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Tag Archive: bicycle commuting

More “Independence From Oil” Rides Scheduled For This Sunday

Despite some weather setbacks on the first “Independence From Oil” ride here in Tampa, the event was pretty successful in getting the word out. Here’s some coverage from one of the local news outlets.

Now, other cities in the Tampa Bay area are joining in. Check out the (rather lengthy) press release for four other rides scheduled for Sunday, August 15th:

TAMPA, FL (Aug. 9, 2010) — Last week BP finally succeeded in plugging its blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. Sealing the well, however, won’t repair the massive environmental damage that has been done to the Gulf, and it won’t solve the other problems related to America’s addiction to oil. To emphasize that fact, and the fact that bicycle commuting has never led — and never will lead — to oil spills that foul our oceans and beaches, local cycling advocates, joined by Tampa BayCycle and SWFBUD (South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers), have declared Sunday, August 15, 2010, “Independence from Oil Day 2.”

Like the first Independence from Oil Day this past 4th of July, the goal is to promote the environmental (and other) benefits of using bicycles for transportation. This one, however, will be much larger, a true Tampa Bay area event, featuring simultaneous rides starting from Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa, USF’s Tampa campus, Coachman Park in Clearwater, and the Pier in St. Petersburg.

All the rides will start at 8 a.m., but participants* should arrive at the starting points no later than 7:45 a.m. Since the theme of the event is “independence from oil,” participants are encouraged to ride their bicycles from home to the starting points. To find more bike-friendly routes, people can use the bicycle directions feature on Google Maps. (See below for specific ride information and links to route maps.)

While the organizers of this event believe strongly in the benefits of bicycle commuting, the recent tragic death of retired admiral LeRoy Collins Jr. is a stark reminder of the risks. Therefore, we have also declared August 15th “Bicyclist Safety Day,” and we call on both local and state governments to make Florida’s roads safer by adding more bike-friendly infrastructure, such as bike lanes, multi-use paths and trails, sharrows, and “share the road” signs.

We also call on the media to help keep pressure on government officials to make our roads safer. And we ask them to help raise public awareness by doing more reporting on the issue of bicyclist safety, rather than just reporting the latest traffic fatality or injury. For instance, they could remind their viewers and readers of the 3-foot passing law and that motorists need to watch out for cyclists and pedestrians before making turns.

Finally, since knowledge is a cyclist’s best protection, the organizers will offer some printed copies of bike safety literature to the participants of each ride. (The supply is limited, however.) We also urge cyclists to make use of bike safety resources on the internet. One of the best is the Florida DOT’s online version of Florida Bicycling Street Smarts. Tampa BayCycle has links to many other resources.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to make the roads totally safe for bicyclists and pedestrians — or for motorists. Accidents will always happen. Our hope, however, is that by working together, government, media, and advocates can help prevent some needless injuries and deaths in the future.

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SPECIFIC RIDE INFORMATION

Downtown Tampa Rides. Starting place: Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, 600 N. Ashley Dr., 33602. Pace: 12-14 mph.

The shorter ride (route map) will be about 11 miles long and will go down scenic Bayshore Blvd. to Ballast Point Park, then head back to downtown. Contact: Karen Kress, 813-221-3686, KKress@tampasdowntown.com

The longer ride (route map) will be about 24.5 miles long and will also go to Ballast Point Park, then west on Gandy Blvd. and across the Gandy Bridge, turning back after reaching the Pinellas side. Contact: Margaret Shepherd, 813-254-8882, shema711@verizon.net

(Thanks to City Bike Tampa, 212 E. Cass Street, for its generous support in offering to provide some refreshments for the participants of the downtown Tampa rides.)

USF Ride. Starting place: Near the Botanical Gardens, 12210 USF Pine Dr., Tampa, 33620. Pace: 12-14 mph. This ride (route map), led by the USF Bicycle Club, will be about 21.5 miles long and will go to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa, then head back to USF. Contact: Jessica Brenner, jlbrenne@mail.usf.edu

Clearwater Ride. Starting place: Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., 33759. Pace: 10-12 mph. This ride (route map) will be about 18.6 miles long and will go to the Pinellas Trail, head north on the trail to the Honeymoon Island spur trail, west on the spur trail across St. Joseph Sound to the entrance of Honeymoon Island State Park, then head back. Contact: Chip Haynes, 727-464-8200, chaynes@pinellascounty.org

