I've written and documented about the ongoing homelessness problem along the Tahoe/Pyramid bikeway along the Truckee River for years. It is a regular part of my bike commute home from work as it provides a good east/west corridor that avoids traffic. And in the best of times it is a pretty ride along the river. But that was then and this is now...the encampments and drug deals and roaming bullwhip toting residents can make for a harrowing ride and what should be a fantastic feature of the Reno/Sparks community has become a dangerous, unsanitary, drug community.
I have tons of empathy as I can see the human suffering that is going on here and the economy and conditions and societal circumstances have pushed so many people to live along the river, close to flowing water and a variety of services for the homeless. And I've witnessed first hand how the Reno and Sparks cities basically ping pong the encampments week to week, or month to month, between their respective jurisdictions.
So what is to be made of the choice to close a section of the Tahoe/Pyramid Bikeway along the river and essentially concentrate the homeless population in a specific area while keeping this pedestrian and cycling recreational path off limits? It reminds me of the episode in the greatest of television programs, The Wire, called "Hamsterdam" where a police chief makes a choice to concentrate the drug dealers into a few block section of his precinct in order to keep the rest of his jurisdiction clear of trafficking. Those few blocks come to be known as "Hamsterdam" and eventual it becomes clear that he has essentially legalized drugs for this one section of the community...for the betterment of the rest of the neighborhoods because now kids and families feel safe and are taking back their community. Meanwhile..."Hamsterdam" eventually descends into an infernoesque hellhole.
Having witnessed drug deals, fights, weapons, sanitation issues, and public lewdness, along the river, is this the inevitable end of closing this recreational path between Reno and Sparks? I've attached a video of my last ride through the Reno/Sparks "Hamsterdam." It may very well be my final ride along the path because even for me, it now feels too unsafe. What is the City up to with this closure?
Rivendell AllRounder - Jack of All Trades...Master of Most
I originally bought my Allrounder out of regret for not buying the legendary Bridgestone XO-1 and because of my deep respect for the vision of Grant Petersen as he was in the first few years of his new bicycle company, Rivendell Bicycle Works. He seemed like one of the few voices of sanity in the bike industry in the mid-90s when design seemed to be about making things as complicated as possible. Technological advancements can be super cool but sometimes it's just seems like bike wankery and you wonder if it doesn't get in the way of the actual enjoyment of riding.
Over the years my Allrounder has lived up to its name and here is a battery of photos from the various types of riding I've done on the bike and different configurations (tires, bars, etc.) along the way. I've had tires as skinny as 1.25 inch slicks all the way up to 2.3 inches knobbies. Bars have been rando, moustache, and noodle bars. Fully loaded touring, quick(ish) road rides, commutes, offroad adventure riding, and trips to the coffee house...it's done it all.
I remember a comedian making a joke about his mom always bringing up how she was in labor with him for 36 hours. "Thirty-Six hours," he exclaimed! "I don't even want to do something I like for 36 hours!"
That's kind of how I feel about these types of long-distance events. I'm kind of inspired by the physical fortitude, but like RAAM, if you are literally falling asleep on the bike because you are 400 miles into the ride with a few hundred still to go, that doesn't seem like much fun. That beings said, some of the bikes especially made for this type of road riding in comfort (or as comfortable as you can be for that long on a bike) are spectacularly beautiful. And the notion of to and from from and to Paris is pretty appealing. Maybe I need to rethink this and start a Randonneuring event or club around these parts. As it is, the new film "Brevet" seems to capture the joy and agony of the ride. Perhaps starting there is a better strategy.
Maybe one day I'll get that bug...as for now a 50 or 60 mile ride seems to be about my top end if only because I have so many other things I want to do with my time.
Brevet from CURLYPICTURES on Vimeo.
Every four years cyclists from all over the world come to France for the legendary Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle marathon. They have to ride 1230 km in under 90 hours. A grueling fight against hills, cold and exhaustion. BREVET is the movie about this fight.
Celebrating Della Santa!
