Understanding cities by riding bikes

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113 Responses to “Understanding cities by riding bikes”

  1. zyodei says:

    For me, my experience of living in the city of Chicago was radically transformed by the bicycle. I started out commuting on skateboard (great in a flat city like chicago) and motorcycle. But something about bicycles..that accessibility, the relative speed, the ease and speed of parking…it really opened the city up. I couldn’t imagine what my life would have been like there w/o a bike…I would just laugh at those suckers on the bus as I blew by at triple their overall speed.

    In other places, I HAVE found motorcycles to be the best solution. Better than scooters, and simply able to cover ground so much more quickly than bicycles – or, for that matter, really any other vehicle. It’s an exciting thought that electric motorcycles will soon be widely commercially available…

    P.S. Here’s the secret to ninja bicycle riding: learn to ride without using your hands. It’s really not that hard, just put your bike in the highest gear and slowly let go while riding. With your hands free, you can more freely use your body mass to ‘pump’ the way you would when jogging. You can really get some momentum going doing this…

    I’ve ridden the whole Chicago waterfront bike trail, from downtown to the north edge of the city and back, the whole way without touching the handlebars once – including the turnaround!

    I was passsing guys on $1000+ road bikes, on some old ‘comfort bike’ of some kind.

    I should note it works better on hybrid or mountain bikes, rather than road bikes, at least for me.

    Hahaha! Learning to ride with no hands makes riding a bike a lot more fun…same goes with motorcycles too ;)

  2. zyodei says:

    Until recently I commuted to work almost every morning a third of the way across a medium sized island, on a Korean 250cc cruiser. Once I got to the highway I would stand up tall on – arms out, eating up the wind and the sunshine..using a throttle lock, stable as could be from 50-90 mph. Great fun!

    Really quite a way to get to work. Unlike in the usual instance, the commute itself made the job even more of a joy ;)

  3. zyodei says:

    You know what I think is the transportation of the future:

    electric skateboards!

    Seriously, look on ebay or amazon, there’s all kinds of bad ass boards there. The other good thing is that the motor provides what skateboards need most on some roads, which is a braking system ;)

  4. LapisPezuli says:

    Gave up driving for the second time not quite five years ago and never looked back.

    Oh! The stress & expense!

    I do most of my own bicycle maintenance (every girl should know how to wash grease off her hands) and just no procured a trailer for hauling. I’m about to load it up with hats and musical instruments for Sunday Parkways; I’ve even helped friends move (yes, I live in Portland).

    One major aspect of driving that other modes don’t have a problem with is the social. When I see a friend while driving, I can honk or yell, but it feels rude and it’s difficult to convey much. On the bus, riding my bike or walking, it’s so easy to stop when you see someone or, if you’re both going the same way, talk and travel at the same time.

    When I ride, I feel happier. I also feel healthier & cover more territory than otherwise. I might travel further, faster in a car (driving to Vancouver takes about 8 hours max, biking can take up to six days) but the results are far less satisfying.

  5. Anonymous says:

    As a person who has never owned a driver’s license and I am in my forties, I can say seeing your city from a bike seat is great. In fact I own several bikes. One KHS Cidi8 for everyday commuting and errand running and two folding bikes. Both are Dahons. I use the folding bike when I use public transportation, because there are time when one does not want to get all sweaty going to the far flung portions of my city which is 20 square miles. Also having the the folding bikes increase my chances of catching a bus if there are already 2 bikes on the bus rack.

    Public transportation and bikes are a great combination. Here where I live the city of Jacksonville, FL had dropped the required pass to use the bike racks on the busses and the usage has gone up. I have noticed at least a bike a bus at certain times of the day.

    I have now my 16″ Dahon Curve SL which was $600.00 is for travel. The 24″ wheeled folder cost me some cash when I traveled and got snagged on the baggage measurement requirements, but I did budget for that contingent. So I was able to go to other cities and enjoy sight seeing on my own bike. In other cities many have bike racks as well. I have found that traveling on public transportation in other cities is also a great way to see a city. We have a town center that I bus to and then ride when we are close by. I will always have parking and could get to many of the stores quickly and with a minimum of problems. I have also found that taking a folder to a convention is awesome especially if the convention has several hotels or that your hotel is some distance from a convention center. I make sure my bikes have enough steampunk flair to be used as a prop and could take into a convention center.

    I will say that biking is not for everyone. Nor am I out to convert people. I like my situation as I have been doing it for so long and have created a niche for myself in my environment. Are there things I would like not to happen while cycling, sure. Weather that is 79 everyday. Tail winds, rain only during working hours. (People ask what do you do when it rains? I get wet. I have on hand extra socks, towels and shirts.) Terrible drivers and even I dare say, cyclists who do not adhere to the rules of the road.

  6. Michael_GR says:

    I live in a city so clogged with motor traffic that when I ride my bicycle I don’t think how cars are two fast – I think how slow they are and how they slow me down!
    I also noticed, sadly, that I don’t pay any more attention to my surroundings when I ride my bike than when I drive a car. There’s a nearby park that I occasionally ride through. I’ve been biking for almost two years but only a couple of weeks ago noticed that lying along the bicycle lane there are several animal enclosures with spotted deer and birds. Don’t know how I missed them!

    Short-term bike hire is awesome, though. I’m trying to get my non-riding friends interested.

  7. nixiebunny says:

    I also ask the other big questions of car drivers, such as “why do you choose to live 25 miles from the university you work at, when you could live 2 miles from it for the same price, in a nice neighborhood”?

    Because if we chose to live in a way that invites bike use, we’d all be on bikes.

    • blueelm says:

      Um… because I *can’t* afford it?

      I’d like to ask my city though why it has such a populated area with nary a grocery store for a few miles in any direction other than a very unpleasant convenience store under the highway, and no sidewalks over most of it.

    • peterbruells says:

      I doubt the “for the same price” in most cases.

      Also, there might be partners involved.

      I do ride a bike to work. sometimes I just walked. My wife, however, has to drive 25 km.

    • Daneel says:

      Because where I work is a total dump (because it’s an industrial area) and I’d prefer to live somewhere that I won’t get mugged on the way home?

    • Anonymous says:

      You presumably live in some sort of utopia city where property prices and quality are the same everywhere. Where anyone is free to suddenly decide they want to live somewhere else and be able to do so, without all that tedious business of finding a vacant dwelling to purchase and finding someone to purchase the one you currently reside it (or finding someone to take over your lease which you’re locked in to the for however long). Where no one has any reason to live where they do other than it’s proximity to their employer.
      Also it presumably never hammers down with rain, snows, drops below freezing, gets hotter than 30C or any of the other weather conditions that I know from first hand experience make cycling a miserable experience. Also can you imagine how many showers employers would need to provide is everyone cycled? (Though I guess they could just build them where the car park used to be :) )

      • turn_self_off says:

        Or humanity just needs to get with the idea that we smell, just like every other animal on this planet.

      • jere7my says:

        Also can you imagine how many showers employers would need to provide is everyone cycled?

        People keep bringing up how vital it is that cyclists have access to showers at work. My commute is seven miles each way, and somehow I manage to get through my work day without showering. (I could take a shower if I wanted to, but I’ve never seen the need.) I’m pretty anal retentive about body odor, too — I don’t like stinking, so I make sure I don’t. I get to work a little damp, the sweat dries after an hour or so, and then I do laundry later in the week. Stale sweat stinks; fresh sweat smells like nothing, as far as I can tell. Maybe it’s my diet.

        Honestly, I think this is less of a problem than people believe, and one of the things about corporate culture that’s going to rapidly change as bicycle commuting continues to take off. People sweat sometimes; we can learn to deal. Does everybody in the office shower when it’s 95° outside and everyone gets to work sweaty?

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          I used to walk several miles to work and then walk up to the 14th floor. There were no perspiration problems that couldn’t be handled with a damp paper towel in the men’s room.

  8. Mitch_M says:

    I’ve been noticing recently that I’m seeing a lot more stuff driving a cab around the city than I did commuting by bicycle, especially things in nature like birds (particularly crows whom I find “interested and interesting”) and trees in various states of budding and flowering. Part of it is that I’m covering more ground and going to places I wouldn’t go to on my own, and part of it that I don’t have to be so alert and defensive and be watching out for motorists who are trying to kill me as I have to be when I’m on my bicycle.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Psahw. Walking is the new biking. Drop your fixie for a nice pair of shoes.

