Sometimes Biking Isn’t the Car-Free Answer

Longtime readers of my blog know that it started off talking about biking, biking as a woman, biking while trying to stay fashionable, and making biking safer and more accessible. Over the years, my sewing has taken a larger role and some of the biking-as-transportation topics have dropped away. Although there are multiple reasons for the slow shift, lately, the reason why I haven’t been blogging about biking is because I simply haven’t been. Major surgery at the end of March kept me off my bike for almost three months, then emergency surgery three weeks ago put a stop to my slow increase back into the bike commuting world. It’s frustrating to not be able to bike.

This is what my commute should look like – my bike at the rack at work.

I suppose that most people now are thinking, “Oh, so you are driving to work instead.” Well, no. I don’t own a car. I haven’t had a car since 1999. And although The Mechanic now has a truck, A) it’s his hobby truck B) it’s a “vintage” fixer-upper C) it’s a manual transmission. I did learn on a manual transmission as a 15 year old but haven’t driven stick shift in 30-ish years, so I’m not exactly going to beg to borrow his car to get to work. Instead, I’ve been taking the bus. And Lyft. And I’ve been eyeing those dockless e-scooters that are popping up all over the area. I’m telling you, *those* are a game-changer.

Taking the bus to work is actually a pretty pleasant, convenient commute option. There’s a bus stop a few blocks from our house, and two blocks from my office. I’ve always managed to get a seat, although the buses do tend to fill up. I read the news (depressing) and Twitter (also depressing), post on Instagram, delete unwanted emails, write emails, and obsessively plan future sewing projects. Can’t do that on a bike.

But it’s not ideal. Buses don’t run all the time, and even when they do, you are still shackled to the timetable. No jumping on the bike and going whenever you feel like it. I don’t know what’s going on lately with the driver but I am getting seasick from all the herky-jerky driving, ugh. And I gotta be honest – there have been a few crazy people on the bus. Nothing like a relaxing ride home with the wild-eyed guy in the back cussing up a storm to no one in particular.

Never seen this before – a screen that rotates through camera views *inside* the bus – smile, your commute is on candid camera!

So I’ve been eyeing the dockless e-scooters like Bird and Lime. These electric scooters function similarly to dockless bikeshare – you download an app, agree to a bunch of stuff, enter a credit card, then use the app to locate the closest scooter. Because they are dockless, they can be found and left anywhere – preferably someplace responsible, please, and not the middle of the sidewalk! In April, the Washington Post reviewer said she couldn’t ever see a reason to use them and wasn’t sure anyone else could either. Well, I’m here to give you a reason.

Current and potential commute options

Post-surgery, I’m not allowed to bike, so even electric bikes, docked or dockless, are not an option. Riding the bus is getting on my nerves. I don’t have a personal car option. Lyft is too expensive for a regular commute and if I wanted to ride with other people in a Lyft Line or UberPool, well, I’ll take the bus. However…. an e-scooter is really appealing. I could just stand and let the scooter’s tiny motor get me where I need to go. And I could wear a pencil skirt.

I think the limited amount of effort required to make an e-scooter work is exactly what could make them so much more accessible by people who can’t or won’t bike. Older people, people with balance issues, people with certain mobility issues, people who don’t want to sweat on their way to work – all possible e-scooter users. We in the transportation industry who want to see fewer cars on the road need to find ways to reach beyond the brave, athletic, committed ones and I think e-scooters could be a solution.

Dockless bike saddle share?

Obviously there are many things that e-scooters can’t do, like haul three kids to school the way an e-cargo bike can, but that’s okay. It’s just one more option in the toolkit of carfree living. Because having a range of transportation options for all your different needs means having the flexibility to live without a car. Now we just need a single app to rule them all, Helsinki-style.

I haven’t yet tried an e-scooter but as they move into Arlington, I’m sure I’ll test one out sooner rather than later. I’ll let you know how it goes. It could be my non-bike car free answer.

From New Orleans to New Apartment

A week again I was in New Orleans for work. The Association for Commuter Transportation held its annual conference in the Big Easy, five days of greeting industry friends, meeting new ones, learning a lot and being inspired.

