Hiatus, Hibernation, and Superheroes

Arielle here, writing from Golden, where it’s 60 degrees and thusly we have no excuse for winter hibernation.

Which is what we’ve been doing. For the past month. 

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I know.

But I have good news. It’s 2014, and we’re back!

Now for some other tidbits. Recently I was asked, by a cycling organization in a land far, far away from our fair city, to come up with THE BEST marketing plan for adult bike education classes. How would I convince people who are probably angry about cycling and sunshine and happiness and unicorns that they SHOULD be into all of those things?

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[Image via]

Oh, this was difficult. I had to think about it. For a LONG time. 

I pictured myself being heckled by a man resembling the one in the photo below. [See Figure 1, Angry Man]

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[Figure 1: Angry man. Image via]

And then I had an idea.

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[Illustration by Mike Joos, image via]

Biking gives you superpowers! Like, not the ability to fly and destroy buildings and stuff — more like everyday superpowers. Feeling good about yourself, beating crosstown traffic, making spandex look not so not-cool. Etc. 

And so, one fateful day, I dragged a few friends out to help illustrate my point. Here’s what we came up with:

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Stunning, no? I was trying to communicate the idea that biking can play a role in transforming out everyday lives for the better. 

What do you think? If you don’t bike, does this make you want to give it a try? If you do, what’s your everyday superpower?

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Mayor Hancock Drops in on The Depot

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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock took some time to check out The Bike Depot, a non-profit bike shop in Park Hill where I work. Mr. Hancock arrived with his entourage and press-corps, took a quick tour of the shop, shook a few hands and was on his way down the block. Although there was no time to ask questions, this surface visit does beg two about the future of biking in Denver. Before I do that I will say that Mayor Hancock has participated in Bike to Work Day the last few years and backed the Denver City Councils focus on pedestrian/Bicycle Safety in their next budget proposal. But let’s get into some important issues:

1. Are there going to be ACTUAL separated bike lanes, especially downtown? The 15th Street Bike Lane was an awesome addition for biking downtown but there are still opportunities for car traffic to creep into the lane. Creating less interface between cars and bicycles is good for everyone. It improves traffic flow, encourages bicycle commuting and cuts down on accidents. It is also a commitment by a city to its cyclists, and when a city does this it instantly gives cyclists credibility and respect from drivers.
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2. Will there be any money put into educating motor vehicle drivers? There are bad bicyclists and there are bad drivers. The difference is that bicyclists aren’t moving a metal box that weighs over a thousand pounds at high speeds. The bottom line is that car drivers need to wake up and realize that if they hit a bicyclist or pedestrian they could scar, maim or kill that individual. If the opposite occurs there might be some scratches on the paint. Or blood. It would be great to see city and state government emphasize this when someone wants to renew their drivers license. Or, maybe create a state-wide ad campaign that is catchy, visible and straightforward about the reality of the situation. Whatever way we can improve the relationship between cars and bicyclists should take priority when city funds are being given to the task. Denver is a mecca for Millennials, and Millennials are driving less and biking more than ever. If drivers aren’t made to take bicycle commuting seriously, no friendly visits from the Mayor will ever make up for a dead or maimed cyclist.
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Let’s talk about winter riding

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So. It’s really starting to feel like winter, and we thought we would throw out the ole’ cold weather commuting tips post.

Salient items are as follows:

 Winterize your ride: Invest in some fenders, which will keep you dry in slushy conditions. Switch out those slicks for knobby tires or even some big studded snow tires to give you more traction. Consider using your mountain bike if you’ve got one – it’ll be a slower, safer ride.

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Dress for anything: Layers! Denver = warm during the day, freezing frigid evil at night. Get yourself a decent base layer (that tight, polyester superhero stuff) and a balaclava to conserve the warmth in yer noggin. Gloves that are like lobster claws or mittens will keep your hands warmer than five-fingered gloves.

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And your feet – they will get really cold, and that’s the WORST. Using some sort of foot covering will minimize the discomfort. They sell those things at REI and bike stores for too many $$$, but you could also DIY with some thick socks that will fit over your shoes.

Maintain your machine: Lube, triflow, regular cleaning, etc. If you need help, work on your bike here, here, and here  – they’ve got tools and expertise.

Volunteer so other people can get bikes: Lots of places around town to help out with holiday bike giveaways, general wrenching duties, etc. Such as: Lucky Bikes Re-Cyclery, The Bike Pit, The Bike Depot, Community Cycles, and Longmont Bike Garage.