  10. The Life Of Bryan says:

    I became a bike geek a few years ago, and I still can’t get over the freedom and power I experience when moving that way. My car is an older sports car, and sure, it’s fun to drive… but it just doesn’t compare to my hundred dollar bike.

    Riding around the last town I lived in taught me to appreciate it in ways I never thought I would. Riding around the town I live in now reminds me how much ass it sucks… but it’s even worse in a car.

  11. Anonymous says:

    My big question in the case of things like this is

    ‘Why do you advocate the needs of middle class hobbyists over a robust public transport system that would better serve the general public, including the working poor, as opposed to designing systems that’d suit those able to afford 7000 dollar bikes?’

    Then I remember it’s the internet.

    • Anonymous says:

      Bicycles sometimes cost $7000, but they can also cost $70. There are many places that sell good quality used bikes for $70 or $100, or you can even get those horrible crappy new bikes for $100 at places like Walmart, Target, etc. I am all for having a good public transit system, it definitely should be much better funded in most places in the world. But in places like NYC, Europe, etc. biking can actually be cheaper and faster than even public transit.

    • Anonymous says:

      My bike was $300= 10 months’ daily commuting via public transport. $7K? I’ve owned cars that cost less than that…

    • blendergasket says:

      Why exactly do you need a $7000 bike to be a bike commuter?

    • jere7my says:

      ‘Why do you advocate the needs of middle class hobbyists over a robust public transport system that would better serve the general public, including the working poor, as opposed to designing systems that’d suit those able to afford 7000 dollar bikes?’

      Why not do both? I take the T in the winter, ride my bike in the summer, and advocate for improved infrastructure for both. (Bike lanes / sharrows are one of the cheapest ways to improve infrastructure, though — they cost much less, and take much less time, than a new subway line.)

      Also, $7000 bikes? My bike cost under $500 (new), and my previous bike cost under $100 (used); both served me very well. I see “the working poor” on even cheaper rides all the time. Who the heck needs a $7000 bike?

    • emmdeeaych says:

      yeah, the internet… where you can breathlessly proclaim things are mutually exclusive then call other people absurd.

      Get back under your bridge.

    • wrybread says:

      Funny how you bemoan stupid arguments on the internet while making the incredibly stupid argument that biking is too expensive. Nicely done!

      I recently starting biking again and have been experiencing exactly what this article describes. I see so much more of my city (San Francisco), and when I get where I’m going I feel great. I’ve been driving around in a retired metermaid car for about 10 years, which I can park anywhere, but its almost too efficient: I never walk or ride a bike anymore, and my knees started hurting. After just two weeks on my bike my knees feel great again.

      I think Zebra05 makes a good point that biking can be dangerous and isn’t for everyone, especially older people, but maybe if we build a better biking infrastructure it’ll be safer and easier. In Europe you certainly get lots of old people riding bikes.

      And god I’d love it if we had those short-hire bike stands here in the states. They seem to have them in most big cities in Europe and its such an incredibly nice thing. I’m guessing it’d be impossible to implement in America at the moment if it cost any tax money at all (“those looney liberals are charging us for their biking now!!!”), but in Oslo the short-hire bike stands were and probably still are sponsored by, of all people, Clear Channel… So maybe corporate sponsorship would work?

      • Urban Garlic says:

        Actually, this has come to some US cities — we have it here in Washington DC, it’s called “Capital Bikeshare”, or “cabi” in their publicity. It was just deployed last year, around the same time that quite a lot of bicycle infrastructure was added around the city by our very bike-friendly then-mayor (Adrian Fenty).

        They are working out some of the issues, they have some trouble re-populating the stations sometimes, and most users think there aren’t enough stations, they need to be denser on the ground. One of the things they are figuring out is that bike-share programs *are* a form of public transportation.

        I found a USA Today article that says it’s happening or is planned in Chicago, Denver, Des Moines, and Miami Beach, and that New York, Boston, and San Francisco have plans for systems like this.

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t need to spend $7000 on a bike my friend! My bike was free (recycled from the tip) and easy to fix up. No problems at all!!!
      That sounds like good news to the folk who can’t afford a ridiculously expensive, impractical and hard to work on pushie.

    • Kieran O'Neill says:

      Troll/strawman.

      You can get a good, well-serviced used bike for $300. Some people do spend lots on their bike — you can get a really good commuting bike (or a fancy fixie) for ~$1000-$2000, but $7000 is rare.

      Admittedly the $7000 are mainly bought by semi-professional racers and upper middle class hobbyists with too much money to spend, but getting around on bicycles is far from a “middle class hobby”. There are plenty of working poor using bicycles.

  12. Anonymous says:

    If you haven’t read David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries, it’s a must. It examines varioud global cities from this (literal) point of view.

  13. JeffF says:

    I used to bike to work regularly without a shower and found that if I just took it a bit easy in the morning and changed when I arrived it was good. Just consider the extra five minutes on the bike as replacing the time for the shower. Wouldn’t work with a big uphill, however. No way for me to avoid sweating up the big hill at the end of my trip home without turning it into a twenty minute walk.

    I don’t get a sense of freedom from my car in a city. More often I find it to be an anchor.

    Oops, got to go, the meter is running out.
    No, if we walk over there we have to walk all the way back to the car.
    We can’t go to x, no parking.

    However the transit system in San Francisco is poor enough that I drive fairly often. I was on a bus today marveling at how I went six straight blocks where every block had a stop. And these were short blocks.

  14. Cowicide says:

    Beautiful post, thanks Cory.

  15. winkybb says:

    I bike commute some 25-30km each way year-round here in Vancouver. A wonderful way to travel. Quick, clean and fun. I find I don’t need a shower when I get to work. I wear clean kit each morning and change to work clothes when I get there. How big your house is, how for from town and how you travel are choices. Trade-offs for sure, but choices.

  16. Rob Gehrke says:

    Best way to experience a city, hands down.
    Those who live inside the same city they work in are lucky and can do this daily, those who live outside it have more difficulties, having to rely on public transportation. In Paris there is the Velib’ bike rental system, like in London, which is an excellent initiative. One even grows to hate cars and buses after weeks of cycling, and with a large backpack most small commissions (food, etc.) can be taken care of.
    Amsterdam is a very agreeable place, partly because of this.

    • rebdav says:

      Portland Oregon especially west side downtown is also very friendly as far as cycling goes, the drivers are mostly considerate, every street has a bicycle lane and there are plenty of services and housing options available if you don’t mind the hills.
      I started and rode a high tech startup into the ground where we would meet up with our mobile phones, WiFi laptops, and prototype at coffee shops in PDX. Coffee shop hopping on bicycles was the best office I have ever had.

  17. Canman0 says:

    I like bicycling, but I usually drive instead. This is mostly because I find myself making commentss like this:

    Damn, it’s to late to go there!

    Shit, it’s raining!

    How the hell am I going to carry this?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Buses also give a new view of a city. Sitting up high, without having to worry about where you are going, it is great.

  19. jmzero says:

    You don’t get to know a city on a bike. You get to know a city by having a door-to-door job. Especially one where you see the insides of people’s houses. Or as a beat cop. (I’ve done the former, not the latter.. but I can imagine).

    Being on a bike, you get to know streets and sidewalks and shortcuts – except you don’t see very many (not like, say, a cab driver, who also meets people who live in those houses) because there’s not much reason to bicycle through random neighborhoods. So you get to know a city’s bike paths, bridges, and streets with wide shoulders, and get really familiar with your commute and the parts of it that suck (which in most cities, is a lot of your commute).

    If you’re wondering, I don’t ride bikes in the city after getting hit by a car. Irrational mostly, but I can’t get comfortable around cars anymore. I still ride in parks and what not, though not very much as my kids are very young and biking doesn’t fit in well.

    In any case, I would have a hard time spending an hour a day commuting instead of 15 minutes. I don’t have a lot of 45 minute periods to throw away. I didn’t understand the value of 45 minutes for much of my life. And, yes, a bicycle commute would feel pretty much like throwaway time right now.