One of the highlights was hearing Elizabeth Levin and LaVerne Reid talk about women in transportation and different experiences breaking into a traditionally male industry decades ago. I bought the book “Boots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom,” and am looking forward to reading it. Hopefully someday soon….

I didn’t do any biking while in New Orleans but saw the brilliant (and I do mean that literally!) Social Ride, with at least 20 people riding bikes almost entirely covered in lights. That was on Frenchmen Street, where we also enjoyed some local music and beverages.

One of the conference vendors was Lime Bike, a dockless bikeshare system. I love the bikes for their design, but also the solar panels in the front baskets that power the digitally-connected ring locks that unlock the bike for you. I think they mostly cater to the university transportation people at the conference. 

Upon my return from the conference, I jumped in to help The Mechanic finish our move. It sounds like everything that could possibly go wrong did, and we are only now digging out from the chaos. It will be a relief to get settled. Gaston is already quite comfortable in the new place, but then again, he is still in his same place. 

I shall be back to my regular blogging schedule but alas, I doubt I will get any sewing done. It’s just as well – nothing like moving to make me feel like I have too much stuff. I’m trying to purge as I unpacked. Do I really need 6 lipsticks in almost the same color?!?

Let me leave you with some photos from Dat Dog on Frenchmen Street. This hot dog place (yes they have vegetarian/vegan options) is being redecorated in an intergalactic style – complete with Chewbacca over the bar. I love this place. 

A Bit of Transportation History

The Mechanic and I spent some time with out-of-town guests this past weekend touring museums. The Renwick Gallery exhibit Wonder was really amazing and I can’t wait to go back! Definitely make sure you go before May 8, when they start to take it down.

We also toured the National Museum of American History and the Air and Space Museum. It was fun to find quirky bits of transportation history, not always where you expect it.

Sure, in the “America On the Move” transportation hall, you expect to find transportation history. I hadn’t noticed the really unusual women’s bicycle there before – an 1889 women’s Overman Victoria safety bicycle. I was disappointed that we didn’t see the Wheelwoman with her bicycle.

Check out the unusual curved front fork

Check out the unusual curved front fork!

Also, I love these images from the 1950s – an ad for Greyhound stating “No traffic nerves for us!” as a couple travels inexpensively and without having to drive; and a novel entitled Hot Rod. I love the tag line above the title – “Speed… Danger… DEATH!” Oh my. Greyhound Ad Hot Rod NovelIn the National Air and Space Museum, we encountered a bit of World War I history that made us all scratch our heads. Apparently, towards the end of WWI, the German war machine was running low on supplies, and was encouraging women and girls to donate their hair – which would be used to replace rubber driver belts. Yikes! I can’t imagine that worked well. Of course, we all know how that war ended.

And to round out some transportation history, I discovered that WMATA created a platform shoe SmarTrip card in honor of it’s 40th anniversary! Haha – a trip down transportation AND fashion history lane, all in your pocket for your everyday commute. I wish I had one. Platform Shoe Metro Card

LaHood and Leadership

Yesterday’s announcement from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, that he would not serve a second term, did not come as a huge shock; I’d heard rumors last summer that he had only planned on serving one term. I think, however, that we were still all disappointed when it became official – LaHood has been a huge proponent of all types of transportation, not just highways. 479px-Ray_LaHood_official_DOT_portrait

When I first started my current job, LaHood’s Fast Lane blog was one of the recommended industry sources, and The Mechanic and I had the opportunity to hear him speak; he struck me as genuine, which seems rare, and was very refreshing. I haven’t followed him through his entire term, so I can’t talk about his legacy with any sort of insight. Instead, I will offer up the Atlantic Cities article, “5 Ways the Next U.S. Secretary of Transportation Will Be Forced to Follow Ray LaHood’s Lead.”

LaHood’s legacy will be that he has initiated what the article calls “seismic transitions”: basically, that transportation is more than highways, that “smart” transportation makes places “livable,” that it takes a village of housing, education, environment, and more to create the aforementioned “livable” areas, and local leaders often know best. Oh, and technology is dramatically changing how we get around (but no distracted driving people!).