I got in on a Woolistic order for a retro wool jersey to go with my Della Santa. The colors don't exactly go with my bike but it's a classy and well-made jersey that fits perfectly and should be nice on some late summer and fall rides. The DS is still my best riding bicycle and I think it's been feeling neglecting because I've been spending more time on dirt this summer.
Every once in awhile I break out of the bicycle oriented posts to talk about some other things of interest to me such as education, music, or in this case, film. I wrote an overview of my favorite films from the first decade of the new century a few years back and it still stands as a solid list for me. I might adjust a few things with hindsight but overall I stand by my picks. Now that I'm teaching a film class at my high school I just wish I could show more of these but alas many of them are rated R.
I usually reserve my year end lists to music but being as it's the end of a decade I can't resist compiling a list of my favorite cinema. It would be nice to suggest that these are truly the greatest films of the decade but there are so many films I didn't see in the theater it's impossible to be comprehensive so below is a list of some of my favorite film experiences of the last 10 years. I don't know how critics decide what is a #3 vs. a #8 on a list like this so these are in no particular order.
Zodiac - David Fincher always creates something interesting but this film is a masterpiece of tense procedural serial killer mayhem. Robert Downey Jr. has reestablished himself in the minds of most cinema goers over the last couple of years but this is my favorite performance of his and Jake Gyllenhaal holds his own surrounded by one the great supporting casts of all time. Special kudos to the strong cinematography, a hallmark of any Fincher film.
In Bruges - Surprising comes to mind with this madcap gangster, buddy, thriller. Especially with Colin Farell giving one of his best performances.
Layer Cake - Daniel Craig can be given credit for making James Bond relevant again (even if Quantum of Solace was a disappointment). But it was Layer Cake that upped the ante for British Crime Dramas. Michael Gambon gives one of the great villainous speeches at the end of the film.
Bourne Identity - I'm settling on the first in this series even though I loved all of them. These movies redefined modern action an somehow gave it a paranoid cerebral feel. After Good Will Hunting the smart money was on Ben Affleck to become the next big movie star. All these years later Matt Damon has turned out to be one of the best and savviest film actors working.
Lord of the Rings - It's fashionable to bag on this sprawling film series now but there is no getting around how monumental of a task it was to translate the books into an enjoyable cinematic experience for readers and a modern film audience that had no knowledge of the books. That it turned out to be a transcendent trip is all the more surprising. I don't know that there has been a better job done of casting the principle actors in recent memory. Particularly Viggo Mortenson and Sean Astin who seem to me to be the heart of this film.
Amelie/A Very Long Engagement - While Amelie is considered syrupy by some a little lightness about the random kindness of a strange girl from Paris was just what was needed in the early 2000s. Engagement, also by Jeunet, is a complex tale of love and sacrifice set during the Great War. It's also a great introduction to Marion Cotillard as a prostitute assassin to die for.
Michael Clayton - On paper this film shouldn’t have been as good as it was. But with knockout performances from Tom Wilkinson, George Clooney, and Tilda Swinton, it was the corporate thriller of the decade.
Children of Men - The look of this film had me from the first frame. it doesn’t hurt that the cast is great and the ending perfect.
Almost Famous - Ensemble acting at its finest in this piece about 70s rock and roll culture and coming of age. There are great actors here (Frances McDormand, Billy Crudup, and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and average actors who upped their game (Jimmy Fallon!) . Everything Kate Hudson has done since this has been pretty much shit but she’ll always have a special place in my heart as Penny Lane.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
One of those films that you know is a masterpiece while watching it and spend the last half hoping it doesn’t blow it. It doesn’t. Great performances and gorgeous to look at. Proves once again that Brad Pitt is underrated as an actor. Also one of those great films that I can only watch every once in a while.
Lost in Translation - Middle-aged ennui meets youthful potential in a striking film from Sofia Coppola. And it has one of the best endings ever.
Wonder Boys - A gem of a film about the tortured lives of writers that toys with the cliche and then shatters it. It also made Michael Douglas watchable which is a great feat. Great supporting actor work from Tobey Macguire, Frances McDormand, and Robert Downey Jr.