    It’s not even terribly great exercise – at least not if you can’t shower when you get to work. Even then, I prefer to just go to the gym. Cycling gets you big legs pretty quick (especially if there’s hills) and then not much else – the cardio part of most commutes is too broken up, stutter stop start slow, to really get you going, at least after a few months.

    So yeah, there’s my answer if anyone’s wondering. In another place or time in life, I’d bike again. But, please people, understand that other people have different goals, priorities, values, and circumstances.. and, in time, you might as well. Someday you may find yourself on the other side of things, honking at a cyclist and maybe wishing you had some of those minutes back so you could have a nice nap.

    • jere7my says:

      You don’t bike like me, apparently!

      Being on a bike, you get to know streets and sidewalks and shortcuts – except you don’t see very many (not like, say, a cab driver, who also meets people who live in those houses) because there’s not much reason to bicycle through random neighborhoods.

      Sez who? One of my favorite weekend recreations is finding a green splotch on Google Maps, plotting a route to it, and spending a few hours getting to and from a park I haven’t been to before. Today I biked 10 miles each way to a friend’s graduation, and discovered I can navigate downtown Boston without a map or directions. I know a shitload about my town, and it’s all because I’ve started biking everywhere. Things feel connected.

      In any case, I would have a hard time spending an hour a day commuting instead of 15 minutes.

      I’d guess there are cities where cars can travel 4x the speed of bikes, but probably not many — an easy biking pace for me averages about 12mph, and I’d be hard-pressed to imagine many cars averaging 48mph off the highway. My 7-mile commute takes 25 minutes by car (more at rush hour), 35 minutes by bike, and 75 minutes by pubtrans. I’m not Mr. Fitness or anything — I’m a 39-year-old geek who likes kids’ cereals and Mountain Dew — but here in Boston congestion is so terrible that I can easily outpace the buses and sometimes outpace the cars. (And yes, I stop at every red light!)

      Then, when I get home, I’m not tense and aggravated from driving at rush hour. I’m energized and cheerful, and maybe I’ve seen a snapping turtle or a huddle of new goslings. Of course, I’m very fortunate to live in a bike-friendly city — over half of my commute is on a protected bike lane along the Charles — and I know this isn’t possible for everyone. But cities can become more bike-friendly with time, and it’s something worth advocating for.

      • PalookaJoe says:

        “I’d guess there are cities where cars can travel 4x the speed of bikes, but probably not many — an easy biking pace for me averages about 12mph, and I’d be hard-pressed to imagine many cars averaging 48mph off the highway.”

        Mesa, AZ, the city just east of Phoenix, is one of those cities. We have wide, 5-lane major streets every mile. They’re straight, they’re flat, and most of them (at least in my East Mesa neighborhood) don’t have bike lanes.

        As a not-so-athletic person with a new bike (about 4 weeks old), I’m terrified of the major streets around my house. I’m now pretty comfortable with the side streets in my neighborhood, but I’m not sure how long it’s going to take before I’m ready to commute on my bike.

        I knew it wouldn’t be easy to switch from a car commute to a combined bus/bike commute, but I didn’t realize the hardest part would be finding the courage to ride my route. I hope that the heightened awareness that Cory talks about in his post does make me appreciate my community more. But right now it’s a major source of anxiety and discouragement.

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          Same here in Palm Springs. It’s 40 – 50 mph on every street except little residential dead-ends and the minimum street width is 60 ft. It’s also 120° in the summer and the UV is usually 16 out of 16. You’d have to go out of your way to hit a bicyclist with your car, but they’ve probably already died and been mummified anyway.

      • peterbruells says:

        I’d guess there are cities where cars can travel 4x the speed of bikes, but probably not many — an easy biking pace for me averages about 12mph, and I’d be hard-pressed to imagine many cars averaging 48mph off the highway. My 7-mile commute takes 25 minutes by car (more at rush hour), 35 minutes by bike, and 75 minutes by pubtrans. I’m not Mr. Fitness or anything —

        After about 4 km it depends mostly on the route. And the weather. And, of course, physical fitness and parking.

        In many places it’s not acceptable to start working all sweaty or flushed, so factor in some time to take a shower and change clothes. Car user have to factor in parking, of course – many don’t.

        And I actually bike to work – luckily there’s a nice route along a dyke, a bridge and a small reserve – all rolled up in a mere 3 km. But during rain season it becomes a mess and I have to be extra careful to avoid getting muddy and when it snows in the winter, it becomes unusable . That’s when I stark walking.

        I am all for riding the bike, it gives me at least a minimum of physical exercise and its way cheaper than a second car, but but it’s not really the superior choice by itself many proponents claim.

  20. Doctor Doom says:

    I actually walk most places cause everywhere I wanna go is <10 minutes away

    Anything more than that I have to take a Taxi or Car because its usually boiling outside

  21. rebdav says:

    Brilliant piece Cory. Once we let the air out of the bicycle annoyance movement and allow them to live and travel as protected equals with the car drivers who receive the massive public subsidies on the backs of cyclists, public transit users, and pedestrians must also pay general taxes.

    • spriggan says:

      “Once we let the air out of the bicycle annoyance movement and allow them to live and travel as protected equals with the car drivers who receive the massive public subsidies on the backs of cyclists, public transit users, and pedestrians must also pay general taxes.”

      All those taxes you pay for infrastructure are also for all the trucks that deliver all the food you eat, packages you receive, goods you buy. So even if we all rode bikes/walked to work there would still be a need for those roads. Taxes are generally decided upon (at least in theory if not practice) by the general good for the majority not the individual or minority.

      • museincognito says:

        Sure, there will still be a need for roads. *Less* of a need.

        Even better when local biking aldermen with, er… “big wheels” are pro two-wheelers. http://timeoutchicago.com/things-to-do/this-week-in-chicago/14765671/chicagos-first-on-street-bike-parking

        • spriggan says:

          “Sure, there will still be a need for roads. *Less* of a need.”

          Maybe where you live. Here in New England most cities’ major roads are holdovers of old horse cart or cattle lanes, so when you figure two way streets and parked cars on both sides, thickly settled housing and narrow throughways we need all the streets we can get. Much different if you’re on the west coast or midwest with giant 8 lane highways all over the place. But we still have a pretty serious biking culture here.

  22. frisør says:

    Beautiful post, thanks Cory. :-)

  23. Antinous / Moderator says:

    You get to know a city by having a door-to-door job.

    I’ve done signature gathering, and you really do get to know the city at an intimate level. I’m hoping that the nightmares stop some day.

  24. Sekino says:

    I am so getting that H. G. Wells quote on a T-shirt for my husband, an avid cyclist AND science-fiction fan :D

    Despite my many complaints about Ottawa, it *is* fortunately an accommodating city for cyclists, and walkers like myself.
    Cycling or walking is a lovely way to commute: It’s invigorating at the start of the day, you can take in the scenery and get some daily fresh air… I’ve always found that a 20-30 minutes walk after a long workday helped dispel the stress- mental and physical- of the day. Cycling/walking to work, grocery store or to meet friends turns a chore into a bit of ‘me time’.

    However, as Blueelm points out, it is sadly true that not every city is designed to accommodate that sort of lifestyle. I doubt I could afford to live near my workplace were I working in, say, downtown Toronto.

    Hopefully, there will be more and more efforts to make urban areas more friendly and affordable to the most sustainable, healthy, enjoyable ways to get around…

    • joeposts says:

      Ottawa is a wonderful city to cycle in. I spent a few days while I was there last year trying out their bixi bikes and cruising along the canal.

      I’m currently living in mid-town Toronto (St. Clair/Yonge), and I have to say it’s not too bad, cost-wise. I use my bike to get to my job on Queen Street and it takes 20 minutes – if I take transit it’s about 30-45 minutes. Going home, uphill, it’s about a 30 minute ride. And it’s a fairly safe ride; lots of other cyclists around, lots of speed bumps, lots of empty alleyways, well-lit streets. I’ve only been hit once in four years! Some crazy driver tried to push me off the road after he waved me through an intersection. I didn’t get a good look at him, but I suspect it was Mayor Doug Ford. ;-)

      Anyways, it’s been cheaper for me than living outside Toronto and buying a car (plus insurance, gas, and maintenance costs) or paying for transit passes (and dealing with the stresses of the TTC). When I need a car, I rent one.