St. Petersburg Ride. Starting place: The Pier, 800 Second Ave. NE, 33701. This ride (route map) will be about 28 miles long and will go up to Gandy Blvd. and head east across the Gandy Bridge, turning back after reaching the Hillsborough side. Contact: Jose Menendez, 813-598-1031, linksmaster@netzero.net

In case of rain in the area on the morning of the 15th, the rides will be rescheduled for a later date.
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*All participants in this event assume responsibility for their own actions and safety. By participating, they agree to absolve all organizers and sponsors of the event of all blame and liability for any harm, injury, or loss that may result from participating in the event. All bicyclists must wear a bicycle helmet and ride a bicycle in good operating condition. They are also encouraged to bring spare inner tubes, snacks, and plenty of water.

We’re looking forward to hearing how each of these rides turns out…and I’m praying for better weather than the last time.

The Backlash Against Bicycles…

Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of downright wacky stories in the news…a backlash against the growing bicycle “culture” in the U.S.

First, the casino town of Black Hawk, Colorado has banned bicycles from most of its streets despite an outcry from national news organizations and a number of cycling advocacy groups. Next, the town of St. Charles, Missouri proposed a similar ban on its roads. Currently, the St. Charles City Council has tabled the proposal, but will revisit it next week. Not to be outdone, the city of Charleston, South Carolina proposed to ban bicycle parking within its downtown…luckily, this proposal was crushed by a vocal opposition.

And now today I got a number of emailed article links (thanks to Jim and Phil and the five or six others who alerted me to this) concerning some knucklehead named Dan Maes in Colorado who claims that Denver’s mayor is pushing a vast UN-backed bicycle conspiracy upon the city there.

I’m left scratching my head and wondering what the heck is going on? I mean, it’s fairly common knowledge that transportational cycling and pedestrian-friendly streets do wonders for the liveability of an area — helping to reduce traffic congestion, improving the health of residents and eliminating a lot of greenhouse gases from the environment. And I’m the first to admit that bicycle/pedestrian advocates aren’t always that subtle when pitching the benefits…many of us approach the subject with an almost religious fervor that can be off-putting to others. But why do you suppose there is this backlash going on? Any thoughts? We’d love to hear your insights on these developments in the comments area below.

Mission Workshop Vandal Cargo Backpack Review

I’ve been testing the Mission Workshop Vandal Cargo Backpack for the last few months. Before I get into the details of the review, below is some information regarding the bag.

The Vandal

The meat and potatoes of this bag is that you can carry anything from meat to potatoes and all food groups in between, in a weatherproof and flawlessly constructed example of what is rapidly setting the urban backpack standard.

* 3 weatherproof compartments
* 2 external accessory pockets
* Expanding cargo compartment
* Messenger bag durability
* Water-resistant urethane coated zippers
* Rugged internal frame
* Made in America with a lifetime warranty

Dimensions – Compact
Measures – 15” x 21” x 6”
Volume – 1,800 cu. in. / 30 L / 6.75 Gallons
Dimensions – Expanded
Measures – 15” x 21” x 12”
Volume – 4,000 cu. in. / 65 L / 15 Gallon
Price: $239

I’ve been using this bag for just about everything I need a big bag for. I’ve spent countless miles with it on my bike whether I am going to and from work or picking up some groceries; I have also used the Vandal for a recent camping trip. I’ve always preferred backpacks to carry my stuff while commuting, so when the opportunity to review the Vandal came up, I jumped on it.


One of my favorite features of the Vandal is its pretty green color. It’s definitely a nice contrast against a busy scene of cars in traffic. This is good because everyone knows that visibility is a bike commuter’s best friend.

The Vandal has 4 large compartments that can host your clothing, food, shoes, and beer. I was able to separate my shoes from my clothes, which is nice because I don’t want either of them to touch during transport. For one, I don’t want any dirt from my shoes to get on my clothes, and I wouldn’t want my clothes to smell like my feet. In my previous bag, I’d have to wrap up my shoes with a plastic bag before putting them in.

In the compartment close to my back, my 17″ laptop and charger called it home with room to spare.
mission worhshop vandal

The Vandal offers wide straps with multiple height adjustments for the chest strap.

Mission Workshop claims the Vandal is water resistant. Since I didn’t see any rain during the time that I was testing the bag, I decided to call on the help of my garden hose. I set it to a nice shower-like spray and made sure the bag was thoroughly soaked. Just to let you know, I kept the hose on for about 5 minutes.

