Bicycle Diaries: June 2008

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Tour de Fat

The wild and wooly New Belgium Brewing Co. bike festival and freak show known as Tour De Fat was in The City of Big Shoulders last week to benefit West Town Bikes!

Over the last eight years, Tour de Fat has captured the imagination of thousands with record-setting parades, eye-popping entertainment, death-defying contests of bike skill and precision, and, of course, New Belgium beer.

The show opened with a costumed bike parade, celebrating the power of the bike. Born in Ft. Collins, Colorado to increase awareness and participation in biking as a sustainable form of transportation, Tour de Fat has grown into a national rite of passage for cycling advocates and bon vivants alike. New Belgium’s philanthropic cycling circus helped 26 non-profit organizations in 2007 and raised more than $245,000.

Tour de Fat also left as small an environmental imprint as possible by composting and recycling waste. The waste diversion rate goal for this year is 95%. All musical acts perform on a solar-powered stage. All decorations are made from recycled materials. Trucks and transport utilize B100 and all vendors operate off the grid.

At the Team Wonderlounge, participants joined Team Wonderbike, New Belgium’s bike commuter advocacy program. Team Wonderbikers pledge to commute by bike, not car, as often as possible. Currently, 11,000 people have pledged not to drive 9 million miles in the next 12 months.

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Thinking inside the box

when brown
is green

Phil Bridge, a 21 year old design student at Sheffield Hallam University, is building bikes from cardboard. It's extremely inexpensive at around $30. But some worry that it won't hold up in inclement weather. You know, like when your backyard refrigerator box fort collapsed in the rain?

Bridge, states that it's very strong and it has a honeycomb core. It's mainly used in partition walling and packaging. So his idea is that people could buy them to see if they like biking. Then if they like it they can then upgrade to a normal bike. Nor is he alone. Ryan Perkins of Pacific SouthWest Container made this cardboard single speed from a PDF CAD drawing done on Bike Forest Pro.

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2night's CCM: Update

a good time
was had by all

And what a time it was. Pirogi John enthusiastically proposed, though modestly led, last night's route. It hearkened back to the old timey masses when there were actual routes. Through the sheer force of a rather laid-back personality, John kept the more than 2000 rollers on track all the way down to the 31st Street Beach.

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2night's CCM

the southside
bubbly tour!

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Addicted to bikes?

Joe Kurmaskie
wants to know!
  • You know every traffic light sequence in the tri-county area for stop free pedaling.
  • Either it's a Brooks saddle or I will stand and pedal the whole way, thank you.
  • You own/wear more tights than a children's theater group performing Peter Pan.
  • You have eaten pasta directly out of your front bag, while pedaling.
  • You have higher quality, up-to-date intel on bike specs, gear and camping equipment than the staff at your local shop, the sales reps in your community and the editors at national magazines.
  • You sport a killer set of bodybuilder quads and a pair of angel hair pasta thin arms. That ten year old boy called again. He wants his biceps back.
  • You don't hate drivers as much as pity them in their steel cages, surrounded by shock jock rhetoric and their vague anger over how it came to this.
  • You think about each hill as a cyclist, even when you are driving in a car.
  • You calculate distances between cities by how long it would take by bike. ( 21 bike days from St. Petersburg to St. Louis.)
  • You know how many miles you rode last night, last week, last year.
  • You don't find it over sharing to tell people you just met how many miles you rode last night, last week, last year.
  • You have a Biker's Tan. (bottom 2 /3 of your legs, lower 1/2 your arms, and two little circles on the tops of your hands)
  • You get sad when your Biker's Tan fades.
  • You have nothing good to say about logging trucks or RVs with living fossils behind the wheel, or anything sporting wide mirrors.
  • You have lost feeling in your hands, neck and groin for substantial periods of time, but still you consider it the fair price of doing business on two wheels.
  • You have far too many photos of yourself on or around your bicycle next to signs at the top of mountain passes, Welcome To So and So State, National Park entrances, starting lines of bike rides, historic sites, and in front of bicycle shops.

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Why I'm voting Republican

and why
should too

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Why I love my city

...the Chicago Way

Alderman John E. Scully wrestles a bear in 1904 at the Madison Street Carnival, which he managed, in East Garfield Park. The previous year, Scully tried to persuade the Lincoln Park Zoo to parade an elephant down Madison Street, but zookeepers thought it was beneath the elephant’s dignity.
Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum's Chicago Daily News Collection

In 1884, British-born Thomas Stevens acquired a black-enameled Columbia 50-inch Standard model penny-farthing with nickel-plated wheels built by the Pope Manufacturing Company of Chicago.

