DIY sleeve extender for winter bike commuting

Wrists are prone to getting cold while winter bike commuting. With arms stretched out to reach the handlebars, a gap appears between jacket and gloves. When my wrists are cold, I’m cold.

I tried jackets with sleeves that cinched over my gloves. These slipped. I tried giant over-mitts that tightened over my jacket sleeves. These slipped too, and the big mitts were bulky to carry around in my pockets when I was off the bike.

So I made this simple sleeve extender, shown in this photos after the jump. It’s super to easy to use, doesn’t slip, and is very low bulk. It also happens to look like an extra long shirt sleeve, rather than technical mountain climbing gear.
Continue reading DIY sleeve extender for winter bike commuting

When sidewalks and sidepaths are suitable for bicycling

Sidewalk lanes

There’s plenty of articles and statistics out there damning the practice of riding a bike on a sidewalk.

That’s why I so surprised to come across what’s seen in this photo from Portland, Oregon, the bike capital of the United States.  On the Hawthorne bridge, bike traffic is directed on to the sidewalk.

As luck would have it, a Traffic Safety Specialist  in Portland noticed I was posted bike photos of Portland on Flickr, and invited me out for a beer while I was visiting.

Greg Raisman was prepared to be questioned about that. He was aware of the same bikes-on-sidewalk-are-evil rhetoric. He explained this was technically a sidepath, and the important difference here is how the traffic is managed in the facility.

A sidewalk typically has many conflict points with motorized traffic– driveways and intersections. Those are the places where accidents to tend to happen on sidewalks and are the source of the danger from riding bikes on them.

On Portland’s Hawthorne bridge sidepath there are zero conflict points between bikes and cars. Cyclists roll up their own ramp to enter the facility from a bike lane. There are no roads or driveways to cross on the bridge while traveling westbound, and cyclists have their own exit ramp at the other end (rather than being dumped at an intersection). Meanwhile, the curb physically separates the bike traffic from the cars, providing extra  safety and security compared to a painted stripe on the road.

I think the League of Illinois Bicyclists may have the right idea with their Sidepath Trail Calculator.  Rather than being simply for or against bikes on sidepaths, they calculate a rating based a number of factors, such has how many driveway and road crossings there are along the path.

I still believe that there are many cases where riding a bike on sidewalk or sidepath could be more expensive for a city to support and more dangerous for bicyclists.  Bridges generally don’t have intersections in the middle of them and strike me as a place where a sidepath could be a safe and effective facility for bicyclists.

Is your street already wide enough for bike lanes? Find out for $10.

marking lanes for shared bike / pedestrian sidewalk

Greg Raisman was one of many gracious people I met in Portland, Oregon last week. He’s a Traffic Safety Specialist for the City of Portland, and he gave me this tip for those interested in advocating for bike lanes in their own towns.

There are likely roads in your own community that you suspect are already wide enough to accommodate a bike lane– They just need stripes to mark the lane. You can check road widths yourself by using a measuring wheel, found for about $10 on E-bay.  A measuring wheel measures distances as you walk. To measure the road width, you just have to walk across the road while rolling the wheel.  Keep in mind these details and do the math to determine if you’ve already got room for bike lanes:

Road Element Width
Standard through traffic lane 11 feet
Standard parking lane 8 feet
Standard bike lane 5 feet
Standard center turn lane 12 feet
Possible gutter 1.5 feet
Possible buffer* 3 feet

* The possible buffer zone is between parked cars and the bike lane, to prevent “dooring” and allow for possible snow piles in winter.

There are cases where narrower minimum lane widths for all cases may be acceptable. Check the federal standards for details.

Armed with these calculations, you can make a much stronger argument to City Hall if you can show definitively that no costly road width expansion will be needed, and you can say with certainty that bike lanes will fit.

But you may also  find that there is in fact no room to simply stripe a bike lane on roads you check. There are still possibilities to make roads more bikeable by using a road diet or the bike boulevard concepts. I expect to write more about these in future posts.

I ordered my measuring wheel tonight. I’ll be interested to see what I learn about my city streets!

Update: November, 2011: This strategy worked! The City recently approved a new long-term transportation plan which included some of our recommendations based on DIY road measurements and reviews posted online. The consultants who developed the plan found our site and credited Bike Richmond with making some specific recommendations.

longtail bike at work

longtail bike at work

Kurt made custom pouches for the custom longtail frame he built. The material used is what you usually find in fold-out couches– super sturdy! The top of the rack is plywood. Here’s he hauling two printers, a scanner, a keyboard and various other supplies.

Right now the two sides of the pouch are just tied together with string. He may upgrade those connectors with small caribiniers. The current design also lacks a frame to hold the pouches away from the wheels and derailler. It’s working OK without them, but wil also likely be evolved.

You can afford a commuting bike right now

If you are commuting by car right now for 5 miles or less, you can afford a bike to make the same trip on. The reality is that gas has gotten more expensive and the savings of riding a bike even for short trips adds up.

Let’s look at some numbers.

The Supplement Scenario: Here we assume that a bike supplements a car that you plan to keep and drive, and that the savings of riding a bike will come purely from saved case. Using an online calculator, you can quickly estimate your annual fuel cost for a trip. If you travel 1.5 miles each way, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year (you take some vacation, right?), that’s 750 miles per year, spent on that short commute. If you get 20 miles per gallon and gas cost $4.00 gallon, then your cost of gas for that commute is $150 for one year. For five years that’s $750.

Continue reading You can afford a commuting bike right now

The Question of Hills

Updated August 23rd, 2008. See corrected math and discussion in the comments.

Kurt climbing out of Brownsville
I was recently asked: “How can get around town by bike without going up and down so many hills?”

Avoiding hills is often not an option, so I have to re-frame the question in order to answer it: “How I can be comfortable riding in hilly terrain?”.

For a cyclist used to driving, there may be an adjustment about what to expect. A car may (unnaturally) travel the same speed up a hill, across the ridge line and back down it.

Continue reading The Question of Hills

Recreation vs Transportation Bikes: Quiz and Photos

There’s been increasing press lately about bicycling as transportation.

The difference between riding for recreation and transportation matters a great deal for the construction of the bikes, although few bikes focused directly on transportation are seen the US.

Here’s a quiz of sorts to show how recreation vs. transportation attitudes lead to different bike designs. Follow along and see which style of bike matches you!

At the end if the quiz, there are some photos and details highlighting some features available on transportation bikes.

Continue reading Recreation vs Transportation Bikes: Quiz and Photos

First Saturday with the bakfiets cargo bike

Today was our first Saturday with the bakfiets, and we kept the bike busy haulin’ and transportin’ from 8 am to 5 pm.

My wife took it first, riding it to Jazzercize and then to the farmer’s market. She had trouble leaving with her cargo of sunflowers due to all the people asking about the cargo bike. Questions from strangers are common with the bakfiets.

Around 11am, I used the quick release to raise the seat from her riding position and started on the next trip. I loaded the bike up with over a 100 lbs of yard waste and headed to the local landfill to drop it off. Wrapping the garbage bags in a tarp kept the bucket extra clean.

Bakfiets at the dump

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