      The only shitty thing about bikes is they are easily stolen. Best strategy is to make your $7000 bike (we all have them, right?) look like it was dragged out of a swamp. Thieves don’t like crappy-looking bikes, even if they ride perfectly.

    • kibbee says:

      I live in Ottawa too (west end, although I used to live downtown) and have to admit that this a a great city for biking. Me and my family live car free. People look at us like we have 2 heads when we say we don’t have a car, especially living in the burbs. But it frees up a lot of cash, and sometimes it’s often as fast to just hope on a bike when you need to pick something up at the store. I know biking to work actually saves quite a bit of time as I fly by the rush hour traffic. Yes even in the burbs there’s traffic.

      • Sekino says:

        People look at us like we have 2 heads when we say we don’t have a car, especially living in the burbs.

        Hehe! Boy do I hear you. When we became parents, it was unbelievable how many times we had to explain that we STILL would not be getting a car and that we’d be just fine…

        Hats off to you for pulling off the car-free lifestyle from the suburbs! :)

        (P.S. You should come to the BB Ottawa meetup! :D)

  25. spriggan says:

    Walking is the new biking. Drop your fixie for a good pair of shoes. Leaves plenty of time for enjoying the sights. Very rarely need to worry about doorings and/or reflective clothing, helmet optional.

    (sorry for the possible double post my comment seems to have been eaten or rejected?)

  26. T Nielsen Hayden says:

    Kimmo @39: Cory has some joints that aren’t up to spec. I’m not sure a bike exists that’s light enough for him to carry up and down that many flights of stairs.

    UrbanGarlic @55: According to Wikipedia, the first real bikeshare program was in the city of La Rochelle in France. They’re spreading all over the place.

    MarkTemporis @71, bicycles are like gyroscopes: much stabler when running fast than when running slow. Trying to take it slow and keep my balance was what screwed me up on bicycles as a kid. I saw my error the first time I got up to speed. Alternately, try a three-wheeler.

    Anon @77, I’m starting to sense a real personal commitment to miserable resentment in your comments.

  27. GIFtheory says:

    Cory: why not park it on the street? With proper locking technique, theft should not be a concern.

  28. Mark Temporis says:

    It’s very difficult to learn to ride at an older age. I tried when I was around ten and was traumatized by falling off; later, I analyzed the situation and determined that walking was a better option where I lived at the time and never tried again.

    Now, I live somewhere where shit is way too far to walk, but a nice drive and might be a nice bike ride but when I tried to learn it was all like falling sideways and I hated it.

    Really, anything that relies on my own balance strikes me more as a method for mass organ donation than a viable means of transport.

  29. Zebra05 says:

    I would like to cycle but it is way too dangerous. I absolutely cannot afford a serious injury and therefore I have ceased cycling. It’s a nice idea and suited me when I was younger, but serious injury is much more serious when you are over 60. Walking is a nice option when one has the time.
    Cycling is a solution for the young, in a flat city. Give me a good public transit instead.

  30. LennStar says:

    Talking about bikes and motorbikes…

    There are the electro-bikes, too. In two varieties: 1. full-electro-driven (needs a license here) or just “give you up to 3/4 of the needed power” (pedelec).
    The cost is from about 800 Euro (but I don’t think you can get good ones for this) over 2000-2500 Euro (Standard price for a good one) up to – of course – whatever you want.
    It’s heavier than a normal bike, but especially up the hill or if you are older that should work great with the additional power.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedelec

  31. lostmonster says:

    You think riding bikes around changes your view of cities? Try skateboarding around. That forces you to change the city into something entirely different from how people normally conceive it.

    Awesome book on the subject:
    http://www.amazon.com/Skateboarding-Space-City-Architecture-Body/dp/1859734936

  32. jmzero says:

    Your plan for getting to know a city is not open to most people.

    Uh.. yeah. I wasn’t saying knocking on doors is fun or somehow an alternative to biking. I was just making the point that the kind of knowledge you have of a city after biking around it is superficial. Similarly, I’ve heard people say they know a city after visiting clubs and bars, or going to a tailgate party. I’m not saying any of those things are bad. But you don’t know a city that way, to what I think of as a reasonable definition. You get to know little subsets of people and places. I don’t know the city I live in now; I don’t know my neighbors, further than a few doors anyway. It’s just how things work in modern life in a city (as opposed to, say, the small town I grew up in) – and my point is just that bicycling around is unlikely to change this. To me it seems like a kind of “noble savage” myth, like this kind of small change can significantly reverse changes that have eroded social connections in modern urban settings.

    But yeah, if you think of knowing a city as knowing geography and saying hi to people, then cool. Nothing wrong with that, certainly.

    People keep bringing up how vital it is that cyclists have access to showers at work…

    Different post, same mistake. Some people don’t sweat much. Other people, regardless of their bloody nutrition, do. Not their fault or something. Some people can get away without a shower. Other people can’t. The most prevalent factors will be genetics and fitness level. Often it’s the people who are the most fit that start sweating soon and heavily.

    In any case, someone who is going to sweat a lot, and for whom this is going to be or not be a problem, is likely to know what situation they’re in (or will find out quickly), so it’s unlikely that anyone arguing about it is going to help. If people list that as a factor, they’re probably right at least for themselves.

    And, to be clear, I’m certainly not anti-bicyclist or something. I’m just for some understanding when it comes to evangelism. People are in a lot of different situations, and however much of an epiphany bicycling (or getting an iPad, or whatever) has been to you, please understand that people who choose something else are often doing so for a reason.

  33. turn_self_off says:

    here is a interesting folding bike that one can roll around like a wheeled suitcase once folded up. Not even a need to get thing out of the cargo area.

    http://www.gizmag.com/simple-one-bicycle-folds-to-become-a-shopping-cart/18186/

  34. turn_self_off says:

    Or how about this for the eldery or anyone worried about injuries?

    http://www.gizmag.com/swingtrike-tilting-three-wheeler/18585/

  35. m in athens says:

    Or walk. Or take the bus. I’m all for biking, but it’s not for everybody, and it’s a little annoying to hear it presented as the cure for all urban ills. It’s a great mode of transportation when, where, and for whom it works, but it ain’t everything.

  36. cservant says:

    Meanwhile in Beijing the bikes are being traded for cars.

    The working man’s home is demolished and replaced with expensive malls and unaffordable apartments.

    And what massive transit system is in place there? uh…none?

  37. nothing says:

    I agree with lostmonster, for truly urban environments not much compares to a skateboard. From Manhattan at midday to Melbourne at midnight, you can feel the pavement and the hear concrete jungle echoing to your vibrations.

    It’s a great way to get your bearings, see the sights, you can bag check a skateboard at most museums/art galleries and it’s also a relatively safe way of visiting ‘unsavoury’ parts of town (YMMV).

    Admittedly, you can go further and faster on a bike.

  38. continental says:

    Amen to short-ride bikes Cory! I’m living in Paris now where we have the Velib system which costs about 1 euro per 30 minute trajectory. It’s fantastic for getting from one arrondisment to another, and you actually get to see the city and not the dark tunnels from the metro window.

  39. Sekino says:

    It’s funny that many people get really defensive when others celebrate something they find enjoyable and positive.

    In order for people to actually get better urban accommodations, they need to make a LOT of noise and generate enough interest. Urban planning doesn’t change unless people campaign for it. So don’t take it personally when bikers/walkers/non-drivers try to get some changes done. If you love your car and are driving by choice and not because you have no other practical option, then carry on and be merry. But other people wish to have more alternatives.

