge of tradewinds and light showers showed up to cool me down, but not enough to puddle the pavement!

bike shorts night

A bike shorts n slippahs kinda night

After the rain drops, I knew it was time to take the slow ride home and jumped on the “bikes and bus only” route through Hotel Street – checking out the sleeping downtown skyscrapers and local regulars chatting in front of the karaoke bars.  I like to aim my front blinky light at store windows and reflective signs and turn everything into a passing mini disco pahtay when no one is buzzing past me in a rush!

the crank

Bikes and Bus Only - Hotel Street thoroughfare at night by !!wat dat!! on flickr.

I love to make random stops on the way home in different neighborhoods just to check out some new things around Honolulu.  Zigzagging my way through the one-way streets in Chinatown, I passed by Mark’s Garage to check out the Bike Prom… There were bow-tied young’uns posed as bike valets out front, a bike wheel balloon arch at the doorway, and custom bike frames suspended in the gallery – it looked like a bike crack party for sure!  More Sunday Bike Bliss on this commute home… it must be my lucky day.  I stopped in, valeted my borrowed steed (the roommate’s Giant hybrid, a.k.a. the Banshee) to check out some peeps dressed in silly bike-themed prom outfits.

P1016248 bikeprom

KVIBE and the bike valets at Bike Prom - photo by Malia Harunaga

Fall is here, Bike Commuters, enjoy your blissful evening rides home from work and school… leave a little bit later to miss the traffic jam and cruise through the streets with just you, your bike, some cross-dressing ladies of the night, and some blinky-ass lights!

Chicago Bike Backlash?

OK… I’m only just now getting caught up with the world around me… seems I was operating in a ‘bubble’ when this article first broke. And ignorance was bliss… but my mom called and had questions about my reaction to the latest bike news – that the mayor plans to implement bike tolls and fees and licenses…. making Chicago truly the most expensive city! (not nickel and dimed – but rather dollared to poverty) Someone’s gotta pay for painting those bike lanes… right? STOP!

First – let’s get to the article that started it all…. published by columnist John Kass for the Chicago Tribune: “Introducing bike tolls and the Rahm-PASS and the follow-up Taxing bikers: The wheels begin to spin“. (sadly you must be a subscriber to view)

So, here are the highlights before we continue. It starts with:

Here’s what could be coming for the bike-to-work crowd:

•City bike tolls and city bike vehicle stickers, which could bring in millions upon millions of much-needed revenue to City Hall, allowing the cash-strapped government to add new police to its woefully undermanned force.

•City stop-sign cameras to automatically ticket bicyclists who cruise past the signs without stopping, infuriating those of us in cars.

•Hefty city bike parking fees, like the city parking meter fees, easily enforced as bikers “park” in city bike racks. No sticker = big tickets. And if you don’t pay, there’s always the bike boot.

•And my personal favorite: the Rahm-PASS. Fixed to the bike’s handlebars, the Rahm-PASS transponder would be like the I-PASS for cars on state tollways. Cyclists would cruise underneath strategically situated girders over street corners with heavy bike traffic, and they would bypass (or Rahm-PASS) the bike tollbooths run by grumpy political workers.

It concludes with the following allegation:

Call me what you will, Mr. Joe Bike Guy, but the facts are that the city is spending $4.7 million on 34 miles of bike lanes this year — and could spend tens of millions on some 450 miles of new bikeways planned by 2020.

The follow-up article features a series of questions supposedly submitted by readers and Kass’ responses, including:

I’ve been walking to work from the train for seven years. I don’t need one hand to count the number of bicyclists that have stopped for a red light at a crosswalk out of the hundreds I’ve seen. We need to ban bicycles so the streets are safe for pedestrians. Save us, Rahmfather! Paul G.

Dear Paul — We don’t want to ban bicycles. We just want to tax the heck out of them, because A) bike riders during rush hour are annoying, and B) they’re an untapped revenue source, and our politicians have needs too.

In response to this article, a couple of journalists were quick to write responses, including Chuck Sudo of and Whet Moser of Chicago Magazine’s Staff Blog.

Moser’s article points out:

“Minneapolis has a more active bike-commuter culture than Chicago, and the state tried something like this, but abandoned it for obvious reasons: ‘The administrative costs were more than the revenue generated,’ according to that state’s Department of Transportation.”
and “Los Angeles tried it recently, too, at least until police chief William Bratton—of zero-tolerance broken-windows fame—said it was a bad idea”

I especially like the last two paragraphs by Moser’s Chicago mag piece:

“There are legitimate discussions to be had about whether separate bike lanes actually make for more and safer cycling. There’s an even better one to be had about cyclist education and enforcement—in an excellent post, Brent Cohrs discusses a point I’ve made before, that driver education in America essentially ignores cycling to the detriment of cyclists and drivers. Compare that to the Netherlands, where bicycle road tests are mandatory.

That doesn’t seem to have cut down on cycling there, as education makes people more confident, and if my experience is any guide, Americans are less likely to bike because of fear and inexperience. Marginalizing the entire form of transportation does little more than scare newbies off the streets, leaving them to the minority of aggro bikers.”