Wes Anderson...I’m torn. Anderson belongs of the best of list for his singular cinematic vision. But it’s hard to decide whether the flawed masterpiece, The Life Aquatic should be here or the earlier Royal Tannenbaums. Or, should it be the Fantastic Mr. Fox? I’m holding off on including any late 2009 film on a list of the best of the decade because it feels too soon to make that judgement. So, Life Aquatic it is. But I reserve the right to change my mind.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Unlike anything else I've seen
The Incredibles - The best of the Pixar creations followed closely by Up
Brokeback Mountain - Heartbreaking
The 40 Year-Old Virgin - Man-Child raunchiness with a sweet spot
And because we are in the age of great cinema created for the small screen I feel it necessary to mention a few of my favorite television shows which were as good if not better than much of what was playing down at the cineplex: Deadwood, State of Play, Bleak House, Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls, 30 Rock, and The Office (both Brit and U.S. versions).
I've been sitting on this article for awhile thinking about the reasons drivers do get so hostile towards cyclists. I get the argument that is being made here in terms of cyclists being perceived as cheaters, breaking the "rules of the road." But of course it is more complex than that. I've always maintained that for some drivers there is also a nagging bit of guilt, perhaps subconsciously, because cyclists tend to be happier and healthier in general, plus they are not really part of the problem when it comes to creating traffic. Sort of underscoring the old adage about drivers complaining about traffic when "they are traffic."
Anyway, I'm clipping a big swatch of this article because it's worth examining the psychology about driver hate:
Something about cyclists seems to provoke fury in other road users. If you doubt this, try a search for the word "cyclist" on Twitter. As I write this one of the latest tweets is this: "Had enough of cyclists today! Just wanna ram them with my car." This kind of sentiment would get people locked up if directed against an ethnic minority or religion, but it seems to be fair game, in many people's minds, when directed against cyclists. Why all the rage?
I've got a theory, of course. It's not because cyclists are annoying. It isn't even because we have a selective memory for that one stand-out annoying cyclist over the hundreds of boring, non-annoying ones (although that probably is a factor). No, my theory is that motorists hate cyclists because they think they offend the moral order.
Driving is a very moral activity – there are rules of the road, both legal and informal, and there are good and bad drivers. The whole intricate dance of the rush-hour junction only works because people know the rules and by-and-large follow them: keeping in lane; indicating properly; first her turn, now mine, now yours. Then along come cyclists, innocently following what they see are the rules of the road, but doing things that drivers aren't allowed to: overtaking queues of cars, moving at well below the speed limit or undertaking on the inside.
You could argue that driving is like so much of social life, it’s a game of coordination where we have to rely on each other to do the right thing. And like all games, there's an incentive to cheat. If everyone else is taking their turn, you can jump the queue. If everyone else is paying their taxes you can dodge them, and you'll still get all the benefits of roads and police.
In economics and evolution this is known as the "free rider problem"; if you create a common benefit – like taxes or orderly roads – what's to stop some people reaping the benefit without paying their dues? The free rider problem creates a paradox for those who study evolution, because in a world of selfish genes it appears to make cooperation unlikely. Even if a bunch of selfish individuals (or genes) recognise the benefit of coming together to co-operate with each other, once the collective good has been created it is rational, in a sense, for everyone to start trying to freeload off the collective. This makes any cooperation prone to collapse. In small societies you can rely on cooperating with your friends, or kin, but as a society grows the problem of free-riding looms larger and larger.
Humans seem to have evolved one way of enforcing order onto potentially chaotic social arrangements. This is known as "altruistic punishment", a term used by Ernst Fehr and Simon Gachter in a landmark paper published in 2002. An altruistic punishment is a punishment that costs you as an individual, but doesn't bring any direct benefit. As an example, imagine I'm at a football match and I see someone climb in without buying a ticket. I could sit and enjoy the game (at no cost to myself), or I could try to find security to have the guy thrown out (at the cost of missing some of the game). That would be altruistic punishment.