…like water off a duck’s back

When I opened the zippers I found the inside contents of the bag were nice and dry. Good job Vandal!

When I first learned about Mission Workshop and the Vandal, I thought, “that’s a nice backpack.” Though it has some great features like the water resistant material and zippers and multi location cargo holders, I was more impressed with the fact that they offer a Lifetime Warranty. Yeah I know that the $239 sticker price is a bit steep, but you’re paying for a good quality bag and based on their warranty, you can pretty much do no wrong and they’ll still fix it for you. Well, there are exceptions, but you’ll have to read about it.

Let me get into the adjustibility of the Vandal. As I’ve mentioned you have a chest strap that can be position higher or lower to provide a better fit for the rider. You also receive the standard height adjustment on the shoulder straps. What stuck out the most about this back pack is that it had additional straps to either tilt in/out the bag to make it easier to carry. This feature is pretty helpful especially if you’re carrying a heavier load. Personally I like having my cargo as close to my back as possible.

Though I’m 5’7″ the Vandal fit me just fine. But if you were any shorter, this bag might be a bit big on you. But don’t worry, Mission Workshop has a smaller bag — actually its their medium version called the Rambler.

When it comes to stability, the Vandal is pretty darn secure. If you’ve ever carried cargo on your back that cause you to use your bag’s full capacity, then you’ll understand that when you’re on your bike taking off from a red light, your backpack will sway back and forth. The Vandal was pretty stable when I had a full load in the bag. I expanded it to make sure that all my stuff fit. To prevent it from swaying side to side when sprinting out of the intersection, I previously adjusted the tilt straps and I also adjust these straps below to make sure that my cargo was secured in its place. You see the orange part of the clip in the photo below? That right there is spring loaded and there’s enough tension on it to prevent your buckles from slipping out of place.

Last but not least, “does the bag keep pointy objects from touching my back?” Absolutely. The “back” part of the bag is reinforced with some sort of rugged frame to prevent your machetes or bike parts from poking you.

For the commuter who prefers a backpack over panniers or a messenger bag, a bag like the Mission Workshop Vandal would be a good fit for you. It’s full of features, compartments and if you can get over the the initial sticker shock of the bag, you end up with a product that is designed to last longer than most cars on the road. I gotta be honest with you, it’s their warranty that sold me on the Vandal. Nowadays, its pretty rare to see a “lifetime warranty” on products. Some may have 30-90 days or even up to 2 years. But the words “lifetime” was music to my ears. If anything, just consider it an investment.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Spot Brand Hires Sky Yaeger

We don’t post press releases too often here on Bikecommuters.com…but this one we HAD to share. We’re all huge fans of Sky Yaeger and her work…everything she touches, bike-wise, turns to pure gold. Check this out:

SPOT BRAND HIRES SKY YAEGER

Golden, Colorado—July 8, 2010—Andrew Lumpkin, CEO of Spot Brand bikes announced today that they have hired Sky Yaeger for a newly created position as Senior Product Manager. Yaeger started immediately, working out of a Marin County, California office. The majority owner of Spot Brand is Wayne Lumpkin, having founded Avid in 1991 and, after successfully building the international brand, selling it to SRAM in 2004.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for me, as I have always admired Spot Brand and been a huge fan of Wayne and Andrew. After they acquired Spot Brand I was excited to see where they would take it and I am honored to be joining a company with such legitimate MTB heritage, and now huge potential with the Gates belt-drive system,? Yaeger said.

Yaeger brought some of the first production single-speed mountain bikes to market in the mid-90s, while at Bianchi USA, and spec’d Spot hubs on those first bikes. “I go back with the brand and have always liked the simple, clean design and fun vibe.?

Andrew Lumpkin added, “Sky is a trendsetter in the industry and will be instrumental to Spot Brand’s continued trailblazing of new technologies.?

For the past 4 years Yaeger has been working at Swobo Bikes, which was recently acquired by Santa Cruz Bicycles. She started designing the urban bicycle product line in 2006, and the line-up now includes 10 models currently in production. Before that she was VP of Product Development at Bianchi USA for many years.

