Saturday, November 9, 2013

The "invisible bicycle helmet" is the ultimate example of cycling safety narcissism

My most popular blog entry is about what I call "lux-narcissism", i.e. over-lighting a bike and its rider to the detriment of others legally-illuminated, and pedestrians. I have also written about this invention from Sweden and helmetism in general many times before.
The Hövding is the ultimate example of bicycle safety narcissism. Aside from the obnoxious marketing hyperbole it costs EUR 400 in the EU and 600 in the USA. IF you really think a helmet can help, then buy five 60 dollar helmets for friends and give 300 dollars to your local bicycle coalition or another org. fighting desperately to keep streets save and collisions from happening in the first place.
Very much related, in 2005 helmets became mandatory in Sweden for people up to their 15th birthday and this has not helped improve cycling modal share. So - at least in part - this creation is opportunist.
Please notice that I am not mentioning efficacy, durability, its single use function, comfort or any other technical or aesthetic issues. I also hope that my criticism would be the same for a project led by two men.
The problem is that it is simply far too expensive for most people. Their whole business plan is totally wrong -- they got money from the Swedish or regional government but also from private sources. Regarding the latter, they obviously completely screwed up and should have required a much longer period that investors were willing to wait to get paid back.
It is truly a pity because maybe this works... maybe not. People joke about the "Chinese" ripping off the design, so we'll see if the price on devices exactly like this or better comes down by a factor of five.
Again, I am against helmet requirements for any age group, helmet promotion by governments and similar from non-profits (e.g. urban cycling organizations) which do not show the real deal with helmet efficacy. Most helmet companies also use a lot of hyperbole or even insults e.g. "I Love my Brain"

I am for infrastructure, training and enforcement that ensures that people on bikes and everyone else dwelling in, visiting or just using the street are as safe, social and have as much fun as they want.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sub Way app goes live - Ghost stations "not a problem" says Sadik-Khan

The NYMTA and NYCDOT announced on Tuesday that the app., which provides info on where to find Sub Way, is available for download from iTunes and Google Play.

Sub Way took a step—or rather a leap over the turnstyle —closer on Tuesday to its Memorial Day launch with the release of the Sub Way app for iPhone and Android devices. The free app will allow riders to locate the stations around Manhattan and central Brooklyn, providing information about which stations can be reached from the street, and, for those riding, which stations their train will stop at. 

"This new app will help tap into everything that the city's newest transportation system has to offer when Sub Way Stations launches next week," Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said in a release. "With instant information on available trains, stations and nearby destinations, this smart technology will bring the city within reach with just a click. Ghost stations will be easy to identify."

The app, built on the Google Maps interface, doubles as a tool for navigating the city. In the coming weeks, it will be integrated with The New York Times' The Scoop app, providing listings for local hotspots and upcoming events. It's available at the iTunes store and Google Play.

From Crain's

Anti-Sub Way NIMBY paramilitary patrol a ghost station. Source.


The Citi Bike App allows a user of the newest, most long-awaited and possibly most high profile bike share system in the Universe know where bikes are docked and ready to use, and where there are available docks to leave a bike. 

In the long fine-tuning period of the late 2000-era bike share systems, e.g. in Paris, when a station at your destination was full of bikes,  it became possible to find another station and not get charged for going over the 30-min "free" use allotment. I have read little of the inconvenience of this for some (i.e. having to walk twice the distance, getting somewhere late, etc... perhaps it did not happen or is a bit of an inconvenient truth. I never spent a lot of time in a city with this type of system so did not personally experience the situation.)

While waiting for their bikes, Citi Bike App users can check out interesting photos of Canadian Tar Sands.

Still, what if the last working bike is taken in between the time you check to see if one is available and similarly, what if your hoped-for slot goes to someone else's bike? This built-in inefficiency and unpredictability seems very un-New York. It is not really how the subway works, is it? 

So what is happening in other cities?

This is what is happening. The app. for the GoBike - "...Denmark's most innovative city commuter bike system..." - allows the users to reserve a bike at a particular stand and reserve a slot and time to leave the bike. See also this link, in Danish.

The Bixi-based system which starts in NYC in a few days has been successful in Washington D.C. and other cities, but its important support functions involving locating and checking out a bike and leaving it where you want is several years out of date. I hope that the relevant software can be updated to modern standards and a new matching app introduced before the system rolls out beyond parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. 

(I am not suggesting that the Bixi-bike itself needs major modifications, but even carrying a single shopping bag with it is difficult. The handlebar tablet in GoBike seems particularly vulnerable: My team excluded something like that from our winning bike share concept for Denmark in 2009. 

In the near future I will probably write about the station-based vs station-less systems once we have some results from Tampa and other places where the latter are being implemented.) 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hugging Like This is Not Solidarity

I had some hope for Bikes Belong - People for Bikes is one of their initiatives - when it first appeared. But now - like the League of American Bicyclists - they think that some simplistic "sharing" message made in collaboration with a big private car actor - in the latter's case the AAA and in People for Bikes's VW - will have some significant effect. 

