Archive for the ‘commuting’ tag
The DMV region has a truly excellent network of dedicated bike paths, particularly Arlington.
Thank goodness. Because driving an automobile around the Northern Virginia suburbs reminds me of one of Dante Alighieri‘s hell realms.
But hidden in plain sight is a surprisingly robust matrix of bike lanes and pathways.
From Arlington to Falls Church (including the Metro stops from Rosalyn to West Falls Church) it is quite convenient to go by bicycle from point A to point B.
Many of the paths — like the Curtis Trail shown in these images — traverse wooded areas that are only yards from utterly congested roadways such as Interstate 66.
Above a pair of ducks are enjoying a hidden pond.
The paths are heavily used. In fact, they are busier than most bike paths and lanes I traveled on in California.
Here’s a snapshot from my SOMA to Sausalito ride. I’ve stopped on the bridge with the Pacific Ocean 692 feet below.
Read on for some further thoughts on this ride from a somewhat finicky, urban commuting perspective.
First off, Steve, owner of the venerable DDB building and architecture boutique and Dave, randonneur and creator of the all-time greatest front handlebar bag asked in the last post how the Brompton handled on the trip.
So at their prompting, I offer a few reflections:
- The Brompton is a champ: no complaints at all. I have the 3-speed Brompton and the low gear was just low enough to get up the very steep stretch from the warming hut up to the Bridge. I did have to stand up on the pedals and work hard to turn them over. Climbing too much further would have been a chore. Still, I like the simplicity of the 3-speed and the extra work up the hills seems like a fair trade-off. However:
- Wingtips, not recommended: the ride would have been more comfortable in normal street clothes (and a wool beanie to cover the ears). I won’t deny this truth. I tried not to work up a sweat at any point, but it was unavoidable. This reinforces the idea that:
- Holland (or Denmark) this is not: I think covering 11-12 miles one-way, on flat ground, while wearing professional business attire is the extreme limit for a regular daily commute. In actuality, 5-6 miles is a more realistic distance. But this assumes you are pedaling those miles over flat ground. Factoring in the hill going up Bay Street and the steep hill getting up to the Bridge from Crissy Field, it becomes clear that riding home on the Brompton (on a daily basis) is not an option for me.
- Micro-climate is a factor: I rode on one of the warmest days of the summer, but I still encountered some extreme headwinds riding along parts of this route (but very little wind on other parts). Add micro-climate to the factors that separate San Francisco bicycle commuting from Dutch bicycle commuting.
All in all — a world-class ride, but probably not one I plan to do more than 1-2 times a month.
Rather than using the Brompton to take me to the ferry to shuttle me across the bay to Sausalito, I decided to ride my folding bike the whole distance home.
Starting in SOMA, I rode along the Embarcadero, then rode Bay St. to Marina Blvd., eventually crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, before heading down to Sausalito.
It was an experiment. I wanted to ride this route to see if could be a viable alternative to taking public transit.
Here, I’ve stopped on the bike path just as you cross under the bridge (right before circling around and riding onto the bike lane on the ocean side).
My Brompton bicycle is finally fulfilling it’s raison d’etre: bridging the gaps in my urban commute.
If I don’t feel like walking .75 miles to the Sausalito Ferry, I unfold the Brompton and cover this distance in less than 5 minutes. After a 25-minute ferry ride to downtown SF I have another .75 miles to my office in SOMA. The Brompton covers these little gaps with ease.
Plus, while wearing shorts and sneakers and then changing (and maybe even showering) on the way to work is one way to go. I like just wearing professional business attire (including leather lace-up shoes) for commuting.
Interestingly, the first time I tried to enter my building with the Brompton the guards said that bikes must be parked in the auto garage. So I made the fold, picked it up in one hand as if I was carrying a briefcase, and asked, “How about this?”
They smiled and waved me through.
So now I always fold the Brompton, walk right past the guards, and stow the bike under my desk!
