Friday, October 22, 2010

Cyclists are almost real people in New York

The New York Police Department plans to step up enforcement of bicycle safety in parts of the city that have seen a disproportionately higher rate of collisions involving bicyclists, city officials said Thursday.The initiative, which would be aimed at common cycling infractions like running red lights or riding on the sidewalk, comes after numerous complaints about two-wheeled scofflaws and recent protests against new bicycle lanes added to streets in Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan. “We’ve installed 250 miles of lane over the last four years and thousands of new bike racks,” Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner, said at a news conference. “We have been friendly to cyclists. Now it’s time for cyclists to be friendlier to the city.” Critics charge that City Hall has placed a stigma on car ownership and unilaterally removed traffic lanes for the use of a small minority of residents.The result has been that bicycling, once a niche, even antiauthoritarian, mode of transport, has entered the New York mainstream, and cyclists and pedestrians alike are trying to adjust. The city has issued 26,000 moving violations against cyclists so far this year. Read more here in the NYT.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New York Police can save budget

New York City agreed on Monday to pay nearly $1 million to participants in the monthly Critical Mass bicycle rides who claimed they had been wrongly detained and arrested by police officers. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2007, represented the claims of 83 riders who had been arrested or ticketed by police during the rides from September 2004 to January 2006. The awards to the plaintiffs range from $500 for those who were cited for minor infractions, to $35,000 for a plaintiff who was arrested multiple times and was injured because of the arrests, said David B. Rankin, one of the three lawyers who represented the riders. The Critical Mass riders and the Police Department have a long, antagonistic history. Since 2004, riders have claimed that police officers harass them, take their bicycles and arrest them without reason. The police have said the cyclists violate traffic laws. The department has deployed hundreds of officers, a mobile command unit and a helicopter to monitor the rides, which wend their way through Manhattan on the last Friday of each month. “We hope that the cyclists and the N.Y.P.D. can figure out a way to work together,” he said. Barbara Ross,  “They’re still wasting taxpayers’ money to show up every month,” Ms. Ross said. Read more in the New York Times

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Parking Space that Finds You

A nifty piece of French technology will bring joy to the heart of any driver who has ever spent hours looking for a parking space: The city of Toulouse is testing a system that displays available spots on your mobile phone. The authorities also know if you have fed the parking meter or not. It is 10 in the morning on the Boulevard Lascrosses, near the historic city center of the French city of Toulouse. Behind the metro station, people are casually strolling in the direction of the pedestrian zone, but on the four-lane street, the morning traffic is bumper to bumper. Aggravated drivers honk their horns, and exhaust fumes fill the air. "The daily anarchy," growls Alexandre Marciel, pushing his fists into his pockets. "The existing parking spaces are already occupied by long-term parkers who hog the places, and the drivers coming from outside are hunting for spots." That should soon change, however. Marciel, who is the 37-year-old deputy mayor of Toulouse, has been responsible for traffic and sanitation for the past two years. Now he wants to start guiding drivers to available parking spaces with an ingenious new system. Spiegel Online International explains more about this useful aid.

Bike Asylum; from grass roots to glamour

Cracked cobblestones, hurried drivers and a dearth of bike lanes make cycling in the center of Prague a perilous affair. The self-proclaimed bike activist Martin Kontra wants this to change. Mr. Kontra created Bike Asylum (Rasinovo nabrezi;, a repair and rental shop, to help build a community among cyclists and persuade legislators to improve conditions. The shop opened in July beneath the Palacky Bridge on the A2, an 18.5-mile cycling route between Zbraslav in southern Prague and Zámky on the city’s northern edge. An avid cyclist for the past 15 years, Mr. Kontra discovered Berlin’s bike culture while living there in 2007, and was inspired to create something similar back home. He is also an editor for the weekly newspaper Respekt, and has reported on alternative transportation options in Prague. “I believe biking could make life in the city center much better,” he said. Bike Asylum, which also offers a small bar, is modeled after Les Lanternes Rouges, a repair shop and cafe in Berlin, as well as like-minded Bike Kitchens, with outposts in several European and North American cities. Called “Bajkazyl” in Czech, the shop hosts free do-it-yourself repair workshops. Read more here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

No permit needed

In November 2009, Ben Tseitlin was driving along on the 280 highway between San Francisco and Palo Alto when he noticed something weird. There was a Toyota Prius next to him with a weird spolier-like thing on the roof. And on top of that was some sort of spinning contraption.  What Tseitlin captured, of course, was the Google self-driving car. The secret project, which Google revealed for the first time today, is a combination of different technologies developed by Google that will allow a car to drive itself — yes, even on the highway. Google has disclosed that they’ve been testing these cars “recently“, but they’ve clearly been testing them for longer than that, as Tseitlin’s video proves. The fact that these specially-equipped Priuses (and one Audi TT) have racked up over 140,000 miles (1,000 of while have been completely human-free) on the road, suggests a longer cycle of testing as well. One of the most interesting aspects of this whole project is that local authorities were fine with Google road-testing these cars. Read more here on this cutting edge development.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Surrender your permit