  40. CountZero says:

    ‘That does make sense, though; I’ve NEVER been able to understand the resurgance of fixed-gear bikes. I just see more options when riding as better. Honestly, though, simple shifters add, what, three moving parts to a bicycle?’
    You obviously know diddly about bikes. With a derailleur there’s two shifters, the cables, two mechs and the cassette. Total weight easily a couple of pounds, plus there’s the wear and tear on all the components, keeping them lubed and shifting properly, and the cost of replacing parts when they inevitably wear out. You don’t just replace a chain, you replace chain, cassette and middle ring, and on a medium quality system that can be around £60-70 or more. You can build a very light fixie from a cheap ten-speed racer, which is why they’re so popular, the rear dropouts make it easy to adjust chain tension. I generally ride a singlespeed mountain bike. It weighs around 20lb, and is damn near maintenance free, apart from tyre pressure and keeping the chain lubed and tensioned. Total cost is tricky, ‘cos I built it up from old bits and new, but somewhere around £1500, with discs, tubeless tyres, Reynolds 853 steel frame and carbon forks and ‘bars. I’ve only had one flat with the tubeless tyres, from a large sheet metal screw, and the brakes haven’t been bled since ’07, and work perfectly still, and they and the wheels are eight years old. That bike will be still working perfectly, with a few replacements like tyres, chain and, eventually brake pads, for easily the rest of my life; I’m 56, BTW. I have three other bikes and an ’01 diesel Skoda, but that little bike will never be replaced, and it’s a perfect town/city/country bike.

  41. Anonymous says:

    @nixiebunny I’m not a car commuter (I use public transit) but I’ll answer your question “why do you choose to live 25 miles from the university you work at, when you could live 2 miles from it for the same price, in a nice neighborhood?”

    For onething, your question involves a false premise; “for the sameprice.” desireable urban neighbourhoods are never “the same price” as farther-away neighbourhoods — and any neighbourhood around a university is always desireable. It is not unusual for housing in such a ‘hood to cost two or three times as much as residential neighbourhoods farther away.

  42. jmzero says:

    It’s funny that many people get really defensive when others celebrate something they find enjoyable and positive.

    I just reread my posts in this thread, and I’d say I’ve been a jerk for little to no reason. As you suggest, there’s nothing really to argue with in the original post, no reason to get defensive. Little to none of the condescension (or whatever) that my posts seem to be banging against. Guess I imagined that.

    I think mostly that sometimes, I (and, I would imagine, others) just get in the mood to argue about something on the Internet.

    Kind of fun.

    Oh, and screw fixies!

  43. manicbassman says:

    Cory, get a folding bike… I live in a third floor flat and cart my folding bike upstairs and lock it to a deadbolt I’ve installed just outside my door…

    ps, for those whining about 7000 dollar bikes… mine cost just £110 on ebay… is a folding 26 inch wheel mountain bike and weights 18kilos…

    my daily commute is 6.5 miles each way and takes 30 minutes going there and 35 minutes coming back (uphill)…

    The only thing that’s holding a lot of people back from cycle commuting is most workplaces are not cycle friendly in that there’s no where to shower off on arrival so you are forced to dance around in a toilet trying to clean your sweaty self down with a sink of water and a wet flannel…

    storing and/or carrying a change of clothes is a real pain as well… days when I have meetings requiring more formal wear mean having to use the car as I cannot carry a suit on my bike and cycling in it is out of the question… and we haven’t got proper lockers either to keep clean stuff in

    pps… cannot tellycommute either as my work is classified and cannot be done from home… :(

  44. teapot says:

    allow them to live and travel as protected equals with the car drivers who receive the massive public subsidies on the backs of cyclists, public transit users, and pedestrians must also pay general taxes.

    ^This is the kind of rhetoric that causes the “bicycle annoyance movement”
    What, bicycles don’t use the roads? Pedestrians don’t benefit from procudts and services they use which have been transported by road?

    They recently put cycle roads in Sydney and the cyclists STILL RIDE ON THE FUCKING ROAD. Should the cops be giving these people tickets? Because I can guarantee I’d end up in court if I decided to drive on their road.

    I agree with the principle of the post, but I recommend using a small motorcycle instead. There are hundreds of places I would have never found in Tokyo had I not ridden a motorcycle. The scale of the city makes a bicycle (which I also owned and frequently rode) too limited.

    • joeposts says:

      They recently put cycle roads in Sydney and the cyclists STILL RIDE ON THE FUCKING ROAD.

      LOL, really? That is funny!

      Maybe the cycle roads don’t take people where they want to go. There was a tentative plan to install cycling roads through Toronto, but the problem is if your destination is along a major road, you still have to bike on that major road (unless we just demolish swaths of residential and commercial property!). Alleyways and paths are great for safe, out-of-the-way biking, unless you actually have somewhere to go.

      There are problems with bike lanes too, when street parking is allowed. Cars park in the bike lane, or open their doors into the bike lane, and the end result is…. people bike down the middle of the street.

      They’ve been trying “Sharrows” here too, which are hilarious. They are ‘suggested’ bike lanes – painted arrows every twenty feet or so with bike stencils instead of a proper bike lane. You’re supposed to bike over them and trust drivers to “Share The Road.” LOL. No thanks. I’d sooner trust a cop at a G20 protest. I just take up a lane until I can turn off.

      Frankly I feel safe enough along two-way roads with lots of all-way stop signs and speed bumps. More of those would be nice.

      Should the cops be giving these people tickets?

      Cyclists should get tickets if they are breaking the law. After all, driving down cycling paths and running people over would get YOU in trouble, even if it does relieve some pent-up frustration. :-)

      • teapot says:

        No… these are impressively built and decently designed bike roads. They are separate from the sidewalk, and separated from the road by a gutter that would really mess your car up if you hit it. There is no faesable way to park in them. As to their effectiveness as transport routes – I wouldn’t have any idea as I do not cycle into/through the city because Sydney drivers are incredibly inconsistent and I need my metal safety blanket.

        Here’s a great example of the roads (pedestrians and cars not on cycleway which is also devoid of bicycles)
        http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_DVexQdWYZh0/TUzjQjuqlMI/AAAAAAAAAW0/JR0qVYWI8hU/s1600/IMG00354.jpg

        Several times a week I drive along a CBD road next to which is a cycleway. Very rarely do I see bicycles in that lane, but very often I see them on the freakin’ road I am on, slowing traffic. My suspicion is that many of the cyclist want to head east at the end of the road, but the cycleway is on the west side of the road. It seems the cyclists would rather not use their dedicated cycleways which would mean they have to stop at the traffic lights (god forbid) and instead would rather hold up an entire street of traffic to save them crossing the road. Common courtesy goes both ways, you see.

        • jere7my says:

          I have a couple of potential explanations that aren’t “Cyclists are irredeemable assholes,” though being antipodal from you means I’m probably missing something.

          You say the cyclists want to turn left from a bike lane on the right. I’m not sure I follow the description, but if that’s difficult to do, it may be a poorly planned bike lane — it’s not very useful to have a bike lane from which you can’t turn onto other streets you need to access. If a cyclist has to dismount and walk their bike across the street to turn left, that’s poor design, just as if a driver had to get out of their car to press a button to change the red light to green. (I may be misunderstanding — the bike lanes in your photo look like they offer right- and left-turn lanes.)

          It looks like your government is saying the network is only half-finished, and therefore not very usable yet:

          “Critics … need to realise that we need to build it in stages. It’s a bit like building a bridge and getting halfway through and wondering why no one is using it yet,” [Lord Mayor Clover Moore] said.

          Mr Gay said “Judging by the amount of frustration from both motorists and cyclists, planning was certainly not done properly by the former Labor government.” [link]

          (Apropos of nothing, I find it delightful that your mayor is named Clover.)

          I see that there is concern over pedestrians in the bike lanes. From a forum at http://www.bicycles.net.au:

          Still, many cyclists were using them, and, worryingly, so too were many pedestrains. Now my view on this is that if dedicated bike lanes are being used as a matter of course by pedestrians they are not fit for purpose, pose a danger to everyone and so I for one will be sticking to the road.

          I had to ride at below walking pace (NOT in peak hour) due to the number of pedestrians who were walking on the path or stepping out and not looking (or looking at the car out on the road. Every time i rang my bell they turned around and gave me big dirties. [link]

          There are also cyclists who are philosophically opposed to separate bike lanes. Their argument is that moving to a bike lane on those roads that offer them will promote the idea that bikes don’t belong on roads, which means they’ll have more trouble when they need to bike on roads without the special bike lanes.

          I am not one of those cyclists — I am drooling over your bike lanes, and would use them all day every day if I could. (I also yell at cyclists who run red lights, because they make my life harder by increasing car-bike antagonism.) But I see the argument they’re making — sometimes you need to assert threatened rights to keep from losing them altogether. If bikes are legally entitled to be on most roads (as in the US), and many drivers don’t know or care that this is the case, the creation of separate bike lanes might give the impression that bikes are only permitted where the bike lanes run.