Staying with the theme from my previous post here’s another image from the world mecca of bicycle-friendliness — Copenhagen.
I heart good public transportation options (especially when coupled with wonderful graphic design like this).
A beautiful Jorg & Olif internally geared 8-speed with chain and skirt guards, rear rack, wicker basket, sprung saddle, double kick-stand, and a front generator light. The rider says she frequently commutes to work in the financial district on this classic ride.
It’s hard to say which is lovelier the bicycle or the rider?…I have to say — it’s the rider 🙂
The next few posts will contain more images from my short trip to SF with my Brompton folding bicycle.
The SMART car and the Brompton make a good couple in a dense, urban city like San Francisco.
The Brompton fits snugly (from hatch-back door to seats), but rather perfectly in the Smart car’s tiny, cargo area.
For a quick, week-end trip back to the Bay Area I wanted to travel light — no checked bags — just my folding bicycle and a backpack with the goal of leaving the airport via bike.
Last time I flew with the Brompton, I checked it as baggage. However, I had to deal with a giant, hard-shell suitcase once arriving at my destination.
So this time I tried a different approach: I brought the bike through security, put it on the x-ray machine’s conveyor belt, and gate checked it at the last minute like you would a child’s stroller.
The plan, which included carrying my back-pack on-board as a carry-on, worked perfectly.
The Brompton doubles as a luggage roller (albeit a tippy one) as you can see in the picture, made outside the Embarcadaro BART station early on a Saturday morning after my arrival from the airport.
At this point, I was able to easily ride to the Marina district where I was staying as well as make my way multi-modally (can I use this in adjective form?) to other appointments in both Marin and Berkeley.
End note: There is a solution to the Brompton suitcase dilemma which requires packing a portable, folding trailer. Here’s a chap elegantly demonstrating this option in a video in which he unpacks, assembles, and rides out of the Copenhagen airport on a Brompton with his luggage in tow.
I ran into two issues while using the system:
- persistent shortages of open docks at the 21st and C St. station.
I would often snag the last remaining dock, then observe other riders pedaling away to look for another station to return their bike. I also observed an abandoned bike on the sidewalk because there were no spaces to dock it. Clearly, CaBi needs to add another docking module at this location.
- the kiosk’s touch screen failed me when I needed it most.
It was critical to be at work by 9am Friday morning. I finished my breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien in Dupont Circle (oatmeal, with fresh berries, OJ, and a cappuccino). I left myself 15-20 minutes to get down to C Street. I was a bit worried about the destination (since the Bixou app was telling me there were no docks available). But when I attempted to check-out a bike, the touch screen at the Dupont kiosk would not respond. Nothing. I was locked out…….TAXI!
The upshot: A great system, with some implementation issues. I unnecessarily spent $9 on taxi fare — not a big deal — but it did raise the cost of relying on CaBi by more than 50% (a 5-day CaBi membership is $15).
I spent five days using the CaBi system to make a simple, 3-mile, round trip commute while working in DC this past week. It was great. I loved not having to ride the metro or take the bus (or have to travel with my own bike).
As much as I enjoyed the system, I did experience a couple snafus that caused me to lose some confidence in the system (more on that in Part 2).
But I had no major complaints about the bike itself. I’m a big, big fan of the front rack and bungee cord. The system worked great for holding my satchel securely in place. The quibbles below are all relatively minor and somewhat subjective:
- the fenders are too short (as Dave pointed out in the previous post’s comments);
- the high gear (on the 3-speed hub) could be spaced a tad higher; and,
- the shift lag — on the bikes I rode — was quite noticeable.
There’s also an amazing (and in my opinion, indispensable) mobile phone app, Bixou, which lets you locate nearby stations and display live updates of both the number of bicycles and the number of open docks at any location.
There’s an interesting article in the British Medical Journal on bicycle weight and commuting time. In summary, it was found that riding a much heavier bike, over a regular, 27-mile commute, did NOT affect overall commuting time. (The article abstract is reprinted below.)