This new way of thinking is my way of thinking, so I am sad to see LaHood go. But I am about to embark on a new adventure that could see me becoming more active in promoting multi-modal, livable, healthier communities. This weekend, my job is generously sending me to the Association of Commuter Transportation‘s Leadership Academy. ACT is an international association for transportation demand management (TDM) professionals. Some people like to call it mobility management, like my friends at Mobility Lab. (Check out their video explaining what it is.) ACT logo

Part of what we will be doing at the Leadership Academy will be learning about transportation policy, and the ins and outs of government and lobbying. We will also be assigned group projects, which will hopefully have some legs to stand on once we graduate. I want to find a way to promote the need for communities to be inclusive, so that everyone can get around safely and comfortably. I think it is most important to start thinking about how the elderly, the disabled, and mothers with small children get around. What is safest for them? On a bus the other day, I watched two different mothers struggle on and off with baby strollers, and it just made me angry. These populations are our ignored, less vocal, less affluent neighbors, and they deserve better. Not everyone has the luxury of driving everywhere – so we punish them by giving 25 second crosswalk times across major intersections, call buttons nowhere near sidewalks, if there are sidewalks, and blame them if they get hurt trying to go about their business?! I just don’t think that is right.Ships 030

I hope to find a way to get national and local associations that advocate for the elderly and the disabled and the poor to work with transportation agencies, to come up with plans for the future that prioritize safe walking, bike lanes, convenient buses, bus routes, and stops, and subways and streetcars. And although I am a huge proponent for biking-as-transportation (not just sport), I firmly believe that it is only one piece of the puzzle – there can be no single focus, to the neglect of the other pieces. It must be holistic.

It seems like a daunting task, but I know that for three days, I will be with like-minded individuals, and I look forward to the ideas and plans we come up with.

Kinda excited!

Kinda excited!

Copenhagen Part 3: Bicycle Infrastructure

I think the bicycle infrastructure in Copenhagen must be the best example of  “If you build it, they will come.” 100_9181

I did some research since we got back, and discovered that Copenhagen, despite the boom in bike riding during war-time gasoline rationing, had succumbed to the lure of the automobile, and had become “car-clogged” by the 1960s. The energy crisis and recession in the 70s led to a resurgence in alternate means of transportation, and after massive demonstrations demanding better bicycle infrastructure, the government began to install bike lanes and more. (Info from the Copenhagen Cycling Embassy) Can you imagine that? Demonstrations demanding the government improve cycling! When do we start?!

Here are some of those famous bicycle infrastructure investments, now paid off a million times over.

Completely separate bicycle lanes. Not only are the bike lanes wide enough for cyclists to pass each other, they are raised above the street level, separated with stone, and right next to the sidewalk (which is then higher than the bike lane). Parking spots were then in between the lanes and the streets, lessening the chance that a car will pull out in front of you unexpectedly.100_8230

The bus stops are on the sidewalk, and the bus stops outside the bike lane. People step off into the bike lane, which would be problematic here, but in Copenhagen, people on bikes stop or slow down for passengers getting on or off the bus. It’s not a big deal, they just do it.

Bike lanes are painted blue through intersections or questionable lane changes. Through many intersections, the blue lanes also had bicycle symbols painted the entire way, so it was clear to drivers that it was a bike lane.100_8307

Bicycles had their own left turn lanes in many intersections, as well as their own stop lights. They also had their own right turn lanes.100_8327100_8603

Where the bicycle lane turned into right turn lanes, they were marked to show that both were permitted, with the blue lane continuing through the intersection.100_8319

The day it snowed, we were dumbfounded to emerge from our tasty Nimb Brasserie lunch to discover that the bike lane had been cleared before the street! And there were people out on bikes in the snow, too, although I couldn’t get a good picture of them. (Side note – the snow plows were fairly small, not the ginormous ones you find here, perfect size for a bike lane.)100_8434

