Days to be Savored

When it comes to the bike life, there are days to be savored and days to be endured.  Which is which depends on your perspective more than anything.

I woke up this morning to temperatures in the low 40s and steady rain…the kind that’s going to hang around all day.  I checked out the forecast and the radar. It looked like a hurricane was spinning over Ogden. The mountains were getting snow.  I checked the rain gauge.  Three inches with more on the way?  Yep, definitely a day to be savored.

Hmmm

Hmmm

I can ride to the clouds.  How do you top that?

I can ride to the clouds. How do you top that?

I’m not kidding.  I got to get muddy.  I didn’t have anywhere I needed to go but I’ve been putting in some serious miles for the last little while and the thought of not riding at all was something that simply was not going to happen. so I found the base layer, hat and gloves and suited up.  No, none of it helped.  It was teeth chattering freezing.  It was raw.  Man, it was fun.  In case you’re wondering, fun is what it’s all about.

There’s this story about what’s possible on a bicycle that has stuck with me all these years.  It’s 100% true.  I remember it as if it was yesterday.  Jan and I had just moved to Minnesota. It was the start of our first winter there.  We’d been warned about Minnesota winters and sure enough, it was nasty.  I’d driven into St. Paul’s Midway from our rented townhome in suburban Woodbury.  The plows had been out but it was still snowing hard and they couldn’t keep up.  Interstate 94 was treacherous.  Temps were well below zero and it took longer than normal to get into the office.

I don't think so.

Not for me.  I don’t think so.

After parking, I set off to cross busy University Avenue.  The snow must have been six inches deep on the pavement. It was loose and slushy and nasty from all the chemicals that had already been put down.  I could barely walk without slipping.  What do I see coming up the street but a guy on a bicycle.  He was doing something that, at the time, I didn’t even think was possible.   His eyebrows had an inch of ice on them and his hat was frozen to his head.  He had this big old goofy grin on his face…or maybe it was a grimace.  Either way, he became my hero in an instant.

I think about that guy often.  He helped me grow even though that wasn’t his intention.  He made me see the world differently and I liked what I saw.  The bike life is about doing your own thing your own way.  The fact that maybe you help other people break down the false constricts that have been built around their lives is just sweet icing on the cake.

All Around the Town

I had a little Bike Fiving to do after work today.  I needed to go by my favorite bike shop to return a pair of crimps they accidentally gave me when they swapped out the brakes on my road bike.  From there it was on to the bank to deposit a little mailbox money and then I had to make a quick Walmart stop (I know, I know) to pick up a couple of consumer staples.  I don’t really much care for Walmart, except that every time I go there I see about five or six bikes in the racks and that warms the cockles of my heart.

Walt Wilkins, one of my favorite songwriters, one wrote "I've got nothing to do, and I'm not leaving 'til I'm done."  That fits.

Walt Wilkins, one of my favorite songwriters, one wrote “I’ve got nothing to do, and I’m not leaving ’til I’m done.” That fits.

I like these trips because this is what it’s all about.  We moved to Ogden so that I could do this sort of thing and actually doing it feels really, really good.  I’m making a difference in my own small way.  I’m living MY dream.

But it wasn’t enough.  The round trip was only about ten miles and since I’m training for the Tour of the Moon at the end of next week I wanted to go further.  I wanted to climb.  Seriously.  So I did.  I got home, dropped off my wallet and the Walmart crapola, switched bikes and headed out again with no particular destination in mind.

Scenic Route?  Stop messin' with me, Ogden!

Scenic Route? Stop messin’ with me, Ogden!

Grant Street, downtown.  Lots of Bike Fiving goin' on in O town.

Grant Street, downtown. Lots of Bike Fiving goin’ on in O town.

Awesome western clouds.  40s coming!

Awesome western clouds. 40s coming!

This is probably gonna sound a little weird but sometimes  I just let the bike go where it wants to go.  It’s a little game we play…me and the bike.  I hold the bars loosely and let it decide.  It never steers me wrong.

In fact, I’ve gotten to know Ogden more fully than any place I’ve ever lived (and I’ve lived a lot of places) by playing this little game.  I’ve been down in the barrios, up on the benches and just about everywhere in between.  I’ve met a lot of people.  Today I met the cross country team from St. Joseph High School.  Nice kids, one and all.  Super polite.  Don’t let anyone tell you kids these days don’t have manners.

Even riding the power lines rocks...

Even riding the power lines rocks…

Wandering aimlessly around town on a bicycle is generally frowned upon by our frenetic society, but that’s society’s problem, not mine.  Sometimes you go further when you set out with no destination in mind.  You get to know your city by letting it come to you.   That’s no small thing.