Unless you drive to work every day, you don’t need a car in Hoboken, New Jersey! Just give up the car habit and sign up for Hoboken’s Corner Car program. What is it? The New York Times calls Corner Cars a “bold new experiment” to ease congestion that’s “about as convenient as car rental could ever be.”  Once you’re a member (for free) you can reserve any available car online or by phone for one hour or a week or more! For more info, visit The City of Hoboken provides a community shuttle bus service called “The Hop” within two blocks of almost every resident. Local shuttle bus service is so easy and convenient, you can think twice before getting in the car to get around town. Our mini-transit system is called “The Hop”, because you can easily “hop on” and “hop off” at any intersection along the route. Each of the three Hop routes circuits the city in less than thirty minutes. Hoboken as also an excellent example of a walkable city and is working hard every day to protect pedestrian rights and safety, and to continue to explore ways to make walking the most convenient, enjoyable way to get around you can think of. The next best way to get around Hoboken after walking is to ride your bike! Read more about these great developments here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

'Bikes Belong Coalition' Partner and Funder

Velo Mondial's American partner in Showcasing The Netherlands 'Bikes Belong' runs a Grant Program that strives to put more people on bicycles more often by funding important and influential projects that leverage federal funding and build momentum for bicycling in communities across the U.S. These projects include bike paths and rail trails, as well as mountain bike trails, bike parks, BMX facilities, and large-scale bicycle advocacy initiatives. Since 1999, Bikes Belong has awarded 215 grants to municipalities and grassroots groups in 49 states and the District of Columbia, investing $1.7 million in community bicycling projects and leveraging close to $650 million in federal, state, and private funding. Learn more about the grants we've awarded in your area by viewing our grants map or searching our grants database. Learn more about who is eligible to apply for Bikes Belong funding, and what we do and don't fund. In this section you can learn more about our REI/Bicycle Friendly Community grants and the Paul David Clark Bicycling Safety Fund. Click here to view a brochure highlighting our Grant Program. The Bikes Belong Coalition was formed in 1999 as the national coalition of bicycle retailers and suppliers.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Make Cyclists, not war

On September 20th and 21st a team of four Dutch experts on bike policy led by Velo Mondial's partner Balancia held a two-day workshop in Toronto, called ThinkBike, to give a boost to Toronto’s bikeability. There were two teams (Blue and Orange) of 9 people, with 2 Dutch experts in each of them and 7 from the Toronto city staff, TCAT and bicycle advocates. Each team worked on a different design assignment and also worked on a long term strategy for Toronto bikeability. The objectives were: Produce a ready to apply bike improvement design for the area chosen; Display the Dutch philosophy on bike policy and make it applicable to the Toronto bike policy; Give ingredients for a Toronto long term strategy and marketing campaign. In those two days – productive beyond imagination! – they were able to show what they had achieved in a well-filled club “El Mocambo”. The team ThinkBike BLUE, produced a bike friendly network for Downtown west, the other team, ThinkBike ORANGE, made a carefully worked out design for Sherbourne Road. Velo Mondial  sees this ThinkBike Workshop as a mini format that precedes the new and improved version of the 'Amsterdam Bike Slam' that we will offer the world imminently.  If your city wants to execute a slam of any format, contact Karim Maarik at Velo Mondial.

How to make biking mainstream

Last spring, public officials from Madison, Wisconsin, made a tour of the Netherlands, guided by Velo Mondial and within three weeks were implementing what they learned there about promoting bicycling on the streets of their own city. Last August , Velo Mondial guided a similar group of latter-day explorers on a quest to discover what American communities can learn from the Dutch about transforming bicycling in the U.S. from a largely recreational pastime to an integral part of their transportation system. They were elected officials, traffic engineers, and business leaders from the San Francisco Bay Area. The Netherlands resembles the United States in many ways: It is a prosperous, technologically advanced nation where a huge share of the population owns automobiles. The difference is that the Dutch don’t drive every time they leave home. Their 27 percent rate dwarfs not only the measly 1 percent of trips taken by bicycle in the U.S., but also the rates of many, much bike-friendlier nations (12 percent of trips in Germany are by bike; in Denmark, it's 18 percent). Jay Walljasper wrote an article on this study tour. If your city is interested in a tour like this, please contact Karim Maarek of Velo Mondial.