          I wouldn’t have any idea as I do not cycle into/through the city because Sydney drivers are incredibly inconsistent and I need my metal safety blanket.

          Well, I guess the obvious question is: how good can those car-proof bike lanes be if you don’t feel comfortable biking in them?

        • jere7my says:

          Here‘s another thread on bicycles.net.au that gives a very thorough run-down of the perceived problems with the bike lanes. (Apart from the things I mentioned above, there appear to be right-of-way issues — a cyclist going straight at an intersection on the road has the right of way, whereas a cyclist on the path has to yield to all traffic, including turning cars that would ordinarily have to yield.)

          • joeposts says:

            interesting – so they don’t really solve safety issues at intersections, which is the most dangerous part of an urban bike ride.

          • joeposts says:

            I find it’s much safer to approach an intersection in the middle of the lane. That way, drivers can see my intention to turn or go straight, so I’d probably be one of those annoying road-using bicyclists. Too many close calls from right-turning vehicles ignoring what’s on their right (including pedestrians). When I’m in front of them I can at least be reasonably sure they can see me, even if they choose to use their bumper as a crude battering ram.

    • jere7my says:

      They recently put cycle roads in Sydney and the cyclists STILL RIDE ON THE FUCKING ROAD.

      Do pedestrians use the bike paths as sidewalks? That’s a good disincentive for cyclists to use them around here — pedestrians walking five abreast never seem to hear bicycle bells until you’re already stopped behind them.

      If it’s still legal for cyclists to use the roads, some cyclists will still use the roads. It’s a legitimate option.

  45. Michael Smith says:

    I know my city pretty well and I reckon part of the reason is that for the first 20-something years of my life I got around entirely by bike. Not only do I know where the roads are I also know something about where the changes of level are, where the watersheds are, what condition the roads are in (and by extension, what normally uses them). In short riding a bike puts be close to by city. In the last decade or so I have gone back to full time bike commuting. Far better than being on the tram or in a car.

    Also to Zebra05 at 15; Yes you can get injured on a bike, but the men in my family develop heart disease in their mid 50′s. My Dad’s dad died of a heart attack at 58. My dad told me at the time that he wasn’t going to let it happen to him (I was seven). He survived his heart attack at 63, mainly because his girlfriend got him to hospital. Injuries are a possibility for me but a clagged circulatory system is a certainty.

  46. mcfly says:

    Love it. I’ve gotten to know and enjoy my city so much more since I started bike commuting full time instead of buying a bus pass and carpooling. And the more I cycle as a habit, the more realistic and easy it seems to just go for a bike ride. It’s awesome how little equipment you need to enjoy cycling.

    But… $7000 bikes? Who buys $7000 bikes? Other than people who are into racing or BMX or something. My commuter bike cost me $80 – I got it from a local group that rebuilds and repairs old bikes, so although my bike is ancient, it has all the new parts it needs and it was expertly rebuilt with love. And I splurged on the fanciest mountain bike they had.

    And… “why do you choose to live 25 miles from the university you work at, when you could live 2 miles from it for the same price, in a nice neighborhood?”
    #1, I work in an industrial park with no sidewalks or schools or parks or community leagues in any of the surrounding neighbourhoods. #2, the houses in the neighbourhoods near my work are run down and hideous, and usually overpriced.
    Or were you were only directing your comment towards wealthy people who live in expensive suburban neighbourhoods as opposed to gentrified urban ones? Because that doesn’t describe all, or even most people. At least not in the city where I live. YMMV.

  47. Beaver says:

    I grew up in Philly never learning how to drive there. I moved to LA and had to buy a car. I lived there for 9 years. I moved from LA to Paris recently. I have been here for a year, this is the general flow of my thoughts… side note I live on the 5th floor without an elevator.

    Holy shit public transportation is awesome!!
    Biking is awesome!!
    Walking is Awesome!!
    I don’t feel like I am in control of my travel, cars = freedom
    Ok, no it’s awesome I’ve been to 4 bars and had 12 drinks and I worry not about driving.
    Everything is so close, man I love walking
    It’s rush hour in the metro, I’ll grab a Velib and bike it. How neat
    I have to pick up some furniture… fuck I wish I had a car.
    It took me 45 minutes to get somewhere a friend in a car can go in 10…
    Holy shit public transportation is awesome!!
    These rental bikes are kind of shitty sometimes…
    Biking is awesome!!
    Walking is Awesome!!

    and on and on. My overall verdict after a year is that I’m not sure I can go back to a city without public transit like this. It’s pretty amazing. The only real downside is how anti social it seems down there underground sometimes. Everyone staring at phones with earbuds in, me included. I try to take the bus as much as I can but traffic is a bitch sometimes so I don’t chance it.

    This wednesday I am buying my own bike. Everyone assures me I can lock it up outside at night. This seems ridiculous to me. It’s going to be a nice bike. Not like ultra nice… but still. We will see.

    Culturally it’s amazing to see cars and bikes weaving around eachother in big streets without so much as a honk. In LA I used to ride from Venice to Culver City. People would honk at me for being IN THE BIKE LANE. On trash day all the residents would put their cans IN THE BIKE LANE. Someone would yell at me 3 times a week. It was terrible.

  48. sockdoll says:

    Bikes are cool, but there’s too much sitting involved – and don’t get me started on those recumbent bikes. That’s why I prefer an old-fashioned scooter. You may know them as kick scooters.

    Scooters are the standing desk of human-powered vehicles. Why risk your health by sitting when you can get the job done standing up? I had mine constructed using the latest stereolithography technology. You may know it as 3D printing.

    The design is rich in steampunk detailing, though it has been suggested that there is quite a bit of dieselpunk in there too. Quite humorous, considering that it is a human-powered vehicle, don’t you think?

  49. DataShade says:

    At the risk of being flippant: I’m pretty sure lots of people in China use bicycles and I’ve never heard that the cities there are particularly environmentally friendly or sustainable.

    Also: I’ve been promoted three or four times and survived a buyout at my employer, and I’ve never had to pack all my belongings or hire a moving company to take one of the new jobs I’ve been offered – and I’ve never been able to move even from one rented apartment to another in less than a week or two, but I suppose the costs for either, in terms of time, cash, or stress, pale in comparison to the costs for medical treatment for your arms after wrenching your shoulders out of your sockets patting yourself on the back

  50. swankgd says:

    “And maybe, just maybe, car-free living will eventually be seen not as restrictive, but as a door to newfound freedom. ”

    THIS!

    When I started biking regularly, I couldn’t believe how much LESS restricted I felt. Obviously I can travel further and faster in my car, but until I gave myself the freedom of knowing I had an alternate, serviceable, reliable mode of transportation, it never occurred to me how trapped I’d felt by relying so completely on my car. Suddenly there were whole new experiences to be had. Suddenly the specter of the day my car gave out on me leaving me stranded no longer hung over my head. Biking (and, for that matter, I started taking the bus and trains whenever I could…in Southern California no less!) freed me, without question.

  51. sixdays says:

    @anon #77

    Also can you imagine how many showers employers would need to provide is everyone cycled? (Though I guess they could just build them where the car park used to be :) )

    Great Idea!
    http://www.pushbikeparking.com/green-pod

  52. hadlock says:

    You can’t bicycle to work in the largest of the New Cities (Dallas, Phoenix, etc) nine months out of the year.

  53. Anonymous says:

    Great article!

    I now live in a city & country where the bike (& public transport) are the main forms of transport. The difference in my quality of living now riding a €50 bike compared to the BMW I used to drive cannot be put into words.

  54. Neon Tooth says:

    This was a fantastic article. You can really see the failures of infrastructure and city planning when you commute every day and bike for your errands.

    It’s so tiresome that there can never be a piece about cycling without the usually anti-bike trolling:

    “$7,000 bike”, try more like $100 for something that’ll work.

    The false choices between cycling/pedestrian friendly planning and public transportation. You can obviously have both, and that’s what I’d say most cyclists would like. Most bikers I know here also use pubic trans, like myself.