Ride on.

 

Our Last Car

It is slowly dawning on me that Jan and I have probably purchased our last automobile.  Part of this is due to our affinity for bicycling, but a bigger part is due to the massive transformation of human mobility that is taking place just below the surface.   I’d like to talk briefly about what this likely means for each and every one of us.

Carhenge, Alliance Nebraska. Photo by Jacob Kamholz.

Carhenge, Alliance Nebraska. Photo by Jacob Kamholz.

I’ve noticed some things over the last year that look very similar to  the past in terms of portending significant change.  This feels a lot like 1995 to me.  At that time, I didn’t know how the Internet and Web would affect society, but I was absolutely certain that things were about to turn radically different.  This is like that.

Take autonomous cars.  It’s not so much that they’re being developed as it is who is developing them.  New players like Google and Tesla and Uber and Lyft are developing technologies that will converge and shape the future.  These companies and the individuals who comprise them are not bound by “we’ve always done it this way” thinking.  They are way outside the box and they’ve graciously shared a lot of their vision online.  This is not your father’s Oldsmobile we’re talking about.  This is something else entirely.

In a sense, ride sharing and autonomous cars are two different things, but these technologies are converging.  What does it mean?  Well, I’m not sure that anyone knows yet, but one likely outcome is that the cost of moving around will fall dramatically as the cost of just about everything does when new technologies are introduced.  If that’s the case, personal automobiles are as obsolete as buggy whips.

Here’s what seems obvious to me.  Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars we don’t have to buy a product we no longer need, we’ll simply pay a per use fee.  We might buy a membership, just as we do with a lot of other products these days, that lowers the per use cost.

Autonomous cars change everything. Stop lights? Unnecessary.

Autonomous cars change everything. Stop lights? Unnecessary.

The road of the future will have to redeployed as people drive fewer miles and bicycle more.

The road of the future will have to redeployed as people drive fewer miles and bicycle more.

What we won’t have is interest on an auto loan.  We won’t need insurance since the liability for crashes won’t be on us.  As more of us opt out of driving, the cost of insurance will rise dramatically.  That, in turn, will force others out.  We won’t have AAA or air fresheners or steering wheel covers or Turtle Wax or any one of a number of other products we currently spend our hard earned money on.

Per use fees are radical.  They will cause us to view every single trip in terms of cost…something we don’t do under the current model.  When it comes to short trips, we can choose bicycles and pocket the savings.  It will be crystal clear and so many more people will be on bikes.  This will translate to health benefits for millions of us who are currently living on the edge of pain and despair.  The savings in health care costs will be staggering.

There will be other changes as well.  Parking lots will no longer be needed.   Your autonomous car will drop you off at your destination and then depart with another passenger.  When you’re ready to move on, you’ll dial up another car.   Trips to the grocery store?  You won’t do that any more.  Already, companies like Kroger are rolling out models where you shop online and your order is ready when you arrive.  It’s one simple step from that to delivery via autonomous van or even drone.  We’ll have more time AND more money. Cool.

Autonomous cars and ride sharing make parking lots redundant. This is a huge real estate redevelopment opportunity.

Autonomous cars and ride sharing make parking lots redundant. This is a huge real estate redevelopment opportunity.

Change often makes people uncomfortable, but the future is something to be embraced.  This is especially true for those of us who already cycle.  The streets will be safer because motorists who think it’s fun to terrorize us will be a thing of the past.  Autonomous cars will have their share of bugs that will need to be worked out, but they will not road rage or operate under the influence.  They will not hit and run.  Eventually, the number of road deaths will fall close to zero as the technology improves.

Most importantly, there will be tens of thousands more bicycles in every city from coast to coast.  Even with more people, the number of trip miles traveled in a motor vehicle will continue to decline.  More road space will be turned over to us because it will not be needed by them.

That’s the future I see.  Others see it, too…people a lot smarter and more visionary than I am.   They could all be wrong, but I don’t think they are.  This has all happened before and now it’s happening again.  Those who choose to embrace it will live better as a result.

 

 

Ogden’s “Bicycle” Business Park Takes Shape

I usually don’t get very excited about about business parks, but I’ve never seen a business park quite like the one that’s going in just west of downtown Ogden on the site of the city’s former Union Stockyards.

I’ve read a little about this particular project which goes by the name Ogden Business Exchange.   I’ve even spoken with local economic development officials so I know that the idea is to attract companies in the cycling and outdoor recreation business.  Some of these companies might be local while others could come from out of town or even the other side of the Pacific.