Altruistic punishment, Fehr and Gachter reasoned, might just be the spark that makes groups of unrelated strangers co-operate. To test this they created a co-operation game played by constantly shifting groups of volunteers, who never meet – they played the game from a computer in a private booth. The volunteers played for real money, which they knew they would take away at the end of the experiment. On each round of the game each player received 20 credits, and could choose to contribute up to this amount to a group project. After everyone had chipped in (or not), everybody (regardless of investment) got 40% of the collective pot.
Under the rules of the game, the best collective outcome would be if everyone put in all their credits, and then each player would get back more than they put in. But the best outcome for each individual was to free ride – to keep their original 20 credits, and also get the 40% of what everybody else put in. Of course, if everybody did this then that would be 40% of nothing.
In this scenario what happened looked like a textbook case of the kind of social collapse the free rider problem warns of. On each successive turn of the game, the average amount contributed by players went down and down. Everybody realised that they could get the benefit of the collective pot without the cost of contributing. Even those who started out contributing a large proportion of their credits soon found out that not everybody else was doing the same. And once you see this it's easy to stop chipping in yourself – nobody wants to be the sucker.
Rage against the machine
A simple addition to the rules reversed this collapse of co-operation, and that was the introduction of altruistic punishment. Fehr and Gachter allowed players to fine other players credits, at a cost to themselves. This is true altruistic punishment because the groups change after each round, and the players are anonymous. There may have been no direct benefit to fining other players, but players fined often and they fined hard – and, as you'd expect, they chose to fine other players who hadn't chipped in on that round. The effect on cooperation was electric. With altruistic punishment, the average amount each player contributed rose and rose, instead of declining. The fine system allowed cooperation between groups of strangers who wouldn't meet again, overcoming the challenge of the free rider problem.
How does this relate to why motorists hate cyclists? The key is in a detail from that classic 2002 paper. Did the players in this game sit there calmly calculating the odds, running game theory scenarios in their heads and reasoning about cost/benefit ratios? No, that wasn't the immediate reason people fined players. They dished out fines because they were mad as hell. Fehr and Gachter, like the good behavioural experimenters they are, made sure to measure exactly how mad that was, by asking players to rate their anger on a scale of one to seven in reaction to various scenarios. When players were confronted with a free-rider, almost everyone put themselves at the upper end of the anger scale. Fehr and Gachter describe these emotions as a “proximate mechanism”. This means that evolution has built into the human mind a hatred of free-riders and cheaters, which activates anger when we confront people acting like this – and it is this anger which prompts altruistic punishment. In this way, the emotion is evolution's way of getting us to overcome our short-term self-interest and encourage collective social life.
So now we can see why there is an evolutionary pressure pushing motorists towards hatred of cyclists. Deep within the human psyche, fostered there because it helps us co-ordinate with strangers and so build the global society that is a hallmark of our species, is an anger at people who break the rules, who take the benefits without contributing to the cost. And cyclists trigger this anger when they use the roads but don't follow the same rules as cars.
Now, cyclists reading this might think "but the rules aren't made for us – we're more vulnerable, discriminated against, we shouldn't have to follow the rules." Perhaps true, but irrelevant when other road-users perceive you as breaking rules they have to keep. Maybe the solution is to educate drivers that cyclists are playing an important role in a wider game of reducing traffic and pollution. Or maybe we should just all take it out on a more important class of free-riders, the tax-dodgers.
A fun Sunday ride north of town with a climb up Matterhorn road with a couple of gents made for a great day. Proving once again what a great choice it was to get a Della Santa with all of its wonderful road racing qualities with the space for a 35mm tire to more easily handle a bit of dirt and gravel surfaces that you are likely to find on the outskirts of Reno. Great day, great ride, great company.