    Ungh.

  55. Anonymous says:

    I love how biking advocates all assume…

    1. Everyone is under 60
    2. Everyone lives in places that don’t get winters
    3. No one is handicapped or has a physical issue that interferes with biking
    4. Everyone has a job that is within biking range and can just pack up and move closer to work. Where I live I could never afford that.
    5. Everyone has a job where they can show up in the morning all sweaty or can even lock their bike up

    • Anonymous says:

      I love how biking advocates all assume…

      1. Everyone is under 60
      2. Everyone lives in places that don’t get winters
      3. No one is handicapped or has a physical issue that interferes with biking
      4. Everyone has a job that is within biking range and can just pack up and move closer to work. Where I live I could never afford that.
      5. Everyone has a job where they can show up in the morning all sweaty or can even lock their bike up

      1. Riding a bike does not have to be physically challenging. Most people are more than capable of riding a bike well past the age of 60. Furthermore, doing exercise helps fight off the effects of aging. Being sedentary is the worst thing to do when you’re old.

      2. You can ride a bike in winter. I live in Boston and do it. Lots of people here do it. Just wear winter clothing.

      3. I don’t think anyone is making this assumption. If you have a physical handicap that prevents you from biking, you can’t bike.

      4. There are low-income communities almost everywhere. Of course rural areas make biking to work impractical because of the distance involved. Don’t forget the money you save. It is significant. You don’t have to buy gas, you don’t have to pay for parking, you don’t have to pay for car insurance, and regular maintenance is WAY less expensive.

      5. Ride at a slower, more relaxed pace and you won’t break a sweat. I arrive at work as fresh as when I left home. You can lock up a bike almost anywhere. How removed from civilization are you? If you’re really desperate you can lock your bike to itself or bring it inside.

    • T Nielsen Hayden says:

      Replying to Anon @38:

      I love how biking advocates all assume…

      1. Everyone is under 60 2. Everyone lives in places that don’t get winters 3. No one is handicapped or has a physical issue that interferes with biking 4. Everyone has a job that is within biking range and can just pack up and move closer to work. Where I live I could never afford that. 5. Everyone has a job where they can show up in the morning all sweaty or can even lock their bike up

      This is such bllsht. You see the same set of dumb accusations being made any time a site has a discussion of bicycling, even though no one in the discussion has made those assumptions or stated those assertions. Anon pulled them straight out of his hat.

      In fact, when you look at the actual thread that’s actually on this page, the biggest single source of unfounded assumptions and untrue assertions in it is Anon and his ilk. They’re the ones doing the Dance of Unearned Moral Superiority.

      Shall I take his objections in order?

      1. I’m only a few years short of 60.

      2. The place where I live (Brooklyn, NY) gets cold, snowy winters and hot, humid summers. It also has scary traffic, steep bridges, patches of exciting and unusual pavement (some of them dating from the 19th Century), and spots you can only get through by carrying your bicycle up and down stairs.

      3. I have several physical disabilities that interfere with bicycling, but I do it anyway. I just do it slowly. If you ever see a photo of a gray-haired woman with her cane strapped to her back, bringing up the rear of the Tour de Brooklyn, that’s me. My omafiets doesn’t have 24-speed gearing because I’m rich; it has it because more gears mean easier riding for someone with disabilities.

      4. My office would be within bicycling distance for some people, but not for me. There’s no way I could afford to move close to it — it’s in the Flatiron Building in Manhattan. The best I can manage is an apartment close to a subway line that connects with it, and a job that lets me work at home a lot of days.

      5. There is now bicycle parking in the basement of the Flatiron. The tenants had to push hard to get it. During the years it took to achieve that, my husband had two stoutly-chained-up bicycles stolen from the bike racks directly in front of the building.

      In spite of all that, we think bicycling is great. It’s not our only mode of transportation, and it doesn’t solve every problem of urban life, and for some people it’s not an option at all; but for a lot of us it’s a good thing. The rest of you can enjoy us not clogging the streets with additional cars.

      So neener.

      I think the weird hostility that crops up in all online discussions of cycling comes from people who feel like they’ve been forced to live in distant suburbs and drive cars. They’re right. They have been. It’s a burden that constantly drains time and money from their lives. Thing is, bicyclists aren’t the ones who did it to them.

      Here are some missing realizations: the configurations and traffic patterns of our cities are not something that just happened. They’re the result of specific deals, decisions, and policies. And things could be different. Other decisions could be made. Other policies could be in force.

      The reality is that things are going to be change, whether or not you’re paying attention, whether or not you have a say in the process. The world is always changing, and the end of peak oil is a bigger change than most. Why not set aside the pointless hostility, and instead talk about what can be changed, and which changes we want?

    • karianne says:

      Have you ever heard of Copenhagen?

    • Jim Rizzo says:

      YES!! Especially your last point. I don’t have a shower at work. I don’t even really have a place to change clothes unless I do it in a public bathroom (it’s a dirty bathroom). I live a mile from my office. When the humidity reaches 80% and the temps are 75 or higher, I sweat. A lot. Even if I walk to work, I have the sweating issue in the summer. Biking in the winter is not an option. I live in a city that gets snow and (more likely) ice. Biking in the spring is tough because the sides of the streets are covered in sand until the city decides to sweep.

      By the way… here’s a response to the main article… walking gives you an even better perspective than biking.

  56. Kimmo says:

    Cory, you can get a road bike for about $2.5k that weighs like 8kg or even less… you can get a second-hand one around 10kg for like $600. Carrying such a bike up six flights of stairs is a breeze with the right technique.

    To portage, you stick your right arm through the front triangle and rest the top tube on your shoulder, and hold the front rim and downtube with your right hand. It may seem awkward at first, but once you’re used to it, it’s dead easy to swing the bike around in such a way that you can walk almost anywhere without smacking it into stuff. I live up a couple of flights, and I think nothing of carrying my 9.5kg road bike up and down the stairs in order to ride the 50m around the corner to the milk bar instead of walking.

    And if you hang it from a hook by the front wheel, a road bike can take up very little space… odds are you have a space somewhere that’s hard to use for anything else, like the corner of a hallway or something.

  57. adralien says:

    My wife and I recently took the train from Vancouver to Portland with our bikes… super bike friendly city with a few really practical bike ideas… they post the distance/time to common destinations on the bike routes! Better than Vancouver’s “Midway” or “Adanac” signs which require a map.

    We managed to have a hotel (kennedy school) further out from the city center than we could have without bikes, and also ride up through the hills to Washington park and ogle all the expensive houses (and the non existent 742 Evergreen Terrace), all on bike routes and pretty much immune to rush hour.

    Being the Pacific North-West, raingear was essential, but what the hell, stop, have a weird beer and warm up!

    • Daneel says:

      If you were staying at the Kennedy School you could definitely get a good beer. :-)

      I miss McMenanmins’ Terminator Stout.

  58. Anonymous says:

    I’ll one-up you: try running everywhere in the city.

    There’s a huge thrill to crossing your entire city (in my case, Montreal) on foot, step by step. You get a real sense of traffic flow, quality of infrastructure, distances, and you get to experience ‘transition zones’ between neighborhoods.

    Mind you, as other posters have pointed out, this also works with bikes, skateboards, walking… Ultimately, with anything that you have to power yourself, versus petrol-powered vehicles meant to get you fast from point A to B.

  59. israel says:

    I agree riding a bike is a great way to get to know a city. I live in Kansas City, and it’s really easy to see how partitioned the city is when you bike around it.

    I’d like for more people to bike as transportation (and more and more people are, at least in urban areas around here), but the fact is it takes effort. People aren’t used to locomotion = sweat.

    Also if someone decides biking to work is a good idea, but they live someplace that makes it difficult, it’s unlikely they’ll try to sell their house and move all their posessions to make it happen. I got lucky that I was looking to relocate whilst biking was on my mind, so I found a place accordingly.

    Thanks for the post Cory.

  60. Anonymous says:

    I am an active person who lives downtown in a West Coast city. I have a bicycle and a bus pass. I cannot /wait/ until I can afford to drive again. I take the bus because my coworkers prefer I don’t show up in the morning sweaty and skanky. But I don’t care for the bus, either. I would like to have at least some part of my day that doesn’t include listening to three other peoples’ cell conversations and another’s choice of music (which obviously must be loud enough for everyone to hear) while getting hit up for smokes from one side and money from the other.