There were bike racks everywhere! Many large stores had between 25-50 spots for bicycles in front of them, plus there were racks in open spaces, and if those were full, the bikes were just locked in somewhat orderly rows (you can do this when you use ring locks). There were also several different types of racks.100_8822100_8599100_9146100_9211

Grocery stores had bike parts! You could buy sets of lights, pumps, reflective tape, repair kits, and even sets of tire levers, along with your yogurt, cereal, veggies and wine. We went into a huge supermarket in Malmo, Sweden, with a larger bike section than automotive section! There we found tires, inner tubes, reflectors, reflective vests, and more. Boy was that a fun stop!100_8931100_8929100_9038

Malmo had slightly different lanes and bicycle stop lights, and they also had a huge city bike map posted next to an air hose. The air hose was marked for bicycles, wheelchairs, and baby buggies – as in Copenhagen, everything that was bicycle-friendly was also wheelchair and baby buggy friendly. We need that sort of focus here: what is good for bicycles is good for all.100_9011

We were excited to get to bike past the bike counter ourselves one day. When we went by around 11am, the counter read 8211 for the day so far, then when we passed it on our way home that night, it read over 11,000. 100_9182

I’ve seen so many pictures of the footrests for cyclists and it was cool to be able to use it myself, although pushing off from it was challenging. Or maybe that was the coaster brakes giving me problems again.100_9159P1040750

The Green Wave is where certain roads have had the green lights timed just perfectly so that you can bike along at about 12mph and hit a green light at every intersection. It’s in effect during rush hours, so you can make it across the city faster.  Sometimes I feel as if I’ve hit every red light the entire way to work, so I’d love this option!100_9186

The Green Cycle Routes are somewhat similar to the Green Wave but more relaxed. They are basically bike lanes that cross the city removed from the main roads. When we rode it (in pouring rain), it felt like being in a park. I’m sure that when the weekends are nice, it’s packed with families.100_9234

All the S-tog stations had tons of bike racks, some that were double-decker bike racks. I did see some bikes with yellow tape around the back fender and tire – I assume they were tagging potentially abandoned bikes. We did see many abandoned bikes, in varying states of destruction, which made me sad.100_9189100_9192

We only came across this in one location, but it was where we needed it, so we were very grateful – rails to push your bike up the stairs (or down). I’d love to see these everywhere. 100_9238

As you can see, the city has gone far beyond just painting a few bike lanes. This would be why people bike 1.2 million kilometers every day in Copenhagen. According to the City, 37% are commuting to school or work. If our cities could be even half this bike-friendly, maybe we could slowly approach that number here as well.

Hey, a girl can dream!


See also:

Copenhagen Part 1: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Copenhagen Part 2: First Bike Impressions

Copenhagen Part 2: First Bike Impressions

Once The Mechanic and I got over our initial giddy shock at the sheer number of bikes we saw upon arrival in Copenhagen, we began to look a bit more closely. Here are some of the things we saw:

  • We saw very few bikes with drop handles; most were “hybrid,” “comfort” or “Cruiser” style bikes, “sit up and beg” bikes, and whatever else the men’s versions would be called. 100_8592100_8606100_8253
  • Most of the bikes had at least one basket, either in front or in back, of varying sorts of materials – wire, wood, wicker, plastic. Just about every bike had a back rack with bungees or that strong spring. Very few panniers. I mentioned to the saleswoman in one bike shop that I predominately use panniers and she seemed confused.100_9008
  • In the same theme, we saw maybe a handful of cyclists in Lycra the entire eight days we were there. And little hi-viz clothing: half of what we did see was on runners.
  • It seemed to me like most of the cyclists were women, but at least half of them were.100_8711
  • People of all ages were on bikes. I noticed several older people, including one older woman wearing a full-length fur coat. She looked extremely stylish.
  • There were plenty of children on bikes  and many bikes had baby seats. There were different styles of child seats on bikes too, like the bucket style on the top tube with foot rests mounted on the head tube. I only saw one dad with the bike attachment, and the boy was leaning at a frightening angle. Most kids rode in the Christiania cargo bike front bucket. 100_9326
  • Many people were wearing helmets, and the bike shops were full of helmets. Most were of the solid helmet style, like Nutcase or Yakkay.
  • Many of the bikes had skirt guards, either in plastic “mesh” or solid vinyl. I was very excited to buy a set when we were in Malmo, Sweden.100_8646
  • The Danish Postal service uses bikes for delivery, and they were e-bikes! Same thing spotted in Malmo. That makes a ton of sense. Actually, I saw some other e-bikes here and there.100_9240100_9075
  • Everyone used hand signals. It was pretty impressive to watch.
  • Everyone walked their bikes through crosswalks. I know we are supposed to, but really, who does? People in Copenhagen, apparently.
  • There were bike racks everywhere, and not just one rack, but several. I counted about 50 spaces in the bike racks in front of one grocery store.100_8822
  • But no one locks their bike to anything, they just push the bikes into the rack and lock the ring lock. We were continually amazed by this. Bikes just leaning against apartment buildings, standing in lines in bike parking spaces in streets… Even strollers were left out, and we saw a motorized wheelchair outside, charging to an outdoor outlet. Okay, occasionally we’d see locks, but not very often.100_8805
  • There were a ton of new brands, and remakes of old brands. More on that later.100_9171
  • Everyone seemed to pedal very leisurely, yet the days we were out in the bike lanes, we were constantly passed!

I love the huge variety of bikes, brands, colors, styles, and riders. People weren’t decked out as “cyclists,” or “sporty athletes,” just individuals going about their day on their bikes. This is the kind of cycling I want to do, the type of cyclist I want to be, the kind of cycling culture I want to see take root in this country. I want to get us to the point that everyone, regardless of sex or age or ability, is comfortable enough to bike wherever they need to go, wearing whatever they want, and not worrying about it. I’m still not sure what it will take to get there, but improved infrastructure will help. My next post will show different aspects of the bicycle infastructure of Copenhagen.


See also:

Copenhagen Part 1: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Copenhagen Part 3: Bicycle Infrastructure

Copenhagen Part 1: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Here it is New Year’s Eve and I should be busy thinking about this past year and what will happen in 2013, but I’m bursting to share my Copenhagen experiences! There is so much to tell, and so many pictures to share (yes, probably half my photos are of bikes, people on bikes, or bike infrastructure)! So I’ll start off with a summary of the trip, and expand in forthcoming blogs. 

The Good:

  • We had a lovely apartment in Norrebro (I wish I could type the o with the / through it but I couldn’t figure out how. So I apologize to the Danish.), found on Airbnb.  Ida, our “hostess,” (who used to work as a bike messenger) met us when we arrived, showed us around, pointed the direction to the closest grocery store, and left. She had decorated for Christmas, and left us some treats. The apartment was European-small but cozy, with two balconies that must be great in the summer. The apartment was close to several bus stops and two S-tog (metro) stations, and at least four different grocery stores. Oh, and two bike shops!
    One of the balconies in our Airbnb apartment.

    One of the balconies in our Airbnb apartment.

    The other balcony - how nice to have a corner apartment!

    The other balcony – how nice to have a corner apartment!

    The kitchen. Loved the electric kettle.

    The kitchen. Loved the electric kettle.

    I loved this little kitchen nook.

    I loved this little kitchen nook.

    So sweet of Ida to leave us Christmas treats! We loved the Pedernodder, which she said are a favorite Christmas treat, and we did see them everywhere. And brought some back...

    So sweet of Ida to leave us Christmas treats! We loved the Pedernodder, which she said are a favorite Christmas treat, and we did see them everywhere. And brought some back…

  • OMG there were bikes EVERYWHERE!!!!  Our eyes just about popped out of our heads when we walked out of Copenhagen’s Central Station to catch the bus for the first time – a sea of wheels, frames, seats, and baskets. Every bike had at least one basket, and many had both a front and back basket. And they were all “comfort” bike styles, very few with drop handle bars. And none of them were locked to anything! Yes, you heard me – the ring lock was all they used! Unbelievable!

    Just one of the bike lots around the Central Station!