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When complete, Ogden’s Business Exchange will house manufacturing, R&D, administrative and fulfillment functions for outdoor recreation and cycling companies. 

This bicycle promenade will wrap around the Ogden Business Exchange and provide access to all tenants.

This bicycle promenade  is poured and just waiting for landscaping.  It wraps around the park and will provide access to all businesses here.

The old Stock Exchange building will be renovated and serve as the centerpiece of the development.

The old art deco Stock Exchange building will be renovated and serve as the centerpiece of the development.

That’s all pretty cool.  What’s even cooler is the way this park is going to integrate into Ogden’s developing active transportation grid.  Located just off the city’s River Parkway (also known as the Centennial Trail), it’s possible to get here from just about anywhere in Ogden or Riverdale via the trail.  That makes it safe and easy for cyclists. I ride the River Parkway almost every day and I know that there are already a handful of people commuting into and out of Ogden via this route.  The Business Exchange will encourage more to do so.


Once they arrive at the Business Exchange, cyclists can access any of the companies here via a wide bicycle promenade that circles the entire development.  In fact, the promenade was one of the first pieces of infrastructure built.  I’ve added it to my daily route just because it’s fun to be here and see all of this taking shape.

The Business Exchange is the shaded area on the left.  Downtown Ogden is the shaded area to the right.  Bike paths are plentiful and connect to most of the rest of the city.

The Business Exchange is the shaded area on the left. Downtown Ogden is the shaded area to the right. Bike paths are plentiful and connect to most of the rest of the city.

Over the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of cycling through  a lot of cities and towns from coast to coast…places like Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Pueblo, Pittsburgh, Omaha, Memphis, Lincoln and Indianapolis.

In many ways, these cities could not be more different.   When it comes to cycling, though, they all are of a like mind.  The future belongs to the places that make it easy for people to choose to drive a bicycle rather than a car to wherever it is they need to be.  Ogden’s Business Exchange is one more example of how this is happening now, right before our eyes.

Grocery Run

When you ride your bike to the grocery store as I do, you tend to be pretty picky about what you buy.  This is especially true in my case since the ride home is all uphill.    I don’t want to be weighed down with processed corporate food so I  focus on protein (meats), fruits and veggies and nectar of the gods (coffee).  I also like baked goods, but that’s another story for another day.

I rode to Smith’s today. Smith’s = Kroger in Utah, and the store is nice.  It’s one of those full service fru-fru stores.  The kids who work there are so gosh darn nice.  It’s a real pleasure shopping at Smith’s.

Squiggly lines = climbing!

Squiggly lines = climbing!

Props, Ogden.  I love the new bike lanes on Monroe.

Props, Ogden. I love the new bike lanes on Monroe.

I wish I could tell you that everybody in Ogden bikes, but I'd be lying.

I wish I could tell you that everybody in Ogden bikes, but I’d be lying.

But at least I got the best parking spot.

But at least I got the best parking spot.

LOL.  It can go to $10 for all I care.

LOL. It can go to $10 for all I care.   It will, too…soon enough.

Shopping here is all about customer service.  World class customer service.  Props.

Shopping here is all about customer service. World class customer service. Kudos, Smiths.

When we lived back in Minnesota and I worked at TetraPak, Smith’s was a client. My friend Harry Marovskis used to come out to Utah to service the account and I remember him saying that their stores were the nicest he’d ever seen.  I don’t know if I’d go that far, but at the time everybody in Minnesota shopped at warehouses like Cub Foods and Rainbow, so I can see how he might feel that way.

Anyway, I’m getting off subject.  Smith’s is located 2.4 miles from our front door  and it’s all downhill on the way.  I can make it in less than ten minutes, even if I get stopped at the light on Harrison and 22nd.   I hardly have to pedal at all.

Climb ahead.

Climb ahead.

The climb begins.  You'll see this from above in a minute.

The climb begins. You’ll see this from above in a minute.

Pinch me.

Pinch me.

See that building way down yonder?  Yeah, Rainbow Gardens. Woot!  I made it.

See that building way down yonder? Yeah, Rainbow Gardens. Woot! I made it.

Coming home is another matter.  I dread climbing the East Bench under load and so today I decided that I was going to take the overland route (Bonneville Shoreline from Rainbow Gardens to 22nd Street)  even though it’s 1.5 miles further and unpaved and has a little exposure and these hairy hairpin turns because, well, I live in Ogden and that’s how we roll here in O town.