The industry veteran will be responsible for a new line of Spot models that will incorporate the Gates belt-drive technology. “I think the future looks bright for alternative drivetrain options. I’ve always believed in simple, elegant solutions to complex problems. The internal hub is an old idea but it’s been my mission, since I designed the Bianchi Milano in 1996, to get more people to appreciate the function and simplicity of internally geared hubs on modern bikes. Add a belt to that and you have an almost perfect drivetrain.?

sky
(photo by Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious — thanks for letting us borrow it!)

Commuter Profile: Evan Baird

Well, our call for commuter profiles was well-received; we got responses from over two dozen commuters who want their turn in the limelight! First up is Evan Baird, who was so eager he got his questionnaire and photos over to me the next day. Check out what Evan has to say:

evan baird

Name:

Evan Baird

How long have you been a bike commuter?

I started riding my bike to and from school when I was going to high school in Reno. So that’s going on 6 years now.


Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?

I grew up in Gainesville Florida (Go Gators!) so I’ve been getting around on a bike since I took off the training wheels. It makes sense when you live in a university neighborhood because every time there is a sporting event the streets are a mess so you can’t find parking. Plus as a kid I just wanted to go to the playground down the street most of the time. Growing up I moved around a lot, so it was always a good way of exploring new places and getting a feel for the neighborhood. When I was around ten I got a Mongoose BMX bike and I thought I was going to be a flatland master. As I got older my parents got me a Schwinn hard-tail and I would take it to the local BMX jumps and try to get big air. When I realized I was a big wimp I got more into the mechanical side of things and got an internship at a local bike shop in the small California gold-rush town I lived in. When I got out of high school I worked at a bike shop in Lake Tahoe over the summer and I rode my bike along the bike trail every day to and from work. When I came back home to Reno in the fall I got a job at another bike shop and just never stopped riding. At a dead sprint I can make it from my house to the shop in about 10 minutes. It is mostly downhill with a small climb in between and a long downhill to the other side of campus. But I prefer a route that is a little calmer and lets me ride through Ravenna park. It’s a dirt trail that goes through a little gorge between a whole bunch of houses and it has been pretty nicely restored with a lot of native foliage. It can be kind of nasty in the rain, but with full coverage fenders it’s still doable. It’s gravel so it’s somewhat level and it’s honestly not too rough with a 32c tire or a little larger.

trail

How does bike commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?

God, I can’t imagine not riding my bike. As an Americorps volunteer I received a monthly bus pass, but let me tell you, riding the Metro all winter, especially the number 7 will make you go a little bats***. Now that I’m making a little more money I have more to spend on bikes. You can’t do Americorps and have a high maintenance personality. You’ll never make it. I can live on next to nothing, and be really happy. Having a little extra just means I get new handlebar tape and an new wool jersey to ride in. I have never gone to a gym so riding is my main form of exercise. More than that though, it’s the best mental healthcare money can buy. Like a lot of people who moved here from someplace sunnier I started to go a little crazy over the winter and cycling daily really helped me find more balance in my life. In all honesty if I didn’t ride my bike every day I think I would have a hard time even getting out of bed. Live to ride and ride to live.

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

Like I said, I work for a bike shop these days. It’s a pretty small shop right off the Burke Gilman Trail in the North End of Seattle, so there is a ton of commuter traffic. We sell mainly steel bikes which is fine by me. I’ve broken every aluminum bike I’ve ever owned. But It’s definitely a shop I feel good about working at. We do a lot of Surly, Salsa, Civia, Breezer, Soma and Jamis, which are all solid brands in my opinion, but there is definitely a high end market for custom stuff from Indy Fab, CoMotion, Desalvo, Moots, Ti Cycles and that kind of thing. Seattle and Portland represent a microcosm within the cycling industry, as far as the necessity of running fenders at least 6 months out of the year. I would like to someday take a frame-building class at UBI and get an apprenticeship with an established builder. I love bicycle design and the detail and workmanship that goes into building custom bikes. I also enjoy writing about bikes and I’ve been working on a series of interviews with local builders for my blog. It’s really interesting to hear different perspectives about the philosophy of bicycle design. I think it’s an exciting time to be involved in the bike industry, especially in this region which is attracting so much new talent and passion. I feel like the age of the utility bicycle is finally upon us at least here in the Northwest.

rollers


What kind(s) of bike do you have?