Stevens struck out across the country, carrying in his handlebar bag: socks, a spare shirt, a slicker that doubled as tent and bedroll, and a 38 Smith & Wesson. Leaving San Francisco at 8 o'clock on 22 April 1884, he traveled eastward towards the United States. He was greeted by bicycle clubs, most prominently the local chapter of the League of America Wheelmen in Laramie, Wyoming. He reached Boston after 3700 miles on wagon trails, railroad ways, canal towpaths and public roads, to complete the first transcontinental bicycle ride on 4 August 1884.

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John McCain...

you can't have him

MoveOn, the country's most successful independent progressive organization won't be backing down for this presidential election. Its officials insist that it will continue to represent the views of their members across the county. This means developing the most provocative advertising possible.

They aren't kidding. A new TV ad, which will air in the swing states of Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, highlights John McCain's 100 years pledge regarding the U.S. military commitment to Iraq.

Meanwhile, over at the Obama camp, they've launched a folksy but national ad campaign. It's Message? Barack Obama is just like you. He knows what it's like to start with little and work your way up, he loves his country, he loves his family.

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Why ride?


Last Thursday, a fragile cease-fire went into effect. Israel agreed to loosen border restrictions with Gaza. HAMAS agreed to dismantle missile launchers used to bombard southern Israel. The picture above, showing the flexible uses for alternative forms of transportation, reminds me of a whole bunch of bike slogans:

Bicycles -
Working For A Better Planet

Cars Kill And Make You Ill

Cycling Soothes My Soul

Explore On Two Wheels

I Spend My Gas Money On Bikes, Beer, Pizza, And Donuts

Keep Driving Cars And We'll Keep Fighting Wars For Oil

Make Love, Not Cars

Make Love, Not Pollution

No Iraqis Bombed To Fuel This Vehicle

No Iraqis Died To Fuel This Bike

No Sovereign State Ever Invaded Another To Seize Their Bicycle Power

No War For Chain Lube

Speed Kills

Vehicle Of The Revolution

When Bicycle Wheels Turn It Must Be Revolution

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How much oil?

no matter what,
it ain't enough

Hanging out socially with bikers and professionally with environmentalists, I've observed their almost giddy satisfaction with rising gas prices. Even some muscular liberals, despite being burned on the Iraq War, seem to think that working class families require exactly this bit of tough love to force them to be free from our Car Kultur.

Now comes the offshore drilling debate between Obama and McCain. Essentially it boils down to there's enough oil out there (McCain) vs. there may be BUT the issue is really about American consumption (Obama). A great way to understand the significance of the difference comes from Juan Cole's Informed Comment. Cole, a former prof of mine, is best known for his commentary on Middle Eastern affairs. However, given, the ocean of oil under those country's sandy wastes, he can't ignore its impact on current events. I really, really urge any biker or environmentalist to check out his blog. Here's a startlingly relevant example:
The world uses on the order of 86 million barrels a day of petroleum. That figure is expected to veer sharply upward as China and India go in for automobiles and trucking in a big way.

The United States uses nearly 21 million barrels a day of petroleum and liquified hydrocarbon fuel, or nearly 25% of everything the world produces daily. The US has 5% of the world's population.

The US produces about 5 million barrels a day of petroleum and another 3 million barrels a day of liquefied fuel. That 8 million barrels a day is only about a third of what we use, so we import the rest. The lower 48 states produced about 4.4 million barrels of petroleum a day in 2006.

If all the known offshore fields were drilled and panned out, the lower 48's oil production would be increased by 7%. That would be 300,000 barrels a day.

Millions of barrels of oil a day produced by US and by world, with McCain's proposed increase through offshore drilling.

0.3 million barrels a day would make very little difference whatsoever to current oil prices even if it could be brought online right now. It would be a matter of a few pennies. And, in fact, if there were to be any impact of all of offshore drilling on prices, it would not come until 2020 or even 2030.

You will note that the Saudis just offered to increase their production by 0.5 million barrels a day, and the oil futures market just yawned. And that is in the real world, right now, not in some decade or two-decades-out in the future drilling scheme.

Moreover, US consumption of petroleum is increasing over time, so the extra 300,000 barrels a day would quickly be used up and then some.