    Even that stuff aside, I might choose to take the bus if my life were so boring as to be work-home work-home. But my obligations involve me around the city. Public transport (we have buses and trolleys) would be nice if it were just a half hour to work and a half hour back. But for many active folks, that doesn’t work. Even the best public transport fails when you’ve got days that (like mine) look like home-school-work-volunteer group-shopping-home. Or home-athletics-work-girlfriend-home. Every time I add an errand seems to add another hour in transport time. I have spent more than one day with over seven hours clocked in on public transport. With a car that would be less than a quarter of that. On my bike I couldn’t do it at all.

    Maybe it is my lifestyle, then. I have a bike. Maybe the taxes should be raised to subsidize me a loft uptown, a no-tools-nor-physicality job a couple blocks away, and my choice of independent coffeehouses in between. Then I could really get to know my city. (Except, wait. You said my city, not my neighborhood. Because I’ve had a car in a previous, wealthier life, I’d bet I know more of my /city/ better than I ever could have learned with a fixie and a pair of skinny jeans.)

    • Neon Tooth says:

      But I don’t care for the bus, either. I would like to have at least some part of my day that doesn’t include listening to three other peoples’ cell conversations and another’s choice of music (which obviously must be loud enough for everyone to hear) while getting hit up for smokes from one side and money from the other.

      After reading your self centered post, I get the sense that IRL people are more annoyed by you, than vice versa, but I’ll still give you a free bit of advice for this problem that most commuters have managed to figure out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod

  61. Pturkk says:

    I’ve been riding my Raleigh to work for 10 years- abt 1.5 mi (uphill each way.) A print shop; and we do some gratis work for the local cops. Well anyway this 1 cop after hearing I ride in every day asked me how often I’ve been “pulled over” by them. I replied never, why? “Well if we see an adult riding thru town we think that chances are that you lost your license for a DWI /DUI.” Basically they think were drunks or druggies. Any way this backward town of Fanwood NJ’s main income is ticketing drivers. Damn fishdicks!

  62. samw says:

    with apologies to Dorothy Parker and poetry lovers

    Walking tires you;
    Buses are crap;
    The Tube perspires you
    While minding that gap;
    Cars stick in jams
    Boil cabbie in kettle;
    Cycling sculpts gams
    You might as well pedal.

  63. Alvis says:

    I don’t get why the pro-bicycle crowd isn’t more into motorcycles.

    You get all the awareness-of-the-world-around-you goodness you miss out on in a car, can go on highways when you have to, and you can find a decent <10yo 250cc model for under $1500.

    And way moreso than car drivers or bicyclists, motorcycle enthusiasts are OG makers.

    • jere7my says:

      I don’t get why the pro-bicycle crowd isn’t more into motorcycles.

      Apart from the perfect simplicity of bicycles — I can fix most common problems by myself at the side of the road, which is not true for motorcycles — and the fact that I like getting exercise with my commute, what I miss out on with powered transit is the knowledge that all of my momentum is coming from me. On a bike, when I arrive at my destination I know that every centimeter of space I crossed was crossed under my own power. “It” isn’t getting me somewhere; “I” am getting me somewhere.

    • Kieran O'Neill says:

      I think it’s that bicycles are lower maintenance due to fewer working parts (especially if it’s a fixie, where that’s the philosophy). Also, although motorcycles are much less polluting than cars, they still generate some pollution (air and noise) while operated, which bicycles do not.

      • Alvis says:

        Interesting; I always assumed BB readers prefered things that encouraged them to get their hands dirty, rather than minimal-effort-required solutions. I mean, if that’s what this is about, wouldn’t a new car under warranty be preferable to a bicycle?

        That does make sense, though; I’ve NEVER been able to understand the resurgance of fixed-gear bikes. I just see more options when riding as better. Honestly, though, simple shifters add, what, three moving parts to a bicycle?

        And yes, motorcycles do pollute and some assholes modify them to be as noisy as legally possible. I think I see the appeal of bicycling more about the experience of riding than the environmental aspect of it (at least, that’s why I ride a bicycle when I do). Motorcycles that get 80MPG and are as quiet as a car aren’t hard to come by.

        • Kieran O'Neill says:

          Ah crap – tapped the enter key by mistake.

          Yeah, each mode has its own benefits. Some are more sustainable (both economically and ecologically) than others. Cars, and SUVs especially, are one of those that are unlikely to persist much longer at the level of usage that they are at now. Motorcycles are a good step down from that. Public transit is as well. Walking and cycling are probably the best, though.

  64. Alvis says:

    Comment code doesn’t like less-than symbols (you know, you can scrub out HTML without ruining plain text)

    I was saying, and you can find a decent… less-than-10-year-old 250cc bike for under $1500.

  65. jmzero says:

    Sez who? One of my favorite weekend recreations is finding a green splotch on Google Maps, plotting a route to it, and spending a few hours getting to and from a park I haven’t been to before.

    My point was that everyone was different. This thing you talk about? Zero appeal to me. Even when I was most into biking, if I was going to spend a couple hours biking it would not be down random streets to get to a park. I’d put the bikes on the car, and then go somewhere it’s interesting to bike (somewhere with hills, preferably with some built out biking terrain) and bike there. You’re not wrong or something, but if I had to wager, I’d guess most bikers haven’t seen many neighborhoods that aren’t near their house or on the way to somewhere they go often.

    But my main point, in any case, was that you don’t get to know a city by biking or walking or anything-ing through it. Cities are made of people (not streets or sidewalks or cafes) and you don’t know people until you meet them, until you see people before they get all dressed up to go to Walmart. Until you see people who don’t go out, who live 4 generations to a house, and houses where the door is answered by 8 dogs and a suspicious young man in a wife-beater. Until you notice that one side-street is all the same extended family of Phillipinos. That it’s all single mothers in this neighborhood, and they all know each other and they all hate Sheila (hate strong enough to share that with strangers).

    …but here in Boston congestion is so terrible that I can easily outpace the buses and sometimes outpace the cars

    Well.. yeah. You live in Boston. Eastern US has some especially horrible cities for driving a car.

    I live in Edmonton, Alberta. I take a freeway to work on the outskirts of town (I bought my house so I’d have a short commute) and it takes me about 8 minutes by car (and I park free right beside my office). It’d take more than a half hour to bike, even if I really cranked, because a bike doesn’t go 110km/h. There’s also extra time costs with biking, especially in cold weather.

    Maybe this is my point (and not AT YOU or something, just in general): don’t assume others aren’t making the same choice as you because they haven’t considered the possibilities. There’s lots of people who are attempting to reason out the best answer with lists of pros and cons. Those pros and cons are going to vary WILDLY for people, so when others have picked a different answer it doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

    • jere7my says:

      My point was that everyone was different.

      Maybe that was your point, but you opened your comment with “You don’t get to know a city on a bike.” Maybe you should’ve said “I never got to know a city on a bike”…but then you repeat it:

      …you don’t get to know a city by biking or walking or anything-ing through it. Cities are made of people (not streets or sidewalks or cafes) and you don’t know people until you meet them

      I have two replies to that: 1) I don’t know how it works in Canada, but here in Boston people would prefer you not knock on their doors without a damn good reason. Your plan for getting to know a city is not open to most people. That said, I’ve met more people on my bike than I would in a car. (I do meet people on pubtrans, occasionally, but most people on buses and the T are all folded in on themselves with an iPod or a newspaper.) On a bike, I can stop and tell someone his garden is beautiful, or chat with the crowd that forms as I’m trying to photograph a one-eyed snapping turtle. 2) There are multiple ways to know a city. There is value in getting to know the physical structure of a city. Personal interaction is also valuable, of course, but the original article was talking about becoming a thoughtful urbanist — someone who is mindful about the ways the structure of cities affects the way we live in them — and for that, biking is one of the best ways to learn.

      I get that you don’t want anybody telling you you’re wrong for not biking, and that you feel you’ve been put on the defensive. But you’re trying to tell cyclists how they do and do not ride their bikes, from the perspective of someone who does a very particular kind of biking. That seems equally bad.

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