In digging through my archive of bicycling memorabilia (in a former career I actually was an archivist) I found this great cover. It's easy to see why I would keep this issue of Mountain Bike Magazine. This issue was during the heyday of mountain biking in the 1990s when road bikes seemed passe and a war of worlds was happening between what was then considered the two main disciplines of the cycling industry. Basically, Pre-Lance Armstrong taking over the world and reigniting so much interest in road cycling.
Who knew that there would now be niche within subniche of styles of riding to navigate. How else do you explain the handwringing so many cyclists do over whether to buy the SOMA Wolverine or the Black Mountain Cross or the VO...whatever. I obsess and lust over those bikes as well.
That said, there is a point to be taken from this cover besides seeing Bob Roll get muddy during Paris-Roubaix. Road bikes can do an awful lot of amazing things beyond just smooth as glass pavement rides.
Mark Knopfler, Objects of Beauty, and N+1
I was struck in this interview for Salon how Knopfler nailed the N+1 idea that so many cyclists talk about with their collections and then he goes and starts talking about buying a Colnago. Yeah, I'm sure he gets it. It's no surprise that guitarists have the same issue of always desiring one more guitar. Who else would appreciate the beauty as well as someone who plays?
Excerpt from full article here:
"The Girl Who Has A Bicycle Does Not Need Wings" - Wheel Talk
I picked up this antique copy of the publication Wheel Talk recently. Apparently it was published out of the Chicago area during the late 1890s hey day of cycling. Lots of tips and witticisms are included in this brief periodical about enjoying your "wheel" and how to dress, eat, and fully appreciate it. I adore this era of printed material, event more so when it is about cycling. The typefaces, verbiage, and elegant style make these kinds of publications a treat. Sometimes less is more when it comes to graphic design. Actually less is usually more when it comes to graphic design. Something that I try to convey to my students when they are designing things in my classes.
Here are a few screen shots of the pages of this slight but fun publication. Some of the advice given in the page below is quite amusing.
Having recently tried to learn the song Jeepster by the amazing T Rex, I went looking for some good live footage of Marc Bolan and co. and found this great concert footage from Wembley. I'm a lover of 70s glam rock and besides Mr. Bowie, Bolan is kind of the King of Glam. Those strutting rhythms punctuated by great guitar riffs. Crazy fun!
This is one of the earliest posts I ever wrote and I still get annoyed emails from diehard burners. That was not really my intent. Mostly, I just wanted to point out that as much as I think the Black Rock Desert is a captivating place, the idea of hanging out there with 50+ thousand people pretty much ruins it. Add to that the sort of pseudo-counter culture mantra that surrounds the event...well, you get my point. I'm glad so many people love it and add tons of money to our local economy. And particularly glad that it funds great organizations like the Reno Bike Project. I just don't particularly care to hear about it. I've noticed in the last ten years since I wrote this a decidedly more pronounced anti-burner mentality surrounding the event.
I know many wonderful and interesting people that love Burning Man and spend the better part of the year making plans for their week on the playa. But I can’t drink the kool-aid on this one. It’s annoying enough that people are so cultish about it. “You HAVE to go! It’s the most fun ever! I can’t believe you’ve never been?!” I have literally had to sit through hours of acquaintences and friends practically chanting borglike: ASSIMILATE! ASSIMILATE!! When I tell them I have no interest they find me “square” and “uptight” and actually get annoyed with me.
Now, I’m no prude. I consider myself actively progressive, I love art meant to push boundaries and buttons, public nudity doesn't bother me, I’ve traveled and lived throughout the world visiting Buddhist monasteries in Sri Lanka to game reserves in South Africa. Hell, I even like to tie one on occasionally.
And given all the travelling I've done I can say unequivocally, that I think the Black Rock Desert is one of the most amazing places on earth.
I can also say unequivocally that the idea of spending time on the playa surrounded by 30,000 people to be one of the most horrifying things I can think of.