There is a belief - an excuse for soft over hard measures - that "it is all about education" and that dangerous conditions are caused by acute (at the time of incident) dehumanization of The Other. But Bikes Belong also falls into the trap which sees drivers and riders as equals on the street.

But the holistic sharing problem is not solved by better driving alone - and certainly not with better riding!!! It is mainly infrastructure and road design that makes real solidarity impossible*, so prioritizing separation of pathways (including intersection movements) is one of the best ways to promote real hugging (!).

How many viewers of the Bikes Belong-People for Bikes spot will visit their website to get the real message that the org. is trying to deliver, including good ideas such as increased financial investment in the all-important infrastructure? Perhaps the problem is not fundamental - though given this recent deceitful mobility porno in the new spot I would like to see Bikes Belong justify its partnership with Volkswagen. (Here is one of their recent adverts, which it does not seem that Bikes Belong influenced.) I suspect that the tail (in the form of outside consultants brought in by VW) is wagging the dog here. Bikes Belong needs to figure out how to honestly engage in communicating effective policy and ideas. Abusing the glorious embrace of humans for the benefit of a huge private urban automobile-making company does not encourage the belonging of bikes.

*Impossible? Unapproachable? Difficult? I suppose my point is that private, energy-efficient automobiles do have a role to play as a responsible part of the entire mobility mix, but mostly in a supporting role.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


League of USAian* Cyclists announced their National Bike Month activities today. Bike Month is in May. Website includes downloadable PDFs, including the "Bike to Work Commuter's Booklet". This is the front and back cover. Oops. Wonder if they have cancelled his membership... (Update, 8 April, the PDF with Armstrong is still available.)

Okay, okay, as you can see the pamphlet has the old logo, so they probably just forgot to check everything that was going out. I assume they will not be handing this out and that the people on the front and back of the update will not be "white" men.

*"USAian" because "American" as the reserved adjective for the not eponymous country is offensive to quite a number of people hailing from the other areas between the North Pole and the Tierra Del Fuego.

A number of years ago the organization was called the "League of American Wheelmen", so the newer name IS better.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Robotic Bicycle Parking Tower at the Castle of the Queen

Hradec Králové means Castle of the Queen, so it is nice that bike in the logo is a semi- step through model.

Cycling for transport is popular in the Czech Republic where the conditions are right, and Hradec Králové in in the north-central part of the Central European country is no exception.

Often called Hradec for short, the small city of just over 90,000 claims an official 24% bicycle modal split, a bit of an exaggeration says one local expert but similar to the German cycling capital of Bremen and a bit higher still than the biggest districts for biking in Berlin -- comparisons are difficult and not really necessary - continuous improvement more so - but still Hradec has about eight times as much cycling as Prague, per capita.

As I understand it, the high rate is due to several factors, including being a place where nearly everyone cycles sometimes -- meaning that they drive motor vehicles a bit more safely in relation to people on bikes.

So it is not surprising - but very encouraging - that a type of cycle parking unknown in the country has been implemented in Hradec. Similar to the well-known automated underground parking in Japan, the system here has the bikes above ground. (So in other words the Japanese system is an "innie" and the Czech one an "outie"). The kolověž (bike tower) has 116 spaces and in full effect will give a bike back in about 30 seconds. For now the price is 5 Czech crowns -- about 25 US cents. There are certainly different reasons to do what is most appropriate structurally and just in terms of available space, but the new parking structure is also a positive symbol for transport cycling in a country still relatively crazy about automobiles.

Not so close -View from approximate location kolovez towards Hradec Králové main station, via Google Streetview.

Still, symbols for cycling are not important as what actually works well. The  kolověž is located a bit far by foot to the train station (though it also serves people just travelling to this central part of town) and has no provision for larger cargo bikes including long tails -- these are the real automobile replacements, and if actors in Hradec want people to take children (and a dog) to school in the morning on the way to the station they will need consider safe parking for all types of bikes. Officials and investors will build more towers if the first one proves popular, but on a per space basis does it make the most economic sense?

Dave Holladay from the CTC in the UK has some very useful comments at the end of the Bike Biz article here.

In a way the Hradecký kolověž reminds me of the Bikestation in Washington D.C.. Though the latter is better equipped, both are relatively low-capacity but very visible. This is okay, but it is great compared to what is available at the main station in the capital of Germany, where I live.

In the end a (barely) Western EU-based objective expert's feeling of encouragement or statements of "continuous improvement" in viewing this solution runs the risk of being patronizing -- just because the Czech Republic is not the most "Western", economically-developed etc. etc. does not mean it deserves anything but the best, and cities and towns in this country and other parts of Europe with less overall success in sustainable development need just as much friendly pressure and support as anywhere else. Honesty about economic capabilities is a virtue; lowering of standards is not.

Inside view. Not precisely a robotic system... but anyway the word "robot" was created by Josef Čapek from Hronov, a town near Hradec Králové. Photo from Several You Tube videos of the system are also at this link.


This entry comes after a nearly five month break during in which my second dog, Mara (on the right), departed this physical plane... perhaps to the věž duhy (rainbow tower). Her brother Obi died a year ago.