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Loiter in places that are warm. Truth: sometimes I don’t want to ride my bike. Because it’s cold, because I’m lazy, etc. When that happens, I like to loiter in the public library, the Denver Bicycle Café, the Recyclery, or Mutiny Books on South Broadway.

Go to an event to be with like-minded weirdos. Such as:

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Holiday Mancraft: Today, Dec. 6! We hear that Connor Cycles, a local maker of hand-built wooden frames, will be there.

A Winter of Cyclists, a film about a group of bikers struggling through cold-season commuting, is playing at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder December 8. It will be at the SIE Film Center in Denver Jan. 17.

Registration for the Colorado Bicycle Summit (Feb. 10, 11 2014) is now open. They’re going to talk about how to improve bicycling in our state.

What do you do to stay on your bike during the winter? Please tell us; we want to know all your secrets.

Debate Time! Are electric bikes the solution to city commuting?

Response 1: Yes, they most certainly are!

Electric bikes are on the Internet’s Mind this week — everyone from tech bloggers to the Huffington Post is nerding out about a new-ish prototype from FlyKly, a company that launched a Kickstarter in October for an electric rear wheel which could make it easier and cheaper to Get Places Fast on your bicycle.

The best thing about this invention is that it could democratize cycling in cities like Denver, where commuters travel further distances to get to work than they might in tightly packed megalopoles  like New York and San Francisco.

If the Downtown Denver Partnership’s 2012 Commuter Report is to be trusted, most people living and working in Denver have a 14-mile commute one-way. 28 miles is a long way to bike every day, especially if you’re not a spritely young thing (the same Downtown Denver Partnership report says that people over 30 are significantly less likely to walk or bike to work than their younger counterparts).

Which brings us back to the democratizing idea behind electric bikes. Hopefully this fancy new tool will encourage those commuters who have longer rides to swap out their prohibitively expensive, dangerous, and decidedly silly car for a new-fashioned bicycle with an electric rear wheel.

In doing so, they’ll find that they can go further and be more comfortable on a bike than ever before. And we all love the idea of getting more people on bikes – healthier habits lead to healthier citizens lead to less anomie and more cooperation leads to safer roads lead to more fun for all!!

Response 2: No, they most certainly are not!

Fixing our commuting woes is not as easy as finding a well-marketed electric wheel, idiots. To solve this one, we need look no further than the history of trying to solve social problems through fancy weirdo and/or technocratic solutions that don’t really get to the bottom of the original contradiction at stake.

Like when Brazilian modernists decided to engineer a capital city – Brasilia – in the middle of nowhere – and then it didn’t really turn out how they had planned and also no one really wanted to live there because it was a boring shithole.

The point here, which I’m getting to, is that urban cycling and commuting are plagued by social problems that go beyond the fact that many of us are quite lazy people who don’t want to get all sweaty on our 5-10 mile commute.

Anecdotal testimony from friends and family and acquaintances plus articles I read on the internet demonstrate that a lot of people are actually pretty scared of cycling in American cities. And with good reason.

Writer Daniel Duane confesses in a recent NYTimes opinion article about cycling accidents that “Everybody who knows me knows that I love cycling and that I’m also completely freaked out by it.”

And early last month, Tim Blumenthal, president of PeopleForBikes, posted a somber piece after the death of cyclocross racer Amy Dombroski, who was killed in an Oct. 2013 collision with a truck.

Blumenthal’s analysis was pragmatic: everyone is at fault for the abysmal safety conditions on American roads. Motorists are often dismissive and aggressive toward cyclists, who in turn refuse to follow basic traffic rules designed with everyone’s safety in mind.

America’s problem with bike safety isn’t going to wither away if we get more people on bikes. In fact, since electric bikes can easily bring cyclists to speeds that are harder to achieve on an old-timey non-electric bike (up to 20 mph), they could end up causing more accidents if we don’t change the way we think about commuting.

As John Whitelegg has argued in The Guardian, “Bike use goes up as a result of efforts to make streets safe and connect origins and destinations, and this involves urban design, measures to reduce the speed and volume of traffic and measures to make public transport bike-friendly.”

Let’s take the time to make biking in Denver safe, cooperative, and realistic for the mainstream before we go electric.  

Ride a Bike Mission

Ride a Bike Denver covers biking for transportation and enjoyment. We’re cyclist commuters and sustainable transportation nerds living in the Denver Metro area, and we want to provide a forum for people to share news, experiences, and fun nonsense about bike life along the front range and beyond. Contact us at rideabikedenver [at] gmail.com.