I don’t care if all 30k of them are the coolest people on the planet (I’m quite sure they are not). Don't get me wrong, large social events have their place. There are times I'm quite delighted to be surrounded by my fellow homo sapiens. Give me a great concert, a good New Year's Eve party, or even SOME sporting events to bond with my fellow men and women. Shoot, I enjoy standing in line waiting to vote on election days with politically active citizens no matter what political stripe they happen to be. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
But the Black Rock Desert is so amazing BECAUSE it provides such a great opportunity to marvel about how alone we are on the planet and in the universe. Whether it's a day trip or a camping excursion I have never failed to be thrilled by standing on the playa. For me the BRD is a place that begs for quiet contemplation. Not inebriated social interaction. No matter how dressed up (or undressed) it might be in the guise of providing some college kid, suit-and-tie lawyer, or soccer mom, a chance to have some venue to create their annual "peak experience," it's still just an excuse for a party. And more and more, in talking to "burners" or whatever handle they are giving themselves now, I know too many of the people who go out there who seem to be looking for this "peak experience" for a week out of the year that they find it hard to get in the other parts of their lives. Frankly, I find that sad. I have no such problem or hole in my life. I have "peak" experiences on at least a weekly basis. Paying to hang out with a bunch of intoxicated (albeit more creatively intoxicated) people does not a peak experience make (for me).
different strokes and all that...enjoy the playa next week! And after you've trashed your bike donate it to some kid who doesn't have one instead of throwing it in a dumpster or abandoning it on the side of the road.
There's a reason that I'm drawn to the purity of Buddhist thought and right livelihood. Simple truths can resonate more deeply than all others and this little story, which I've shared before, does feel like it taps into something pure and important. An oldie but a goodie:
A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monastery and had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, “Why are you riding your bicycles?”
"The streets belong to the machines now. Thank you for granting us passage, metal majesty."
A friend passed this new TV series on to me...Adam Ruins Everything from TRUtv. Essentially the premise is the host, Adam, dismantles many of our preconceived notions about why things are the way they are. In this episode he takes on car culture, dealerships, transportation infrastructure, and where our love affair with the car really comes from. And while I was delighted that the statistics that were actually cited within the tv show were from many of the resources I have already read, (indeed some of these live on my book shelf) they are no less devastating. In fact, cramming them so entertainingly into 22 minutes may make this the best bang for your buck TV ever!
I'm sure many in Planning or those who can't break free from the idea that the car is the only way to get around will say that we live in 2015 so this is the world we have to build for. But that is a ridiculous argument when you understand that some of our greatest cities for walking and cycling and transit went down the car dominated road several decades ago and realized it was a dead end, quite literally. They turned away from a car dominated society and are now held up as the best examples of how city transportation should work. Better for quality of life, health, and society.
I decided to do a paring down of bikes and consolidate into one bike what seemed to be redundancies in various rides I'd accumulated over the years. My idea was to take my Gunnar Sport as the basic idea, with it's roadworthy ride characteristics as well as it's dirt abilities, and upgrade it, so to speak, with a locally made bike by Reno legend, Roland Della Santa. In the end this bike is to replace and consolidate several different in my stable with one bike that is even nicer.
I knew what I'd end up with would be nice, but after the first real ride out to the Verdi loop, I realized that I'd gotten even more than I'd bargained for. A road racing bike that takes a 35mm tire and still feels zippy. But more than that, I think I may now own the prettiest bike I've ever seen. And in my decades of bicycle obsession, I've seen a whole lot of amazingly beautiful bikes over the years. Forgive the many photos...I went a little crazy.
While waiting for my order at Laughing Planet the other day I snapped a few photos of their Greg LeMond and Roland Della Santa exhibit. I have to say I'm always intrigued by these less obvious color schemes and how classy they can look on a beautiful handmade bicycle frame. I never would have thought an olive green with yellow scheme would look so good but it works!
New Laundry Room Project
The main summer project from a few years ago at the Westfield villa is a new laundry room off of the dining room. Basically a partial conversion of part of the garage space. We ended up with a nice, sunny room, with a slider out to the garden which is in full bloom at this point.
