Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Central Parkway Unicycler

Saw this guy riding on Central Parkway between Sam Adams and Brighton - totally made my day! Anyone know who he is or what the scoop is on the bike? It was the largest unicycle I've ever seen; it kind of looked like it was crafted out of a mountain bike tire.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Chicago's Bike Infrastructure

This past weekend I headed up to Chicago with Bike Polo Guy. We spent 3 days in the City, then he went on to Minneapolis for the North American Hardcourt Bike Polo championship, and I took the train back to Cincinnati.

It was really interesting to see all of the bike infrastructure that the City of Chicago has installed over the last few years, particularly the Kinzie Street, Dearborn Street and Milwaukee Avenue cycle tracks, since Cincinnati will be doing something similar on Central Parkway next year. (A cycle track is a bike lane that is physically protected from traffic with some type of physical barrier, most often a plastic paddle.)

Kinzie is a two-way street and has a one-way cycle track on each side of the street going in the same direction as other traffic. As an added bonus, there is a chocolate factory nearby, so the lanes often smell of chocolate as you ride through!

Kinzie Street cycle track

Dearborn is a one-way street and has a two-way cycle track on the left side of the street. They used green thermoplastic to highlight the major driveway crossings (we are planning to do this on Central Parkway as well).

Dearborn Street two-way cycle track

They use signage and “LOOK BIKES” pavement markings to warn pedestrians to look before stepping into crosswalks that intersect the cycle tracks.

The left-turn bike box is a cool idea. It’s aligned so that it’s protected by parked cars on two sides (ahead and to the right), so it gives the cyclist a safe space to wait when making a left turn across the oncoming one-way traffic.
Left-turn box for bikes

We saw the SLOW pavement marking installed in the cycle track in front of several buildings (like this theater) that I assume have a large number of pedestrians entering and exiting.

They put these plates in the cycle track over the bridge to create a smooth surface for cyclists. I wonder if we could get Kentucky to install these on some of our bridges… 
Cool bridge cover

This one-way cycle track on Milwaukee Avenue has a passing lane on part of it so that faster cyclists can safely pass slower cyclists (like me). CDOT’s counts showed that there were over 500 bikes an hour using this street during rush hour – hence it made sense to install the passing lane. Can you imagine seeing 500 bikes an hour anywhere in Cincinnati?!
Passing bike lane

This “flipped” bike box puts right-turning cyclists ahead of right-turning cars at the red light. Typically bike boxes are used when there is not a dedicated right-turn lane, and the short part of the L is going the other direction (in front of the thru/right lane). I assume Chicago improvised this to work with the dedicated right-turn lane - very creative.
Bike box

Apart from the cycle tracks, there really were A LOT of traditional bike lanes too. It was an incredible feeling to be in a bike lane, make a right turn onto another street and see another bike lane waiting for me. There's only one place in the entire City of Cincinnati where two bike lanes intersect - Dana Ave and Madison Rd. In Chicago we could actually try and plan our routes to include as many bike lane streets as possible without going too far out of our way. Amazing.

This buffered bike lane has partial transverse lines next to the parked cars. I’m guessing it shows cyclists where the door zone is.
Buffered bike lane with door zone marked

We saw bike racks on every block, and lots of bikes utilizing them. 

Chicago’s bike share system Divvy was launched earlier this year. Bike share is different than traditional bike rentals in that bike share is intended to be used for a much shorter period of time. The first 30 minutes are free in most US cities. Cincinnati is hoping to launch a bike share system in the summer of 2014.
Divvy bike share station

Infrastructure aside, I noticed some pretty significant cultural differences between Chicago and Cincy cyclists. First, Chicago cyclists are fast! It didn’t matter where we were, or what time of day it was, every cyclist we saw was booking it. I got passed by grandmas and little kids alike. It was a totally different vibe than my typical leisurely rides through Downtown or Over-the-Rhine! I think Chicago could use a little Margy and Mel slow ride attitude...
And then there were the red light “head starts.” Every cyclist starts across the intersection while the light is still red. They start maybe 2 seconds before it turns green, so that by the time the light is green they’re already in the center of the intersection. I witnessed this everywhere we went, from every cyclist - old, young, hipster, professional, whatever. I understand the rationale of getting in front of the cars in order to be more visible, but the law-abiding Cincinnatian in me felt totally uncomfortable running the light. Especially if we were in a bike lane or cycle track anyway and not competing with cars for space.
The last part of my trip involved taking the train from Chicago back to Cincinnati. You can’t beat the price - $50 for me, plus $25 for my bike. I think this is comparable to the Megabus, but the train had a lot more leg room, and of course you can’t take bikes on the Megabus. It was a bit awkward getting the bike into the station; I was able to squeeze through the front doors, but then Bike Polo Guy had to carry the bike down the escalator for me. Maybe there's another entrance somewhere?
It did take a little time to get the bike boxed up too, so it’s a good thing we arrived early. In order to purchase the box we were directed down to the basement “Baggage” area. Rick, a very helpful Amtrak employee, took my money ($10 for transport, $15 for the box), and brought me a box and put it together for me. I had to bring my own tools (pedal wrench and multi-tool), and I had to remove the pedals and turn the handle bars sideways. 