    Just one of the bike lots around the Central Station!

  • Rosenborg Slot (castle) was a definite highlight beyond the bikes. The castle itself was a detailed museum, and the Royal Treasury was staggering. I’ve never been that close to a crown before, let alone three, let alone all those precious gems and all that gold. Oh my goodness, be sure to visit if you go to Copenhagen!
  • Just about everyone spoke flawless English, even in Sweden. The only person who did not was the older gentleman working in the gas station I wandered into on Christmas Day. I don’t know how they do it, although Danish sounded like a hard language to learn. Luckily, it looks a lot like German, so I was able to guess our way around based on that.
  • There were fireworks every night. Seriously – we could hear them, but not always see them. One night they were in the abandoned lot across from the apartment! But they are clearly private citizens, not anything organized by the city.

    Across the street from us!

    Across the street from us!

The Bad

  • The Mechanic had some minor health problems that unfortunately kept us from doing some of the stuff we had planned. On Christmas Day, I did the (unguided) walking tour we had wanted to do, to see the city highlights since everything was closed. We almost didn’t make it to Malmo, Sweden, either. He’s not 100% yet but got well enough to enjoy the rest of the trip.
  • The sun set at 3:45pm. Not only is that early, if you include the fact that several days were overcast, well, it truly was dark the entire day. It really confused our bodies at first!
  • The fireworks every night. I began to feel like I was living in a war zone.
  • There is soooo much to write about! I’m going to have to blog steadily for a week to share everything I want to!

The Ugly (stuff that isn’t bad, but wasn’t great, or was simply unexpected)

  • The shower in the apartment was not exactly what I’d expected. Basically, you shut the bathroom door, pull  a shower curtain over the door, then pick up the hand unit and shower over the sink and toilet. It wasn’t terrible, just unexpected. I’m sure it might have upset some, but I’ve done similar showers elsewhere in Europe. I had just forgotten, in the last 6 years, what European standards can be.

    Our shower

    Our shower

  • Everything really was closed for three days over Christmas – the 24th, 25th, and 26th. Yikes! Luckily there were a few places to find food (like the gas station and a coffee shop), but the city really did shut down to celebrate.
  • Bike helmets – contrary to what some would have us believe, Copenhagen cyclists DO wear helmets! At least a third of the cyclists I saw were wearing them. And every bike shop (and we saw many) sold dozens of them. Not what I was expecting at all!
  • There were open flames everywhere! This was actually pretty cool, but again, unexpected. This would never work in this country. Shops had small pots of fire on their stoops, there were fires in Tivoli and at the Zoo, and in other unexpected places. That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen in this country, yet the Danes calmly and safely went around their business. Ah Europe.100_8260

I really want to talk about bikes, so I’m saving that for another blog post or two or three. Then there is the great bus and metro system; that’s another blog. Then bike fashion, then European cars, then bike infrastructure…  I may have to set up a Flickr album with photos, if anyone is interested in seeing more than what I blog about. But to sum up, we had a great time, and I can’t wait to go back. But this time, when the weather is warmer!

While I continue to sort pictures of bikes, I want to wish you all the best for a joyous, healthy, and happy 2013! May your biking days be many and happy, and if you don’t bike, well, you should try it! (Have I taught you nothing this whole year?!)


See also:

Copenhagen Part 2: First Bike Impressions

Copenhagen Part 3: Bicycle Infrastructure

The Soulless Horse

There is a scene in the movie “24Solo” in which champion mountain biker Chris Eatough is surrounded by excited and curious Chinese children, as he paused while mountain biking through their town in China. The mob which encircles him and his colleague, although short, must have been a bit claustrophobic, no matter the emotion.

It is a scene that reminded me of descriptions by German-American Frank Lenz as he rode his bicycle through China in the early 1890s. In Lenz’s notes home, he described aggressive local mobs (some carrying pitchforks!), suspicious of his “soulless horse,” the likes of which had never been seen in many parts of the world through which he traveled. Lenz quickly learned to defuse these dangerous situations with humor and stunts on his bicycle. “Instinct told me I must make these people laugh,” he wrote, “I began fooling around and falling off the bicycle…. The wrath disappeared from their faces like magic.”