It's not that person driven cars are completely going away in the near future. But even in smaller cities an educated guess would lead you to believe driverless cars, combined with car sharing, will dominate the roads by the end of the 2020s. That's a mere decade or so. So when urban "Master Plans" and the "Reimagining" of cities is occurring locally and around the country, who is considering this paradigm shift that is coming? And what do we do with the amazing amount of urban space that is earmarked for car parking right now?
It's been just over a year since I somewhat serendipitously picked up my first electric guitar. Who knew that a year of lockdowns would follow, distance and hybrid learning, and the need for ways to fruitfully spend time at home would become so pronounced? In that time, I've definitely been bitten by the guitar bug, most notably for the venerable Fender Telecaster model. There is just something special about this simple, but so so classically versatile, guitar. It just speaks to me. The fact that most of my favorite guitar "heroes" are known for Teles is probably one of the reasons why. But I'm also just plain thrilled with the noises you can get out of one of these. Particularly my purple road worn 50s tele which was a present from my wife, Karrie, for Valentine's Day. It was dialed right out of the box and just felt perfect. When a guitar makes even me sound better you know it's a good one. So while my skills are only slowly advancing, I'm thrilled to have this creative outlet to pursue at this point in my life and beyond. A whole world of fun stretches before me. Maybe one of these days I'll be bold enough to do a little video of myself demonstrating my meager skillset.
...and there's not a beard among them! But I guess none of them look old enough to grow a beard. The best thing about this series of photos is looking at the streetscapes behind them. That, and looking at the details of the machines they're riding. Some of the handlebars are amazing!
The morning commute in the winter can reward you with some gorgeous views of the Truckee River. Sadly, it also disturbs me with the growing homeless encampments along the route as well. Funny that people always ask me about how cold I get riding in (I don't because I have the gear for it). Especially ironic when it is someone who skis all of the time questioning me about exercising in winter.
It's not often that I take my day off to read a Masters Thesis but the subject matter was simply too compelling to pass up. After years of reading articles talking about he economic benefits of adding cycling infrastructure, even while taking away some of the on-street parking, it would be nice if this study done in Denver drove a stake through the heart of the ill-conceived notion that losing a parking space in front of a store will put you out of business. But my guess is certain business owners will clasp their hands over their ears even more firmly while chanting LALALALALALA because they can't get beyond the simplistic notion that a parking spot means more traffic through their door rather than understanding that creating a better overall safe and enjoyable place in a neighborhood will inspire far more traffic of all modes and make more people want to walk, bike, take the bus, and drive to shop and dine.
Choice Quotes from this study from the University of Denver Natural Science and Mathematics Department:
There are four broad conclusions within this research. First, Denver exhibits untapped potential for increasing the bicycle mode share, especially when bike trips are combined with transit trips. Second, bicycle facilities are correlated with statistically significant positive economic impacts for local businesses and do not have negative impacts. Third, PBLs improve overall safety for all users and encourage more “types” of bicyclists to use the facility. Lastly, PBLs increase overall bicycle traffic, while simultaneously decreasing the number of traffic violations and sidewalk riding counts. It represents a next step towards cultivating a method to provide an unbiased view of the direct economic impacts of cycling infrastructure improvements.
From the Conclusion of the Thesis:
This research revealed four central findings that contribute to the current transportation and bicycle literature and to future studies. First, Denver exhibits untapped potential for increasing the bicycle mode share, especially when bike trips are combined with transit trips. Many Denver residents live in close proximity to transit, which suggests that they can replace car trips with bike and transit trips. There is also considerable room to improve Denver’s on-street bicycle network to encourage people to ride bicycle for transport.
Second, bicycle facilities are correlated with statistically significant positive economic impacts for local businesses and do not have negative impacts. This research uncovers that new bicycle facilities do not hurt local businesses. In fact, the findings from the Larimer Street study area suggest that the new bicycle facilities significantly increased economic performance within the corridor, when compared to similar local streets. Modeling, time, and other constraints limited the ability to claim that the new bicycle facilities directly caused the economic increases. However, the analysis certainly suggests that the new bicycle facilities were a key component, and potentially the impetus, behind the improved economic performance. While this research was unable to claim direct causality, future studies can combine these methods with interviews or a more robust statistical model to assign causality.
