03 July, 2007


Please pardon my going a bit off topic again, but I've been thinking about the commute. You see, I'm a bit of a news addict and often skim the online editions of a couple of dozen foreign newspapers and blogs each morning; it's important to have a balanced worldview. A couple of things have jumped out at me these past couple of days; one is obvious; the other is the number of articles about commuting on bikes and about city bike programs. This is a topic that really seems to be on the public's mind.

The Catalan newspaper El Periódico has an article comparing public bike rental programs in Lyons and Barcelona. Be sure to click on the graphic. If you prefer your news in English, autobloggreen.com has a nice summery of the piece. I find this sort of bicycle program fascinating and can't wait to use the new rental bikes next time I'm in Paris.

I'm not sure if this piece in USA Today about an "Islamic Bicycle" (USA Today is a rag I rarely read) is a distasteful joke, or serious. But it tells of an Iranian bike designed to preserve a women's modesty. Here's a quote:

The Islamic Republic of Iran has devised an "Islamic bicycle." This new vehicle comes fully equipped with a cabin to conceal parts of a female cyclist's body.

The new technology is less about the bike and more about suppressing women. Iran, unlike Saudi Arabia, allows women to drive cars. In fact, Iran's top race car driver, Laleh Seddigh, is a woman. Women also ride motorcycles, although they must be accompanied by a man (and must sit behind him).

But Iran forbids women from riding bicycles (thus, the newly designed bike). The belief is that sexuality is easily stimulated in both sexes. The country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced in 1999 that "women must avoid anything that attracts strangers, so riding bicycles or motorcycles by women in public places causes corruption and is thus forbidden."

Wired has just reviewed the Bridy folding bike. Now I want one.

Treehugger has a post about the success of bike travel in Berlin.

Several papers have had articles about Mexico City's biking mayor and his pro-bike initiatives. Here is one from Sand Diego.

Monocle, a really superb magazine, had a bicycle wheel on it's last cover and featured "A global survey of bicycle culture and and commerce". The newest issue features a survey of the most livable cities and bicycle infrastructure features prominently. Here's the list:

Monocle's Top Ten livable cities
1. Munich
2. Copenhagen
3. Zürich
4. Tokyo
5. Vienna
6. Helsinki
7. Sydney
8. Stockholm
9. Honolulu
10. Madrid

Finally, how about this short piece about a plan to use more cargo bikes in the Netherlands.


Unknown said...

A note to VO blog fans:

This morning I challenged Chris to somehow link a current major news story to VO's mission.

Chapeau, Chris. It took me a minute but I finally got it.


Anonymous said...

Please expand a bit on your conclusion that Monocle is a superb magazine.

Having read the first and just last night the second edition. While the paper wieght, texture and format is certainly attractive, the content (in terms of journalism and depth) seems right in line with current trends of short-attention-span, technology as fashion, and above all sell products, mainstream magazines.

The first edition's profiles of bicycle cities and bike builders was neat but not too ambitious and didn't live up to expectations built on the cover photo!


Velo Orange said...

Perhaps I overstated about Monocle. But with the American press ignoring any story not directly related to US interests it is refreshing to see a magazine with a broader scope. Monocle may not publish in-depth stories, and there is the consumerist slant (British rags outdo even US publications in this), but it offers a taste of stories we might not otherwise encounter.

Anonymous said...

One common denominator for these cities, other than bicycles, seems to be the cost of living. They tend to be cities where it's probably really hard to get by on a blue collar salary. Maybe that contributes to the necessity for bicycles. This is not meant to be a value judgement or political statement, just an observation.

Anonymous said...

What about a VO online magazine?

Nothing too technical, not to replace Bicycle Quarterly rather something more cultural that might become available in hardcopy if enough interest is expressed and subscribers pony-up.

Something edited (at least spell-checked with grammar managed to acceptable) as opposed to the uncontrolled ramblings of most blogs.

Your interest in writing combined with your passion for excellence in bicycles for those who enjoy them as tools for quality of life and your attention to detail may be just what's needed to fill the void.

Your penchant for "off-topic" pieces of late may indicate a latent goal?


Anonymous said...

Or boredom with bicycles 18 hours a day?

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised to see Honolulu at #9 - maybe it's proximity to beaches/ other islands/rain forest? I've heard nothing but bad news regarding the city itself...

Unknown said...


But Berlin, featured in the Treehugger article is one of Europe's more affordable large cities.