Removing the pedals

Locking the handle bars sideways

Ready for the box

After the bike was ready, Rick helped Bike Polo Guy and I roll her into the box, and then he taped it up, we wrote my name on it, and she was ready to go. Amtrak took care of loading her onto the train for me, so I didn’t have to lug the gigantic 30 pound box anywhere. Pretty easy, really. When I arrived in Cincy I had to wait for them to bring all the baggage up (about 30 minutes), they helped me unload the box from their cart, then I just used my car keys to rip the tape off the box and rolled the bike right out. Overall, it was pretty easy getting the bike home, and I assume that $25 is less than I would have paid to rent a bike for three days.
All in all, I had a great time checking out Chicago's bike infrastructure, and I can't wait for Cincinnati to catch up!

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Weekend of Bike Polo in Columbus

This past Saturday I spent some time in Columbus at the inaugural Midwestivus For The Rest Of Us bike polo tournament. Cody Goshorn of Columbus Bike Polo organized the tournament as a low-key alternative to the North American Hardcourt Midwest Regional Qualifier also taking place over the weekend. Eleven teams participated in Midwestivus, the vast majority of which were co-ed, and 3 of which were all female. It was awesome to see so many women on the court!

Cunning Stunts versus?...

The Wholesome Midwestern Girls from Bloomington

On Sunday we went and hung out at the actual NAH Midwest Qualifier. Twenty-nine teams were competing for 9 spots at Nationals in August. This was Cincinnati's third year competing in the tournament. Three years ago we came in 20th, last year we came in 13th, and this year.....we came in 5th place!!! Congratulations to Alan, Chris, and Ian who kicked some serious butt and will be the first Cincinnati team to ever compete at Nationals!

Chris versus Milwaukee

Some guy who looks like Alan but wears a shirt


Watching bike polo all weekend (especially so many women playing polo at Midwestivus) has inspired me to give it a try again! (I went to a Newbie Day last year and had a lot of fun, but my inherent lack of athleticism and a distaste for embarrassing myself publically discouraged me from playing more.) But like I said, I'm feeling empowered, so my friend Joe and I have organized a Ladies-Only Bike Polo Newbie Day for June 16th. It'll be fun, low-key, and less embarrassing without all the super-competitive men watching us. If you're a woman and you're interested in learning how to play bike polo, come check it out! www.facebook.com/events/375208605918187/

Joe is hoping to continue organizing co-ed Newbie Days once-a-month-ish, and in the future you can find those advertised at www.facebook.com/groups/cincinnatihardcourt/.

Monday, March 18, 2013

New Bike Shops! (Part II)

This is Part II of a post about Cincy’s two newest urban-oriented bike shops - Reser Bicycle Outfitters OTR and Spun Bicycles. Read more about Reser OTR in Part I.

Spun Bicycle's front door
Spun is the brainchild of Judi and Dominic LoPresti, who are well known in the local bicycle community for their volunteer work and commitment to bicycle advocacy. Spun had their official grand opening last weekend, and so far they plan to carry Raleigh, Masi, Haro, Surly, Redline, and a bunch of BMX brands. In terms of price point, they plan to carry entry-level to mid-range bicycles, but Dom says he can get anything you want - just ask! He also mentioned that they plan to get close-outs of last year’s models when they can too, so that they can transfer those savings over to their customers.

Additionally, they carry a full line of Diamondback bikes for kids, starting at just $120. According to Dom, the Diamondbacks are a step up from what you could buy some place like Dick’s Sporting Goods, but these will last longer and are at a great price point. 

Like Reser OTR, Spun is also selling used bikes, which I think is awesome. I know a lot of people who are interested in getting back into bicycling but are hesitant to make a larger investment until they know whether or not they’ll stick with it, or even what kind of bike they really want. Craigslist has some good bikes every once in awhile, but it just isn’t a great option for people new to bicycling unless they happen to have a bike-geek friend who can help them figure out whether what they’re seeing is a good quality bike in decent shape. So I’m really glad that Reser and Spun have decided to deal in used bikes, because I think it’s going to make purchasing a bike so much more accessible to so many people. 

MM: Why did you open in Northside?

Judi: It's filling a niche for the residents in Northside, they need a bike shop here. Too many people ride bikes here for them not to have their own neighborhood bike shop. Everybody rides bikes. We're definitely catering to something that's been needed in the neighborhood for a long time. 