While the Dutch seem to have discovered this on their own my impression is that Americans still tend to commute on lightweight racing-style bikes. This causes us to pedal with great exertion and wear funny shoes and clothes, with little choice but to shower and change at the office.
That is, the USA is still a country where bicycling is viewed mostly as recreation or exercise — not transportation.
Objective To determine whether the author’s 20.9 lb (9.5 kg) carbon frame bicycle reduced commuting time compared with his 29.75 lb (13.5 kg) steel frame bicycle.
Design Randomised trial.
Setting Sheffield and Chesterfield, United Kingdom, between mid-January 2010 and mid-July 2010.
Participants One consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care.
Main outcome measure Total time to complete the 27 mile (43.5 kilometre) journey from Sheffield to Chesterfield Royal Hospital and back.
Results The total distance travelled on the steel frame bicycle during the study period was 809 miles (1302 km) and on the carbon frame bicycle was 711 miles (1144 km). The difference in the mean journey time between the steel and carbon bicycles was 00:00:32 (hr:min:sec; 95% CI –00:03:34 to 00:02:30; P=0.72).
Conclusions A lighter bicycle did not lead to a detectable difference in commuting time. Cyclists may find it more cost effective to reduce their own weight rather than to purchase a lighter bicycle. [Emphasis added]
Minneapolis shares something with my beloved Marin County.
Each is one of the four select communities chosen to be part of the NTPP (Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Project), a $100 million federal program to test how infrastructure improvements can increase rates of bicycling and walking.
I was in Minneapolis just briefly, but I still picked up a strong bicycle culture (Bicycling Magazine named it the most bike-friendly city in the country).
I was a bit confused, however, by some of the signage and rules. The bike path circling the Lake is one-way (note the picture above)!
This is great for recreational use, but for transportation purposes it makes it less useful as a bike boulevard or arterial.
Being a camera nerd, I’ve begun to notice a proliferation of videos featuring a distinctive photo processing technique using implied tilt-shift camera movements and time lapse photography. The results are videos like these which appear to show itty-bitty scale models of cities. Here’s a tilt-shift tutorial for the uber tech-savvy and the website of Ken Loutit, who helped popularize the genre with his bathtub series.
For the first time in my life, I was pulled over by the police while riding a bicycle (during my morning commute).
I’ll explain in a moment, but first a short digression:
- I usually go out of my way to ride conservatively because I see so many bicyclists riding recklessly, which only invites motorists’ anger. (Of course, it’s equally true that many, if not most, motorists drive irrationally, impatiently, and aggressively in terms of how they interact with bicyclists).
- I like to think I see the folly of both sides and so whether I’m piloting a car or a bike, I try to keep the other in mind and set a good example.
Nonetheless, on this day, I rolled through a stop sign fairly quickly after seeing no on-coming cars. Local law enforcement was hiding on a nearby side street. I didn’t see the squad car, but I heard the siren from behind a few blocks later and knew I was busted.
I gave my best Idaho Stop defense and after producing my driver’s license was mercifully only given a short lecture and let go with a warning.
If you’ve never heard of the Idaho Stop law here’s an elegant little video.
Another bicycle commuting video I enjoyed. It’s a 12km daily commute through an urban and, what looks like, a semi-rural Japanese landscape.
What’s the nature of your commute? Have a look at this poll.
I believe this fellow is actually quite mad. Check out his website 14degrees.org. He holds the Guinness long distance skateboarding record, traveling over 12,000km across Europe, N. America, and China (Here’s some video highlights).
I’ve recently started a short bicycle commute (the last few videos reflect this interest) and this makes me wonder how others get to their jobs.
A quiet, relaxed, exhaust-free commute, and no signs of stress or road rage on the streets of Utrecht (The Netherlands).
- Take home message: The importance of quality bike paths cannot be underestimated.
NOTE: I find the Dutch language inscrutable. For instance here’s the proper pronunciation of Utrecht (listen).