Lenz and friends near Pittsburg 1890 (Image taken from the book)

The thought of Frank Lenz falling off his bike is humorous, given his prowess on 19th century bicycles. Born in Pittsburgh to German parents, Lenz was aware of the new sport from an early age, and quickly focused all of his spare time and money on racing and long-distance trips. The book The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and his Mysterious Disappearance, by David V. Herlihy, is delightful not only for the author’s meticulous research about the adventures of Frank Lenz, but it’s history of bicycle development, and inadvertently, about Armenian-Turkish struggles in the mid-1890s. 

After an early career of racing on “bone shaker” penny farthing bicycles, Lenz undertook long-distance rides, first across the United States, then with the support of Outing magazine, around the world.

Lenz in front of the Royal Palace in Honolulu (image taken from book)

His goal was to cycle 20,000 miles over three continents, exploring Japan, China, Burma, India, Afghanistan, what is now Pakistan, Persia, and ending in Europe before his triumphant return to the US. Sadly, his dreams were lost along with him when he vanished in Turkey after two years of hard traveling.

Hauling Lenz’s bicycle over mountain passes in Japan, 1892 (image taken from book)

What happened after he vanished takes up half the book, as Herlihy explores the efforts to find Lenz. Unfortunately, the Outing editor did not take action soon enough, and when friend and colleague William Sachtleben eventually volunteered to travel to the Middle East to find Lenz, alive or dead, he was resisted at every step along the way, by politicians of every nationality.

Lenz on his way to Allahabad

The tragic story of Lenz and his around the world bicycling adventure over a century ago is captivating, as is the story of the attempt to find his remains. I was entranced by the notes Lenz sent to his editor and friends describing his travels through regions seldom traveled by Westerners. It fired my imagaination and wanderlust as well – although I like the idea of bicycle travel, reading his story made me consider it as a real possibility some day. (Perhaps not in China or Afghanistan though…)

The second half of the book, in which Sachtleben hunts for Lenz’s killers, is a first-hand look at the ethnic troubles that were stirring in pre-World War I Turkey, as the “sick man of Europe” was beginning to falter. Sachtleben on more than one occasion was caught in the crossfire, when Kurds rolled into Armenian towns and slaughtered everyone. On October 30, 1895, Sachtleben recounted the massacre of Armeniansin the town of Erzurum. Hearing noise, he and others rushed to the rooftop of the American mission where they were staying, and watched in horror as Kurds and Turks shot and mutilated the Armenian residents. Realizing they too were targets, they spent several hours holed up inside the mission while bullets flew in all directions. Sachtleben eventually returned to the United States and toured extensively to publicize what he had witnessed, showing graphic photographs he himself had taken in the immediate aftermath.

One of Sachtleben’s photos of the 1895 Erzurum massacre (image from Wikimedia Commons)

The juxtaposition of of adventure cycling and world events makes this book a fascinating read, with something for everyone. What I thought was going to be a fun read about the history of cycling ended up being much more serious, and that is the reason why I enjoyed it as much as I did. I definitely recommend it.

(I also recommend the Chris Eatough movie, 24Solo – Chris is a colleague and I am in awe of his skills on a bike, and his passion for his work with BikeArlington.)



NYC Bike Observations

I’m in New York for a few days, staying in Brooklyn Heights with friends (and their adorable dog). I haven’t had the chance to do any biking, and frankly, I don’t know that I want to!

Yes, there are bike lanes. Yes, there are a ton of people biking. Yes, half the delivery bikes are e-bikes, which is really cool.

But there are also taxis and tourists and bikes in every lane, going every direction. There seems to be no attempt at all to cycle safe! Only half the people I see on bicycles are wearing helmets. Then there are the taxi drivers who pull out in front of and cut off anyone – pedestrians, trucks, buses, other taxis, and bicyclists. Yikes!

I know there are tons of people who happily bike around town, and maybe I would eventually be brave enough to do it. Until then, I think I’ll check out WABA’s Confident City Cycling class.


