A companion site (THE PRACTICAL CYCLIST) is home to
genuinely practical information about using bikes for transportation.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

NAHBS 2009

I'm not going to bother writing about it, but I strongly suggest you read what others do write about it. I'm going to, and I won't say a darn thing unless I just absolutely can't avoid it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

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Thursday, February 26, 2009


Another darn good idea.  The grassroots are STRONG.  Bring it on home!  I'll meet you in DC.

A rose by any other name...

I didn't write this book, but I sure like the name. I also like the content. I haven't actually read it, but I spoke to the author, Chip Haynes. He assured me that I would approve. I'm not even bitter about the name business.
You can order the book online direct from New Society Publishers. Until the end of March, 2009, you'll get 20% off by using Coupon Code: PC-2009. Tell them "The Other Practical Cyclist guy sent me."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bike Everywhere

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Ethos of Authenticity

A recent post at the Bicyclism Blog (Jan. 1, 2009: Authenticity) got me going today. The author takes a lead-out from "Futurist" Richard Watson's discussion of the increasing importance of authenticity, perhaps in the context of increasingly transparent universal interdependence (I'm not sure about that, I haven't read Watson's book). Bicyclism articulated Watson's focus on authenticity:

...with the increasing uncertainties of our times, people will seek authenticity (rather than pretence and ambiguity) as a refuge for sanity and safety. Showing off, he said, is dead. Like the predilection to imbibe exotically labeled bottled water that comes out of the tap anyway. And like the predilection to wear your fantasies to youth and virility by driving a Lamborghini or souped-up V8 muscle car. Cracked leather is good. Like the wrinkles on a face. Plastic faces are out.
and later waxed poetic (a practice I support entirely):
We are the pedlars of authenticity in an age of swelling demand. So, to weave my own futurist vision, can the raw authenticity of cyclists become a societal template to replace that to which bankers and CEO’s once laid siege? In my vision the bicycle becomes an instrument of authentic expression; an instrument of societal progress and integrity. Of course, to we cyclists, this is already the case. But wider recognition would surely catalyse some interesting reconfiguration of a civilisation that is still over entranced with the devilry of manufactured image and misplaced values. It’s time for the age of the peloton of authenticity. We cyclists are, naturally, the ideal lead-out men for a ride such as that.

Aside: There is an essay by Charles Taylor entitled The Ethics of Authenticity. I haven't read it recently, and undoubtedly it's not exactly what I remember it to be. Nevertheless, my fondness for the title has remained. This is important to mention because the title of this post is a reference to Taylor's essay, and becuase I want to generally acknowledge that the value of authenticity is not a new discovery.

As I was writing and thinking about critical mass yesterday I felt uneasy--my thinking wasn’t clear. Now I've found at least one of the missing pieces: the artiface of anarchy. Perhaps that phrasing is too sing-song for serious consideration, but I think the idea is there. It is the antithesis of authenticity.

So, critical mass:

  • Unplanned? Hardly.
  • Transportation? Hardly.
  • Leaderless? Hmm, a suspect claim.
  • A big F-U to auto-domination? You-betcha.
  • A celebration of bicycle culture? OK.
  • Presenting bicycling as outsider or liminal culture? Jah.

Lets bring it on home. The ethos of authenticity is, ahem, critical. Normalize. I'm looking for The Solution, and I believe, as much as I believe anything, that it will be a Bicycle Solution. No,

The Bicycle Solution.

The Bicycle Solution is where the god of What Is meets the god of What Must Be. I'm less clear about how it will come to pass, but I suspect that compassion and softness will be important.

I'm sure that if anyone bothers to read this I'll get shot down as a critical mass nay-sayer, but let me assure you, I love bicycle culture, I love nonsense, costume dress, and irreverent behavior. I like liminal spaces. I like outside-inside tension, sort of. But we can't afford to leave bicycles in the liminal space. Again: we can't afford to leave bicycles outside mainstream culture.

It's the great paradox of liberty, diversity, and tolerance: humans can aspire to be more than human. Go figure. I'll keep working on it. For now, my only advice regarding critical mass is this: don't let yourself become part of a mob. Mobs are what happens when we let go of our aspirations.


  1. Bicyclism, on authenticity: http://blog.bicyclism.net/?p=271
  2. Richard Watson, on authenticity: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24866627-28737,00.html, and http://www.scribepublications.com.au/book/futurefiles
  3. Charles Taylor, on authenticity: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/TAYETH.html

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mavic EZ Ride Pedal System

This was posted on Urban Velo a few weeks back. Very cool:


The Mavic EZ Ride system is a "clipless" pedal/shoe combination meant for ease of use on the bike, and ease of walking off the bike. Unbeknownst to many in the American bicycle market, Mavic makes far more than just the wheels marketing in the states - overseas Mavic offers entire component ranges and was a pioneer in electronic shifting. While lacking any true retention system, the EZ Ride system uses an x-shape interface to key the shoe into the pedal, with a magnetic tab to help keep things in place. You can't pull up on the pedals, and you don't need to twist out of them, but the interface is sure to be more secure feeling than a platform pedal for most riders. For commuting and relatively short trips this system may make sense for given riders, but when it comes to longer distances I could see the lack of adjustment of foot position being a problem. There also does not appear to be any "float" or free twisting of the foot/pedal interface built into the system, which could be a problem for those with touchy knees. For more casual riders who nonetheless want a more secure pedal feel but just don't like clips and straps or clipless pedals that you have to twist out of the Mavic EZ Ride could be the answer. Visit the EZ Ride site for more information and animations showing how the system fits together.