McCain is cynically wooing Big Oil in Texas in order to get campaign contributions, while lying to the American people about his offshore drilling plan having a quick impact on oil prices and their quality of life. Bringing the 300,000 barrels a day on line would make somebody a lot of money. It will do us no good with regard to energy prices, and in fact will harm our standard of living because drilling for the oil will endanger beaches and the environment more generally, and burning that extra oil will accelerate climate change.

An informed reader writes, "We can save more than 300,000 barrels a day by everyone in the US using just one sixth of a gallon less a day. The US did it in WW2, why not in the War on Oil?"

It isn't even a matter of just voluntarily using less. If the US depended more on trains and increased automobile and truck fuel efficiency, it could reduce its use of petroleum by millions of barrels a day, which would have a stupendous impact on oil prices compared to what could be achieved from offshore drilling. Rail is much more efficient at transporting goods than trucking. Trucking in the US receives very substantial hidden subsidies. Trucks tear up the highways in ways that passenger automobiles do not, so the hundreds of millions of dollars the government spends on road repair every year, which you pay for with your tax dollars, is effectively a vast subsidy to trucking companies. If that subsidy were cancelled, or given to the railroads, and trucking companies had to actually pay the cost in carbon production and road repair generated by their industry, the US would be light years closer to energy independence. It is Congress, which is bribed by campaign contributions from concrete and trucking concerns, that has set up this ridiculous system of hidden subsidies that harms us all. Moreover, Detroit's silly resistance to fuel efficient automobiles will bury the US car industry, as the world turns to vehicles produced by the Japanese or Europeans that are much cheaper to run. And Congress coddles them on all this.

"Redshift" notes below,
'To add to his new energy policy instanity, McCain is a longtime opponent of Amtrak. He's actually worse than Bush in this area. In the "differences" column of the recent NYT chart comparing Bush and McCain on policy, this is noted under "Federal spending":

"Mr. McCain has sought to emphasize his differences with Mr. Bush by portraying himself as a stronger opponent of pork-barrel projects and other wasteful spending. He says he would not sign any earmarked projects into law and would cut financing for ineffective programs, including Amtrak." '
McCain is not against Federal subsidies for commuter airlines, on which Arizonans depend.

It is estimated that Federal subsidies for highways annually amount to $500 an automobile, while subsidies for Amtrak amount to only $40 a passenger.

(Since rail is also more efficient in moving passengers than automobiles, and since automobiles account for a significant proportion of US petroleum use, opposing subsidies for Amtrak while spending billions in public money to build and repair roads for autos is suicidal.)

But I have a sinking feeling that the Democrats will have no effective answer to McCain's cynical offshore drilling ploy. Developing a Green rhetoric that is convincing to the public is the most essential political task of our generation, and of tremendously more import than terrorism or war.

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Fewer cagers = safer streets?

not with more tucks...

With no end in sight for rising gas prices, I've started imagining how this will alter street traffic here in The City of Big Shoulders. While we may well see fewer and fewer SUVs and large pickup trucks, I doubt there will be fewer commercial trucks or semis. On the one hand, products still need to go from Point A to Point B. On the other hand, most companies will be able to absorb gas costs more easily than individuals. Or they'll simply pass along the increasing costs to consumers.

I'd rather share the road with cars.

We've already had a number of bike accidents from collisions with commercial trucks and even buses. The same has been happening in London; so much so that The Evening Standard launched the Safer Cycling Campaign. Of its 12 points these are the most interesting for our situation here:
4) [Commercial trucks] to be fitted with special cyclist safety mirrors

5) Compulsory cyclist awareness training for all bus drivers and new [Commercial truck] drivers
London mayor Boris Johnson has since distributed 10,000 safety mirrors to truck drivers. This is because the police are concerned following a number of bikers deaths in recent years, many involving heavy goods vehicles. So mirrors should help truckers spot bikers in their blind spot.

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The Wayback Machine

Browse through 85 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago. To start surfing the Wayback Machine, type in the web address of a site or page where you would like to start, and press enter.

Then select from the archived dates available. The resulting pages point to other archived pages at as close a date as possible. If you have trouble connecting to the Wayback servers, the Internet archive at the New Library of Alexandria, Egypt, mirrors it.

The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. Unfortunately, keyword searching is not currently supported by either the archive or the Wayback Machine.

Founded in 1996 and located in the Presidio of San Francisco, the Archive has been receiving data donations from Alexa Internet and others. In late 1999, the organization started to grow to include more well-rounded collections.

Now the Internet Archive includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages in their collections.

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Reykjavík traffic tamming

Pedal Power

In her Daily Life column for The Iceland Review, Zoe Robert writes:
Everyone seems to be getting around on bicycles these days. Last month the sixth annual “Cycle to Work” initiative kicked off, the idea being that companies compete to have the most employees travel to work by bicycle.

Between 2003 and 2007 the number of participants increased by more than ten fold from 533 to around 7,333. And it seems projects like this and the efforts of one school where more than half of the students are reported to ride to school are seeing more people get out of their cars and on their bikes.

I spent most of last summer and winter getting around by bike (that is until recently when someone decided to cut the lock and run) and I was often alone riding along Reykjavík’s footpaths (there aren’t really any cycle paths in Iceland and it would be too dangerous to cycle on the road, partly because drivers are not use to cyclists). So, it is a surprise to witness so many people out and about peddling around town this summer: parents cycling with their kids in an attached cart or on a double bike, children with their brightly-colored and decorated bicycles, downtown’s fashionable youth with their vintage looking bikes and others decked out in their skin-tight cycling attire. It seems that a bicycle is this summer’s must have accessory. Yes, I never thought I’d say this, but it seems that bicycles are coming into fashion in this northern-most capital of the world.

You may have heard that Iceland has more cars per capita than almost any other nation. Fréttabladid reported last year that, of the 230,747 registered cars, just 1,400, or one percent, are considered eco-friendly. And, a 2007 Capacent-Gallup poll revealed that around 60 percent of Icelanders currently drive alone to work, while only two percent use the public bus system. And the soaring price of fuel is another incentive to leave the car at home.

While Reykjavík isn’t exactly the most bicycle friendly city in the world – with its lack of paths and bicycle racks – this may be changing.

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Cairo traffic taming

taking a stance
on two wheels

Thomas Friedman, in yesterday's NYTimes Op-Ed Section, writes on the difficult choices for transportation infrastructure facing the Egyptian government:
The government will spend almost $11 billion this year to subsidize gasoline and cooking fuel; gas here is only about $1.30 a gallon. Sounds like a good deal for the poor — only the poor have no cars, and the fuel subsidies mean less money for mass transit.
He appears to have missed the obvious alternative to both cars and mass transit. Over a week ago, Nashwa Abdel-Tawab, an Al-Ahram journalist reported on Cairo resident, Mohamed Walid,
... a well- educated and well-to-do young man who has decided to make a major change in his life. "When I tell people that I ride my bike to work, they say 'that's great' but they look at me as if I'm crazy ... With most people, our conversation stops there. A few say they would like to ride a bike to work, but then go on to give a list of excuses why that would be virtually impossible to do in Cairo."
Walid goes on:
Everyone's got a 'reason' why they can't ride their bike to work. What baffles me is that I don't hear anyone giving reasons for why it has become unbearable to ride cars in this city. I think that the key to any change is for people to believe that they can actually change their lives to the better.
And so it would seem that Friedman also hasn't offered any reasons why it's becoming unbearable to ride cars ... anywhere.

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Our bike mayor rallies...

for bikes to roll
the bus lanes

Bike2Work Week, here in The Windy City, ended Friday with a 12-hour gala in Daley Plaza. Ridership was up 35% from last year. So to celebrate, and not to be outdone by the the Cheese-eating Surrender Monkeys, Our Biking Mayor announced new initiatives to calm traffic here. According to Saturday's The Sun-Times:
You have the car. You have bike lanes. Then, you have bus lanes. As we improve the quality and movement of buses, the safest place [for cyclists] could be in the lane for buses . . . That's what we're really looking at because, many times, bus lanes are not filled . . . These are the wider streets. When you have wider streets, you’ll be able to move ’em.

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From main street...

to mainstream

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Biker doored & killed

Clinton Miceli
1986 - 2008

The Windy City's Bike2Work Week has gotten off to a lousy start. A CTA bus struck and injured a biker Tuesday while on Monday, another was fatally doored. The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
Miceli, 22, was cycling in the bike lane on La Salle around 6:45 p.m. Monday when he slammed into an open SUV door, was thrown from his bike, then struck by a second car. The driver of the Nissan Xterra who opened the door into Miceli's path was cited for opening a car door in traffic, police said.

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Obama's back

...on a bike,
that is

And in Chicago. He took a relaxing Sunday bike ride with his family to a friend's house and then on to the Lake Shore Path. He's even sporting a helmet. Although some might think it was an unflattering choice.

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Al did indeed roll

Reverend Sharpton
rides a bike!

At last Friday's Critical Mass in The Big Apple:

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Gas's for asses...

join the crowd

The NYTimes reports, yesterday:
(AP) -- The average price of regular gas crept up to $4 a gallon for the first time over the weekend, passing the once-unthinkable milestone just in time for the peak summer travel season.

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Vanishing acts

and the man
who was there

In 1940, Josef Stalin orders Commissar for Water Transport, Nikolai Yezhov, removed from a photo of the two taken in happier times.

Then last fall, Vladimr Putin orders video shots of Mikhail G. Delyagin, a critical political analyst, removed from a prominent political talk-show.

Definitely looks to me like Putin is moving forward on his plans for world domination....

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Gulf gear?

from John McCain's
campaign site...

Presumably, the four tabs across the top indicate his top four agenda items?

Compare to Obama who recently, in Portland, OR, highlighted one his own top agenda items:

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For the clubman w/everything:

The Nat'l Cyclists' Union
Touring Handbook


Don't let your kit go without this handy, helpful tome. It came out two years before the start of WWII. Sixty years later, The Grimsay Press of Glasgow, Scotland has reprinted it! Other than a wonderful window on The Golden Age of British Touring, it's a fantastic resource in restoring your classic steed. There are loads of advertisements from Brooks, Sun Cycles, and Dunlop as well as the lesser known like Stormgard - The Cycling Kit with All the Advantages...

It's also a sociological artefact with lists of Recommended Stopping Places throughout Britain that include bike shops, bike-friendly hostels, Trust Houses, and hotels. Each is provided with a price list covering Bed (single) and breakfast, latter to consist of Bacon and Eggs, Coffee or Tea, Marmalade, Butter and Bread. Plain Tea - Bread, Butter, Tea and Cakes. Dinner - Joint, Two Vegetables, Bread, Sweets and Cheese.

Mmmmmm ... cheese!

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Dona Nobis Pacem

my first tag
and for
a good cause!

Mimi, the QUEEN of meme's, the creator of The Peace Globes, the author of BlogBlast for Peace has come up with a brilliant idea. She is treating her Peace Globes as a meme to spread this wonderful event. She tagged me last week so I'm going to jump on board. I challenge you to copy and paste this meme on your site and tag absolutely everyone in the blogosphere.

Here's what she wants you to do:
How To Get Your Peace Globe In 4 easy steps!
  1. Choose one of the four Peace Globe designs in this post. Right CLICK and SAVE in JPG format.

  2. Sign the globe using Paint, Photoshop or a similar graphics tool. Decorate the globe anyway you wish. You can even include the name of your blog. Click here for hundreds of inspiring examples from previous BlogBlasts.

  3. Return the peace globe to me via email - mimiwrites2005 at - Let me know your blog's name and url by leaving a comment here and signing the Mr. Linky. Your submission will be numbered and dated in the official gallery . Your globe and post will be listed on the Official BlogBlast For Peace website and The Peace Globe Posts page.

  4. Here's the most important part -- On June 4, 2008 DISPLAY YOUR GLOBE IN A POST. Title your post "Dona Nobis Pacem". This is important. The goal is for all blog post titles to say the same thing on the same day. Write about peace that day or simply fly your globe.
And here's my humble contribution!

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Roll away & join the circus

...with the Tour de Fat
on 21st June!

The makers of Fat Tire beer have added The City of Big Shoulders to the 8th year of their bike circus tour. While partying might be one theme, at its heart it celebrates the bike, informs how to reduce our waste stream, encourages people to roll to work and for errands, and raises money for West Town Bikes.

The event starts of with a fantastic party-parade tour of Logan Square and Humboldt Park. Festival goers often dress in costume and decorate their most fun bikes and there's musical and acrobatic entertainment featuring our local notables, Mucca Pazza.

So make sure to join the circus in Palmer Square, Palmer Blvd. at Kedzie, from 10am-4pm. Bring your bike and your dancing shoes and be prepared for a great time!

Take a look at these Tour de Fat videos to find out more!

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$240 a year for bike commuters

Contact your senators,

On 21 May 08, just before the Memorial Day recess, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 6049, the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008. It includes a $20 per month transportation fringe benefit for bike commuters to cover the costs of commuting.

The Senate finance committee is expected to take up the measure the week of 2nd June. The League of American Bicyclists is asking those senators who previously co-sponsored S. 858, The Bicycle Commuters Benefit Act 2007, to support a joint letter, being distributed by Senator Ron Wyden, to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Finance Committee asking them to adopt the House provision.

Please take a moment to click here to contact your senators and urge them to support the joint letter.

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