MM: What do you want people to know about Spun? What makes Spun unique?

Dominic: Spun Bicycles exists to make people enjoy the lifestyle of having bikes in their lives, and what it can do for them and the people around them. That’s really what it’s about; it’s not just a bike shop, it’s a place where people can come hang out and enjoy bike culture.

Judi: We created a bike shop where people can come, hang out, watch TV, drink a beer from next door...we wanted to make it a destination. We wanted to recreate that bike shop you remember as a kid, the one you never wanted to leave. We wanted to be a friendly shop. Approachable, less intimidating for the average bicyclist who isn't looking to get into racing. We wanted to carry affordable bikes, all under $1000.00, and cater to the neighborhoods needs. There are plenty of race shops in the city we can refer people too, but we won't be selling carbon fiber bikes. Dominic also wants to promote the sport of BMX and so we carry plenty of that as well. We'll be carrying skateboards this summer.

Judi, Dom, and John of Spun Bicycles
Judi, Dom, and John

That’s it for Part II of New Bike Shops!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Bike Shops! (Part I)

Last weekend I stopped in at the grand opening of Spun Bicycles in Northside. Spun is the 2nd new bike shop to open in the city within the last year (Reser Bicycle Outfitters opened their Over-the-Rhine location last June). Two new shops have opened recently out in the burbs as well: Freedom Gear Cyclery in Anderson, and a new Montgomery Cyclery location in Western Hills (down the street from Bicycles and More).  

Both Reser OTR and Spun have kind of an urban focus which I think is really cool, and which I hope is indicative of real growth in the number of city residents using bicycles for transportation. The last few annual city surveys have always indicated that Cincinnatians use bicycles for recreation more often than they use them for transportation. But I think we're probably getting pretty close to the tipping point, which in my opinion makes us more of a well rounded cycling community.

As it turns out, trying to write about both shops in one post made for a really, really long post. So, this is going to be a two part post: Part I on Reser, and Part II on Spun. 

Front door at Reser Bicycle Outfitter sOTR
Reser Bicycle Outfitters OTR
Reser OTR's main brands are State (single speed, fixed gear bikes), Public (classic European city bikes/errand running bikes), and Orbea (flat bar road bikes), but they also sell Origin-8 and Torker. And they sell a lot of used bikes; in fact, half the bikes in their showroom are used! (And they offer used parts too!) Below are a few excerpts from a conversation with Store Manager Matt Baker.

MM: Why did you open in OTR?

Matt: We opened in OTR because of the population boom and resurgence of the whole OTR district. The population is growing up on top of itself, it’s becoming more densely populated; I think it’s one of the fastest growing urban cores in the country right now, and there was no bike shop. It seemed crazy in a city that’s this easy to ride around in, that there wouldn’t be a shop in the middle of it. So, we did that. 

It’s an easy city to ride around in; it’s not the biggest city, the traffic is slow and there are lots of traffic lights, and as far as riding in the city goes, it’s safe. Though we’re not known for being a big cycling community, we will be soon. We’ve got all of these businesses moving into OTR and Downtown, and condos going in, and the developers in the area have done a great job with all the low income housing too, so we’ve got a super diverse, increasingly dense population of people who ride their bikes.     
Chase and Matt from Reser Bicycle Outfitters OTR
Chase and Matt

MM: What makes Reser OTR unique?

Chrome bags at Reser Bicycle Outfiters OTR

Matt: We’ve got a lot more options for city bikes, and bikes you can put racks and stuff on to run errands and go into Findlay Market, and get around town. And we have a huge selection of used bikes, and very urban accessories. 

We don’t have any spandex. We have heavy duty overpants that are meant for keeping the pants they go over top of dry and clean in all weather. We have jackets that you can wear all day without looking like you’re about to go on a roadbike race. 

We’ve got hardshell helmets. We’ve got a huge selection of locks that are great for Downtown, not just lightweight, cool looking locks, but stuff that is going to keep your bike from getting stolen – which is pretty important around here. 

We carry bags and baskets and racks and backpacks that are built for taking a lot of abuse and being used on a daily basis. It’s not just that we’re in an urban center, we are urban-centered. Everything we have is meant for real heavy use, and being used by people that are going to be relying on their bikes everyday like it was a car.

Skirt garters at Reser Bicycle Outfitters OTR
Skirt garters
Baskets, fenders, and racks at Reser Bicycle Outfitters OTR

Bike polo hot balls at Reser Bicycle Outfitters OTR
Bike polo hot balls

Brooks gear at Reser Bicycle Outfitters OTR
Brooks gear

That's it for Part I on Reser OTR. Stay tuned for Part II on Spun!