The Arrival

Today was a day of bike fashion!

It all started with an early birthday present from my parents (yay Mom and Dad!). I loved that my mom knew, without us ever discussing it, that I liked this necklace.

Bicycle Necklace from Etsy

Bicycle Necklace from Etsy

I was wearing it when I met with some colleagues and the designers from GiveLoveCycle, and the designers immediately zoomed in on it. These two ladies have designed some great tote bags with the express purpose of holding bike helmets in stylish and professional ways (two different sizes, and both can be worn as backpacks, as well as carried as totes).



One of the women is a huge fan of Capital Bikeshare, but realized the biggest problem of bike sharing systems: helmets. What do you do with a helmet after you get to a meeting, or what if you didn’t plan on biking yet find yourself needing a CaBi with no helmet? Voila, you have one in your super-stylish bag!  The quality of the sample bags they showed us is really lovely, nice materials and hardware, and you can tell alot of thought has gone into the design. I was pleased to hear that they are having the bags made in Manhattan, by a company that works for Coach and other high-end companies. Having worked in the Garment District when I work in theatrical wardrobe, I know how so many businesses went down because they couldn’t afford the rents. Keeping the work there is important. But I digress. GiveLoveCycle doesn’t have a website yet but you can check out their Facebook page. Stay tuned, I know there will be more from me on GiveLoveCycle in the future!

But the most exciting news from today was getting my Merrell Evera MJ shoes. Created by Merrell specifically for biking, these comfortable heels are cute but I’m not 100% sold on the “biking” specifics the company promotes.

Here is their list:

• Cement construction provides lightweight durability
• Full gain leather and Lycra® upper
• Perforated pigskin lining treated with Aegis® antimicrobial solution
• Reflective detailing for a safe ride
• Comfort padding at strategic areas of the upper

• Pigskin covered Merrell Remember Me Foam™ memory foam footbed treated with Aegis® antimicrobial solution
• Stability shank for efficient pedal push power
• Merrell CycleTread™ Technology offers rigid midfoot pedal power and flexible forefoot hiking performance
• Compression molded EVA footframe for stability and comfort
• Merrell Evera Sole / Sticky Rubber

Merrell Evera MJ

Merrell Evera MJ

Here is my list:

1. The reflective details “for a safe ride” are so minimal that you’d be lucky for anyone to see them. It’s just on the Velcro tab, that’s it. Not on the back of the shoe, nor anything bigger or more integrated into the design.

Reflective trim - the one small spot

2. The “stability shank” and Merrell CycleTread™ Technology which “offers rigid midfoot pedal power and flexible forefoot hiking performance,” means they expect you to hook your heel over the pedal.  This is a less efficient way of pedaling, because you simply aren’t using the full strength of your leg. At least I find that to be true. Besides, when your foot is in clip pedals, the straps I have on Fauntleroy, or clipless pedals, they all position the foot with the ball of the foot on the pedal.

Pedaling with the ball of the foot

3. Style-wise, I love this gray color, and ordered this style because the other style didn’t come in gray (or red either, not sure why). HOWEVER – the elastic on the top sort of screams “little old lady shoe”! Some of my colleagues gave me weird looks when I went to show off the shoes this afternoon, and I know why… I don’t know why Merrell went with this design, though.

Little old lady elastic

Okay, okay, I wore them home from work today and I really haven’t had a chance to play around with them more than that. I definitely appreciated the signature Merrell Sticky Sole, because my shoes stayed on the pedals properly; so many of my business shoes have slicker soles that slide right off the pedals, or would if I didn’t use the straps.

Love the Merrell Sticky Sole!

That being said, I’m pretty happy with them. I love the color, and they were very comfortable to walk around in. The heel is not too high, but still looks dressy/professional.  I’m sure I’ll get plenty of use out of them this summer. I may consider the Evera Band in black, too. But the jury is still out on how these as such great cycling heels.

I will be back in a few weeks with a report on how they’ve held up. In the meantime, I welcome other opinions on women’s heels and biking in them!