12 October, 2007

Cities and Bikes

I've noticed these articles in the past few days that you might find interesting.

The first is from the online edition of Wired. It's entitled 'City Bike' Hot New Category at Bicycle Industry Show. The article identifies hotbeds of urban cycling and tries to convince us that riding a bike in a city is a very new and suddenly hip phenomena. As for Interbike, this about sums it up:

At Interbike 2007, the bicycle industry's giant annual trade show, the shift toward the urban rider is loudly evident. Fancy road and mountain bikes are clearly no longer king of the roost -- or road. It's the scads of fixed-gear, town, single-speed and other urban bicycles that are drawing the crowds.

The rise of the urban biker is reflected in Specialized's 2008 catalog, which lists 34 different models of city bike to choose from.

As someone who loves food I've long followed and tried to participate in the Slow Food movment. A related Slow Cities movement has also captured the imagination of many and it is nicely summarized in this article in Spiegel. Be sure to click through the lovely photos.

Supporters of Italy's "Slow City" movement are trying to develop liveable cities, banning cars from city centers and blocking McDonald's branches and supermarkets. The movement is spreading across Europe and is now taking off in Asia.

Today there are almost 60 certified slow cities in Europe and two in Australia. Here are the Movement's goals:

Slow Cities are cities which:
1- implement an environmental policy designed to maintain and develop the characteristics of their surrounding area and urban fabric, placing the onus on recovery and reuse techniques
2- implement an infrastructural policy which is functional for the improvement, not the occupation, of the land
3- promote the use of technologies to improve the quality of the environment and the urban fabric
4- encourage the production and use of foodstuffs produced using natural, eco-compatible techniques, excluding transgenic products, and setting up, where necessary, presidia to safeguard and develop typical products currently in difficulty, in close collaboration with the Slow Food Ark project and wine and food Presidia
5- safeguard autocthonous production, rooted in culture and tradition, which contributes to the typification of an area, maintaining its modes and mores and promoting preferential occasions and spaces for direct contacts between consumers and quality producers and purveyors
6- promote the quality of hospitality as a real bond with the local community and its specific features, removing the physical and cultural obstacles which may jeopardize the complete, widespread use of a city's resources
7- promote awareness among all citizens, and not only among inside operators, that they live in a Slow City, with special attention to the of young people and schools through the systematic introduction of taste education.

From the (Montreal) Gazette we have this story about Montreal's plans to set up North America's first widespread bike sharing program. It'll be based, of course, on the very successful program in Paris.

The first city-issue self-serve bikes are to appear at specially designed outdoor stations in fall 2008. By autumn 2009, it's expected 2,400 bikes will be available for as little as $1 per half-hour, at 300 stations around central neighbourhoods.

The idea is to encourage Montrealers and tourists to use the public bicycles instead of cars for short, inner-city trips. Users will be able to pick up a bike at one station, use it, then drop it off at any station of their choice.

San Francisco is considering a similar plan reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

More than a dozen European cities have government-sponsored programs in which bikes are provided for people to share. Last month, Paris started the most ambitious program yet, providing more than 10,000 bikes at 750 stations and expecting that the program will be double in size by year's end.

Now, hilly San Francisco is gearing up for a program of its own. A proposed city contract with Clear Channel Outdoor Inc. that gives the company advertising rights on transit shelters also would require the company to set up a bike-sharing program if the city opts for one. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the contract this month.

The cost to use such a program would be free or nominal, San Francisco leaders say, pointing to the Paris project as a possible model.

We'd better speed up work on those production VO city bikes. Or should I have a nice slow lunch first?


Anonymous said...

Nice photo. Where is that?


Alan said...

I'd have lunch first, but that's the sort of guy I am.

Velo Orange said...

Bruno, I think I took that photo in Beynac in the Dordogne. BTW, would you happen to be the same Bruno who worked at Jitensha Studio?

Anonymous said...

Yup, that is Beynac. I was standing in that exact spot at the end of this past July. That village also has the prettiest view of the Dordogne river.
Interestingly enough, I would think it near impossible to ride a bike there - the entire village is comprised of narrow cobbled streets - all so steep that is was tiring just walking up them.

mpetry912 said...

This is the most important trend in the industry - getting more people on bikes, replacing cars, for their daily transportation.

There's a bike shop in Bellevue that just moved into a very fancy 4 story building, chock full of the latest gear - and it is a totally intimidating place! It sends the message that if you are not rich, skinny and fit, you don't belong here - This drives customers away!

Too much of the industry is focused on another carbon fiber doodad or ultra-tech fabric jersey spewed out by a factory in China - but real quality gear that is useable by real people in the real world is the best hope for the sport in my view.

Unknown said...

