Monday, June 27, 2011

More turn to biking to work because of high gas prices

I found this news article that inspired me to continue going to work using my bike.


They say once you learn to ride a bicycle, you never forget. Raising the cost of gas, it seems, helps people to remember.

As prices at the pump rose to punishing levels this spring, more Mercer County residents began turning to two-wheeled transportation in hopes of saving their pennies, according to area bike shop owners and a local transportation association.

"When people come in to the shop, after we get through introductions, the first thing we ask the person is what they plan on doing with the bicycle, so we know what to do with the bike to make it happen," said Charlie Kuhn, owner of Kopp's Bicycle Shop in Princeton.

"Recently, we've had more and more people tell us they're bringing their bike in because they want to start commuting," he said.

Kuhn said he picked up on the trend almost immediately after gas prices started rising in April.

Just like 2008

It reminded him of a nearly identical surge in repair business in 2008, when steep price increases hit.

"I'm seeing old 10-speeds coming out of the woodwork, and other commuter-type bicycles," Kuhn said. "People haven't used them in years, and they think, "OK, instead of my car, I'm going to use my bike to get to work.'"

In Hamilton, Economy Bike & Skateboard Shop owner Charlie Swope said he was also seeing increased demand for repairs, especially of old 10-speeds.

"I have more people coming into my store even though the economy's still really not good," Swope said. "They can't spend four or five hundred on a new bike, but the repair business is doing really well right now."

Swope said his business got a boost not long after the price hikes both this year and in 2008, when the national average for a gallon of regular gas reached an all-time high of $4.11.

"I always tell people, riding a bike is $0.00 a gallon," he said.

During that previous period of high prices, Hopewell Township resident Rob Schell began riding his electric bike the six and a half miles to his job in Ewing two to three days a week.

"It's nice to get out in the fresh air. It gets me some exercise," he said last week.

"Sometimes in not so nice weather it's not so fun, but most of the time I enjoy it."

Paid for itself

Schell, a supervising environmental specialist at the Department of Environmental Protection, said the electric bicycle -- which gives his pedaling a boost on hills and windy stretches -- paid for itself within a couple thousand miles of riding. Driving his car less often both saves on gas and reduces pollution, he said.

"My expertise is in motor vehicle emissions. That should it put it in perspective as to why I ride a bike," he said.

"I know the impact of vehicles on the environment. It is truly a motivation."

The price of a gallon of regular gas hit $3.86 a month ago in the Trenton area before falling back to $3.67 last week, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

That's slightly higher than last week's national average of $3.61, and far higher than the $2.74 national average of a year ago.

While the high cost of gas may have led to more bike riding, the slow pace at which it crept to the brink of $4 earlier this year had the opposite effect of desensitizing consumers, said Cheryl Kastrenakes, executive director of the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

"People have gotten a bit more used to the $4 for a gallon thing, so they weren't as shocked when it got up that high this time," she said. "It's really difficult to change behavior, so it's really important for us to help people recognize how much they can save by riding a bike."

Change in behavior

Kastrenakes said one successful effort to change behavior was last month's National Ride Your Bike to Work Week.

The event drew four times as many signups as two years ago, showing that "the interest is there," she said.

As an alternative, her organization's website,, offers a system to connect people who want to carpool to work. The service saw a 25 percent uptick in May, she said.

"People are definitely reacting, but you have to keep the message out there," Kastrenakes said.

"Don't fall into the false sense of security that the price of gas isn't so high. Whether it's high or low, you're saving by biking."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Naked Bike Ride in Portland!

PORTLAND, Ore (Reuters) – It was a typical early summer evening in Portland: cloudy skies threatening rain, temperatures in the mid-60s, and thousands of naked bicyclists gathered near the city's waterfront for a clothing-free night ride.

The Portland version of the World Naked Bike Ride was about to begin.
"It is the most liberating, natural feeling possible," said Brooklyn Jay, who came all the way from Phoenix for the ride.

World Naked Bike Ride is a globally observed event among hard-core bikers designed, at least ostensibly, to promote the use of the bicycle for transportation. But Portland cyclists have been especially adamant about making it another of the Pacific Northwest city's quirky traditions.
"This is just a way of drawing attention to the need to be more green and replace fossil fuels with natural power," said Ken Johnson, who was completely nude and body-painted grey.
"I am going all the way" nude, said Xandi Silvaggi, adding, "it is all about saving the environment."

Since the World Naked Bike Ride started in 2004, only four other cities -- San Francisco, Seattle, and Boulder and Black Rock City in Colorado -- have celebrated it every year.
The Portland nudist/cyclists have turned the event into a festival, with a pre-ride event and post-ride parties featuring both clothed and naked partying which lasts well into the night.
They even have an official and rather corporate sponsor: Bridgeport Brewing, maker of Portland's first craft beer.

The local group that sponsors the event, SHIFT, describes itself as "a loose-knit and informal bunch of bike-loving folks."

The purpose of the naked rides, SHIFT says, is "a light-hearted protest against fossil fuel. ... A comment on the vulnerability of cyclists. Choose your message, ride with us! As bare as you dare."

Portland Police don't arrest the naked riders. They cite the city's extremely tolerant public indecency code as permitting such activities as mass nude cycling.

Monday, June 13, 2011

NYPD Comments On Alleged "Biking While Sexy" Ticket Threat

Yesterday, a Dutch tourist alleged that a cop threatened to ticket her for cycling while wearing a skirt in SoHo last spring. Jasmijn Rijcken says the officer told her that her skirt was dangerous because she could distract drivers and potentially cause them to crash—the whole thing sounded like a Jackie Chiles lawsuit in the making. Today, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne commented on the story...rather unsatisfactorily: "Whether this story bears even a modest semblance of what actually occurred is impossible to establish without being provided the purported officer's name and getting his side of the story."

Maybe we're reading too much between the lines, but that sure sounds like he's saying, "Totally could have happened, knowing these chuckleheads!" Rjicken, the general manager of the VANMOOF bicycle company in Amsterdam, was in town for the New Amsterdam Bike Show when the cop allegedly scolded her for cycling while sexy. She retold the story to the News, noting how she thought he was joking until he asked to see her ID. "I didn't even think for one second that my outfit could be harmful or disturbing," she said.

As we noted yesterday, it is decidedly not illegal to wear a skirt while cycling. You won't even find that "violation" under the NYPD's questionable "cheat sheet" for cyclist rules, which is part of their massive cyclist crackdown.

Commenter Jim Dyer on Streestblog points out this NY Times article from 1899 about a Chicago policeman who thought the use of bicycles by women degraded them morally: "A large number of our female bicyclists wear shorter dresses than the laws of morality and decency permit, thereby inviting the improper conversations and remarks of the depraved and immoral." Suddenly, it all makes sense: obviously a time-travelling bluecoat from 1899 landed in lower Manhattan that day, and upon seeing Rjicken, was terrified for her well being, lest some coarse and undignified peasants started hollaring at her.