I currently own a green Soma ES (one of the mis-painted seconds they had a few years ago). That is my main commuter bike since it wears fenders year round now. I also have a Surly Steamroller, currently in Scorcher mode with some 38c tires and a pair of old Weinmann center pull brakes I found at a local shop and Soma Noah’s Arc Bars. My mountain bike is a Surly 1X1 that I built up with spare parts I had from a few mountain bikes I sold off to finance my move from Reno. I got a sweet deal on the frameset from a new shop that opened up while I was living in Tacoma. My old commuter used to be a Surly Cross Check that I set up with Nitto Albatross bars and barcon shifters. I sold that when I realized that it was overlapping too much with the Soma and I’ve seen it around, so I know it has a good home. Before that I had a Specialized Langster which met a tragic end in an incident with a Chevy Suburban.

soma

Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?

I was looking at the “learning the hard way” question from the previous posts when I wrote this response, but I think it still qualifies as an interesting story. My old Specialized met its untimely demise via the back door of an SUV. It was my fault, and I learned a good lesson. If you have to carry awkward things, invest in a bike that can carry it. I was riding from the shop I worked at heading towards downtown Reno and carrying a large easel in a bag over my shoulder. If you’ve never been to Reno, you might not know how windy it gets. Essentially what happened was the bag I was carrying acted like a sail and blew me off track right into the back of a parked car. 50 stitches in my face and 700 dollars to replace the dude’s window and I was home free, but I can’t imagine what would have happened if I had been going much faster. I was only riding about 10 miles an hour and I busted though the back window with my face. All I can say is thank god for tempered glass. On a more serious note though, I think the cycling community needs to work towards getting on street parking banned along bike routes. The danger of getting doored or pushed off the road by oncoming traffic is a daily hazard in Seattle. We have pretty good infrastructure compared to a lot of places, but we still have many bike lanes of death with parking along the sidewalk. Seriously? Come on SDOT! Sharrows are a much better solution.

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?

Well, at the bike shop it’s pretty much the norm. Everybody rides to work at least a couple times a week. So in that respect it’s super supportive. Plus most of our customers are commuters as well as recreational and competitive riders. Working for Americorps was a different thing. I wont name names, but the program I was involved with for two years is borderline anti bicycle. They had many policies that essentially prohibited employees from cycling to work. It was incredibly frustrating. During the time I was there I tried to work with the management to improve the situation and we had some success, but the level of push back I got was very disheartening. I even contacted the Cascade Bicycle Club to try to organize a safe cycling seminar for the corps members who wanted to ride to work, but in the end they said it was an issue of liability and that cycling would not be covered by their insurance. When the Seattle Metro changed their policy on bringing bikes on buses in downtown it made it much easier to just hop on a bus and bring the bike along during the day, and the new light-rail is by far the most bike friendly mode of transit in Seattle. On that note I would really like to thank the CBC for all the great work they do getting bikes recognized in the decision making process and especially John Mauro the Commute Director for all the help he gave me in trying to navigate the policy nightmare. I think that things are getting better and I hope that young folks who are starting their service years will have a more positive experience in the future.

surly

How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?

LIke I said, Cascade Bicycle Club is the best. I haven’t been involved in any advocacy activities as much as I would like outside of the work I was doing at my old job, but I would like to get more involved now that I have more time. I have also volunteered with Bikeworks in Columbia City a couple of times, and I think what they have going on is one of the most important cycling programs in the city. I really believe that if we work to build a strong cycling culture with the youth, especially in underserved neighborhoods it will not only make our community stronger but it will be a win for the future of democracy for everyone. I know people that know me are sick of hearing it, but i believe that the single most effective way of promoting equality and denouncing the exploitation and racism that is still so prevalent even in supposedly progressive liberal cities like Seattle is to get on your bike and ride. Not just in the nice polished neighborhoods like Queen Anne and Laurelhurst and Admiral, but in Beacon Hill and Rainier Beach and Delridge. Those neighborhoods are just as beautiful and the people are just as nice and friendly provided you come there with a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love. Democracy starts with a smile. And maybe a bike bell.

Anything else that you want to share with us?

I just want to give a quick shout out to all the crazy bike shop guys who’ve given me a chance over the years. Bob Molinari, Peter Underwood, Bill Cushway, Dan Brown, Thanks Guys! You Rock! And check out www.therubbishbin.net It’s mainly a lot of pictures but I do write stuff on there pretty often. I’m trying to post more original stuff on there now that I have a bit more free time.

Thanks, Evan, for sharing your words and photos with us…and for the rest of you: stay tuned, because there are a few more commuter profiles coming your way! It’s not too late to submit your information, too…