Riding Pretty Bicycle Helmet Covers

Now this is a helmet cover I can get behind! Fantastic. Available at Riding Pretty.

Is it time for a critical look at critical mass?

Joe Biel has produced a documentary, soon to be released, entitled A Post-Critical Mass Portland: Living in a Post-Revolutionary Bicycle Age.  Here's a preview and a few conversation-starter questions that he posted online: 

from Joe Biel on Vimeo.
What does it mean that Portland, one of the best North American cities for cycling, has virtually no Critical Mass? Is it no longer relevant in the evolution of cyclists or has the police crackdown just been so successful? What are the new goals of cyclists?
In a nutshell, critical mass is a leaderless group of bicyclists riding together in a city or urban environment, typically starting at a specified time and place, with the general intention of promoting the use of bicycles as transportation.  The leaderless element makes critical mass hard to pin down, though most participants seem to be comfortable with the idea that a critical mass is an explicitly political event.  The wiki format seems to work well for leaderless groups, and there is a critical mass wiki: http://criticalmass.wikia.com/.  It provides the following definition:

Critical Mass bike rides take place monthly in cities around the world. They are free mass participatory events, with no leaders or fixed agendas. However, the broad aim is to celebrate cycling and sustainable transport, and to give cyclists safety in numbers.

Based on this definition, the celebration of bicycle culture and community is inherent to any critcal mass: Fun is essential, or at least encouraged.  Costumed participants, unusual or unusually decorated bicycles, and musical accompaniment are not out of the ordinary.  On the other hand, the events frequently come into conflict with users of public roadways.  Critical mass events have been criticised for intentionally creating conflicts with motorists, and some participants and promotors do not deny these motives.  Thus, critical mass is a combination of cultural celebration, recreation, and political protest.
The experience of critical mass participants and witnesses vary widely.  Many neighborhoods welcome the "traffic calming" effect of critical mass, and the bicycle advocacy agenda is closely tied to the interests of pedestrians and public transit users.  On the other hand, motorists are often inconvenienced by critical mass rides that move like long, slow trains through dense urban streets.  The Wikipedia entry on critical mass supplies an overview of reactions and responses to critical mass events, but the intermingled issues are nuanced and complex.  Here, for example, is an experience reported by Gordon Inkeles on the Social Biking Blog:
Attempting to drive home in my Chevy pickup during the last critical mass ride here in Arcata [California] I was locked in place on a narrow road for at least a half hour while leering cyclists flipped me the bird and screamed insults at my pickup truck. "Hey," I wanted to add, "I'm one of you. I'm hauling a yard of compost for my organic garden." If I had been trying to get to a hospital, I'd have been out of luck. The people behind me had little kids in the car and looked pretty upset.

Whether or not you consider Arcata, CA, a dense urban environment, there are several issues prominent in this account: first, motorists inconvenienced by the event; second, blockage of the public roadway; and finally, the less than genteel behavior by bicyclists.  The last item, the behavior of the bicyclists, is particularly troubling because it occured during an event designed to promote tolerance and diversity.  This irony didn't occur by accident--irony never does--rather it suggests deeper complexity.
While the cyclists behavior toward Mr. Inkeles was inexcusable, critical mass in general needs to be understood in a larger context.  For example, it is critical to recognize that motorists are not the only targets during critical mass events.  An incident during a critical mass in NYC in July 2008 led to the indictment of NYPD Officer Patrick Pogan for misdemeanor assault and multiple felonies related to giving false statements.  This incident was the latest in "a pattern of excessive force and harassment against cyclists from even the highest ranks of the NYPD," according to Time's Up, a New York City-based not-for-profit environmental group).  Not surprisingly, ill-treatment of cyclists, and citizens in general, appears to occur most frequently during critical mass events and other political gatherings that celebrate, in theory, the values of liberty, diversity, and tolerance.  
Michael Bluejay's website http://critical-mass.info/ apparently served as a hub for critical mass activity and communication.  It was operated on a volunteer basis starting in 1998 until late 2008.  As it is no longer operating, it has the potential to provide an interesting snapshot of critical mass at a specific point in time.  This would be a great point of entry for a serious academic or journalistic research effort.
Is anyone taking a comprehensive academic look at critical mass in the US?  What is the current state of critical mass in cities across the country?  How does it fit into the landscape of bicycle advocacy?  What has it accomplished?  I suspect Joe's documentary will discuss some of these questions as they related to Portland, OR, but what about the bigger picture?  I don't think I have the time for this project at the moment, but maybe you're a doctoral student in political science, sociology, law enforcement, transportation planning, public administration, or something else, and looking for a research topic.  Jump on it! 
On the other hand, if you happen to have US$100,000 ready to grant to the project I could be enticed to pursue it further.  Please get in touch right away.  I'm sure Mr. Biel would be interested too.  You can find him here, and at Microcosm Publishing.