Oh, I almost forgot.  I was riding my 20 year old Specialized Hardrock with 1.95″ tires and no suspension fork or any of that other nice stuff that makes living easy.  The Hardrock isn’t the best bike for this route, but nobody’s gonna steal it from the bike rack at Smith’s, so there’s that.  It rained last night, too and so the trail was mucky in spots.  I was carrying about 25 pounds of groceries in a backpack but it felt like 250.

In spite of all my concerns, the gods were smiling on me.  It was no big deal.  I was home soon enough and the groceries are now in the fridge.  I’m no worse for the wear. In fact, I’m better for the wear.

It was a little more work taking the trail home but look at those views.  When I look at the pictures I took I find myself thinking that it can’t be that beautiful but it is.  This is a pretty special place, but the simple truth is that everyplace is better on a bicycle.  It just is.

The moral of the story?  The bike life is about you.  Nobody gets to tell you how to ride, what to ride, where to ride.  You choose. Do what you want.  Go where you want.  Ride what you want.  Whatever works for you is the only thing that matters. I think this is what drives motorists bonkers about bikes.  We’re having fun getting to wherever it is we’re going.  They’re not.

Ride on.

New York to Straphangers…Find Your Bike, Saddle Up and Ride

New York is, by far, America’s most transit friendly city.  It’s also America’s most bike friendly city, at least if you believe the League of American Bicyclists’ Bike Friendly ratings for 2016.

I was skeptical at first.  The last time I was in the Big Apple it was certifiably bike hostile.  But I also had heard stories about dramatic change.  I saw Gil Penalosa riding around on StreetFilms and then I went out and bought and read Janette Sadik-Kahn’s “Street Fight” so I knew that New Yorkers were serious about integrating cycling into the transportation mix.

Now this.  From this morning’s Wall Street Journal:

When the L-train tunnel closes for repairs in 2019, disrupting subway travel between Brooklyn and Manhattan for 225,000 daily commuters, the city will look to the lowly, human-powered bicycle to be a part of the solution.

The story goes on to talk about some new bike lanes connecting to the Williamsburg bridge, but the item that caught my eye was something about a large, protected, secure city-owned bicycle parking facility…just  like Amsterdam.  That’s apropos, after all, New York was once New Amsterdam.

This is kind of a big deal.   Let’s say 25% of the 225,000 displaced L-train straphangers decide to ride across the Williamsburg Bridge on their bicycles instead of taking a smelly old bus.  That’s 56,250 new bicyclists.  That will make the nightly news.  That will cause somebody where you live and I live to think differently.

The parking facility is especially intriguing.  Bike racks on buses and bike cars on trains work fine when five people ride bikes, but they won’t work for 50,000 people.

Bicycle Parking, Amsterdam. By Jakub Hałun (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bicycle Parking, Amsterdam. By Jakub Hałun (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

New York is a global city and like all great global cities it sets the standard that others follow.  In a sense, though, New York is simply following what works in other great cities like Copenhagen, Barcelona, and Montreal. So here’s the thing.  Your city and my city might not be able to relate to what’s happening in Berlin, but we understand New York.   Our places will see what’s working here and the smart ones will rush to incorporate it closer to home.  Increasing bicycle parking capacity at transit stations is a great place to start.

The Convergence of Car and Bike

Another day brings another radical car-inspired eBike design.  This one from Italian automotive design house Pininfarina, a company whose clients include brands like  Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, FIAT, GM, Lancia, Maserati, and Hyundai.  Pininfarina’s new client?  Germany’s Diavelo.

pininfarina-diavelo-accell-group-e-voluzione-electric-sports-bike_dezeen_sq-468x468

The “pBike” Photo courtesy Pininfarina and Design.

The auto industry has discovered bicycles in a big way.  This is significant and it changes everything for those of us who love to bike.  The car as we know it is going the route of the videocassette recorder. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen…probably sooner than most people think.  The die is cast.

Those of us who cycle have known for a long time that a bicycle is absolutely the best way to complete short trips like those of five miles or less.   We’ve advocated and evangelized, but at the end of the day we’re a relatively small, fragmented group.  We don’t have economic power.  We don’t have the critical mass to change things on our own. We need outside help and now we’re getting it.

It seems crystal clear at this point that automobile companies will soon be marketing and selling electric bikes for transportation purposes.  The big eBike names will be acquired by car companies, tech companies and others outside the industry.  There’s not a lot of profit in selling a bicycle, but you can make it up in volume.  These firms plan to sell tens of millions of bicycles.  They have the marketing muscle to pull it off.

As they do, the push for safe bicycle infrastructure will very quickly reach a crescendo.  Millions of new bicyclists, even eBicyclsts, means millions of former motorists.  It will dramatically change the streetscape in America and around the world.

These are exciting times.  Stay tuned.