Third, PBLs improve overall safety for all users and encourage more “types” of bicyclists to use the facility. The current lack of bicycle facilities represents the main barrier to increasing ridership levels. This research makes the case that new bicycle facilities can improve the overall safety and equity of the US’ bicycling transportation system. One cannot undervalue the importance of human safety, and this research highlights the key role of bicycle facilities in making US streets safer for all.
Lastly, PBLs increase overall bicycle traffic, while simultaneously decreasing the number of traffic violations and sidewalk riding counts. 15th Street experienced a 37% increase in bicycle traffic at the same time as a 33% decrease in traffic violations and a 54% decrease in sidewalk riding. The impressive increase in ridership, coupled with drastic decreases in sidewalk riding and traffic violation counts, point to new bicycle facilities as a win-win-win that attract more usurers to a space, while also encouraging many of the new users to obey the traffic laws at higher rates than before.
The preceding findings from this research highlight how the bicycle is an underutilized mobility tool with major room for growth in the current US transportation system. New bicycle facilities are tied to increased safety and use, and also appear to provide major economic benefits for the businesses located along the street improvement.
A mixed methods analysis of geographic sales tax, bicycle count, transit access, land use, and census data, paired with qualitative observational research, suggests how planners, policy makers, and other relevant stakeholders can build the best transportation network for Denver’s future.
The peak travel context informs this study on the economic and traffic impacts following the installation of new bicycle facilities. Emerging trends suggest that policymakers and transportation planners need to reconsider the belief that VMT levels will perpetually continue to increase. This study helps to address the need to understand how new bicycle facilities impact local neighborhoods, businesses, and the people who use them to get around the city. These findings speak to the logical reasons why Denver should build more bicycle facilities, but the intrinsic benefits of the bicycle as an inexpensive, efficient, cost-effective, healthy, low impact, local, sustainable, equitable, accessible, and enjoyable transportation mode, represent the true reasons why US cities must improve their bicycles networks and encourage more residents to have fun riding their bicycle for transportation (Rosen et al. 2007; Mapes 2009; Byrne 2010; Birk and Kurmaskie 2012; Pucher and Buehler 2012; Henderson 2013).
Mountain bike technology has come a long way. I've been riding bikes seriously for over two decades now and began with an unsuspended Specialized Rockhopper and graduated to another unsuspended Bridgestone MB-2 in the 90s. The handling on those bikes was precise and in particular, the Bstone was agile and as fun to ride as any bike I've ever owned. And pretty. It had a beautiful blood red paint job, and a biplane fork crown that was to die for.
Over the years I've fallen in and out of love with mountain biking depending on where I've lived. The midwest is a different animal in terms of mountain biking as opposed to riding in the rocky Sierras with our technical climbs and descents. I've now owned a full-suspension "26er", and now have a Jamis Dragon 29er. A 29er is a little big in feel for me at 5'6" but it rolls nicely over rocks and ruts with a front suspension fork. It also has hydraulic disc brakes which makes me extraordinarily more confident descending and makes riding with friends on the dirt more enjoyable.
But that gets to the point of this post. I went out riding on my refurbished Bridgestone MB-1 today and even though I was going slower in rocky descents, I enjoyed every minute of the agile and pinpoint steering of the unsuspended bike. This fact led me to the conclusion that should probably get out on this bike more often for my solo rides and leave the "modern" Jamis Dragon for my rides with friends or sub 24 hour camping trips where keeping together with friends might be the better choice.
With that I will just say...that no matter what you ride, new or old mountain bike, there is no denying the pure and beautiful aesthetics of a earlier mountain bike made from from a lugged steel. It beats the looks of a carbon labelled whatever made in Taiwan any day.
For over 12 Years I wrote the Reno Rambler Blog covering everything from Bicycle Advocacy, Reno Politics, Popular Culture, and my experiences as a long-time cyclist.