A Perfect Picture of Professional Bike Racing

Rife with Distractions

(Photo credit: Trackstand)

Despite all the drugs and scandal, I can still get caught up in the excitement of big-league bike racing.  There's a race going on California right now that's about as big as bike racing gets in the United States of Stadium Sports.  Still, the doping business is a bummer, especially when athletes lie about it.  Doping stinks, but lying about it is worse.  Kudos to A-Rod, and anyone else ready to come out of the closet. 
Today is a new day:
You don't have to do today what you did yesterday.


That's what I said.  Nevertheless, here it is: a front disc hub with 135mm spacing (O.L.D. to some, or B.T.E.: "between the ends").

Why?  It provides a montrously strong dishless ISO-disc-brake-compatible front wheel.  The downside: you need a fork with 135mm spacing.  The fix: Jeff Jones has had a bunch made by Vicious Cycles.  The silver lining: you can run a double-wide rim and an 3.7" Endomorph tire, and wave at the rediculously rough stuff as you float over it riding with one hand on the bars.  Paul Comp makes the hub, but Jeff Jones is the source if you want to buy one: www.jonesbikes.com.  Hehe.  Big'n fat.  Wide load.  Bid'ness class.  Yeah, whatever.

If you haven't seen Jeff Jones' bikes, go check them out. Even if you have seen them, go check them out again. He's added a bunch of stuff since I'd been there last.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tasty New Bags at Rivbike

The next generation of bags, build like they were by previous generations:
good looking, thoughtfully-designed, quite sturdy. More photos here.
Also, they appear to be made with non-trivial care, in
M and L sizes, by Rivendell Bicycle Works.

Oh my.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

An Open Letter to Macy's: make this a win-win for bicyclists and Macy's

Jim Sluzewski

VP Corporate Communications

Macy's Inc.

Dear Mr. Sluzewski,

No doubt by this time you've received many letters or calls about the white bicycle in Macy's "My Funny Valentine" display in the New York flagship store. The issue at hand is the resemblence of the display to what are commonly known as "ghost bikes," white bicycles placed at the sites of traffic crashes that resulted in bicyclist fatalities. Despite the lack of formal organization, ghost bikes are internationally recognized within the bicycle community (see http://www.ghostbikes.org/), and within that community, Macy's display appears to make light of these fatal traffic incidents. The matter has been featured in several news pieces (for example: http://gothamist.com/2009/02/09/macys_white_bike_valentines_display.php).

Now, "bicycle people" in America tend to get a little defensive. It's understandable - they are confronted with an automobile-dominated transportation culture on a daily basis. I'm pretty sure that the designers of this marketing campaign did not intend to reference the ghost bike phenomenom, but I think no one can deny the de facto similarities between the two.

I suspect Macy's directors, executives and staff feel as most of us do: that traffic fatalities are tragic events, and that they should be prevented whenever possible. In order for Macy's to make itself understood clearly on this point, I suggest the following:

  1. Provide a poster or fliers at the site of the My Funny Valentine display informing shoppers of this issue, the meaning of ghost bikes, Macy's unintentional use of the symbolism, and the corporation's view on traffic fatalities and public safety.
  2. Donate 1% of profits from sales related to the My Funny Valentine marketing campaign to Transportation Alternatives, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the interests of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users in New York City.

Look, I know this is small potatos for a company like Macy's, but it means a lot to the bicycle community. Do the right thing, please. On Valentine's Day, wouldn't it be nice to see a company with a heart? Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Thanks for your consideration. Sincerely,

David Moskovitz

7981 Eastern Ave #101, Silver Spring, MD 20910



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Non-toxic Cleaning and Lubrication

Here are some great tips for cleaning you bike using non-toxic around-the-house products. Props to The Old Bike Blog and Riding Pretty, because I've found yet another thing I seem unable to let pass... I am generally in favor of non-toxic cleaning and lubrication, for all sorts of things, including bikes. That said, old habits die hard, and I've not made the switch. I'm about to list all the non-toxic, green, biodegradeable, etc. bicycle cleaning and lubricating products I can find. If you use or have used any of these, please comment on your experience. If you know of others, please let me know. Here we go.

  • Lanolin is rumored to work well well in place of grease on nuts and bolts. I've myself have used bees wax for this application. It appears to work. The whole "olive oil on the chain" thing makes me a little queasy, so let's skip it for now. I'd be pleased to find out that my reaction is needlessly discriminatory, but I'm just not up to trying it myself right now.
  • Under the catagory of "independent label" products, I've found El Duke Degreaser, Ernesto Lube, and I'll bet there are others out there.
  • Under "Big-name-brands," lots of folks make green claims, but it's hard to sort the good from the green-washing. I'll start with Pedros, since we all know them, and continue this post later...
Saying, "Green cleaning," makes me want to sing, "Jean, Jeannie..." and that would be bad for all of us.

Bike there, with directions: