Tag Archives: weather

Levi’s jeans made for bicycling

I went to the store to buy some pants today (yes, I know, black Friday and all but I really needed some pants). I was surprised to see that Levi’s is now selling bicycle “commuter” jeans that are water resistant, have extra sewing on the inseam for ruggedization, stretch fabric, a “utility” waistbelt to carry a U-lock, antimicrobial protection against odors, and when you turn up the cuff, they have a reflector sewn in. Kudos, Levi’s! Unfortunately, I didn’t like them as much as the pair I ended up buying but I’m glad they are available. Clearly designed with the Mission/Williamsburg hipster crowd in mind.

What good are “bike superhighways”?

After our tour of Albertslund, we started heading out of town to try out the “new” bike superhighway. It’s not technically built yet, but you can view the route here. As it turned out, the trail didn’t seem to be new at all, but simply bike trail number 58, which already exists. Perhaps they will just add some new signs to spiff it up a bit but it looked pretty much like a rebranding job from what we could tell.

The first part of the path was really segregated- sunk a few meters below grade and rather disconnected from the street. There were bus stops on the road above but only steps to get to them, no parking and no way to put your bike on the bus.

It was nice enough on a sunny afternoon with a fair number of folks running or biking along it, but didn’t seem like it would be so welcoming after dark since no one could see you if you got into any danger. It was nice to not have to make any stops, but after a couple kilometers of non-stop peddling, we started getting a bit sweaty and actually hoped for a stop light to get a little break!

After several kilometers, we got lost and accidentally wound up in the suburban town of Glostrup near the train station. We knew something was amiss because the path follows in parallel to the train tracks, but at a distance of about 2 km the whole way. Rechecking our map, we went back and eventually found the trail again.

This turned out to be a fateful mistake. As soon as we were about as far from a train station as possible, Ayako proceeded to get a flat tire. We then found ourselves about 3 km from the nearest station- and any sort of town center, bike shop or anything else useful- and in no mood to walk back to the station we just passed up.

We had a patch kit but with the weather hovering around freezing and the sun on its way down in the afternoon, we weren’t that interested in stopping to fix it. We stopped to pump up every few hundred meters at first and then, finding the air leaking out too fast, we gave up and walked the last 2 km to the next station. We were a bit grumbly by the time we made it.

Ultimately, I feel that the concept of a segregated superhighway (and perhaps this extreme segregation we found in Albertslund) just doesn’t really add up. This experience of the flat tire really drove home the fears I already had about the system. Why would anyone want to ride 10-15 km (30-45 minutes) into town on a path that is far from any grocery, day care, or bike shop and feels unsafe at night? Perhaps this would be a nice change of pace on a sunny day in August when temperatures can crack a balmy 25C (~75F) if you are lucky. But when it is freezing cold, windy, and rainy- like it is most days in Denmark- I’d be hard pressed to imagine all but the most avid cyclist to be keen on biking that far.

Given that you could take the train (and even park your bike or put your bike on the train) and be in the city in less than 20 minutes, why not focus your resources on getting people from a few kilometers away in to the train station, which also conveniently has access to things like shopping, bike and repair shops, schools, and day care?

Multi-modal integration seems like a much more reasonable approach than assuming people want simply “speed and safety” like car drivers. Bikes aren’t cars. We shouldn’t apply traffic planning that works for cars for bicycling. We will need to have a more comprehensive and systemic experience to offer cyclists if we will capture more than the most extreme recreational riders on such trails.

bike lock frozen so I had to take transit. yucko.

Yesterday my bike lock was frozen so I couldn’t unlock my bike. It was -5C. I poured boiling water over it which worked. But then when I went to leave the university, I couldn’t even get my key in because some water had gotten in and frozen solid. So I had to take the metro, which was annoying because I was going to go to two different events in two parts of town and it was freezing cold out.

The ticket machine at the metro was broken so I just got on the train. Guess what? Two seconds after I sat down, the guards checked me for my ticket! I explained to them that the machines were broken and they were fortunately nice enough to let me punch my ticket at the next stop. Spared a $100 spot fine but score major minus points for transit for the stress and crappy experience.

Then on my way to the second place, I took the metro to a bus. There was probably a better way to go but I don’t really know the bus lines that well since I never ride them (and I can’t take my bike on them) and I don’t have internet on my phone.  The bus was of course 5 minutes late and there were about 100 people getting on it because their bike locks were probably frozen too. It was freezing to wait and I had to stand in the packed bus. My girlfriend also had to wait for me at the other end for about 10 minutes, and that was including stopping back at the bar on the way because she forgot her hat. Again, twice as long, twice as cold, twice as expensive (actually infinitely more since biking is free).

On my last trip home, I decided to just ride on the package carrier of my girlfriend’s bike. Not so comfortable and probably the coldest way since I was just sitting and moving with frigid -10C (at night) air blowing on my face. But probably still better than waiting for and paying for the bus. I offered to pedal but she refused. I think because she knew it would be colder to sit!

Overall, taking transit took twice as long as biking, cost several times more and was actually colder. Walking to and from the station is colder than biking because you are less active. Maybe we need some indoor bike parking so we don’t get this problem!

Using our bikes to go sledding

It snowed all week so we decided to go sledding this weekend. The bike lanes were a bit sloppy and certainly didn’t look like they had been “plowed before the roads” as the municipality advertises but were nonetheless bikeable if you don’t mind  getting a bit muddy and risking sliding on ice and snow.

We didn’t have a sled so we called up our friend who had a lovely old fashioned one he let us borrow. It was a bit tricky to figure out how to rig it up but Ayako was quite industrious.

When we got there, we realized we weren’t the only ones who had decided to bring our bikes to the sledding hill.

In particular, there were a lot of cargo bicycles which are much more suitable for carrying kids and sleds through the snow and muck. Much like a modern day sleigh.

We even saw this red FietsFabriek bike from Holland. Eventually, we’ll have to get us one of these when we find the need for a bike SUV. For now, we’ll just gerry rig it again next time.

Umbrella holder on Japanese TV

Here is a video showing the Japanese bicycle umbrella holder in action. In this TV interview with the inventor, we learn that it has been around for 30 years. He claims they never have accidents from wind but that people should show courtesy for fellow cyclists and pedestrians so they don’t get any injuries. His next project is to design a streamlined bicycle umbrella that is long and narrow to prevent accidents. The video is amazing, showing how they really work in action and just how many there are. Apparently, they are most popular in Tokyo and especially Osaka. You see them after about 20 seconds in.

Umbrella holders in Japan

Just in from my Okinawan informant:

Another interesting random fact about bikes in japan, it’s against the law to put your umbrella up while on your bike and it was controversial whether to ban umbrella holders (さすべえ or sasubee) as well. The thing is, umbrella holders are considered to be for old ladies (obasan) in tokyo, but in Osaka it’s difficult to find a woman without one- even young girls in their 20s!!!

They’re dangerous with the wind, umbrellas first of all, people are pretty determined to ride their bikes even in typhoons so they first banned using umbrellas, then i guess someone argued that having both hands on the bike doesnt really make it completely safe, they do fly away, like mary poppins I guess. And people try to ride their bikes in such crowded places, you know how it hurts when you get poked in the eye by one!

Check out more details and close up pictures of how these things work here (in Japanese).

2 months riding (instead of driving)

After exactly 2 months, my bike has become my best friend in Copenhagen, and I’ve completely forgotten my car, parked in Spain.

Despite of the cold and the wind (sometimes it’s really hard to ride), I was so happy this morning looking at the lovely autumn from the bike-level while crossing the town to get the university.

This is the beginning of the route:

my daily way to the lab, early in the morning...

This other one is taken a little bit further, crossing the only one “hill” (actually it’s a bridge) I have to climb:

The Bridge

You never reach this perspective from a car.

About the time I spend to get there, I’ve reduced it from 25 minutes to only 15 as I’m becoming an expert rider and I’ve found the fastest path (the green bike lane you can see in the pictures). My legs are getting used to the exercise, and I don’t have to think too much about “how to ride through the town” anymore.

In addition, I don’t feel lazy to go to the downtown to have a drink on weekends as I used to. There’s no need to wait for public transportation, I don’t have to spend a long time looking for a place where to leave my vehicle, and I’m not afraid about loosing my driving license for driving with 2 beers.

I’ll tell you what’s up with the snow, ice, and the freezing cold in December. Hopefully I wont change my mind.

 

Rusty old Kronan

Laura also spotted this rusty old Swedish Kronan bike from what looks like the bike parking next to Malmö central station (which is also where the photo headlining this blog is from).  Notice how it has a seat cover tucked under the seat. Clearly, they are more interested in protecting their pants from rain than their bike!

Not sure why Swedes seem more concerned about staying dry. Danes never seem to bother much with seat covers, even when they leave their bike on the street without any covered parking. Admittedly, there is more often covered parking in Copenhagen though so that could be the reason.

Bike parking with roof for your seat

My housemate Laura spotted this bike parking infrastructure in Malmö this weekend. Looks like a nice solution for keeping your seat dry!

Box bike on frozen lake

Last winter, the lakes in Copenhagen froze over and people started skating. But they also took their bikes and prams out- even the bike box bikes with kids!