Like Chicago, Berlin sprawls and is prone to cold weather, probably why smaller, and infinitely more charming Munchen was in the list and Berlin not.

Still, it is nice to see that most of the cities on the list are in temperate zones.

Not surprised to see Tokyo so high on the list. I spent a year studying there in the late '80s. My first morning walking around my quarters I was really struck how many people were riding on lovely little bikes.

Now if only they could convince their government to ban whale killing and encourage cement workers to stop using fresh cut trees for forms.

Anonymous said...

couple of things:

The Barcelona/Lyon public bicycle story is quite interesting. There's a great deal of smack-talking (reported) by the Lyonnais about their superior public bicycle system. That's all very well and good, but the Barcelona city government says their system was offered at half the price. That was likely the dealmaker. Also, while these are not bikes for weight-weenies, I'm guessing that the dozen kilos of weight savings don't hurt, either.

Second: I'll contest your assertion that British rags "outdo even US publications" in consumerist slant. Take the two leading bike rags on either side of the pond: over here, Bicycling is ads from cover to cover, and not really all that much in useful content. CyclingPlus in the UK is by far the most complete general-interest bike mag I ever got a chance to read: something there for tourists, commuters, racers, followers of the sport--everyone. The reviews are fair and sober. It's a magazine for people who use bicycles.

Anonymous said...

Bruno, are we reading the same Monocle? Like you, I do have some misgivings about the amount of fashion and "bling", for lack of a better term, but I do think that you are off base to suggest that it is light-weight ("...in line with current trends of short-attention span, technology as fashion, and above all sell products, mainstream magazines.")

How you make this claim, especially about the first edition, is somewhat beyond belief. Take the cover story, about the Japanese Self-Defence Force, specifically, and defence priorities and policy throughout Asia, more generally. I challenge you to find an article anywhere, even in the specialist niche, that contains as much useful and accurate information as reported in the story. You certainly won't find it in what passes for "news" magazines in the US, nor will you find in publications such as The Economist, nor will you find it in publications such as Foreign Policy.

Perhaps defence isn't your bag. Fair enough. The shorter articles in the Briefing section are better, I believe, than comparison information found in The Economist, long considered a "must read" for news junkies.

Yes, the amount of big-buck, high-sell, brand name advertising can be a bit much, but the reporting throughout the first issue is top-notch. To use yet another example, the story on how - and, more importantly, why - China is building and re-building Africa as a loss-leader is an important story, well written and reported...and not found anywhere else.

I understand what Tyler Brûlé, the editor of Monocle, is trying to do, and I applaud him for it. I don't like the aggravating advertising and I am not a fan of the fad of "brand creation". Still, these points aside, Monocle is trying to establish itself as an imprint that is intelligent, stylish, and hip, and one that understands that how humans interact with their envrionment is of key importance.

That may not be everyone's cuppa, and it may not be yours. As I said earlier, that is fair enough. However, I do think your dismissal of it as another light-weight publication for the ADD generation is wide of the mark.

I hope that it succeeds, and to that end have decided to supoprt it with a subscription.

Neil, I don't know what constitutes a blue-collar salary where you live, but Tokyo is a huge sprawling city, and not every worker is a salary man or an OG (office girl). Rent is outrageous in Tokyo (and almost everywhere in Japan), but for those of us who live and work here, who are paid in Yen, and who keep and use our money in the country, it is not so outrageous.

As for my fair city, I am happy to say that Monocle passed it by. The last thing I want is my little slice of paradise spoiled by the invading hoi polloi...


Anonymous said...


My point is that it's too early to call Monocle superb. By my standard, a $10 magazine ought to have more substantial feature stories and play less to fashion (I recognize that business requires fashion).

Back to bikes: the snippets of the bicycle builders were hardly more than the type of blurb you'd find in the front of Bicycling or in the Gear sections of the Outdoors/travel types magazines.

I think Monocle's professed goals are admirable and I am impressed with the format and quality of the physical product. For the time being, I reserve judgment beyond what I've already asserted: more substance - less style at the expense of substance for $10.

I am also impressed with your powerful and comprehensive defense of Monocle. If I were more of a cynic, I might think you work in the marketing department.

Keep up the good work.

Three cheers for VO.


Anonymous said...

Bruno, you make me blush... Thankfully, neither of us are that cynical. Employed by Monocle? (sigh...) No, I teach teenage girls - a challenge of a different order of magnitude!


Steve Walsh said...

I live in Sydney and it is a great place. But it's a lousy place to ride a bike.