Chris, another great post which really resonate with me. I was recently at the hardly strictly bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco (http://www.strictlybluegrass.com/) and I was struck (pleasantly) with how many concert-goers took their bikes to the shows. San Francisco Bike Coalition had free valet parking at the site (it often does at decent-size public events) and there are piles and piles of bicycles oozing out of every railings, thin trees and fences. When the concert was over, there was a long (but moving) line of cyclists riding their bikes out of the park into the surrounding neighborhoods and beyond. Sun was setting on a gorgeous (but typical) Bay Area evening and it was beautiful!

after my travels in the Northwest this summer, I was ready to bequeath Portland as the most bike-friendly city I have visited, but recently I am glad that my hometown is not too shabby either. Here is a blog entry that talks about another community effort to increase bike-commuting population:


Anonymous said...

I don't know about the "slow city" thing. I know it means well, and I'm sure "slow" does not have the same usage around the world as in the US, but it makes me think... "pardon my friend, he's a little slow"

How about just Sane City. They don't even have to be slow. Just sane.


Anonymous said...


I am not the same Bruno.

As for "City Bikes" I discovered a Bianchi Advantage mixte put in a front yard last weekend with a FREE sign taped to it's saddle.

It is a very nice steel lugged frame w/o a lugged fork. Cantilever brakes with a pulley mounted to the stem and another mounted to the seat post.

Has anybody got an idea on its vintage? I haven't been able to find much on the web.


Anonymous said...

Portland is also considering a bike sharing program. http://bikeportland.org/2007/02/14/portland-plans-for-bike-sharing-system/

Anonymous said...

"As someone who loves food I've long followed and tried to participate in the Slow Food movement."

American dining often means quantity over quality (three normal portions for one diner eaten in under twenty minutes is typical) - that and also being able to take home a "doggy bag".

I recommend Petrini's "Slow Food Nation".

I have many signed cookbooks - one of the perks of having worked in food service for so many years around some well-known chefs and food writers, half of whom can eat faster that 9/10's of their customers.

Mike vw said...

The trend shouldn't be a suprise... it's a backlash against the egotistical and spendthrift idiotic trends in cycling.

Give bikes back to the people. Let them be pieces of pride, not symbols of showman consumerism.

I think not making fun of the hipster on the track bike is the new making fun of the hipster on the track bike.

Anonymous said...

slow food, cities, etc is a nice idea but, like Jim Kunstler says, all the crap we've built since the end of WWII is built to serve cars, not people. These movements will work in Europe because the old cities are mostly intact, but most of what's in the US was built within the last fifty years, with easy motoring in mind. It will be very difficult to shift both the physical structures and American's attitudes about rolling around in gasoline wheelchairs.


Unknown said...

The hipster on a track bike is a subject unto itself isn't it? Knackered, are you saying it's more insulting to ignore the hipster on the track bike than it is to make fun of him/her? It's difficult to say what will become of these hipsters on track bikes. Will they fade into oblivion when it's no longer stylish?

Yann G.S. said...

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Yann G.S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Getting people on bikes as transportation is indeed the goal. I think the way to do that is to give people inexpensive, well-designed, COOL purpose build city bikes. Gary Fisher is on the right track with his upcoming Simple City bikes, especially the porteur. There will always be a market for handmade beauties like ANT and VO, but cheap and easy to find are good, too. I've seen the Civia city bikes, and while they're well-thought-out, they are way too expensive. $1900 singlespeeds have very few potential buyers. Keep the price tag under $1000 and preferably under $700 and you have a better chance of selling. I remember when Trek introduced the L200. I also remember when bike shops were stuck with them for years.

Anonymous said...

The Gary Fisher bike is indeed very well on the right track. I think the trim detail on the rack is really tacky but it will probably appeal to the GP. Otherwise it's a clean and, well, simple looking bike - one of the best looking attempts at a US production "townie" yet. And I might just have to purchase one of those chainguards from a Trek dealer for my wife's mixte - svelte!

David said...

Good discussion here. At first I was very excited about the Civia brand, but really, just how much is it improving over the crosscheck? And the carbon fork? Huh? It's a commuter for people who have a $5k carbon bike to ride on the weekend. Which is fine, but it ain't "for the people." Thanks for the heads-up on Fisher line, I hadn't seen it elsewhere.

For Bruno: you're probably looking at something from the early- or mid-80s. It's a keeper for sure--you're a lucky guy.

Anonymous said...

Start the Slow Bikes Movement.
Go-fast bikes aren't so useful.

And the Schwinn Coffee/Cream bike is less than $400. Add baskets/racks and lights and new saddle and you'll still be under $600.

That model is not in their 2008 World City/Commuter category, but in the Cruisers section.

Seems to be a better fit in City/Commuter even if style-wise it is retrograde.

I think that's stupid marketing. But I'm not in sales and promotion.

Coming in at under $400 for a sturdy, useful, and reasonably light bike is important if you want "normals" to ride. At least more folks are considering it these days.

Velo-Oranges are WAY sweeter and purchase of quality goods is almost always a better value over time.

But you know that.

Anonymous said...

as tu gouté au foie gras, rillette de canard et alcool de noix à beynac.
Le dordogne est un merveilleux pays, comme toute la france.

Bonne routr