On a side note, I’ll be taking the League Cycling Instructor class this fall specifically so that I can learn to teach others how to ride a bike and how to do so safely.

Sudo’s Chicagoist article also points out:

“What [Tribune columnist] Kass failed to mention were the funding sources for the bike lanes. Thanks to Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Peter Scales, we have those: tax increment financing; state and federal transportation dollars; and CDOT’s own general obligation funds. None of that is money that could have gone to hiring more cops.”

He also points out that Rahm is following his predecessor’s – Mayor Richard M. Daley’s – precedent of being a champion of bikes and bike lanes and infrastructure in Chicago.

There’s already chatter among the Chicago bicycling community via the online community The Chainlink. As commenters (and cyclists around Chicago) are quick to point out – this article by Kass is just a “joke” and no actual plan is in place for any of his proposed measures to have bike tolls or mandatory bike stickers or bike parking fees.

Joke or not, Chicago’s local bicycle advocacy organization – Active Transportation Alliance – wrote a letter to the editor in response to Kass’ column – to set the facts straight:

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey, 24 percent of Midwesterners ride a bike at least once a week; and 71 percent of Americans would like to bicycle more, but fewer than half feel that their community is designed for making biking safe. Most Chicagoans avoid riding on city streets for fear of their safety. We need safer streets for biking in order to access jobs and basic services in our communities. Biking also provides a rare opportunity for healthy physical activity in our busy daily routines.

The 100 miles of protected bike lanes that Mayor Emanuel is adding will enable thousands more Chicagoans to get out of cars and onto bikes and, by giving bikes their own space, will make streets more orderly and safer for everyone. But 100 miles is less than two percent of our street network, and cars still get to use streets with protected bike lanes.

For about the same cost as just one mile of freeway, Chicago can build an entire city-wide network of protected bike lanes. This could provide safe and easy access to a healthy, affordable and convenient form of transportation that our neighborhoods need. It’s a wise investment for Chicagoans and our neighborhoods.

My question is – does Kass really believe the rhetoric he writes or is his column a journalistic ruse to generate controversy and talk for days?

I’ll have you know I thoroughly enjoyed my bike commute riding primarily on roads with bike lanes to and from work on Friday, and I took photos along the way to highlight Life in the Chicago Bike Lanes, including a view of a federally funded roadway project and peeks at a few cars that should be ticketed for being in “my” lane…

Federally funded Clark Street project

Bike Lane re-striped along Clark Street during street resurfacing

car parked in the bike lane (bike backlash?) - no ticket???

Cyclists forced to merge into two-lane traffic to avoid cab in the bike lane

Clearly the battle for the road surface continues and there is a perceived “backlash” here in Chicago. We’ve written about backlash before in a number of articles. It seems that once a city really starts getting a lot of infrastructure in place, and people using those facilities, the backlash begins. Is it jealousy from other road users (those stuck in traffic jams as we cycle commuters happily zoom by)? We’d sure love to hear your thoughts about what you think is the motivation behind these backlash attacks against bike/ped infrastructure.

Friday Musings: The Art of the Heckle

I’m sure most of you have been heckled before…it can be an unpleasant side effect of sharing the road with other users who don’t really understand why you’re out there.

And we’ve probably heard the same heckles over and over…you know, the “get on the sidewalk!” and the ever-popular “Hey Lance Armstrong!”. Yeah yeah…heard it all before. There is definitely an art to heckling…it’s tough to be creative with something that is clever, intelligible at high speed and for such a short duration of interaction between motorist/cyclist/pedestrian.

I asked the other writers here at if they’d share some of their favorite heckles. I didn’t get too much in the way of clever ones, but let’s hear what the crew has experienced:

RL has had a carload of men catcall and whistle at him. Personally, I rather like being whistled at or catcalled…call me vain, but it suggests to me that I’m easy on the eyes! RL agrees: “Wasn’t sure how to react at first, but took it as a compliment, I guess I still have it.”

Miriam has had a SUV-load of adolescents lean out the windows and bark like dogs at her. Also, “I did have a woman yell at me for a good three blocks on my first ever commute in Seattle calling me a f%#king bitch who needed to learn how to drive and did i want her to run me over?!”

Elizabeth had a pedestrian…yeah, someone on FOOT…shout “Buy a car!” at her. I find this one deliciously ironic…as my friend Chip back in Tampa had to say, “you think cyclists have it bad out there…you should try being a pedestrian — we’re third-class citizens!” Hollering at a cyclist to buy a car when you’re walking just defies reason. E thinks the lady was trying to impress her friends. I suggested she might have been drunk.

I asked some of our Facebook fans to recount their favorite heckles…the one that took the cake there was “Buy a horse!” Funny, weird, and original all in one.

So, what are some of the heckles you’ve heard out there? We’d love to hear them…just drop them in the comments below. Don’t worry about profanity if you’ve got a doozy to share.